Children’s Sermon – different gifts, same Body

I bring my bright, neon-green hard shell suitcase on rollers to show the children. On the handle, dangles a baggage tag. On one side of the tag I write my name and address. On the other side of the tag I write the the words: “You don’t belong to me!”

“When you go on a trip far away from home, or stay overnight at a friend’s place or your grandparent’s house — do you pack a suitcase?”

“What colour is yours? What does it look like? Is it small? Is it big? Is there a design or picture on the front of it? Does it have a handle, or roll on wheels?”

“I have this one because it is easy to spot at the baggage claim in the airport — when all the suitcases fall on a conveyor belt and go around a concourse where air travellers stand and look for their own to pick up. Most suitcases are dark-coloured, so it’s harder to spot your own from afar if it is black or brown or dark green. Sometimes, just to make sure, you have to read the tag as it goes by. If you don’t, you might walk away with someone else’s suitcase, or someone may walk away with yours!”

“That’s why on this tag I wrote these words — can anyone read it out loud? What does it say?” …..

“‘You don’t belong to me!’ Leave me be! Leave me alone! – that’s what I want to tell anyone trying to take my suitcase, even by mistake!” 

“Thankfully, we are not suitcases. We are people. And people can stand out and be bright and noticeable. They can be big. They can be small. Some have a hard shell, others not so much! … All these differences make us who we are, make us interesting, make us individuals. And this is good! This is how God made us.”

“We live in a world that wants to tell us: ‘You don’t belong!’ — even our friends can be nasty sometimes and say things to us that make us feel like we don’t belong to them or anyone else. When we make mistakes, our teachers, our parents, the police can make us feel like we don’t belong. The world makes us feel like we are not good enough the way we are — that we have to be like someone else.”

“But being part of God’s family, we belong! Each and every one of us, no matter how different we are — what we think, how we look, what we can do or not do, even when we make a mistake or feel sad or happy — we belong to God and to each other. Like part of a body, every member is different and has a different use; yet, we belong to the same body.”

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ –1 Corinthians 12:12

“Thank you Jesus, for making me a part of your Body, the church. Help us to care for everyone, and value their gifts. Amen.”

Advent 4 – children’s sermon

We’re almost there! Less than a week until Christmas! Are you excited?

I brought in this candle to show you, because it is special. At Christmas in worship we light lots of candles to show that Jesus is the light of the world. And comes to shine God’s light in our dark world.

Can someone light the candle? What does it smell like?

That’s right! A tree! Actually, a balsam fir, it says on the jar.

For some people, they wait until Christmas Eve to cut down a tree and bring it into their home. Then they put real candles on it, light it the first time late Christmas Eve and sing “Silent Night, Holy Night” while standing around the tree.

Smelling this candle reminds us of all sorts of things …. Memories of last Christmas …. Smelling this candle reminds us of so much more than we can see right now. This candle’s smell is bigger than the odour itself; it reminds us of something much larger than the candle itself.

Every thing we do in worship — light candles, say prayers, eat the holy meal, sing and listen together — reminds us and points to something bigger, something larger than ourselves.

Smelling this candle reminds me that very soon a real Christmas tree will be soon giving that wonderful scent of balsam needles in this very space. We can look forward to that! And being joyful about Jesus being born at Christmas! And coming again!

Throwing snowballs to get the message across!

We threw snowballs in worship last Sunday. 

Well, they weren’t exactly real snowballs. It’s Ottawa, after all, in December — and there’s still no snow on the ground! Just paper crumpled up into a ball. We’re warming up for the winter still-to-come. 

At the beginning of worship the children threw about a dozen of these ‘snowballs’ into the congregation. And those who caught them were instructed, during the time leading up to the children’s chat later in the service, to get pen to paper.

The Gospel texts these Sundays in Advent focus on John the Baptist (Luke 3). John’s job was to get the message across that the Messiah was coming. In truth, that is generally the job of the prophet: to tell the people what they need to hear in order to prepare for what God is about to do.

In our day and age people everywhere are preoccupied with their smart-phones and social media — to ‘message’ their friends. Messaging is now cornerstone of our culture. What we message — for better or for worse —  is vital to maintaining our relationships. 

So, we were going to practice what we ‘message’ to one another in the church, and to the world. Those who caught the paper snowballs wrote a short message that the children would later hear read out loud. What message would children hear, this Advent as we prepare for the coming of the Lord?

Here is what members of the church wrote on their snowballs:

1. Wishing you peace, hope and love at Christmas

2. Remember Christmas is not about presents but about spending time with those who love us

3. God loves us so much that he sent us Jesus

4. Show your friends love like you show your family because they love you too

5. Stop! Look! Listen! Feel the love!

6. Share with your friends

7. Every day say thank you for something that you are really thankful for. Especially for the little things that made you smile

8. Jesus is coming and is in your heart

9. God gave his only Son for you!

10. Rejoice, for Jesus is coming 🙂

Of course, at the end of children’s chat, those who wrote these messages delighted in throwing the snowballs back at the children. “If you’re going to give it, you also have to take it,” we said.
True prophets in this crowd!

“Who’s voice is it?”

I’ve used this exercise with children during worship a couple of times with success, although it does take some preparation: Before worship, you will need to ask a couple of parents/guardians of children attending the worship service to participate; they will need to stand in the vestry or a room right beside the chancel area where they won’t be seen, but they can be heard. They will also need to listen to your cue, so they can call the name of their child at the appointed time. This children’s sermon can be used effectively when the theme of the day centres on ‘hearing the voice of God’ — when Jesus talks about being the shepherd of the sheep who recognize his voice (John 10:16); or, when Samuel first confuses God’s voice for the prophet Eli (1 Samuel 3:1-20). An appropriate hymn, “Hear I Am, Lord” (WOV #574) can follow

Good morning! The Lord be with you!!
When you can’t see someone, can you still tell who is calling you? Let’s say the person is in another room and they call your name — can you tell who it is?
Let’s see if you can tell, okay? Let’s hear someone’s voice …..
Who’s voice is that? …. Your parent! Good! Let’s hear another ….
Who’s voice is that? …. And that’s your grandmother! Wow! You’re really good!
How can you tell who’s voice it is when you can’t see them with your own eyes? …..
You know them, already. Right? You’ve spent enough time with them so that even when you can’t see them, you can still recognize their voice.
Our relationship with Jesus is a little bit like that. Because we don’t always see Jesus, we can still learn to recognize/to know his voice. How do you suppose we can learn to know the voice of God? What are the kinds of things we can do to get good at hearing Jesus’ voice? ….
We can spend time in prayer. We can sing the songs of worship. We can be with other friends from church. We can read and hear the stories in the bible. We can learn about God in Sunday School. We can help others in need. We can practice looking for God whenever we feed the hungry and help the poor. Etc. Etc.
There are all sorts of ways we can get good at knowing God, so that when Jesus call us, we’ll be ready to hear him, and do what is asked of us.
Let’s pray: Dear Jesus, thank you for knowing and loving us like a good friend. Help us to get to know you, so that we can tell it’s you, when you call us. Amen.

Children’s chat: We are not dolls

My eight year old daughter nearly trembled with excitement opening a birthday present to reveal something she had wanted … Harry, from One Direction (a boy band from the UK)!

Earlier in the week during parent-teacher interview night I stood in the hallway outside her classroom door surveying the bulletin board upon which were posted, in creative depictions, what her classmates wanted to be when they grew up. She had drawn a colorful picture of herself on stage dancing and singing under the lights, with words written underneath in her chalky printing style: “When I grow up I want to be a rock star.”

I figure we make dolls in our very own image! Just like God made us in God’s own image (Genesis1:27). Each of us reflects and manifests a unique imprint of the Divine character as much as the dolls we want to play with reveal something important about ourselves.

But with one big difference. While we can manipulate and control the dolls we create – moving their arms, legs and heads, making them do what we want them to do and when we want them to do it – God does not force our hand as if we were puppets on a string.

God loves us. And because God loves us God will not control nor manipulate us. Otherwise it wouldn’t be love.

Even though God made us in God’s image, we are free to make our own decisions, even bad decisions.

That is why we need to take care in the life choices we make. And whenever we do fail, we need to remember that regardless of whatever decisions we make we still reflect God’s image. We never lose that, no matter what.

So why not let your true colors shine, be yourself and celebrate the good that is in you?

After all, you reflect God’s glory. You are beautiful. And God loves you!

Created and Chosen – youth sermon

In “Captain America” – the movie – the main character played by actor Chris Evans is deemed unfit to serve in the military during the 2nd Word War. Steve Rogers is too short, to light, and sickly; his medical record shows he got the brunt of all the bad genes from his ailing parents.

Steve Rogers’ outward, physical appearance doesn’t measure up. He is judged basically by what people can see on the surface of who he is.

Eventually, he does get chosen after five failed attempts. How?

What the doctor who approves him for service sees in him is something special. Not based on outward appearance, but on his attitude, his beliefs, what he holds true within, interiorly.

How is his attitude made manifest? Through a couple of tests. First, a fake grenade is thrown amidst the group of prospective soldiers. And all of them, even the most physically strong and capable soldier, dive for safety behind walls, tires and underneath trucks. All of them have self-preservation as their primary instinct.

Except Steve Rogers. Instinctively when the grenade is thrown he throws himself upon it, literally, so that the blast would not hurt anyone else. Selfless. Other-centred.

The second test is an answer to a question posed by the doctor who approved his application: “Do you want to kill Nazis?” While most of Steve Rogers’ peers expressed the killing instinct in war, he says, “No, I do not want to kill anyone.” His desire to join is based on a much deeper and higher sense of service and mission.

In the Bible we read that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); whether we realize it or not, God creating each of us makes each of us very special. And it’s not about how big or strong or handsome or pretty or beautiful we are or look on the outside. It’s all about what Jesus sees on the inside of us that counts.

We are special, even when you think about how each of our bodies work. Here are some facts I looked up about our bodies, facts you may not have known, and which prove how incredible we are merely on a cellular level:

  • Our lungs contain over 300 million tiny blood vessels; if they were laid out end to end, they would stretch from here to Florida!
  • The nerve impulses to and from our brains travel as fast as 275 kms/h – almost as fast as a NASCAR race car!
  • The brain is more active at night than during the day
  • Sneezes exceed 160 kms/h – way faster than driving on the 417 or 401!
  • Babies are, kilogram for kilogram, stronger than an ox!
  • Your nose can remember 50,000 different scents
  • The tooth is the only – and I repeat only – part of the body that can’t repair itself
  • Every day our bodies produce 300 billion NEW cells
  • Your body has enough iron in it to make a nail 10 cms long
  • A single human blood cell takes only 60 seconds to make a complete circuit of the body
  • In 30 minutes, the average body gives off enough combined heat to bring almost 2 litres of water to boil

We are special – each and every one of us! And God has chosen us, not on account of our appearance or physical attributes. But for a special mission to share God’s love with others in the different ways God made us to do this. God chooses you to belong in God’s family because God made you, and God loves you!