Sermon on the Sidewalk

Colorful real-life stories of kids, family and an extraordinarily ordinary, everyday kind of faith.

Posts from the ‘Lent’ category

To pray for our loved ones is, as C.S. Lewis once said, a “sweet duty.”

IMG_8020Easter and candy go together like rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong! Healthy snacks rule, but I’m not above sharing jelly beans or other sweet treats when they create opportunities to engage kids in conversations of prayer. Lenten Sacrifice Beans turned Alleluia Beans turned conversation and prayers.

We don’t find Jesus because we look in a grave or even on a cross. Jesus comes to us. In the water, in the bread, in the wine. Together at the table, we see Jesus in one another. With 50 Official Jelly Belly flavors and 50 days of Easter, Jelly Belly Prayers have become a seasonal favorite, and a simple way to invite children into the resurrection life. We are Easter people, after all!

Taste and See

Kids can count on numbers. Numbers are concrete. Why does Lent have 40 days and Easter have 50? Why don’t we count Sundays as part of our 40 day Lenten journey? Lent has 40 days and Easter gets 50. Resurrection trumps crucifixion, Easter outshines Lent. Life conquers death. Every Sunday is celebrated as a little Easter. I love how the seasons of the church year invite kids and families into healthy rhythms of being the church.

This year, during the 50 days of Easter, why not invite kids and families to use the attached Jelly Belly Prayer Prompt PDF. It introduces A.C.T.S. prayer (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication), encourages conversation and prayer, and is sweet fun!

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Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples–when they see the love you have for each other. –John 13:34-35 The Message (MSG)

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Last night we began the Triduum with an especially child-friendly Maundy Thursday service.

We gathered for confession and absolution around the baptismal font where children dipped their fingers in the water and marked one another with the cross of Christ. We listened to the stories and got a taste of the Israelite Exodus from slavery, the quickly made unleavened bread of the Passover meal, and Jesus’ Last Supper. Dr. Suess’s Foot Book showed up somewhere too, before children and parents washed one anothers’ feet. We gathered around the table with communion bread many of the kids helped bake on Palm Sunday. Then before leaving the sanctuary in lights-dimmed silence, Psalm 22 was read from the pulpit by one fifth grader as kids of all ages silently stripped the altar… everyone being reminded how Christ walked from the meal to his suffering and death.

It was a powerful beginning to the three days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil.

If you celebrate Holy Week and share in the faith journey of kids you’ve no doubt heard the questions before, “What is Maundy Thursday?” and “Why the funny name?”

Wrapped in mystery, it is usually more meaningful to answer questions about Jesus’ last days with first-hand experiences than with words alone. Experiential learning strategies tend to speak to the whole child. Readings, visual demonstrations and discussions are good, but actively engaging kids in practices of faith offers a significantly better chance it won’t be forgotten. If we involve kids in teaching what they’ve learned, that’s even better.

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What that means for Maundy Thursday is that at the very least we invite families to participate in the experience of remembering Jesus’ Last Supper, the washing of the feet of Jesus’ disciples, and Jesus’ command to love one another. That’s a lot for one day. It’s also a lot to miss.

Maundy Thursday in words:

The funny sounding word Maundy means Command. I’ve even heard it called “Mandate Thursday.”

It is on this Thursday before Easter — the night before Jesus’ death — we remember Jesus wearing a servant’s apron and washing his disciples’ feet, giving the command to love one another. It is also on this night where Jesus promises “this is my body and blood;” the radical newness in Jesus’s command to his disciples to participate in the Eucharist. This is also a night of garden prayer and swords and disciples who ran away in fear.

Maundy Thursday in practice:

I cannot imagine a better day than Maundy Thursday for kids and families to encounter the mystery of Christ’s presence given for us in the bread and wine, together with God’s Word. Invite kids and families to be a part of this very special night. And tell the stories afterwards. Make it a big deal, because it is.

For fun, in advance of Maundy Thursday, we asked one class of kids to dress up as disciples and act out Jesus’ Last Supper with the Gospels. In addition to the regular table and chairs, they were given a photocopy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper painting, 13 costumes, rolls, cups and juice to set the scene.

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Too many children go straight from the Palm Sunday parade to the Easter alleluias and totally miss what happened in between. They are conspicuously absent from Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. So, they miss exploring the key stories of the faith on the nights when those stories have the most power. It does not have to be that way. — Carolyn

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Passports are fun. Our kids had traveler’s passports and National Parks program passports and the novelty of filling them with stamps and stickers never grew old. I’ve also given children and youth pretend passports to help get them excited about special events, steps for completing a project or as a way to collect memories.

Inspired by Carolyn’s blog and Worshiping With Children Facebook page, along with a suggestion from one of the pastors, this year I created a Holy Week Passport, inviting kids and families to participate in all of the Holy Week experience.

ECLC’s Holy Week Passport includes scripture references for each of the special days, and since our worship services are uniquely designed to be interactive and child-friendly, the stickers will actually mean something.

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The 8-page passports were so popular at the Palm Sunday Fair we nearly ran out of books and Polaroid film for the photos, even during spring break. My real hope, of course, is that the passport stickers at the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday services are equally as popular.

The Palm Sunday Fair activities were great fun, with stickers for communion bread baking, palm cross folding and cross beading, labyrinth walking, resurrection eggs, sacrifice beans, a food drive and poetry party, but the best learning will happen during Holy Week services. Those are the stickers we’re hoping kids’ take home.

IMG_2787 I’m attaching a modified PDF passport template for 2014, though there are many other excellent ideas on Pinterest and elsewhere for creating your own kids passports. Also, here is a holy week passport sticker PDF using Dan Erlander’s free artwork (see the link below for more great illustrations). Additional stickers were created using photographs specific to planned activities/events.

I’ve edited out our church name, Palm Sunday Fair events and 2013 worship service times, and also added in 2014 dates so you can pretty much print, cut and assemble if you like. To keep the passports more authentically sized we trimmed them on the margins. The passport stickers were printed on Avery 1-1/2″ round #8293 and the cover on recycled card stock paper.

Because the cover is a big part of what makes the passports so awesome, you should know the design is borrowed from Dan Erlander’s free downloadable artwork and his copyright is printed on the back outside cover. During Lent we’ve been following his Manna and Mercy book, so it is a perfect fit.

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Baptized Lutheran, confirmed Catholic and serving in the church for over 20 years, I’ve folded my share of crosses on Palm Sunday.

Over the years I’ve also collected many different palm folding activity sheets for kids and families to follow, but none of them showed the way I was originally taught. So when I found a YouTube video that demonstrated what I think has always been the easiest and best way to fold palm crosses, I wanted to share it.

We have a Palm Sunday Fair coming up next weekend. Together with the YouTube video and a bowl filled with sample crosses, the pictures will make it easier for everyone to participate in this fun and long-held tradition. Folding palms is a meaningful way to participate in the Easter story and Jesus’ welcome into Jerusalem.

There’s a blizzard outside today, so the “green grass” smell of fresh palm leaves has been both a blessing and a joy.

Let me know if you think you have an easier or better way, or if you find this post helpful in your own ministry at church or at home.

7 Easy-Step Instructions:

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Step 1. Trim a single palm at both ends

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Step 2. Fold the palm in half and cut into two pieces

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Step 3. Fold one piece over the other 3 times

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Step 4. Fold the piece you just folded over once

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Step 5. Insert the wider of your two pieces through the center and pull tight to form a 90 degree angle

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Step 6. To make the horizontal length of the cross, insert one side at a time through the center and adjust

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Step 7. To make the vertical length of the cross, insert the remaining piece through the center and adjust

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One way to remember the 7 steps is:

cut, cut / fold in half / cut the half

fold 3 / fold 1 / lock

horizontal 1, 2

vertical

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Their baptism should have been called to their minds again and again, and their faith constantly awakened and nourished. For just as the truth of this divine promise, once pronounced over us, continues until death, so our faith in it ought never to cease, but to be nourished and strengthened until death by the continual remembrance of this promise made to us in baptism. For the truth of the promise once made remains steadfast, always ready to receive us back with open arms when we return. LW 36:59

Carolyn Rondthaler's Labyrinth 1 My Journey

A labyrinth isn’t a maze. There is no map. Just one path from beginning to end and back again. It meets us where we are and invites us on a journey. We return to the same place we started but different.

Sounds a little like the Christian faith and our own personal journeys, from the ashes of our human condition to the hope we have in the resurrection. In last year’s Easter message, Bishop Hanson shared, “The risen Christ goes ahead of us … so that we can embrace life’s complexities and uncertainties with a living, daring confidence in God’s grace.” This has also been my experience of the labyrinth.

I’ve been asked to create a labyrinth with families who have kids in grades 6-12 during a Lenten retreat. Together we’re going to learn the difference between a maze and a labyrinth; explore the idea of creating a labyrinth that takes us on a journey beginning with God’s gift of baptism; and have fun getting to know one another while painting and walking a one-of-a-kind hand painted 20 x 20 labyrinth we can experience for years to come!

I like the idea of a labyrinth we get to create together; one that awakens, nourishes and connects us together in faith. Martin Luther reminds me to say the words “I am baptized,” rather than “I was baptized.” There are many different types of labyrinths and different ways of experiencing each one. During our time together I’ll share some of these with the group. The intention though is that this labyrinth-making experience will remind participants of God’s steadfast promise and offer a new tool for “walking wet” every day.

Everyone will get a copy of our completed labyrinth design in the form of a finger labyrinth. The nice thing about a finger labyrinth (also called “troy stones” when they’re carved out of wood, sculpted from clay or sewn using fabric) is that it can be experienced almost anytime and anywhere. Labyrinths printed on paper can be filled with mindful messages or meditations, colored or painted, similar to Carolyn Rondthaler’s amazing art pictured above.

There are many excellent online labyrinth locators, labyrinths available for purchase and creative ideas for making your own labyrinth. The Labyrinth Society has 2 labyrinths on their website you can download and print from home: Classical Labyrinth and Chartres Labyrinth

I’m excited to be able to share a video of our community and “almost” completed labyrinth making experience. Have you ever thought of creating your own labyrinth as part of a confirmation retreat? You might want to! ECLC Retreat: Labyrinth Making Video!

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But just as sure as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” Silas, Timothy and I preached to you about the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Our message did not say “Yes” and “No” at the same time. The message of Christ has always been “Yes.” God has made a great many promises. They are all “Yes” because of what Christ has done (2 Corinthians 1.18-20).

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The world is filled with the word No.

The award-winning book, “No, David!” is a collection of the talented author-illustrator, David Shannon, doing things he was not supposed to do as a child. Like most of us he made messes, mistakes and over-indulged. It’s a book we can all relate to, especially our five-year-old selves. Inside the jacket cover, David writes, “Now David is all grown up. But some things never change…”

Indeed, some things never change.

No, I can’t always protect my children from people or things that might harm them. No, I can’t be unaffected by crime or poverty, global warming or war, illness or death. No, I don’t always make the right choices. Some days it seems I make a lot of wrong ones. Lent reminds me of that.

But Lent also reminds me why as a child of God I cling to God’s Little Easters (Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter, not considered part of the 40 days of Lent). Of course I’d love to only do good things; to be all good for all people; to be the perfect mother, daughter, sister, granddaughter, aunt, neighbor, minister, teacher, wife and friend. But perfection is not mine to do or to have. Of course that doesn’t mean I still don’t try. I do.

no_davidMBut Christ is the One in whom all God’s promises find their perfect response. The message of Christ is the reconciliation and forgiveness of the world. It is Christ’s Yes that keeps me faithful; transforming the life I’ve been given so it can be a Yes to others.

Instructions:

Read David Shannon’s book together. Talk about where the word No shows up most often in your family and for each person. Often times the word No protects us and keeps us safe. Other times it fills us with shame, guilt or fear. Why is the message of Christ’s Yes so important?

Read 2 Corinthians 1:18-20.

Point out that in both the Bible story and in David’s picture book, Yes shows up as an undeserved, unearned gift in the form of love, reconciliation and forgiveness. That is what it means to live in the Yes; to bear witness to God’s Yes for the world by offering a life of surrendered love for God and one another, the Word made flesh in us.

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Lent is not an effort to save ourselves. We have been saved by Jesus’ one and perfect sacrifice.

IMG_2257It’s time to spill the beans. Lent isn’t only for grown-ups. The church season of Lent is the perfect time to bring faith home, especially with meaningful intergenerational activities like Sacrifice Beans. Even in the midst of our mortality, the days are getting longer. The sun is burning brighter. And the 40-day journey to Easter is meant to be traveled together!

Sacrifice Beans teach a life of sacrifice and serving that begins in the home and spills out into the world. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection remind us what it means to bear the mark of the cross in our everyday lives.

Beans are seeds. Like most seeds they appear to be dead. Yet school-age children bury these “dead” seeds in dirt-filled milk cartons and in recycled paper cups every year, most kids filled with blissful hope that somehow, mysteriously, these beans will spring forth to new life.

Similarly, what at first might seem like an elementary exercise in bean-counting reveals a hope-full way of living in response to Jesus’ perfect sacrifice; a life defined by giving rather than grabbing, self-sacrifice rather than self-preservation. Kids learn best through play. So even if they won’t touch their beans at dinner, they’ll gladly play with them during Lent.

As long as everyone understands we do these things because of what Christ has already done and not to save ourselves or to earn love that is unconditionally ours, Sacrifice Beans are wonderful way to nurture and grow faith!

IMG_2253Instructions:

If using lima beans, work together to mark a cross on each bean with purple permanent marker. Remind everyone that we are God’s children in Baptism; that we’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Nothing can separate us from God’s love; not even death.

During Lent when family members sacrifice time, talent or treasure for someone else’s good or the good of creation, another person places a Sacrifice Bean in a specially designated jar or dish.

Surprise children on Easter morning by replacing Sacrifice Beans with Alleluia Beans (Jelly Beans) to celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord. Then every time anyone makes a sacrifice during the 50 days of Easter, that person gets a treat (we use Jelly Belly beans with special prayers for each of the 49 flavors). For older children or sugar-conscious parents, beans can also be replaced with coins, to be shared as an offering on Easter morning.

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