Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013   
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2008/06/12/2000-year-old-phoenix-seed-rises-from-the-ashes/
Photo Credit
Easter Miracles
Luke 24:1-12
Props: The Photos Included in this Story

Happy Easter, everyone! 

This morning I want to tell you a special story.  This story started 2,000 years ago in the country of Israel, at a place called Masada.  Masada was a fortress built by King Herod as a place he could go to be safe in case Israel was ever invaded.  Food was kept there in big store rooms just in case the kind needed to make a quick get-away.

One of the foods that people enjoyed in Israel at that time were dates.  People in Israel and around the world still enjoy eating dates today.  But there is one type of date palm tree that used to grow during Herod's time that is now extinct.  There are no more of these particular trees left in the world--that is, until 8 years ago. 

In the 1960's, archeologists were digging up artifacts at Masada.  Among the interesting, ancient things they found were several seeds from this extinct date palm tree.  I have a picture of them here to show you.  They are about an inch long, and skinny.  For a long time, the seeds were catalogued and filed away.  Then on January 29, 2005, on the Jewish New Year of Trees, they decided to plant one of the seeds.  The scientists took extra care and soaked the seed, and prepared an especially nutritious soil mix to use.  They didn't know if a 2,000-year-old seed would grow or not!  So they crossed their fingers, said a little prayer, and planted the ancient seed.  And guess what...(show picture of plant)

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2008/06/12/2000-year-old-phoenix-seed-rises-from-the-ashes/
Photo Credit
IT SPROUTED, AND IT GREW!!  This picture was taken a few years ago.  Today the Phoenix Date Palm is 8 feet tall!  That is amazing, isn't it?

2,000 years ago, in the country of Israel, in a place outside of Jerusalem, some of Jesus' friends went to the tomb where he was buried.  They brought spices and things they needed to prepare his body for a proper burial.  When they got to the tomb, which was like a cave, the big stone the covered the opening was rolled away.  They stepped inside, and Jesus was gone.  Two men were there in brilliant, white clothes.  They said to the women, "Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive?  He is not here!  He is risen!!"

Even more amazing than a 2,000-year-old seed making roots, sprouting and growing into a tall, tall tree, is the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  The resurrection is why we are here today on Easter Sunday...to rejoice, to worship, and to say together,

Christ is Risen!  And you say..."He is Risen Indeed!"
Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!
Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!!

AMEN!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Palm Sunday 2013

I Love a Parade
Palm Sunday 2013
I Love a Parade
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Luke 19:28-40

Who knows what Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, the New York Yankees, Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II all have in common?  They were all honorees at Ticker Tape Parades

Ticker Tape Parades have been given to honor special people in New York City since the 1880's.  Here's a picture of John Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, when he was running for president.  Ticker tape was a long strip of paper used in the stock market.  People used to throw ticker tape and other confetti from the windows of the tall buildings in New York City as the parade passed by.  You can see the long streamers of paper and smaller confetti in this picture.

The day Jesus entered into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey was kind of like a ticker-tape parade, only instead of throwing paper, the people who cheered Jesus' arrival in the city put palm branches on the ground in front of  him.  Some took off their coats and spread them on the ground as well. The crowd welcomed Jesus with shouts of "Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!!"  They knew Jesus was special, and they were very happy to see him.

Later in the week, things did not go so well for Jesus.  He was arrested, and the very people who welcomed him with palm branches and shouts of joy, welcomed his execution with shouts of "Crucify him!" a few, short days later.  How people can change their minds so fast is hard for us to understand.  But it was all part of God's plan and Jesus' job as our Savior.

There's more to the story--the best part of all!  But that we will save until next week.  I'll give you a hint: it's a story about nothing.

Let's pray.

Dear God, We don't always understand the world around us or the people in it.  We are glad to have you on our side.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Please "Like" to Facebook if you found this story helpful.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Acts of Loving Kindness


Acts of Loving Kindness
Lent 5
Sunday, March 17, 2013
John 12:1-8

Good morning, everyone!  One time, Jesus was visiting his friends Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary in their home in a town called Bethany.  While he was there, Lazarus, Martha and Mary decided to host a dinner party in Jesus’ honor.  They all enjoyed a tasty meal and were relaxing in the living room after dinner when one of the guests, a woman named Mary, took out a jar of expensive oil.  She dipped her long hair in the oil, and then rubbed it on Jesus’ feet.  She anointed his feet in this way to show Jesus how much she loved him.  Judas, one of the disciples, complained that the oil should have been sold and the money given to the poor, but Jesus appreciated Mary’s act of kindness and love.

We can’t invite Jesus to dinner in the same way Lazarus did, can we?  He is with us always in spirit, but not in a way that we can anoint his feet.  We can show Jesus that we love him by doing acts of kindness and love for others. 

Alanna Jai Wall was an 8-year-old girl living in Dayton, Ohio, who wanted to make a difference in the lives of people who are very sick.  At first she thought she would make a head scarf for every child diagnosed with cancer, but then her Nana got her excited about nail polish and glitter.  When she was 10, she started polishing nails of cancer patients and special needs children.  Now she is 12 years old, and she is the Chief Executive Officer of a nation-wide volunteer organization called Polished Girlz.  According to the Polished Girlz website,

The Polished Girlz bring sparkle to the lives of girls with special needs or frequent hospitalizations by bringing the trendiest nail art parties to them, while teaching them the importance of hand washing to reduce infection rates and repeated hospital admissions. As an organization, the Polished Girlz seek to empower not only their clients, but their volunteers, by offering them opportunities to improve the quality of life, build invaluable leadership skills, and providing them with opportunities for community service.

Polished Girlz now has 150 volunteers, and they have polished the nails to make thousands of girls smile in several states.  The organization continues to grow and bring joy to more and more people.

We can’t anoint Jesus’ feet, but we can show we love him by serving others--by doing acts of loving kindness.  Alanna’s motto is “Born to Rock, Born to Shine and Born to Serve!” 

Let’s Pray:

Dear God, We thank you for sparkling examples of service, such as Mary in the Bible, and Alanna in Dayton, Ohio.  Help us to find ways to show our love of Jesus so that we, too, may rock, shine and serve.  Amen.

 
http://www.polishedgirlz.org

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son
The Prodigal Son
Lent 4C
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Good morning, everyone!  Today's story is about a boy leaving home and what greets him when he returns.  It's called The Prodigal Son.

Once there was a man who had two sons.  One day, his youngest boy came to the father and said, "Dad, I am tired of being a farmer.  Give me my share of my inheritance now so that I may go and make my own life in The Big City."  Some parents would be very insulted by this request, because usually the family money and property is divided when the parents have both died, but this was an understanding father.  He sent his youngest son off with the son's share.

The young man rented an apartment and started making friends in The Big City.  He threw fancy parties and treated his new friends to elaborate meals in expensive restaurants.  He spent his money without thinking, and in a short time, half the money his father had spent a lifetime earning and saving was gone.  When the money was gone, so were the young man's new friends.  He was poor and alone and without a job.  He tried to find work, and got a job taking care of pigs.

One day, as he was feeding the pigs, his tummy rumbling with hunger, he thought to himself, "My father's farm hands have more than enough to eat, and here I am, starving to death!  I will go back to my father and say to him, "Dad, I have sinned against God and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Please treat me like one of your hired hands."

So he walked all the way back home, practicing what he was going to say when he met his father as he went.  Finally, he turned into the long lane that led to his parent's home.  While he was still a far way off, his father saw him and was filled with love for his son.  He ran to the boy, and before the son could say a word of the speech he had prepared, the father threw his arms around him and gave him a huge bear hug and a kiss.  The boy started to say, "Dad, I have sinned against God and against you..." But he was cut off.

"Quickly, bring out a robe--the best one--and put it on him," the man said to his servants.  "Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  And get the calf we've been fattening up and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found!"  And they began to have a big party.

Now you might think that is the end of the story, but there's more.  Out in the fields, the older brother was working hard out in the field.  It was the end of the day, and as he came toward the house to clean up and eat supper, he heard music and laughing.  He asked a servant walking by, carrying a big platter of food, "What is going on?"  The servant said, "Your brother is home, and your father is throwing a party because he has returned safe and sound." 

Do you think this news would make the older brother happy or angry?  Raise your hand if you think he'll be happy.  Raise your hand if you think he'll be angry.  Believe it or not, the older brother was so angry that he refused to go into the house.  His father saw him sulking outside and came out to share the good news of his brother's safe return.  "Come inside!" the father said.  "Your little brother is home!" 

"Listen!  I have worked hard for you my whole life.  I have never disobeyed you, and yet you have never even given me a young goat so that I can throw a party with my friends.  And yet this son of yours comes home, after wasting all of the money you gave him, and for him you kill the prized calf!"

The father answered, 'Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because it is like this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found."

Jesus told this story to show people how much God loves them.  When we make mistakes, when we are lost and alone, God forgives us and always welcomes us home into the family of God. 

Let's Pray.  Dear God, we thank you for your love and forgiveness, always.  Help us to rejoice with you when lost souls are welcomed home.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Hunter and the Owl

Lent 3C
Sunday, March 3, 2013
The Hunter and the Owl
Isaiah 55:1-9
 
Good morning, boys and girls! This morning I want to share with you a Native American legend about keeping promises.  It is called The Hunter and the Owl, and it goes like this:
 
Once a man and his wife from the Delaware nation went on a hunt a long way from their village.  They set up camp, and early the next morning, the man ventured out with his bow and arrow, looking for game.  He hunted all day, and the next day and the next, without finding a single animal to bring home for food.  That third night, while sitting around the camp fire, he and his wife heard an owl hoot, and then laugh!  This was considered a good sign!  So the man took a burning ember from the fire and stepped away from the camp a little ways.  He put the hot ember on the ground, and sprinkled a little tobacco on it, and spoke to the owl.
 
The hunter said, "Grandfather, I have heard you hoot and laugh.  I know by this that you see good luck coming my way after these days of discouragement.  Please use your influence to bring the animals my way tomorrow so that I may bring home to my people plentiful meat and furs, so that we may be full and warm this winter.  In exchange for your help, I promise to cut out the fat and the heart of the first deer I kill, and hang them in the tree for you to eat."  The owl laughed again, and the hunter knew his hunt would be much better the next day.
 
He woke before the sun, and set out with his bow and arrow, leaving his wife to take care of the camp.  Before too long, he saw a large buck in the woods ahead of him.  He killed the deer with one arrow.   In his haste to take the deer back to camp so that he could go out and kill another before it got too late, he forgot his promise to the owl and did not take out the fat and heart and hang it in the tree as he said he would do.  He flung the deer across his shoulder and started for camp.  The deer was very heavy, and the hunter could not carry it very far without stopping to rest.  He stopped and was about to set the buck down for a moment, when he heard the owl hoot again.  This time it did not laugh.
 
The owl flew down low, right in front of the man and said, "Is this the way you keep your promise to me?  For this lie I will curse you!  When you put down the deer, you will fall down dead."
 
The man was quick to answer, "Grandfather, it is true I did not cut out the heart and the fat and hang it in the tree immediately, but I wasn't going to keep it from you forever!  I have powers, too, and my curse to you is that when you alight in a tree or on a stump, you will fall down dead!  We will see who is the stronger between us."
 
The owl circled the man a few times, and then started to get very tired.  He said to the hunter, "I will recall my curse on you, if you take back your curse on me, and we will be friends from this moment forward."  This sounded like a good bargain to the man, because he, too, was getting very weary.  He set down his deer, and took out the heart and fat and hung them in the tree for the owl right then and there.  When he picked up the deer again, it was much lighter and he carried it easily to camp.  His wife was delighted to see that he had brought game.  She cut the meat into strips and hung it out to dry.

The man hunted for several more days, until he and his wife had all the meat and furs they could carry home.  He never forgot the lesson he learned on that hunting trip--that once a promise is made, it must be fulfilled.

Keeping promises is not always easy, as the hunter in the story learned.  But one person we can always count upon to keep promises is God.  The Lord promises to be with us through all things, helping and encouraging us.  We can count on God always.

Let's pray.  Dear God, Thank-you for being faithful to us and always keeping your promises.  Help us to be faithful and keep our promises to you and to each other as well.  In Jesus' name, Amen.
 
 
 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Lenten Lock-In

Lenten Lock-In

Each year, Westminster Presbyterian Church in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, holds a Lenten Lock-In on a Friday night during, you guessed it, LENT!  The church school department of this lovely seaside congregation is small but mighty.  There are some disadvantages to having a maximum of 15 children in the entire Christian Education department, but there are many pluses as well.  Smaller numbers enable some programming that would be too cumbersome with larger groups.  For example, the Lenten Lock-In is open to children from second grade on up.  Since the program is small, the children know each other well and they get along like family (in a good way, most of the time).  There is plenty of adult supervision and the mix of ages has never been an issue.

The program for the evening includes a variety of crafts, games and activities each year.  Snacks are served.  Children get ready for sleeping bags and a movie is shown.  Most of the children are asleep by the time the final credits roll.

One year, the group made Empty Tomb Cookies.  They made the cookies in the evening, and discovered their sweet surprise before going home in the morning.  Here is the recipe:

EMPTY TOMB COOKIES

Ingredients and Needed Items:
1 cup whole pecans
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
zipper baggie
3 egg whites
wooden spoon
Pinch salt
duct or wide masking tape
Bible

Place pecans in zipper baggie and let the children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. After Jesus was arrested He was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read John 19:1-3.

Invite the children to smell the vinegar. Put 1 teaspoon vinegar into mixing bowl. When Jesus was thirsty on the cross, He was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30.

Ask a volunteer to add the egg whites to the vinegar. Eggs represent life. Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read I John 3:16.

Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Taste it and also put a pinch into the bowl. This represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27a.

Ask a volunteer to add 1 cup of sugar. The sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16.

Take turns beating with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. The color white represents the purity in God's eyes, of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 & John 3:1-3.

Fold in broken nuts. Take turns dropping batter by teaspoon onto wax paper or parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60.

Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. With tape, seal the oven door. Jesus' tomb was sealed.

Leave the cookies in the oven, or tomb, until the next morning.

The next morning, open the oven and take a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow!  On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matthew 28:1-9.

The boys and girls at the Lenten Lock-In enjoyed this interactive activity immensely, and will no doubt help them to remember the details of the Easter story.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Temptation of Christ


Israeli Wilderness
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Lent 1C
The Temptation of Christ
Luke 4:1-13

Good morning, everyone!  This morning we're going to talk about a big word--temptation.  Temptation, or being tempted, is when you want to do something even though you know it's not the best choice.  For example, let's say you are standing in line at the post office with your mom or dad, and the person in front of you drops a ten dollar bill and doesn't know it.  You might be tempted to pick up the money and keep it.  But the better part of you knows to keep the money would be wrong.  It does not belong to you.  You know who dropped it.  To keep the ten dollars would be stealing.  So you say to the person in front of you, "Excuse me, but you dropped some money," and all is well.

That flicker of thought that goes through your mind to pick up the money and quietly slip it into your own pocket is called temptation.  All of us are tempted to make wrong choices now and again.  Even Jesus was tempted! 

After Jesus' baptism, he went into the wilderness all by himself to pray.  He was there for forty days and forty nights--almost a month and a half!  He prayed and prepared himself to begin his ministry of preaching and teaching to the people about God.  He didn't even eat during these forty days and forty nights.  At the end of his pilgrimage in the wilderness, the Bible tells us he was tempted by the devil.

As I said, he hadn't eaten for almost a month and a half, so he was really, really hungry.  He noticed some smooth stones that looked like loaves of bread on the ground.  The devil said, "I know you're super hungry.  Turn these stones into loaves of bread, if you are the Son of God, that is."  Jesus was tempted because he had never been so hungry, but he answered, "No.  Man does not live by bread alone."  Jesus knew he shouldn't use his power for selfish reasons.  Jesus knew God sent him to do more important things.

Next, the devil told Jesus that Jesus could have power over all the kingdoms of the world--all of the armies, and castles and riches--Jesus could have it all.  He could be the boss of everybody and everything!  He just needed to do one, tiny thing.  He would have to worship the devil instead of the one, true God.  Jesus said, "No.  The Scripture tells us to worship the Lord, and to serve only God."  Jesus knew that God was the One truly in charge, and that to be faithful to God was right; to follow the devil, even for all the money and power in the world, would be absolutely wrong and lead to misery.

The devil took one, last shot at tempting Jesus away from what he was meant to do and be in this world.  The devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, and lifted him up to the very tippy-top of the Temple.  He said, "Okay now, show me your stuff.  Throw yourself down from this high place, and let's watch God save you."  Jesus said, "No.  It is not right to test God in such a way."  Jesus knew his power was not for show, but to do good and bring people to God.

The devil gave up, and Jesus got to work, teaching and preaching about God, God's love and forgiveness, and showing people how to be God's faithful servant.

Everyone is tempted to do the wrong thing now and again.  Making the good choice to say "No" to temptation is what Jesus did, and what we can do, too.  But when we sometimes make the wrong choice, Jesus understands and promises to forgive us so that we can move on and make the right choice the next time.

Let's pray.
Dear God, it helps us to know that Jesus went through the same kinds of things in life that we go through.  Help us to make good choices like Jesus did.  And when we make mistakes, please forgive us and help us to do better next time.  In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.