come and see

John 1:46 “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked.“Come and see,” answered Philip.


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Jonah

We just had to have a prop for the story of Jonah, so invited this whale to join us. And “thank you” to Sally for her placard – a timely reminder that God cares for all his creation.
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Telling the Story
Now although the Book of Jonah is only 4 chapters, it is still a bit long to read out in one go at a service, so we paraphrased it in a poem:

When God looked down on Nineveh town
He saw their wicked ways and He said, with a frown,
“They really must repent – I’ll send them a warning.
Jonah, my prophet, you can leave in the morning.”
Well Jonah made haste, and he left the next day,
Moving very fast – but he went the other way!
Visiting Nineveh wasn’t on his wish-list,
so he boarded a boat and headed for Tarshish.

A storm came up and the winds grew stronger –
the sailors said the boat wouldn’t last much longer.
Why did this happen – whose fault could it be?
Jonah took the blame and said “throw me in the sea.”
They threw him in the water and again set sail
But Jonah didn’t drown – he was swallowed by a whale!
Three days and nights he was in the whale’s belly,
Then was vomited out – boy! he was smelly!

This time Jonah headed in the right direction,
Taking to the Ninevites God’s message of correction
“Forty days is all you’ve got, then Nineveh is finished”
The people said “we’ll change our ways – we don’t want to perish”
The King himself heard Jonah’s words and made a proclamation
“Dress in sackcloth; eat no food; maybe that will spare this nation.
If we turn away from wicked ways God may be forgiving.”
And God, whose mercy knows no bounds, let them go on living.
(by Gail Weaver)

The Craft
IMG_1183We made this clothes peg fishes craft, and if you look closely you will see that Jonah is hiding just inside the fish’s belly. It is really simple – clothes pegs, pictures of big fish/whales, and small pictures of Jonah. Cut all the way through the fish’s body; glue the two halves to the peg – one to the top half, one to the bottom; glue Jonah on the back of the peg, but where he will be seen when the mouth is opened.

 

 

The Message
One of the books in the Old Testament part of the Bible is Jonah. The more I looked into the story of Jonah the more I giggled. He was a prophet – someone given the words of God to speak, but he didn’t want to. The hero, Jonah doesn’t want to obey God, and when he finally does he gets upset that God saved the people of Nineveh. How backwards is that! A whole book in the Bible talks about a man of God who doesn’t want to do what God has told him to – and even does the complete opposite. So I thought to myself, why would there be a whole book dedicated to someone who got stroppy with God?

God says go, Jonah says no, and heads in the opposite direction. Every step he took was a step further away from Nineveh. In the Bible it says Jonah ran away from God. Can we ever hide from our all-seeing all-knowing God? He see it all: the good, and the bad. He sees it all.

While still on the run Jonah was on a ship when a raging storm comes up, and Jonah is fast asleep. Everyone else is afraid and they wake Jonah up. He tells them in v12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea, and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” The other sailors ask God for his forgiveness before throwing Jonah overboard to what they thought would be his death, but then the raging sea grew calm. Jonah must have thought this would be end of his life too, and then he couldn’t go to Nineveh. The perfect excuse not to do God’s calling – die!

But God really wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh, and so he sends another form of transport to get him there- a whale, which swallows him whole. God can even see Jonah in the stomach of a whale that was swimming in the sea. That truly is an all-seeing God with X-ray vision. We learn there is nowhere we can hide from God. In that smelly darkness, Jonah finally prays to God saying sorry for running away, and he will go and do what he was asked to. And so it says “and the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Yuk, Yuk, Yuk. The Bible has some really amazing stories in it doesn’t it.

So Jonah goes to Nineveh telling the people “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” And then Jonah went away to watch would happen to the city. This was no great sermon, just 8 words. But the spirit of God is in those words. And all the people, including the king, turn from the wrong they were doing – just as God hoped they would. Jonah should be happy with such great results, but he isn’t. He didn’t want the people of Nineveh to be saved and despite his best efforts to do it badly, the people heard God in those words. God wanted to save them, even if Jonah didn’t want him to. God’s grace goes out to everyone, not just the ones we want it to.
Do we, like Jonah, want to keep God’s love from those we don’t like?
Do we hope for our enemies to get what’s coming to them?
For those who we don’t like and are doing well, do we hope that they might fail and lose it all?
Do we judge others harshly when we should be forgiving them?

As Jesus said in Matthew “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Give them love not hate.

Sometimes we don’t exactly rush out to answer God’s call either. Sometimes because we don’t believe it, sometimes because we don’t recognise it and, as in case of Jonah, sometimes because we do.

We have all been called by God. The call may be moving in a new direction, it may be doing something new or stop doing something old. Your journey with God is as unique as you are. And I truly believe that whatever God has called you to, God will go with you every step of your new journey. It’s your choice — you can do it God’s way or Jonah’s way.
(Vanessa)


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Guidance from the Holy Spirit – a service for Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2: 1-4)

The Message for our Pentecost service this year was a very personal one. Vanessa has had some health issues recently and has at times struggled with accepting these challenges from a faith perspective. Whilst preparing for the service we looked at aspects of the Holy Spirit, and Vanessa brought us this powerful message of faith and trust. Members of the congregation took the various “parts” of the Holy Spirit and read the Bible verses.

Pentecost
Recently I have had to face I am not physically perfect and I can’t do anything about it. The term birth defect was used and it shocked me. I have an extra part in my heart which ends up short circuiting and makes my heart beat a bit quick, sometimes way too fast. A month ago I went to hospital again to get it slowed down, but what had worked in the past didn’t work this time. They finally got it sorted, but it wasn’t nice and it changed how I felt about things.

COUNSELOR:
Please help me I need a counselor to guide and help me. I don’t know what is happening to me. I am not afraid of dying because I know I will go to heaven and be with God – that’s something to look forward to really. But I don’t want to go now, not just yet. Will it be OK?
Don’t be afraid, for the Lord will go before you and will be with you. He will never leave you.(Deuteronomy 31:8)
Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

PRAYER PARTNER/INTERCESSOR:
Please help me I don’t know how to put this into words. I have questions I don’t know how to ask. I have feelings I don’t know how to express. How can I pray to God when I don’t know what to say?
God’s Spirit is right alongside you helping. If you don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does your praying for you, making prayers out of your wordless sighs and your aching groans. He knows you far better than you know yourself, and keeps you present before God. (Romans 8:26-27)

STRENGTH:
But life is always more just one thing. There are other things going on in life besides my heart. Sometimes I want to go to bed, pull the covers over my head and pretend this isn’t happening or get in the car and drive until it all goes away.
You have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives you. (Philippians 4:13)
God is faithful to His Word and to His compassionate nature, and He can be trusted not to test you beyond your ability and strength, not to give you more than you can handle. He will provide you the way to handle this, to endure this patiently. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

PEACE:
OK I’ll be honest – Sometimes I get angry and frustrated. I want to be well; I am tired of being tired. Why did I have to have this and why now? And sometimes I start to worry about what might happen. It just goes round and round getting worse and worse especially when I wake in the middle of the night.
Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Talk to him, and give thanks to him. Then God’s peace will watch over your heart and your mind. He will do this because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood. (Philipians 4:7)

COMFORTER:
I forgot to mention I get scared. There are days when I have tears ready to fall, days when I cry. Sometimes I know why I cry, others I don’t. I get afraid.
God did not give you a spirit of fear, but one of power and of love and of calm. (2 Timothy 1:7)

GOD WITH ME:
And then I go quiet inside and feel God’s presence. Whatever this is about, or how it will turn out, it is in God’s hands, I am in God’s hands. He is a God of love
Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10)

At Easter Jesus died on the cross, and they thought he had gone. But he rose from the dead, the greatest sacrifice on our behalf, so that we could all have a personal relationship with God. Jesus was not gone.
Jesus stayed for another 40 days. And then the last thing he said, as told in Acts 1, was to wait for the promised gift of God. He then rose in the sky to be with God in heaven. This time he was gone.

The promised gift was the Holy Spirit. We heard in the reading about its arrival: all wind and fire. I have been a Christian for many years, and had a relationship with Jesus but I didn’t know the Holy Spirit – to be honest I wasn’t sure about the wind and fire. However, over the last year I have intentionally and purposefully been asking the Spirit of God into my daily life.

The main thing it has done has changed the things I knew in my head into things I have experienced in my heart. The Holy Spirit is a counselor to help and guide you; helps you pray when you can’t; gives you strength and power; gives you a peace beyond all understanding; comforts you. And the Holy Spirit brings the gift of God’s presence into every situation you face right here, right now every day – if you ask.
(Vanessa)

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A game for Pentecost

 
Bearing in mind that one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit is wind, we decided to get the kids blowing these lovely red plastic cups around. The twist was that each cup had a part of the verse for today on it, and they then had to put it all together on a board so that it could be read out.
 
 
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Pentecost Streamers
These streamers were really quick and easy to make. I found a pack of cheap girls bangles – 16 for $3! – to use as the base, then bought flame coloured parka nylon fabric (because it wouldn’t fray) and cut it into 1cm wide strips. Fold the strips in half, thread them through the bangles and tie them off. Everyone had fun making them, and even more fun waving them around in our last song!

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Strong Foundations – The Wise and Foolish Builders

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthews 7:24-27)
 

Our craft to illustrate the Parable of the Wise and Foolish builders was quick and simple, but still very effective:
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Now although small, the rocks do have a bit of weight to them, so ordinary cardboard will not do for the backing. I managed to beg some offcuts of picture mounting board from a local picture framer and then chose to place a thin piece of card on top of that to make it more visually appealing.

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  • First, write your message on the card.
  • Next, use something sharp – I have a small embroidery stiletto- to make four holes in the cards (do the backing and front cards together). Make sure these holes are just inside the outline of the stones.
  • The next bit is the most tricky. Using two pieces of red ribbon (ours were 20cm long, but it depends on the size of your rocks), thread the two ends of one through two opposite holes, and the other through the other two holes – do not pull tight yet! Put the stone in place underneath the ribbon; we used glue dots to make sure it stayed in place. Then turn the card over, pull the ribbon tight, and tie all the ends together.
  • You may want to add more ribbon to use as a hanger for these little plaques.

 

We found some fantastic resources from other people to use this week – here are the links. And at the end of the page you will find the prayers which we wrote for the service. www.max7.org have a great video of the story:

 
and www.missionbibleclass.org have a fun version of “The Wise Man Built his House upon the Rock”

And from www.dramatix.org.nz we used their skit “House Building 101″

Prayers:
Jesus is the rock on which we build our faith and our life. Hold on to these rocks as we pray, just as we hold on to the presence of Jesus here with us and in our daily lives.
 
When I say: Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
The response is: Hear our prayer
 
And in the pauses, you are invited to add your own prayers – aloud or in your hearts.
 
Loving God, when the foundations of our world shake and crumble, we know that we can stand firm on your promises.
 
We pray for the people of Nepal. For all who have lost family, friends, and homes, and for all who are providing aid and assistance. We of all people know that the road to recovery is not easy, and the Nepalese are only just starting on that journey. We pray for them as they rebuild their lives and communities.
 
Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
Hear our prayer
 
We pray for all those beset by the storms of ill-health. Let Your healing Spirit work in their minds and bodies, restoring them to strength and well-being.
 
Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
Hear our prayer
 
We pray for the rebuilding of the Community of Faith, both here and throughout our country and the world, and for all who work to build your Church, bringing light and hope to those whose lives are built on shifting sands. Strengthen and uphold all who minister in Christ’s name.
 
Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
Hear our prayer
 
We pray for our own homes and families. Let your love and compassion be a guiding force in our lives and our relationships with others. Make us alive to the needs of our own community, and help us to share one another’s joys and burdens.
 
Lord, in the name of Jesus, our rock and foundation
Hear our prayer
 
When the storms of life rage, Lord keep us safe in the strength of Your Word and promises.
Amen


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Gardening Tips – The Parable of the Mustard Seed

Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” (Luke 13:18-19)

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With this Parable in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to have a quiz to see whether people could match the seed to the final result. You could use any plants or foods in season, but we used an apple, a tomato, pumpkin, a bread roll (used yeast as the “seed”), and pictures of a sunflower and the Mustard tree. Make up a set of cards for each team, each card with a different seed taped to it, and see whether they are able to match the seed to the correct item. Well done to our teams who got them all correct!
 
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For something to take home we got everyone to plant some mustard & cress seeds. Sprinkle the mustard and cress seeds evenly over a double thickness of kitchen paper, damp but not wet, laid on a plate or a shallow plastic dish Make sure the paper doesn’t dry out. Now as there will really be nothing to show for this work on the day, do prepare an example at least three or four days ahead.
Of course the big advantage with this “craft” is that it can be eaten – just snip the greens off just above the paper once they reach 4cm tall.

 

The Message:
8_cell-1This is what 8 cells looks like. It is called a blastocyst and is so small you can only see it with a microscope. It is alive and could be anything. Any guesses?
Mike and I saw one once, it was Luke.
We all start out very very small, each one of us just a few cells, that became a few more, then more, then more, to become who we are today, much bigger than when we first began.
Luke needed certain things to grow into the healthy boy he is today. He has needed the right food, a safe place to live and he has also needed love and guidance.

Mustard seed
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This is a mustard seed and with the right conditions, it will grow into a large tree. It needs the right food, with the right amount of water and sunlight.

Parables are stories Jesus told that use everyday things to help us understand something spiritual. Jesus used the example of the growth of a small mustard seed into a large tree as a way to describe the kingdom of God.

When Jesus started out in his ministry, there was just him. As he walked along the shore he saw two fishermen: Peter and his brother Andrew. Jesus said to them “Come follow me” and they did. Then Jesus invited James and John, and kept adding others until there were 12 of them. Things had started to grow. Jesus and his 12 disciples travelled around, and as Jesus taught and healed people, he gained a great following. After Jesus died, it was thought that Christianity would die out as well. But Jesus, the son of God, rose from the dead, and Christianity has spread throughout the world. A small beginning of one to 12 to so many many more.

Each one of us is a part of God’s kingdom, and as we tell others about Jesus and live our lives in a way that people would want to know about Jesus, we are also growing the Kingdom of God.

Growth is not constant. Some seeds can take much longer to germinate, they might look as they are doing nothing but deep inside things are changing. This can be the same for people. Sometimes we have periods of sunshine, and at other times it can feel like it is cold and raining and it’s a bit harder to keep going. Just like a plant, we need both sunshine and rain to grow.

And we need pruning to bear more fruit. God wants us to let go of bad habits so that we can be more like him.
God has given us a free will to choose what we want to do. He wants us to want him, like he wants us. He wants us to love him, as he loves us. He wants us to know him, as he knows us. So whether you choose to grow your faith or not, is your choice. Whether you have faith and trust that God is doing the best of you in the periods of rain or pruning, when he challenges you, it’s your choice.

Like a mustard seed we need certain conditions to grow our faith. We need to be open, to love and trust God. We need to do what God asks. And as our faith grows, the kingdom of God will as well.

Vanessa


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Yes, No, Maybe – a Tale of Two Sons

Continuing our theme of Parables of Jesus, we looked at the story of the man with two sons, who asked them both to go and work in the Vineyard.

Matthew 21:28-31: Now, what do you think? There was once a man who had two sons. He went to the older one and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’‘I don’t want to,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. ‘Yes, sir,’ he answered, but he did not go. Which one of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The older one,” they answered.

IMG_0948The Craft:
For this craft you will need green paper, pens, glue, magnets, and small purple pom-poms. Cut out leaf shapes and write your chosen verse on them (make sure you do this first, as the “grapes” get in the way afterwards!). Glue on the pom-poms – 10 will give you a nice cluster shape – and then glue flat fridge magnets to the back. We wrote on them “Working in  God’s Vineyard”, but this is a really adaptable craft and can be used for many themes – for example, at the recent Community Fair where we had free craft making sessions, we did this for the Fruit of the Spirit instead.

The Message:
As a bit of background to this story let me read you from a few verses beforehand:

Matthew 21:23-27:Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Jesus had just confronted some of the highest-ranking, most powerful and influential authorities of the time, and the tension is high. He criticizes them for not recognizing that the Ministry of John the Baptizer came from heaven – that is, was authorized and given from God. And He insinuates that these religious authorities are also failing to recognize the same authority and divinely ordained ministry in Him.  He then goes on to tell the Parable of the two sons, which we have just heard.

So, is it a simple morality tale – do what you have committed to do; obey your Father; work hard? Or is it something more?

The Jewish authorities that Jesus has just confronted thought that they were doing what God had called them to do, but they got so distracted and pulled aside by nit picking adherence to the laws they had developed, that they lost sight of the true calling of God and were therefore no longer doing what He had called them to do. Worse, they were tying people up so much in made-made rules and regulations that they could not feel God’s presence in their lives for fear of offending the temple authorities who had control over their earthly fate.

We are all Children of God, so this Parable tells us that God asks all of us to work for Him. And some of us say “Yes!” with great eagerness and enthusiasm….but then the bills still need paying, there is the school run, the housework, catching up with friends, and I really need that time to relax. And so, not through malice or deliberate intent, the work of God gets sidelined for the work of me.

And some reject God’s word and call; God is nothing to do with them; they will not get pulled into all that superstition and nonsense! But God calls none-the-less. He continues to call. However far we turn away from Him, He does not turn away from us. And sometimes it is in spite of ourselves that the Light slips into our lives and everything becomes clear – and then we turn up in the vineyard and work and work for God’s purpose in this world.

If we fail to answer God’s call, it does not necessarily mean we are evil or worthless people. The religious authorities Jesus criticizes in the Gospels were not, either.

God calls us to work for him. He has called us in the past and sometimes we have done what he asked, and sometimes not. The really Good News is that He continues to call us, again and again. He does not give up on us.

What distracts us? What distracts you? Can we take some time to reflect on that.

(Gail)

The Prayers
Holy God, so many thoughts swirl in our heads. Ideas race. Worries and conflicting opinions invade our mind. Slow us down, Lord. In this moment, bring us to a sense of rest in you, to a sigh of relief, and with a deep breath we inhale your love.

Thank you God for the beautiful places we live in: Governors Bay, Lyttelton Harbour, Christchurch, and NZ. We ask that those who work at leading and taking care of these places are given the wisdom and conviction to do what is right.

We pray for those working with the rebuild of our homes and our community: including the Community Hall and our jetty, and for those working on the rebuild of our city. Please give them the insight, skills and resources to continue with this work.

We pray for the leaders of our country and those impacted by the decisions they make. We bring before you the soldiers and their families  already serving overseas and those about to depart. Give them peace and protection as they face the unknown. We pray that your love be breathed into all places of conflict.

We pray for all those who work in your church, including Russell our Vicar,  as they discern your will. For the people bringing your light to this world and its people through their ministries. We pray for individuals, waking each day and dedicating themselves to another day of faithfulness to you. Give them all a renewed sense of purpose, wisdom in their work and a new vision of your love for them.

We pray for all those who are in need of your love, your hope, your guidance and strength, your healing and your peace. We think of those we know, including ourselves, who need this right now.

Help us this week to grow in knowing  more about you, in knowing what you want us to do,  from what we should not do. Help us to be faithful and true to our word. Help us to step out and serve you in the vineyard you have placed us in.

It is in the name of Christ we pray. Amen
(Vanessa)


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Missing Pieces

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)

We are doing a series of services on Parables that Jesus told and started with the story of the Lost Coin. In our reading and research we discovered theories that this might relate to the headdress of coins that respectable Jewish women would have had at that time, and decided to use this as the basis for our craft. We played a visual game with pictures of everyday things, and asked what was missing. Yes, they were all rather obvious, but it was fun to do. Click on the title below the picture for the .pdf file with all four pictures in it.
What's Missing

What’s Missing

After the Bible reading we used this retelling of the story from the point of view of the woman, which was written by Gail.

The Story
“Let me tell you a story.
Now you all know that I am married. My husband is not wealthy, but he is a considerate man and takes good care of me and the children.

My father wasn’t wealthy either, but he provided me with a fair dowry, enabling me to have my headband of silver coins – only 10, which is the minimum for a respectable woman – but as I said, he wasn’t wealthy.

Last Thursday was a bad day. I got up at the usual time, got dressed and went to put on my veil and headdress. But there was something wrong – there were only 9 coins there – one had come loose somehow! Well I searched through my clothes chest, but couldn’t find it there. Then I looked all over the floor, but still couldn’t see it.

I’m sure you can guess that I was by now panicking. My husband is a reasonable man, but even he would have had several words to say at the loss of such a thing – not to mention how people would look at me if I went around with a 9-coin headdress!

Well, after a while (and a few tears, I must confess) I took a deep breath and decided that I had to deal with this in a methodical way.

Firstly I went through my clothes chest again – took everything out and shook it, then felt in all the corners. No luck there, so it must be on the floor somewhere. I’d only put fresh straw down a couple of days before, but never mind that – it all had to be swept up. I lit a lamp so that I could see better, then I started in the far corner and swept out each area separately, shook out all the straw by hand and then replaced it. Two hours it took me – but I found my coin! It had rolled under the table. Must have been when I was clearing up after the meal the night before.

Well, I’m sure you can guess how happy – and relieved – I was! In fact I was so pleased I called my neighbours, Anna and Naomi, in to celebrate with me. That was a time of great rejoicing.”

 

The Craft
Coin Headdress 1For our craft we made “crown” headdresses and attached 10 silver coins to each one:

  • Take two strips of card and staple them at right angles to each other at either end (see picture). If you prefer you could make the shape a circle, which would just need one long strip of card.
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  • We used self-adhesive book cover to decorate the card; leave it as a roll, then cut a thin piece of the end through all the thicknesses to make long strips, which are then wrapped around the “crown”.
  • Coin headdress
     

  • The thread for hanging the coins off can either be attached as you wrap the shiny strips around, which will make it stick in place, or tied around afterwards. The second method is less fiddly, so a bit better for younger children.
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  • We used a round punch to make coins out of silver card. If you can’t get silver card – or it is a bit too expensive – you could use the self-adhesive book cover on both sides of thin card instead, and then punch out the circles.
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  • Use a normal hole punch to make a small hole in each coin, and then hang ten from each “crown”

 

 

The Message
Isn’t it terrible to lose something – not like a rubber band, but something important, a treasure. I know what I do, you go back to the last place you remember having it …. so then why do I end up looking in the silliest places in the hope of finding it? I mean are my glasses really going to be in the freezer?

Do you know what is worse? Losing someone. I lost Luke once. It’s OK I found him!. Heart rate up, trying to stay calm wanting to panic, trying not to cry – just talking about it brings back how I felt.
I have also been lost. It’s OK I was found— similar feelings to be honest.

Jesus wanted to tell us about being lost and found, not in the way we think of, but about being lost and found to God.

The start of Luke 15 in the Amplified Bible goes like this: “Now the tax collectors and the notorious and especially wicked sinners were all coming near to Jesus to listen to Him.”

That’s right, the really naughty people sought out Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the church leaders were not happy about this, complaining that Jesus accepts, welcomes, and even eats with, these people.

So he told them a parable, which is a simple everyday story with a moral or spiritual lesson. The reading we had today was that parable.

The lesson Jesus was trying to teach to those he spoke to then and to us today, was that God and the angels rejoice and celebrate when one person who is lost is found. When one person who has been doing wrong, realises this and seeks God to do better.

Jesus thought those he was talking to just didn’t get it, so he also told them about the lost sheep – when a shepherd has 100 sheep and one is lost so the shepherd goes out and finds it, then celebrates with this friends and neighbours over finding his one lost sheep.
AND he also told them about the lost son – when a son asks his father for his share of the estate, leaves his family and spends it all, ending up looking after pigs and even eating some of their food, before returning home empty and empty-handed. The father welcomes him home with arms wide open saying “My son was lost and now is found” and then throws a big party to celebrate.

Lost coin; maybe the ladies will get that one. Lost sheep; maybe the men will get that one. Lost son; maybe parents and children will get that one.

When did we get lost? It all started back at the very beginning with Adam and Eve when they ate from the tree God had told them not to. Right back to that first act of disobedience followed by the first feelings of guilt and shame. And that evening when God came into the garden he called out to them “Where are you?”

And God has been calling that out to us ever since.

Let me tell you a true story about how God can find the lost….
His name was John. When he started work he joined with his Dad working on boats. When his Dad retired, he had lined him up another job, working on the land, but John had sea salt in his blood and carried on sailing the seven seas. However, things start to go pretty bad for John. He was captured and forced to join the Navy and he hated it. John gets the chance to change ships and so goes to work on another ship. A slave ship – trading goods for slaves, and slaves for goods. But the crew on this new ship don’t like John and leave him with a slave dealer who treats him like a slave. John was lost, a free man, but treated like a slave in Africa.

But he is found and rescued by a sea captain who had been asked by John’s father to look out for him and bring him home. On the way they encounter a terrific storm, the ship begins to sink, and at that moment John calls out to God to save him. And his life is changed. The ship moves again, the cargo shifts blocking up the gaping hole and the ship drifts to safety.

Later John becomes an Anglican priest having a direct impact on Thomas Scott who set up CMS -Church Missionary Society and William Wilbourforce, a politician whom John encouraged to stay in parliament and serve God where he was. William Wilberforce was instrumental in getting a law passed that ended slavery.

During his time as a priest John Newton wrote many hymns, including one where it tells of being lost and found. Saved by God’s Amazing Grace.

(Vanessa)


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Blurred Vision- John 9: 1-12

This week our service was about Jesus healing the man who had been blind from birth – the one in John 9 where Jesus puts mud on the man’s eyes and tells him to go and wash. We thought about how hard it can be to tell what things are when we can’t use out eyes – for example, how do you describe the colour yellow?

So our GAME was “guess the object”. We made two sets of six canvas bags and had different things in each one. Our two teams then had to work out what was in there just by touch – no cheating and pulling anything out to see what it was. We used:

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  • Sandpaper
  • Wet Wipes
  • Cotton wool balls
  • Feathers
  • Lego
  • Rice

But, of course, there are a huge variety of other tactile things you could use.

 

THE CRAFT:
For this we had cardboard glasses to be decorated. The “glasses” were already cut out, but if you have older children, or more time, you may want them to cut them out themselves. It can be a wee bit fiddly though. I have an oval hole punch which I used for the eye holes. You can download our template for these here:Glasses template

To make the glasses fit, wrap the arms around the child’s head, mark where they overlap, then cut a small, wedge-shaped slit on each arm – at the top on one arm, and the bottom on the other. When you put the glasses back on, lap the slits into each other, and the glasses will stay put.

We had glitter glue, feathers, paper stickers, foam stickers, and sticky paper to use to personalise our glasses – and don’t we all look gorgeous!
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THE MESSAGE:
(Verse 1-2) As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parent’s sin?”

Back in the time of Jesus, it was believed if someone did something wrong (especially really wrong) it would affect themselves, their children, their children’s children  – and so on. That also meant you could be affected by something wrong that your parents did, your grandparents did and so on as well. It went both ways in the family line.

I wonder if this blind man’s family looked at each other wondering what they’d done to cause his blindness. I wonder if they looked at themselves and felt it something they had done, and lived with the shame and guilt.

What a thought. I couldn’t bear the idea that something I could do would adversely affect Luke, or his children. What a lot of responsibility to bear  – what a cloud to live under if you believed that.

As I stand in front of you I have not lived a saintly life, and there was a time that I didn’t do what God would want me to. There are things I have done that were really wrong, sins I have committed that now lay at the foot of the cross, and not over my life – or my family’s.

Verse 3: Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with this man’s sins or his parent’s sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.”
God is a miracle worker. He has the power to make a blind man see – he changed this man’s life. This blind man would be able to work now, he could find himself a wife and have a family, he would no longer be reliant on begging for his daily food. His life was radically turned around. God is a miracle worker – his power can be seen in your life. He can radically turn your life around.

Sometimes we do not see what Jesus is trying to show us. Let us take a moment and ask for Jesus to reveal something to us. Open our eyes, open our minds, open our hearts, open our Spirit to receive what God would like us to see.

Vanessa

 

 


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A Wet Walk – Matthew 14:22-33

This week we were looking at the story of Jesus walking on water – and of Peter trying to do so too.

THE GAME:
We thought a game about crossing water was a good idea, so we designated the carpet area as “water” and distributed three “stepping stones” (made out of cardboard) to each team so that they could get across. So, three “stepping stones” – but there were four people in each team!

IMG_0836This is how the game is played:

  • First person puts down a “stepping stone” and stands on it, then puts down a second one in front of that and moves forward.
  • Second person moves onto the “stones”, passing forward the last “stone” so that it can go down at the front.
  • Now first two people stand on the front “stone”, next two people stand on the middle “stone”, and the last “stone” gets passed forward to become the front one.
  • Repeat the above step until everyone has reached the other side of the “water”!

Much of the fun of this comes in making the “stepping stones” only just big enough for two people. You can adjust the number of “stepping stones” you have, depending on how many people you have in each team, but never have enough so that you can have only one person on each “stone”. So, for three or four people, have three “stones”, for 5 people have four stones, and so on. To make it more challenging – perhaps where all the players are a bit older (we had a big mix of ages) – get the last person to carry the “stepping stone” forward, squeezing past their team mates on the front “stones”.

IMG_0840THE CRAFT:
Later on in the service we made boats out of walnut shells, with toothpick masts and paper sails. On the sails we had our memory verse:

“We must keep our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2)

The masts were held in place with Blu-Tak, and several of the children drew eyes or stick figures on the sails.

 

THE MESSAGE:
Peter walks on water

Earlier that day Jesus had preached and performed the miracle of feeding 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish. I would call that “a big day in the office.” Afterwards Jesus needed some time alone with God to pray. Take note, if you have had “a big day in the office”, before your next appointment recharge your batteries and have time in prayer –  Jesus did it, and so must we.

Now back to the story, Jesus sent the disciples out on the lake to go on before him. A big storm came up, a frighteningly scary storm, and then, while all this is raging around them, they see someone walking towards the boat, and they think it’s a ghost. Now I would be like “Seriously could this night get any worse.”

Then Jesus spoke: “It’s me,” and out of all the disciples, Peter was the one who called back. “If it is you, command me to come.” Peter didn’t want to asked and be given the option to say no, he wanted to be told, and so Jesus said “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and walked on water to Jesus. He had his eyes fixed on Jesus and he was walking on water with the storm raging around him. When Peter obeyed Jesus and moved out in faith, he walked on water.

The others stayed in the safety of the boat, they had faith in the boat.
What’s your boat? When life gets stormy, where or what do you put your faith in?

Peter had to leave the safety of the boat, step out of his comfort zone, and do the impossible. Peter had his eyes fixed firmly on Jesus to the exclusion of everything that was happening around him – the wind and the waves – and he walked on water towards Jesus, to the one who had called him to come.

Jesus knew about the storm coming and yet he told the disciples to go out on the lake. In the midst of the storm, Jesus walked out to them. And Peter went to meet him – with his eyes on Jesus. But then he noticed the waves, he felt the wind and thought “what am I doing,” and when his focus shifted, he started to sink and cried out in fear. Instantly, just like that, Jesus reached out and held Peter and said “You of little faith – why did you doubt?”  And for this failure, many who have read this have given Peter a hard time.

But there is such a positive truth about this story; when we fail, when we are in the middle of a storm and call out to Jesus, instantly and immediately he is there holding our hand. We are never alone – even if it looks and feels like it.

Peter experienced a miracle – he was the only one to have walked on water. He experienced the joy of being saved by Jesus in his moment of fear. Peter shared a moment and a connection the others didn’t – they never left the boat.

Had there been no storm, none of this would have happened. Peter’s faith wouldn’t have been tested. Growth and fear go together. It is always scary to do something new. Growth requires us to take on new challenges, and it is our faith that conquers the fear and doubts. If Jesus has called you, don’t worry about sinking. Remember, keep your eyes on Jesus and call out for his hand when you need him. He will be there instantly.

 Vanessa

THE PRAYERS:

Lord, we come before You this morning, reaching for Your outstretched hand, crying “Lord, save me!”
You hear.

When we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

We pray that the eyes of all in authority and power may become focused on You, lord, that they may work with honesty and integrity for the good of those that they lead. Lead them to know that –
when we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

We pray for Your church in this world, and particularly in this place. Let us be lights for others, that they may be led into the light of Your grace, and come to focus their eyes on You. For,
when we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

We pray for all who suffer, in body, mind or spirit, that they may know Your healing touch in their lives. We bring to you especially ……(name those whose suffering we wish to bring to God)
when we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

We commend to you those who have died, and we pray for those who mourn, who seek answers to the losses they have suffered. In all that we think we have lost,
when we keep our eyes on you,
we know that we are safe from the storm.

Lord, we come before You this morning, reaching for Your outstretched hand, crying “Lord, save me!”

You hear.

Amen

Gail


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Healing at the Pool – John 5: 1-8

Recently we looked at Jesus’ healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethsaida. Instead of reading the story from the Bible ourselves, we used this clip from the the Visual Bible:

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For our craft we made “rock pools” using blue plastic plates (I found some with a wavy pattern on them) and small stones and rocks glued on the edges. Only problem we found was that the glue took a while to set, so the stones were not securely attached when the children were taking the plates home – caution was advised.

 

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The Message:

Let me ask you a question? Do you want a chocolate? Wow that was a quick answer. Let’s look again at what the man answered when Jesus asked him if he wanted to be well? 
(Here we showed the clip again from 0.54 to 1.13)

He had been sick for 38 years, not minutes, not days, not weeks…. 38 years. And he was there waiting to get into the bubbling pool to be healed, and had been beaten to it every single time. You would think if someone asked if he wanted to be well, it would a very quick yes, but it wasn’t. Instead he answered why he CAN’T get well. When Jesus asked this man the question he had wanted for 38 years to come true, he hadn’t listened to Jesus speaking to him. Instead he was focused on himself and not present in that moment. He said what he would have told himself time and time again so it became an automatic response.

What if Jesus was right here, right now standing in front of you and asks “do you want to be well?” “Do you want to be all God intended you to be when He made you?”

Do you hear Jesus or what you have been saying to yourself time and time again?

“But you don’t understand I have a lot on at the moment”

“But I don’t deserve it, someone else always gets your blessing, not me”

“But I like being taken care of”

“But I know this life, I don’t know what that kind of life that would be like- too scary for me to give you control”

‘But……..”

Jesus heard not his words but his heart, and gave him the answer to being well. And this man didn’t even know it was Jesus, the well-known healer, the Son of God.

Jesus told him “Rise, take up your bed and walk” He did and was healed. How many times had he struggled to do just this – and instead of listening to his excuses – this time he listened, believed, trusted and obeyed Jesus and he got the miracle of healing he had wanted.
(show clip from 1.13- to 2.08)

Once again we see that the miracle is the unexpected. How did God bring down the city walls of Jericho? Have Joshua’s army march around them. How did Jesus heal a lame man? Tell him to get up. Joshua wanted to take the city of Jericho and trusted and obeyed what God told him to do.  The lame man wanted to be well and trusted and obeyed what Jesus told him to do. And I believe it is in our trust and obedience that miracles happen.

Vanessa

 

The Prayers:

Lord, the noise of our own self-importance fills this world, deafening us to your words, blinding us to the possibilities you lay before us, and closing our minds to the miracles you want to work in our lives.

We take at face value the accepted knowledge of the world, failing to open ourselves to your infinite grace and healing gifts.

At a time when conflicts are increasing, when world neighbours turn against each other, when a decision taken in one country causes terror and grief in another, open our ears to hear your voice.

Where the world speaks words of hate and war
Let your words of peace and reconciliation be heard

Where the world speaks words of sorrow and despair
Let your words of comfort and hope be heard

Where the world speaks words of sickness and mourning
Let your words of healing and strength be heard

Where the world speaks words of selfishness and self-reliance
Let your words of love for one another be heard

Where the world speaks … let us instead listen to you, Lord,
and hear your words of grace and forgiveness in our lives every day.

Amen


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Joshua and the Battle of Jericho

Luke enthusiastically blowing to make the walls fall down!

Luke enthusiastically blowing to make the walls fall down!

Joshua 6: 1-27

For our telling of the story of the Battle of Jericho last week, we looked at it from the point of view of some of those involved.

We built “City Walls” from building blocks on a piece of board, and walked around this after hearing from each person. For the final “day”, after we had gone around  seven times, we banged on the board that the “City Walls” were on so that they fell down. We also made “trumpets” to be blown whilst walking around the walls, and you can find those instructions at the end of this post.

We started and ended with Joshua speaking; the other parts can be in any order.

Day 1: Joshua
Now, I know I’m new to this leading armies lark, but these are the strangest instructions I’ve ever come across for defeating a city! But still, you know what they say, “the Lord works in mysterious ways”.

So, all the fighting men, fully armed. Check.
The Ark of the Covenant carried in front of the soldiers. Check.
Seven Priest blowing trumpets in front of them. Check.  

Now remember, you men, do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout! Once round the city, then back to camp for the night.  

Day 2: Soldier
Well, I must admit this wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I signed up to be a soldier. I was expecting lots of fighting – you know, swishing swords, clashing shields, that sort of thing, but there’s not been any sign of that recently.

Of course I knew there was going to be lots of marching – how else are we to get from one place to the next? But that’s just it – marching is for going from here to there – from point A to point B, if you like – not for going round and round in circles. Sorry, make that circle, singular.
But no, it’s “Hey ho lads – up before dawn, one quick march around the city, then that’s it for the day.”

Day 3: Jericho Citizen
So, that’s the famous Israelite army is it? A sight to strike fear into all our hearts? I don’t think so! You know, it’s only a couple of weeks ago that we heard that the whole Israelite nation had managed to cross over the River

Jordan without getting their feet wet. Rumour has it that their God dried up the river totally – and this is when it was in flood. Definitely gave us pause for thought – I mean, if they really had a God that powerful on their side, you could hardly blame a person for a bit of the old “hearts melting in fear” reaction.

But, if they really had a God that powerful on their side, why aren’t they attacking us instead of indulging in a daily stroll? No, definitely don’t think too much of their tactics. What do they think they’re going to do – walk the city into surrender?

Day 4: Child
Mum, Mum, look. It’s the soldiers again.
Why do they come so early? They woke me up!
Why are they just walking round and round the city?  

Day 5: Priest
Excuse me if I have a bit of trouble making myself understood – mouth’s a bit sore from all the trumpet blowing, don’t you know. What was that? Am I in a marching band? Ha, ha, very funny.

You must admit we make quite a sight, all dressed up in our priestly robes, leading the procession around Jericho. And not just anyone can play those Ram’s horn trumpets you know – there is quite a technique involved in getting the sound just right.

Actually, I was quite honoured when I learnt that I’d been chosen as one of the seven trumpeters. What no-one told me was we’d be playing the same tune all the way around, every single day. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the traditional music as much as anyone else –but surely a bit of variety wouldn’t do any harm!  

Day 6: Rahab
There they go again. Another day, another march past. I just hope those Israelite spies that I helped managed to get back to their camp – and most of all I hope they keep their promise to make sure me and my family are safe from harm.

I know it might seem strange that I am siding with the very people who want to destroy the city I have lived in all my life, but I’ve heard all about that God of theirs, how powerful he is, and how much he has done for his people, and I so long to be able to receive the same blessings for myself.

I’ve got Mum & Dad here, my brothers and the sisters-in-law, and all the nephews and nieces. Surely they must be taking the city soon. I’ll just tie this scarlet cord in the window like the spies told me to, so the soldiers know which is my house.

Day 7: Joshua
Listen up men! I’m sure you must all be thinking that this is a strange way to win a city, but I think we should all have got used to the fact by now that God has his own ways of getting things done. I am proud of you all for your unquestioning obedience over the last six days – and especially pleased with you all managing to keep silence during our daily marches. You will all be pleased to know that today is the day!

Today, instead of once round Jericho, we go round seven times. You still need to keep quiet when you’re marching, and the Priests will still be blowing on their trumpets. But, at the end of our seventh time around the Priests will blow a long blast on the trumpets, and that’s the cue for you all to let rip with your voices. Shout out loud – praise the Lord with all the strength of your lungs because He has given you the city!

 

Conclusion:

The Battle of Jericho is the first battle of the Israelites during their conquest of the land of Canaan. The army was ready. They had been training to get into battle mode. They had the right fighting stuff – armour, swords, shields, bows and arrows. And this was the first battle of the campaign. There was  anticipation and there was excitement…Now let’s get ready to rumble!

It starts out normal enough – send in spies to see what the enemy is up to before going into battle. Find out where the guards were placed, whether anyone disliked the king and could help them, what weapons and armour the guards had, when the guards changed shifts, how much food, water, and other supplies the city had, and the height and width of the walls to determine how to overcome the city. I would say that is very normal battle tactics, and those tactics are still used today.

God had given specific instructions for battle to Joshua. We have just read and even been and acted out that battle. And I can’t think of any part of that battle that is normal battle tactics! When you were pretending to be a soldier all ready for battle and then had to be quiet and walk around the city you were ready to fight, what did you think?

I have spent a while thinking about this reading and realised our God is not a “normal” God. He likes to mix it up, do it different. I think we tend to put our human expectations and limitations on Him. He enters a city by walking around it for seven days so that the walls fall down with a shout. Not normal.

God likes to do the unexpected but it always takes something on our part first, – then in the Bible and now today. Faith and obedience. Joshua and his army obeyed God’s word, trusted in God’s promises, and were rewarded with the fulfilment of God’s promises to them.

If you are getting ready for battle, are fighting with something – simply ask God for instructions, have faith it will happen and obey Him. It may not be what YOU think will happen, but, hey, remember our God is not a normal God restricted by our understanding and limitations.

 

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Make a “Trumpet”

You will need:IMG_0698

Drinking straws
Baking paper
Card/advertising flyers
Sellotape
Scissors

For each “trumpet” cut the straw to about 4 or 5 cm long; cut a piece oIMG_0700f baking paper 4mm wide and 14 cm long. Fold this in half, ensuring that if the paper curls at all, the two loose ends curl towards each other. Feed the baking paper into the piece of straw so that the loose ends are just inside the end of the straw and the folded end sticks out. Bend the folded end over the end of the straw and tape it down. Now, blow through the straw from the end where the paper is taped down – the loose ends vibrating inside the straw will make a noise.

Now make a cone shape out of card, or recycle by using stiff paper advertising flyers. Push the straw into the narrow end of the cone and blow – the noise is amplified, and you have a “trumpet”!

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