come and see

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


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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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God the Potter – Isaiah 64:8

You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8

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Busy making play-doh – look at those colours!

We used this verse as our basis for the Extreme Makeover – the God Edition service. And what better way to illustrate that than to make play-doh. Am I the only person in the world that thinks play-doh is horrible stuff? Well, I was certainly in the minority on Sunday when everyone else enthusiastically joined in with making it.

For our prayer activity we asked everyone to make something out of the play-doh to represent what they wanted to bring to God in prayer. Those who wished to were able to speak about their creations. After the service, the kids got to take the play-doh home in jam jars.

This is the recipe we used for the play-doh:

Ingredients
2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons cooking oilIMG_06452 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 cups boiling water1 teaspoon food colouring

Mix all dry ingredients, add oil and boiling water with food colouring, mix well.

 

 

 

And Sharon Kirby has written a beautiful poem on the theme of God the potter – God is shaping me – which we used as part of our prayers.

 


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Creative Creation

IMG_0139We started last year (2012) right at the very beginning – the story of Creation – and wanted something for the younger age groups to do to help them remember the order, and to remind them of all the gifts God has given to us all.

This wall hanging is quick and simple. We did quite a bit of preparation before hand – cutting the card, the tissue paper, and the straws etc. – although if you are working with older children then they can do it more or less from scratch. Basically, make up each of the seven cards, attach them to a piece of ribbon (we just used staples to do this) and it is ready to hang. And you can make these really big, or really small, depending on your preference.

So, Day 1 – God forms light and the cosmos. Take a piece of black card and a piece of white card that is half the size of the black one. Glue the white card onto the black.

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Day 2 – God forms the sea and sky: A piece of blue card to start with and glue on a smaller piece of blue tissue paper which has been scrunched a bit for texture. Make sure this one is put on the ribbon the right way up – the tissue paper is meant to represent the seas.

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Day 3 – God forms dry land and plants: Here you will see some green paper has been glued to the black card – or you can just use green card to start with. Attach a 7cm length of drinking straw into which you put a small sprig of leaves/flowers.

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Day 4 – The cosmos is filled with sun, moon and stars: An easy one this – black card with stickers or cut out shapes of stars, moon and sun!

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Day 5 – The sea and sky is filled with birds and fish: Any colour background you want (you will have gathered that I had a plentiful supply of black!) and stickers or cut-puts of fish glued on. Either gather your own feathers (!) or buy some from a craft supply store. We found it best to staple the feathers on.

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Day 6 – The land is filled animals and humankind: stickers/pictures of animals on one side of the card – give the children free rein on this, so they get to choose their own favourites. On the other half they can have either a picture of themselves (which I think is nicer), or cut one from a magazine.

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Day 7 – God rested: Just a plain piece of card with a sticky label with the Bible verse printed on it – “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that He had done.” (I know it looks like a spelling mistake, but honest, it wasn’t – the margins on the labels weren’t set correctly)

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Attach the individual cards to the ribbon (in the right order) and there you have it

And as to what we talked about – well Vanessa’s talk is available to read here