Long Fuse

For the Sunday after the Fourth of July

(from Barefoot in the Snow)

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Biblical Reference:  Neh. 9:17  “You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and full of unfailing love and mercy.

Preparation: Make a firecracker prop out of some of string and a cardboard tube. The entire tube, including the ends should be covered with colorful paper. A 20-foot piece of string should be inside the tube with a short end of the string sticking out the top.

We recently enjoyed a holiday that is often celebrated with fireworks, flags of red, white and blue, and firecrackers. Can anyone tell me what that holiday is? (Let children respond.) Yes! The 4th of July is the day that we celebrate our country’s independence.

Today, I brought along a pretend firecracker. If you were a firecracker and someone lit your fuse, what would happen when the fuse had burned all the way down? (Children can answer.) You would go “Bang!” Let’s try it. We’ll all pretend to be firecrackers. (You can act out a fuse disappearing and then yell “bang” a few times with the children.) Continue reading Long Fuse

Loss or Gain

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

From “Barefoot in the Snow”

From weddingsoon.co.uk

From weddingsoon.co.uk

Scripture Reference: Mark 8:27-35
Preparation: (Optional) Bring in a large gemstone or glass cut to look like a gemstone. You could have smaller glass gemstones to hand out to the kids at the very end of the message to remind them that their lives belong to Jesus.

Have any of you ever lost something? (Let children share their stories.) If you lose something, is it gone for good? You may never find it again, but sometimes something that we’ve lost does come back to us, doesn’t it? It feels pretty good to find something we thought was lost forever.

Imagine that each of us has a beautiful, precious jewel. It is our most prized treasure. We polish it every day, we admire it, and we keep it with us all the time. (Invite children to pretend to hold a precious jewel in their hands.) This jewel is our life. The jewel is a treasure that we dearly love but each of us knows that it has been given to us by God. One day, Jesus asks us to give the jewel back to him. Would you give Jesus your precious, sparkling jewel? Would it be difficult to do?

When we give up something that we dearly love, it is called a sacrifice. It may be very hard to do, but let’s pretend that each of us is able to give up our jewel. We give it to Jesus, and we are happy to give him our very best. (Have children offer their “jewels” to Jesus by raising their hands up to heaven.) Do you know what Jesus has to give to each of us in exchange for that one precious jewel? A crown of jewels awaits each of you in heaven. (Reach up and make a circle with your hands, representing a crown, and place the ‘crown’ on your head. Invite children to do the same.) God loves each one of you so much and wants to give you more than you can imagine.

Jesus once said, “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the good news, you will find true life” (Mark 8:35 nlt).

The jewel that you treasure and want to keep is your life and the plans that you have for your future. Your life is very special and unique. Each one of you shines like a jewel. Jesus asks each of us to live for him and to give up our lives for him. But when we lose our lives to Jesus, what do we find? We find that Jesus gives back to us a life full of joy and love and thankfulness. For a single jewel, we have been given a splendid crown of many jewels. When you give your life to Jesus, it is not losing, it is gaining.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, we return to you what you have first given us. Use our lives to help others and tell people about your love.

Connected to Divine

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Reference: John 15: 1 – 8 vinebranchgrapes
Preparation: Bring in a tree branch with leaves or a picture of a fruit tree branch. You could also bring in a bunch of grapes to share with the children at the end of the message.

Does anyone know what this is? (Show your branch or your picture of a branch with leaves or fruit on it. Let children respond.) Yes, it is a plant that bears fruit. If I cut the branch off of the tree, will the branch keep producing more fruit? No, it will eventually wither and die.

In the book of John, chapter 15, Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. It order to be truly alive and in order to do great things with our lives (which is like producing fruit) we need to be connected to Jesus. We need to be praying and reading the Bible and listening to God. Jesus is holy. Another word for holy is “divine.” It’s easy to remember that word, because He is divine and we are “de branch.” But we need to stay connected to the holy or “divine” if we want to be really alive.

I have a game that we can play that helps show the importance of being connected. Sometimes this game is called “Ooh-Ahh” and you’ll see why. First we have to hold hands in a big circle. Once we’re all connected, I am going to squeeze the hand of the person on my right and I’m going to say, “Oooh!” As soon as they get that “Oooh” they have to pass it on to the person on their right. If we’re all connected, the “Oooh” should travel around the circle all the way back to me. Let’s try it! (Send the “Oooh” around the circle to your right.” Then you can try sending an “Aaah” around the other way. If your group is very attentive, they can handle both sounds at once in opposite directions.)

Now, would this work if we weren’t connected? If we refuse to connect to God, or to listen to God, can we hear what God is trying to say to us? It’s important to stay connected to the vine, to Divine, to Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to always stay connected to you, and to listen to you and to bear good fruit for you.

 

Not Seeing but Believing

Second Sunday of Easter

From “Scolding the Snakes”

Scripture Reference: John 20:19-31 

Preparation: Bring a paper fan (one you’ve purchased or made yourself) and a small whistle.

How many of you have heard the expression, “I’d have to see it to believe it”? Maybe some of you have used that expression yourselves. Let’s say your brother is learning how to skateboard, and one day he comes running in to tell you that he can do an amazing trick on the skateboard. You might say, “I’d have to see that to believe it!” And until you actually see him perform the trick on the skateboard, you won’t believe he can actually do it.

Do we always have to be able to see things in order to believe they exist? What are some things that we can’t see but still know are there? (Let kids share their thoughts.) We can’t see the air all around us, but when the wind is blowing, we can feel the air, or we can see the things it moves. (Use fan to illustrate air movement—maybe letting it move a scrap of paper.) We can’t see sound waves, but when we hear a loud noise (use whistle to illustrate sound), we know that sound is real. We can’t see the love that our parents and friends have for us, but we feel their hugs and hear their loving words, and we know that their love is real.

Can we see Jesus—the real Jesus, not just pictures of him? (Let kids respond.) How do we know he’s real? (Children may share their thoughts.) We believe what the Bible says. We feel Jesus’ love in our hearts. And we can see the way people change—the way they become kinder and happier—when they believe in Jesus and let him into their lives. We can’t say that we have seen Jesus with our own eyes. Still, we believe in him.

Today’s Gospel lesson from the book of John tells the story of a disciple named Thomas, who did not believe Jesus came back to life. Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his other disciples, but Thomas wasn’t with them; he didn’t see Jesus. Thomas would not believe that Jesus was alive unless he could see Jesus and touch him.

Then, some days after Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples were together again—and this time Thomas was with them. Suddenly Jesus appeared, and he told Thomas to touch the nail wounds in his hands and feel the spear wound in his side. Jesus wanted Thomas to stop doubting. Finally Thomas believed. Jesus said, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway” (John 20:29 NLT).

You are blessed. All of us are blessed. We have not seen or touched Jesus, but still we believe that Jesus is alive.

Prayer:  Jesus, thank you for being alive and for being here with us. And thank you for helping us to believe that you will always be with us. Amen


Listening for the “Love”

A puppet conversation for Easter Sunday

SheepPuppet

Folkmanis Puppet

Me:   Happy Easter everyone! The Lord is risen! You know that the early Christians would greet each other that way on Easter morning? The first person would say, “The Lord is risen!” And the next person would say, “He is risen indeed!” And then they would both say, “Hallelujah!” Do you want to try it?

(Do the call-and-response with the children several times.)

I brought my friend, Baabara the Lamb, with me today. She said that she wanted to come to church today so that she could listen. She wants to listen to the music and songs. She wants to listen to the sermon.

Baabara:   And I want to listen to the “Hallelujahs.” You don’t often get to hear people say, “Hallelujah.” It’s a wonderful word. Can you say it again?

(Have everyone say, “Hallelujah!”)

Baabara:   I know how to say “Hallelujah” in another language. I can say it in sheep language.

Me:   That’s right! Sheep-speak is your native tongue, isn’t it? Okay what is “Hallelujah” in Sheep-speak?

Baabara: “BAAA-LE-LUJAH!”

Me:   Really? Bah-le-lu-jah?

Baabara:   Well, your pronunciation is not very good. It’s not “Bah-le-lu-jah” it’s “BAAA-LE-LUJAH!”

Me:   BAH-LE-LU-JAH.

Baabara:   No… that sounds more like Goat-speak than Sheep-speak. It’s okay. I understand. You’re not a native speaker.

Me:   If I had gone to Lamb Kindergarten and grown up speaking sheep, I’m sure I would do a lot better.

Baabara:   Probably. Yeah. You’ve got to have an ear for language. It helps to be a good listener.

Me:   That’s true. Good listeners can learn new languages faster. By the way, the sermon today is about “Hearing Jesus.” Did you know that?

Baabara:   What does Jesus’ voice sound like?

Me:   Well, like the voice of a shepherd, I suppose. I’m sure that sheep can understand that. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, after all.

Baabara:   That makes sense. I am always happy to hear to hear the voice of my shepherd because that means that the shepherd is nearby and is watching over me. But, actually… I’m not always, always happy to hear my shepherd’s voice.

Me:   Really? Why wouldn’t you be happy to hear the shepherd’s voice?

Baabara:   Well, sometimes when I’m exploring and doing some she says things like, “Get back here this instant before you fall off of that cliff!”

Me:   But that’s a good thing, isn’t it? You don’t want to fall off of a cliff.

Baabara:   I’m sure I would have seen the cliff in time.

Me: Maybe not. It’s the shepherd’s job to keep the sheep safe.

Baabara:   But sometimes that shepherd can be bossy. Like in the morning, she sometimes says, “No you cannot have candy bars for breakfast… you have to have fresh green grass.” I mean who eats fresh green grass for breakfast nowadays?

Me:   Ummm… sheep do. Grass is healthy food for sheep, so the shepherd makes sure that’s what they eat. It’s good to have healthy food. You don’t often hear about sheep getting diabetes or heart disease or cancer, do you?

Baabara:   Ok; you’ve got a point there. I’m listening. This Easter, I will eat grass and flowers, ‘cause that’s what’s good for sheep… and maybe just one chocolate egg.

Me:   You are a good listener, Baabara. We humans don’t always listen. I think humans have some of the same problems as sheep.

Baabara:   Really? You get all of your wool sheared off in the Spring before it really warms up enough? Brrr. Don’t you hate it when that happens? And you feel so naked.

Me:   No, humans don’t get sheared. But we sometimes don’t listen to the voice of our Shepherd. The disciples didn’t listen when Jesus told them that he would die on the cross and then be raised up to life again. When Jesus died on Good Friday, they were heartbroken and thought that they would never see him again.

Baabara:   That must have been terrible!

Me:   But then Jesus came back to life on Easter Sunday and the disciples were overjoyed! They were so happy to see their friend and their Lord alive again.

Baabara:   But why did Jesus have to die in the first place?

Me:   Well, if the disciples had listened carefully, they would have understood that Jesus was going to die on the cross to save the world from sin and death. By dying on the cross, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was saying something very important to the whole world.

Baabara:   What was he saying?

Me:   Jesus was saying, “I love you.”

Baabara:   I guess I need to listen to what the shepherd is really saying when she says, “Baabara! Get back here right now!” or “No, you can’t have candy bars for breakfast.” What she’s really saying is, “I love you.”

Me:   That is very insightful. Sometimes we don’t recognize when people are telling us, “I love you.” Sometimes we don’t hear God telling us, “I love you.” We need to listen closely. That’s the message of Easter. God loves the world so much that he sends his only son to die for us to save us from sin and death.

Baabara:   At Easter, God says, “I love you.”

Me:   You’re a good listener, Baabara. Thanks for coming to church with me this Sunday.

Baabara:   Thanks for inviting me.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, Thank you for being our Good Shepherd. Help us to listen to your voice and to hear the many times every day that you say to us, “I love you.” Amen.

The Pain of Separation

Palm Sunday

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud
Scripture Reference: Mark 11:1-11

Preparation: Arrange for a mother and infant to be present, or invite a parent to accompany his or her child to the front.

What do you suppose would happen if a little baby was snuggled in close to her mommy, having some nice warm milk, and suddenly someone took that baby away from her mother? How would the baby react? (Let children respond.) The baby would cry, wouldn’t she? And the mommy would probably be upset, too. Babies need their mommies and daddies to love and protect them, to feed them, and keep them clean and dry. Being away from loving parents can make a baby very sad, especially if the baby is hungry. And when you hear a baby crying for its mommy or daddy, it’s a sad thing.

Jesus had to do something very sad, too. Today is Palm Sunday. It’s the day we remember the story of Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem while the crowds cheered and laid palm branches in his path. But the joy of Palm Sunday has a dark shadow following it. Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, when we remember Jesus’ suffering and death. If we go right from the joy of Palm Sunday to the celebration of Easter, we’ve missed something very important.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, he knew that he was going to die on the cross, be buried in a tomb, and after three days, come back to life again. For a short time, Jesus was going to be separated from his friends and family on earth. Do you think that made Jesus sad? How do you think it made his close friends feel? (Let children answer.)

Before Jesus came back to life, he would be separated from people he loved very much—people who loved him and needed him to be with them. And that kind of separation is a sad thing.

We need Jesus, and Jesus wants to be near us in the same way that babies and parents need and want each other. But Jesus was not gone from them for long. After three days, he came back to be with them again—and to be with them forever and ever. Because Jesus died and came back to life, he made sure that all of us would never ever have to be separated from him. We know that even when we die, Jesus will be with us and give us a new and better life—just like the new life he has.

We never need to feel like we’re away from Jesus and our heavenly Father. The next time you’re snuggled up in the arms of someone you love, remember that God is always near, and he will always be near. He’s as close as your heart.

Prayer: Hold us close, Lord. We want to be near you always. Thank you for going to Jerusalem to face death on the cross so that we could be close to God forever.


Snake on a Stick

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 For the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Scripture Reference: Numbers 21:4 – 9 and John 3:14 – 16 “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Preparation: Bring a photo or model of a snake and a T-shaped stick. Moses&SnakeStaff

Have you ever been so sick that you couldn’t go to school? (Let children respond.) Have you ever been so sick that you could not move at all? So sick that the only thing you could move was your eyes? In the Old Testament book of Numbers, in chapter 21, we find the story of how the Israelites, after they had been rescued from slavery in Egypt, were complaining about the food and lack of water. God was leading them to the Promised Land, but it was taking too long; they had to walk and walk and walk and they were not content. They went so far as to yell at God and say, “Why did you even bother taking us out of Egypt if we were just going to wander about in the desert forever?” So God sent some snakes to bite them and remind them what real suffering was. Seems harsh, but they finally realized what they were doing and cried out to God for mercy. The people were dying of snake bites and now were so sick that they couldn’t walk and walk. Now they couldn’t even move.

It is kind of ironic, you know. First they were complaining that they had to move around for so long; they had to wander in the desert. Then after the snake bites, they couldn’t move at all and wished they could at least move. God had pity on them again and told Moses to help heal the people who had been bitten and poisoned by the snake. Do you know how he helped to heal the people? It was a strange cure. He told Moses to make a snake out of bronze, like a kind of metal statue and put it up on a pole. Then Moses was supposed to carry the snake on a stick into the tent of the person who lay dying from the snake bite. All the person had to do was to look at the snake, and they would be healed. These people were so sick, they couldn’t move, but they could still move their eyes. They could look at the snake on a stick. If they refused to look to the snake, they would die.

Strange as it may seem, there is a connection between Moses’ snake on a stick and Jesus on the cross. Many of you might know the famous Bible verse, John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” But right before that verse is this one: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

We may all look healthy on the inside and may be able to walk about and move, but inside of each of us, there is sin. Inside each of us, there is the spiritual sickness of sin and separation from God. We can do nothing to heal this sickness. It is as if we are poisoned like those Israelites and cannot move. God provides the cure. He raised Jesus up on the cross and all we have to do is to look to Jesus. We look to Jesus and we are saved.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for raising Jesus up to die for us on the cross. Thank you for sending Jesus to be our healing and our salvation. Help us to turn our eyes and hearts to Jesus, our Savior.

Cheating in the Temple

Michelle Ferguson liked this post

 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:

http://youtu.be/hjxsj3iEKD8 

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.