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Burning the Chaff

First Sunday after the Epiphany

Adapted from “Scolding the Snakes”

Scripture Reference: Luke 3:15-17 

Preparation: Bring a pan with clean popsicle sticks in the bottom covered by a fine layer of flour or other fine meal that can be blown away. You may print the following statements on the popsicle sticks: “Listen to God” and “Obey God.” 

Today is the first Sunday after the special day we call Epiphany. The season of Christmas has come to an end. On Epiphany we remember how the wise men followed a star to find the child Jesus.

Today we also remember the time when Jesus was baptized by his cousin John. Before Jesus came to him to be baptized, John had been baptizing people in the Jordan River. The people John baptized repented of their sins—that is, they said they were sorry and wanted to follow God.

Jesus didn’t need to repent; his baptism was very special. But the other people who came to be baptized did need to repent. They knew they had not put God first in their lives, but they decided to change. Some might have decided to change after hearing what John said about the coming Messiah, Jesus. John said, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the grain with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, storing the grain in his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire” (Luke 3:16-17 NLT).

Does it sound like it would be better to be the grain or the chaff? (If necessary, read the second part of the above verse again. Discuss.) The grain was stored in the barn. But what happened to the chaff? (Children may answer.) The chaff was the straw and tough husks that covered the grain. In order to separate chaff and grain, farmers used big forks to toss this mixture into the wind. The grain was heavier, so it fell down; but the wind blew away the lighter chaff, and it landed in a pile farther away. The pile of useless chaff was burned. The good grain was kept and made into bread and cakes.

The people who came to be baptized by John did not want to be like chaff. They wanted to be useful in God’s kingdom. So they stopped doing things they knew they shouldn’t and started to listen to God and to obey God.

I’d like to show you what the chaff was like. I have some messages written on sticks. But the sticks are covered up. I’ll blow the “chaff” away and then show you the messages. (Blow to remove flour; pass sticks around.) When we disobey God, we are acting like chaff. We cannot be useful in God’s kingdom if we don’t obey him. But when we repent and start listening to God, we are like the precious grain.

Prayer:  Lord, help us to obey you, and forgive us when we fail.

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