Weeds in the Field

6th Sunday after Pentecost

Pentecost Proper 11

From “Saving the Ants” (click at left to purchase ebook)

Scripture Reference: Matt. 13:24-30 and 36-43 WeedingChild

Preparation: (Optional) You could bring some pulled up weeds to show the children, possibly from your own garden.

When Jesus talked to the crowds of people that gathered to hear him, he often taught them stories called parables. Jesus once told a parable comparing the kingdom of heaven to a field that had been planted with good seeds. The seeds sprouted and wheat came up, but something else sprouted with the wheat that no farmer would want in their field. What do you think that was? (Wait for response.) Weeds came up, right alongside the good plants.

The field workers wanted to pull those weeds out right away, but the master of the field stopped them. The wheat and the weeds were growing right next to each other and their roots were probably all mixed up together. What might happen if you tried to pull a full grown weed out and its roots were wrapped around the roots of a good plant right next to it? (Wait for answer.) The weed could pull the good plant right out with it! So the owner of the field told the workers to wait and let the good and bad plants grow up together. Then at harvest time, the weeds would be collected and burned, but the wheat would be gathered up.

The disciples knew this wasn’t just a story about a field with weeds, and they wanted Jesus to tell them the meaning. So Jesus told them that the field represented the world and he was the owner of the field. Who do you think the good seeds are? I can see many good seeds from where I’m sitting. Those who love Jesus are the good seeds. Are there any bad seeds in our world? Yes, unfortunately there are people who do not love God and who do mean things to other people.

Do all the good people live in one part of the world and all the bad people live in another part? No, weíre all mixed together. God’s children live right next to people who don’t love God. And even inside of a child of God, there may be some bad thoughts right along with all of the good thoughts.

I’ve often wondered why God just doesn’t make all the people who do really bad things just disappear? But it isn’t that simple. Do bad people sometimes change? They certainly do. Many chapters of our Bible were written by Paul, someone who hated Christians at first, and then his life changed and he began preaching the good news of Jesus to everyone.

Jesus said that at the end of the world, however, everything will be sorted out. The good will be gathered into heaven to be with Jesus. In the meantime, we can tell the good news of Jesus’ love to those who are still trying to decide.

Prayer:  Help us to spread the good news of your love, dear Jesus, while we wait for you to return. May we reach out with the hand of love to those who have turned away from you.

Parable of the Sower

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5th Sunday after Pentecost

Pentecost Proper 10

From “Saving the Ants” (click at left to purchase ebook)

Scripture Reference: Matt. 13:1-9 and 18-23 

sower

VanGogh’s “Sower”

The Gospel lesson for today is a wonderful story, and I thought it would be fun to act it out. Could you help me tell the story? I’ll need hungry birds, the bright sun, tough thorns, and some seeds.

Who would like to be a hungry bird? You birds stand over here. (Place birds stage right.) Who would like to be the bright sun? (Place sun at center.) Who wants to be the tough thorns? (Place thorns stage left.) And will the rest of you be my seeds? You seeds stand next to me. This big blanket will be the good soil. We’ll spread it out down here in the middle.

This is a story that Jesus told to a huge crowd of people, and it is called “The Parable of the Sower.” A sower is someone who plants seeds. Many of the people in the crowd listening to Jesus were farmers. They knew a lot about seeds and soil and planting, so they were very interested in this story. I’m going to tell the story and play the part of the sower and together we can act it out.

(Here you may paraphrase the parable of the sower, adding your own words and actions as needed. An example follows.) A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path. I’m going to move these seeds over that way. (Guide seeds stage right, over by birds. Continue with the story, guiding children in acting it out.)

Thank you for acting out the story with me. Let’s all gather on the good soil here and listen to what this story means. (Gather the children together onto the quilt.) The seeds are the good news about Jesus Christ. Some people hear the good news, but before they get around to really thinking about it and understanding it, Satan comes like a big hungry bird and snatches it away.

Others may hear about Jesus and get really excited, but if trouble comes along like a blazing hot sun, they may decide that they really don’t believe in Jesus after all, and their faith seeds just wither away.

Then there are some people who want to give their lives to Jesus, but so many other things spring up around them like choking thorns; things like money, new clothes, cool toys, and expensive cars. Those things, like the thorns, take over until there’s no room left for the seeds of Jesus to grow.

And, thankfully, there are the seeds that fall on the good soil. Those are the folks who hear the good news and believe in Jesus with all their heart and they love the Lord for the rest of their lives.

Prayer:  Lord help us to be good soil and to love and serve you all of our lives.

Crossed Wires

4th Sunday after Pentecost

Pentecost Proper 9

From “Saving the Ants” (click at left to purchase ebook)

Scripture Reference: Rom. 7:15-25  Robotic_Arm

Preparation: Bring a robot, a robotic arm, or a picture of a robot as a visual aid.

Has anyone here ever seen a robot, or had the chance to operate a robotic arm? (Let children comment. Option to show visual aid here.) Robots are very reliable as long as they’re assembled correctly. If you push the button marked forward, the robot will go forward. If you push a lever to guide a robotic arm to the right, it will go right. What would happen, though, if someone made a mistake in putting the robot together? What if a couple of wires got crossed and, when the robot was ready to go, it didn’t work quite right? You push the button marked “Stand,” and the robot sits. You push the button marked “Sit,” and the robot stands. You realize something is wrong, so you push the button marked “Stop,” and the robot takes off running and you never see it again. That would be bad, wouldn’t it?

There are a couple of verses in Romans, chapter 7, that read, “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate… When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway” (v. 15, 19 NLT). Does this sound at all familiar? You’re playing with your brother or with a friend, and you’re trying to share and play nicely, but then suddenly he has something you want, or he does something you don’t like and some very angry words jump right out of your mouth before you can stop them. Or your hand shoots out and you find that you’ve just hit somebody. This is not what you had in mind when you first started playing. You don’t invite someone over to yell at him or hit him, you invite him over to play and have fun. It’s almost as if there are some wires crossed inside and you can’t stop yourself from doing things you don’t want to do.

We’re not robots, though, are we? We can’t blame our mistakes on crossed wires. We can’t claim that someone assembled us the wrong way. We’re children of God, and we want to do the right thing, but sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we do just the opposite of what we want to do.

So what do you think we can do when we feel like doing something that we know is wrong? (Let children suggest answers.) Jesus is the one who can uncross our wires. He can set us free from doing things that we hate. The next time you feel like you’re about to do something you know you shouldn’t, ask for help. Ask Jesus to help you do the right thing.

Prayer:  Lord, forgive us for our sins. Forgive us for doing things that we know are wrong. Help us to act the way that we know we should.

Inviting Jesus

3rd Sunday after Pentecost

Pentecost Proper 8

From “Saving the Ants” (click at left to purchase ebook)

Scripture Reference: Matt. 10:40-42   hug

Preparation: Make a large invitation card, inviting Jesus to have supper at your house.

I brought something with me this morning. Can you see what it is? (Show the card around.) It’s an invitation. Can someone read who the invitation is made out to? (Let one of the children read the card.) That’s right, I want to send this invitation to Jesus. And what is it an invitation for? (Have “invitation to supper” written on the card.) Yes! I want to invite Jesus to have supper at my house tonight at 6:00.

How do you think I should send this invitation to Jesus? How can I make sure that he’ll get it? (Let children come up with their own ideas.) It’s going to be pretty hard to deliver this invitation to heaven, but there is a way I can invite Jesus to dinner. The answer is in the Bible.

Jesus sent his disciples out into the world to tell everyone the good news about God’s love. But before they left, Jesus gathered them together to tell them some important things. In Matthew, chapter 10, Jesus said to his friends, “Anyone who welcomes you is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me” (v. 40 NLT). Jesus also said, “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded” (v. 42 NLT).

Jesus told his disciples that whoever welcomes or invites them, welcomes Jesus. So how could I invite Jesus to my house? (A child may answer.) I can invite one of Jesus’ disciples, one of his friends, to my house. How many disciples or friends of Jesus do you see here? Raise your hand if you are a friend of Jesus!

There are a lot of disciples here, aren’t there? Do you think you would be able to invite Jesus to your house? (Let children respond.) Yes, you could. When you invite one of Jesus’ friends into your home, it’s as if you are inviting Jesus himself. So now we all know how to give an invitation to Jesus, and we don’t even have to travel all the way to heaven to get it to him!

Prayer:  Jesus, we invite you into our hearts and lives. Help us to serve you by opening our hearts and homes to others.

The Hairs on Your Head

1st Sunday after Pentecost

From “Saving the Ants”

Scripture Reference: Matt. 10:26-31  Hair_Spike_Baby

Preparation: Arrange for one of the children to bring their father or mother up to the front to answer the questions. (This sermon could also work for Father’s Day.)

This morning, I would like to ask a parent some questions about one of his or her children sitting up here. I want to ask things like their name, age, favorite food. Are there any volunteers? (You may interview a volunteer or someone that you have previously arranged to help out.) This will be a fairly short interview.

Is your child a girl or a boy? How many fingers does she have? What is your daughter’s name? How old is she? When’s her birthday? What’s one of her favorite foods? Does she have a favorite color? What does she like to do? What time did she wake up this morning? Can you tell me what she dreamed last night? What is she thinking right now? Exactly how many hairs does she have growing on her head?

The questions started out being pretty easy to answer, didn’t they? Some of the questions could have been answered by someone who didn’t know this person very well, but other questions could only be answered by a good friend or a parent, someone who really knows this person.

What questions couldn’t be answered? (Let children respond.) She might have told someone what she dreamed last night, but it would be pretty difficult to know what someone was thinking without asking them. And it would take a long time to count how many hairs were growing on her head. Who do you think knows us even better than our parents or our best friends? (Wait for answer.) God knows everything about us, doesn’t he? Our Parent in Heaven knows even more about us than our parents here on earth.

In Matthew, chapter 10, it says, “The very hairs on your head are all numbered” (v. 30 NLT). God knows how many hairs each one of you have on your head. That’s a pretty small detail, isn’t it? Your family and friends know a lot about you, both good and bad, and they love you so much for who you are. There’s no one in the whole world like you. God knows even more about us; every thought, every wish; and he loves us more than we can imagine.

The next time you brush your hair, I want you to remember that God cares about every little detail in your life, right down to the number of hairs on your head.

Prayer:  Lord God, you know us so well and still you love us. Help us to love others as you love us.

Abba, Daddy

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Holy Trinity Sunday

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Scripture Reference: John 3:16 and Rom. 8:15-17

Preparation: Bring a little bag of treasures or treats to hand out at the end of your message, or you may have the gifts in your pockets.

Imagine that you are visiting at the home of a friend. Your friend’s father has been gone on a long trip, and the rest of the family is looking forward to his return. They tell you he’ll be coming home soon, and they can’t wait to see him again. He’s a wonderful father who loves his children very much. Whenever he returns from a trip, his pockets and suitcases are full of wonderful gifts for his children.

Suddenly the front door opens, and there he is. And, sure enough, his pockets are bulging with goodies. Your friend gives a happy shout. “Daddy! Daddy!” she yells and then launches herself in his direction. She lands right in his arms and gets a big bear hug. Her brothers and sisters pile on top of their daddy, too, and hugs and kisses are exchanged all around. Then you watch as he starts to pull from his pockets the marvelous treasures that he has brought home with him.

You are watching all of this from a distance. He’s not your daddy, so you’re not about to jump into his arms. And even though the pocket treasures look interesting, you are too polite to ask for something yourself. It’s an uncomfortable feeling to be left out of a family hug. At this point, you might feel like heading home so that this family can enjoy their time together.

Now imagine that the smiling father who has just returned from a long trip with his pockets full of treasures is not your friend’s father, and not even your own father, but your heavenly Father. What do you think you would do if your heavenly Father stepped through your front door? Would you hang back, too shy to say anything? Would you yell “Daddy” and jump into his arms? (Let children share their responses.)

Do you know what God would want you to do? The Bible tells us in Romans, chapter 8, that we should not be shy in front of God, but act like God’s own children. We are God’s family, and he even expects us to call him “Daddy!” (The word Abba in the original language of this verse is a word that means “Daddy” or “Papa.”)

We really are God’s children. We have every right to call our heavenly Father “Daddy” and to leap joyfully into his arms. And the Bible says that, as God’s children, we will share in all the riches of his kingdom. Our heavenly Daddy’s pockets are filled with love, everlasting life, comfort, peace, and riches that we can’t even imagine. (Before the children return to their seats, share with them some of the “riches” in your pockets.)

Prayer:  Thank you, God, for being our heavenly Daddy and for adopting us as your own children. Thank you that your arms are always open to us.

 

Spirit of Creation

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Day of Pentecost

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Scripture Reference: Acts 2:1-21 and Psalm 104:25-30

Preparation: Bring puzzle pieces to give out at the end of the talk.

Today is Pentecost Sunday. Do you know what happened on the first Pentecost? (Children may offer answers.) After Jesus had gone back up to heaven, his disciples were gathered together in a room. Suddenly, there was a sound of rushing wind. It was a mighty sound, and it filled the room. Fire appeared above the heads of each of the disciples, and they began to speak in many different languages.

At Pentecost, the disciples were filled with God’s Holy Spirit. It’s hard to picture in our minds what the Holy Spirit is like. We can picture Jesus as he might have looked wearing a long robe just like other men did at that time. We may even be able to imagine what God the Father might look like seated on a throne in heaven. But it’s hard to get an image in our mind of what the Holy Spirit might be like.

At Pentecost, God’s Holy Spirit came as the sound of a rushing wind. The Spirit of God also is mentioned many times in the Old Testament. Verses 25 and 30 of Psalm 104 tell us that this Spirit is creative and life-giving. I’ll read a few verses of this psalm to you: “Here is the ocean, vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind, both great and small. . . . When you send your Spirit, new life is born to replenish all the living of the earth” (NLT).

Have we discovered all the creatures in the sea that God’s Spirit created? Do you know that scientists who study the oceans are still finding creatures no one has ever seen before? The Spirit of Pentecost is a great creative force that gives life and faith to us. When we are filled with God’s Holy Spirit, we become creative, too.

I have one piece of a puzzle with me today. You can’t tell from just this one piece what the whole puzzle looks like, can you? We can know a little bit of what it looks like, though. When you paint a picture, make up a song, play an instrument, or dance and sing to the glory of God, you are seeing a little bit of God’s Spirit. God made us to be creative and imaginative because God is creative and imaginative. As you discover the many wonderful things that God’s Spirit has created and breathed life into, you see parts of the Holy Spirit. It’s sort of like discovering pieces of a puzzle.

The more of God’s creation that we discover, the more we are able to see the wonderful creative power of the Holy Spirit. I encourage all of you to keep looking for pieces of the creation puzzle. Use the imagination that God has given you and keep exploring and learning. Before you go back to your seats, take a puzzle piece with you to remind you of God’s creative Spirit.

Prayer:  We praise you, Creator and Holy Spirit, for the gift of imagination. Help us use this gift to your glory.


What Goes Up… (Ascension Sunday)

From Saving the Ants, by Ruth Gilmore

For the 7th Sunday of Easter

Acts 1:6-14 “‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven, And someday, just as you saw him go, he will return!’”

Preparation: Bring one helium-filled balloon, preferably white. You may attach a long string to it if you wish to retrieve it after the service. Beware of obstacles, such as ceiling fans, during the sermon.

Today is the last Sunday of Easter in the church year. The white cloths on the altar will be taken down and replaced with red ones next Sunday. During this last week of Easter, the church celebrates the Ascension of Christ. Does anyone know what ascension means? (Child may answer correctly.) It means going up or rising. This balloon that I’m holding is trying to ascend. Continue reading What Goes Up… (Ascension Sunday)

How Close Is God?

6th Sunday of Easter

From “Saving the Ants”

Scripture Reference: Acts 17:22-31  Jesus_Hug

Preparation: (Optional) Bring pictures of several things that are far away from us, like the moon, the sun, planets, galaxies, etc.

If you could name something that is the farthest possible distance away from you, what would that thing be? What is something that is really far away from you? (Discuss distant objects with children, and, if desired, show them pictures of far away objects.) Now, if you could name something that is as close to you as is possible, what would that be? What are some things that are very, very close to you? (Discuss close objects with children.)

Some people think that God must live far away. If we could travel to go see God, how far do you think we’d have to go? If we thought that God lived somewhere in the “up” direction, and we got into a rocket ship to go and visit him, how far do you think our rocket would have to travel to finally get to where God is? (Let children speculate.)

But is God really far away from us? Does God live way out there in outer space? (Children may answer.) Our God is not a distant God. He wants to be right here with us. He sent his only son, Jesus, right here to our world to live with us and to die on the cross for us and to rise again to life. And when Jesus went up into heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to fill every believer with the power of God.

God is close to us, isn’t he? Jesus is closer than your mommy or daddy when they’re hugging you tight; he’s closer than a hug. Jesus is closer than our shoes and socks. He’s closer than our skin. Acts, chapter 17, describes how close God is to us. The apostle Paul says, “He is not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being… ” (Acts 17:27-28 RSV). God is so close that he’s a part of us.

But Jesus only comes close to us if we allow him to. When we invite Jesus into our heart and accept him as our Savior and Lord, he does become a part of us. “In him we live and move and have our being.” So the next time you get a nice squooshy hug from someone, remember that Jesus is even closer than a hug! When you go back to your places, give someone a big hug and tell them how close Jesus is to them.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, when we feel like you are far away, help us to remember how close you really are.

The Cornerstone

5th Sunday of Easter

From “Saving the Ants”

Scripture Reference: 1 Peter 2:4-7 and Psalm 118:22  Blessing-The-Cornerstone-11

Preparation: Bring some building blocks and a bucket of stones.

Rocks and stones turn up in both of the lessons this morning and in the psalm that we read together. Stones were very important to the people in Jesus’ time. Most of the buildings in the area where Jesus lived were made out of stone. In 1 Peter, the Bible talks about Jesus being the cornerstone. Does anyone know what a cornerstone is?(A child may answer correctly.) The cornerstone is usually the largest stone in the building. It is placed first and the building rises around it. The cornerstone has to be strong with no hidden weaknesses or cracks in it, so that it can support the tremendous weight of the building.

The Bible also says, “And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple” (1 Peter 2:5 NLT). So, if all of us in this congregation are living stones, making a spiritual temple or church, who do you suppose is our cornerstone? (Wait for an answer.) Yes, that’s right. Jesus is our cornerstone, the most important part.

I brought some blocks with me today, and I thought we’d try a little experiment. We’re going to construct a building. We can pretend these are stones, and this (choose a large, long block) is our cornerstone. We put the cornerstone down first, then start building around and on top of it. (Construct a small building, making sure that the cornerstone is the essential element of its structural integrity.)

Now, we’ve finished our building. What would happen, do you suppose, if we removed the cornerstone? (Children may respond.) Yes, it would probably fall down. Le’ís try it. (Pull out the cornerstone, collapsing building.) We need the cornerstone, don’t we? And just as the church needs Jesus as its firm foundation, we need Jesus as the cornerstone of our lives. Without Jesus, everything falls apart.

I have here a bucket full of stones, and I’d like everyone to take one before you go back to your seats. As you hold the stones in your hands, remember that Jesus is your cornerstone.

Prayer:  Jesus, thank you for being the solid cornerstone in our lives. Your strength helps make us strong.