Monday, July 23, 2012

Year B - Proper 15, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 12th Sunday after Pentecost (August 19, 2012)

Many of today’s texts focus on wisdom – not a bad choice for a Sunday just before or as the school year begins! 

$ To help children sort out vocabulary present a series of small posters each bearing a word.  Include genius, brainy, smart, smart alec (or wise guy) , wise, common sense, good judgment and/or others that are used among your children.  Compare the similarities and differences in each one.  Finally set all but wise aside and announce that today you will be thinking about what it means to be wise.  This could be done before the call to worship to set the stage.  Or, it could be part of the sermon.

$ For children wisdom is the ability to make good decisions, to know right from wrong, to be able to figure out what to do in difficult situations.  It is important to separate wisdom from intelligence.  Some people are just smarter than others.  But, smart people are not necessarily wise.  And, people who may not be super smart, straight A students are often very wise. 

$ Two helpful story books. Both are too long to read during worship.  The preacher can however easily retell them in his or her own words.  I found both in the public library.

In The Empty Pot, by Demi, the Emperor gives all the children a seed to plant and announces that the child who brings back the biggest healthiest plant in a year will be the next emperor.  Ping tends his seed with high hopes because he knows a great deal about plants.  When the seed does not grow in spite of all his efforts he brings it back to the Emperor.  Other children bring all sorts of plants.  It turns out the Emperor had cooked all the seeds he gave out.  Only Ping was wise enough to bring his seed back and so he became the next Emperor.

After he became Emperor Ping needed a very wise prime minister.  So, he challenged all the children of the kingdom to bring in The Greatest Power in the world.  He said, "A wise person must be able to see the unseen and know the unknown."  Children arrived with all sorts of weapons, beauty, technology, money, etc.  A girl named Sing brought a lotus seed.  She was wise enough to know that from that one little seed life renewed itself every season and that life was the greatest power.  She became Ping’s Prime Minister.

$ “Fear of the Lord” shows up in several of today’s wisdom texts.  Today’s children hear that phrase as “be afraid of God.”  What it actually means is respect or be in awe of and obey God.  To help children get to that understanding talk about how one would feel meeting a very important person – maybe the President or Prime Minister or a sports hero/ine or a famous musician.  Note that you would not be afraid that any of these people would hurt you, but you would feel very shy, hesitant to say anything, and just wow, happy to be there standing right before them.  If the Olympics are still fresh in your memories, imagine how athletes felt as they walked into the big stadium during the Opening Ceremonies.  They were not scared, but they could hardly believe they were actually there IN THE OLYMPICS.  It was awesome.  You might also recall Mrs. Beaver in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, telling the children that they would be frightened when they met Aslan.  It would be foolish not to be.  But, she insisted that Aslan was good and they should look forward to meeting him.

Is – is he a man?”  asked Lucy.
Aslan, a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly.  “Certainly not.  I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the Sea.   Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts?  Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!" said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man.  Is he – quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.  “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”
From The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, chapter 8

1 Kings 2: 10-12, 3:3-14

$ This story is interesting to children, but the assigned verses are long.  Children have trouble following the story as the verses are read.  To highlight the story have the story read by a narrator, The Lord, and Solomon.  Use the script below to streamline the introductory material and focus on Solomon’s prayer.  Solomon should of course be read by a young adult male.  If a woman will read some of the other wisdom texts today, The Lord might be by a male.  If a woman will not be reading wisdom texts, cast a woman as The Lord to push worshipers of all ages to imagine God as more than either male or female.


1 Kings 2:10-12 and 3:5-14

Narrator:   David lived to be an old man.  Then he died.  His son Solomon became king.  One night shortly after Solomon became king the Lord appeared to him in a dream.

The Lord:  What would you like me to give you?

Solomon:  You always showed great love for my father David, your servant, and he was good, loyal, and honest in his relations with you. And you have continued to show him your great and constant love by giving him a son who today rules in his place.   O Lord God, you have let me succeed my father as king, even though I am very young and don’t know how to rule.   Here I am among the people you have chosen to be your own, a people who are so many that they cannot be counted.   So give me the wisdom I need to rule your people with justice and to know the difference between good and evil. Otherwise, how would I ever be able to rule this great people of yours?

Narrator:  The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this,

The Lord:  Because you have asked for the wisdom to rule justly, instead of long life for yourself or riches or the death of your enemies,  I will do what you have asked. I will give you more wisdom and understanding than anyone has ever had before or will ever have again.   I will also give you what you have not asked for: all your life you will have wealth and honour, more than that of any other king. And if you obey me and keep my laws and commands, as your father David did, I will give you a long life.

Narrator:   Solomon woke up and realized that God had spoken to him in the dream. Then he went to Jerusalem and stood in front of the Lord’s Covenant Box and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord. After that he gave a feast for all his officials.  PAUSE   This is the word of the Lord.

Based on the TEV


$ This is such a great story for the Sunday before school starts that I’d juggle lectionary weeks in order to read it on the best week for the children.  It leads to prayers for learning wisdom this year at school so that we may become wise people of God.

Leader:  God, as we go to school we want many things.  We want to be with our friends and meet people who will become our friends.  We want to be popular.  We want our teachers and the other children to like us.

Students:  Help us also want to learn new skills and understand new subjects.  Make us your wise people.

Leader:  Lord, as we go back to school we want to have fun.  We want teachers who make lessons fun.  We want to play learning games, act in plays and do interesting projects.  We want time to play outside and in the gym.  We want school to be fun.

Students:  Help us also want to learn new skills and understand new subjects.  Make us your wise people.

Leader:  God we also want to do well.  We want to make good grades.  We want to win.  We want to be first.  We want to know we are special people.

Students:  Help us also want to learn new skills and understand new subjects.  Make us your wise people.

Leader:  So be with us at school this year.  Guide us.  Help us be good friends.  Help us pay attention and learn and grow.  Make us wise.  (If you are reading about Solomon, “Make us as wise as Solomon.”)  For we pray in Jesus’ name. 

$ It sounds like Solomon got wisdom with one prayer.  But the story indicates that Solomon was working hard already to be wise (he was wise enough to pray this prayer!) and we can imagine that he continued to work at learning how to be a wise king.  The rest of us for sure get wisdom by working at it every day.  In the Neil Simon movie “The Goodbye Girl” a little girl does not want to go the school one morning.  Her mother insists that she go saying this may be the day they learn brain surgery.  Both mother and daughter roll their eyes knowing that will not happen.  But, the mother makes her point that each day at school the daughter will learn skills that over time will enable her to do amazing things – like brain surgery.  Use this story to encourage children to work at school learning skills (even the ones they would rather not learn) so that they can do more and more amazing things as doctors, leaders, scientists, AND disciples of Jesus.

$ Illustrate Solomon’s wisdom with the story of how he figured out which of two mothers claiming the same baby was the real mother of the child.  It is in 1 Kings 3:16-28 and does not appear anywhere in the RCL.  For clarity and speed, tell the story in your own words.

Psalm 111

$ Verse 10 is the key verse of this psalm for children.  Check the comments about “the fear of the Lord” near the beginning of this post and explain the phrase before reading the entire psalm.

$ This psalm is one of the alphabet psalms.  Especially on the Sunday before school starts it might be titled “The ABCs of Praising God.”  A group of school children (a class or choir?) might read the psalm to the congregation with each child reading one lettered line and the minister or other worship leader saying the letter of the Hebrew alphabet before each line.  Or, the congregation might read the lines after a worship leader says each Hebrew letter.


Psalm 111
The ABCs of Praising God

All                    Praise the Lord!

Aleph               With all my heart I will thank the Lord.

Bet                   In the assembly of God’s people I will praise the Lord.

Gimel              How wonderful are the things the Lord does!

Dalet               All who are delighted with them want to understand them.

He                   All God does is full of honor and majesty!

Waw                God’s righteousness is eternal.

Zain                 The Lord does not let us forget these wonderful actions.

Het                  The Lord is kind and merciful.

Tet                   God provides food for those who honor him.

Yod                  The Lord never forgets his covenant.

Kaph               God has shown his power to his people

Lamed             The Lord gave them the lands of foreigners.

Mem                Everything God does is faithful and just.

Nun                 All the Lord’s commands are dependable.

Samek              They last for all time.

Ain                   They were given in truth and righteousness.

Pe                    God set his people free

Zade                The Lord made an eternal covenant with them.

Qoph               Holy and mighty is God’s name!

Resh                The way to become wise is to honor the Lord;

Shin                 The Lord gives sound judgment to all who obey his commands.

Taw                 God is to be praised for ever.

                      Based on the TEV


This is my sketch.  Feel free to copy it.

$ I just checked my own Scripture Index and discovered that Psalm 111 appeared in Epiphany of Year B.  There I printed the psalm script based on the New Jerusalem Bible.  Here I adapted the TEV to give each reader a full sentence and to make the language for God a little more gender inclusive (seemed worth doing on a Wisdom Sunday).  Take your choice.  Also go to this Sunday Fourth Sunday After Epiphany (Yr B) to find a coloring page on praising God.

Proverbs 9:1-6

$ The simple story of Solomon’s prayer for wisdom is much easier for children to follow than is this rich metaphor.  But, if you do want to explore it with children offer them a comparable image of wisdom standing at the school door calling out to students.  Share it as printed below or work with worshipers to add their own lists of the resources at the school and what students are called to learn.

Wisdom has built her school house with many classrooms, libraries, stages, gyms, learning labs, even cafeterias.  She calls out to children, “Come and learn from me and my teachers.  Learn to spell and do math.  Explore the worlds of science.  Hear stories of the history of our people.  Learn skills that will help you do amazing things all your life.  It is challenging work.  But, it will make you wise.”

Psalm 34: 9-14

$ Again I’d choose other wisdom texts for the children.  If I did use this with children I’d use only verses 11-15 which offers two simple questions and an answer to both of them that fits the beginning of school.  Open by reading verse 11.  Alert listeners for the two questions and read them.  Then read and explain the answers.  Finally reread the whole text.

Ephesians 5:15-20

$ In the TEV this may be the most straightforward challenge to children at the beginning of the school year.  Simply walk through the text verse by verse applying each one to school.  Even verse 18’s warning against wine is an opportunity to warn children against trying any drink, smoke, or drug that is offered them.  (It is frighteningly amazing at what a young age children can encounter these things at school!) 

John 6:51-58

$ Before reading this passage, alert worshipers to listen for a big misunderstanding.  Some of Jesus’ listeners thought he wanted them to become cannibals!  Enjoy the fact that they were wrong.  Jesus did not want people to eat one of his arms or legs.  Then, challenge them to listen for what Jesus did want them to eat and why.

$ Children will need help getting from eating flesh to eating bread to the sustenance we get from God’s presence with us.  Start with what is said as the bread is broken at communion, “this is my body which is broken for you” to connect flesh to bread.  Then, work with all the ways we remember that God is with us in communion.  We remember what Jesus said and did.  We eat and swallow bread, taking inside our bodies the bread that stands for Jesus.  It becomes part of us just as God becomes part of us. 

$ Pass out chunks of bread for worshippers to chew on during a sermon about Jesus as bread of life.

$ Explore this text using the saying “You are what you eat.”  Children often hear that as adults encourage them to eat healthy food.  To take it beyond food, present and discuss three tables or trays each displaying samples of related “foods” children eat every day.

1.      A table/tray of fruits and vegetables AND cookies and sugary drinks.  Point out which Olympic athletes eat and how their bodies respond to their good choices in food.

2.      A table/tray of video games, comic books, school books, a small TV set, etc.  Discuss the importance of what we fill our minds with.

3.      A table/tray with Communion bread and cup and a Bible and/or Bible story book.  Explore the difference it makes when we soak up God into our lives.  Knowing the Bible stories helps us make wise decisions.  Humming songs about God gives us the power to do brave things for God.  When we worship and serve with friends at church, God becomes part of us – every day.

$ “Become for Us the Living Bread” is probably the best bread song for today.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Children in Crisis - Aurora, Colorado

This is for the pastor from Aurora, Colorado who asked in a comment for ideas about what to say to and do with the children  there this weekend.  I "replied" to your comment.  Since then the article below came in an email from a well - know United Methodist educator.   While I don't totally support everything she says, e.g. "The 3 Wills of God" is unfamiliar to me and seems overly complicated, I think you might find a number of useful ideas to pursue.  Not knowing another way to pass it to you and thinking others might find it useful now or in another crisis, I am posting it on the blog and Facebook page now.  If any of you want to publish this, please check in with the author at the contacts listed at the bottom.  

Needs of Children in a Crisis:

Love – In times of crisis, whether individual or national, children need love – They need to know your love, not showering with gifts but physical love. 

Assurance – They need to have assurance of their own safety, but avoid being overprotective so that they are afraid.

Conversation – Keep the lines of communication open.  Use such things as selecting pictures in a book or drawing pictures to express feelings.  Then talk about the pictures.  Take the lead from the child as to how much they need to talk about and know about the situation.  Keep answers to questions simple, giving only what is needed.  Listen to comments of children as they play – are there clues here that need further conversation?

Expression of feelings – Use opportunities for children to express feelings, such as: toys, puppets, books, music, water play, play dough, painting, puzzles (creating order out of chaos).  Let children know that you have some of the same feelings they have.  Be honest about your feelings, but temper them with recognition that God loves even those who have harmed someone. God doesn’t like their actions, but God continues to love. 

Prayer – Pray for those injured, those whose family members were injured or killed, those who are making decisions, and also those who planned and carried out any injustice.  Keep prayers simple, simply talking to God.  It’s ok to tell God about your feelings too.  Children may want to write out prayers as if writing a letter to God. Let them even express anger to God. God is big enough to take our anger and still love.

God’s love – They need to know that God loves with a happy heart and with a sad heart.  During a crisis God loves with a sad heart.  We don’t understand why things happened.  We don’t believe that God plans for bad things to happen.  We will never understand why bad things happen, but we do know that God is sad, not only sad for those who are hurt or killed and their families, but also for those who did bad things.  God wanted them to be happy people who loved others, but something went wrong.

God’s will – Older children can understand the concept of the three wills of God.
1.                  God’s Original Will – that we choose to live together peacefully, loving and caring for each other.
2.                  God’s Circumstantial Will – A part of that original will, however, is that we all have our own free will.  We are free to choose things that will be helpful to others and things that will be hurtful to others.  In these circumstances, some people chose to do things that were very hurtful to others.
3.                  God’s Ultimate Will – If we allow God to work through us, we can become stronger people because of the circumstances that did happen, and we will have a stronger faith (or relationship with God) because we have lived through this.
(Adapted from THE WILL OF GOD by Leslie Weatherhead.)

Really, Really Me – When talking about death with young children, play the game, “What’s the Really, Really Me?”  In this, touch a part of the child’s body and say, “Is this the part of you that makes you cry when you are sad or makes you laugh when you are happy?” – Then do the same with other parts of the body.  Finally say, “That’s the part that doesn’t die when the body dies.  We sometimes call this our soul.”

Focus – Children need something aside from the crisis on which to focus their attention. This is a good time to carry out a mission project.  Suggest some local mission they may participate in or one of following: 
~ grow a garden and give food to others
~ supply a meal for someone, bake something for someone
~ adopt a room or flower bed at church to work on
~ plant a tree or care for yard of some older person
~ pray for a missionary. Get a calendar of birthdays, etc. from GBOGM Service Center, 7820 Reading Rd, Caller No. 1800, Cincinnati OH 45222-1800 or call 1-800-305-9857 Also may be ordered from make a search for “Missionary Prayer Calendar”.
~ support UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief).  Visit their web site or call 1-800-841-1235

Reality – Children may have trouble distinguishing between TV shows that blow up buildings and the factual news reports of an event.  Yes, this really did happen.  It is a sad time, but we will come through it with God’s help. 

Stability – There is something about the routine schedule that makes it settling.  This can be an anchor to help the child realize that life can and will go on. Continue with the routine.

Quiet times – In the confusion the crisis, children and adults alike need quiet times.

Some additional thoughts:
Two main questions they’re likely to have, whether they communicate those questions or not:
Will this happen to me or to someone I love?  (We don’t expect it to.  You are always loved and have a loving circle of family and friends.)
Why does God make/allow this to happen?  (We don’t believe that God made this happen – see will of God above.)

A young child cannot understand “We just have to trust in God.”  They trust in parents and parents protect them.  Did a person who is hurt, or as in 9/11 the thousands who were killed not trust in God too?

If you remember any fears at time of Kennedy’s death or 9/11, share that you had fears then.

Realize that children may regress in their behavior to get our attention.

Prepared by Delia Halverson 
915 Santa Anita Drive, Woodstock, GA  30189   

Friday, July 13, 2012

Year B - Proper 14, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 11th Sunday after Pentecost (August 12, 2012)

% Remember to check Back to School in 2012 for ideas about celebrating the return to school.

2 Samuel 18: 5-9, 15, 31-33

L  Adults hearing this story are overwhelmed by David’s parental grief at the death of his rebellious son.  Children, lacking the experience of being parents, are mainly fascinated by Absalom’s being caught in a tree by his hair.  So there are lots of reasons to focus on other passages today.

L  These verses need a lot of back story to make sense.  One way to provide that is to read the story from a children’s Bible Story Book.  “Absalom’s Rebellion” in The Children’s Illustrated Bible, by Selina Hastings.  It can be read aloud in 3 minutes. 

Psalm 130

Note:  This psalm was also paired with the story of David mourning the deaths of Saul and Jonathan on July 1 of this year.  I’ve adapted some of those ideas for use here and added one more.

L To highlight the hope that is easily lost in this psalm, include motions with the reading.  The whole congregation could do the movements in their seats following the lead of a person doing the actions.  Or, children could be called forward to do the motions to help the whole congregation understand David’s psalm.  In either case, a single reader reads the words as another leader leads the motions.

Verses 1-3       kneeling with head bowed, face in hands
Verses 4-6       raise head to look up
Verse 7            a. sitting up on knees
                          b. hands turned up and out to the sides
Verse 8            a. stand
                          b. stand with arms spread out and up

L Even with the motions, children will not follow the details of this psalm as it is read.  But, when it is highlighted they can begin to understand verse 1’s “Out of the depths I cry to you.”  Read the phrase several times.  Brainstorm a list of “out of the depths” situations being sure to include some that will be familiar to children, e.g. family fights (not fussing about what to eat for dinner, but big fights with serious name calling), hopeless fusses with siblings, being stuck for the summer in a camp or child care place you do not like, etc.  Describe David’s “depths” as he heard that his son Absalom had been killed in a battle. 

L Ask what we do when we are in “the depths.”  First we tell God about it, but then….  Read verse 5 and rephrase its insistence that we remember that God loves us and will save us. 

L Give worshipers gray sheets of paper and black pencils with which to write or draw about “the “depths” they face or know of.  Collect them all in baskets to place on the worship table.  Comment on all the pain in those baskets, then read the psalm over the baskets.  

L If you are working with Psalm 23 all summer, connect these verses to the psalm phrase, “when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.”

1 Kings 19:4-8

F  This is one scene in the middle of a much bigger story that is more fully read during Year C in the lectionary cycle.  It would be possible to read the whole story here also or simply to summarize what goes before and after these verses in your own words and reading the verses from the Bible.  In either case, keep listeners’ attention by moving among three spots for the three scenes of the story.  If possible stand in higher places (maybe the top of the chancel steps) for scenes one and three which were big events that took place on mountains and in a lower spot in the middle for scene 2 which was an emotional and geographical low between the two other events.

Scene 1:  Elijah beats the prophets of Baal at Mt Carmel, kills them all, and is threatened by Queen Jezebel.  (1 Kings 18:20-40 and 19:1-3 or your summary of it)

Scene 2:  In the wilderness between the two mountains, God feeds Elijah for his journey. (1 Kings 19:4-8 – read from the Bible)

Scene 3: In a cave on Mt Horeb, God speaks to God in a still small voice and gives him his next assignment.  (1 Kings 19:9-18 or your summary of it)

F  To a short version of the whole story, go to “Elijah, God’s Messenger – Danger!” #165 in The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories, by Mary Batchelor.

V  If you celebrate the eucharist today and it is the Sunday before school starts, connect the bread of the sacrament to all the love and support from God and from the church that goes with students and teachers into the coming year.  As you raise the communion loaf, insist that just as God was with Elijah and fed Elijah on his journey, God will be with students and will feed them during their journey through the school year. 

Psalm 34:1-8

F Though this is one of the alphabet psalms, it is read today mainly for verse 8, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”  It could be read as a grace Elijah might have said over the bread God gave him on his journey.  To do this recall the context just before reading the psalm.

V  “O taste and see that the Lord is good!” is often used in communion rituals as the final statement before the distribution of the elements.  This would obviously be a good day to use it there.  If you do, alert worshipers that it is coming and briefly note what it means and how it connects to this psalm. 

BTW it does NOT mean, “Taste God and Jesus.  Don’t they taste good!”  Literal thinking children can hear it that way unless they are directed to think about how wonderful all of God’s life sustaining gifts are.


Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2 (RC = 4:30 – 5:2)

To separate the items in Paul’s “to-do” or maybe “to be” list, have each item read by a separate reader.  The script below requires 7 readers – maybe members of several households or a class.  It could easily be adapted for fewer by assigning each reader several non-sequential parts.  Two readers could even do the job with one reading odd numbers and the other reading even numbers.


Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2a

All Readers:  Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

Reader 1:  Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.

Reader 2:  Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.

Reader 3:  Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

Reader 4:  Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

Reader 5:  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.

Reader 6:  Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,

Reader 7: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

All Readers:  Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

From the NRSV


% Lots of commentators stress that these are not just rules.  But for children near the beginning of the school year, they are thought provoking precisely as rules.  In their classes, new teams and clubs they will encounter new rules and may be involved in creating rules for these groups.  Keeping the rules makes them a full member of these important groups.  Just ask a Scout about the Scout laws!  They know and follow those rules because that is what scouts do and it is important to them to be scouts.  In Ephesians Paul offers children rules for Christians.  There are at least two ways to explore them in worship.

1.      Identify the many kinds of rules we encounter in the different groups of which we are part.  Then, challenge worshipers to see the rules in this text as rules for Christians – every day, wherever they are.

2.      Identify the many kinds of rules we encounter in the different groups of which we are part.  Then, challenge worshipers to make up their own rules that they will follow wherever they are and no matter what group they are participating in at the moment.  Encourage them to draw the best from all, but especially from Paul’s list.

% In children’s terms Paul’s rules mean

Always tell the truth, no matter what.  Don’t tell lies.  Be honest.

When you are angry, work it out.  Don’t carry a load of anger around with you.

Don’t steal – stuff or others’ work (cheating is stealing)

Be careful about what you say.  Words can hurt.  So, no gossip, lies about what others do, or name calling.

Don’t be bitter, mad at someone all the time, a name caller, or become full of hurt and angry, evil thoughts.

Do be kind to everyone and forgive others when it is needed.

% Explore one or more of Paul’s rules and  ponder what it means to live it/them out at school by writing key phrase for each one (or selected ones) on separate posters.  Display the posters, then work through each one adding words and phrases that remind us how we keep that rule today.  This could be a children’s time conversation with the children.  Or, it could be part of the real sermon in which your additions apply to school, work and community activities of worshipers of all ages.  In a formal setting the preacher could do all the talking writing clarifying phrases while working through the stack of rule posters, then displaying them as they are completed.  In less formal congregations, this sermon might become an extended conversation with worshipers of all ages.

% If you did not do so last week, this is another opportunity to form new verses of “Lord, I Want to Be A Christian,” i.e. Lord, I want to be more… honest, kind, forgiving or Lord, I want to be less…angry, etc.

John 6:35, 41-51

V  Children are as baffled as Jesus’ first hearers were by his claim that he is the bread of life.  Point this out to the children (and other worshipers).  Then, ponder some of the possibilities.  Laugh at the possibility that Jesus was inviting people to become cannibals and eat his arms and legs.  Describe the possibility of being physically alive, but feeling dead, sad, hopeless, stuck, etc.  Explore how Jesus shows us the way past all those dead feelings to feeling really alive, happy, ready and able to do whatever comes our way, looking forward to the future, etc.  Jesus told us stories and gave us rules that show us how to live well.  But more than that Jesus forgave all the people who killed him on a cross and promised to forgive the rest of us when we mess up, too.  That makes us really, really alive – now and forever.  So just as bread keeps our bodies alive, Jesus keeps our spirits alive.

V  Only after this discussion, explore the meaning of and sing one of the following communion hymns.

Become to Us the Living Bread – Read the first verse connecting it to your conversation.  Then, challenge worshipers to think about the second verse (about the wine) to understand the connection between Jesus’ blood and the communion wine. 

Bread of Heaven, On Thee We Feed is another simple hymn that highlights John’s metaphor.  Again review the first verse in light of your conversation and challenge singers to ponder what the second verse says about wine.

V  They Followed a Bright Star, by Ulises Wensell, is a Christmas book.  It describes the shepherds’ journey to the stable insisting that they invited everyone they met on the way to join them.  But, a number of the people could not go because they too had seen an angel and were following instructions to prepare bread, wine, fish, and water that the child would one day need.  It recalls the feeding story we read last week, connects to communion, and is fun to read out of season in August.  The book is however hard to get.  The best source is to order from a back up Amazon supplier.  So, if you want to use it, order early.  It takes 18 minutes to read aloud, but could be shortened by deleting the section about the kings.