Monday, January 23, 2012

The Voice of Authority

The Voice of Authority
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Mark 1:21-28
Prop: Print of photo at bottom of page (optional)

Good morning, boys and girls!

I want to share a story with you this morning about a dog at a baseball game.  It wasn't a hot dog, but a dog-dog--you know, the kind that barks.  I'm not sure why this dog was at the baseball game, but he was.

This was a big, major league game like the Dodgers (insert your nearest big league team's name here), and the stands were filled with thousands of people.  Somehow, the dog got out onto the baseball field!  The referees stopped the game because the dog was running all around, distracting the players and getting in the way.  One of the players could have tripped on him.

The crowd went wild!  Everyone started yelling at the dog, "Hey, Fido!  Get off the field!"  "Come on, Buddy!  We want to watch the game!"

The poor dog was afraid and confused.  He ran a ways, then cocked his head as if listening, then ran some more.  Then he stopped in his tracks.  He lifted his head.  His ears perked up.  It looked like he was running for third base!  He ran over the base and right up the the base of the stands where a woman was calling, "Rex!  Rex!  C'mon, Boy!  That's a good dog!  Come, Rex!"

The dog, Rex, barked and jumped excitedly at the spot where his owner was until the 3rd base player lifted the dog over the fence and into his owner's arms.  Rex licked her face and wriggled all over like he had never been so happy to see anyone in his whole, entire puppy dog life.  (Show picture.)

Isn't it amazing that in that crowd, and with all of those people shouting at him, Rex could pick out his mater's voice?  When he did, Rex responded immediately, didn't he.  Because he knew it was the voice of the one who loved him and cared for him.  It was the voice that had authority for Rex--the one he listened for and obeyed.

Early in his ministry, Jesus went to the synagogue in a town called Capernaum.  A synagogue is a place of worship.  At the synagogue, Jesus taught the people about God.  And all the people listened to him and learned from him, even people much older than Jesus, because he spoke with authority--like he knew what he was talking about.

Teaching was a large part of Jesus' work, or ministry.  And he always taught with authority.  Fortunately, people wrote down Jesus' teachings and they are collected in the Bible where we can read and learn from them, too.

Let's Pray. 
Dear God, we thank-you for Jesus, who taught his followers about you.  We are also grateful that we can learn from Jesus like they did, by reading the Holy Bible.  Help us to learn and live what Jesus taught.  Amen.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Story of Jonah, a Big Fish and Making Good Choices

The Story of Jonah, a Big Fish and Making Good Choices
The Book of Jonah
Props:  The Congregation

Divide the congregation into four groups, such as those sitting on the right side of the sanctuary, those on the left, the children and the choir.  Before beginning the story, instruct each group to make the sound or movement you give them each time they hear their assigned word.  The words are color-coded in the script.

God (green) - Ask the organist to strike the first chord of the Halleluia Chorus, and have the choir sing the first, "Halleluia!."  If this is too complicated, ask the choir or a group of the congregation to sing the first three words of "Holy, Holy, Holy!"  Be sure to clue in the choir in advance.
Jonah (blue) - The people in this group raise their hands each time the word "Jonah" is read, as if volunteering for a task.
Nineveh (orange) - The people say, "Beep!  Beep!" like taxis in a big city.
Ship (yellow) - The people rock back and forth as on a ship in a storm and sing the words, "Sailing, sailing!"
Now read the story and have fun!

One day long ago, God spoke to Jonah, "Up on your feet and on your way, Jonah!," God said.  "I need you to go to the big city of Nineveh!  Preach to the people there.  They're in a bad way and I can't ignore it any longer.  Something needs to change."

But Jonah was afraid to go to NinevehJonah got up and decided to go in the opposite direction from Nineveh, to the town of Tarshish.  He was running away from God.

Jonah went to the port and found a ship scheduled to sail to Tarshish.  He paid the fare and boarded the ship, joining the others also going to Tarshish--as far away from God as Jonah could get.

But God sent a huge storm at sea.  The waves towered over the ship.  The ship was about to break into pieces!  The sailors were terrified.  They called out in desperation.  They threw everything overboard that wasn't nailed down to lighten the ship.  Still, the storm raged and the ship was tossed on the high seas.

Meanwhile, Jonah was down below in the hold of the ship, taking a nap.  He was sleeping through the whole thing!  The captain of the ship found Jonah and woke him up.  "Pray to your god," the captain said.  "Maybe your god will see that we're in trouble and rescue us.

Then the sailors said to each other, "Let's get to the bottom of this and find out who on the ship is responsible for this disaster."

Well, eventually Jonah 'fessed up that he was the problem.  He had chosen to run away from God instead of going to Nineveh.  The sailors said to Jonah, "What are we going to do with you--to get rid of this storm?"  Jonah told them to throw him off the ship, into the sea.  The sailors didn't want to do it, but it seemed tossing Jonah overboard was the only choice they had.  They said a prayer to God, and tossed Jonah off the ship.  Immediately, the sea was quiet.

The sailors were impressed.  They were no longer terrified by the sea, but were in awe of God.  They worshipped God on the spot.

But God wasn't finished convincing Jonah that he needed to go to NinevehGod sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah.  The fish gulped up Jonah whole!  He lived in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.  Finally, Jonah had had enough.  He turned to God in prayer.  From the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed to God.  He prayed a long prayer, thanking the Lord for God's goodness and constant care.  Then, at the end of the long prayer, Jonah said,

"I'll do what I promised I'd do!  I'll preach to the people of Nineveh."

Then the fish coughed up Jonah on the seashore.

Next, God spoke to Jonah again.  "Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh!  Preach to them.  Tell them to make good choices and change their behavior!  They are in a bad way and I can't ignore it any longer."

This time, Jonah made a good choice himself!  He went straight to Nineveh, this time obeying God's instructions.

When Jonah arrived at Nineveh, he preached God's message.  The people listened, and made the good coice to follow God always.  The End.

Let's Pray:  All Loving Creator, help us to make the good choice to be your faithful people.  Amen.

The telling of this story is adapted from Eugene H. Peterson's Bible translation, The Message.


Just a note to say that the children's sermon for 1/15/2012 was incorrectly titled, The Story of Jonah, a Big Fish and Making Good Choices.  That is, in fact, the title for the 1/22/2012 sermon.  Today's story (January 15) is The Call of Samuel.  I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Call of Samuel

Sunday, January 15, 2012
Ordinary II
1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
Prop: Print out the picture below and show while telling the story (optional)

I want you to think about something this morning.  Let's say you are playing with your toys in your bedroom, and your brother or sister or babysitter is in the next room, and that person wants to get your attention.  She or he would usually call out your name, right?  Something like, "Lucy!  Could you please come here for a minute?"  Or maybe you're outside playing in the yard and it's starting to get dark.  Your mom or dad may call to you saying, "Justin! Time to come inside!  Dinner's ready!"  Or maybe you've had your dinner and brushed your teeth, and you're watching your favorite TV show.  When it's over, you might hear someone who loves you call your name, "Kathy!  Liam!  Bedtime!  Let's read some stories!"

You hear your name called, then the person calling your name usually has something they want you to do--get cleaned up, do a chore, come to the table to eat, get ready for bed, do homework, help the person who called in some way.

The Bible tells us about a boy named Samuel.  Samuel lived with the priest, Eli, and helped Eli with his work.  Together they took care of the Temple and all of the religious work that went on there--kind of like Pastor Mike and Pastor Donna (of course, insert your pastors' names here), do for us in our church.  One night while Samuel was sleeping, he heard his name called, "Samuel!  Samuel!"  So Samuel went into Eli's room and said, "Here I am!  You called me."  Eli said, "I did not call you!  Go back and lie down again."

 So, Samuel laid down again.  Before long, he heard his voice called again, "Samuel!"  Samuel got up again and went to Eli and said, "Here I am, for you called me."  Eli again said, "Samuel, I did not call you!  Go back to sleep!"  So, Samuel went back and laid down again.

A third time, Samuel heard his name called, "Samuel!"  A third time, Samuel went to Eli and said, "Here I am!"  But this time, Eli finally figured out what was happening.  He realized that it was God who was trying to get Samuel's attention!  So, Eli told Samuel to go back to his bed and lie down, and if he heard his name again, to say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."

That is exactly what happened.  Samuel went back to bed, and before long, he heard his named called once more, "Samuel!"  But this time, Samuel was ready.  He answered, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."  God called Samuel because there was very important work God needed Samuel to do.  Samuel became God's prophet and shared God's messages with the people of God.  He led them for many years, helping them to follow God and helping them to know that God cared about them and wanted what was best for them.

God calls each of us to help with the work of the Church.  God wants us to let others know that we are all loved by God and we are all special to God.

Let's pray together:

Dear God, We thank-you for your servant, Samuel.  We are glad that he answered your call and was willing to be your prophet.  Help us to answer "Yes," when we are asked to share in the Church's ministry of caring and sharing with others.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, January 6, 2012

In the Beginning

In the Beginning
Genesis 1:1-2:4
Props: A Bible, Several slides or photos of nature scenes (optional)

Good morning, girls and boys!  Just a week ago, we started a brand, new year--the year 2012.  I thought we'd begin this new year by reading from the very beginning of the Bible.  The Bible begins by telling us about the beginning of life on this planet--about the Creation of the world.  The Book of Genesis, chapter 1, verse 1 reads (Read 1:1-5a from your Bible):

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, "Let there be light;" and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day and the darkness God called night.

The first thing God created was light.  Without light, there can be no life as we know it.  Plants need light to grow, animals need plants to eat.  So God begins Creation with light.

The Bible goes on to describe all the other wonderful things God created to make the world--the sky, the seas and dry land, plants, the sun, the moon and the stars, the animals in the sea, birds in the sky, and land animals, from cows to bugs and every kind of animal in-between.  Finally, God created human beings--men and women.  The Bible says, "And God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good."

There is a lot of important stuff happening in this first chapter of the Bible, isn't there?  We start off with nothing and end up with an entire, beautiful, marvelous universe...[a universe filled with wonders such as these--Show several photos of nature scenes, if desired].

Creation is amazing, isn't it.  Awesome.  Miraculous, even.  But in a way, the creation of this wonderful world should not be surprising because it did start with something--or Someone.  The book of Genesis begins with possibly the most important words in the Bible--"In the beginning...God..."  Creation, and all life, begin with God.  God is the One who created.  God is the Creator.

God was here in the beginning.  God has always been, and always will be.  That is part of what makes God, God!  Let's give God our thanks together.

Creator God, We thank and praise you for all the wonders of nature.  Thank-you for creating such a beautiful world--for the mountains and oceans, the sun and the moon, the tall trees and tiny flowers, for fish and birds and cows and cats, and people.  We thank-you for placing us here in your marvelous world, and for always being here, both now and forever.  Amen.