Sermon on the Sidewalk

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

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).

IMG_2284

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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