Veterans Day

Growing up a Navy-brat, Veterans Day holds a special place in my heart. It is a national holiday set aside to celebrate and honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. I always appreciate the many ways we celebrate and give thanks to veterans with ceremonies and parades. Yet, I can think of no better way to honor them than with prayer. This Veterans Day, I encourage you to pray for veterans in worship.

One of the many options available to church leaders is to include a prayer for veterans during prayers of intercession or the pastoral prayer. I’ve written a prayer included below that can be used as a stand alone or woven into a longer prayer or series of intercessions.

The children’s sermon is also a great way to honor veterans and equip children with a tangible reminder to pray for them. This particular message uses plastic toy soldiers, which can be purchased at a local dollar store, box store, or online. If possible, buy enough for the whole congregation.

Finally, make available in the bulletin, or via another means of communication, an active duty military prayer list. This will allow members to be in prayer for specific people connected with your congregation and it sends a powerful message to those serving that they are regularly remembered by name in prayer.

Peace,

Danyelle

 

Worship Prayer for Veterans

Children’s Sermon for Veterans Day Observance

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World Communion Festival

The first Sunday in October is World Communion Sunday. It’s a special day highlighting the joyful celebration of the sacrament at the Lord’s Table and the many different Christian traditions from around the world.

There are a lot of resources to help celebrate this day and one that caught my eye was from Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. I loved their idea of using something like a Christmas Eve lessons and carols liturgy on World Communion Sunday. With this as a springboard, I created a “World Communion Festival of Hymns.”

The readings, music, and videos are selected to educate about World Communion Sunday as a day we mark the universal Christian practice of breaking bread with one another in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

The children’s sermon highlights the global nature of World Communion with a variety of breads from around the world. Though these could be store bought, it would be especially impactful to invite people from within the congregation to make these breads from their own ethnic heritages. Then, not only use these breads in the children’s sermon but also for the sharing in Holy Communion.

I hope these resources are helpful to you as you plan a celebration for World Communion Sunday!

Complete Liturgy for World Communion Sunday

Children’s Sermon for World Communion Sunday

Video 1: Communion the Meal that Makes Us One

Video 2: A Moment in Mission: World Communion Sunday

 

A Pastors First Sunday

Children’s Message for A Pastor’s First Sunday

This children’s sermon is written to help pastors connect with children in their new congregations. It should be presented by someone other than the new pastor. It’s intended to be an introduction for both the children and the pastor. It is adapted from a Midrash written by Rabbi Marc Gellman in his book“Does God Have a Big Toe?” Though the book is out of print, there are still many copies floating around in used bookstores and online. Special thanks to Rev. Kevin Armstrong who introduced me to the children of North United Methodist Church using a similar retelling and application of this Midrash.

Good morning boys and girls! Today I want to share with you a story about a story in the Bible. These stories are called Midrash. And this story is about the story of creation, way at the beginning of all things. God had just finished creating the whole world, the sky and land, the sea, the plants, and of course the animals. God had named most things, even the first human, who’s name was Adam. But God didn’t name the animals. God wanted Adam to name the animals.

Adam was thrilled to name the animals! He saw a big, brown furry animal with teeth who was sleeping under a tree and yelled in its ear: “I’m going to name you!” The brown furry with teeth opened one eye, yawned, and went back to sleep.

(look worried) But Adam didn’t know what to name the brown furry with teeth. He didn’t know what to name any of the animals!

So, he decided to call the brown furry with teeth, number one. (look smug) Adam spent the rest of the day numbering the animals….

But then… (look frustrated and sad) Adam lost count.

He needed a new plan (thinker pose)

(excitedly announce:) Finally, he had it! Adam declared, “I’ll call all the animals, “Hey You!” (look smug) Adam thought this was super smart because then he only had to remember one name.

The next day, Adam needed a big rock moved. He wanted the large-grey-wringled-up-long-nosed-big-eared-white-tusked-tree-eating-stomper for the job, so he yelled (cup your hands around your mouth) “Hey You!”

But the rather-small-quite-noisy-banana-eating-swinger showed up instead. And just stood on the rock eating a banana.

(look very discouraged) Adam didn’t know what to do. He went back to the brown furry with teeth to think of a new plan.

Then, the brown furry with teeth woke up. Shook Adam and said, (put your hands on your hips) “Did you ever think to ask us animals what we want to be named? I don’t know what they call a skinny-hairless-foot-walker like you, but I’m a bear.”

So, Adam asked all the animals what they wanted to be called and they told him! (smile really big!) 

Today, our brand new pastor is here with us and I think we should do the same thing. Let’s ask her/him what we she/he wants to be called. So, pastor, what would you like us to call you? (this is when the pastor should very clearly communicate to the children, and even the congregation, how she/he prefers to be addressed)

Thank you title name! And over the next few months, I know  title name will want to know your names, too. So, please speak up and tell her/him what you are called.

Let’s pray together:

Holy God, thank you for the gift of new friends and new beginnings. We are so glad you have brought  title name to our congregation and you have called all of us by name to follow you. Amen.

Honoring All Mothers: Resources for Worship

As leaders in ministry with children and family, it often falls to us to help plan and visualize worship celebrations for Mother’s Day. I hope the prayers and resources below will help you discern what might work best for your congregation or spark a new and creative idea for you. First, a few thoughts on celebrating Mother’s Day in worship.

Growing up Mother’s Day was a special day to celebrate my mom with a bouquet of dandelions from our field, a cup of her favorite tea, and a new something special handmade at school. When I moved away from home, I expanded my understanding to include the women who mothered me through college, seminary, and early adulthood. Then, I became a mom — now the recipient of dandelion bouquets and handmade masterpieces. Along the way, I was blessed to meet women who became like sisters and loved me enough to “mother” me through tough times. Not to mention the many women I’ve encountered in my ministry who have showed me different ways women mother in the world. Today, Mother’s Day has such a broader and wider meaning in my life than it did when I was a little girl.

This ever growing sense of the greater scope of what it means to be a mother influences how I plan worship on Mother’s Day. I also keep close at heart the need to approach this day with great care and sensitivity. Paul reminds us in First Corinthians that as members of the community of Christ we are to care for one another. On Mother’s Day, this means we must both celebrate the joy and acknowledge the pain of being a woman on this day. It means honoring a woman’s worth is not tied to being a mother. And it means remembering many women long for motherhood but as of yet remain childless. It means recognizing some are grieving the death of their mothers and some mothers grieve the death of their children. As a community formed in the light and love of Christ, to care for one another means we must honor the wide spectrum of mothering.

And to all the moms out there who are planning Mother’s Day for others, thank you for all you do to lead in ministry, I see you and I give thanks for you.

Peace, 

Danyelle

Resources for Mother’s Day Worship: 

  • I’ve written a special children’s sermon to celebrate the gift of love and to acknowledge all church mothers who train up the next generation with love.
    Children’s Sermon

  • These prayers honor female imagery of God found throughout the Bible and lift up prayers of celebration and concern for women on this day.
    Prayers for Worship

  • This powerful testimony leaves no woman left out on Mother’s Day and acknowledges both the joy and pain of mothering.
    Wide Spectrum of Mothering Handout

  • This is a beautiful story of the Biblical creation story retold to break down traditional assumptions that God is male, allowing young girls of all ethnicities to see themselves in the divine. The link takes you to Storypath, a site dedicated to sharing the rich theological resource of children’s books for Christian education; it is part of a project at Union Theological Seminary.
    Children’s Book, When God Was a Little Girl
    To purchase the book, click here

Epiphany 2A

Day: Epiphany 2A

Lectionary Passage: Isaiah 49:1-7

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 49:1, 5

Object: Large mirror draped with a cloth (or a mirror in a bag/box)

Preparation: Keep the mirror hidden behind a draped cloth or inside a bag/box.

Good morning everyone. I’m so glad each and everyone one of you is here this morning. You will never believe who is joining us this morning: The most important people in the whole wide world are just behind this cloth. I’m not kidding. These people are each super special and very important. Should we see who is there? (Pull off the cloth to reveal the mirror so when the children look they will see themselves.) My goodness, it’s you! And you. And you. And you. It’s all of us!

We are the most important people in the world because there is no one else in the whole world who is just like you. (If you happen to have identical twins add: Even the two of you are not exactly the same… mention something about each that is different.) We are all unique. Because that’s the way God made us! Our Scripture tells us that God knew our names and formed us before we were even born. Before your mom or dad or anyone else knew you, God knew you! God made you. And God loves variety. God made each person in the whole world a little different from everyone else. And because God made us, we know we are all very good because God doesn’t make junk.

Let us pray: Thank you God for making us each a little different and loving us for just being ourselves. Amen.

Baptism of the Lord Sunday A

Day: Baptism of the Lord Sunday A

Lectionary Passage: Matthew 3:13-17

Scripture Focus: Matthew 3:13:17

Object: Bleach, dropper/teaspoon, jar, water, and food coloring

Preparation: In a clear jar, add water and 2-3 drops of food coloring.

Hey everyone! Today we are celebrating the Baptism of Jesus. One day, Jesus met up with his cousin, John the Baptist. And at the river Jordan, John baptized Jesus. When Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit came down like a dove and God said “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.” Each year we remember and celebrate this event because Baptism is a big part of being friends with Jesus.

In fact, Baptism is a sacrament. That’s a very big and important word, and really it just means “mystery.” You see, we don’t really understand how baptism works, but we know from the Bible that when we are baptized, we are cleansed of sin.

It’s kind of like this water. Right now it’s dark and stained. Kind of like we can be stained by sins. But watch this (add a teaspoon of bleach to the water and stir it around)… Suddenly the water is clear again! It’s totally clean! When we are baptized, God’s Holy Spirit comes down on us, stirs up some grace inside of us, and cleans us of any sin.

I can’t tell you how Baptism works, that’s a mystery only God can explain. But we do know Jesus asked his friends to be baptized. (This is a good opportunity to quickly mention the baptism tradition in your church – infant, believer’s baptism, or all – and invite the children to learn more about their baptism as an infant or being baptized in the church).

Let’s pray together: Thank you God for giving us the holy mystery of baptism so that we can be made clean of sin to follow Jesus’ way. Amen.

Epiphany Sunday A

Day: Epiphany Sunday A

Lectionary Passage: Matthew 2:13-23

Scripture Focus: Matthew 2:13-23

Object: None

Good morning boys and girls! Today is a special day in the church calendar. It’s called Epiphany Sunday. It’s the Sunday we celebrate the Epiphany. You might be wondering, what on earth is Epiphany? It is the day each year that we celebrate the coming of the Wise Men to see Jesus. I bet you thought that happened on Christmas Day! But, oh no, Matthew tells us that the Wise Men didn’t arrive on the day Jesus was born but sometime after. So, we always celebrate their coming to see Jesus 12 days after Christmas.

I’m sure you’ve heard the story before, but let me see if I can share the details real fast: There were three Wise Men or Kings, who followed a star to find Jesus, and they worshipped him as the newborn king. Hmmm…. (you want to act puzzled to give the kids a sense that more is coming), but surely that isn’t the whole story? I mean, it’s great that they came all that way to meet Jesus but the shepherds also came to meet Jesus and we don’t have a whole Sunday just to celebrate them. So, I wonder… I wonder what was so different about the Wise Men…

I know! The Wise Men were Gentiles. That’s a special word used in the Bible for anyone who is not a Jew. This story reminds us that Jesus was born not just for one group of people, but for all people everywhere. You and me, our friends here in church, and even strangers in the farthest parts of the earth. Jesus came to save everyone! The Wise Men are celebrated for their long journey to worship Jesus because they show us that Jesus came for everyone in the whole world!

On Epiphany Sunday, we remember the story of the Wise Men and celebrate more than three people making a long trip. We celebrate that Jesus was born for all people everywhere. I think that’s a good reason to have a special Sunday each year.

Let’s pray: Holy God, thank you for sending your Son to love and save all people. Help us always remember that Jesus’ love is to be shared with everyone, not just one group or another. Amen.

Christmas 1A

Day: Christmas 1A

Lectionary Passage: Isaiah 63:7-9

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 63:9

Object: Timer, whiteboard and marker (or similar objects to make a list)

Good morning everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day celebration. But did you know, it is still Christmas? Christmas lasts for 12 whole days! Of course, we have the big celebration on December 25 when Jesus was born, but there is still so much to give thanks for because God has done so much for us! We can’t possibly fit it all into one day.

This morning, I thought we would play a quick game of “count your blessings.” I got this idea from Isaiah who tells us to “recount the gracious deeds of the Lord.” Isaiah wants us to remember all the good things God has done for us. So, let’s see how many blessings we can think of to write on this board in 30 seconds. Ready, set, go… (allow the kids to share blessings as you write as many as possible on the whiteboard). Wow, in only 30 seconds, we were able to think of a lot of things to be thankful for. God has done some truely amazing things for us! We are blessed people.

I hope you will always remember to give thanks for all God has done and to count your blessings, the gif tof Jesus being at the very top of the list! When we count our blessings each and every day it helps us remember that we have a lot more to be thankful for than we have to worry about. I hope you will remember to tell others all the blessings God has shared with you and to never forget to be thankful for God’s love.

Let’s pray: Loving God, you are the giver of all good things. We are blessed by the birth of your Son Jesus Christ and give thanks for all you have given to us. Help us to always count our blessings. Amen.

Advent 4A

Day: Advent 4A

Lectionary Passage: Isaiah 7:10-16

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 7:14

Object: None

Hello everyone! Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent. That means Christmas is just days away. I bet we all know what happens on Christmas… we celebrate the birth of Jesus! But did you know the birth of Jesus was known way, way, way before it ever happened?! I’m talking way more than nine months. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah told God’s people a virgin would give birth to a baby boy named Immanuel.

Just in case you think that could be anyone, let me explain two important things. First, Isaiah had to be talking about Jesus because a woman can’t be a virgin and have a baby unless that baby is the Son of God, the Messiah. Second, we know it was Jesus because the name Immanuel means “God with Us” and Jesus is God who was born on earth to be with us.

The birth of Jesus was so important that God made sure people knew about him coming way, way, way before it ever happened. And God didn’t want people to get confused, so God made sure that Jesus was born in a very special way – to a virgin – and named so everyone would know him – Immanuel, God with Us.

Let’s pray: Mighty God, thank you for speaking to Isaiah to help us prepare for the coming of Jesus on Christmas. Help us prepare our hearts by remembering Christmas is a celebration of your mighty work in the world. Amen.

Advent 3A

Day: Advent 3A

Lectionary Passage: Isaiah 35:1-10

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 35:8-9

Object: None

Good morning everyone! Today is the third Sunday of Advent. That means we are halfway through our journey to Christmas. We are continuing to learn more from the prophet Isaiah. In today’s lesson, he tells us that God is a preparing a highway for all those who love God. It’s called the “Holy Way.”

We can picture the “Holy Way” a lot like (provide the name of a major highway in your area that children are sure to know). But it’s also different. Isaiah says no one will get lost on God’s highway or run into trouble. You can’t say that about (name the highway in your area)! The best news of all is that this highway doesn’t go from (name where  the highway in your area begin and end or a section of it the kids will be familiar with). God’s highway doesn’t take you places on earth. It takes you into a friendship with God. And the longer you travel on God’s highway, the stronger your friendship with God becomes.

My hope is that all of us here will choose to travel the “Holy Way” because it will take us from wherever we are into a friendship of love with God.

Let’s pray: Almighty God, we give you thanks for the birth of your Son Jesus Christ who made possible the Holy Way so that all of us might know you. Help us to be faithful travelers on your highway. Amen.