Monday, December 31, 2012

The Gift of Christmas

The Gift of Christmas
Sunday, January 6, 2012
Epiphany Sunday
Matthew 2:1-12
Prop: Wrap the baby Jesus figure from a manger scene as a small gift, complete with box, paper and ribbon

Good morning, everyone!  Happy New Year!  And Happy Epiphany!  On the church calendar, today is Epiphany, or 3 Kings’ Day.   January 6 is the day we remember and celebrate the kings, or wise men, coming to visit Jesus.

 You may remember the story—There were wise men who studied the stars living way East of Bethlehem.  They studied the stars, and one night they noticed a new one in the sky.  They knew this meant a king had been born.  So they decided to follow the star and meet the new-born king.  Long story short, the star led them to Jesus.  The wise men bowed down and worshipped Jesus, and gave him precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  These were the first Christmas presents!  We still give and receive Christmas presents today, don’t we!

Speaking of Christmas presents, I was taking down my tree yesterday and found this gift tucked way underneath, in the back.  I guess it got overlooked on Christmas morning when we were unwrapping everything else.  I think we should open it now, don’t you?  It’s rather small, but they say, “Good things come in small packages.”

I suppose we should read the tag.  It says:

“To: The World
  From: One Who Loves You.”

Jesus in a Manger
OK, we’ll take off the ribbon, and remove the paper, and open the box and, what is it?  Earrings?  A watch?  No, look!  It’s the baby Jesus!  My goodness, in all the excitement of Christmas, I almost forgot to open the most important gift of all—God’s gift to each and every one of us—the gift of a Savior, Jesus!  So gold, frankincense and myrrh were NOT the first Christmas presents after all—Jesus was!

Let’s Pray.

Kind of giving God, we thank-you for the greatest gift the world has ever known—the gift of your love and forgiveness given to us through your Son, Jesus Christ.  May we always keep him at the center of our lives, at Christmas and all year long.  Amen.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Lost and Found

Lost and Found
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Scripture: Luke 2:41-52
Prop: Print-out of the "Lost Dog" Flyer

Good morning, girls and boys! 

Have any of you ever lost a pet?  Maybe your dog got out of the yard and you couldn't find him.  You probably walked through the neighborhood with your mom or dad, calling the dog's name.  Maybe you rode around in the car, searching and calling for your beloved pet.  If you still couldn't find him, you might have put up posters in your neighborhood like this one, hoping someone would find him and call you to come and get him.  And while your pet is on his great adventure, you were probably worried and afraid that he was hurt or lost or afraid himself, right?

Each year, when Jesus was growing up, his family traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Festival.  They went with a big group of friends and relatives.  The journey took longer than a day, so the group camped overnight along the way.  It sounds like fun, doesn't it!

When Jesus was 12 years old, he made the trip to Jerusalem with his parents like he had every year as long as he could remember.  They enjoyed the festival, and then everyone started the long trek home--everyone, that is, except Jesus.  But Mary and Joseph didn't know Jesus was missing.  They thought he was somewhere in their large group of travelers.  It wasn't until after walking all day and setting up camp that they realized their boy wasn't there.

They checked the campsites of Jesus' friends and cousins, but he was nowhere to be found.  So Mary and Joseph started the long walk back to Jerusalem.  They looked and looked--in the marketplace, at the well--all of the places they thought Jesus might be.  They searched for 3 long days!  Where could he possibly be??  Finally, they tried the one place in the city they had not looked yet--the Temple.  There, in the Temple, they found Jesus, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.  Everyone listening was amazed at Jesus' understanding of God and the Scriptures.

Mary and Joseph were so happy to find their lost son, but they were also angry.  Mary said, "Child, why have you treated us like this?  Your father and I have been frantic looking for you!" 

But Jesus felt perfectly at home in the Temple.  He did not even know he was lost!  Jesus said, "Why were you searching for me?  Didn't you know that I must be in my father's house?"

His parents didn't understand what he meant.  Then Jesus went with them back to Nazareth and grew and grew--just like you're doing right now!

Let's Pray.  Dear God, Help us to know that we are at home in your house.  And help us to know and understand you and your Word.  Amen.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Cliches

Santa Keeps the Christ in Christmas
Fourth Sunday in Advent
Scripture: Micah 5:1-5
Prop: Clue in the church musician to accompany the congregation on "Happy Birthday to You" at the end of the story

Christmas is getting close, isn't it!  You can see that four of the candles in the Advent wreath are lit--the only one remaining is the center Christ candle, which we will light tomorrow night at our Christmas Eve service.  We've had four weeks to prepare; Christmas is in two days.  Are you ready?  Are you excited?

There are many, many reasons to be excited that Christmas is almost here, aren't there? 
  • There will be special, delicious foods to eat.  I look forward all year to cranberry bread and green bean casserole and candy canes and cookies shaped like stars and bells and angels--food that I only eat at Christmas dinner.
  • Some people receive cards, letters, phone calls or even visits from loved ones they don't hear from very often.  Christmas is one time of the year people make an effort to reach out and let others know they are thinking about them.
  • Maybe you have a new dress or shirt to wear to Christmas Eve service tomorrow night.  Getting all dressed up to come to church or go to Christmas dinner is one way to show how special Christmas is.
  • Many people already have their Christmas tree up and decorated, but some families wait until Christmas Eve to do it.  Looking at all the colorful decorations at home, at church and on Main Street is another fun way to show our excitement for Christmas.  Maybe you even helped to decorate or made a decoration for your tree or home.
  • There is the giving and receiving of gifts, which is a super fun part of Christmas.  We often give not only to our friends and family, but to people we don't know at Christmas time, too, like with our Angel Tree project here at church.  It is fun and good to give to help others at Christmas and all year, too.
  • And then, of course, there's Jesus.  Christmas is Jesus' birthday, and for this we are most happy. 
Sometimes in the hustle and bustle and excitement that is Christmas Day, it is easy to almost forget the guest of honor, the Birthday Boy, who is Jesus!  Sometimes I see bumper stickers on cars, or posts on Facebook that say, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," and "Keep the Christ in Christmas."  These are catchy reminders that all of the things we've talked about--the special foods, the fancy clothes, the decorations and cards and gifts--all of the things we do at this time of the year are ways to praise God and to wish Jesus a Happy Birthday. 

I'd like to end our story time this morning by singing "Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus" together.  Are you ready?  Happy Birthday to you...


On Sunday, December 16, 2012, the Rev. Dr. Frank S. Deming preached the following sermon at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  I hope you find it as helpful and inspiring as I did.

Sermon After the Sandy Hook Shooting

December 16, 2012

The Simon & Garfunkel album, “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme,” was released in 1966.  I was 14 at the time and purchased the album.  The title tune is still well known and will echo in our sanctuary next Sunday within the Christmas cantata.  “Homeward Bound” and “The Dangling Conversation” are often included on the greatest hits compilations.  But I thought on Friday about a song from that album which I had not thought of for a long time.  It was the last song on the album and was a rendition of “Silent Night.”

Paul & Art started with a simple rendering of this Christmas lullaby singing in beautiful harmony “all is calm, all is bright” and “sleep in heavenly peace.”  But by the second verse there was a fade-in of a broadcaster’s voice doing a news report.  It was actual news of the day which spoke of the turmoil of the times with references to the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.  But it also included mention of the trial of Richard Speck, a mass murderer of eight student nurses in Chicago.

The juxtaposition of such references as the violent psychopathic murder of eight nursing students with the images of the deep calm and peace of Christmas made for a haunting irony.

That contrast between unspeakable horror and the Christmas proclamation of peace and goodwill came back to me as I heard the news of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Twenty children and eight adult lives lost to madness.

From where will come tidings of comfort and joy to Newtown, Connecticut, this year?

There are people in Newtown who are taking down their Christmas decorations in sympathy and solidarity with those who will have no joy this Christmas.  People feel guilty celebrating the holiday in the face of their neighbors’ sufferings.

Christmas is suppose to be a time of joy in which we celebrate the birth of the Savior.  But if we really look at what is said in the Christmas story we will see the Christmas story itself is not Pollyanna-ish.  The Bible always takes seriously the human condition and the reality of sin, suffering and death. 

Consider the dark chapter within the nativity narratives which takes up the “slaughter of the innocents.”

The magi have come in search of the “King of the Jews.”  They inquire at the court of Herod.  Herod is taken aback by the wise men’s question.  He tells the foreign ambassadors to search diligently and when this new born king is found, bring him word and he will also go and pay homage.  It’s a feint.  But the magi are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and Joseph also receives a dream directive to escape to Egypt with Mary and Jesus.  When Herod learns he has been outfoxed, he orders henchmen to Bethlehem to kill all the baby boys two years old and younger.

It is estimated Bethlehem in the first century would have been a town of one thousand persons.  And thus statistically there would have been twenty infant males who were murdered.  Twenty young victims.

Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”  (Matthew 2)

The Lord knows the human condition.  The Lord knows life can be cheap.

But the Lord knows this because of Christmas.  The Incarnation celebrates God coming to us in Christ to meet us where we are and to give us a new light by which to live.  He knows our condition because He has taken it on upon Himself.  He knows life can be cheap among us because He was sold for thirty pieces of silver.  But to Him . . . our lives are precious and so He has bought them with a price – the price of His own life.

* * *

I was originally going to focus on the story of Mary this morning.  I had to redirect on Friday.

Mary is a complex figure and I wasn’t going to do just a Hallmark Christmas card kind of presentation.  I was going to take up the trepidation she must have felt at the announcement she had been chosen to bear the Savior of the world.  This pregnancy could mean being alienated from her finance and ostracized by her community.  In fact she could be at risk of death by stoning if people assumed her to be an adulteress.  Yet Mary allowed herself to be vulnerable to the Word of God, opened herself up to it and trusted it.  She said to the announcing angel, “Let it be with me according to your word.”

Mary’s fear and initial uncertainty contrasts with the Mary of the greeting card.  There we see Mary lovingly looking down upon her son and of course we resonate with the beauty of this bond between mother and child.  But as was prophesized, Mary’s heart would be pierced with a sword.  She may not have known it at the time, but the swaddling cloths that she wrapped her newborn son within foreshadowed the binding cloth of the shroud.  The gift of myrrh she received for her son was an embalming spice.  The signs were there from the start.

Mary was destined to grieve as a mother.  Mary’s grief has been given expression in such works as Michelangelo’s Pieta.  Perhaps this image would make a fitting Christmas card this year as it resonates with the pathos of the grieving parents of Newtown.

Although this news is dark concerning the murder of children and their teachers, this is precisely why we do need to celebrate the light of Christ which comes into the world.

In the face of the tragedy, I have caught glimpses of remarkable demonstrations of religious faith and spiritual values.  I think we should highlight some of these examples to draw inspiration for our own dealing with the tragedy.

Where to begin?

I saw in a photo a note written in childish block print on a memorial shrine which read: “God bless all the teachers (and) kids that were involved today.  I pray for the kids like me that did not deserve that. God bless you.”

Mr. Robbie Parker was the first parent of a dead child to speak publicly to the press. He and his wife’s six-year old daughter Emilie was one of the victims.  The Parkers have two younger children yet.

Parker spoke of his loss and all the beauty and promise of his daughter.  He then offered condolences to all the other families who have lost a loved one.  And Parker continued with condolences to the family of Adam Lanza, the shooter.  He said to the family, “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you and I want you to know that our love and support go out to you as well.”

There are shades of Nickel Mines here and the Amish response to the tragedy in that community (2006 – 5 girls killed).  There people also reached out to the family of the shooter.  Mr. Parker is a Christian man and despite the tragedy that has befallen him and his wife he is living into the Christian ethos which is compassion even for those who have hurt you.  In this the cycles of violence and hatred will be broken as the Savior taught.

* * *

I was touched also by an interview with Kaitlin Roig, a teacher at Sandy Hook.

Teacher Kaitlin Roig quickly ushered 15 schoolchildren into a bathroom when she heard shots at the elementary school in Newtown.

She later told ABC News that she urged her students to be quiet so that they would not alert the gunman, telling them that “there are bad guys out there now and we need to wait for the good guys to come get us out.”

“I said to them, ‘I need you to know that I love you all very much and that it’s going to be OK’ because I thought that was the last thing they were ever going to hear,” she added.

Only in the grip of love can you make that promise – that everything is going to be OK – and we only know that because of the strength of God’s love.  “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

There are other stories which could be told of teachers and staff who gave their lives trying to protect the students.

But I think the community of Newtown, and by extension the nation, needs to be commended for the way people have rallied to give support.

Signs went up around town: “Hug a teacher today,” “Please pray for Newtown” and “Love will get us through.”  There have been vigils and prayer services and of course yet to come will be the funeral services.

As the president said in his address to the nation Friday, “Our hearts have been broken.”

As a nation we do feel very intensely the loss at Newtown.  Our social media via tweeting, Face Book posts, blogging, etc. has allowed us to grieve together in a way that was not possible a generation ago.  People have been funneling their sympathy and support not just to Newtown but therapeutically debriefing their horror and sadness through modern social media networks.

A blogger (Chuck Balsamo) wrote:

Compassion … a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

That is what I feel in my heart this morning for the devastated people of Newtown, Connecticut.

I actually cried as I prayed when the news broke, I trembled in my bones and I lost my breath…

20 children and 6 adults massacred, terror and bloodshed… in an elementary school.  I can think of nothing more chilling, more evil, or heartbreaking.

I saw a photo on of a lady who held her cell phone to her ear, as she was wailing out with grief.  I wondered if one of the 20 was her little man, or her little princess.

I wondered what these families had done the night before.  I imagined kisses on the cheeks and bedtime conversation, “I love you sweetie,” and, “I love you too Mommy!”

Asked whether the town would recover, Maryann Jacob, a clerk in the school library who took cover in a storage room with 18 fourth-graders during the shooting rampage, said: “We have to.  We have a lot of children left.”

Faith helps.

When news of the shooting broke, Hugh and Alice McGowan waited for word of their daughter, a teacher, as hour by hour ticked by. And then it came.  Authorities told the couple their daughter was a hero who helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets.  As the grim news arrived, the victim’s mother reached for her rosary.

There are always people who question why God lets a tragedy like this happen.  It is sad to say it, but as 21st century Americans we are insulated from how tenuous life has always been and still is in much of the world.

There are some mysteries we will never understand.  The question of “theodicy,” why does an all powerful and all loving God allow bad things to happen to good people has many responses.  But such will not bring comfort to the bereaved.  As one rabbi in Newtown said, his job is not to interpret “why,” but simply to be present with grieving families of his congregation and his community.

The teacher, Kaitlin Roig, who shepherded her young students into the bathroom and told them to be quiet because “there are bad guys out there now and we need to wait for the good guys to come get us out,” but also told the children she loved them and everything was going to be OK even while thinking these may the last words they ever hear, perhaps gives perfect voice to the meaning of Christmas.

We are in a liturgical season of waiting – Advent. We are waiting for rescue.  We are waiting for light in darkness.  We are waiting Christmas.  We are waiting for Christ – our good guy who will come and put a stop to the bad guys including Satan and Death itself.  But even as we wait, we know everything is going to be OK.  Because God loves us.  And that is all we need to hear.

We pray for solace for the grief stricken in Newtown.  And we take solace in Christ and the promises of the Gospel today and always.

This manuscript was written and preached with amplifications by Rev. Frank Deming at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  This draft has been produced upon request and is not in publication form.

I saw a photo on of a lady who held her cell phone to her ear, as she was wailing out with grief.  I wondered if one of the 20 was her little man, or her little princess. ~ Chuck Balsamo


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Come to the Party!

Come to the Party!

Third Sunday in Advent
Zephaniah 3:14-20

Good morning, everyone!  How many of you have a birthday?  Raise your hand if sometime this year, you are going to have a birthday.  Everybody?  Of course!  We all have birthdays, don't we!  And many of us will have a party to help celebrate our birthday. 

There are lots of things to do to get ready for a birthday party, aren't there?  You need to decide where to have the party, which games to play, what flavor cake to make.  Decorations need to be hung, food needs to be prepared and invitations need to be sent.  Who would you invite to your birthday party?  Would you invite your friends?  Your classmates?  Your neighbors and relatives?  Would you invite people you don't know?  You probably would not invite strangers to your party, right?  Just your good friends and your family.

We are all busy getting ready for a special some one's birthday coming up in a little over a week, aren't we?  Whose birthday is December 25, Christmas Day?  It's Jesus' birthday!  And do you know who is invited to Jesus' birthday party?  Everybody!  That is because Jesus knows and loves everybody.  Nobody is a stranger to Jesus.  He wants all of the world to know and love him as well, so he invites every, single person to his party, which we call Christmas.

And so people from all over the world are getting ready to celebrate Jesus' birthday.  Folks are decorating, and cooking, and buying gifts, and sharing with those in need, all so December 25 rolls around, we will be ready to come to the party and to say, "Happy Birthday, Jesus!"

Let's pray together,

Dear God, we thank-you for Jesus' birthday, and for inviting us to his party!  Help us to always remember that the invitation is for all the world.  Amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Shepherd's Story

Second Sunday in Advent
A Shepherd's Story
Prop: The Shepherd from a Creche

Good morning, girls and boys!  Today is the Second Sunday in Advent, which means Christmas is getting closer, isn't it!  As we prepare for Jesus' birthday, I want to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a young boy named Eli.  Even though Eli was only 9 years old, he had a job.  Eli worked with his father as a shepherd.  Eli's grandfather had been a shepherd, and his father before him.  Eli came from a long line of shepherds!

Eli liked his work as a shepherd.  He liked being outdoors--except when it was cold and rainy.  He liked his sheep, with their woolly bodies and sweet faces.  He liked the other shepherds who worked with him, especially his best friend, Micah.

Eli's favorite part of his job were the challenges--like when a sheep would wander off from the flock and need to be found.  Or when a lamb got itself stuck in a rocky crevice and needed to be lifted out with a shepherd's crook.  The most exciting work to be done was keeping coyotes, wolves and other animals away who would like to eat the sheep for their supper!  Eli didn't want his sheep to be hurt, but Eli enjoyed rising to these challenges and keeping the animals safe from harm.

Part of Eli's training as a shepherd was to practice using a slingshot every day so that it could be used effectively against a hungry wolf or bear when needed.  Eli and Micah and all of their co-workers knew the story of David--a shepherd boy who killed Goliath with his slingshot and grew up to be kind of Israel.

Eli liked being a shepherd, but the story of King David was his favorite of all the stories his father told him.  He dreamed of being asked by God to do something really important some day--like David when he saved his people by killing Goliath.

On night, after a long and boring day, in a long and boring week of no interesting challenges to meet--no lost sheep, no lambs in distress, no wolves ready to pounce--Eli, his father Micah and the other shepherds were finishing their supper around the campfire.  Eli was feeling particularly restless that night.  "Tell us a story, Abba," he asked his father.  "Please!  Tell us the story of David, the shepherd boy."

Eli's Abba started the story, "It was during the reign of the very first king of Israel--King Saul.  Israel was at war against the Philistines..."

Suddenly, an angel stood before the shepherds, and the night sky was filled with the glory of the Lord.  And the shepherds were terrified!  They had never, ever seen anything like this in their lives!!  They didn't know what to make of it.  But the angel tried to calm them down, saying, "Do not be afraid, because I bring to you the best news anyone has ever heard.  This good news is for all people everywhere--This very day, in Bethlehem, the City of David, a Savior has been born for you, who is Christ the Lord.  You will know who he is because you will find him wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

Then, a whole host of angels appeared and they all sang together,

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among people with whom God is pleased."

And just as suddenly as the angels had appeared, they were gone.

The shepherds sat in amazement for a few seconds, then they all said at once, "We have to go to Bethlehem to see this awesome event!"  "But wait--what about the sheep?" one of the men asked.  "Two shepherds will need to stay behind to keep them safe," another answered.  "Please, don't make me stay behind!  Please don't make me stay behind," Eli prayed silently.  "Benjamin and Mark, you two stay and we'll tell you what we see."

And so Eli hurried with the other shepherds to Bethlehem.  There they found a cave, which was used to stable animals, and in the cave were Mary and Joseph.  And lying in the manger was their new-born son, Jesus.

Eli's greatest wish had come true.  He knew that the shepherds were told the Good News of Jesus' birth for a reason.  That angel could have made his announcement to anyone, but God chose the shepherds.  They were assigned a new, vitally important job.  For the rest of his life, Eli shared the story of that First Christmas every chance he got, and we include shepherds in our Christmas creches to this day.

Let's pray together.
Good and Gracious God, you give each one of us important work to do.  You ask us to share the Good News of Christmas and the birth of the One sent to save the whole world.  Help us to deliver the Good News in all we do and in all we are.  Amen.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy Anniversary Children's Sermons Today!

December 1, 2012

The First Sunday in Advent marks the one year anniversary Merlin and I first posted on Children's Sermons Today.  I want to thank all who have stopped by in the past year.  I hope you have found the stories to be enlightening and helpful to your ministry.  I look forward to working by God's grace and together with you in the coming year to share the Good News of God's love and forgiveness with the children God has entrusted to our care and nurture.  Happy Advent!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Son of David is Coming!

Advent 1C
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Props: A small bag containing pieces of yellow or tan yarn, cut in 2" segments--about 30 for each child
Peanut wrapped in gauze, as shown in photo

Good morning, everybody!  When you walked into the sanctuary this morning, you probably noticed a few changes.  This pretty wreath with purple and pink candles around the outside and a big white candle in the center has been set up.  Green garlands have been strung around the room, and there is a candle in each window that wasn't there last week.  (Of course, you point out the Advent preparations that have been made in your own sanctuary, or ask the children to find and point them out.)  We even have a special worship bulletin this morning.  (Briefly describe the bulletin, if you use Advent bulletins, and what the picture represents.)

Today is the First Sunday in Advent--a very special day in the life of the Church.  Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas.  The season is a time when we prepare our church, our homes, and our hearts to receive the Christ Child on his birthday, which is Christmas.  So we put up decorations to welcome Jesus.  We sing songs that speak of his coming into the world--songs like O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and Watchman, Tell Us of the Night, and O Little Town of Bethlehem.  (Mention songs familiar to your children.)  We cook special foods and sometimes buy or make gifts, all to prepare for the celebration that is Christmas.

One of the best ways to prepare ourselves and our world to receive Jesus is to be kind to others.  Kindness and generosity make the world a more friendly place; a warmer, more welcoming place for the baby Jesus.  I have something for each of you, to help you prepare for Jesus' arrival.  When you go home, I want you to find a small bowl, or a little box to use as a manger, or a bed for the baby Jesus.  Each time you do something kind for someone else, I want you to put one of these little pieces of yarn in the bed.  If you take cookies to your neighbor, or if you help your grandmother find her glasses, or if you put away the groceries with your dad, or if you let your brother go first in a game, or if you tell your teacher that you enjoyed the art lesson, or if you donate toys or coats or money to a charity organization, or if you go Christmas caroling--you get the idea.  Every time you do a kind or generous or loving act, put one piece of yarn, or straw, in the manger bed.  Then on Christmas morning, you will have a nice, soft bed for your baby Jesus.  (Hand out the yarn and the Jesus to each child.)

Prayer is another good way to prepare for Christmas.  Let's pray together now.

Loving and Generous God, You sent us your only Son, to show us how very much you love us and want us to be your children.  Help us during this season of Advent to prepare for Jesus' arrival at Christmas.  Help us to be kind, generous and loving in the coming weeks and all year long.  In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Christ the King Sunday
Revelation 1: 4-8
Credit for Photo

Good morning, everybody!  Today I want to talk with you about kings.  Kings and queens are important rulers, aren't they?  They are leaders who are responsible for all of the people in their country.  Good kings and queens do their very best to make sure all of their people, or subjects, are able to live healthy, happy lives, with enough food to eat, and a place to live, and work to do.  Throughout history there have been good kings whose people thrive and who love their leaders.

 One famous king in the Bible was King David.  As a boy, King David was a shepherd who took care of sheep for his father.  You may remember that King David made a name for himself by killing the huge, powerful enemy, Goliath.  Goliath was big and strong, and David was much smaller, but David had one thing Goliath didn't have...David had faith that God was on his side.  David was so sure of it, that he wasn't afraid of Goliath at all!  When none of the Hebrew soldiers would volunteer to fight Goliath, David stepped forward.  He took a rock and placed it in his sling shot--the same weapon he used to protect his sheep from bears and wolves.  David swung the stone around and around in the slingshot and then let it fly.  It hit Goliath just right, killed the mighty enemy, and the Hebrew people won the battle, all thanks to David, his slingshot and his faith in God.

David grew up to become the most beloved king Israel ever had.  He wasn't perfect, but he really tried his best to serve God and to serve the people so that everyone in the kingdom of Israel could live a good and faithful life.  I think that is the number one thing that makes a person a good leader--that he or she see themselves as a servant of the people.

The very best servant King ever is Jesus.  Today is Christ the King Sunday!  The Bible tells us that Jesus is the King of kings--the Ruler of all rulers.  There are many kings and queens and presidents and rulers in this world.  They may be Top Dogs in their own countries, but Jesus is the ruler of the Kingdom of God, and that means that he is more important and more powerful than all those other monarchs put together. Rulers who believe look to Jesus for guidance and strength as they rule their own countries.  And yet when Jesus lived here on earth, he fed the hungry.  He healed the sick.  He washed his disciples' feet.  He died on a cross.  He lived a life of service and cared deeply for his people.  He still does. 

We are subjects in the Kingdom of God.  We are God's people, and Jesus is our king.  For this, we can be very thankful, because we know that Jesus loves us and cares for us. 

Let's pray together,

Dear God, On this Christ the King Sunday, we remember that no matter where we live, we are members of Your Kingdom.  Help us to follow Jesus' example of serving others.  Amen.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Legend of 5 Kernels: A Thanksgiving Story

Photo Credit
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Thanksgiving Sunday (U.S.A.)
I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Prop: A small bag with 5 kernels of popcorn or candy corn for each child

Good morning, girls and boys!  I am happy, and thankful, to see you all here this morning!  This-coming Thursday, people in The United States will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday.  The traditional way to celebrate Thanksgiving is by eating a huge meal.  It almost always includes turkey and gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce, veggies and dessert--often pumpkin pie, and also many other specialties.  Those preparing the meal for their loved ones often spend days in the kitchen cooking up special foods, and everyone is as stuffed as the turkey when the meal is done.

But before digging into the feast, people all over the country stop and give thanks for the many, many blessings God has given them in the past year, just like the Pilgrims did.

We all know the story of the first Thanksgiving.  The first year in their new home was terribly difficult for the Pilgrims.  They were not prepared for the harsh weather and their supplies did not last through the winter.  People in their little group starved to death in that first year.  If it weren't for the help they received from the Native Americans, they would have all died.  So in thanks to God for their first harvest, and their new friends, the Pilgrims invited the Native Americans to dinner, and together they shared a feast. 

The second winter, however, was also very difficult.  Again, the Pilgrims did not have enough food.  In fact, there were times when each member of the colony were only allowed 5 kernels of corn to eat for an entire day.  Yet the people had faith that God would take care of them, no matter what, and they pulled through.  Nobody died that second winter.  And the harvest was huge!  There was so much corn that the Pilgrims were able to help the Native Americans.

They held a second Thanksgiving feast, again inviting their new friends to come.  Massasoit, the chief, came with his wife, several other chiefs, 120 braves and meat they had hunted.  All sat down to a feast of 12 venison, 6 goats, 50 hogs and pigs, numerous turkeys, vegetables, grapes, nuts, plums, puddings and pies. But, to remind everyone of the hard times they had endured and all they had to be thankful for, the Pilgrims and their guests sat down to an empty plate.  Then each person was given 5 kernels of corn.  The 5 kernels of corn reminded the Pilgrims of all they had suffered the previous winter, and of how much they had to be thankful for that second Thanksgiving day. 

I'm going to give each of you a little bag with 5 kernels of corn in it.  Save it until Thursday.  And then before your Thanksgiving meal, think of 5 things for which you are thankful.  Maybe you would like to go around the table and put 5 kernels of corn on each person's plate, and everyone at your Thanksgiving feast could share their 5 thanksgivings before the meal.  Or you could use the corn to help you say your good-night prayers.  Whatever you decide, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!  And I want you to know that one of the things for which I am very thankful is you.

Let us offer our thanks to God now.

Good and Gracious God, There is so much for which to thank you!  I'm sure we can all think of many more than 5 things.  We know that all of the people and things that keep us safe and warm and happy come from you.  All of the people we love and who love us.  All of the beauty in the world.  For our many blessings, Lord, we give you thanks and praise.  Amen.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Spirit of Giving

Photo Source
The Spirit of Giving
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Mark 12:38-44
Prop: A Piggy Bank (Optional)

Good morning, everyone!  I brought something with me to show you this morning.  It's a piggy bank!  Not all banks are shaped like pigs, of course.  Banks come in all kinds of shapes, but most of them do have a slot in the top.  Do any of you have a bank at home, with a slot in the top to put the money in?  If you do, raise your hand. 

This morning we're going to talk about money.  My mother always said it isn't polite to talk about money, but Jesus actually talked about it quite a bit.  This story is about one of those times.

Jesus was in the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Temple was the biggest, fanciest sanctuary where the Hebrew people worshipped.  For the Jews, it was the holiest place on earth.

On the day of our story, Jesus had been teaching large crowds of people.  When he was finished, Jesus and the disciples rested in the Temple.  They sat in what was called the Treasury.  From there, Jesus could see the people putting their offerings in the money box.  They didn't pass offering plates through the crowd like we do today.  At the Temple, folks went to the Treasury and put their money in the money box whenever they felt like it.

So, Jesus watched people come and go, and make their offerings to God in the Treasury.  He saw many rich people come along and put in large amounts of money.  Then he saw a widow walk quietly up to the Treasury box.  She slipped two small coins into the box, and quickly walked away.  The coins together were worth about one penny.  And yet, do you know what Jesus told his disciples?  He said to them, "This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury."

Jesus went on to explain that all the other people he saw had given what they had left over.  But the poor widow had given all that she had.

Even if we don't have a lot, we all have something we can share with those who have less than we do.  And even though giving to others makes our piggy banks lighter, it makes us, and God, very happy.

Let's Pray,

Kind and Generous God, Help us to be generous, too.  Help us to share the good gifts you have given us with others so that all may know of your love and care.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

For All the Saints

By M. Dibdon Spooner
Sunday, November 4, 2012

All Saints Sunday

Mark 12:28-34

Good morning, boys and girls!  Today I want to tell you about someone very special.  Her name is Margaret.  Margaret was born nearly one thousand years ago, in the  year 1045.  She was raised as a member of the Hungarian court, like a princess, because her family was related to the king.  When she was 12 years old, she was sent to England to get more education.  Then the Normans conquered and took over England.  Margaret, her mother and her brother tried to escape in a ship and return to Hungary.  Their ship was blown off course, and landed instead in Scotland--a rather wild country in the opposite direction of where they were trying to go.
Margaret and her family were welcomed by Scottish King Malcolm III.  King Malcolm fell in love with the beautiful and gentle Margaret.  They were married in 1070, when Margaret was 25 years old.

Like I said, Scotland was a rather wild place at this time.  King Malcolm was a good man, but he was more of a soldier than a gentleman.  Margaret helped him to become a gracious leader.  Together they cared about the poor and did all they could to help them.  King Malcolm and Queen Margaret had 8 children, and all of them grew to love and care for the poor as their parents had.Margaret was a prayerful person. 

She gathered women together to study the Scriptures and sew decorations for the church.  She was always surrounded by beggars, and gave them food, money and clothes.  She set up hospitals and homes for people in need.  During the special seasons of Advent and Lent, she and her husband would wash the feet of people in need and give them money on their way home from church.  Margaret fed children who had no parents.  She brought a love of art and education to her people, and the people loved her in return.  Margaret's children were wonderful leaders who followed their parents' example, and brought Scotland years of peace and prosperity.

Margaret was a kind and generous leader, and someone who lived her faith each and every day by showing God's love to everyone. In the year 1250, the Catholic Church decided that Margaret should be declared a saint, and she became the special saint of Scotland.

The Apostle Paul was a follower of Jesus almost two thousand years ago.  Paul wrote some of the Bible, and he is sometimes called St. Paul. Paul was an important man in helping to build and grow the church when Christianity was a brand, new religion.  Paul wrote that all Christian believers are saints. Not only people whose faith and good works made them famous and brought special recognition, like Margaret of Scotland, but also people like you and me and everyone sitting in this church.  All of us who believe in God and love Jesus and want to serve Him are saints. I recently read this about saints:

"Saints are big dreamers. They believe that with God on their side, no one and nothing can stop them. Saints are go-getters. They don’t wait for someone else to do good first; they jump right in. Saints are love-bringers. They try to see Christ in every person and every situation. Saints tell us what matters most in life is not what we earn or own, not the job we have or the people we know. What really matters is how much we love God, others, and ourselves, and how well we show that love in all we do."  (Loyola Press Website)

Let's pray together,
Dear God, we thank you for our brothers and sisters in Christ who teach us by example what it means to be a faithful disciple.  We thank-you for those who went before us, like Margaret of Scotland, and for their stories which help us learn how to follow Jesus, and for those we meet every day who are kind and generous and loving.  Help us, too, Lord, to show your love in all we do and say.  Amen.

In preparing this story, I came across the Loyola Press website, which has wonderful Saints stories written for children.  I highly recommend it!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bless the Lord

Sunday, October 20, 2012
Proper B24
Psalm 104
Props: Photos or slides of natural beauty

The world is a pretty amazing place, when you think about it.  There are so many different kinds of landscapes, like mountains that reach way high into the sky, and deep valleys that plunge deep into the earth.  There are vast oceans dotted with tiny islands, damp rain forests and dry deserts, flat plains with rich soil, mucky swamps and sandy beaches.

There are so many different kinds of plants in the world, too--from towering redwood trees to plants so small it takes a microscope to see them.  There are colorful flowers of every shape and size, straight grasses, round bushes, spreading trees and creeping ground covers.  There are splendid orchids that need special care to flower, and weeds like dandelions that will grow just about anywhere. 

There are so many different kinds of animals in the world!  Dogs and cats.  Fish and birds.  African animals like lions and zebras, giraffes, meerkats and an animal called the naked mole rat!  There are Australian animals like kangaroos, koala bears, rainbow lorikeets, dingo dogs and wombats.  In Asia there are animals like the Asia elephant, blow fish, cobra snakes, giant pandas and yaks.  Central American animals include anaconda snakes, beautiful, blue morpho butterflies, toucan birds, pumas, tarantulas and tree frogs.  I think you get the idea.  There are more different kinds of animals in the world than I would ever be able to count! 

A person doesn't have to be out in the country or the wilderness to see natural wonders, either.  You can see bits of nature in even the most crowded city.  You might go to a park and play on the grass or rest under the shade of a tree.  You might see a dandelion or other plant growing through a crack in the sidewalk.  You can see hawks flying around the tall buildings of New York City, as well as pigeons and other birds.

Natural beauty is everywhere, including in the person sitting next to you.  You are a wonder of nature yourself!  For the beauty of nature all around us, we give thanks to God, the Creator.  It is God who gives us these gifts of land, sea, plant, animal and people.  Thanks be to God!

As a way of thanking God for the gift of Creation, I want you to think about your favorite type of animal--adults and children--are you thinking of an animal?  OK, now on the count of three, I want us all to say together, "Thank-you, God, for..." and then make the sound your favorite animal makes, OK?  One, two, three!  "Thank-you, God, for........"  AMEN!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Job and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Sunday, October 14, 2012
Proper 23B
Job 23:1-17
Prop: A copy of Judith Viorst's book (optional)

The book could simply be read as the children's sermon, if desired.  Below, however, is a way to use reference to the story without actually reading the book word-for-word.

An author named Judith Viorst wrote a book called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  Perhap you've read it!  It is one of my all-time favorites.  It starts like this:

Alexander is speaking:

I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mystake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

At breakfast Anthony found a Corvette Sting Ray car kit in his breakfast cereal box and Nick found a Junior Undercover Agent code ring in his breakfast cereal box but in my breakfast cereal box all I found was breakfast cereal.

I think I'll move to Australia.

Next, it's time for Alexander to go to school, and things don't go any better.  He's forced to sit in the middle seat in the back in the car pool, and even when he complains about being scrunched and smushed and feeling carsick, no one answers him. 

Once he gets to school, Alexander's day still doesn't improve.  His teacher doesn't like his picture of the invisible castle.  He sings too loud.  He misses the number sixteen when counting.  Alexander could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

He gets in a fight with his friends, and his mom forgot to put dessert in his lunch box.

After school, Alexander and his brothers has an appointment at the dentist.  Guess who is the only one with a cavity.  That's right...Alexander.  Dr. Fields tells them to come back next week, and he will fix it.  Alexander says, "Next week, I'm going to Australia."

Well, poor Alexander's day goes from bad to worse.  He gets into a fight with his brothers and even though they start it, Alexander is the one to get in trouble.  They pick up his dad at his office, where Alexander knocks a big pile of books off the desk.

Back at home, there are lima beans for dinner and Alexander hates lima beans.  There is kissing on TV and he hates kissing.  His bath is too hot, he gets soap in his eyes, his marble goes down the drain, and he has to wear the pajamas he hates.

The book ends like this...

When I went to bed Nick took back the pillow he said I could keep and the Mickey Mouse night iight burned out and I bit my tongue.

The cat wants to sleep with Anthony, not with me.

It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

My mom says some days are like that.

Even in Australia.

All of us have experienced terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, just like Alexander.  Sometimes we have a string of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days when it just seems that nothing goes right.  And sometimes our worries are bigger than biting our tongue or having to eat lima beans.  Sometimes it feels, as I think it did to Alexander, like no one is listening to our complaints.  But I am here to tell you that there is one person who is always ready to person who always cares about how we are feeling.  That person is God.  You can always bring your troubles to God, and know that God hears you, no matter where you are.  Even in Australia.

Let's talk with God in prayer now.

Dear God, We thank you for always being with us, always caring about us and listening to us.  Help us to see that we are not alone.  On good days and on bad, you are our God.  We are your children.  Thank-you, Lord.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012
World Communion Sunday
Psalm 8
Props: Flags or photos of flags from Mexico, Japan, Great Britain, Democratic Republic of the Congo and your own nation, and the Christian Flag

Good morning, everybody!  Today I want to show you pictures of several national flags.  First, there’s this one.  This is the flag of Mexico.  I like the bold colors in Mexico’s flag.  And this white one with the red circle in the middle—this is Japan’s flag.  The red circle represents the sun.  This is Great Britain’s flag.  It is called the Union Flag, or Union Jack, because the design is a combination of three flags in one—the flags of Scotland, Ireland and England.  Here is a picture of the flag from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  This is a new flag design that has only been used by the country since 2006.  The gold star stands for “the light of civilization.”  And finally, here is a flag you might recognize right away. 


This is the flag of your country—our nation’s flag, right?  You see our flag flying outside of schools, post offices, court houses, city hall, in front of some people’s homes, at gas stations, in public parks—lots of places, right?  And if you were to go to Mexico, or Japan, or Great Britain or the Congo, you would see the flags of those countries flying, too.


Each of these flags represents a different country.  Right now, there are 242 countries in the world.  That means there are 242 national flags.  People often feel very strongly about their national flag because it reminds them of their country, their homeland. 


There is another flag that brings together people from all different countries.  It looks like this.  It is the Christian flag.  People from all over the world claim the Christian flag as their own.  What brings us all together under this flag is our love for Jesus, and our wish to serve Him.  There is even a pledge to the Christian flag.  It goes like this:

"I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag
and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands.
One community, uniting all humankind,
in service and love."

Today is a special day in the life of the Church called World Communion Sunday.  Today we pay special attention to the unity that Christians all over the world share.  We all love Jesus and wish to serve Him.  The love of Christ brings us together, not matter where we live, no matter which national flag we wave, no matter what country we are from.  Thanks be to God!

(If your church does not participate in World Communion Sunday, you can skip the above paragraph.)

I’d like to close our time this morning by saying together the Pledge to the Christian Flag.  Will you please repeat after me?

I pledge allegiance

to the Christian Flag

and to the Savior

for whose kingdom it stands.

One community,

uniting all humankind

in service and in love.  Amen.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Keep the Lid On

Sunday, September 30, 2012
Proper 21B
Psalm 19:14
Prop: A Jar of Glitter

Good morning, everyone!  I have something pretty to show you this morning.  It's an old-fashioned jar of glitter.  Isn't it pretty?  This is the kind of glitter people used before
there were glitter glue or glitter pens.  Let me pour a little in my hand, and you can see how much it sparkles in the light.  Look at that!  Glitter gives pictures you color and arts and crafts projects extra pizazz, doesn't it? 

With this glitter, you put plain white glue where you want the sparkles, sprinkle the glitter on the glue, then shake off the extra.  Even if you put newspaper on the table, with all the sprinkling and the shaking, the glitter gets everywhere--on your clothes, on the floor, sometimes even in your hair!  In fact, once you take this glitter out of the jar, it is impossible to get it all back into the jar again.  (Put glitter back in the jar.)  See that?  Some stuck to my hand and a little fell on the floor.  I'll have to vacuum that up later.

Words are a lot like glitter.  Once we say them, we cannot unsay them.  We cannot "put them back in the jar," as if they've never been said.  If we say something mean to another person, we can apologize.  We can say, "I'm sorry," or "I was only kidding."  We can try to make up for our unkind words by being extra nice to the person, but we can never unsay them.  Those unkind words may be remembered for a long, long time.

The Bible talks about how damaging our words can be, and how important it is to tame our tongues so that words that we will regret saying never get said at all.  For example, let's say you're in Sunday School, and the teacher asks a boy named Billy a question about the story, and Billy gives a wrong answer.  The first thought that pops into Suzie's mind may be, "That was a really stupid answer, Billy!"  Should Suzie say that out loud for Billy and everyone else to hear?  Is that an important thing for others to know--that Suzie thinks Billy's answer is stupid?  Is it helpful?  Is it kind?  No, no, no, right?  So that is one thought that should never be said out loud--it should be kept in the jar.

The Bible teaches us that not only our words, but our thoughts as well should all be acceptable to God.  This is a challenging idea--one that most of us work on our whole lives.

King David talks about this idea in one of the Psalms he wrote.  I'd like us to say that Psalm together as our prayer this morning.  Please repeat after me.

Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock
and my redeemer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Top of the Hill

King of the Hill
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Proper 20B
Mark 9:30-37

Good morning, boys & girls!  There is an old-fashioned game called King of the Hill.  Maybe you've played it before.  One person, the king or queen, stands at the top of a hill.  All of the other players wait all around the bottom of the hill.  At the word "Go!" all of the players at the bottom of the hill start working their way to the top.  Whoever is able to push the king off the top of the hill and takes his or her place first wins the game and is king or queen for the next round.

One day, Jesus and his disciples were walking through Galilee.  They stopped at Capernaum and went to a friend's house.  Once there, Jesus asked his friends what they were arguing about on the road.  Now, the disciples were embarrassed to answer, because they had been bickering about which of them was the greatest.  They knew Jesus wouldn't like them discussing such a selfish topic.  They didn't tell him, but still Jesus knew what the subject of their argument was.  He told them,  “'So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.'

36-37" He put a child in the middle of the room. Then, cradling the little one in his arms, he said, “Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me, and far more than me—God who sent me.'"  The Message

In other words, those who fight and claw their way to to the top, pushing others out of the way so that they can be in first position will be last in the Kingdom of God.  God rewards those who care about and take care of others, especially others who need help the most.

Let's pray.  Dear God, thank-you for giving us people in our lives to take care of us.  May we also show your love by being kind and helpful to others.  In Jesus' name, Amen

Friday, September 7, 2012

Following the Way

Following The Way
Ordinary 23B
Mark 7:31-37

Good morning, everyone!  (I hope you all enjoyed your summer vacation!)  Today, I want to tell you a story about a group of people from Pennsylvania.  Each year, they take a week of their vacation time and travel 3,450 miles to San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  They don't go to Honduras to relax on the beach or pleasure camp in the mountains.  They go to Honduras to help other people.

These dedicated volunteers have named their group Operation Honduras.  Their first trip was fifteen years ago, in 1997, before any of you were born.  They flew to San Pedro Sula and fixed up the kitchen at the Emmanuel Children's Home--a home for children without parents.

The Operation Honduras volunteers put new ceilings, walls and doors in the home.  They built two bathrooms and showers.  And in the kitchen, where there was just a dirt floor, they poured a clean, new concrete floor. 

While they were there, Jim, the leader of Operation Honduras, asked the director of the home if there were any children who had medical needs that weren't being met.  The director introduced Jim to Brenda, an 8-year-old girl who couldn't hear.

Brenda was given a hearing test, and two hearing aids were made for her so that she could hear!  Brenda was the first patient tested and fitted for hearing aids by Operation Honduras volunteers.  The next year, the group returned to build more renovations at Emmanuel, and there were 10 children waiting for them--all needing hearing aids with no way to pay for them.

To date, now 15 years later, Operation Honduras, with the help of the Starkey Foundation, has tested and fitted 5,106 children with hearing aids in Honduras.  All of these children have been given the gift of hearing because a few people in Pennsylvania love Jesus and believe that as His followers, it is their job to help others.  They give their time, their money, their talent and their love to the children of Honduras.  And they feel blessed for the priviledge.

One time, Jesus was traveling in a region called Decapolis.  People brought a deaf man--a man who couldn't hear--to him and begged for his help.  Long story short, Jesus healed the man and the man and his friends were astonished!

Jesus calls all Christians to carry on his work of caring for people.  There are many ways to do this.  Some people travel the world, providing hearing aids to those who need but cannot afford them.  Some people donate money and supplies that help make that work possible.  All of us can choose to be friendly and kind to people we meet who may be differently abled.  Maybe you know someone who has trouble hearing, or seeing, or walking.  Maybe you know someone who has special challenges that make daily living more difficult than most.  These folks don't need to be stared at or teased or ignored.  They need friendship and love, just like the rest of us.  We can do that, right?  We can make it our mission to be friends.  Good.

Let's Pray.  Dear God, we thank you for the dedication and work of the Operation Honduras volunteers and so many like them throughout the Church.  Help us to do what we can to continue Christ's mission of loving care and friendship.  Amen.

Operation Honduras and the Starkey Foundation only donate hearing aids where follow-up care, such as battery replacement and needed therapies are available.  Please check out their website for further information.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Feeding the Five Thousand

Sunday, July 22, 2012
Proper 11B
Mark 6:30-44

Good morning, everybody!

One of the many things that makes Jesus so special is how much he cares about people.  He cares about the whole person--our spiritual needs, our emotional needs and our physical needs.  Let me show you what I mean.

One day, Jesus was with his disciples.  They had all been working very hard and were tired.  Jesus suggested they all go away together to someplace quiet for a rest.  So they all boarded a  boat and went on a short trip for what they thought was going to be some R&R--rest and relaxation.

But some people saw where Jesus ad the disciples were going.  They told their friends who told their friends, and by the time the boat carrying Jesus and the disciples landed on shore, there was a huge crowd waiting for them.

Now remember, Jesus and his pals made this trip to get some rest, and here was an enormous, unexpected welcoming committee in need of a leader.  Jesus could have told the people, "I'm sorry, but this is my day off.  I just don't have the energy to speak to you today."  But he didn't.  He cared too much about the people who came to hear his teachings about God.  The Bible says, "He had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd."  So he taught them.  He taught them all day, sharing what they needed to learn to live a life of faith in God.

Finally, the disciples came to Jesus and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send the people away so they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat."  Jesus answered them, "You give them something to eat."

This may have been a reasonable thing to say if there were ten people there that day, or maybe even fifty.  But the Bible counts five thousand men gathered to hear Jesus, and that doesn't even include the women and children!  There was no way the disciples had enough money to buy food for all of those hungry people, and they told Jesus that.

He told them to check and see how much food they had with them.  The disciples reported back that they had five loaves of bread and two fish.  Hardly enough tuna sandwiches for a crowd that size!  But Jesus cared about the people.  He cared that they know about God's love, and he cared that they not go home with hungry tummies.  So he ordered the disciples to have the people sit on the green grass in groups.  Then something amazing happened.

Jesus took the five loaves of bread and the two fish.  He looked up to heaven and blessed and divided the food in pieces and gave it to the disciples to serve to the people.  And every, single person in that huge crowd had more than enough to eat.  In fact, when everyone was finished eating their fill, there were five baskets of food left over.

Then, only after everyone was full, Jesus sent them home.  Jesus cares about us in every way, just like he cared about the people gathered that day so long ago.  And Jesus calls upon the church to carry on his work to care for people in every way.  The church to this day ministers to peoples' needs--teaching about God's love; caring for the sick through hospitals and clinics; feeding the hungry in our town and around the world.  We do all of this work in Jesus' name, because we love him.

Let's Pray:  Good and gracious God, we thank-you for sending Jesus into the world to show how much you love and care about us in every way.  Help us to share your love and caring in our world today, and in Jesus' name.  Amen