Text: 2 Corinthians 5: 20b–6: 10 Visuals: ashes for Ash Wednesday imposition, paper towel Summary

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Children’s Messages

Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Christ in Ashes

Text: 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10

Visuals: ashes for Ash Wednesday imposition, paper towel

Summary: Ashes show how filthy is the sin Christ became for us, but because he did become sin, we are now the righteousness of God.

Rev. Carl C. Fickenscher II, PhD, professor

Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Hi, guys! We’re having church on Wednesday! Must be a special day. Who can tell us what this special day is? That’s right. Ash Wednesday.

So you know what these are? Show ashes. That’s right. These are ashes. In a few moments, you and everyone in the congregation will be invited, if you want, to come and have some of these put on your forehead. Pick up a few ashes and rub them between fingers. How does that sound, having some of these on your forehead? Receive responses. Pretty dirty, eh? Kind of ugly? Yes! Ashes are dirty and messy and ugly!

Any of you know what these ashes stand for? Receive responses. Right. These dirty, ugly ashes that we’ll put on your forehead stand for sin. Ashes on our foreheads remind us that we’re all sinful, that our sins are dirty and messy and ugly.

So here’s something pretty amazing. In our Epistle, St. Paul says this: God made the one who had no sin to be sin. Who’s the one who had no sin—in fact, the only person who never sinned? That’s right! Jesus is the one who had no sin. Jesus never sinned at all. He never did anything wrong. Jesus is the one person who should have no reason to put these dirty, messy, ugly ashes on his forehead. But God made Jesus to be sin—not just to have sin, but to be sin. It’s like God smeared these ugly ashes all over Jesus! Those ashes weren’t Jesus’ sins, though. They were our sins that were smeared all over Jesus. Every time we’re mean to somebody or don’t obey Mom or Dad or do something we shouldn’t, that’s like more dirty, ugly ashes smeared on Jesus—and Jesus died for those sins.

But you know what that means? It means that all those ashes (with paper towel, wipe off fingers) are cleaned off of us. They’re all put on Jesus so that we’re completely clean, forgiven. God says that “he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). The ashes, the sins, were all taken away from us when they were put on Jesus. That means we have life forever with Jesus in heaven.

When you receive these dirty, messy, ugly ashes on your forehead, remember those sins go off you, onto Jesus.
Lent 1, March 9, 2014

Forbidden Fruit and Forgiveness

Text: Genesis 3:1–21

Visuals: bowl or basket of different kinds of fresh fruit single piece of fruit (such as an apple)

Summary: Though Adam and Eve—and we ourselves too—chose to disobey God, he sent Jesus to destroy the devil’s power.

Carol A. Geisler, PhD, staff assistant, LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations;

member of King of Kings Lutheran Church, Chesterfield, Missouri

Hi, folks! What have I got here this morning? Let children answer. Lots of good fruit, isn’t it? The fruit in this bowl looks really good to eat! And it’s good for you too! I also have this one extra piece of fruit.

If I told you that you could have whatever you wanted from this bowl of fruit, but you couldn’t have this single piece of fruit, what would you choose—all this fruit or that one piece? Let children answer. I hope you’d choose a piece of fruit from the bowl. You shouldn’t take the single piece, because I said you couldn’t have it.

God told Adam and Eve they could eat fruit from any tree in the Garden of Eden—except from one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God said they’d be punished if they ate from that tree. Do you know which fruit Adam and Eve chose to eat? Let children answer. Our Old Testament Reading from the Book of Genesis tells how Eve listened to the devil, and then she ate the fruit she wasn’t allowed to eat. God had told her not to! She gave some to Adam, and he ate it too. Then Adam and Eve knew they had disobeyed God, and they hid from him. Because they had disobeyed his command, God said they wouldn’t be able to live in the peaceful, beautiful garden anymore. They would have pain and trouble in their lives, and someday they would die. But God still loved them, and he promised to send a Savior who would destroy the power of the devil who had tempted them. A Savior would come from their family.

We disobey God too. We do things God has told us not to do, like disobeying our mom and dad or saying hurtful things to others. But God loved Adam and Eve, and he loves us too. The Savior God promised to send is Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God, and he became a human being, a descendant of Adam and Eve. Jesus came to die on the cross. He was punished for the sins of Adam and Eve and for our sins. When Jesus died and rose from the dead, he destroyed the devil’s power over us. Yes, the devil still tempts us, and we still listen to his temptations. But if we sin, if we choose to do what God told us not to do, we tell God we are sorry. Because Jesus died for us, God forgives our sins. He gives us the gift of eternal life. We will live with him forever!

Close with prayer.
Lent 2, March 16, 2014

Look Up and Live!

Text: John 3:1–17

Visuals: picture of bronze serpent on a pole or rubber or stuffed toy snake fastened to a stick or dowel

Summary: Jesus was lifted up on the cross so our sins can be forgiven.

Carol A. Geisler, PhD, staff assistant, LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations;

member of King of Kings Lutheran Church, Chesterfield, Missouri

One night, a man named Nicodemus came to visit Jesus. Nicodemus knew that Jesus had come from God, but he wanted to know more about him. Jesus taught Nicodemus about the kingdom of God and told him about being born again in Holy Baptism.

Then Jesus reminded Nicodemus of a story from the Old Testament: When God’s people escaped from slavery in Egypt, they wandered in the desert for many years. They didn’t like being in the desert, but they were foolish. Even though God was giving them a wonderful new home, they wanted to go back to Egypt, where they’d been slaves. They complained against God and against Moses, God’s prophet. So God sent poisonous snakes among the people to punish them, and many people died. Now the people were frightened. They cried out to God and asked him to forgive their sins and save them. So God told Moses to make a snake out of a metal called bronze and set it up on a pole where everyone could see it. Show the picture or toy snake. People who were bitten by the poisonous snakes could look up to the bronze serpent, and they’d get better. They would live! They lived because God promised they would live if they looked up to the bronze snake.

Jesus said that one day he would be lifted up on a cross, just like the bronze serpent was lifted up on the pole. God promises that everyone who looks to Jesus and believes in him will have eternal life.

Nicodemus learned something very important in Jesus’ lesson, and we can learn that same lesson too. Because we often listen to the devil’s temptations and sin against God, it’s like we’ve been bitten by a poisonous snake. We’re going to die. But Jesus was lifted up on the cross to be punished for our sins. God promises that when we look to Jesus—when we believe he died on the cross for us—he forgives our sins. We’ll live; God gives us the gift of eternal life. Jesus told Nicodemus about how God does this in a Bible verse that many of you probably know. If you remember it, you can say it with me: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

Close with prayer.
Lent 3, March 23, 2014

Are You Thirsty?

Text: John 4:5–26 (27–30, 39–42)

Visuals: large pitcher of ice water, glass (put items in a place where everyone in church can see them)

Summary: Jesus’ words of forgiveness quench our deep-down thirst.

Rev. Ronald W. Mueller, pastor

Salem Lutheran Church, Barron, Wisconsin

Good morning, children! Take a slow drink of water and conclude with a long “Aaaaaaaa.” What did I just do? Let children respond. Why do you think I took such a long drink of water and really enjoyed it? Let them respond. Someone will probably answer with something close to “You were thirsty.”

Have you ever been thirsty? Allow time for one or more to answer. What did you do when you were thirsty? Look for the answer that gets to water and what it does: it quenches your thirst.

Water takes away your being thirsty; we say it “quenches your thirst.” Lightly tap on your throat. But did you know there’s another kind of thirst all of us have? It’s not up here (tap throat) but down here (tap your heart). It takes someone special to take away that thirst.

One day, in this morning’s Gospel from the Book of John, Jesus was tired and thirsty. He sat down by a well. When a lady from the town came out to get some water, Jesus asked her for a drink. He wanted to get rid of the thirst in his throat (tap throat). But he also knew that this lady was thirsty not only here (tap throat) but also here (tap heart).

The thirst down here is something we get when, say, you hurt your brother, sister, a friend, mom, or dad. You feel bad about what happened. You begin to get thirsty in a special way. You want the person you hurt to make that deep kind of thirst go away. You want them to say some special words that will take away that deep thirst here (tap heart). Does anybody know what those words are? What can the person you hurt say to make your thirst go away? Let the children think a little while. One may get it. The words that take away that kind of deep-down thirst are these: “I forgive you.” When you hear those words, it’s such a good feeling you might even want to say, “Aaaaaaaah.”

That’s the way it is when we sin—do wrong things we know we shouldn’t do, or we don’t do the things we know we should. We begin to feel thirsty inside. Our conscience begins to bother us the way a dry throat does. Our conscience tells us that we’ve sinned against God. There’s only one person who can give us what we need. That one special person is Jesus. He died on the cross to take away our sins. Because Jesus died and rose again, God forgives us. God sends pastors to tell people that Good News. God forgives you because of Jesus. When the pastor says that, you really are forgiven. Why, that’s like a drink of good, cool water for the thirsty heart! When you believe what the pastor says, you can say, “Aaaaaaah. Thank you, Jesus. That is so refreshing!” You are not thirsty anymore. Your conscience stops bothering you. You are forgiven.
Lent 4, March 30, 2014

Blindfolded No More

Text: Isaiah 42:14–21

Visuals: blindfold

Summary: God enables us to see our sins and see that Jesus has forgiven and saved us from them.

Rev. Ronald W. Mueller, pastor

Salem Lutheran Church, Barron, Wisconsin

Hi, kids! I need a volunteer this morning. Pick a child who wouldn’t mind being blindfolded. Put the blindfold on the volunteer. Make sure the child can’t see anything through the blindfold. Then have the other children step away from the blindfolded child. Give the child a couple of gentle turns. Now offer these instructions: Now, I want you to do a couple of things while you can’t see. First, walk back to your pew. Stop the child before she or he stumbles into something. That seemed hard to do. Maybe if you ran to the back of the church. Do you think going faster would help you to get where you want to go? No, that wouldn’t help at all! Running would only make things worse.

What’s the real problem? Let children answer. Take the blindfold off and have all the children join back together, seated. Why is seeing so important? There are many possible answers: to know what you’re doing, to know where you’re going, to help somebody, to do your work.

The Bible says that seeing is really important. In fact, Jesus healed many people and gave them back the precious gift of sight. Their eyes worked the way God wanted them to work. We heard about that in today’s Gospel, where Jesus gave a blind man his sight.

As you listened to John in that Gospel, tell us what happened to the healed man. Maybe you heard something else. There’s more to “seeing” than using two good eyes. The Bible also talks about seeing in another way. The Bible calls our sins darkness. In this darkness, we can’t see, so we stumble and trip and fall and stray away from God. We get so lost we can’t find our way back. That’s like walking around blindfolded, blindfolded by sin.

But through God’s Word, the Holy Spirit lets us see a lot of things we couldn’t see before. We can see where we’ve wandered off God’s path for us. We can see where we’ve stumbled from this sin or fallen over that sin. We can see how far from God we’ve strayed. But we can also see in God’s Word how Jesus came down from heaven, as we looked in the manger last Christmas. We can see Jesus suffer and die for our sins on the cross. We see him tell us through the pastor that our sins are all forgiven in Jesus. We can see the pastor make the sign of the cross over us. We see him raise his arms to bless us in the name of Jesus. We can see from God’s Word how Jesus wants us to follow him and to help others see Jesus as their Savior too. There is a lot to see in the Bible!

Lent 5, April 6, 2014

God’s Breath

Text: Romans 8:1–11

Visuals: handheld mirror

Summary: God takes us from death to life by breathing his Spirit into us.

Lacy G. Marsh, professional figure skater and founder of Ice4Christ, Stevensville, Montana

Good morning, boys and girls. Look what I’ve brought! Show children handheld mirror. Have any of you ever done this? Breathe onto the mirror to create condensation. It’s kind of fun to make the mirror all foggy and draw something on it, huh? Draw a smiley face with finger on mirror.

Today, we’re going to talk about how God uses his breath. It isn’t to draw on a mirror like I’ve just done, but it’s something much more wonderful. You see, God uses his breath to create life! In the readings today, we heard how our sins made us just like dead people—with no life in us! In fact, in one reading, God said his people were like dry bones, and we couldn’t do anything about it! It was impossible for us to make ourselves alive again.

But do you think it was impossible for God to make us alive again somehow? Receive responses. You’re right. God had a great plan involving his Son. Remember what his Son, Jesus, did? Receive responses. That’s right! Jesus went to the cross and paid for all those bad things we’d done. And now, we have a way to be free from sin and eternal death. In Baptism, God brings that to each of us. There he breathes into us his Spirit, and we come alive! You know how we have to breathe (take deep breath) to be alive, right? God promises to “give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:11).

Now, God is living inside each of us! Wow! Think about that for a second. God isn’t just up in heaven or here in the church. He’s right there inside you (point to children’s chests) and me (point to your chest and take another deep breath into your lungs). Because his Spirit is inside us, he gives us a brand new life that never ends. It takes us right into heaven, where we’ll see the one who breathed his Spirit into us and saved us.

Wouldn’t it have been sad if God hadn’t breathed into us? We would still be like those dry, old bones we talked about earlier. But, boys and girls, God did breathe into you, and you are alive for him now! So, the next time you breathe onto a mirror or the car window and draw a smiley face, remember that God himself has breathed into you and now you are truly alive!

Let’s pray: O dear Father . . . your breath and Spirit . . . have made us alive! . . . Help us always . . . to remember that . . . and thank you for it. . . . Amen. . . .

Palm Sunday: Sunday of the Passion, April 13, 2014

Bad Attitude

Text: Philippians 2:5–11

Visuals: dry erase board with marker or paper and pen

Summary: Jesus had every earthly reason to have a bad attitude, yet he served us willingly.

Lacy G. Marsh, professional figure skater and founder of Ice4Christ, Stevensville, Montana

Hello, everyone! I’m going to draw a face of a person (pull out piece of paper or dry erase board) and you can tell me what this person is feeling. Okay? Draw circle for a head; add eyes, nose, frowning mouth, and scowling eyebrows. What do you think? Pretty happy guy, right? No! This is the face of someone who’s angry or upset. Could we say this guy has a “bad attitude”?

Has your mom or dad ever said to you, “You have a bad attitude”? What can cause those bad attitudes? Receive responses. How about when your little brother hits you? Or when your friends leave you all alone on the playground? Or when your mom asks you to make your bed? Receive responses.

In our readings today we heard about Jesus’ attitude. There were a lot of reasons why Jesus could have had a really bad attitude if he chose to. You see, his best friends left him alone during a really scary time. Peter was falling asleep as Jesus was praying and broke his promise to stay with Jesus. Other people came and captured Jesus. Some of them spit on Jesus’ face and slapped him. Some called him names. I think if I had had that kind of day, I’d have had a very bad attitude. I would have been mad and upset and had a face like this (show the dry erase board again).

Jesus could have said, “Enough! I’m God! Who do these people think they are, treating me like this?! My friends leave me. The people I love spit on me. I’m not doing this anymore!”

But instead, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them.”

St. Paul in our Epistle from Philippians says that Jesus had the attitude of a servant. Why do you think Jesus had such a different attitude? Receive responses. That’s right—because he loved us a lot! And because he loved his Father so much that he wanted to obey him and die on the cross so we could be saved forever.

God says that we should have the same attitude as Jesus. That’s not always easy, is it? But the good news is we can get some incredible help! We have Jesus inside of us, and he can fill us with his own servant attitude. Should we ask him to help us today?

Let’s pray: Dearest Servant Jesus . . . thank you for serving us. . . . Please fill us . . . with your attitude of love . . . and obedience. . . . Amen. . . .

Maundy Thursday, April 17, 2014

Signed in Blood

Text: Hebrews 9:11–22

Visuals: a straight pin, sheet of paper on which is printed “A New Covenant: I forgive you all your sins!”

Summary: God’s new covenant to forgive our sins is signed in Jesus’ blood.

Rev. Carl C. Fickenscher II, PhD, professor

Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Ever heard the expression “signed in blood”? It’s kind of a weird saying. You might hear it in pirate movies or places like that. Sometimes when people promise to do something for someone, they write it down on a piece of paper and then, to show they really mean it, they sign the paper and write their names on the bottom. Well, I suppose if people wanted to show they really, really mean it, they could write it down and then—what? They could prick their fingers with a pin or something else sharp and let their blood drip down on the paper to sign their names. Receive reactions. Aaaah, people wouldn’t really do that, right?

Except for one promise somebody made once. What does this say? Hold up paper and let a child read it. A covenant is a special promise. Who made this promise to us—a new covenant, a new promise, that he would forgive all your sins? Exactly! Jesus made that new covenant with us. When did he do that? Receive responses.

The night before Jesus died on the cross, he gathered with his disciples in an upstairs room and ate his last supper with them. And after supper, he took bread and gave it to them and said, “Take and eat. This is my body.” Then he took a cup of wine and said, “Take and drink. This is my blood of the covenant which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” That was the night we’re celebrating here in church this evening. We call it Maundy Thursday. Say that with me, okay? Maundy Thursday.

When Jesus gave the disciples that bread and wine, his body and blood, he was making a promise, a covenant, with them and with us that he would forgive all our sins. Do you think Jesus meant that? Really meant that? Really, really meant that? You bet he did! You know how we know Jesus really, really meant he was going to forgive all our sins? Take out and hold up the pin. He signed the new covenant in blood. Act as if you might prick your finger and sign in blood. Pause for reactions.

I’m not really going to do that. I’m not going to sign this in blood. But Jesus really did. How? That’s right. The next day after Maundy Thursday, the day we’ll celebrate tomorrow called Good Friday, Jesus signed the new covenant in blood. Not with a few drops like a prick with a pin, but with all his blood, the blood that flowed out when nails put him on a cross and a spear pierced his side.

That’s how much Jesus really, really means to forgive our sins. All forgiven! And that means all for heaven.

Good Friday, April 18, 2014

Crucified Every Day

Text: John 19:17–30

Visuals: crucifix (not an empty cross—it is essential for this message to have the corpus on the cross)

Summary: Jesus’ “It is finished!” continues to be “now” to God and for us every day.

Rev. Carl C. Fickenscher II, PhD, professor

Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana

More solemnly than your usual greeting to the children: Good evening, kids. Did you know that what we’re talking about today is a day like no . . . other . . . day . . . in . . . history? There’ve been at least a couple millions of days in the history of this old world, thousands of years. But this day we call Good Friday was like no . . . other . . . day . . . in . . . history. No other day was like this one.

You all know what happened on this day, Good Friday, two thousand years ago, don’t you? Right. Jesus died on the cross. That had never happened before, and it’ll never happen again. And that day, Jesus dying on the cross, has changed history forever. Just before Jesus died, he said, “It is finished.” That one day. No other day. It is finished.

Hold up crucifix. So, then, why do we have this up here in church every day? And why do you maybe have one like this hanging up in your house every day? And why do we talk about Jesus dying on the cross every single day we get together in church—not just on Good Friday, but yesterday and the day after tomorrow and every single day we come to church? Why? Receive responses.

Jesus isn’t hanging on the cross anymore, is he? No, that was only for that one day in history. And day after tomorrow, we’re going to celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, Easter. Jesus is alive. But we still talk about Jesus on the cross every day, and we still have a crucifix every day that shows Jesus on the cross because that’s the way God sees us every day. And that’s really important.

See, we sin, do what God doesn’t want us to do, when? Just every now and then? No, every day. We sin every day. Not just one day in history. Not just some days in history. Every day. We sin every day. And that means we need God to forgive us for our sins every day. Not just some days. Every day. We need God’s forgiveness every day.

That’s why Jesus died on the cross, to forgive our sins. And every time we sin, we need Jesus’ cross. But that’s exactly how God looks at us. Every time we sin—every day—God sees Jesus on the cross paying for that sin. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “It is finished.” That one day in history, Jesus paid for all our sins, every single day’s worth, so that every time we sin—every day—Jesus on the cross forgives us. I’m glad Jesus died on the cross one day, and I’m glad he rose. But I’m glad when God looks at me he sees Jesus on the cross every day!

Easter Day: The Resurrection of Our Lord, April 20, 2014

An Earthshaking


Text: Matthew 28:1–10

Visuals: frying pan filled with gravel, couple of small green houses and red hotels from a Monopoly game

Summary: When Jesus announced his resurrection, he gave a special sign that big news was about to be given.

Rev. Karl A. Weber, DMin, pastor

St. John’s Lutheran Church, Ottertail, Minnesota, and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Richville, Minnesota

This morning we celebrate the joyous news of Jesus rising from the grave. We wouldn’t want to miss hearing that, would we? When people are talking, how might a teacher in school get our attention so we don’t miss something? Ring a bell, clap, whistle. How did God get the attention of the two women who went to the sealed tomb? Right! An earthquake! Lift up the pan; place the houses and hotels on the gravel.

Okay, children, how might we pretend that an earthquake is going to hit our community here in (name your town)? Receive suggestions. If we shake the tray, what will happen to these houses and hotels? Receive responses. Well, let’s see. Shake the pan until the houses and hotels are tipped over or partially buried.

You see, when God shakes the earth, he gets our attention. Have any of you ever experienced an earthquake? It certainly gets our notice—maybe even scares us! This earthquake that occurred at the empty tomb brought fear to the unbelievers as well as to the two women. It made them pay attention to what was going to happen next. What was about to happen next? Receive responses.

An angel from heaven was going to speak to them and announce the joyful news that Jesus had risen and was no longer in the tomb. That, my friends, is joyful news, isn’t it? Every time something happens in nature, such as an earthquake, drought, or hurricane, Jesus wants us to repent, to turn to him and confess our sins. Listen to the words of the angel: Jesus is risen for our justification; Jesus has risen, and he has forgiven us all our sins!

When earthquakes occur, all we build can be knocked over. All we’ve done will be knocked down on Judgment Day. What is built on Jesus stands and lasts for eternity.

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

No merit of my own I claim

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand. (LSB 575:1)

Easter 2, April 27, 2014

Praise . . . His Works!

Text: 1 Peter 1:3–9

Visuals: swim goggles, swim cap, swimming paddles or fins, perhaps even a snorkel, picture of Michael Phelps

Summary: We praise God when we talk about what he has done.

Rev. Karl A. Weber, DMin, pastor

St. John’s Lutheran Church, Ottertail, Minnesota, and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Richville, Minnesota

Lifting up the objects mentioned above: I have a couple of things here for you to see. Who would use these? A baseball player or maybe a football player? No, you’re right. A swimmer would use these things! Stop and think: who would you say is the world’s most famous swimmer these days? Receive responses. I think you’re right. I think it’s probably Michael Phelps. Show picture. Does anyone remember the numbers of medals he earned in his Olympic career? Twenty-two medals, and eighteen were gold! Michael was the star of the last Olympics, which was his third and final Olympics.

Now, if I wanted to praise Michael Phelps, would I talk about myself? Heavens, no! It would be rude to talk about myself if I wanted to talk about Michael. When we want to praise other people, we talk about them—and especially the things they’ve done. Depending on the age of the children, some examples might be that Phelps won his first gold medal in 2004 in the Athens Olympics, that he swam eight events in the 2008 Beijing Games and won eight gold medals, and that over the course of his swimming career, he set thirty-nine different records at various times. When I tell what Michael Phelps has done, there’s no confusing him for any other swimmer or anyone else.

If I wanted to praise Jesus, would I talk about myself? No, it would be rude to talk about myself if I wanted to talk about Jesus! To praise Jesus, I’d talk about Jesus—and especially what Jesus has done.

Do you know that Jesus did things more valuable than winning a bunch of medals? Here’s what Jesus did. He took our sins on himself and went to the cross, where he suffered for them. Jesus won for you the forgiveness of all your sins: mercy, eternal life, and salvation. When Jesus was shedding his blood for you, he won his victory. He bought you so that you belong to God instead of to the devil, so that even though you’ll die, you’ll rise to life again. Even though you sin, you’re forgiven. All that is what Jesus has done for you!

From which book of the Bible did I say our message would come? That’s right, our second reading from 1 Peter. Peter says that Jesus is praised when we talk about all these things: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Pet 1:3). “Blessed be.” That means God is being blessed, praised. We praised him just now—by saying what he’s done for us!
Easter 3, May 4, 2014

Piece of a Picture

Text: Luke 24:13–35

Visuals: 1 small puzzle piece and puzzle box with the finished picture on the front

Summary: God can use circumstances that look “bad” to bring us the “best.”

Lacy G. Marsh, professional figure skater and founder of Ice4Christ, Stevensville, Montana

Hello! Can any of you tell me what this is? Show single puzzle piece—preferably a very small one. Right, it’s a puzzle piece. But can you tell me what the picture is? No? Why not? Receive responses. What do you mean it’s too small to tell what the whole picture is? Yes, it’s only part of the picture, isn’t it?

Today, we heard about two disciples who could only see part of a picture too. They were walking down a road and talking about how, just a few days before, Jesus had been crucified. All of a sudden, a man came up and started walking with them. The man asked what they were talking about. They explained how their friend and leader, Jesus, had been killed. Then they said, “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21).

It seemed that these two disciples didn’t have anything left to hope for. They thought Jesus was going to be the one to save them. But then lots of bad things happened. They watched Jesus being beaten and then nailed to a cross. And when Jesus died, it seemed like all the bad things had won. That’s all these disciples could see.

But wait! What these disciples didn’t see was . . . that the man who was walking with them was Jesus! He had risen from the grave and was alive again. Jesus explained to them that all those bad things had to happen so that God could bring the best thing! And that best thing was that Jesus had really won over death and now the disciples were saved from their sins. That was the big picture.

Remember this puzzle piece? It’s just a small part of a big picture, isn’t it? You can’t tell what the whole image is if I just show you this piece. But if I show you this (pull out puzzle box’s top), then you can see the big picture!

Sometimes, God uses things that look like bad things—like Jesus dying—to bring us the best things. The two disciples learned that, didn’t they? They could only see part of the picture—all the bad stuff. But God can always see the beautiful big picture. He has the box top. And when things happen that seem very bad, we can trust that our God is bringing us something good out of it.

Let’s pray: Dearest Jesus . . . help us to remember . . . that with you . . . there is always hope . . . for you are always bringing us your best. . . . Amen. . . .
Easter 4: Good Shepherd Sunday, May 11, 2014

Jesus Is Our

Good Shepherd

Text: John 10:1–10

Visuals: none

Summary: Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.”

Rev. George F. Borghardt III, pastor

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, McHenry, Illinois

Say it with me: “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.” What’s a shepherd? What do they do? Receive responses. Right. Shepherds watch sheep. They tend to them. They look after them. They protect them.

Shepherds in the ancient world weren’t always good shepherds. There were a lot of bad shepherds. Bad shepherds wouldn’t look after their sheep. They wouldn’t protect them. When the wolves or thieves would come, the bad shepherds would turn and run away.

Say this with me again: “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus isn’t like those bad shepherds, is he? He’s the Good Shepherd. He lays down his life for his sheep. He doesn’t run from wolves. He doesn’t hide from thieves. In fact, he protects the sheep; he saves them, by dying.

Sheep like to stray. They do that. They wander away. They go places they shouldn’t go. They do things they shouldn’t do.

You are Jesus’ sheep. That means you often stray, go away from where God wants you to go. You sin. But Jesus suffered and died for you. He has brought you back from sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death (see Luther’s explanation of the Second Article).

Say it with me again: “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus comes and gets you. He goes and finds you. He puts you up on his shoulder and carries you to good pasture. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep. He loves his sheep. He speaks to them in his Word. They hear his voice.

You hear his voice. You know him. You only follow him, right? Just Jesus and no one else. And just so we’re sure . . . (to various children) you are his sheep. You are his sheep. You are his sheep. Those people out there are his sheep. He calls each of you by name. He did that in Holy Baptism. He marks you as his own. Says, “Mine . . . mine . . . mine . . . mine.” You are his sheep. He is your Shepherd. He’s the Good Shepherd. He doesn’t flee when wolves or thieves come. He doesn’t hide. He gives his life for you on the cross. Okay, last time. Say it with me: “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.”

Easter 5, May 18, 2014

“Milk—It Does the Body Good!”

Text: 1 Peter 2:2–10

Visuals: milk carton or picture of milk (optional)

Summary: Like newborn babes, we crave the pure, true milk of the Word.

Rev. George F. Borghardt III, pastor

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, McHenry, Illinois

Milk. Show milk carton or picture of milk. When I was growing up, they used to have a commercial on TV, a whole ad campaign, for milk. They’d say on the commercials, “Milk—it does the body good.”

You see, milk is important. It’s got protein and calcium and lots of vitamins that your body needs. It’s important for growing up. Drink your milk.

Maybe sometimes you have to be reminded to drink your milk, but babies don’t. Babies live from milk. They can’t get enough of it. They crave it. They need it. They cry for it.

St. Peter today in our second Bible reading says that just like newborn babies crave milk, you and I crave the true, solid, pure Word of the Gospel. We live from the Word of forgiveness that Jesus delivers to us.

You see, Jesus lived for us. Everything he did, he did to save us. He was born for us. He lived his life for us. He suffered for all the things we do and don’t do. He died on the cross for us. After three days, on Easter morning, what did he do? Yes, he rose for us!

Jesus takes what he did for you on the cross and makes it yours; he delivers it to you in the Word. We live on his Word like a baby lives on milk. We need it. It keeps us going and growing. It gives us life. Without it, we won’t live long at all.

We’d all do well to say that—adults too! “Like babies crave milk, we crave the Word!” Say it with me: “Like babies crave milk, we crave the Word!”

The thing is we don’t think we need the Word like that. We think we can live on our own without church, without Sunday School, without Bible class. Like we know about God and his love for us apart from God’s Word.

That’s why St. Peter today reminds us: milk is good. Good for babies. Good for big kids like us.

The same way that babies need milk, we need . . . what? We need the Word! The Word delivers Jesus’ forgiveness to us. It gives us life.

So, again, to make sure we remember this: Like babies need milk, we need what? The Word. Lots of it! It does a body good!

Easter 6, May 25, 2014

Still Preach Jesus

Text: Acts 17:16–31

Visuals: pulpit, lectern, altar, font

Summary: Preaching Jesus and his resurrection may seem like foolishness, but it is through this preaching that Jesus will raise us from the dead.

Rev. Jeffrey D. Springer, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

What just happened? We’ve been saying this to each other all Easter season. Well, let me tell you. I proclaimed to you this wonderful truth, “Christ is risen!” And you said it right back to me, “He is risen indeed!” Then we all say in joy, “Alleluia!” Jesus and his resurrection were just proclaimed, and through this proclamation God created new hearts in us to trust that he will raise you and me from the dead to live with him forever. That is his promise.

Yet some people have trouble with this promise. Which book of the Bible did I say our message would come from today? That’s right. Acts. In our first reading this morning from Acts, we heard about people in a famous city—Athens, in Greece—who didn’t believe the word of Jesus rising from the dead and the promise of us also rising. St. Paul told them about Jesus rising, but it didn’t make sense to them, like it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people today.

Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you. You may not feel the same joy as you did Easter morning. Does that make this message any less true? No! Paul encountered those people in Athens who couldn’t make sense of what he was saying. Because of their confusion, they missed out on the real joy of the message that Jesus rose from the dead and that their sins and your sins are forgiven!

So don’t be confused. This saying means that someday after you die, or even before if Jesus returns, your bodies will be raised and changed into sinless bodies so that you may live forever with Jesus. In the meantime, Jesus speaks to you and assures you with his Word.

Where are you assured by his Word? Can you tell me where Jesus and his resurrection are proclaimed or preached? Can you point at the places? Receive responses. Yes, the pulpit. Yes, the lectern, where the Word is read. Yes, the font, where you’re put to death and raised with Christ. And yes, the altar, where the living Jesus offers his life in his flesh and blood. In these places, Jesus tells us that he’s alive and promises that he’ll raise us again someday too.

But Jesus is also proclaimed outside the church—in your homes and wherever you may be when you tell others that Christ is risen and therefore so you will also rise! What a joy-filled message and promise to share!
The Ascension of Our Lord, May 29, 2014

Ascended Jesus

Text: Luke 24:44–53

Visuals: the book or movie cover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Summary: As with the character Edmund, your sin needed to be paid for, but Jesus redeemed you by dying, being raised from the dead, and now ascending into heaven to be crowned, so that he has raised mankind to reign with him.

Rev. Jeffrey D. Springer, Fort Wayne, Indiana

How many of you are familiar with the book or movie The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, writ­ten by C. S. Lewis? Let me refresh your memories. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy find themselves in a strange land, where it is always winter and where animals and other strange creatures can talk.

The land, Narnia, is ruled by an evil white witch, but the creatures are aware of a promise that the spring will return again with the return of Aslan, a lion who is the creator and rightful lord of Narnia. The children are referred to in Narnia as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. Edmund, out of jealousy, betrays his brother and sisters to the evil white witch. However, they are kept safe as they seek out Aslan. Aslan, aware that Edmund must be redeemed, delivers himself over to the white witch, who slays him. Edmund, a son of Adam, is redeemed through the sacrifice of Aslan.

But the story isn’t over. Aslan, due to his righteousness, is raised up again, not dead anymore, which shows that he’s the rightful lord of Narnia after all. He then pursues and defeats the evil white witch. Do you remember the result? Receive responses. He places the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve—Peter, Susan, Lucy, and even Edmund—on the throne in Narnia. In others words, they rule with him.

This is what Christ, the King of kings, does. All of us, like Edmund, have sinned and betrayed God’s Word. We need to be redeemed, and this is what Jesus did on the cross. This forgiveness is then applied to us in Baptism, and we are made a part of Christ’s Body, the Church. He is the Head, and whatever the Head receives, so does the Body.

Today, Ascension Day, is the celebration of Jesus going back up to heaven after he rose from the grave. (Ascension means going up.) Ascension is when the Lord Jesus is crowned King. He rules all the kingdoms of earth with mercy and grace, and with his power he’s with us here every single day, as he promises to be. We also look forward to the day when Jesus will come back and carry us to heaven. There, we’ll sit on thrones to reign with him!
Easter 7, June 1, 2014

Give Glory to God!

Text: 1 Peter 4:12–19; 5:6–11

Visuals: none

Summary: When you suffer for Jesus’ sake, we can give glory to God because he suffered for us.

Carol A. Geisler, PhD, staff assistant, LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations;

member of King of Kings Lutheran Church, Chesterfield, Missouri

Has anyone ever laughed at you or made fun of you? Receive responses. Yes, we’ve probably all had people make fun of us, haven’t we? When people laugh at us or try to hurt us with their words, it hurts us. It’s not a hurt like having a skinned knee, but it’s still painful! We don’t like it, and sometimes it’s hard to keep being kind to people who want to hurt us with words.

On the cross, Jesus was hurt by the nails and the crown of thorns, but he was hurt in other ways too. His enemies made fun of him. They laughed at him and said he should come down from the cross. Jesus didn’t do anything wrong. He did not deserve to be hurt or to have people laugh at him. Jesus did not say anything bad to his enemies. He stayed on the cross—he died on the cross—for the people who laughed at him and for you and me. On the third day, he rose from the dead. Because he died on the cross and rose from the dead, our sins are forgiven, and we have eternal life!

Some people might make fun of you, even if you haven’t done anything wrong. They might tease you because they think it’s silly to believe in Jesus. They might make fun of you because you go to church on Sunday. Someone might laugh at you or call you names if you decide not to hurt other people. Other students might tease you if you’re friendly toward a student in school who no one else likes. You do those things—being kind to others or going to church—because you love Jesus, and the Holy Spirit lives in you. Because you love Jesus, you want to obey God and be kind to others.

God’s Word tells you what to do if someone teases you for believing in Jesus. It doesn’t tell you to be angry or to hurt others. It doesn’t tell you to say unkind words. God’s Word tells you that Jesus died on the cross for you and for the people who hurt him. He rose from the dead. His love is stronger than any hurtful words or actions. Jesus’ love and forgiveness make you strong. And God tells us in his Word, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore . . . you” (1 Pet 5:10). So you can be kind to hurtful people and pray for them. If you suffer hurt because of faith in Jesus, don’t be ashamed or afraid. Trust God to help you and give him glory!

Close with prayer.
The Day of Pentecost, June 8, 2014

Many Languages, One Story

Text: Acts 2:1–21

Visuals: children’s building blocks, including blocks to spell J-E-S-U-S (or use notes or stickers to create those letters on blocks)

Summary: Through the Holy Spirit’s power, people hear the story of Jesus in many languages.

Carol A. Geisler, PhD, staff assistant, LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations;

member of King of Kings Lutheran Church, Chesterfield, Missouri

Long ago, the people of earth spoke only one language. Instead of trusting God and giving him glory, they decided to make themselves famous. They started to build a great city and a tower tall enough to reach high into the sky! Use the blocks to build a tower. To punish their pride, God confused their language so they spoke many languages. They could no longer understand one another and were scattered to live in many places around the world. Take down the block tower.

Many centuries later, it was time for God to send his Son to be our Savior. Jesus came and lived on earth and died on the cross and rose from the dead. When it was time for him to return to heaven to rule as our King, Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples. They heard a sound like a great wind and saw flames of fire rest on their heads. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciples began to speak in other languages. Jews from all around the world had come to Jerusalem for the Pentecost festival. They heard the sound of the wind and came to see what was happening. They were surprised to hear the disciples talking in different languages, languages they could understand! And even though the disciples were speaking in many different languages, they were all telling the same story! They were telling the story of Jesus! People from all around the world heard the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. They believed in Jesus. They went back to their own countries to tell their families and friends about Jesus.

Long ago, God punished people for their sinful pride by confusing their languages. Now, on Pentecost, people who spoke many languages heard one story of forgiveness in Jesus! No one can build a tower to reach up to God. God reached down to us with a Savior. Arrange the blocks in a tower to spell the name J-E-S-U-S. People all around the world who believe in Jesus speak many languages, but we all know one great story. Jesus loves you. He died and rose for you! That’s Good News in any language!

Close with prayer.

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