Cheating in the Temple

 For the Third Sunday in Lent

Scripture Reference: John 2:15  ”So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.”(NIV)

Preparation: Bring a photo of a bird or a stuffed animal to represent the animal sacrifice. You may also use some play money or coins for the buying and selling.

Cleansing the Temple

This morning’s Gospel reading is taken from the Gospel of John, the second chapter, verses 13 – 22. It is the one place in the Bible that shows Jesus being so angry, that he turned tables upside down and chased people away with a whip. It’s not the usual picture that we have of the peaceful, loving Jesus. In verse 15, it says, “Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” Why did he get so angry? Why did Jesus chase everyone out of the temple?

The temple, or the place where people came to worship God, should have been the one place where everyone knew they would be loved and accepted and treated fairly. Our churches should be the same way, shouldn’t they? But when Jesus visited the temple in Jerusalem, he found that a lot of cheating was going on. Here’s an example. (Choose some volunteers to be the sellers and buyers of doves.) Let’s say that these two travelers (choose two children) come to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. They are poor, so they have only a pair of doves to sacrifice to God. They have brought this sacrifice out of love and want to enter the temple. They are stopped, however, before they can come in.

The priest (you can take on the role of the priest) stops the travelers and says, “You can’t offer these doves as an offering! They are not perfect enough. I will buy these doves from you for a small price. Then you can come in and find a couple of perfect and blessed doves to offer as a sacrifice. So the travelers sell their doves and go further into the temple where they have to buy a couple of doves at a much higher price that they can barely afford. They buy the doves and make the sacrifice. They will have to go without food for several days, but they are happy that they can worship God in this way.

Jesus knew what was going on here. The doves that they were forced to buy were just the same as the ones they came with. The travelers were being cheated by the priests in charge of the temple. Jesus was very angry that people were being cheated in his Father’s house, right in the temple. In much the same way that you feel angry when someone you love is hurt by others, Jesus felt angry that the poor people, whom he loved very much, were being cheated and taken advantage of in God’s own house. Love is gentle and kind, but love is also angry at things that are unjust and not right. As Christians, we are also called to protect the poor and the needy. May God give us the strength and courage to show love and to show justice in the world.

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, help us to love others and do justice in this world. Give us courage and strength. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Crusty Grudges

SnellySnailSnelly the Snail agrees to help with a children’s sermon on forgiveness, but discovers that he is harboring grudges inside his shell… and he’s not at all comfortable. Only forgiveness can set him free.

“I don’t feel so well. I feel all scratchy and uncomfortable inside my shell.”

“I think you may be holding onto some grudges.”

“What’s a grudge?”

“It’s what forms inside when someone says or does something bad to you and you refuse to let go of the hurt. It stays inside you and gets all crusty and hard and you end up carrying it around forever.”

Click on the link below to watch Snelly the Snail get set free from his grudges: 

Materials needed: a snail puppet, small hard bits of rock or coral or shell

A Watered Garden

 For the Second Sunday After Christmas

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Scripture Reference: Jeremiah 31:12  “Their life will be like a watered garden, and all their sorrows will be gone.”

Preparation: Bring a watering can and packets of seeds. You may even bring some potted flowers, seedlings, or seeds to hand out to the children.  watering flowers in garden

I’d like to read one verse from the Bible to you. It’s part of the Old Testament reading: Jeremiah, chapter 31, verse 12. “God’s people will come home and sing songs on the heights of Jerusalem. They will be radiant because of the many gifts the Lord has given them; the good crops of wheat, wine, and oil, and the healthy flocks and herds. Their life will be like a watered garden, and all their sorrows will be gone” (NLT) .

“Their life will be like a watered garden… ” What a wonderful word picture! What is a watered garden like? What would you find in a watered garden? (Let children offer their responses.) You would find green things growing, wouldn’t you? Flowers, vegetables, bushes, fruit trees, shade trees; all of these things can grow and thrive in a watered garden.

Let’s pretend we’ve planted a garden here at the front of the church. What sorts of things would you see here? What would you like to find in a garden? (Listen to answers and offer your own favorites.) It sounds like we have a wonderful garden here! Now, what would happen to our garden if we all went away and nobody watered or took care of it for a long time? The garden would wither and die, wouldn’t it?

We all have something like a garden inside each of us. Our “inside garden” is filled with our thoughts, our discoveries, and our feelings. Our garden is who we are deep inside. Who do you suppose waters our inside gardens? Who fills us with love and good thoughts and healthy feelings? (A child may answer.) Yes, God is our gardener; and if we let him tend the garden, how will the garden grow? Our garden will be very healthy and fruitful. When we pray and listen to God and read our Bibles and obey God, then we stay healthy inside.

I hope that all of your lives will be like a watered garden. Before you go back to your places, let’s water our pretend garden and watch the plants sprout up. (Use your watering can to pretend to water the garden. You or the children may comment on the pretend plants sprouting.) Thank you for gardening with me this morning.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, our loving gardener, water our lives with your love and keep us free from the weeds and thorns of bad thoughts. Help us to grow up healthy inside and out.

Nothing Is Impossible

For the Fourth Sunday of Advent

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Scripture Reference: Luke 1:35-38  “Nothing is impossible with God”

 Preparation: Bring a doll wrapped in swaddling clothes to represent Jesus. Swaddled Babe

Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent. Christmas is very near. In the middle of all the busyness and decorations and excitement about presents, are you remembering who we are getting ready for? What is Christmas all about? (Let children respond.) That’s right, we’re waiting for the baby Jesus. This is not an ordinary baby; this is the Son of God. When this baby comes, incredible things will happen.

Now I know that you are never supposed to bring dangerous weapons to church, but in my bag, I have a model of an extremely powerful and dangerous weapon. What do you think it could be? (Let children guess.) This weapon has already been used here on earth. It was used to save all of us. And it broke down the gates of hell and destroyed the devil’s power. (Retrieve baby Jesus doll and show everyone.)

You wouldn’t normally think of a baby as a dangerous weapon, would you? Babies are helpless and soft and sweet. What could a little baby do? But baby Jesus was no ordinary baby. In sending Jesus to earth, God did the impossible. Is it possible for the power of God to be contained within a tiny infant? It happened. Could God love us so much that he would send his only son to save us from our sins? It happened. Could God, as a human, take on all the powers of the devil and sin and destroy that power with love? It happened. With God, nothing is impossible.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she was going to give birth to God’s Son, it was hard for Mary to believe. The angel told Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 nlt). A wonderful song by an English composer named Benjamin Britten describes Baby Jesus as a weapon who came to destroy evil. Britten’s song tells how tiny Jesus—just a few days old and shivering in the cold—made the Devil and all the powers of hell shake with fear. Without any weapons or armor, Jesus surprised “the gates of hell” and defeated Satan.

A tiny baby can change the whole world. The power of evil is destroyed by a tiny baby. The baby Jesus comes this Christmas to save us all. The baby Jesus is the Son of God; and with God, nothing is impossible.

Prayer: Praise to you, Lord God, for sending your only son, Jesus, to our earth as a little baby. Thank you for sending Jesus to save us from our sins and to bring us eternal life!


Kid Connections

5 Ways to Connect with Kidsermons:

1. When delivering a children’s sermon, sit with the kids on their level and talk directly to them.

2. Listen and respond to comments; work them into your message. Kids say profound things. Often times, they are the sermon.

3. Use props that help to illustrate an important truth. Make sure that the connection between the prop and the truth is authentic and memorable.

4. Make a connection between the children’s message and the sermon. Make connections with the Bible readings. Grown-up listeners appreciate this too.

5. Welcome parents to accompany their shy children to the front of the church so that everyone feels included and brave.

Feel free to leave comments or questions. Blessings on your ministry!

Clear a Path

For the Third Sunday of Advent

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Scripture Reference: John 1:23 “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare a straight pathway for the Lord’s coming!”  WrappingMess

Preparation: Bring several large squares of wrapping paper, a fat marker, and a bag for garbage.

Today is the third Sunday in Advent. Christmas might still seem a long way off, but while we wait, we should be getting ready. How do people get ready for Christmas? (Let children respond. Note the “getting ready” suggestions, writing several on the back of each sheet of wrapping paper. Then throw the papers on the floor in front of you.) We get ready for Christmas by making lists of things to do and things to buy. We get ready by wrapping presents. We have parties and get dressed up. We send out Christmas cards. We do Christmas baking. (A pile of paper should be growing at your feet.)

There are so many busy things to do at Christmastime, that sometimes we forget who we are supposed to be getting ready for. Christmas celebrates the coming of someone very important. Who is that? (Children may answer.) Yes! Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. Jesus is coming! And during Advent we are supposed to be getting ready to receive Jesus.

Before Christmas comes, we are busy getting ready in many ways, but the most important thing we can do is to get our hearts ready to receive Jesus. John the Baptist was a man whose job was to help people get ready for the coming of Jesus. He knew what he was supposed to do. When people asked him who he was, John the Baptist answered, “I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare a straight pathway for the Lord’s coming!’”(John 1:23 nlt).

If the Lord were to come down this aisle and walk right up to us, would he have a straight pathway? (Indicate the mess of paper on the floor.) No, he’d have to make a path through all of these busy things that we do to get ready for Christmas. Can you help make a straight pathway through the middle of all this? Let’s make a straight pathway for Jesus. (Children can help push wrapping aside to make a path down the middle.) Thank you. Now Jesus has a pathway.

Advent is an exciting time of getting ready for Christmas, but in the middle of all of our busyness, we need to remember to make a straight pathway in our hearts so Jesus can come in. Before you go, can each of you grab a paper and put it in the bag? Then you can find your pathway back to your seats.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, come into our hearts in the middle of our Christmas preparations and remind us to make a pathway for you. Help us to receive you with joy.

God’s Hug

For the Second Sunday of Advent

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Scripture Reference: Isa. 40:1-11 “He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart.”  Group_Hug

Preparation: You may want to ask adult volunteers to help you with the big group hug at the end of the sermon.

It’s the second Sunday in Advent, isn’t it? During Advent, we wait for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. Sometimes it feels like we have to wait for a long time. If you have ever waited a long time for your mom or dad to get home and you’ve been missing them, you might feel sad and want to be comforted. What happens when you finally see each other again? How would your mom or dad give you comfort? (Let children respond.) Do they wrap their arms around you? It feels good when we can get a hug from someone. A hug is a real comfort to us when we’ve been waiting for someone.

There’s a verse in the Old Testament book of Isaiah that says, “Comfort, comfort my people . . . speak tenderly. . . . [The Lord] will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young” (Isa. 40:1–2, 11 nlt).

When Isaiah says, “He will gather the lambs in his arms,” who do you think those lambs are? (Wait for answer.) You are God’s lambs, and he is your shepherd. When you’re lonely or sad, God wants to take you in his arms and comfort you. But sometimes we can’t feel God’s hugs. So who can God use to give us hugs for him? (Children may respond.) Yes, we get hugs from our parents, our brothers and sisters, and friends—we get hugs from people who care about us.

Do you think God is big enough to hug the whole world? Yes, God is big enough to hold all of his lambs at one time. How many people can you hug at once? Can you get your arms around just one person at a time, or can you hug two people at once? If your arms were really long, you could maybe hug three or four people at once.

I know I can hug at least one person. I’ll show you, if someone would volunteer to be hugged. (Give one volunteer a hug.) And I’m pretty sure that I can hug two people at once. (Give two volunteers a hug.) But in order to hug all of you at once, the way our Father in heaven can, I will need some help. (Have your volunteer adults come forward to help out.) Now let’s see if we can give all of God’s lambs a hug at the same time, the way God can. (Give a group hug.)

That was a very big hug, wasn’t it? Remember that God is bigger than any sadness or loneliness, and he can comfort all of us, but he needs people to help him give hugs. Will you remember to give out plenty of hugs today? After our prayer, you can go back to your places and give someone a hug.

Prayer: We thank you, our Lord and Comforter, that you care about us and want to hold us close. Help us to show others your love.

King and Shepherd

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For the Last Sunday after Pentecost or Proper 29: Christ the King Sunday

From “Saving the Ants”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Scripture References: Matt. 25:31-46 and Ez. 34:11, 16  “I myself will search for my sheep…I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak…”

Preparation: Bring a large cardboard or wooden shepherd’s staff to help ’round up the sheep.’

What does a king do? Can anyone tell me what the job of being king might be like? What sorts of things would you have to take care of? (Let children respond.) A king has to make laws. A king might have to be a judge and decide who is right. A king has to defend his country and his people from attacking armies. Do you think that a king has to take care of sheep? Does that sound like a job for a king? (Children can answer.)

Shepherding is a dirty, tiring job. You’ve got to chase after sheep all day, and then you have to sleep with them at night. If a wolf is running after your sheep, you have to run out and tackle the beast and protect your flock. Can you imagine a king in velvet robes and golden crown running around in a muddy pasture chasing sheep?

Well, today is Christ the King Sunday and we recognize that Jesus Christ is the Almighty King, ruler of heaven and earth. But the Old Testament reading describes the Lord God as a shepherd taking good care of his sheep. A king and a shepherd, those are the pictures we have of our Lord this Sunday.

Ezekiel 34 tells us what kind of shepherd our Lord is: “I myself will search for my sheep. . . . I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak” (Ez. 34:11, 16 NRSV). Even when the sheep are scattered all over the place, the shepherd will gather them up and bring them back. God always looks for us when we’ve turned away from him and have taken the wrong and dangerous path. Our Lord never gives us up for lost.

Would someone like to try shepherding this morning? (Choose a volunteer and hand them the shepherd staff.) Now, the rest of you are sheep. I’d like you to spread out here in the front. (You may have to set boundaries and say that sheep have to be on all fours so that your sheep don’t stray too far.) The shepherd needs to gather up his sheep and bring them back here to sit down again. The shepherd will walk around calling, “Here sheep! Come home!” And as soon as the shepherd touches you with his staff, you have to follow him. Make sure you touch everyone gently with your staff, shepherd. (Help if needed.)

Good job, shepherd. (Sheep sit again.) Jesus wants us to take care of each other just like he cares for us. He wants us to feed the hungry, take care of the sick, and even help people who have done bad deeds. By caring for others, we care for Jesus. Every one of you can be a good shepherd.

Prayer: Jesus, you are our Good Shepherd. Thank you for your tender care.

Use It Or Lose It

For the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost or Proper 28

(Lectionary 33) From “Saving the Ants”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Scripture Reference: Matt. 25:14-30 “… to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.”

Jesus told many parables describing how we need to prepare for when he comes again. He really wanted his disciples to listen. Jesus’ return is something to look forward to, but it is also something for which we need to prepare.

Jesus told “The Parable of the Talents” as a way to show how we should get ready for Jesus’ return. Because “talents” can mean either money or something that you do well, it helps to think about what Jesus meant by telling this story in a new way. Here is a different version of that same story:

One day, a school principal had to go on a long trip. She called her three best students into her office. To the first student, she said, “God has blessed you with an ability to understand computers. I’m going to leave you with all these new computers. I know you’ll be able to make good use of them.”

To the next student she said, “You have been blessed by God with a sense of beauty and design. In the studio I have left bolts of fabric, paint, and other art materials for you.”

To the last student she said, “You have been blessed by God with a listening heart and the ability to solve conflict and to bring friends who are fighting together again. All that I have to leave with you with are kind words and a smile.”

When the principal returned to the school many months later, she went to see what her best students had done with the talents each were given. The first student showed her the library where students could access other libraries and classrooms with cameras that looked in on scientific experiments happening around the world. “Well done!” said the principal, “More computers will be delivered tomorrow for you to use.”

The second student showed her the assembly auditorium that had been transformed into a fantastic stage with scenery and curtains. The principal also saw that this student had painted large murals on the walls. “You have done a splendid job!” exclaimed the principal. “In the art room I have left brightly colored clay. Create any sculpture you like.”

The principal looked for the third student. She crossed the playground where many students were arguing and found the third student crouched behind a tree, ignoring the arguing. She glanced over at her friends fighting, but didn’t move from her spot. The principal was upset. “You could have used your gifts to bring harmony to the playground, but you did nothing,” she said. “Your friends needed you and you did nothing to help them. I am very disappointed in you.”

All of us have been given talents by God. If we do not share our talents, we disappoint God and our wonderful gifts are wasted. If we use our talents to help others, then we can be excited and happy to meet Jesus, knowing that we have done our best with what we have been given.

Prayer: Thank you Lord,  for giving us the ability to do so many wonderful things. We want to use our gifts to help others; help us to do this.

Be Prepared

For the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost or Proper 27

From “Saving the Ants”

Matthew 25:1 – 13; “Jesus said, ‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.’”  

Preparation: Bring two flashlights with spent or very dim batteries and extra batteries for only one of the flashlights.

In the Gospel lesson for today, Jesus told a story about ten maidens. Five were foolish and five were wise. The maidens were waiting for a bridegroom to arrive so that they could go to a marriage feast. But since most of you probably aren’t real familiar with marriage feasts, bridegrooms, or oil lamps, I will tell you a little different version of the story, and I’ll need your help.

I need two volunteers to hold my flashlights. (Hand out flashlights, one with extra batteries and one without extra batteries. Try to give the batteries to a child old enough to replace them without too much help.)

One evening in the land of the Mighty King, there was a wonderful party planned. It would be held in the king’s own castle. There would be feasting and music and dancing. At the end of the party, all the guests were welcome to stay at the castle as long as they liked. All came to the castle walls to wait for the king himself to arrive. He had promised to walk them through the secret passages and doors that led to the very center of the castle, where the feast would take place. Only the king knew the way.

Jan Adam Kruseman (Haarlem 1804-1862)

Jan Adam Kruseman (Haarlem 1804-1862)

The king told all of the guests that they might have to wait some time, but they had to be ready for him when he came. “Watch and wait,” he said, “because you do not know that exact hour that I will come.” Two young subjects of the king were waiting for him to arrive. They both had their trusty flashlights along and as it got darker, they both turned their lights on and waited for the king. They waited for a long time. The lights got dim and the two almost fell asleep. Suddenly, a shout rang out. “The king has arrived! Get up, turn on your lights and follow the king.”(Have volunteers turn on their dim flashlights.)

One of the subjects was foolish and had no extra batteries and couldn’t follow in the dark. The other subject was wise and had brought along extra batteries. He quickly changed the batteries, got up, and followed the king into the feast. (Help child change batteries.)

The story is about what will happen at the end of the world when Jesus comes again. Nobody knows exactly when Jesus will return, but we know that Jesus will come to earth again. We need to always be ready, to be doing what God wants us to do. And with Jesus in your heart and God’s love in your life, you will be ready for Jesus when he comes again.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for your promise to return. Help us to be ready.