Sermon on the Sidewalk

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

Posts tagged ‘family’

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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Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples. —Luke 11:1

IMG_7503If you’re a fan of comic books or superheroes you might visit the Superhero Database. This entertaining collection of favorite (and not so favorite) superheroes, villains, and superpowers is worth a look, but Jesus is missing. So are other superheroes of faith, like Abraham, Joseph, David, and Esther. You’re name isn’t there. Neither is mine. And there’s no mention of God’s powerful gift of prayer.

Last summer I read a post by Sam Williamson, introducing his book, “I Wonder If Sunday School is Destroying Our Kids.” Williamson zeros in on something he calls the “counterfeit gospel of pack-mule-moralism.” The article went into my urgent file. Not because what’s in the article is news to me, but because it’s news to so many. “The Wonder of the gospel is not the love of the beautiful; it’s when Beauty kisses the Beast.” We come as we are to church. God loves us as God’s perfectly imperfect creation. We’re all superheroes, transformed by God’s radical love, and gifted with super powers of prayer.

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Super Powers of Prayer

Like many thriving congregations, Edina Community Lutheran provides milestone opportunities for grafting children into the life of the church; encouraging families to keep the promises of baptism. This month’s faith milestone is an opportunity for kids and families to explore the wonder of the gospel and the super powers of prayer. Together, we string prayer beads, write the prayers for the day, and experience different ways to pray, including a superhero prayer that teaches:

IMG_7518In Practice

Introduce families to contemplative prayer. Some may already be familiar with the rosary, or other practices of using beaded strings or tied knots. Anglican prayer beads are a wonderful tool for kids and adults, inviting all ages of prayers into real-life encounters with God; keeping our hands busy and our hearts and minds focused. I recommend using large colorful beads and tipped beading cord for kids:

  1. Prepare kits that include our superhero prayer beads (PDF) guide and (1) cross-shaped bead, (1) large invitatory bead, (4) large cruciform beads, (28) medium weeks beads, and cording that can be easily beaded by children.
  2. Demonstrate how to make prayer beads, step by step: Begin by folding the cord in half and beading your cross. Next add the invitatory bead and first cruciform bead to both cords. The remaining beads are added to a single cord (half the beads on each side), securing the fourth cruciform bead by threading both ends of the cord through its middle and tying a strong knot.
  3. Teach the Sign of the Cross, Lord’s Prayer, and A.C.T.S Prayer while praying through one of the four group of weeks. There are other prayers available online at pintrest and elsewhere, to use with your Anglican prayer beads.
  4. A Super Powers of Prayer event might also integrate Super Power fun, super powers prayers, the Superman Table Prayer, and signing the Lord’s Prayer.

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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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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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