Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Some More Dragonflies

My last post was an idea for Lent using the image of the dragonfly which reminds me of the Eucharistic Prayer that says, "Jesus who reached out to heal the sick and suffering, who on the cross opened his arms to all" . . . because of their outstretched wings.

I decided that I would create a dragonfly that the Sunday School kids of my parish could color. We will laminate their art and then hang them from fishing line from various places in the nave and chancel. So here is that creation along with a couple of other ones we will use as well. My hope is this image will help us to think about those open arms of Jesus on the cross for our sake!

If you happen to like any of my creations, please feel free to use them. 
Blessings as you prepare for this upcoming Lenten Season!

Pastor Amy Little

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Worship Wednesday: He Opened His Arms to All

Holy, mighty, and merciful Lord, heaven and earth are full of your glory. In great love you sent to us Jesus, your Son, who reached out to heal the sick and suffering, who preached good news to the poor, and who, on the cross, opened his arms to all. 

I love dragonflies and their close relative, damsel flies. The difference between the two is only discernible as they land on a flower or shrub or rock. The damselfly presses her wings together, parallel to her thorax. Like arms folded in prayer, she rests in this streamlined position. Dragonflies, on the other hand, land with their wings stretched out, exposed, reaching for whatever might come next. Both are equally lovely. . . but the dragonfly captures my attention because it reminds me of this familiar Eucharistic prayer: on the cross, he opened his arms to all. 

I love this Eucharistic prayer.

To think of Jesus opening his arms wide in a hug is one thing. He always had his arms open and ready for children to scurry into. He always opened his embrace to gather the sinners and unclean and outcasts to him. And on the cross. . . he had no choice but to spread those loving arms the full length of the wood beams as he was nailed to that torture device of his execution. In love his arms were open wide to receive all people. In death his last bodily position was arms outstretched. Amazing and wonderful, isn't it?

I like to use butterflies in the sanctuary at Easter to help people (especially children) connect something tangible with the miracle of Christ's resurrection. In the past I have used card stock butterflies and attached them to the back wall of the chancel like they were flying up and away from a wooden box that was perched there. Visually it creates quite an image for worshippers. But this year I want to use dragonflies. During Lent, imagine it, dragonflies here and there adorning the nave and the chancel, reminding us of Jesus' loving arms outstretched in life and in death FOR ALL! 

What do you think of this image? Do you think it might work? What ideas do you have to help worshippers connect to the metaphors and images we use in our faith?

(By the way, I drew the image above and if you like it, you are welcome to use it.) 


Activity C3 - Lesson 6: 3-D Cross Picture

Sunday Schoolhouse Series Activity - Green Unit C3
Lesson 6: Simon Carries Jesus' Cross (Luke 23:13 - 34)

Create a 3-D Cross Picture - Materials Needed:
- a few boxes of toothpicks
- colored cardstock or heavy paper (cut into fourths to make pieces about 5 1/2" by 4 1/2 ")
- yarn (cut into 8" lengths)
- pencils, glue
- hole punch, scissors

Give each student a small piece of cardstock and a pencil. Punch two holes at the top of the cardstock. Thread the yarn through the holes and tie making a loop. Ask kids to draw the outline of a large cross on the cardstock. Spread glue inside the cross shape. Press toothpicks onto the glue inside the cross shape filling in as much as possible . Keep flat until completely dry.

Activity: Unexpected Obstacle Course
Create a simple obstacle course with chairs or other classroom items. Divide the class into pairs. One person in each pair will be the leader and the other will be the follower. Each pair will be timed to see how long it takes them to complete the obstacles course. Each person will also have to bend at the waist balancing a book on their backs as they follow their leaders through the course. If the book falls off, the pair must return to the beginning and do the course again while the clock is still running.

Activity C3 - Lesson 5: Orange Pomander

Sunday Schoolhouse Series Activity - Green Unit C3
Lesson 5: Mary Anoints Jesus' Feet (John 12:1 - 8)

Create an Orange Pomander - Materials Needed:
- lunch size paper bag; one per student
- 1 orange per student
- toothpicks
- whole cloves
- 2-4 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 2-4 Tbsp ground cloves
- 2-4 Tbsp nutmeg or allspice
- 1/4 cup orrisroot powder (optional preservative)

Give each student an orange and a toothpick. In a bowl, combine the cinnamon cloves, nutmeg or allspice, and orrisroot powder. Instruct kids to use a toothpick to poke holes in the orange in a decorative pattern. Press cloves into the holes. Roll the orange in the bowl of spices; then put in a bag to take home. When home, kids should empty the bag, putting the prepared orange in a warm place. Turn the orange every 24 hours. When it gets hard, dust it off and use it as a scented room freshener. It may last for months or even years!

Activity: Foot by Foot
Have the children put their chairs in a circle. Using only their feet, kids will try to pass a tennis ball from person to person without dropping it. Set a timer and see how quickly they can pass the ball around the full circle. Try to beat the time the next round.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Worship Wednesday: Meeting the Spirit in Worship

Last night I was scanning the web for articles on worship just to see what people are talking about these days. In the part of the world in which I live and work (small town northern Ohio) there are as many places and ways to worship as anywhere else. There are large mega-churches with bands and no liturgy, there are many Roman Catholic churches and tons of other Protestant varieties to choose from. But here's the thing. .  . part of doing worship well is first knowing who you are and what you believe. I don't mean, "Well, I believe in Jesus," of course! I am talking about knowing what the liturgy means, where it comes from and why we do what we do in worship. Otherwise, it become rote, boring, and lacks meaning. I believe that that is one reason that many people walk away from their Lutheran congregations in search of something "different." They visit a church with a band and no liturgy and get a "feeling" and call it the presence of the Holy Spirit. Now don't misunderstanding me, it very well could be the presence of the Holy Spirit but they've not experienced such a "feeling" before and so they fail to realize that that Spirit is also mightily present in the Lutheran liturgy. It takes a long time to teach the congregation why we do what we do, but the end result is deeper, more spiritual worship.

Consider this for congregations who like to chat before worship begins. . . put the announcements before the prelude so that the announcements don't interrupt the flow of worship later in the service. There's nothing like being in the moment and then hearing, "Okay now it's time for us to talk business and busy-ness and sign up and bring in this and don't forget that." And once the announcements are made and prayer requests collected and the important pieces of information the community needs to share are put out there. . . gather the hearts and minds of the worshippers to be silent in the presence of the God we know as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Ask them to breathe deeply and to let all their worries and concerns melt away for the next sixty minutes. Encourage them to just "be" in the presence of God.

Consider this for teaching what the liturgy means (without giving a lecture during the announcements): put text boxes in your bulletin that answer frequently asked questions. One that I get a lot from newcomers is "Why do we say 'holy catholic church' in the Apostles' Creed? I thought we were Lutheran." So I have a little box beside the text of the creed that is not intrusive but answers that question saying that we believe in ONE church, the church of all time and place and that we are all connected through this one universal church." Deeper meaning evolves for the worshippers when they know what we believe and confess. Even preaching on the origins of the creed is a helpful exercise toward deeper understanding: why do we say these words, where did they come from, what do they really mean?

Consider this: when people say they go to a bible-based church (I would hope so!) as Lutherans we are often struck by that statement. We probably would never think to say such a thing because we take it completely for granted. In the Lutheran liturgy, however, there is more scripture read than in any non-denominational worship service. With an old testament reading, a psalm, an epistle and the gospel, we hear scripture from all major portions of the bible-- EACH WEEK!

Consider this: talk about the hymnody we sing. Talk about how congregational singing is a convention of the Reformation. Luther was disturbed that only the choir sang in his day and that worship is meant to be highly participatory, not a performance. So singing together, lifting our voices in praise, is key to worship. It doesn't matter what the songs are but some songs are so repetitive as to barely be saying anything. Encourage worshippers to actually read the words they sing and dwell on the depth of their meaning. They are rich and beautiful and draw us closer to the heart of God.

All these are ways to help worshippers meet the Spirit as it meets us in worship. Just a little help facilitating that process is the job of the leader. I have found in my own parish that offering some guidance and instruction on how and why we do what we do makes a huge difference in the worship event.

Leading the Congregation in Singing

What other suggestions do you have for aiding the process of meeting the Spirit in worship?

What other things have you wondered about in terms of what we do? Or how have you taught those things?

Have a blessed Wednesday! And remember, a life of worship is a reflection of God's love, and that all of life is worship if we keep our minds and hearts on Christ.

Pastor Amy Little

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Activity C3 - Lesson 4: Ray of Light Backpack Ornament

Sunday Schoolhouse Series Activity - Green Unit C3
Lesson 4: Jesus Raises Jairus' Daughter (Luke 8:40 - 56)

Create a "Ray of Light" Backpack Ornament - Materials Needed:
- Pipe cleaners
- Metallic larger bead (1 per student)
- Translucent beads in shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple (for each student)
- Scissors

Cut each pipe cleaner into two equally sized pieces. Give every student half of a pipe cleaner, as well as the seven beads. Fold up the bottom of the pipe cleaner 1/2 inch and twist, making a"knot". This will keep the beads from falling off the end. Place the metallic bead on the wire and bring it down to the knotted end. Next, slide the colored beads onto the pipe cleaner, pushing each down to the previous bead. Take the top of the pipe cleaner, and push it through a backpack or coat zipper. Twist to secure. The ornament can remind the kids that even when things seem dark and dreary, they can always have a ray of light because they belong to Jesus!

Activity: Child, Child, Stand!
Have the children sit in a circle on the floor, eyes closed, with legs crossed. Choose one person to play Jesus. They should walk around the circle tapping classmates lightly on the head and saying, "Child" with each tap. Finally, the person playing Jesus taps one person's head and says, "Stand!". That person opens his or her eyes, stands and gives chase as both people race around the circle to sit in the child's spot. Whoever is left standing can play the part of Jesus, and the game continues.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Activity C3 - Lesson 3: Seeds of Faith

Sunday Schoolhouse Series Activity - Green Unit C3
Lesson 3: Parable of the Seeds and Soils

Create Seeds of Faith - Materials Needed:
- Marigold (or other easy-to-grow) seeds
- Potting soil or seed starter and trowel
- Foam, plastic or paper cups
- Permanent markers
- Newspaper and water

Spread newspaper over the work space. Give each student a cup. Let kids decorate their cups with permanent markers.

Have the children fill their cups 3/4 of the way with soil. Give each student three or four seeds which they can press into the soil. Water the seeds lightly. Instruct the children to keep the soil moist - but not soaking wet - for the next few weeks. Soon, a tiny sprout will emerge.

Activity: Sowing Seeds
Set a small bucket/box in the center of the classroom. Ask students to stand in a circle around the bucket, about 3 - 6 feet away. Let everyone take turns tossing a handful of unpopped popcorn into the bucket - being sure to toss the whole handful at once! See how many popcorn kernels hit their mark. Many won't make it. Explain that today's story is about a farmer who used this broad cast "scatter" method to plant seeds. What happened?

Epiphany- The Season of Light

Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Epiphany is the culmination of all of our Advent waiting and watching, of all of our Christmas awakenings. It is called the season of light as the light of Christ has shined in the darkness of our lives. We heard those words about letting our light shine in the world at our baptism. The sacrament is our launching point on the faith journey where we are shoved out into the world to share the light of Christ. It must be so, as we are the hands and feet of our Lord in this world. 

Now in Epiphany the Christ has been revealed to the nations. The secret is out, Christ is King of king and Lord of lords! This is the day we celebrate the journey and visit of the wise men (who by the way may have been three and may not have been three as Matthew does not tell us how many). Those who are wise, even in all of their wisdom and understanding, cannot truly be wise unless they know intimately, "The Light of the World." 

Think of the metaphors of light in our culture: 
*a lightbulb means, "I've got an idea!"
*darkness means a lack of knowing and to shed light on something means to come to an understanding
*light as a symbol of goodness and virtue versus darkness as a symbol of evil
*light as Truth, with a capital T
*lightness of heart means to be at peace and have joy

Can you think of any others?

As you think about Epiphany this week and for the rest of this month, think about the light of Christ being revealed. Ponder what it means for the people of God to be light to the world and children of light. 

How can we as the Church be light bearers of Christ in this dark world?

How is Christ revealed through your faith, life and actions?

How are you made complete for knowing the light that casts out all darkness?

Blessings on your journey!

Pastor Amy Little