Archives: Worship Alternatives - ITEMS

Pentecost/Ordinary Time

NotOrd1 NotOrd1NotOrdinaryTimes.org

Worship Alternatives: MAIN | ART | SERMONS
Also helpful: Quotes and Art | Treasury of Celebrations
Index of Publications by Theme/Season

  • Advent/Christmas/Epiphany
  • Lent/Holy Week/Easter
  • Pentecost/Ordinary Time
  • Other/Hunger

  • To find your choice, click on the title or key the item number into your "find" function (usually control-F). Or simply scroll down to browse.
    NOTE: Some graphics are screened, so they look light. That allows you to overlay text on them.
    For How to Use This Resource and Helpful Hints, go to MAIN page above. Some items also have a PDF version, which shows a design of text and graphic together.
    This collection is a continuation of Spirit of Simplicity: Quotes & Art.
    Items containing accompanying art/graphic end '+ART.' The art can, of course, be used with other text of your choice.

    Table of Contents

  • Pentecost/Ordinary Time
    1. A Pentecost Blessing - #159
    2. A Pentecost Litany for All Seasons by Deborah E. Harris - #250
    3. The Enormous Language: A Drama for Pentecost Sunday by John Stewart Ballenger - #251
    4. Pentecostal Power: A Sermon for Pentecost Sunday by Ken Sehested - #253
    5. Bringing Them to Their Senses: A Brainstorming Session by Katie Cook - #254 +ART
    6. Birthday of the Church: A Children's Sermon for Pentecost - #255
    7. Beatitudes (Version 2.0) by Harrison Adams - #270 and #350 (text)
    8. Beatitudes (Version 2.0) by Harrison Adams - #270 and #350 (PDF)
    9. Being the Church: Some Thoughts about the Community of Faith by Katie Cook - #271
    10. One in the Spirit: A Program for an Intergenerational Fellowship by Katie Cook - #272 +ART
    11. Why People Always Bring Food - #273
    12. Invocation for an Ordinary Congregation by Katie Cook - #274
    13. Being the Church: Some Thoughts about the Community of Faith by Katie Cook - #275
    14. Moving into Ordinary Time: A Call to Worship by Katie Cook - #276
    15. God, Our Souls Are Weary: A Prayer for Servants by John Stewart Ballenger - #277
    16. A Prayer for Ordinary Time by Deborah Harris - #278
    17. These Stones We Hold: A Service of Release by Lanny Peters - #279 +ART
    18. Pieces of the Puzzle: A Children's Sermon Idea by Katie Cook and Mark McClintock - #279
    19. The Body of Christ? It's a Puzzle: a youth activity by Katie Cook and Rebecca Ward - #280 +ART
    20. A Rock Garden of Wishes: Brainstorming for a Children's Activity - #281 +ART
    21. Benediction by Katie Cook - #282 +ART

    Worship Items

    Return to Table of Contents


    A Pentecost Blessing

    May the fire of God's spirit burn within you.
    May God's breath renew your life.
    May the Holy Spirit touch your lips to speak joy and live out God's joy.
    May God's Spirit fill you with eternal hope. Amen. We say Amen!

    Pastor Holly S. Gunby
    First Lutheran Church, KTN, AK
    (submitted by Dr. William P. Roberts, Dayton, OH)


    A Pentecost Litany for All Seasons

    by Deborah E. Harris

    The Words of Christ from John 4:6-8, RSV
    'What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.'

    A Pentecost Litany for All Seasons

    ONE: Like a mighty gust of spring air that lifts bright-colored kites high in the sky, Holy Spirit Wind encourage our trembling hearts to rise above the commonplace and open our eyes afresh to see your world and our mission from a heavenly vantage point.

    MANY: For we are your children. . .born not of the flesh, but of the Spirit.

    ONE: Like a breathtaking blast of Texas summer heat, Holy Spirit Wind stir into flame the gifts you have graciously placed within us that we may glow with your presence even in the darkest hour and rejoice at all times in the dazzling Light of your transforming love.

    MANY: For we are your children. . .born not of the flesh, but of the Spirit.

    ONE: Like a lively autumn breeze rustling among the falling leaves, Holy Spirit Wind move among us in this Pentecost Season for all seasons to free us from complacency and weariness in well-doing.

    MANY: For we are your children. . .born not of the flesh, but of the Spirit.

    ONE: And like a sudden wintry chill that sends a shiver up our spine, Holy Spirit Wind quicken our spiritual pace to follow steadfastly in the bold, yet compassionate, steps of Christ.

    All: For we are your children. . .born not of the flesh, but of the Spirit.

    Deborah Harris is a freelance writer and lyricist in Waco, Texas. From Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time 1999.


    The Enormous Language

    A Drama for Pentecost Sunday
    by John Stewart Ballenger

    Genesis 11: 1-9
    Acts 2: 1-39

    Place tape recorders all around the sanctuary. Have tapes of various newscasts and commercials in the recorders. Have them all set to a low volume so that when they are all turned on there is a background murmur. Two people stand at the back of the sanctuary. Try and find two people whose voices work well together. The lines should be delivered with attention to rhythm and pace -- usually quickly and staccato. At times it will work for one line to come in over another. In places it will work to have one person repeating one word while the other goes on with their line. You may want to have the two people say some things together. Play with this. Use what's here as a beginning. So, from the back:

    once upon a time we were all a part of an enormous language
    the language of the song
    that was the song of creation
    the song of the Creator
    resonating in all that is
    all creation linked in harmony
    each voice needed
    each voice celebrated
    connected in caring
    and connected in love

    Congregation could at this point sing: 'For the Beauty of the Earth,' or 'For the Fruit of All Creation.' After the hymn, if you choose to do that, the two people at the back slowly move through the room toward the front, turning on the tape recorders as they go. When they get to the front, they face the congregation and begin again:

    now? listen

    listen to the TV
    the movies and commercials
    immediate gratification
    we want it; it shapes us
    disconnected facts that we call the news
    a picture here -- a headline there
    sure we know what's going on -- yeah right

    listen to the babble
    the babble
    the babble
    the clamor that is rising
    louder -- louder
    higher -- higher
    rising up to heaven
    towering in our lives
    the loudness of the babble of the words of the people that mean nothing
    that mean nothing that mean nothing that mean nothing

    information overload
    information information
    so much information
    but we never get the larger picture
    just more information information
    we're given so much access

    what is it now that the average family watches? over seven hours of TV a day?
    and your typical child sees how many thousands of murders before the age of twelve?
    I don't know what that does to a child, but how can you think it does nothing?

    so much access
    but never told how access and excess
    access and excess
    effect who we are
    who I am -- who you are
    who I am -- who you are

    and listen
    listen to the words -- the words we're trained to like
    ooh, you don't like that? but can you disagree?
    are you one of those who still thinks we think for ourselves?
    in this world of contingency and manipulation
    the words we're trained to like:
    words of independence -- words of self-reliance
    don't they sound good? attractive?
    admirable? desirable? idolatrous?
    words of possession and acquisition
    don't you want them?
    words of rugged individualism
    yes rugged -- make that ragged
    rigged for the destruction of community
    raging petulantly
    me me me me me
    it's all about me
    it's all about mine
    me me me me me

    I thank you God, that I am not like others

    the age-old temptation
    the age-old discontent
    I need to feel like I'm more than I am
    me as I am is not good enough
    my internal validation's faulty
    need some external strokes
    I would be as God . . .
    or at least how God would be if I were God
    I would be God
    look down on the world from heaven above
    from my position of power, authority,
    wealth, superiority
    my position of being above
    look down my nose from heaven down
    I have arrived -- everyone's looking up at me

    listen to the babble
    the babble
    the babble
    the clamor that is rising
    louder -- louder
    higher -- higher
    rising up to heaven
    towering in our lives
    the loudness of the babble of the words of the people that mean nothing
    that mean nothing that mean nothing that mean nothing

    we're chasing what will destroy us,
    if we ever even come close
    and we're getting closer
    day by day
    by day by day
    speaking languages unintelligible --
    languages incomprehensible.
    made up of words with which we're all familiar
    used in ways that make no sense
    for words don't have meaning anymore
    they're just a way of giving people what they want

    I heard a commercial just the other day,
    the guy said, now for those of you who want something for nothing,
    and you know who you are,
    here's something for you:
    it's a free cellular phone -- that's free, folks
    and with that phone you get 500 minutes of talk time a month -- free --
    that's 500 minutes, folks
    that's all free
    and it can be yours for just $50 a month

    words don't have meaning anymore

    our words are disconnected
    from what they mean
    our words but scratch the surface
    scratch the surface

    of an enormous
    an enormous

    we've lost the larger picture
    we've lost the larger picture
    and we are now disconnected
    disconnected disconnected
    disconnected from the world
    disconnected from each other
    disconnected from God
    disconnected from a larger picture
    our words but scratch the surface
    of an enormous
    an enormous
    we're beginning to lose
    beginning to lose
    beginning to lose

    You might wish to insert a pastoral prayer at this time.

    now, listen --
    through the babble
    through the noise
    listen to the word
    the word made flesh
    the word connected
    connected to meaning
    connected to the larger picture
    the body of Christ
    fleshed out in people
    fleshed out in the people who are the church
    who tell the story
    and sing the song
    the song of creation
    the song of the Creator
    each voice needed
    each voice celebrated
    in harmony

    it's not that we're not different
    it's not that we're all the same
    words that connect acknowledge the difference of people
    the distinctiveness -- the otherness
    but forge a connection we recognize
    even words that hurt and anger connect
    words are the instruments of communication
    and communication is the heart of relationship
    a word made flesh brings relationship to life and love
    makes of connections a living bond
    the connection is a living
    and the disconnections fade
    we are connected through a word made flesh
    linked through the very life and love
    the very heart of God
    pulsing through us all
    when one suffers, all suffer
    when one rejoices, all rejoice

    what an oddly connected way of being
    a part of the larger picture
    what an oddly disconnected way of being
    in not of this world

    but we begin to understand again
    the enormous language
    the enormous language of God

    once upon a time we were all a part of an enormous language
    the language of the song
    that was the song of creation
    the song of the Creator
    resonating in all that is
    all creation linked in harmony
    each voice needed
    each voice celebrated
    connected in caring
    and connected in love

    and now is once upon a time once more
    for those with eyes that see
    for those with ears that hear
    it's once upon a time once more
    and when you're part of an enormous language
    you find to your amazement
    that you can understand another
    and that another can understand you
    in the larger picture
    the larger picture
    the reality of God

    Congregation could sing another appropriate hymn: 'Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,' 'How Great Thou Art,' O Worship the King.'

    Author's Note: I included some digressions: the comment on TV, the Luke 18: 11 reference, and the cell phone commercial. Please feel free to add appropriate commentary/commercials throughout. This will work best if you contextualize it for your congregation. -jb

    John Ballenger is a pastor in Baltimore, Maryland. From Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time 1999


    Pentecostal Power

    A Sermon for Pentecost Sunday
    by Ken Sehested

    Acts 2:1-18, Joel 2-3 (selected)

    My wife is a pastor. Several times each year I pinch hit for her, filling the pulpit when she's out of town. One spring she asked if I could preach for her in April. 'What Sunday?' I asked. 'April 10th,' she said, 'the week after Easter.'

    'Following Easter, huh? Gee, thanks,' I said with more than a bit of cynicism. 'What did I do to deserve this?'

    'I know you can do it,' she said, trying to cheer me up. 'In your role as a peacemaker you're used to preaching to small and halfhearted crowds. You'll do just fine!'

    Easter Sunday is a tough act to follow. The Sunday-after-Easter mood is about like you feel when you pull the car in the driveway at the end of a week or two of vacation at some distant location. Dinnertime is definitely a McDonald's or Kentucky Fried takeout occasion. The return to 'normal' life is a bit depressing.

    Can you imagine what David Letterman's 'Top Ten' list would be if the category were something like this:

    'How you can tell it's the Sunday after Easter?'
    #10. The chain drug stores rotate the Easter candy to the sale tables and bring out the Mother's Day cards.
    #9. You start hoping those boiled and painted Easter eggs that are still in the fridge will crack so you'll have an excuse to toss them.
    #8. The Sunday morning offering takes a nose dive.
    #7. You'll have no trouble finding a place to sit even if you're late for church.
    #6. There's a noticeable relaxing of the dress code in worship.
    #5. The number of visitors drops dramatically.
    #4. The number of visitors who are actually church members who havent been in a long time also drops dramatically.
    #3. Everyone is glad to wait another 12 months before singing 'Up From the Grave He Arose.'
    #2. The choir recycles an old anthem.
    #1. The preacher takes a Sunday off.

    The Sunday after Easter is tough. Preaching on Easter Sunday is easy. It's like getting a fat pitch to hit, a 3-and-2 count fastball, with no movement, belt high, right down the pike, with runners in scoring position. Can't miss. Anybody can preach a good Easter sermon. It's the Sunday after Easter that takes some work.

    Easter can be exhausting. There's all those special Holy Week services, with lots of extra sermons and music. (And if you observe the season of Lent you're just emerging from a month-and-a-half of preaching on penance and listening to minor-keyed music.)

    And then all the drama begins to build after Good Friday and finally explodes on Easter morning with elaborate decorations and flowers and adrenaline-pumping music and new clothes. It's all a bit like the '1812 Overture,' near the end when the cannon starts pounding the ear drums in thunderous rhythm with a fortissimo finale. It's extraordinary. It's spine-tingling. It makes you want to stand on your toes and shout out loud.

    Easter is exhausting. Which is easy to understand. Easter requires a lot of extra rehearsal. And you tap into those stored emotional reserves saved for special occasions.

    Yes, Easter is exhausting. It wears us out. And that's unfortunate. For when Easter ecstasy leaves us drained and spent, we tend to fall asleep before the real climax of the story. Just as our faith does not end with Good Friday crucifixion, neither does it end with Easter's rolled stone.

    We may be exhausted, but the New Testament narrative isn't. Resurrection is certainly the pivotal moment in the drama; but there's another act to follow. If you leave the story now'well, let's just say you go home and tell your friends this play was about spring fashions and painted eggs and chocolate bunnies.

    All very delightful, of course. Great acting; superb staging; crisp dialogue; marvelous dramatic movement. But you missed the point.

    It would be kind of like going to the theatre to see 'The Fugitive' and then walking out after the bus accident. Harrison Ford escapes, and boy are we glad cause we know he's innocent, didn't kill his wife, didn't deserve to die in the electric chair. And now he's free. Oh, thank-you-Jesus; now we can go home.

    That would be crazy, of course, because things are just now getting interesting. If you think the bus crash was a heart-pounder, you ain't seen nothing yet. If you walk out now, you miss the most exciting part of the movie'about an hour and a half of Tommy Lee Jones chasing Harrison Ford, who's chasing the one-armed man.

    And if you quit reading when Jesus is rescued from the jaws of death'well, let's just say you go home and tell your friends that this story is about getting people to heaven when they die. But getting people to heaven after they die is not what the Gospel is about.

    However, you wouldn't know that, after visiting most churches. Layaway theology is what most preachers proclaim: Give your heart to Jesus so you can go to heaven later. Easy installments of weekly church attendance.

    Or transport theology: Buy your ticket now in case the glory train comes early. Then just hang out until the whistle blows. It doesn't matter much, once your ticket's in hand.

    Or life insurance theology: Once you read the policy and make arrangements for the payments, you file it away (and hope you don't have to cash it in any time soon).

    But the New Testament story of Easter is different. Resurrection is not life insurance, to be used only in case of emergency. It's more like mobilization orders for someone in the National Guard. The action has just begun. Resurrection, as Clarence Jordan said, is God's refusal to stay on the other side of the grave:

    'God raised Jesus, not as an invitation to us to come to heaven when we die, but as a declaration that He himself has established permanent residence on earth. The resurrection places Jesus on this side of the grave, here and now, in the midst of this life. The Good News of the resurrection is not that we shall die and go home with him but that he is risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner brothers and sisters with him.'

    Easter does not exhaust the biblical narrative of God's saving work. There's more. What began with Adam and Eve, what began again with Noah and the ark, and again with Abraham and Sarah, and again with Israel's escape from Egyptian bondage and her repeated returns from exile, and again with Mary's pregnancy'all these beginnings and new beginnings, now uniquely confirmed and summarized and restated in the resurrection'these are the prelude to the final act in the story, one step short of the dramatic conclusion of the history of God's redemption.

    But wait, there's another stage between the eruption of Easter and the inauguration of the New Heaven and the New Earth. Wait, the other shoe hasn't dropped yet. Wait, the checkered flag isn't out'that wasn't the finish line, the race is still on.

    There's more.
    Just as surely as Good Friday crucifixion is followed by and fulfilled in Easter resurrection, Easter in turn is followed by and blossoms into Pentecost.

    Wait, Jesus said at the end of the Gospel of Luke. The announcement of the kingdom must be proclaimed to all the earth. But wait'don't do anything just yet, stay right here in Jerusalem. The revolution has begun, but it's far from over yet. God intends to restore the work of creation. The Deceiver has staged a palace coupe, taken over, and now rules with an iron fist. But the Deceiver's days are numbered.

    The triumphant assault against death itself has begun. But don't you go off half-cocked. Wait here. Supplies are coming. Reinforcements are coming. Fire power is coming'fire like you've never seen, power like no one has ever seen. The flames of Pentecost are about to erupt. That will be your sign to break out of your hiding places at full speed. You've experienced the resurrection MOMENT; next comes the resurrection MOVEMENT.

    Brothers and sisters, Easter is God's resurrection MOMENT; Pentecost is God's resurrection MOVEMENT, the birthday of the church, the shock troops of the Kingdom. On Easter God declares divine intention; on Pentecost God deploys divine insurgents. On Easter God announces the invasion; Pentecost is when God establishes a beachhead.

    At Easter God announces, 'I Have a Dream.' On Pentecost Sunday, the marchers line up, the police close in, the first tear gas canisters fly, the first arrests are made. But the people of God keep on marching, heading for the courthouse, headed for the White House, headed for the jail house, headed for the school house, headed for the big house.

    Headed for every house that's not built on the solid rock of God's righteousness, God's justice; headed for every house that's been stolen from the hands that built it; headed for every house in every segregated neighborhood; headed for every house that shelters oppression, every house that welcomes bigotry, every house that schemes violence.

    'For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,' said Isaiah, 'and the Lord looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry! Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land' (5:7-8).

    'Therefore,' says Amos, 'because you trample upon the poor and take from them exactions of wheat, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them' (5:11)

    'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!' Jesus warned, 'for you devour widow's houses and for a pretense you make long prayers' (Mt. 23:14).

    But at Pentecost, the stolen house, the segregated house, the house of oppression, even the big house is slated for redemption. Recall this description of the houses of the first Pentecostal powered community:

    'There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need' (Acts 4:34).

    We never paid much attention to Pentecost when I was growing up. In fact, the liturgical calendar in which I was reared was very minimal. There was Christmas and Easter, of course. But then we skipped to the 4th of July followed by Thanksgiving. The lesser seasons were Mother's Day and Halloween.

    And, of course, the annual revival. In fact, that's about the only time we sang that old gospel hymn, 'Pentecostal Power.' Every traveling evangelist'and most 'church-growing' pastors as well'are always looking longfully, hopefully at that all-time high record of 3,000 professions of faith that our text for this morning speaks about.

    Imagine that: 3,000 saved in one service. Wouldn't you like to go to the Monday ministers' fellowship meeting with a story like that! My, my, my'if even a small percentage of them are tithers, our financial troubles are over!!

    We white Baptists, especially, were always a bit nervous talking about Pentecost. I guess because the word was so closely associated with that unusual practice called 'speaking in tongues.' Always seemed kinda spooky to us, in poor taste, definitely uncultured. 'Pentecostal power' meant talking gibberish'holy rollers, we called them.

    Now, we didn't always exactly do things 'decently and in good order,' like our Presbyterian friends. But wild, ecstatic outbursts in church was most definitely frowned upon. To this day it's hard to tell which scares Baptist fundamentalists more'the liberals or the Pentecostals.

    Later I learned what you already know'that the 'tongues' miracle on Pentecost Sunday was not the same as what we refer to as glossolalia, a gift of the Spirit that the Apostle Paul both acknowledged and cautioned about. The 'tongues' episode so central to the Pentecost story had to do with the sudden and unexplained ability of the disciples to be understood by people who spoke different languages.

    Now that seems interesting, even impressive, but frankly not very gripping.

    It would be even later still before I began to comprehend the real miracle at Pentecost. Pentecostal power was not talking emotional gibberish; nor was it simply the incomprehensible ability with foreign languages.

    No, Pentecostal power was about the overcoming of walls of hostility. Jerusalem was jammed packed at this time of the year, because of the Jewish Feast of Weeks. People from all the known world were present'you remember that tongue-twisting list of people and language groups recorded in Acts: Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, Pontusians, Phrygians, Pamphylians, Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Cretans, Arabians.

    And if you know your first-century geography, you'll recognize that this listing is careful to point to every direction on the compass'a literary device signifying everywhere imaginable. It was kind of like a general assembly meeting of the United Nations.

    And Peter draws back into Hebrew Scripture for his sermon text, from the prophet Joel, declaring God's promise that 'I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,' that both sons and daughters will prophesy, that young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams, and even the servants will announce the impending Reign of God.

    (Now, there's a whole bundle of sermons in that one text, dealing with gender and class issues, age discrimination'but we'll have to save those for another time.)

    The point of this pivotal narrative in Acts is this: that Pentecostal power was about people of different races, different cultures, different languages, different nationalities and ethnicities suddenly understanding each other, suddenly being able to really 'hear' each other, suddenly being able to respond to each other with empathy rather than hostility.

    Theologically speaking, Pentecost Sunday is about the undoing of the Tower of Babel story in Genesis, the story that recalls when human technological arrogance became so presumptive that God 'confused their tongues' so they could not understand each other. Pentecost is the unraveling of this confusion and this division within the human community.

    Pentecost is about a new beginning created by God. It's about a re-raveling (if you will), a reweaving of the human family'a family, according to Scripture, which regardless of diversity, nonetheless traces a common ancestry back to one set of parents. For goodness sakes, we're all cousins!

    Pentecostal power is an assault on segregation; Pentecostal power is antagonistic to apartheid; Pentecostal power extinguishes ethnic cleansing; Pentecostal power negates nationalism; Pentecostal power wreaks havoc on racism; Pentecostal power triumphs over tribalisms of every kind.

    You know, I grew up singing about this kind of Pentecostal power and didn't even know it! 'Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world; red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world.'

    Now, notice here'and this is very important'the Pentecost story in Acts doesn't say everyone suddenly started speaking the same language. Pentecost does not destroy the various distinctives between and among people.

    But the story does affirm that these differences are brought under the binding power of the Holy Spirit. They can no longer claim autonomy. They are no longer barriers to community. They are now in the service of God'the very God who repeatedly, time after time after time, has acted to nudge creation back to its purpose in Genesis.

    Pentecostal power is the power to overcome ancient hostility, to gather the excluded, to scale the walls of social, racial, even class divisions. Pentecostal power is the power to address the murderous forces unleashed in our world today.

    Virtually every one of the 30 or so shooting wars in the world today is rooted to some degree in racial/ethnic divisions and rivalries. As W.E.B. DuBois said so prophetically at the start of the 20th century, the color line is the issue for that century and beyond.

    I truly believe that racism is the original sin of my own nation. More than that, I believe racism is the original sin of the early Christian community.

    Read on in Acts. In just a few chapters Peter has his dramatic dream about 'unclean' animals'a dream which God uses to set him up and get him ready to make a pastoral call on a Gentile for the first time. The word 'Gentile' on the lips of a first-century pious Jew carried roughly the same weight as the word 'nigger' has for a 20th-21st-century European American.

    Then, just a few chapters later, the early church created its first bureaucratic structure'the deacon board. Why? To deal with an issue of racial discrimination. The 'Hellenist' widows'of different ethnic and national background'were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.

    Brothers and sisters, I'm convinced that Pentecost is now the most important season for us as Christians. The true energy of Easter is more than, and is fundamentally different from, the 'sugar high' you get from eating chocolate Easter bunnies.

    That kind of energy burns off within hours, leaving us weary, exhausted. That kind of energy is quickly dissipated. Within a week the Body of Christ is dragging its sparse remnants to a halfhearted post-Easter Sunday service. The resurrection moment is producing very little movement.

    A cynical journalist once wrote that a conservative is someone who worships a dead radical. Dead radicals can't bother us anymore. We quickly domesticate their memories, kind of like the way we do with Dr. Martin Luther King. Of course, we don't think of Jesus as dead; but he does seem to be safely tucked away in heaven.

    And from a lot of the preaching I hear, you'd think our job is simply to convince people they need to start making payments on a ticket to join him there when they die. No threatening movement seems to occur when Pentecostal power is preached from our pulpits.

    We've become strangers to the power Jesus promised. The subversive character of his life has been entombed in memorial societies we call churches. We revere his memory but we renege on his promise.

    The proclamation of the Gospel no longer threatens the new world order our leaders envision for us. The erupting, disrupting flow of Pentecostal power has been pacified, rendered harmless, packaged for television broadcast. Pentecostal power is now driven by the logic and values of commodity marketing. Its pseudo-scientific name in church growth circles is 'the homogeneous unit principle.' (What a bunch of crap!)

    Brothers and sisters, there was a time when the redemptive power activated at Pentecost was the power to mend the rips within our social fabric, to restore splintered relationships, to repair broken communities. Pentecostal power once indicated the power to stand in the cracks, to face the hostilities without fear, to confess, repent and repair.

    Pentecostal power was once the power to practice resurrection. Now that's old-time religion. I say, gimme that old-time religion again.

    'Ken Sehested is a pastor and peacemaker in Asheville, North Carolina.

    Lift Quotes: Yes, Easter is exhausting. It wears us out. And that's unfortunate. For when Easter ecstasy leaves us drained and spent, we tend to fall asleep before the real climax of the story.

    Well, let's just say you go home and tell your friends that this story is about getting people to heaven when they die. But getting people to heaven after they die is not what the Gospel is about

    Pentecostal power is an assault on segregation; Pentecostal power is antagonistic to apartheid; Pentecostal power extinguishes ethnic cleansing; Pentecostal power negates nationalism; Pentecostal power wreaks havoc on racism; Pentecostal power triumphs over tribalisms of every kind.


    Bringing Them to Their Senses

    A Brainstorming Session
    by Katie Cook

    Bringing Out the Liturgical Colors

    Trish Holland, a pastor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, says she asked her congregation to bring geraniums to church on Pentecost Sunday. You could arrange them around the altar, or put them all over the sanctuary. Ann Pennington, a chaplain in Waco, Texas, says she went to a Pentecost service once where the congregation was asked to wear red.

    Don Nixon, a minister in Atlanta, Georgia, suggests gladiolas in the colors of fire on the altar table'or in front of the pulpit. ('Glads come in nice fire colors,' he says. 'And the shape also suggests flames.')

    Dorisanne Cooper, a pastor in Waco, Texas, favors balloons in orange and red, blown up with helium and allowed to float to the ceiling of the sanctuary.

    If your sanctuary seems too big for this, Cooper says, you can also arrange the balloons in a different way. First tie several long strings across the width of the sanctuary'one end attached to a pew on the left, and one to a pew on the right, but do not tie them tight, leave plenty of slack in the string. Then cut lots of other string about two or three feet long (one for each balloon).

    Tie one of the shorter strings to each balloon and tie the other end of the strings to the long string tied across the sanctuary. Make several arches to fill the sanctuary. (We traced this idea traced back to Beverly CroweTipton, who is a minister in Greenville, South Carolina.)

    Cooper also suggests an assortment of red candles'as many sizes and shapes as possible'burning on the altar table, or perhaps also burning around the sides and in the back of the sanctuary.

    John Ballenger, a pastor in Baltimore, Maryland, likes the idea of widely differing colors, shapes, and sizes of candles, to emphasize and celebrate diversity. This would go well with the first activity below, also submitted by Ballenger.

    Acting Out the Event

    John Ballenger lined up several members who speak various non-English languages and asked them to read Acts 2:1-6 in their own languages at the same time. They began, all at once, at the last stroke of eleven, the chiming of the hour that begins morning worship in John's church.

    They read the passage, and then, just as they were finishing, another reader began reading the passage in English. Here's a variation: You could ask them to read it once in the various languages and then read it together in English, or ask one of them to read in English (or your church's primary language) when the others are finished.

    Using Liturgical Dance

    Don Nixon suggests a processional (with the congregation singing a hymn about the coming of the Spirit) led by a liturgical dancer, dressed in black with a bamboo pole connected to long strips of chiffon-like fabric in red, orange, and yellow. The dancer could sweep the strip of fabric above the heads of the worshippers. Another possibility would be to ask the dancer to dress in fire colors and enact an interpretation in that way, perhaps while someone reads from the second chapter of Acts, or during a musical piece that evokes images of the Holy Spirit.

    If you have a member or friend of the faith community who is creative with this kind of dance, encourage him/her to adapt this idea to your congregation's situation and needs.

    Inviting Other Senses to Worship

    Don Nixon also suggests bringing out fans to blow over the heads of the congregation'perhaps placing the fans in the balcony or the back of the sanctuary and surprising the worshippers with a burst of air.

    Brainstorming for Ordinary Time

    Here's an idea for Pentecost or Ordinary Time that we received one summer from Kathy Manis Findley, a minister in Little Rock, Arkansas. Findley brought together a visual feast of banners and stoles for a service emphasizing justice issues. These visual images would also work for a service celebrating diversity.

    Findley used a sunny yellow for altar cloth, pulpit banner, banners to be carried in with the processional, and stoles for the ministers. This wash of color served to waken and energize a weary gathering (in this case) of ministers, and was profoundly moving.

    Findley had attached to the banners and altar cloth borders of figures that resembled paper doll cutouts. These 'people' figures were in several colors and could represent racial groups and/or minority groups. They could be also designed in such a way as to represent the rich and the poor. The same design was repeated in the stoles of three ministers, with one or two figures at the ends of each stole.

    In the service that Findley planned, a liturgical dancer added to the visual imagery. He did not carry out the yellow theme; instead, he carried scarves in primary colors. As an African-American man, he carried in his racial identity part of the theme of the service.

    All of these ideas could be adapted to your congregation's needs, as well as to your resources. We dare you to be creative. Take these images and run with them. Mark them with your own message. And let us know how it works out.

    Editor's Note: For more ideas about using the arts in worship, we recommend Symphony of the Senses: A Worship Resource for the Christian Church, by Welton Gaddy and Don Nixon, Smyth & Helwys Publishers, 1996.

    From Sacred Seasons, Pentecost 1998. The art that accompanies this piece is by Erin Kennedy Mayer.


    Birthday of the Church

    A Children's Sermon for Pentecost

    This idea for a Pentecost Sunday children's sermon came from Matt Hall, the pastor of two congregations in Central Texas.

    When the children come forward for their sermon, bring out a birthday cake, festive paper plates and napkins, and party hats. You may want to ask another adult to help you cut the cake as you talk to the children.

    Explain to the children that this day is the birthday of the church. Tell them something like this:

    This story takes place in Jerusalem. Most of the friends of Jesus had been hiding ever since Jesus was arrested. On this day, the day of Pentecost, these friends of Jesus were praying in a room together.

    All of a sudden, they felt a strong wing blowing through the room. They looked at each other, and it looked like a flame of fire was above each one's heads.

    They felt very happy. Do you know why? Because this wind and this fire that they seemed to see above each other reminded them of God, and that God was there with them.

    They went outside, where people had gathered from all over the world for a Jewish holiday. And they began to talk to all of these people about Jesus' life, and all the things that had happened to them while they were with Jesus.

    Now, a lot of these people couldn't understand Aramaic, which was the language that Jesus and most of his friends spoke.

    But do you know what? Jesus' friends talked to these people in their own language, and all of the people around understood exactly what they were saying.

    And on that day, three thousand people listened to the story of Jesus, and they became followers of Jesus. And that's why this is the birthday of the church.

    Note: If you have decorated the church in red or fire colors, or in any other way specifically for Pentecost, point it out to the children and explain to them what the colors or objects refer to in the Pentecost story.


    Beatitudes (Version 2.0)

    by Harrison Adams

    Blessed are the poor in spirit.
    For when our spirits seem empty,
    The Holy Spirit becomes our spirit.
    Blessed are those who mourn.
    For even when we have no joy,
    The joy of finding the tomb empty becomes our joy.
    Blessed are the meek.
    For even when we have no courage,
    The courage of facing the cross becomes our courage.
    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
    For when there is no justice,
    The justice we uphold becomes our own justice.
    Blessed are the merciful.
    For when the world is full of suffering,
    The mercy we show others becomes the mercy shown to us.
    Blessed are the pure in heart and the peacemakers.
    For even in death,
    The incarnation of God becomes their transcendence.
    The mortality of Christ becomes their immortality.
    The humanity of Spirit becomes their divinity.

    Harrison Adams, at this writing, was a struggling and brilliant playwright living in a farmhouse outside of Gholson, Texas. He is now in China, where he works as an interpreter. From Sacred Seasons, Lent/Eastertide 2000.


    Being the Church

    Some Thoughts about the Community of Faith
    by Katie Cook

    There are two ways, generally, that people think of church. Some people think of the cluster of buildings on the corner, or the country structure with the quaint steeple. Others, myself included, think of the community of believers who worship and work and eat and play together'in those buildings and in other places.

    In my community of faith there is a wide, wide diversity. We differ socially, economically, doctrinally (although we all lean to the left a bit), in terms of the formality of worship, and in terms of ethical issues. But somehow we agree to live with those differences, to still love each other'and the work of the church gets done.

    Some of us plant urban gardens and tutor at-risk kids. Some of us teach literacy and ESL classes. Some of us advocate for battered and victimized people. Some of us play the violin or oboe on Sunday morning to soothe and nourish the souls of the social workers and teachers.

    Some of us create the village that raises the children'doing our best to nurture them into the faith and into lives of meaning and creativity. Some of us simply listen to each other. We spontaneously applaud when good things happen to each other, and we sit beside each other with lumps in our throats when bad things happen.

    A former pastor of this community often spoke of 'being the church' for each other, for the people around us, for the world. Being the church. Taking our place in the body of Christ. He didn't use 'do' words. It's not just doing things'not just putting on the life of the church, like a garment, once or twice a week. It's who we are.

    When it happens like it's supposed to happen, we are connected with each other in some kind of deep, incredibly meaningful way. Each one of us is the community. The community is each one of us. The doing, I think, then flows joyfully out of that connectedness. It comes naturally, without that withering, shadowy sense of 'should.' It comes from love. The agape kind of love.

    The community of faith. The body of Christ. Interconnected, diverse, messy, loving, and real.

    From Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time 2001


    One in the Spirit

    A Program for an Intergenerational Fellowship
    by Katie Cook

    Order of Program


    Song: 'We Are Called to Be God's People'

    Scripture: Philippians 2:1-5

    First Activity: Constructing the Body
    Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-16

    Second Activity: Building up the Body

    1 Corinthians 12:12-26

    Third Activity: Food for the Journey

    Song: 'We are One in the Spirit'

    This program is designed for a church gathering that is intergenerational. It would be ideal for a weekly fellowship mealtime. The activities work best when the congregation is seated at several separate tables.

    If you can, make sure your prayer leaders and scripture readers are of varied ages. Try to make the program leaders as diverse as possible.

    You will need pieces of construction paper (8.5x11 would be large enough) and markers for each table, two 3x5 pieces of paper for each person, an easel or display board, tape, a small altar table, a large loaf of bread, several bunches of grapes, a large platter, and a dinner-sized plate for each table. (Some groups may find it meaningful to use plates like the ones they remember from their grandmothers' houses. You might consider using Blue Willow plates, or others that evoke a 'homey' feeling. If you like this theme, consider putting an old quilt on the table under the platter.)

    Before the program, place the platter on a small altar table in the middle of the room (an 'end' table would work), and put the empty dinner plates on the tables where people are sitting. If this is a fellowship meal, ask everyone to clear their tables of their dishes before you begin.

    During the prayer time, make announcements about church activities, and then share concerns and celebrations. After the first song and scripture reading, begin the first activity, explaining as little as possible to the congregation.

    Constructing the Body

    Distribute the paper and markers. Assign each group (by table) to draw a head, a foot, an arm, etc. You will need to have, when they are finished, two arms, two hands, two legs, two feet, a torso, and a head. (You may need to assign more than one 'body part' to a table. If you have lots of tables, try dividing the torso, arms, and legs into upper and lower parts. This will only enhance the effect of the finished product.)

    When everyone is finished, ask a representative from each table to bring their drawing to the display board. Using tape, construct the body by posting the drawings in their respective places. It will look a little crazy; that's the intention.

    Lead the group in discussing how the rendering of the 'body' before them would have worked better if they had all known beforehand what the end was supposed to be, and if they had worked together on a common plan.

    Building up the Body

    Ask each person present to take one of the 3x5 pieces of paper, and write on it something that he or she is worried about, or feeling sad about, and would like for people to pray about. After everyone is finished, ask each one to pass the paper to the left. Now ask each one to say a silent prayer about the concern written on the paper that was just handed to him or her. Suggest that they might take the papers with them and pledge to continue praying about this concern.

    Next, ask each one to take the other small piece of paper and write down something about the person to their right. Tell them to write something that they appreciate about that person. When everyone is finished, ask each one to pass the paper to the person he or she just wrote about. Suggest that they keep these somewhere to look at when they need encouragement.

    Finally, ask them to listen closely to the next scripture reading, keeping in mind the two pieces of paper they now hold.

    Food for the Journey

    The third activity is really a kind of communion. Ask each table to send a representative with their dinner plate to get some bread and grapes for their table from the altar table. Send them back to their tables with the food and ask them to pass the plate around silently while someone reads the meditation, 'Why People Always Bring Food.'

    Conclude with the second song. You may feel that it would be appropriate to pass the peace of Christ at this time.

    As always, please feel free to adapt these ideas to your own congregation's realities and needs. Thanks to Sharon Rollins, Mark McClintock, and Don Nixon for their contributions to this concept.

    From Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time 2001. Art for this piece is by Rebecca Ward.


    Why People Always Bring Food

    There is something almost mystical about what happens to human beings when they eat together. In the book Friendship Cake, Lynne Hinton discovers a profound truth about sharing food. Four women have journeyed from a rural southern town to a cemetery in the north, where their friend Louise is lingering at the new grave of a deeply loved woman. The weather is freezing, yet they sit patiently near the grave with Louise. One of them has brought a pot of steaming soup and five bowls.

    Holding the bowl of soup in her lap, Louise asks, 'Why is it that when you're feeling the least like eating, people bring you food? ' I mean, why don't folks bring you casseroles when things are going great? ' Why, when someone has died, does everyone suddenly have to bake a cake?'

    One of the friends answers: 'I think we do it because it's all we've got. ' Words are empty. There sure aren't any presents to buy, but everybody's got to eat, so we feed each other. It's the basic, most humane way to say you care.'

    While they continue to sit out in the late December cold, she goes on to say, 'It's a silly ritual, I agree. But somehow it helps to remind ourselves that life goes on. We sit together. We remember. We eat.'

    Then one of the women reminds Louise of her own words, spoken about the deceased friend. 'In your words, it's just doing what love does.' 'lkc


    Invocation for an Ordinary Congregation

    by Katie Cook

    Holy God, we come together to worship,
    a people who would like to think that we love you
    with all our hearts and souls,
    with all our might,
    but there are so many other things in our lives
    that clamor for our attention
    that we often relegate you to Sundays
    and Wednesdays,
    and times when we want you to rescue us.

    Most of us really do want you to be the one
    in whom we live and move and have our being.
    We really do want to hear your voice
    above all of the other voices in our lives.
    But we get bogged down in the daily routine.
    We forget who we are.
    We forget who you are.
    We forget what the church is supposed to be.

    So here we are, standing before you today,
    with our human foibles
    and our short attention spans,
    asking that you would make yourself known to us,
    that you would help us to recognize
    the presence of the Holy,
    that you would continue to challenge us,
    inspire us,
    and make us into the people you want us to be.


    From Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time 2000


    Moving into Ordinary Time

    A Call to Worship
    by Katie Cook

    Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8


    ONE: It is the year that King Uzziah died'
    MANY: It is the year that someone we love died; the year that we had many changes in our lives.
    ONE: We go to our place of worship to mourn, to rest, to seek guidance.
    MANY: While we are there, we see the holy; we feel it all around us.
    ONE: We hear God's word and we want to respond.
    MANY: We want to serve; we want to make a difference.
    ONE: Then we get caught up in dailiness;
    MANY: Our deadlines and assignments become our gods.
    ONE: We no longer see the holy;
    MANY: We only see the immediate.
    ONE: We no longer hear God's word for us;
    MANY: We only hear the clock, and the noise outside our windows.
    ONE: We must learn to see through the clutter of our schedules, to grasp the eternal.
    MANY: We must learn to filter out the noise and hear the essential Voice.
    ONE: Let us return to the temple, to see and hear our God;
    MANY: To relight the flame of commitment and celebration in our hearts.


    God, we confess this morning that we are weary, because we have allowed our lives to be taken over by the mundane. We no longer expect surprises from you. We no longer greet each day with joy. We think we've seen it all, and we're bored with most of it. We don't want to face our pain or each other's pain. We want to sit in numbness and let platitudes wash over us like some kind of harmless balm. We ask that you would wake us up to the eternal, the joyful, the delightful.

    Give us strength to withstand the afflictions that go with our earthen natures. Give us energy to cope with the changes that keep happening around us. But most of all, we ask that you would not allow us to sleepwalk through our journey with you. We ask that you would come among us and make your presence known in such a way that we cannot remain numb, in such a way that we will say, with new energy and delight, 'Here we are. Tell us what to do.'

    In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.


    Mystery said, 'Go give the deaf Hell till you're blue in the face and go show the blind Heaven till you drop in your tracks because they'd sooner eat ground glass than swallow the bitter pill that puts roses in the cheeks and the gleam in the eye. Go do it.'

    Isaiah said, 'Do it till when?'
    Mystery said, 'Till Hell freezes over.'
    Mystery said, 'Do it till the cows come home.'
    And that is what a prophet does for a living, and starting from the year that King Uzziah died when he saw and heard all these things, Isaiah went and did it.
    (Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life)

    From Sacred Seasons, Pentecost 1998.


    God, Our Souls Are Weary

    A Prayer for Servants
    by John Stewart Ballenger

    God, our souls are weary.
    Living takes its toll.
    And living as You wish
    is neither the cheapest nor the easiest of ways.
    I want to go home;
    I want to be taken care of.

    We hire ourselves out, seeking rest, to compromise,
    and find'unrest,
    find ourselves'compromised.
    My God, I am unworthy to be called Your child,
    but I want to come home;
    I want to be taken care of.

    So we look to You:
    Dissolve our way into Yours
    that the world might see,
    not my candle,
    but Your sun.
    Of my loaves and fish,
    freely offered,
    feed the world;
    Of my time, wisely spent
    create a vision for eternity.
    Teach me that it is in the wearying
    of my soul
    that You provide rest'
    that it is in 'taking care of'
    that we are taken care of.

    Ours is a joy through pain'
    the glory of a rainbow through clouds
    still wringing out rain.
    Can we make of this place our home?
    By the grace and with the power
    of You, our God.
    Let it be so.

    John Ballenger is a pastor in Baltimore, Maryland. From Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time


    A Prayer for Ordinary Time

    by Deborah Harris

    Creator Redeemer Sustainer God,
    How extraordinary is Your 'ordinary time.'
    How uncommon is the commonplace in Your Kingdom.
    The mundane is made miraculous,
    full of holy opportunities.
    The smallest joy a jubilee!
    Created anew may we grow tall and
    'grace-full' in Your likeness.
    Redeemed by Your sacrifice may we come
    to know the depths of Your love.
    Sustained by Your Spirit may we be steadfast
    and shining in Your service.
    We humbly ask that You continue to bless us
    with all we need for
    the living of these days'
    these wondrous ordinary days.
    That our everyday lives may be gifted to experience the vitality of Christian community,
    to share Your message of hope, reaching out to the poor and hurting, and bringing glory
    and honor to You, our God.

    Deborah Harris is a lyricist and freelance writer in Waco, Texas. From Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time 1999.


    These Stones We Hold

    A Service of Release
    by Lanny Peters

    Author's note: During the week before the service, collect a quantity of sizable chunks of rock'enough for each attending congregant to have one during the service. These need to be more than pebbles. (See if you can find some that are the size of softballs.) Ask your youth to hand these rocks out as worshippers come in for the service. Instruct them to ask the worshippers to hold onto them during the service.

    Scripture texts:
    Genesis 9:8-17
    John 7: 53-8:11


    The shadows of the temple walls had grown long. Darkness was coming, and with it the inner call to home and hearth and family. Foxes went to their holes, birds retired to their nests, each person went to his own home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. That night, like many nights, Jesus was a homeless person.

    But the next day, Jesus was back. In fact, no sooner had the first rays of the sun peeked over the hillside than Jesus appeared in the Temple again. And the people again were drawn to him, and he sat down and began to teach them.

    And as he taught, an excited group of people came into sight, surrounding and pushing a woman in front of them. Several of the religious authorities, easily recognizable in their official garb, were leading the way.

    When they reached the spot where Jesus sat, they gave her a little shove which left her standing alone in full view of everybody, as if a trial were about to begin.

    Then one of the authorities looked to Jesus and said, 'Rabbi, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?'

    The writer of the story tells us it was a test, that they were looking for something to use against him. Word must have been out that Jesus was on the liberal side of the capital punishment question, that he played a little loose with the religious law sometimes.

    If this was true, now they had him cornered. This woman had been caught in the very act of adultery, dragged there straight from her lover's house, it seems. Jesus would pronounce upon her the judgment of death or else defy the Law of Moses.

    'Be as wise as a serpent but as harmless as a dove,' Jesus had once warned his disciples, and here was a situation that required exactly that posture. He bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger, giving himself time to take all of this in. Sometimes the better part of wisdom is silence.

    Apparently the silence went on long enough to begin making the situation uncomfortable. They had to ask him again. Jesus seemed unperturbed, still bent over and still doodling in the dirt. But as they persisted with the question, Jesus finally looked up and said this: 'If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.'

    Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. 'If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.' The words just lay there, almost with a life of their own. Suddenly there was not a mob anymore. In its place was a group of people, each an individual, each with his or her own personal history, each with his or her own tragedies and triumphs, and each one now being asked to examine their own lives. Jesus simply requested that one person step out of the faceless mob and be recognized for who they were, and begin the execution.

    In doing so, it was almost as if he had silently called each one by name. They had arrived clutching the rocks they picked up along the road. They figured they would need them for sure'if not for the woman, then perhaps for the rabbi. But after Jesus' calmly spoken words, suddenly their eyes were no longer on the woman, even though she still stood there trembling before them, or even on the rabbi, who had resumed his writing in the sand. Instead, they glanced furtively around at one another.

    Eyes met for the first time. 'How about you, Eddie?' 'Let 'er rip, Bill, and my rock will be right behind yours.' Several looked expectantly at the Pharisee who had originally spoken for the group, expecting him to break the deadlock. But he was used to ordering executions, not participating in them. So no one moved.

    One of the things we humans share in common is our imperfections, our need for forgiveness, our need for grace. It was exactly this that Jesus reminded that crowd.

    And then, amazingly, perhaps miraculously even, the once bloodthirsty crowd began to look inward, and to examine their own lives just as the gentle rabbi bid them to do. I say that because of what happened next. An old man in the crowd relaxed his arthritic hand and released the rock he had clutched there. It fell with a thud into the dirt, and he turned slowly and walked away.

    And then another old woman dropped her stone. And another. Plop. Plop. And then the younger people. And one by one, they dropped the stones they had brought with them and went away, until finally Jesus was left with the woman, who remained standing there.

    It seems as though we have just barely gotten through the season of Lent'traditionally a time for Christians to give up something. Many of us, with varying degrees of success, gave up soft drinks, or maybe sweets, or alcohol, or swearing, or television. (Well, maybe not television.) But those are just the tiny pebbles in our lives.

    And we tend to forget all about our Lenten disciplines as soon as Easter comes. So we enter into Ordinary Time having given up, perhaps temporarily, the tiny pebbles in our lives. The rocks are harder to give up'and those we should drop permanently. Rocks like revenge. Hatred. The lack of forgiveness. Our biases and bigotries. Our pettiness. Our obsession with materialism. Our fears. But these are just the things on my list; you know which stones your own pockets are lined with.

    A former parishioner once told me about a dream that she had. In the dream her sister was drowning while my parishioner stood on the shore throwing rocks at her. 'When I awoke from that dream, I admitted to myself how hard I have been on my sister lately. I really have been unhappy with how she is behaving these days. But I began to see that these are tough times in her life. So I decided that even if I did not approve of her actions, she still needs my support, perhaps more than ever. So I have changed my attitude and it has made a difference; we're feeling a lot closer these days.'

    As I listened to her tell me all of this, I heard in her voice a tone of lightness. And why not? She, too, had left some rocks she had long carried lying in the dust.

    Jesus offered a new lightness to the crowd who faced him that day, long ago. He taught them that repentance is possible because of God's great mercy. Karl Barth once said, 'You do not repent and find mercy. You discover mercy and that enables you to repent.' Jesus refused to condemn the woman. He also did not condemn the crowd. He refused even to hate the haters.

    When Jesus finally put down his stick and looked up, the woman remained standing there. He said to her, 'Where are they? Has no one condemned you?'

    'No one, sir,' she replied.

    'Neither do I condemn you,' said Jesus. 'Go away, and don't sin any more.'

    In other words, do not let this moment of grace become cheap grace. You, too, carry some stones. Leave them here with the rest. Leave them here with me.

    And so his voice rings out across the years, bidding us to lay down our stones at the foot of the cross and be reconciled'reconciled to ourselves, reconciled to our neighbor, reconciled even to our enemy.

    As we look at the life of the church, our community of faith, Jesus once again invites us to empty our pockets of these stones we hold'these things that keep us from being the church for each other. He invites us into community without these rocks weighing us down.

    Rock Ceremony

    Author's note: At this time in the service, invite the congregation to begin a time of reflection. Ask them to hold their rocks in their hands and meditate on what these rocks represent. Is it anger? resentment? Is it an unresolved issue in your life? After a few moments, invite the ones who are ready to come to the altar and place their rocks on it. After everyone has had the opportunity to do this, tell them that this altar of rocks will remain in the sanctuary for several weeks, and that they may want to bring their rock at a later time. (One of my parishioners told me, sometime after this service, that his rock was sitting on his dresser as a reminder of what he was learning to let go.)

    Lanny Peters is a pastor in Decatur, Georgia. From Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time 2000.


    Pieces of the Puzzle

    A Children's Sermon Idea
    by Katie Cook and Mark McClintock

    Here's an idea for using a puzzle to teach the concept of the body of Christ (or the church) during a children's sermon. You may have decided to create banners or displays with a puzzle from some of the art in this packet, or you may have designed your own. This illustration could be prepared apart from those things, or it could utilize them.

    If you need to prepare your visual aids, you could simply cut out a gingerbread-man-shaped figure out of cloth or construction paper. Then cut the figure into five to seven pieces. You will need a banner or a covered display board'something to exhibit the pieces as they come together. You could use Velcro or tape to make sure the pieces stay on the banner or board.

    Ahead of time, ask several people from the congregation to be prepared to come forward and be introduced. (If you have cut the figure into five pieces, you will need five people. If you have seven pieces, you will need seven people.) Find people who participate in various areas of ministry. Try to keep the genders, ages, and ethnic backgrounds diverse if you can.

    You could place the puzzle pieces near where you will sit with the children, or give them to your adult participants before the service.

    When the children gather, ask them if they have ever put together a puzzle. Tell them that they are about to create a picture of the church. Call forward the first congregant. You could say something like this: 'This is Glenn. He teaches people to read in the evenings.'

    Then Glenn would pick up a puzzle piece (unless he already has it in his hand) and give it to one of the children, who would place it on the banner or display board.

    Call forward the next person, saying, 'This is Melinda. She plays the organ for our worship services.' Melinda would then give a puzzle piece to one of the children.

    After all of your participants have come forward, you might want to point out the completed puzzle and say, 'This doesn't look like a church building at all, does it? It looks like a person.' Then you could explain that we often call the church the Body of Christ, and that is why the picture looks a lot like a human body.

    Then conclude with something like this: 'So, you see, the church is not just the buildings that we meet in. It's the people, all doing different kinds of things for each other and for God.' After that, you could lead a prayer, thanking God for the many different people who make up the church.

    Mark McClintock is the director of PassportKids, a children's camping program for churches. From Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time 2001.


    The Body of Christ? It's a Puzzle

    a youth activity
    by Katie Cook and Rebecca Ward

    The art on this page was created by several youth to depict, in their individual ways, their definition of church. This could be a good activity to initiate discussion about what the church means to different young people.

    You can begin ahead of time by drawing the humanlike figure on a piece of 11x17 paper. Cut out the figure and then cut it into various pieces in a jigsaw-like manner. (You could vary the number of pieces to correspond with number of youth in your group. If your group is very large, you might prefer to assign pieces to small groups. This activity might work better with older youth'15 or older.)

    If your group will sit around a table, have a display board of some kind handy to tape the pieces together after they are finished. If you will be sitting in a circle, place a table in the middle and prepare to arrange the pieces on it.

    You could begin by distributing the pieces, saying, 'I would like for you to put something on this piece of paper that answers the question 'What is the church?'' (As you can see, some of our young people drew their answer, and some of them wrote their answer. It is best to avoid being directional. And remind them that this is not an art contest; it is an activity of self-expression. You might find it necessary to keep reminding them not to make judgments on each other's expressions. Try to convey to them how important it is to respect each other when they share their thoughts in this way.)

    After the participants have completed their answers, ask them to volunteer to talk about their puzzle pieces. Why did they choose to write or draw what they did? What does their drawing represent? Some of them may not want to share aloud; this is okay. Make sure they feel that their expression is accepted just as much as those of the others. With the help of the students, place the pieces of the puzzle together.

    Hopefully, you can make a transition from the things that are shared with the pieces to a general discussion about the meaning of church. Ask them to turn to 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, and ask one of them to read aloud. Then continue your discussion.

    Note: You may want to display your group's puzzle in some way -- in the youth room or Sunday school room, or perhaps in one of the church's common rooms.

    art credit: starting with the right outer arm (the reader's right) and going clockwise: Ali Stanke, Neil Davis, Sarah Carter, Lauren Parsons, Christopher Oladipo, Van Darden, Allison Sadler, Scott Davis, Rebecca Ward, JoAnna Yinger.


    A Rock Garden of Wishes

    Brainstorming for a Children's Activity

    Last summer in Vancouver, British Columbia, a group of folks met for what is sometimes fondly referred to as 'Peace Camp.' It's the summer conference of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. Last summer the theme of the week was 'Upon This Rock: Building a Culture of Peace.'

    Karen Peters, an educator in Decatur, Georgia, came up with a memorable children's activity that fit the theme of the week. She began with the gathering of rocks of different sizes (most had a flat side that could be decorated).

    Once the rocks were gathered, the children (with supervision) painted words and images on the rocks. They were encouraged to think of things that would be true if the church were really being what we should be, or really doing what we really should do.

    The children decorated the rocks with words and phrases like 'nobody is hungry,' 'peace for everybody,' 'people don't hit people,' 'people love each other,' and 'no more war.' Karen and her staff arranged the stones, with other objects from nature, on a foyer table just outside the main worship center.

    This table-top 'rock garden' made a profound impression on the adults attending the conference, as well as helping the children to understand what the church should be about.

    Here's an interesting idea for including the rock garden in a worship service: After the children have gathered and decorated their rocks (and after they have had time to dry), arrange for the children to process down the aisle of the sanctuary during the first hymn or the call to worship, carrying their rocks. They could then arrange them on the altar. The rocks could later be moved to the foyer for people to see them more closely'perhaps for a couple of weeks.

    by Katie Cook
    from Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time 2000



    by Katie Cook

    Go now from this place,
    remembering that the God who calls us to mission
    also calls us to feasting and dancing.
    Let us remember that there are holy days
    described in the Jewish texts,
    in which there is to be no fasting,
    but eating, drinking, and sharing of miracles.
    May the one who turned water into wine
    turn our tedium into festival,
    and show us how to alternate
    between commitment
    and carnival.
    May God's will be done here where we live;
    may impossible things come to pass.
    May we find strength in the journey
    and joy in the struggle,
    through the grace of God,

    From Sacred Seasons, Pentecost/Ordinary Time 2000.

    © Creative Commons
    (originally ©2005 Alternatives for Simple Living)

    Worship Alternatives collection compiled, edited and prepared by Katie Cook from Seeds of Hope and by Gerald Iversen.

    The collection contains sermons, worship items and art. It is part of the CD-ROM Simply the Best: Over 30 Years of Alternatives, available from the ELCA Archives.

    Archives Index | Home | Key Free Resources

    Page updated 18 July 2014

    Simple Living Works! * SimpleLivingWorks@Yahoo.com
    BLOG: SimpleLivingWorks.WordPress.com | Blog INDEX
    PODCAST | Podcast INDEX
    VIDEOS: YouTube.com/SimpleLivingWorks
    MISSION: Equipping people of faith to challenge consumerism, live justly and celebrate responsibly // An all volunteer educational organization.