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:


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

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.