Pentecost Proper 3; 2nd Sunday after Pentecost
From “Scolding the Snakes”
Scripture Reference: 1 Cor. 15:51-58
Preparation: Bring a chrysalis or pictures of cocoons and moths or butterflies. (A butterfly emerges from a chrysalis; a moth emerges from a cocoon.)
Do you know what a mystery is? Have you ever seen something mysterious? (Let children respond.) A mystery is something amazing, something very difficult or impossible to explain. (Using the pictures or objects you brought with you, describe the transformation of an insect, such as caterpillar to butterfly. If possible, describe one you have seen yourself, or use my example below.)
Here is a mystery I have seen. I have watched fat little caterpillars spin smooth, warm blankets around themselves. The caterpillars sleep inside those chrysalises, and many days later, something that is not at all like a caterpillar comes out. What does a caterpillar change into? (Let children describe butterflies or moths they have seen emerge from these transformations.) Yes! A caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
If you could see inside that tight covering, you’d find that the caterpillar doesn’t look like it’s alive. It’s not moving; you can’t see anything changing. It looks dead. Then one day, the chrysalis starts to shake and wobble. Slowly, an insect with wings pushes its way out into the world.
The chrysalis is a little bit like the tomb where Jesus was buried. When Jesus was laid in that tomb and the big stone was rolled in front of the entrance, everyone thought that was the last they’d see of Jesus. No one expected life to come out of that place of death. But after three days, God raised Jesus to new life. A transformed Jesus came out of that tomb, more alive than he had ever been before.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes, “But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye. . . . Our . . . earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die” (15:51-53 NLT).
All of us are sort of like caterpillars. We know we’re alive, but this is the only life we know. We walk along the ground like caterpillars crawl along a leaf. A little caterpillar can’t imagine what it will be like to have wings and soar through the air. And like that caterpillar, we can’t imagine what life will be like when we are living in heaven with our Savior. It’s too wonderful to imagine. But Jesus has promised that we will have this special new life with him. We will be changed, transformed.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, as we look forward to a new life with you in heaven, begin to change us now. Give us hearts that love you more and more, and hands that help others.
Day of Pentecost
From “Scolding the Snakes”
Scripture Reference: Acts 2:1-21
Preparation (Optional): Arrange ahead of time for members of the congregation who are fluent in other languages to stand, one after the other and declare, “Jesus is Lord. I believe in Jesus!” in their various languages.
Can you tell me what language you speak? (Let children respond.) Many of us speak English, but in our country we hear other languages as well. Do any of you speak another language or know anyone who does? (Let the children share. If some can do so, let them say a few words in another language. Or, if you know another language, say something to the children in that language.) Does anyone know what language God speaks? (Someone may answer.)
When Jesus was preaching here on Earth, he spoke Aramaic, the language he learned as a little boy. Hebrew was the language that was used in the Jewish places of worship. And many of Jesus’ early followers spoke Greek and Latin. So were those God’s languages? The first followers of Jesus lived in the Middle East, so they spoke Middle Eastern languages when they told others about Jesus. Where can we find followers of Jesus today? (Let kids respond.) There are Christians in every country in the world now. The Bible is printed in more languages than any other book in the world!
Today we celebrate the Day of Pentecost, which is sort of like the birthday of the Christian Church. On this day, a lot of Jesus’ followers were all together in one place. Jesus had gone back to be with his Father in heaven, but before he left, he had told his disciples to wait for God’s Spirit to come and show them what to do. Suddenly a sound like a mighty wind filled the room. Then, what looked like small flames appeared over the disciples’ heads. Jesus’ followers were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began talking about Jesus in other languages. (Ask volunteers to speak of Jesus in different languages.)
(If you had volunteers speak in different languages, say: On that first Pentecost, it probably sounded a little like what you just heard.) The disciples began preaching in languages they had never known before. And there were people in the crowds who understood them. And the Holy Spirit knew those languages; the Holy Spirit helped them tell about Jesus.
How many languages do you think God knows? (Children may answer.) God can speak any language in the world to anyone in the world. And God speaks through followers just like us. You can each use the language you know in order to tell others about Jesus. The message of Jesus began to spread around the world on the first Pentecost, and it continues to spread whenever you tell others about Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, give us the words to speak about you to people everywhere.
7th Sunday of Easter
From “Scolding the Snakes”
Scripture Reference: Acts 16:16-34
Preparation: Find or draw a large picture of a jailer standing outside a jail cell with a prisoner inside behind bars.
Can anyone tell me which of these two persons is in prison and which one is free? (Hold up picture so children and congregation can see it. Let child point out the prisoner and the jailer.) That was pretty easy to tell, wasn’t it? Do you think the one who is outside the jail guarding the prisoner is always the one who is free? Let me tell you a true story about prisoners and a jailer. It’s a story about two men who told many people about Jesus; their names were Paul and Silas.
This story is found in the New Testament book called Acts. Paul and Silas were thrown in prison by the people in a city whose ruler did not want them to preach about God. They were put in the inner dungeon, and their feet were clamped into irons so they couldn’t even move. Their jailer was ordered to guard them carefully so they could not escape.
Now, it seems like the jailer is free and Paul and Silas are not free, doesn’t it? But really, the opposite is true. Paul and Silas may have been in jail, but they didn’t feel like prisoners. They were happy because they believed in Jesus and were free from the jail of sin. They were so happy about the freedom Jesus brings that they were singing at the top of their lungs, praising God. The jailer, on the other hand, didn’t know Jesus, so he was still trapped in the prison of sin and bad thoughts.
Suddenly a great earthquake shook the jail from top to bottom! All the prison doors flew open, and the chains dropped off every prisoner. The jailer thought that all the prisoners had escaped, and he was really scared. He knew he would be punished for letting them escape, so he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, but Paul shouted, “Stop! We’re all here!” The jailer ran to Paul and Silas and fell on his knees before them. These men seemed so happy, they sang hymns in prison; and they had been so kind to him—they hadn’t even run away. He wanted to know how he, too, could be so happy and so kind. The jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Paul and Silas told the jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” So that very night the jailer and his whole family accepted Jesus as their Savior and were baptized.
Now the jailer was free from the prison of sin—just as free as Paul and Silas! And now he, too, could be happy and kind to others.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for making us free from the power of sin.
6th Sunday of Easter
From “Scolding the Snakes”
Scripture Reference: John 14:26
- Preparation: Tie colored yarn around three of your fingers as visual reminders. You may cut extra lengths of yarn and bring these to hand out to children at the end of the sermon.
Why do you suppose I have these colored strings tied around my fingers? (Hold your hand up and let children guess.) Sometimes people tie strings around their fingers to remind them of something. Let’s say you have to bring your turtle to school for show-and-tell. You want to be sure you don’t forget, so you tie a string around your finger before you go to bed. In the morning, you see the string and remember to bring the turtle.
I don’t have to remember anything for show-and-tell, but I do have to remember some important things every day. Would you like to know what my strings remind me of? (Point to each string as you explain the following.) This one reminds me that Jesus said, “You should love each other just as much as I love you.” Another string reminds me that Jesus said, “Whenever you feed the hungry in my name, it’s as if you are feeding me.” Another string helps me remember that Jesus said, “Love your enemies and do good to those who hurt you.” All of these strings remind me of important things Jesus said—things that I want to be sure to do.
The Gospel lesson from the book of John tells us about another way God reminds us of Jesus’ words. Jesus told his disciples, “When the Father sends the Counselor . . . I mean the Holy Spirit . . . he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you” (NLT). So we don’t really need strings, do we? We have God’s Holy Spirit to help us remember Jesus’ words.
I’ll take these strings off now because I know the Holy Spirit will remind me of the things Jesus said. (Remove strings as you give the following examples.) If someone pushes you on the playground, the Holy Spirit might remind you that Jesus said we shouldn’t be mean to those who are mean to us. Instead, we should treat them with love, and love can help change mean persons of this world. And if you see somebody who’s poor and hungry, of what might the Holy Spirit remind you? (Let children answer.) Or, what if you see a classmate or friend who is lonely or sad? (Let children answer.)
The Holy Spirit will remind us of Jesus’ words about loving one another, but we also have to remember to be good listeners and to listen for the Holy Spirit. So maybe I’ll keep just one string to remind me to listen to the Holy Spirit. And maybe you might want a little reminder to listen, too. (You may hand out strings to all the kids as reminders to listen.)
Prayer: Lord, help us to listen to your reminders, and help us to love as Jesus loves us.
5th Sunday of Easter
From “Scolding the Snakes”
Scripture Reference: John 13:31-35
- Preparation: Bring along an example of a talent you possess or a special piece of art you’ve made or an unusual object that you own. For example, you could bring balls to juggle or a painting, a sculpture, or a piece of stitchery you’ve made.
Have any of you ever heard the expression, “The proof is in the pudding” or “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”? Let’s say that your friend tells you he can make a pudding that is the best thing you have ever tasted. If you reply, “Well, the proof is in the pudding,” you’re saying that you’ll believe him after you’ve tasted the pudding. In other words, if you’re telling the truth about something, you will be able to show it.
(Describe your unusual talent or show your unusual passion here. My example follows.) I’d like to tell you about something I can do that I think is kind of special. I can juggle three balls at the same time. I suppose I could tell you that and not really know how to juggle, but you could always test me. You could say, “All right, prove it! The proof is in the pudding, you know.” Then I would have to prove it to you. (Pause for a bit, and if nobody challenges you, continue.) “Well, is anyone going to say it to me?” (Children can respond with “Prove it!”)
Okay then, I’ll have to show you. I’ll prove what I said was true. (Demonstrate your talent or reveal your special possession to prove it’s real.) There. Now you see that what I said is true, right?
Jesus’ followers were going around telling everyone that they were friends of Jesus—that they were his disciples. So Jesus told those followers how to prove they really were—and the whole world would know they told the truth. Jesus told them that they should love one another the way Jesus loved them. Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35 NLT).
How do we prove to the whole world that we really are followers of Jesus? (Let kids respond.) We love each other. Instead of saying “the proof is in the pudding,” we might say “the proof is in the loving.” Is it hard to love sometimes? When your sister is making fun of you, is it hard to love her as much as Jesus loves her? When your brother has just eaten the last chocolate donut, is it hard to love him as much as Jesus loves him?
The love of Jesus is a powerful thing. Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to die for us on the cross. He wants us to love each other that much. And that love will show the world that we really are disciples of Jesus.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, fill me up with your love so that I can love everyone else.
4th Sunday of Easter
From “Scolding the Snakes”
Scripture Reference: John 10:25-30 and Ps. 23
Following the Shepherd’s Voice
How many of you answer the telephone in your home? (Let kids raise their hands.) Now, tell me this: how many of you have answered the phone and guessed who was calling, just by his or her voice—before the person on the other end told you who it was? Are you good at recognizing voices? (Let kids respond.) If we hear a voice that we’ve heard many times before, it’s pretty easy to recognize, isn’t it? (You may share your own story here or ask kids to tell about a time when they recognized somebody by voice—without even seeing the person. You may want to play recordings of recognizable voices from the congregation and see if the children can recognize them.)
Do you know that a baby can recognize her mommy’s voice when she is just a few days old? She’s heard that voice from inside the mommy as she’s growing and developing and getting ready to be born. Her mommy’s voice is comforting and familiar. Sometimes just hearing the voice of her mother is enough to calm a crying baby.
People aren’t the only ones who are good at recognizing voices. Plenty of animals are, too. Did you know that a flock of sheep can recognize the voice of their shepherd? Sheep aren’t like dogs; you can’t train them to do tricks. But sheep can recognize voices, and they can follow the familiar voice of their shepherd. When a flock of sheep is scared or confused, often just the sound of the shepherd’s voice is enough to calm them and to bring them in close to the shepherd. The sheep don’t have to see the shepherd; even in darkness, they will follow the sound of the shepherd’s voice.
In the Bible, people are often compared to sheep and Jesus is called the Good Shepherd. What are some ways that we can hear Jesus’ voice talking to us? (Let children share ideas.) Do we hear his words in Bible readings? Do we hear what he wants us to know in the words of our parents and pastor and Sunday school teachers? And sometimes, do we hear Jesus’ voice in the answers to our prayers?
A good shepherd is always looking for the safest path for his flock. He looks for green pastures with lots of tasty grass for his sheep. He takes his sheep to calm, clear water to drink. Jesus always wants the best for us, so we can feel very safe and happy when we follow his voice. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life” (John 10:27-28 NIV). Jesus has promised his followers a wonderful life with him—one that will never end. And no one can take that away from us. Follow the Good Shepherd.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us hear your voice, and then help us to follow that voice. Amen
3rd Sunday of Easter
From “Scolding the Snakes”
Scripture Reference: John 21:15-19
Do koalas count as “lambs” sometimes?
Preparation: Bring a plastic bottle filled with water, and set it in plain view a short distance (but out of reach), from where you will sit with the children.
Can one of you tell me the name of someone you love? (Call on several volunteers.) What sorts of things do you do to show these people that you really love them? (Let volunteers share.) There are lots of things we can do to show people we love them. Your parents love you very much. What kinds of things do they do for you that show their love? (Let children describe.) When we care about someone, we can’t help but do nice things for them. When we love people, we help them, don’t we? And that’s especially important when our loved ones can’t do something by themselves and need our help.
Let’s pretend right now, that my legs don’t work and I am really thirsty. I can’t get up and get my water bottle over there. (Indicate water bottle.) How do you suppose I could get that water? (Let children offer suggestions until one gets the hint and goes to get the water for you.) I can’t reach the water, though some of you can. And now someone has gone to get the water for me. Thank you. (Take a drink of water and then continue.)
We could have talked for a long time about how you all would be able to help me, but if nobody had gotten up to get the water, I’d still be thirsty, right? After Jesus had risen from the dead, he appeared to his disciples several times. One of the last times he was with them, he asked Simon Peter a question. “Simon, son of John,” Jesus said, “do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. Jesus repeated his question three times, so it must have been very important. (John 21:15-17 NLT).
Do you know what Jesus was really telling Peter? Peter knew. Jesus was really talking about people. “Feed my lambs” means “help my people.” The world is full of people who are hungry to hear the good news that Jesus came to save them from the bad things in their hearts. But if people who know about Jesus—people like Peter and like us—never share that good news, it is like a water bottle that is out of reach. The news won’t do them any good. Somebody has to be willing to talk about Jesus to these hungry people. We feed Jesus’ lambs when we tell people about God.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to feed your lambs. Help us to tell people about your love. In your name we pray. Amen