Sunday, January 25, 2015

Epiphany 4B (February 1): Power and Authority

Bible Readings: Deuteronomy 18:15-20, Psalm 111, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, Mark 1:21-28

About the Images:
Upper Left: Lake Tyers beach early in the morning, East Gippsland, Australia ( Nothing like a stormy sunrise to remind you of God's power and authority. This is my  photo - so feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Upper Right: A compilation of microsoft free clipart.
Lower Left: This is the first line of a lovely Aussie Hymn by Elizabeth J. Smith (Together in Song 188)  which I think goes really well with ideas of God's creative power. The image of the Simpson desert French line is mine so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities. For more info on the simpson please visit
Lower Right:  This is an image from Churchgalleries (see my links column at left).

Listening Song: Healing Rain
By Michael W Smi
th on his album, Healing Rain, or on WOW 2006 (pictured at left). This song goes nicely with the gospel reading.

Kids Story: Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak, Randon House, 1963 (pictured at right).This story fits in very well with the gospel reading,

Image: The Scream by Edvard Munch.
Great picture portraying the demon of loneliness,
social isolation etc etc.

Film Clip: Arthur and the Invisibles
There is a great clip when Art
hur has his 10th birthday which portrays the demon of parental neglect.

Discussion: Arthur and the Invisibles
1. What makes Arthur really sad?
2. What happens when we are hurt badly by something someone does or says to us?
3. As Christians, how can we cope?

Drama: Not Everyone Knows This
Found in Mega Drama 3, Verena Johnson (ed), Openbook 2002,ISBN 0859109178 (v.3) page 34 (pictured at right). This drama is based on the Corinthians reading.

Quote: Etty Hillesum
My battles are fought out inside with my own demons (from An Interrupted Life)

Quote: Frederick Buechner
God does not give us neat answers, he gives us himself.

Quote; Frederick Buechner

It suddenly dawned on them that their wildest dreams hadn't been half wild enough.

Story: Sarah Windchester's Story
Found in In
the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado, Word, 1991, pp. 193-195 (pictured at left). A good example of the demon of guilt.

Story: Aristotle's Claims
Find this story at under the heading Wisdom. This story makes a good contrast with Jesus' authority in the gospel reading.

Story: Jesus Walks His Talk
This story is found at under the heading Need for Godly Leaders but I like my title better :-)

Story: No One Stops Them Ringing Their Bells
This story is found at when you type "Alexander Solzhenitsyn" in Find. It is about the meaning of authority. This story is actually embedded in this site in a sermon on the Corinthians reading.

Adult response:
Give everyone a piece of paper and a pencil. Ask: What is bothering you most? Is their something specific in your life or is there someone you love who needs the healing touch of Jesus? What ever it is, write it down on the piece of paper and lay it at the foot of the cross to signify that you want Jesus to have the authority from now on in that situation from now on.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Epiphany 3B (January 25): Following/God Gives Second Chances

Bible readings: Jonah 3:1-5, 10, Psalm 62:5-12, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20

About the images:
Upper Left: I took this photo up at Hervey Bay ( a few years ago - two whales were so interested in us and the boat we were on that they hung around for ages popping out of the water beside us to get a closer look. Feel free to use this image for worship and related activities. 
Upper Right: A free Microsoft clipart image with my text.
Lower Left: My image of Uluru with Biblical text.  Please feel free to use for worship and related activities.
Lower Right: A free Heartlight image - see my links column at left

g Song: More
By Matthew West on his album, Happy, universal South/Sparrow Records,or on WOW Hits 2005
(pictured at left). This goes well with the Jonah reading.

Listening Song: I Am
By Jill Phillips on her self titled album and on WOW 2000. (pictured at right). This goes well with the Jonah reading.

Image: "Jonah and the Whale" by He Qi (2001).
Look at the painting. Notice the face looking over the whole scene in the top left hand corner.

Film Clip: The Colour Purple 
ugs father refuses to speak to her but when she returns to the church with all her friends singing "Listen, God's trying to Tell You something" he realises he has been given a second chance her back as his daughter.

Discussion: The Colour Purple
1. Who was given a second chance in this film clip?
2. Do you think God has anything to do with it?
3. How does it feel when someone gives you a second chance?

Film Clip: Veggie Tails: Jonah
I can never work out who usually enjoys Veggie Tales the most - the kids or the adults.

Drama: Has God Been Talking To You Lately?
Found in in Mega Drama 2 edited by Verena Johnson, Open Book, 2001, page 27 (pictured at right). This drama is based on the Jonah reading.

What is it in the story of Jonah that tells us that God is the God of second chances.

When The Tag Was Changed
Found in Illustrations, Stories and Quotes by Jim Burns and Greg McKinnon, Gospel Light, 1997,
ISBN 0830718834, page 201 (pictured at left). This story goes well with the Jonah reading.

Adult Response: Prayer Stations:
Station 1: A Mirror and Card:
The card reads: Ask yourself: Do you need a second chance from God?

Are you also hard on yourself - do you need to give yourself a second chance as well? Look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that it is you that God loves. Read these words from Isaiah 43:4. God says: “You are precious and honoured in my sight and …I love you” What do these words say to you about God’s love for you?
Station 2: Christ candle, tapers and card
The card reads: Think of somebody who you need to give a second chance to. Think about that person now. Light a taper as a symbol, that just as God is willing to give you a second chance, you will give them a second chance.
Station 3: Map, tea lights and card
The card reads: Think of a part of the world that needs a second chance – a place where there is need or a war or natural or man made disaster. Think about that place now and place a lighted tea light on the location of that place on the map.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Epiphany 2 B (January 18): Called by God/Known by God

Bible readings: 1 Samuel 3:1-20, Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18, I Corinthians 6:12-20, John 1:43-51

About the images:

Upper Left: Old northern Tasmanian jetty - my photo so feel free to use it for worship and related activities. For more info about this part of Australia, visit
Upper Right: My photo so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities. This is part of Ninety Mile Beach. For more info on this part of Australia, please visit
Lower Left: This is a free image from the Heartlight site (see my links column at left)
Lower Right: Infant Samuel by Joshua Reynolds found This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The official position taken by the Wikimedia Foundation is that "faithful reproductions of two-dimensional public domain works of art are public domain.

  Listening Song: I've always loved You
By Third Day from their album, Time (pictured at left). This song is particularly appropriate for the psalm.

Listening song: Psalm 139
By Sons of Korah on their album, Rain (pictured at right).

Kid's Talk: How Does God Know the Future
Found in Quick Children's Sermons 2: Why Did God make Mosquitoes?, Group Publishing, 1998, ISBN 0764420526, page 22 (pictured at left). This talk is very much based on the Psalm.

Kid's Talk
Give five kids a simply drawn face each, one happy (for Samuel), one sad (for Eli), one sleepy (for Samuel when he is asleep), one exhausted (for all the times Samuel runs) and one awestruck (for when God is mentioned). Then tell the story from the Samuel reading and get kids to hold aloft the face appr
opriate to the part of the story they hear.

Congregational Voice Drama: Samuel's Call
Tell or read the story based on the 1 Samuel read
ing for the day. Have the congregation respond to various words in the story. For example every time they hear the word "Samuel" have them shout "Yes, Lord!". Other responses to include might be: for the word "God" - Woah!; for the word "run" - puff, puff, puff; for the word "sleep" get them to snore and for the word "Eli" have them all say "I can't control my kids!" This is obviously a kid's talk when it is done like this, but the rest of the congregation really enjoys the activity and they seem to have almost more fun than the kids.

Film Clip: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Show the clip below where Frodo accepts the call to destroy the ring.

Discussion: Lord of the Rings
How is this film clip an analogy of Samuel's story.

Film Clip: Simon Birch.
(pictured at left)The readings this week are about being called by God. In this film, Simon struggles with his sense of call, he has issues with the difficulty of his call (he has a disability) and tries to determine exactly what God wants him to do and be. He is not helped by his minister when he goes to him for advice. There is a great scene in his minister's office - the scene asks all the right questions without providing neat answers and therefore provides lots of opportunity for discussion and reflection. This film is based on the book, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.

Drama: A Hearing Problem

Found in Mega Drama 3 by Verena Johnson (Ed.), Open Book, 2002, ISBN 0859109178 (v.3), page 48-49 (pictured at right). This drama matches up very well with the Samuel reading.

Drama: Yes, Lord, I Believe
Found in Drama Resources 2 prepared by the Commission for Worship, Lutheran Church of Australia, 1986. This is a good introduction to Psalm 139.

Voice Drama: Called as God's
Found at the Mucky Paws site (see my links column at left) under epiphany 2 B 13th January 2006. This fits very well with all the readings.

Quote: St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
If you wish to see: listen. Hearing is a step towards vision.

Quote: Soren Kierkegaard
To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking. Prayer involves becoming silent, and being silent, and waiting until God is heard.

Artwork: Psalm 139
Found in The Psalms: An Artist's Impression by Anneke Kaai, Piquant, 1999, ISBN 0953575705. This is a breathtakingly beautiful book.

Story: Have We Heard?
By Helmust Thielicke and found in Resources For Preaching and Worship Year B compiled by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild, Westminster John Knox Press, 2002, ISBN 10 0664224776, pp51. This story goes very well with the Corinthians reading.

Story: She knows Her Own
Found in Illustrations, Stories and Quotes to Hang Your Message On by Jim Burns and Greg McKinnon, Gospel Light, 1997, ISBN 0830718834, page 33 (pictured in an earlier post). This story exemplifies how God knows us and is therefore a good match with the psalm.

Story: Do You Know Me
In Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks Book 4 by Wayne Rice, Zondervan, 2001, ISBN 0310236193,page 68 (pictured in an earlier blog)

Story: Where Did I Come From
Found in Still More Hot Illustrations For Youth Talks by Wayne Rice, Zondervan, 1999, ISBN 0310224640, page 46 (pictured in an earlier blog).

Testimonies: A Sense of Call
Ask one or two members of the congregation to share how they feel called to the particular ministry they are involved in.

Response Activity:
Give everyone a card with the following three options printed on it

1. I am not sure about God's call to me
a) I would like to talk to somebody about this
b) I would be interested in finding out more about my spiritual gifts, talents and abilities

c)I need some encouragement

2. I have an idea of what God's call to me is but for various reasons I am a little hesitant about it all.
a) I would like to talk to somebody about this
b) I would be interested in finding out more about my spiritual gifts, talents and abilities
c) I would appreciate some training in this area
d)I need some encouragement

3. I know what God has called me to do
a) I would like to talk to somebody about this
I would appreciate some training in this area
c )I need some encouragement

Tell people they have a choice whether to keep this activity to themselves or to share it. Ask people to consider the three options and to circle the one that is most like where they are at. After a time, tell them to consider carefully the three or four options in the section which they have chosen and to tick the one that speaks to them the most. If they would like to think more about it, suggest they take it home with them. If they would like some follow up on what they have ticked, suggest that they put the
ir name on their card and put it in the offering plate when it comes around.

Response Activity: Offering More
Ask people: What message about your faith and what it means to you might you like to pass on to the groups who use the church building each week.
Have them write their answer down on a scrap of paper and put it in with their offering. After worship, collate all the messages on to a bulletin
sized sheet and have enough to share with all those who come in contact with your church in the following week.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Baptism of Jesus (January 11):

Bible Readings: Genesis 1 1-5, Psalm 29, Acts 19:1-7 Mark 1:4-11

About the Image:

Upper Left: In rural (and increasingly suburban) Australia, when the water pours out of the top of our rainwater tanks like this, there is cause for rejoicing. It means the dust is gone and all around us everything is washed clean - the very leaves and blades of grass sparkle. It also means that we don't have to worry about our household water supply for a while. This is my photo, and my tank, so feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Upper Right: This is my photo from the front of our place at dawn (for more info visit with a line from the song below by Caedmon's Call. Please feel free to use this image for worship and related activities.
Lower Left: A free Heartlight image - see my links column at left
Lower Right: Beaches never fail to remind me of God's creative power.  This is Hervey Bay in NSW (

Listening Song: Who You Are
By Caedmon's Call on their album, In the Company of Angels (pictured at left) or on WOW 2003 .

Children's activity during the service: Rainsticks
Have the children quietly make rainsticks as you worship - use them towards the end of the service
during a reaffirmation of baptismal vows or the benediction or during a hymn or song. A rainstick is made from a tube of cardboard with a handful of rice inside with both ends sealed with sticky tape. They can be decorated any way the kids wish.

Film Clip: When Zachary Beaver Came to Town
(pictured at right) There is a great scene in this film where Zachary and one of the boys discusses the meaning of baptism.

Discussion: When Zachary Beaver Came to Town
1. Is Zachary Beaver right about baptism?
2. What does it mean for you to be baptised?
3. Do we change when we are baptised? If so, how?

Drama: In the Beginning
Found in Lets Make a Scene Too by Verena Johnson, Lutheran Publishing House, 1991, ISBN 085910608X, page 7ff (pictured at left
).This voice/reader drama is based on Genesis 1.

Drama: Someone Really Great
Found in Mega Drama 3 by Verena Johnson (Ed.), Open Book, 2002, ISBN 0859109178 (v.3), page 50-51 (pictured at right). This puppet or people drama matches up very well with the gospel reading.

Discussion Questions:

1.When did you first realise that the life God has given you was good and valuable, that God was pleased with you.

2. What changed for Jesus when he was baptised?
3. What changed fro the world when jesus was baptised.

4. What is the blessing for us in baptism?
5. How are we changed in baptism?

6. What is the significance of baptism for us?

Instead of having everyone discuss the above questions, ask one or two people beforehand to prepare a three minute answer to one or a couple of the questions as part of the sermon or teaching time. An added bonus to this exercise is that it is a great way to encourage people to discover their preaching and leadership gifts within the congregation.

Story: Baptism
A modern story about baptism found at - scroll down to Case 2.

Meditation: The Creator's Meditation
By Grace Krag and found in Building Worship Together by Martha Keys Barker and the Fisherfolk, Celebration, 1983, ISBN 0906309212, page 92ff (pictured at left). This goes very well with the Genesis reading. This reading goes very well with selected images and the following music: Grace by Moby from his album, Songs (pictured at right).

Response Activity:
Set up three stations around your worship space. Encourage people to visit all three stations but in any order they wish.
Station 1: Have a stack of printed creeds or affirmations of baptism or your church's baptism service available. Encourage people to softly say the reading aloud at their own pace. Reassure people ahead of time that they will not be a distraction to others - they will make a gentle worshipful hum. If you really think people will be bothered, either play soft music in the background or encourage them to go outside to read it.

Station 2:
Have a sand bowl, the Christ candle and tapers available and a note of instruction in a dim part of the worship space. Ask people to light a taper from the Christ candle and sit and watch the flame for awhile remembering that just as the flame is a light in the dark, so too, they can, with God's help, be lights of hope, peace and justice in a dark world.
Station 3:
This station is very similar to the benediction activity below. Stand beside the baptismal font and as each person comes up to you, mark their foreheads with a cross and say..."Name (whatever it is) God is pleased with you." After doing this, ask them to sit in a quiet space and think about/pray about what these words mean to them.


Have the font near the exit (if a movable font) or have the congregation exit past the font and as each one passes, pour a little water over their hands and say their name and the words "God is pleased with you".
Alternatively have people do this to each other as they leave.


Poem and prayer: by the Jordon
Found in Dad and Daughter by Ron Gordon and Jennie Gordon, 2012, ISBN 9780646586601, page 68 (pictured at left).  These are based on the gospel reading.

Lots of Useful Stuff
Found in The Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual 2015 by Jenee Woodard (Ed.), Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2014, page 5ff

Epiphany B (January 6): Gifts/New Directions

Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12

About the images:
Upper Left: This image is available from Hermano Leon (see my links at left). There is a lovely collection of "king" clipart and works of art available for us all to use.
Upper Right: This is a free microsoft clipart with my text.
Lower Left: This is a free image from Imagebank - see my links column at left
Lower Right: This is an image from Church galleries - see my links column at left

Listening Song: On Earth as it is in Heaven From The Mission soundtrack by Ennio Morricone (pictured at left). This makes a lovely call to worship. I just put lots of magi paintings and good clip art with it.

Kid's Story: The Story of Baboushka
This is a Russian folktale available everyone and in all sorts of publications. It reminds us not to get distracted from the call of God in our lives.

Poem: The Three Gamblers
Found in Outback Christmas by Pro Hart and Norman Habel, Lutheran Publishing House, 1990, ISBN 0859105628, page 36 (pictured at right).

Poem: Gold rush
Found in Outback Christmas by Pro Hart and Norman Habel, Lutheran Publishing House, 1990, ISBN 0859105628, page 38 (pictured at right).

What sort of things distract us today from following God?
What are the gifts God gives us?
What are the gifts which we can give to God?
What are the gifts we can offer to others?

Response Activity:
Give everyone a cut out star. Invite people to write on the star a gift that they wish to give the Christ child. Invite people to place their star near the Christ candle.