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Without a Doubt

Transfiguration Sunday

From “Saving the Ants” (Download book at left!) 

Scripture Reference: Matt. 17:1-8 and Luke 9:28-36

Preparation: Bring a lamp or flashlight with a translucent shade that allows a little, but not all, of the light to show through. Have the light shining as you begin your talk.  lamp_light

Do you know what this Sunday is? It isn’t Easter or Christmas, is it? No, but today we do celebrate a very important happening in Jesus’ life. Today is Transfiguration Sunday. One day Jesus took three of his disciples away from the crowds that usually followed Jesus around and they went on a long hike. Those four friends hiked up a big mountain and when they got to the top of the mountain, do you know what happened?

Jesus was transfigured in front of those disciples. His face shone like the sun and his garments were glowing white. Do you think the disciples were surprised? They’d never seen Jesus like this; usually he looked ordinary and human just like them. And Jesus was human, but his disciples knew he was also special. They knew that he was God’s own Son, the Savior of the world. But maybe they sometimes forgot just how powerful and amazing he was. Perhaps they doubted that he was the Son of God.

The disciples knew that Jesus was the Light of the world; he had told them so. They had seen in his life, words, and miracles, a glimpse of the glory of God. It was as if they were looking at a lamp with its light shaded from view, sort of like this lamp. (Show lamp with shade.) When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain, it’s as if the shade was taken away and the disciples could see the true brightness of God’s glory.

Well do you know what happened next? A bright cloud came over them and God’s voice came from the cloud and said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him. Listen to him” (Matt. 17:5 NLT). Do you think those disciples had any doubts about who Jesus was at that moment? There was no doubt about it. Jesus was God’s Son. He was shining with heaven’s glory; God was speaking. There was no doubt.

This Sunday we remember what happened on that mountain, and we know without a doubt who Jesus really is. He is God’s own Son, the Savior of the world.

Prayer:  We praise you, Jesus, God’s own son, the Savior of the world. Remind us every day of your power and your glory. 

Shepherd and Door

4th Sunday of Easter

From “Saving the Ants”

Scripture Reference: John 10:1-10   Door-of-the-Sheepfold

Preparation (Optional): You can bring a picture of Jesus as the Shepherd or point out a picture in the church. Show your illustration after asking the children if they know who the Good Shepherd is. Pick your volunteer “wolf” out ahead of time.

Who is the Good Shepherd? Can anyone tell me? (Let children respond.) Yes, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. (You may show your illustration here.) In the Gospel lesson read today, Jesus says, “I am the gate for the sheep” (John 10:7 NLT). So besides being a shepherd, Jesus is the door.

Did you know that in Bible times, a couple thousand years ago, being a door was part of a shepherd’s job? The sheep pen was usually a stone wall built in a circle with only one opening. So after the shepherd had gathered all the sheep into the pen for the night, he would have to lie down across the opening to guard the sheep. The only way a wolf could get in was through that door, so the wolf would have to deal with the shepherd first. Do you think a good shepherd would let a wolf through that door? No sir! The shepherd would drive the wolf away!

Let’s see if we can build a sheep pen here at the front of the church. I need some volunteers to be part of the wall. (Choose some kids and help to arrange them.) You stones sit here along the altar rail and don’t move. You’re part of the wall. We’ll pretend that the wall goes all along the altar rail, so a wolf can’t get in that way. We’ll leave an opening here for the doorway.

Now the rest of you are sheep. It’s getting dark, so you’d better get into the fold. You’ll be safe there. Now, I need a good shepherd. The good shepherd comes over here and lies down in the doorway. The shepherd is the door to the sheep fold. It’s a good thing too, because there’s a big, scary-looking wolf out here who’s on the prowl for a late-night snack of leg-of-lamb. See the wolf? (Choose somebody ahead of time from the congregation who would be willing to help.)

The wolf is going to try to sneak past the shepherd without waking him up to get at the sheep. If the shepherd touches the wolf, then the wolf has to run away and the sheep are safe. (Let players act it out.)

Thank you, shepherd, for protecting the sheep. We can be thankful that Jesus is our Good Shepherd and that he always watches over us. We remember that Jesus gave up his own life to save us from sin and death.

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd. Thank you for keeping us in your care.

The Empty Egg; an Easter Puppet Show

An original Kidsermons Puppet Show based on (John 20 : 1 – 18)

Cast: Mercy (Muppet-style puppet), Frannie Funzle (a Funzle), Kit Fox (a fox puppet with a clerical collar) and Gloria (a goose puppet), Gosling (a baby duckling puppet) and a human usher.

Props: 3 Easter egg baskets, empty shell of a real egg in one of the Easter baskets

Original Cast:  Mercy: Betsy  Frannie: Jill  Gloria: Ruth  Kit Fox: Pastor Teresa  Gosling: Elsa  Usher: Karen

******************************************************************************

Mercy(Enters holding a basket of Easter eggs.)  Just look at all the eggs I found! How egg-citing! What a great Easter egg hunt that was!

Frannie Funzle: (Enters also holding a basket of eggs.) Egg-sactly! There were eggs all over! And lots of little kids running around too. And they were kind of in the way! I had to push a few of them aside just to get at my eggs.

Mercy:  Frannie Funzle! You are not supposed to push the kids away. Those eggs are especially for the little kids! It is the only time in the year that they get to run around and find eggs, you know. And aren’t you a little old for Easter egg hunts?

Frannie Funzle: Too old? Just what are you implying? One is never too old to have fun! And anyways, you joined in the egg hunt! And you’re no spring chicken yourself.

Gloria: (Starts to holler off-stage…) Where is it? It’s missing! I can’t find it anywhere…

Mercy:  Hey! Speaking of spring chickens, here comes Gloria N. Eggshells!

Frannie: She is not a chicken. She is a goose. And she looks very upset.

Gloria: (Enters, pacing back and forth; frantically looking for something.) Oh woe is me! Woe is me!

Mercy:  Whoah there Gloria! Whoah! Slow down. What’s wrong?

Gloria:  I am looking for my egg!

Frannie:  Of course you’re looking for an egg. It’s Easter and everyone is looking for an egg.

Gloria:  You don’t understand. I am looking for MY egg! MY egg! Someone stole my egg!

Frannie:  Oh stop being so hysterical. There are enough Easter eggs for everyone. And they don’t just belong to you. “My egg” indeed! And don’t go looking in my Easter basket either. I found these eggs fair and square. Well, they’re not square really. They’re more of an elongated sphere actually, but you know what I mean.

Mercy:  Frannie, I don’t think poor Gloria is talking about Easter eggs.

Gloria:  Egg-sactly! I am not interested in your plastic Easter eggs. I am looking for MY egg, and I do not lay plastic eggs! Do you have plastic children? Really now! What were you thinking?

Frannie: Well, where did you last see your egg?

Gloria:  I laid my lovely egg about four weeks ago in a lovely little basket nest filled with soft grass. This morning, I got up to eat a few luscious snails and when I returned the entire nest was gone and with it… MY EGG!

Mercy:  Oh dear! You must be egg-cedingly sad!

Frannie: And egg-ceptionally upset!

Mercy:  Must be egg-crutiating!

Frannie:  Oooh. That’s a good one… let me see… and egg-cessively troubled!

Gloria:  Will you two stop it with the egg jokes! This is serious! My egg is missing and you two are trying to top each other with egg jokes.

Frannie:  You are absolutely right, Gloria. There is simply no egg-cuse for our behavior!

Mercy:  (Laughing.) “Egg-scuse.” Oh that’s a good one! You crack me up!

Gloria:  Will you quit egging her on?!

Mercy and Frannie:  “Egging her on!” (Mercy and Frannie start laughing again.)

Gloria:  Oh great! Now you’ve got me doing it! Are you going to help me find my egg or not?! (Starts to cry.) My lovely egg is gone!

Frannie:  We’re very sorry, Gloria. Oh course we’ll help you look for your egg.

Kit Fox:  Happy Easter everyone! Look at all the eggs I found! Isn’t it EGG-citing? Get it? EGG-citing? …. What? Why the long faces?

Mercy:  Kit Fox, Gloria has lost her egg… her own egg.

Frannie: Yes, the one she laid about a month ago in a basket-shaped nest on a bed of soft grass.

Kit Fox:  Well, I’ve been eating lots of eggs this morning! And they have been delicious!

Gloria:  You insensitive brute! You ate my egg! You devoured my baby!

Kit Fox:  Wait just a minute. There is no way that I would ever eat an 28 day-old egg! I only eat fresh eggs. And, for your information, I only eat un-fertilized eggs.

Mercy:  What does UN-fertilized mean?

Frannie: Never mind dear. I’ll explain it to you when you’re older.

(Usher enters from back of church with a basket containing an empty egg shell.)

Usher:  Is anyone missing a basket? I found this one outside with just an empty eggshell inside.

Gloria:  My nest! You found my nest. But the egg… it’s been cracked open and it’s empty. The egg is empty. All is lost!

Kit Fox:  Gloria! Wait! Don’t cry. All is not lost. That’s wonderful news. The egg is empty!

Frannie:  How can you be so callous and insensitive? You, sir, are a callous and callow Cadbury cad! And a scoundrel. She finds her lost egg and it’s empty! Her baby has been stolen and you say this is Good News? What is wrong with you?

Kit Fox:  I went to seminary! And I paid attention in Biology class! I can tell you why this is Good News and why it is a perfect event for Easter Sunday. The empty egg! It’s just like the empty tomb.

Gloria:  You’d better explain yourself Kit Fox!

Kit Fox: Early Sunday morning, the Bible tells us that two women went to the tomb of Jesus, expecting to find the tomb all closed up and the body of Jesus inside. They thought he was dead. But when they got to the tomb, it was cracked open… sort of like your egg, Gloria, and there was no body inside.

Gloria:  Someone stole the body?!

Kit Fox: No, no. That’s just what the women thought too, but then an angel appeared and explained that Jesus had risen. He is alive! That is the message of Easter. The tomb is empty and Jesus is alive.

Gloria:  So that means that my egg is empty because….

Gosling: (Appears near Gloria.) Peep! Peep! Mama?

Gloria:  My baby! My little hatchling!

Gosling:  Mama! Peep!

Gloria:  You’re alive! Oh Happy Easter my little peeper! Happy Easter everyone!

Kit Fox:  The Lord is risen!

All: He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!

(Music plays; puppet dance and exit.)


A Palm Sunday Carpet

Note: Dog story followed by children’s sermon:

BjornwPalm-300x289The palm branches brought in by our pastor for this Palm Sunday were augmented by large fan-shaped branches gleaned from the nearby woods here in Tokyo, and carried in by eager middle schoolers to create a very green and festive opening hymn processional. As the parade of Sunday School students ended, many of the large branches were placed on the floor at the front of the church where the children typically gather for the kids’ sermon. It made an inviting carpet and the children who came forward to hear the message were thrilled with the opportunity to stretch out on a mat of live greenery. Some even lay down to press their cheeks against the cool, green smoothness of the leaves. It was a perfect listening environment for a Palm Sunday message.

After the service, the children were encouraged to carry their branches home to remind them that it is now Holy Week. Everyone seemed to want to carry a branch, even our dog, who sometimes waits for us in the courtyard during the service. Seeing a branch waving temptingly close to his snout, Bjorn, the ever-eager Golden Retriever, snatched up a palm frond and trotted about, proudly with both tail and palm waving triumphantly in the air. Let all creatures praise the Lord!

From “Saving the Ants” (Download book at left!)

Scripture Reference: Matt. 21:1-11 

Preparation: Bring a large palm branch to signal the shouts of “Hosanna!” If possible, bring palm leaves to hand out to the children.

Today is Palm Sunday! Do you know what happened on Palm Sunday? There was a parade. How many of you have been to a parade? They’re exciting to watch, aren’t they? There are lots of people lining the streets, waiting to see the action. There’s lots of noise; marching bands and horns; people yelling, laughing, and dancing; clowns throwing candy and kids running around. It’s bright, colorful, and noisy.

I like parades. I want you to imagine that you’re all sitting by the side of a dusty road, waiting for a parade to start. You got up early to get a good seat and you’re waiting. You wait for a long time, but you don’t hear anything. Finally you hear voices, shouting, singing, laughing. You see dust rising at the end of the road.

Someone’s coming! First you see the people with palm branches, waving them around, and throwing them on the ground. Then you see colorful blankets thrown on top of the dust, making a tapestry path for someone important. Finally, you see the guest of honor, the King, making his triumphant entry into Jerusalem! You expect him to be riding in a fine chariot drawn by splendid horses, or at least in a fancy seat carried by servants. But that is not the way that this King arrived in Jerusalem. How did he make his entrance? (Children may answer.)

He came riding on a young donkey. Have you ever seen a parade that consisted solely of one man riding on a donkey? It may not sound that exciting, but this was King Jesus, the man who could do miracles and heal people. The crowd knew who he was, and they went wild! They yelled, waved palm branches, and threw their coats on the road! Did they make a lot of noise? They sure did! The whole city heard them! Everyone came running.

We’re going to hand out these palm leaves for you to wave, and I’d like everyone on this side to yell, “Hosanna!” and everyone over here to yell, “Blessed are you, King Jesus!” When I raise this big palm branch, you can start yelling. If I raise it really high, you can yell really loud. When I lower the branch down, stop yelling, okay?

Let’s see what Palm Sunday might have sounded like! (Raise palm branch and encourage everyone, including grown-ups, to join in.) Hosanna to the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

 

Sweet Temptation

First Sunday in Lent

From “Saving the Ants” (Download book at left!) 

Scripture Reference: Matt. 4:1-11

Preparation: Preparation: Bring wrapped candies to pass out.  

This morning, I want to find out how strong all of you are. Do you think you are stronger than something about the size of an ant? Could you beat an ant in a wrestling match? (Let children respond.) I’m sure you could! How about a little beetle? Are you stronger than a beetle? Probably.

Well, I’ve got something in my sack here that’s about this big. (Indicate with thumb and forefinger about one-half to one inch.) Do you think you’re stronger than something that big? Okay, I’ll show you what I have. Candies! No, I don’t want you to have a wrestling match with candy. I don’t want to see how strong these muscles are. (Indicate biceps.) I want to see how strong you are inside. We’re reading a lot of verses this Sunday about temptation. Does anyone know what temptation is? (Let children answer.) It’s seeing something that you really want, but knowing that you should not take it, or wanting to do something that you know you shouldn’t do. Has this ever happened to any of you? (Listen to stories offered.) I know it’s happened to all of us grown-ups here.

Temptation can be really tough to deal with. It’s hard to resist. Sometimes we really need to pray to God and ask for help. “Please God help me from taking that candy!” or “Dear God, I’m really mad at my sister and I want to hit her. Please help me not to!” With God’s help you can resist temptation. Now I’m going to give everyone of you a little temptation; and I’m going to ask you to not unwrap it or eat it until after the service and not until your feet have stepped outside of this church building, then it’s okay to eat it as long as your folks agree. So while you’re here in church, try to resist the temptation to eat it, because you’re really not supposed to eat in church. You’ve got to wait. If you can wait, then you’ve won a small battle and you will be stronger! (Hand out wrapped candies.)

Prayer: Lord, give us the strength to resist doing those things that we should not do. Now if you don’t think you’re strong enough, you can give your temptation to your folks to hold for you… that is as long as they’re strong enough to resist it. Okay, the resistance army can march back to their pews now. Be strong in the Lord!

Salt and Light

 

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

From “Saving the Ants” (Download book at left!)  Salt-and-Light

Scripture Reference: Matt. 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?”

Preparation: Bring salt and flour, or do your taste test with salted and unsalted chips.

Jesus once told his disciples that they were salt and light. That was sort of a strange thing to say. What do you suppose Jesus meant by that? Jesus told his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as useless” (Matt 5:13 NLT). In other words, without its strong taste, salt is not much good for anything.

Could I have a volunteer to taste something for me? (Choose a child to try a flour and salt taste test.) I’m going to pour a white powder into your hand. You taste it and tell me if you think it is salt or not. (Put a pinch of white flour into the child’s hand.) Does that taste like salt? (Child can describe the taste.) It doesn’t have much of a taste, does it? It’s bland and plain. Would you put it on your food?

Now I want you to taste something else. (Put a pinch of salt into child’s hand; it can be ground to a powder to resemble flour.) Does that have a strong taste? What is it? (Child responds.) That’s salty salt. We put salt on food to flavor it. If our salt was not salty, it would be useless to put it on our food.

Jesus told his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth . . . and the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-14 NLT). Do you think that means that as Christians we should hide and keep our belief in Jesus hidden so that it doesn’t taste too strong to anyone? Should we be careful not to say anything about what we believe? (Discuss with children.)

Jesus wants us to be salty, and he wants us to shine brightly. People around us should know for sure that we’re Christians. We should show them love and acceptance and tell them about God and invite them to church.

A little bit of salt on food can make a big difference. One little light can push back the darkness. Just a few salty Christians in a neighborhood can make a difference. Followers of Jesus can change entire neighborhoods, whole societies, even a country.

You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, so be salty and shine brightly and give glory to God!

Prayer: Help us to be salty Christians, Lord. May we shine brightly in our world and show others the way to you.

Following the Lamb

Second Sunday after Epiphany

Scripture Reference: John 1: 29 -42 

1929 Illustration by Clara M. Burd

1929 Illustration by Clara M. Burd

Preparation: Be ready to sing, with or without accompaniment, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” You may also bring an illustration of a lamb or a stuffed animal.

How many of you know the old nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb?” Can any of you help me sing the song? (Let children join in if they know it.) “Mary had a little lamb, little lamb. Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went… Everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.” In the song, the little lamb follows Mary into the schoolhouse, the teacher makes the lamb wait outside and then the other students start asking questions. They want to know why that lamb loves Mary so much and follows her everywhere. And the answer is, of course, that it’s because Mary loves the lamb. This little song reminds me that we love God, because God first loved us. God’s love puts love into our own hearts.

In the Gospel reading for today, John the Baptist calls Jesus the “Lamb of God.” And then, two of the first disciples, Andrew and Simon Peter, start to follow Jesus. It’s sort of funny when you think about it. Usually, a lamb will follow other sheep or the shepherd, or someone named Mary who loves the lamb very much. But here we have two men following the Lamb. Jesus, of course, is a grown man, not really a small sheep, but there are some important reasons why John calls Jesus the “Lamb of God.” And Jesus is called both the “Lamb of God” and the “Good Shepherd” because they both describe who Jesus is and how much Jesus loves us.

Here is one reason why Jesus is called the “Lamb of God.” In Old Testament times, before Jesus was born, people would take a lamb and they would make a sacrifice with the lamb to show God how sorry they were for their sins. They would go to the temple with a lamb and at the temple, they would say to God, “God we are sorry for the wrong things we have done. We place these sins on this lamb. We know that we should be punished for our sins, but we will allow this lamb to take the punishment instead.” And though it was very sad, they would kill the lamb and burn it on the altar. In this way, they were showing God that they wanted to get rid of their sins and be free from sin again. They knew that God did not want humans to be killed when they did something wrong; none would survive, after all. So a lamb was killed for the sins of a human.

This is why Jesus was sent to earth. He was sent to save us from our sins; sent to die in our place on the cross. And this is why John called Jesus, the “Lamb of God.” Even though John the Baptist did not know exactly what was going to happen to Jesus, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to call Jesus the Lamb of God. Jesus came to save us from death and to bring us to eternal life. We follow a Lamb who saves us.

No Fear

For Times of Fear and Uncertainty

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Scripture Reference: 1 John 4:16-19

Can you think of a time when you were really afraid? What was it that made you scared? (Let children share.) When did you stop being scared? What was it that comforted you or made you stop being afraid? (Children can tell about their experiences.) When we are scared, it can make all the difference in the world to have someone who loves us close by. Knowing that someone loves us and is there to protect and comfort us can make our fear disappear.

(You may discuss fearful times the children might have experienced, or you may share a time when you felt afraid and then comforted. My example follows.) When my mother was a little girl, she lived on a farm in northern Minnesota. She had to walk to and from school, which was about a mile away. One day, in the middle of winter, a blizzard blew in from the north. When school let out and they started home, it was snowing heavily and the wind was blowing very hard right in their faces. They knew they would have to walk all the way across a frozen lake to reach home. My mother was afraid they wouldn’t make it, that they might get lost in the snow and never reach home. Suddenly, all her fears disappeared. There, right in front of them, stood her father with a toboggan ready to pull them home. He tucked my mother, her brother, and her sister into the sled and covered them up with a big buffalo-skin robe. Then he pulled them all the way home.

There are many things in our world that might make us feel afraid. But do you ever feel afraid of God? (Talk about the responses to this question.) Do you think that God wants us to be afraid of him? The Bible tells us that God is love and that there is no fear in love. 1 John, chapter 4, says that if we really understand God’s love for us and let ourselves be wrapped up in that love, then we will have no fear.

God does not want us to be afraid of him. He wants us to know that he loves us so much that we need to have no fear at all. God is love, and when his love fills us, there is no room left for fear.

God does not want us to be afraid of other things in this world either. Of course, we should stay away from dangerous things so that we don’t get hurt. You shouldn’t ever touch a gun or take drugs that your parents or doctor haven’t given to you. But being careful is much different from being afraid. God wants us to live our lives without fear. God has promised to be with us always; nothing in the whole world can take God’s love away from us. The next time that you start to feel afraid, remember that God is there, God’s love is surrounding you, and there is no need to be afraid.

Prayer: Surround us with your perfect love, dear God, and help us to live our lives with no fear. Thank you for wrapping us up in your love.


A New Creature

2 Corinthians 5:15 – 17  newborn_baby_face-t3

And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  

John 3:1 – 8

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

River Baptism Photo Credit: Scott Elmquist

River Baptism
Photo Credit: Scott Elmquist

How far back can you remember? (Let children share memories of their earliest memories. You could also share your earliest memory.) Can any of you remember being born? That might be hard to do at this point. One of my children started talking at a very young age and we had many interesting conversations since it was fascinating hearing the point of view of one so young.

When a baby is born, does it begin life by trying to be helpful to others? Does a baby try to put others first and make sure that they are okay before asking for help or food or love? (Children can share what they think. Older brothers and sisters of infant offspring will probably have something to say about this.) Babies are inherently self-centered, aren’t they? They cry when they are hungry or wet or need attention. It does not matter to a baby if you are tired or hungry yourself. The baby is only concerned with its own survival and comfort. Once it is born, a baby’s first concern is staying alive. It is born for its own life.

Jesus once told a very important man, that in order to be right with God, a person needs to be born again. This man, Nicodemus, thought that was impossible. Once you are born, there is no way that you are going to get back in to the mommy from whence you came. But Jesus was talking about the heart and soul of a person, not their physical body. Jesus was talking about being born again into God’s family; being baptized with water and with the Holy Spirit of God. Baptism is like being born again.

This time, however, you are born into a life that does not have you as its center. A baptized life has Jesus at its center, and so the baptized, or born-again person is born into a life of service to others. A child of God wants to help others first before helping themselves. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says, “And (Jesus) died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”

Can you imagine a baby turning to its mother and saying, “Mother, I would really like to have some milk now, but I’m wondering if you have had enough to eat first?” That would seem strange, of course, but as we grow up and as we listen to God’s word, we realize that we are here to help others and to show others the Love of God. We are born again to have Jesus at the center of our lives instead of having ourselves at the center of our lives. We pray that God’s Spirit will help us to serve others for Christ.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, Thank you for dying on the cross in our place. Thank you for saving us. Help us to put you at the center of our lives. Help us to live our lives for you and for others. Amen.

Listening to the Shepherd

Scripture Reference: John 10:25 – 30

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish.” sheep-following

How many of you come when you are called? (Let children respond.) Do you come right away? Does it depend on who calls you, or when they call you? (You might want to find out if the parents agree that they come when they are called.) Well-trained dogs come when they are called, don’t they?

Dogs know their owner’s voice and when they hear the command, they come. Sheep aren’t really as smart as dogs, and they don’t always come when they are called, but they do recognize the voice of the shepherd. (You may want to show one of the videos links below demonstrating that sheep do respond to the voice of the shepherd.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Coq_grSFlNs

It may take a while for some of them to come, but they eventually do come.

Sheep will not come to a voice that they do not recognize:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e45dVgWgV64

Jesus is our Good Shepherd and he knows us and He calls to us. In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, it says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish.”

Jesus is calling, but are we listening? Do we hear Jesus when he is encouraging us to do the right thing? To obey our parents when we know we should? To do the work that we promised to do? To be kind and generous when we feel like being mean and selfish?

The Good Shepherd calls to us because Jesus loves us and wants us to grow up to be God’s followers and to love one another. The voice of Jesus guides us in our lives and helps to keep us safe.

I don’t always listen very carefully to God’s voice, but I try. And I know it has saved my life on many occasions. (Here you may share your own story of God’s protection.) Last week, while biking to school, God preserved my life. I was preparing to make a right hand turn, which is the dangerous one here in Japan since we drive on the left side of the road. I was approaching the intersection, saw that the light had turned yellow and so I slowed down ready for the green arrow that would allow me to turn right. My green arrow flashed on and I started to step on the pedals to push out into the intersection with my right hand extended, signaling my turn. I hesitated, thought I should look back one more time, and just as I did, a big truck came blasting straight through the red light coming past me on my right side, almost smacking my extended hand.

It was surprising, of course, but I then finished my turn and looked back at the corner where a policeman was standing. He had seen the whole thing. I called across the street to ask me if he had seen what happened and he nodded his head “yes.” So I then continued on to work.

That hesitation; that feeling that I should stop or look or be careful has come at other times in my life and it has made all the difference. God is always calling to us. Just as sheep that listen to their shepherd are protected and fed, our lives are blessed when we listen to the voice of Jesus.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being our Good Shepherd. Help us to listen for your voice