Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent 2 C (December 6): God's Messengers

Bible Readings: Luke 1:68-79, Baruch 5:1-9, Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 3:1-6, Philippians 1:3-11

About the images:
Upper Left: This is the Australian version of the annunciation found in the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth in Israel. It is my photo so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Upper Right: This is some of the brilliant clipart from Church Galleries - a site which has had an eventful life recently due to the mindless and vandalistic nature of hackers.  It is back up and running now and well worth the slight expense required to download the excellent slides.
Lower Left: Another slide from Church Galleries - you can access the site via my link column at left.
Lower Right: John Bell says that in many ways we have handed the Nativity story over to children. Using adults for the Nativity plays gives a more realistic and true perception of the story to everyone. Alma (may she rest in peace), a wonderful lady who belonged to a church I once served in, made a fantastic Gabriel. It is my photo.  Alma was, and I am, very happy for you to use this photo for worship and related activities. 

Responsive reading:
he Luke 1:68-79 makes a good responsive reading
Film Clip: Little Women
Show the scene from this film (pictured at left) near the beginning where the girls share their breakfast with the poor family and the lady of the house calls them angels (messengers) from God.


Drama: Lucky Day
Found in Cloth For the Cradle by Wild Goose Worship Group, Wild Group Publications, 1997, ISBN 1901557014, page 38, (pictured at right).  This drama is a great introduction to the Luke 1 reading.

Discussion and Activity: Bible study
Print the latter four bible readings above onto A4/letter sized paper - a different colour for each reading - and have enough printed so that each person receives one page only, not all four. Project the four questions below or have the questions printed on the bottom of each reading:
1.What is the good news in this reading?
2. How is this message helpful to christians/believers?
3. How is this message helpful to those with little or no knowledge of Jesus?

4. The name "Malachi" (one of the readings) means messenger - do you see yourself or this congregation as a messenger? How?
Get people to sort themselves into same paper colour groups of five or six, maybe more, and encourage them to discuss the questions in the light of their particular reading. Ask each group to present to the congregation the thing that impacted on them the most as they discussed the
questions. Encourage them to present their finding via a homemade poster, a skit, a song, a poem, a diagram, a clay sculpture etc etc. They will be limited only by the resources and spaces you provide for them to work in. Allow at least 20 - 30 minutes for this whole process.

Provide/project some images of the world and your local area. Ask the Bill Easum question from Leadership on the Other Side, Abingdon, 2000, ISBN 0687085888 (pictured at left) :
What is it about your relationship with Jesus that the world cannot live without knowing?
Give people a quiet space to think about this question.

Poem: Zechariah's Pride
Found in Outback Christmas by Pro Hart and Norman Habel, Lutheran
Publishing House, 1990, ISBN 0859105628, page 18 (pictured at right).
Poem: Maggie's Poem
Not sure how to acknowledge this poem properly but thank you to a visitor to this site who gave me some background to this lovely poem as follows:
'The poem was apparently written by a member of a group that Lee Strobel was leading or who was part of his church in the US. I heard him read and quote this when he was in the UK some years ago talking about "Building a contagious church". I got the text from him.'
Do you know,
do you understand
that you represent
Jesus to me?

Do you know,
do you understand
that when you
treat me with gentleness,
it raises the question in my mind
that maybe he is gentle, too?
Maybe he isn't someone
who laughs when I am hurt.

Do you know,
do you understand
that when you listen to my questions
and you don't laugh,
I think,
"What if Jesus is interested in me, too?"

Do you know,
do you understand
that when I hear you talk about arguments
and conflict and scars from your past
that I think, "Maybe I am just a regular person
instead of a bad, no-good, little girl who deserves abuse?"

If you care,
I think maybe he cares --
and then there's this flame of hope
that burns inside of me,
and for a while,
I am afraid to breathe
because it might go out.

Do you know,
do you understand
that your words are his words?
Your face,
his face
to someone like me?

Please be who you say you are.
Please, God, don't let this be another trick.
Please let this be real.

Do you know,
do you understand
that you represent
Jesus to me?

Maybe a little more to come - will probably preach on John 3 (maybe Malachi.....maybe Phillipians) so I will be looking for new resources in those directions.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Advent 1 C (November 29): Hope/Waiting/Watching

Bible readings: Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-46

About the Images:
Upper Left:
This is a photo I took on Norfolk Island which I overwrote with a Bible text. Please feel free to us it for worship and related activities. If you are interested in seeing more of beautiful Norfolk Island visit 
Upper Right: This watch tower was built on the south east coast of Australia at Boydtown near Eden by Benjamin Boyd in the 1840's as a lighthouse and as a whale lookout. It was never completed and was never used as an official lighthouse, however generations of whalers used it for spotting whales. If you want to know more about Boydtown visit The photo is mine so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Lower Left and Right: I took both of these photos in the old city of Jerusalem - one long a street (the little indented box in the wall) and the other at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, They both reminded me of hope - things growing in hard and unexpected places. Please feel free to use it for worship and related activities.

Opening Prayer: Blessing Prayer
Found in Seasons of Celebration by Patricia Mathson, Ave Maria press, 1995, ISBN 0877935661, page 19 (pictured at right). This prayer is useful for the entire advent season.

Use bits of the Jeremiah reading and the psalm.

Film Clip: The Man in the Egg
Found on Leunig Animated, Madman, 2001 (pictured at right).  This clip goes well with both the Gospel and the Thessalonians reading.

Film Clips: Paperless Christmas has the greatest set of short films for use in church based on a modern look at the christmas story. A brilliant effort! 

Kids: Hope 
Ask the kids if they have ever planned something that didn't work out the way they intended it to. Share a story from your own life which will illustrate this and show them if possible (mine is a quilt which went horribly wrong between the planning and the completing!!!)
Tell them that Advent is the time when we remember all of God's terrific promises to us that everything will work out because Jesus is the one who brings us ......
Have huge letters H O P E stuck up in random order around the worship space. Ask the kids to help you sort them into a word they know.
Discuss with them what the word means and how it relates to Christmas.

Discussion: In pairs or threes.
What do you think has gone wrong with the world? How do you think it should be?
What do you think has gone wrong with our local community? How do you think it should be?
What do you think has gone wrong with our church? how do you think it should be?
Talk about waiting for change and about changing back or changing forward.
Then discuss:
What are you waiting for?
What are we as a church waiting for?

What is this particular congregation waiting for?

Story: Goodness and Mercy Will Win
By Erskine White in Together in Christ, CCS Publishing Co. or find it at illustrations@CLERGY.NET This goes well with the jeremiah reading.

Story: Some Things are Immovable
Found in Illustrations, Stories and Quotes to Hang Your Message On by Jim Burns and greg Mckinnon, Gospel Light, 1997, ISBN 0830718834, page 47 (pictured at right). This story firs well with both the gospel and the Thessalonians reading.

Accept surprises
that upset your plans

shatter your dreams,
give a completely
different turn
to your day
and - who knows? -

to your life.
It is not chance.

Leave the Father free
himself to weave
the pattern of your days.
By Dom Helder Camara in A Thousand Reasons For Living, ISBN 0800606647.

Prayer/poem: The Coming Bushman
Found in Outback Christmas by Pro Hart and Norman Habel, Lutheran Publishing House, 1981, ISBN 0859105628 (pictured at left).  This fits in well with the gospel reading.

Meditation: And This Shall Be A Sign to You 
By Robert A Raines in Imaging the Word Volume 1 by Kenneth T Lawrence, Jann Cather Weaver and Roger Wedell (Eds.), United Church Press, 1994, ISBN 0829809716, page 78 (pictured at right). This fits in well with the gospel reading.  I put these words with a series of images of babies and used the 11th commandment by Ben Harper and the Blind Boys from Alabama on their album, Let there Be Light, (pictured at left) as backing music.

Meditation: Waiting
From Cloth for the Cradle by Wild Goose Worship Group, Wild Goose Publications, 1997, ISBN 1901557014, page 20 (pictured at left). This fits well with all the readings.

Response Activity: Advent Angels: 
This is an advent version of secret buddies. Encourage or organise people (in the sense that you pair people up somehow without them knowing - like you do for secret buddies or Chris Kringles) to be advent angels ie where people do unexpected favours or give unexpected encouragement or praise anonymously to others in the congregation.

Response Activity: Fridge magnets:
Give everyone a small (laminated maybe) card with the words of Psalm 25:4-5 on it attached to a small fridge magnet (see above image)

Prayer for Others; Pinning Our Hopes on Jesus (i)
Found in Cloth For The Cradle, page 54 - see above

Response Activity: Pinning Our Hopes on Jesus (ii)
Found in Cloth For the Cradle, page 56 - see above




Sunday, November 15, 2015

Christ the King B (November 22): Who IS in charge?

Bible readings: 2 Samuel 23:1-7, Psalm 132: 1-12 (13-18), Revelation 1:4-8, John 18:33-37

About the Images:
Above Right and Left

Both images are Microsoft free clipart with my text added.
Lower Left: This comes free from a site called Scripture Pics which seems to have disappeared.
Lower Right: This comes, with permission, from the site of one of my favourite artists of all time, James B Janknegt.  If you want to use this image please visit his awesome site and ask for permission for yourself:

Listening Song: For the Glory of Your Name
By Michelle Tumes on her album, Very Best of Michelle Tumes
or on WOW 2000.  This song matches in well with all of the readings for today.

Film Clip: Chariots of Fire
Show the clip in the film (pictured at left) where Eric Liddell talks with the Prince of Wales en route to the Olympic Games. Eric had a God space in his week that he was not prepared to give up. His allegiance to Jesus and his heavenly kingdom was more important than his allegiance to King and country. This clip is a little long but.....

Discussion Questions:

1. What are Eric's top priorities?
2. Who or what do we give our allegiance to?
Don't let this discussion degenerate into an argument about a particular day.  Concentrate on encouraging people to talk about God spaces.

Story: The Kingdom of God
Story No 363 in 750 Engaging illustrations by Craig Brian Larson and Leadership Journal, Baker books, 2002, ISBN 0801091551 (pictured at right). I used this story with the 1 Samuel reading.

Sermon Help Notes and Response Activity: Revelation by Song
Give everyone a strip of paper with the words of Revelation I:8 printed across it. Under these words, print three pictures entitled as follows:
Picture 1: a cradle and the words "who is"
Picture 2: a spider and the words "who was"
Picture 3: music notes and the words: "who is to come".  
1. The God who Is.
Sing Rock a Bye Baby together. Note that the song does not say "if" but "when the bough breaks". Life is full of surprises - not all of them good - but God is acting and moving in our world. Ask them to talk to the person next to them about how they see God at work in the world today.
2. The God Who Was.
Ask people to sing Ipsy Whipsy Spider together. Note that the song is very like human kind - we repeat our mistakes as nations, as communities, as families and
as individuals but we keep plugging away. And "out came the sunshine and dried up all the rain". God repeatedly over history heals, restores, loves and forgives us.
3. The God who is to come
Sing the hymn "Joyful, joyful we adore you" to Beethoven's Ode To Joy. Note that because God is yet to come, the way we live makes a difference.
I couldn't remember where I got this idea from - but a reader has suggested
Homiletics, November 23, 1997 (see comments for Christ the King Sunday 2009). Thankyou

Adult Response
In verse 6 of the Revelation reading we are all called to be ministers. Ask people:
In order to be a minister, where do you need God the most:
healing your past,
with you in your present,
or being your future?
Fold your strip of paper in three so that the one you need is uppermost and take it home that way.

Prayer: Multi-Sensory Prayer:
There are some useful bits for this Sunday in
in Multi- Sensory Church by Sue Wallace, Scripture Union, 2002, ISBN 1859996671, page 15 (pictured at left).

A Now For Something Completely Different: A Short Taize Style service.
Decorate your communion table with pieces of white and gold material and cover it all with heaps of small lit tea lights. For the service have an opening prayer only and maybe a song or two. Then have about a half an hour of reflective music which suits the Bible readings - I used music from The Prayer Cycle by Jonathan Elias, Immortal Memory by Lisa Gerard and Patrick Cassidy, an untitled album by Doros (pictured at right), and A Feather on the Breath of God by Hildeguaard of Bingen. At the same time I projected Christ the King images - about thirty in all timed for a minute each. I gave each person an envelope filled with the bible readings and relevent quotes - about 20 in all. People could then chose to read some or all of the qutes, watch the pictures, listen to the music, watch the candles or do a mixture of all. I finished the service with the prayer for others, another song and the benediction.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Proper 28 Ordinary 33 B (November 15): The Challenge of our times/God Can Be Trusted/The Things That Last

Bible Readings: 1 Samuel 1:4-20, 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Psalm 16, Hebrews 10:11-25, Mark 13:1-8,

About the images:

Upper Left: A free microsoft image with my text.
Upper Right: Uluru with words from 1 Samuel 2:2. This is my image so please feel free to use this image for worship or related activities.
Lower Left: Another piece of street art from one of the laneways of inner city Melbourne, Australia. For more info on the laneways, Google Melbourne and see the page on "Melbourne laneways" under "About Melbourne" or "Welcome to Melbourne". This is my image so please feel free to use this image for worship or related activities.

Lower Right: A free heartlight image - please see my link column at left.

Listening Song: Bearers of the Light
by Michael Card on his album Poiema (pictured at right). This song enhances the Hebrews reading.

Kid's Story: Won't You Help Me
Found in Illustrations, Stories and Quotes to Hang your Message On by Jim Burns and Greg McKinnon, Gospel Light, 1997, ISBN 0830718834, page 35. (pictured at left).

Film Clip: Nottinghill
Show the scene in Nottinghill where the characters, in the intimacy and safety of their shared meal together, all share their secret fears and insecurities to illustrate Hebrews 10:25.

Drama: The End of the World is Coming
Found in Mega Drama 4 by Verena Johnson (ed.) Open Book, 2002, ISBN 0959109186, page 51 (pictured at left). This drama fits with the gospel reading.
Introduction: The Challenge of Our Times
Can't remember the source of the following info - probably the web :-)
"Did you know that....
There is more than one mobile phone per head of population in Finland.
My ordinary car has more computer power than the rocket that took Neil Armstrong to the moon.

Our computers
at home are out of date the moment we buy them.
The World Wide Web puts people in touch with each other like never before … and simultaneously isolates them.

The miracles of modern science have not eliminated pain and grief and loss and family breakdowns."
Link this to the Hebrews reading.

Discussion Questions:
Do you think we are in times of turmoil and collapse today – in the world, in our society, in our churc
At such times, what sort of things do people place their faith in?

Story: God's
Story 593 in 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching
by Michael P Green, Baker Books, 1989, ISBN 0801063302 (pictured at left). This story fits well with the Samuel reading.

Story: The Power of Our Words
Found in
Illustrations, Stories, and Quotes to Hang Your Message On, (as above) page 169 to illustrate Hebrews 10:24.
Story: God's Care
Story 98 in Your Point Being by Graham Twelftree, Monarch Books, 2003, ISBN 1854245929 (pictured at left).  The story sits well with the Samuel reading. 

Adult Response:
nsure that everyone has a small candle and is standing and that you have a lit a large Christ candle that everyone can see.
Read Hebrews 10:24-25 and explain that we are now going to live out these verses by giving each other the light and hope and encouragement. Light your candle from the Christ candle. Explain that you are going to light one person's candle and at the same time tell them something encouraging. That person will do the same to someone else until everyone in the room has a lighted candle. Tell them that when their candle is alight and when they have lit someone else's and encouraged them, they should sit down with their lighted candle.

Adult Response:
Make tiny (20 will fit on an A4 or letter size) cards/photos/drawings/whatever of the symbols of God found in the Samuel reading - make a total of three times as many as there are people in your congregation. Ask people to select one for themselves and one to give somebody else.

Proper 27 Ordinary 32 B (November 8): What's really important?

Bible Reading: Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17. Psalm 127, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44

About the above images:
Upper Left: My text on an free image from
Upper Right: This a my photo  of Aussie money - you might prefer to take a photo of your own currency, however the face on the $20 note is that of John Flynn, missionary to the Outback, Australian pioneer, early aviator, explorer and founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. This is my image so please feel free to use this image for worship and related activities.
Lower Left:  This is a scale model of the Temple where the gospel reading is set today. This is my image so please feel free to use this image for worship and related activities.
Lower Right: This is my image with words from the Psalm.

Listening Song: Psalm 127: Unless the Lord Builds the House
By Sons of Korah on their album Shelter (pictured at right).

Kid's Story: A Penny is Everything
This story, based on the Gospel reading is by Walter Wangerin Jr, (one of my all time favourite authors - if you can find anything by him, either for children or adult, it is well worth the read) and Jack Glover, Arch Books, 1074, ISBN 0570060842 (pictured at left).

For Youth or as an Introduction to the Gospel Theme:
"Mr. Bagwell dropped a check into the plate and thought, Boy, I hope next week when they announce the promotions, God remembers that I gave this money.
Mrs. Bagwell watched their hard-earned money go into the plate and prayed silently: God; thanks for blessing us like you have. Please use this gift to reach more people with the gospel.
Andrew Bagwell reluctantly contributed fifty cents out of his five-dollar pocket money and thought, Why does Mum make me do this? I need this more than the church does!
Little Jessica waited until the plate was right in front of her, then she got out her coin purse and dropped in her five cents. Looking around, she noticed several people staring at her. She got all embarrassed because she just knew she had put in the smallest amount."
From Life Application Family Devotions by Len Woods, Tyndale House, 1997, ISBN 0842337504, page 272 (pictured at right).

Encourage people to answer the following question:
What is important to each of these people?
A discussion on this question goes particularly well if you divide the groups into ages that are roughly the same as the four people in the story - in our case, I divided people up into men, women, teenagers, and kids. To free child carers up, I sat in with the kids. 

Film Clip: Hook
(pictured at left) Show the scenes at the beginning when the father (Robin Williams) is too busy to spend time properly with his kids. This clip goes very well with the Gospel reading. 

Discussion: Hook
What is important to the various characters in the clip?
What is important to you?

Film Clip: 39 Pounds of Love
(pictured at right) Show the scene where Ami talks about his weight being equivalent to that of a large turkey and how he uses just a finger on his left hand to make beautiful animations. I found this clip at and I found some really thought provoking comments about the film, and this clip in particular, at It links well with the gospel reading.

Discussion: 39 Pounds of Love
1. What is important to Ami?
2. How does he make the most with what he has?

Film Clip: Two Copper Coins
By Work of the People - see my link at left


Drama: The Shirt off Your Back
In Mega Drama 4 by Verena Johnson (Ed.) Open Book, 2002, ISBN 0859100186, page 25 (pictured at left). This story is based on the gospel reading. 

When Bart Cummings' horse was scratched in a Melbourne Cup around the time of the Bali bombing, his words were: “Bali is a tragedy, this is just a disappointment”.

Poem: His Widow Complex
By Joseph G Donders in Imaging the Word, Volume 1, Uniting Church Press, 1994, ISBN 0829809708, page 64. I have put various images related to the gospel reading with this poem and backed it with Look Back In by Moby on his album, 18.

Mention that it is not only money that we can give to God and the church. Talk about our time and talents .... Encourage people to hold the collection plate for a little while longer than they usually do (you may need to use more plates for this if your congregation is large and you want to finish in a reasonable time) and name in their minds something other than money or material possessions that they have that they can give to God and share with their community.

Communion: Nano- Communion
Roddy Hamilton's nano-communion for the 12 November 2006 is excellent and links in with the gospel reading beautifully. You will find it in his Mucky Paws archives (see link above left).

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Proper 26 Ordinary 31 B (November 1st): Feeling like an Alien/Choosing to Love


Bible Readings: Ruth 1:1-18, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:11-14, Mark 12:28-34

About the Images: 
Upper Left: It is so natural to turn to your Father when things go pear-shaped. This is my image so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Upper Right: This is a free powerpoint background with words I took from one of those emails which does the rounds of all our computers from time to time (see Useful Quotes below).
Lower Left: The land of Moab today (part of present day Jordan). This is my photo so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Lower Right: This is a Microsoft free clipart image with my text.

Listening song: Alien
By Third Day on their album, Conspiracy No 5 (pictured at right) This song fits in well with the Ruth reading.

Kid's Story:
Tell story of Ruth and Naomi as an example of Mark 12:30-31 in that Ruth loves God enough to follow God, and loves Naomi enough to follow and be with her,
Hide the individual words of Mark 12: 30-31 in the congregation on big individual red hearts. Get the kids to find them, and put them in order to work out what the verse says.

Kid's Story: The Runaway Hug
By Nick Bland and Freya Blackwood, Scholastic Australia, 2011, ISBN 9781865044057 (pictured at left).  A delightful story-book which fits in beautifully with the gospel reading.  Thanks to Miranda Walker for suggesting this book.

Youth Time: When you don't fit in.
Do you ever feel like an alien – like a misfit, like you don’t belong?
Tell a story from your own teen years when you felt like you didn't fit in (we all have at least one!). Relate it to Ruth and Naomi and how hard it must have been to live in a strange place and amongst foreigners/strangers.

Voice drama for congregation: Not enough
One: I am a good Christian.
Many: What do you mean?
One: Well, I go to church every Sunday.
Many: That is not enough.
One: I visit my parents.
Many: That is not enough.

One: Well, I’ve never stolen anything, and I’ve certainly never killed anyone.
Many: That is still not enough.
One: What then? What is enough?
Many: You must love God. We must love God. With our hearts. With our minds. With our bodies. With our souls. We must love our neighbors. We must love ourselves.

ALL: Let us put our love into motion as we worship the One who’s taught us to love.
Written by Crystal Sygeel-Lystlund, Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, Richmond, Virginia. Excerpted from Homiletics, Nov. 2, 1997: Mark 12:28-34.

Useful Quotes: About Love:
"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your chips without making them give you any of theirs."
"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate."
"Love is when you tell someone something bad about yourself and you're scared they won't love you any more. But then you get surprised because they love you even more."
"Love is when you tell a boy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday."
"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you."
"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth."
"God could have said some words to make the nails fall off the cross, but .............. He didn't. That's love."

"Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love others as much as you love yourself." -Jesus
"Love God and do as you like" - St Augustine

Pew Discussion:
Would you rather be known for your goodness or your love? Share your answer with the people on each side of you.

Benediction: Based on an African Version
Project the following words:
The Good News: You are loved
The Challenge: To love
The Invitation: To follow 
Ask everybody to choose the line that means the most to them.
Stand at the door and have the first person who leaves tell you what line they chose and you then tell them what you chose. Ask that person to stand beside you. Have the second person to leave tell you which line they chose and you tell them which you chose, and then have them do the same with the person standing next to you. The second person then stands next to the person standing next to you. Have the third person to leave .......and so on.
When you do this with a whole congregation it takes a bit of time and you end up with a sort of human snake spilling out the door of your worship space; but it is a great end to a service and has literally everyone talking to everyone!

Maybe a bit more as I work on my service for this week - I will be using the Ruth reading.