Monday, March 30, 2015

Friends?

On Palm/Passion Sunday we do a reader's theatre based on the Gospel that is appointed for that year. This year we are living with the Gospel of Mark. It seemed to me that one of the themes of the Passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark was about friendships. The first place Jesus enters when he gets to Jerusalem is the home of a friend...Simon, a man with a 'skin disease'. How significant. 
Children ask questions of the text and the story. It is a Greek (Socratic) and Hebrew method of learning. As the story unfolds the sins and foibles of humanity are placed on the communion table. What happens at the end is unfathomably grace and love filled. 

The Gates Of Jerusalem

READING Mark 11-1-11Pastor Debra
As they approached Jerusalem, near the towns of Bethphage and Bethany, they came to the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of his disciples on ahead with these instructions: “Go to the village there ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a colt tied up that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. And if someone asks you why you are doing that, say that the Master[a] needs it and will send it back at once.”

So they went and found a colt out in the street, tied to the door of a house. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders asked them, “What are you doing, untying that colt?”

They answered just as Jesus had told them, and the crowd let them go. They brought the colt to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the animal, and Jesus got on. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches in the field and spread them on the road. The people who were in front and those who followed behind began to shout, “Praise God! God bless him who comes in the name of the Lord! God bless the coming kingdom of King David, our father! Praise be to God!”

Jesus entered Jerusalem, went into the Temple, and looked around at everything. But since it was already late in the day, he went out to Bethany with the twelve disciples.

PROCESSION OF PALMS

*HYMN         All Glory, Laud, and Honor           280 vs 1,2,5

(Children enter with palms during the hymn. Spread their palms in the front of the communion table on the floor. They should sit in the front pew in order of the number on their cue cards.)

#1 Child’s question           Why is everyone shouting, “Hosanna”?

Response Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem with all the other pilgrims coming for the Feast of the Passover. He is riding on the back of a donkey and crowds of people are following him; they are going ahead of him waving palm branches, praising him as the one God has sent. So we all say:

MANY: Hosanna in the highest. Blessed are those who come in the name of our God.
ONE:  Whether we recognize you or whether we fail to recognize you,
MANY:           Your steadfast love, O God, endures forever.

PRAISE TEAM          We Sang Our Glad Hosannas

In Bethany
#2 Child’s Question: Did Jesus have friends?

READING      Mark 14:1-9 Sheila

Response
This is a good question for the beginning of Holy Week. By the end of the story today you will hear that most everyone abandoned Jesus. People who loved him and who were his friends. Left him. But right now, in this part of the story, Jesus is with friends. He is with his disciples (this plate with 12 candles represents his disciples) and Jesus is with two others. Simon is one of his friends. Simon has a skin disease so he doesn’t go outside much. Because of this disease, people are not allowed to be his friend. So of course, Jesus, comes right into Simon’s house, eats at his supper table and calls Simon friend. This is the kind of thing that will get Jesus into trouble. Jesus makes friends with people who others ignore or even reject. Jesus goes to their houses! Jesus eats their food. Jesus shows them love.

Then while he is at Simon’s house another friend comes in.
We don’t know her name. But she did something amazing. She poured perfume on Jesus’ head. To show him how much she loved him. We think it is strange today. To pour perfumed oil on a person’s head. But in Jesus day that was a way to say, You are an important person. Just like the people who shouted hosanna in the streets, this woman said, you deserve to be treated like you are a king. To remind us of Simon and this woman who honored Jesus we are going to put a jar of perfume on the communion table this morning.

Child puts a jar on the altar

Praise Team             Jesus Friend of Sinners by Casting Crowns

ONE:  We are called your friends, no matter our past or our present,
MANY:  Your steadfast love, O God, endures forever.

Judas Bribes
Mark 14: 1 & 2, 10 &11 Madison
Child Puts 30 pieces of silver on the table
 (Place 30 “Coins” on the Communion Table counting them out loud)

#3Child’s question: What is so special about these 30 silver coins on the communion table this morning?


Response: Judas, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, asked one of the religious leaders how much money they will give him if he leads them to Jesus, so that they can arrest them. They promised him 30 silver coins. This would be a very large sum of money in Jesus’ day. Close to ½ a years’ wages, or about $15,000. Judas received this money from the religious leaders and from that day forward he began looking for a way he could get Jesus arrested. Jesus loved Judas. Judas was a follower of Jesus. As we hear this story Jesus is going to lose more and more friends. Judas is the first to go. He sold Jesus’ friendship for 30 pieces of silver. Yet:

ONE:              Even when we betray you and when we betray each other,
MANY:           Your steadfast love, O God, endures forever.

The Passover Meal
Mark 14:12-19, 22-26 Sheila
#4Child’s question: Why are we sharing a loaf of bread this morning?

Response Would you want to eat a meal with your enemies who pretend to be your friends? Jesus did. Not only that, Jesus gave them bread as a symbol of how much he loved them.  “Take and eat it,” he said; “this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God, and gave it to them. “Drink it, all of you,” he said; “this is my love poured out for you. Whenever you eat this you will remember, "I love you." "I love you."  
At this meal, Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him. They protest and say they will never let him down. But we know that they all will run away. Even so, Jesus blesses bread, breaks it and gives it to them saying, “Take, eat, this is my body, it will be broken for you, because I love you." In order to remember this meal today we will share bread with the congregation. Will you help by passing out these plates of bread, please?

HYMN            Broken for Me         2263
(Children will pass out trays of gluten free bread)

PRESENTATION OF TITHES AND OFFERINGS
OFFERTORY
*HYMN of DEDICATION Of The Father’s Love Begotten 184

Garden of Gethsemane
Mark 14:32-42 Teresa

HYMN Go to Dark Gethsemane 290 vs 1

#5Child’s question: What is Jesus praying for?

Response
Jesus is praying for his friends. Jesus is also praying for himself. He knows that all he has done in his life has made people angry. He knows that people are trying to kill him. He knows it is going to hurt and be hard.
He goes to a quiet garden in the middle of this city with his friends to pray.
And his friends all fall asleep. Let’s pray together the prayer Jesus taught his friends to show them how important prayer is:

LORD’S PRAYER

ONE:  Even in the hardest times in our lives, you listen to us
MANY:  Your steadfast love, O God, endures forever.

Jesus Is Arrested
Mark 14: 43-50 Abbi

#6Child’s question: Why do they all leave Jesus?

Pastor Debra
Jesus friends all leave him. This is one of the saddest parts of this Holy Week story. We think that his friends are pretty bad friends, but we have to ask ourselves: Have we ever been so afraid that we didn’t know what to do? Did we ever turn away from something hard because we just didn’t want to do it? Have we ever walked away from children making fun of someone instead of standing up for them? We are just like Jesus friends because every time we run away from doing what is right, we are betraying Jesus because we are not acting like Jesus taught us to act.

We will now blow out the twelve candles on the table that represent the disciples.

PRAISE TEAM: Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley   2112

ONE:  We let others down and others let us down, but
MANY:  Your steadfast love, O God, endures forever.




Jesus Before Caiaphus  
PRAYER BEFORE GOING ON (UNISON)
God of strength, gather us in –
in this sacred space, in this sacred moment –
for here we recall a story of faith,
a story of manipulative powers,
of human frailty,
of cruelty and malice,
and an act of unlikely grace.
Here we remember who you are. Amen.

Mark 14:55-65 Sheila

HYMN            Go to Dark Gethsemane 290 vs 2

#7Child’s question: What has Jesus done wrong?

Pastor Debra: nothing, people are accusing him of lying but they can’t prove anything. People are making false statements about him. Saying he did this and that and the other thing. None of it is true. The opposite is actually true, Jesus never lied, Jesus never said anything wrong about God, Jesus never ever did anything that wasn’t loving and good. Yet they beat him and spit on him and called him names. They said: we don’t like him anymore. We don’t want him to be our king anymore.  

To help us remember that Jesus was humiliated and that we couldn’t see the truth let’s put a blindfold on the communion table.

ONE: We do not always act justly, we do not always listen for the truth
MANY: Your steadfast love, O God, endures forever.

Peter in the courtyard
Mark 14:66-72 Brianna

(Rooster is placed on communion table)
#8Child’s question Why does Peter lie?

Response Peter is scared and knows there is going to be trouble. He sees how everyone is treating Jesus. He doesn’t want to be treated badly. And he doesn’t want to admit that Jesus if his friend because he is afraid that he might be arrested, too. He lies, he says he doesn’t know Jesus. Remember what Jesus told Peter when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus? When the rooster crows in the morning you will have denied that you knew me. When the rooster crowed, Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him, and Peter breaks down and cries. That is why we placed a rooster on the table this morning. To remind us of Peter and ourselves when we act like we don’t know Jesus.
One: When we are afraid, we sometimes deny you,
MANY: Your steadfast love, O God, endures forever.

Jesus before Pilate
Mark 15:1-15 Sheila

#9Child’s question What does Pilate do?

Response Pilate is the man in charge of the criminals in the jails in Jerusalem. Pilate can see that Jesus is innocent. He can see that Jesus has not done the wrong things people are saying he did. Pilate is worried. He knows that the religious leaders have turned the crowd against Jesus. He asks them to choose who should be killed – a thief called Barabbas, or Jesus. He hopes they will choose Barabbas. Because Barabbas did commit a crime.  But the crowd wants Jesus to be killed so they shout, “Kill Jesus.” Pilate doesn’t believe Jesus is guilty, yet he turns him over to be whipped and crucified. We will put a whip on the communion table as we remember what we did to an innocent Jesus.

Bring a whip to the communion table

One:    We blame and judge others; we fail to take responsibility,
MANY: Your steadfast love, O God, endures forever.

PRAISE TEAM          Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley

The Soldiers Mock Jesus
Mark 15:16-20 BrookLynn
#10Child’s question Why are people insulting Jesus?
Response In a group, the soldiers surround Jesus, kneel, and pretend to worship him. They say “Hail, King of the Jews,” but they are really laughing at him. They spit at him and then placed a purple cloak which represents being a king, around him in mock honor. Then they remove it. and laugh and laugh and laugh.
During Lent we put a purple cloth on the cross to remind us that Jesus was insulted and mocked and continues to be insulted and mocked whenever we sin. Today we will take the purple off the cross. We will put it on the table along with a crown of thorns, with all the other symbols of this last week of Jesus life.

HYMN            O Sacred Head Now Wounded vs 1

(the purple cloth from the cross will be removed and laid on top of the communion table)

One: Others sometimes mock us; we sometimes mock others, sometimes we even mock God
MANY:  Your steadfast love, O God, endures forever.

Crucifixion

#11Child’s question What happens to Jesus next?

Mark 15:22-27, 33-39 Steve & Sheila

Response What happens to Jesus next? Jesus dies, on a cross, a horrible horrible death. Because he loves us and we can’t stand to see that kind of love, Jesus dies. We will now extinguish the Christ Candle to represent Jesus’ death. We won’t light it again until Easter Sunday.

Extinguish the Christ Candle

HYMN            Go To Dark Gethsemane 290 vs 3

One:  When there seems to be no light,
MANY: Your steadfast love, O God, endures forever.

The Tomb

#12Child’s question Where do they take Jesus after he dies?

Mark 15: 42-47 Sheila


Response Jesus, like most everyone who dies gets buried. Joseph, a rich follower of Jesus, asks Pilate if he can take Jesus’ body. He wraps it in a clean linen cloth and puts it in a new tomb he has carved out of the rock. He rolls a huge stone in front of the tomb. The chief priests have the tomb sealed. And for three days Jesus friends gather together in groups, weeping and grieving because the best person they had ever known has died. WE are now going to bury the Communion Table where we have put all the symbols of the last week of Jesus life. We will bury all this hatred that lead to Jesus’ death. All the mocking. All the scorn. All the betrayal. All the pain. All the love. It will look dark, like the inside of a sealed tomb.

Children will bury the Communion Table and drape the cross in black cloth while the congregation sings this song

*HYMN         Lamb of God            2113

One: When it seems as though life has ended,
MANY:  Your steadfast love, O God, endures forever.



Children leave in silence. Congregation will follow.

Some of the material comes from Seasons of the Spirit, Wood Lake Publishing Company http://www.seasonsonline.ca
Hymn numbers refer to the UMC Hymnal or the Faith We Sing

Monday, March 23, 2015

What Language is God's Language?

Jeremiah 31: 31-34
Chatfield United Methodist Church
Rev. Debra Jene Collum
March 22, 2015

What language is written on your heart? This is the question of our text this morning.

Jeremiah, as most of you know, was a great prophet of Israel. He did his work during a particularly difficult time in Israeli history. His Hebrew nickname was: Hagor Mishabebh meaning: death and destruction. With good reason.

In the chapters preceding our text this morning, Jeremiah tells the people of Israel that they are sinful, wicked, ungodly, idolaters. He says: They run after sin a swiftly as a horse runs into battle.

Because of these sins, God is willing to wipe out God’s own chosen people. Sin has gotten the better of them. Rebellion has taken too strong a hold.

I always tell you that there is nothing that can separate us from the love and grace of God. But Jeremiah is telling us something else. What is the sin that could be so life threatening? What is the rebellion that is so damning?

One of the things I love, love, love about our VBS program is that most of the songs our children learn are bible verses set to music. I learned a song in church that is from the Psalms It is a song that the Hebrew people would have sung in their worship services. Not the same music but the similar words: “I’m gonna hide God’s word in my it’s a lamp unto my feet. I’m gonna read God’s Word everyday, it’s my food, my bread, my meat.” (http://www.psalty.com/track/688275/the-bible-alphabet-song?trackship_id=771070).
We are called by God to write the words of God in our hearts. Inscribe them on our hearts.
But Jeremiah says to them: You act as though your evil ways are laws inscribed with a diamond point on your heart.
God’s law is what should be written in the hearts of people, but at this time in Israel, evil was written as a law on their hearts.
Written with a diamond point. Which means it was written pretty deeply and permanently.

And worse yet, God says, my people like it this way. (Jeremiah chapter 5)

My people like it this way They don’t feel sorry or even seem to know that what they are doing is evil.

Evil upon evil upon evil, written on the stony hearts of Israel, God’s chosen people.

This is a good scripture for Lent, don’t you think? It is a good scripture for the state of our country today.
Now, at this time in human history don’t you think? We need a Jeremiah to call us out of our stony hearted ways.

I read a story yesterday that would have caught Jeremiah’s attention. It certainly caught mine.
This happened in upstate New York. A school was helping students understand that multicultural world in which we live. The multicultural America in which we have always lived. So they decided that for a week they would have a student recite the pledge of allegiance in a language of another country. So on Wednesday of last week an Arab speaking student recited the pledge, respectfully, in Arabic. During his recitation some students ridiculed him. When some parents heard about it, they were outraged. Enough to cause the school is issue an apology.
Because a student asked another student to recite the pledge in Arabic. A language that is as ancient and as beautiful as Hebrew and related to the language Jesus spoke: Aramaic.
The parents immediately jumped to the conclusion that the student was speaking the language of an enemy instead of the language of a neighbor. (http://www.bbc.com/news/31989874)

This is what Jeremiah was condemning the nation of Israel for: You act so holy and pray in all the right ways but you exploit and do harm to your neighbor and the stranger that lives in your land. You teach your children how to hate instead of how to love. You teach your children that neighbors are enemies instead of people of God. You have stony hearts. Etched with hate instead of love.

For those who think the bible has nothing to say to the current affairs of the day or is a boring book, I suggest a good modern translation of Jeremiah.
For thirty chapters Jeremiah fries Israel. There are few words of mercy and only moments of forgiveness. For thirty chapters their own God through the prophet Jeremiah condemns Israel.

Then right in the middle of the book chapter 31
 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.
I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. For I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

This is the part that really floors me. After 30 chapters of scathing condemnation God says: I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more. I will write a new law on their hearts, my law, my way. The Law that the Psalmist writes about: The law that gives light and life instead of darkness and waywardness.

This is grace beyond understanding. And yet it is the grace which God offers his people. Every day in every time in history.

Stony hearts that have evil laws etched upon their hearts can be erased. Erased and restored to hearts that love God and neighbor and self.
In every time for every one, God promises a new covenant.

This is why I refuse to give up hope, even as I read the news every morning and evening. Even when I hear stories about teaching our children how to hate their neighbor.
This is why I refuse to give up hope.
Because even when God is disgusted with us, God is able to forgive the worst of sin. Even when God threatens us with death, it will not come.
Even when God threatens us with death because of our sin, it will not come.
And even more: God will erase the hatred on our hearts and write on them the Holy Law of Love.
And the holy way of living in the will of God.

You have been given pencils with erasers but no point. For a reason. It is easy for us to write our own laws on our hearts. To write ways of living that are full of distrust and hatred and anger and prejudice. The reason parents were upset about the Arabic is because some of the students’ family members had been killed in Afghanistan. But here’s the thing, Arabic is not the common language of Afghanistan.
Maybe when I told you the story about the pledge of allegiance you too were thinking, the pledge should only be said in English. Arabic is the language of our enemy.
So I want to gently ask you, what if it had been spoken in French or Norwegian or Swedish or German. Would you have had the same reaction? What about Greek or Hebrew? Or Japanese or Lakota?
Our hearts can lead us astray and turn us into people who turn neighbors into enemies if our laws are written on them.

But God is a God of erasers.
Someone once said: I desperately need God to not be like me. – Nbw.
Thankfully God is not like us. God is a god of erasers. God will, if we are willing, erase the etchings on our hearts that keep us from being followers of Jesus.
Jesus who came and lived and died and rose again to show us how much God loves even those who claim to be God’s enemy.

As the praise team calls us to prayer, I invite you to hold your pencil in your hand and think of those things that need to be erased from your hearts. Give them to God, be willing to allow God to make in you a clean heart. Even if it hurts a little. Be willing to allow God to create a clean slate whereon the holy laws of God can be inscribed.