Children’s Message: Don’t Stop Learning

So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And I have with me a tool used in the kitchen. Have you ever seen something like this before? Let’s describe what we see. 

Describe the tool. 

This is known as a Honing or Sharpening steel. It’s a tool used in the kitchen to help keep knives sharp. A knife works by having one edge sharp – at a point. And that’s why you have to be really careful with knives because if you touch the sharp edge rather than dull edge, you could hurt yourself. When you see knives or use knives, make sure your parents and guardians are around. Knives aren’t toys – they’re tool – that I use a lot to cut strawberries, apples, cucumbers, and other food items in the kitchen. A sharpening steel is pretty easy to use. You take a knife – with a blade and you just gently drag it down one side and then the other. You can hear it make a noise – like a sheeen. After a few “sheens,” the knife is sharper than it once was and that’s important because a sharp knife will do what you want it to do – making it safer and easier to use. For the longest time, I thought the sharpening steel was similar to what a knifer sharpener was. But I was wrong. For years and years, I thought I knew what this thing did. Turns out, I was mistaken and I just recently learned what a sharpening steel does. 

ANd to know what it does, we have to realize we can’t see everything and what we think we know might not be the full story. If you look at the edge of the knife, it looks pointy and sharp. But our eyes, without help, can’t really see what is happening at the pin-point edge. It’s the pin-point edge where the edge of the knife touches the apple – and it’s there where the knife can start to get faulty. The more we use a knife, the more that edge gets out of whack. It’ll start to wobble, no longer be straight, and resemble a squiggly line. Parts will flatten out or point in random ways and will no longer have an edge. That’s what makes the knife dull – which makes it harder to cut and harder to do what you want it to do. When you rub it on a sharpening steel, you’re bending the edge at a microscopic level so that’s it straight. It’s not actually sharpening the edge which would involve using stone or something harder than the knife to actually rub metal off, making a new point. It simply brings the edge back to the way it was. And it takes care of an issue we know is there but that we can’t physically see. 

So why bring up a sharpening steel in church? Well, for a few reasons. One is that, for the longest time, I didn’t know what this thing actually di. I thought it actually changed the blade by physically grinding away bits of metal from the edge. But it didn’t. You’re always going to learn new things, no matter how old you are. And you’ll often discover that what you do know isn’t quite right. It’s okay to admit when we get things wrong because we will. We don’t always see the full story because we’re only human. We can only see what we can see – yet we have opportunities and tools that might help us see in new ways. Seeing things in new ways is an important theme in our stories about Jesus. He is always helping people look at their lives, the people around them, and what they hold most dear – and wonder if there’s a more loving, more kind, more patient, more godly way of looking at things. Jesus knows what it’s like to be like us – to only see a bit of the picture. But Jesus is also God – and knows that there’s so much more to see, to wonder, and to understand. Jesus invites us to stay open the possibility that we’re not right about all things and that we will always need to keep learning. And it’s okay to always be a learner – even when what we learn my challenge something very important to us or upend what we thought we knew. We get to learn and grow and change and, even when it feels difficult to do that, we should do it anyways because Jesus loves us, Jesus is with us, and Jesus – through the gift of faith, the bible, prayer, and the spirit – will keep showing us all the new ways to look at ourselves and the world. 

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, 7/17/2022.

Children’s Message: Showing Your Work

So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And I have with me a workbook that I make my children work on during the summer.It’s a workbook full of things they might have learned in school over the previous year. I know, I know, having to do schoolwork in the summer sounds awful. But it’s my way of encouraging them to keep their skills sharp so that, in the fall, the school year is easier for them. 

The workbook is full of different sections – including science, social studies, writing, and…math. Math is full of numbers, operations, adding things up, subtracting things away from each other, and more. There’s a lot of different methods or ways of finding an answer to a math problem but one thing I found is that, the more math I did, the easier it got to solve problems in my head. I could do the addition, the subtraction, the division or whatever in my head because I had practiced those kinds of problems over and over again. I remember doing math homework, worksheets, or tests – and simply writing the answer down because I had already done the work in my head. But teachers were never really interested in me getting the answer. What they wanted was to show my work. They wanted to see me take the time and do the steps needed to solve the problem. If I filled out the worksheet and just wrote down an answer – they wouldn’t know how I got the answer. And often showing how you get an answer is more important than getting the answer itself. 

So showing your work – showing how you do something or why you do something – is important. It’s not just enough, sometimes, to have an answer. The people around you want to see how you got that answer as well. When we show others the work we’ve done, we help them see why we do what we do and how we solved the problem. It’s not always easy to show our work because it can reveal our shortcomings; what we got wrong; and maybe how we don’t always know what we’re talking about. But showing our work is how we built trust with others – and also is how we show our faith. We call others we’re a christian or we’re baptized or we’re beloved by God. All those things are true. Yet people around us would also want to show how we’re a Christian – and how following Jesus changes what we do right now. We can tell people we’re a Christian but we can’t show them without doing Christian work. And that work is, as we’ll hear in our story about Jesus today, about showing mercy; about caring for others; about sharing love even when it’s hard. It’s about being kind, patient, and willing to make sacrifices for others. It’s about doing the work of love instead of telling folks we love them. And that’s what God invites us to do; to show the work of what following Jesus is all about.

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, 7/10/2022.

Children’s Message: Prepped for Failure

So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And I want to talk a little bit with you about something that everyone experiences but we’re not very good at how to deal with it when it happens. It’s something everyone in the pews has experienced and something that even the followers of Jesus, 2000 years ago, experienced too. So to explore what that is, we need to talk a little bit about the story of Jesus we’re going to hear. And to do that, I’ve got a picture.

So what do you see in this picture? There’s groups of people two-by-two knocking on the doors. It seems like there’s a road, a path, and a lot of these groups knocking on doors. What do you think they’re doing?

What we’re going to hear is that Jesus asks his disciples to go ahead of him into places Jesus plans to go. Jesus is going to villages located with folks who were Samaritans. Samaritans had similar beliefs to Jesus’ own Jewish background but there was enough differences that they didn’t get along. Jesus, as a very religious Jewish person, wasn’t supposed to hang out and eat meals with Samaritans. But he went to see them anyways cuz God’s love, regardless of beliefs or religion or culture or background, is for everyone. Jesus told his disciples, who were probably mostly Jewish like him, to go ahead of him. He sent them in groups of two and told them to bring very little with them. They won’t bring money, extra clothes, or extra shoes. Instead, they’d have to rely on the generosity of others – of people not exactly like them – to help take care of them. 

So do you think it would have been easy or hard to accept that kind of help?

It was probably really hard because it could go really well or it could go poorly. And if people didn’t accept them or didn’t talk to them or told them to go away, the disciples would have felt like the failed Jesus. Failure is something we all experience – when we try something and it just doesn’t work. We fail at school when we take a test. We’re not always the best player on our baseball team. We sometimes come up short in the championship game. Or we try to beat a level in the game we’re playing and we just can’t do it. Sometimes we fail because we didn’t practice enough, study enough, or do the work we needed to do well. But sometimes we fail because our best just wasn’t enough or because we were never going to be successful as we thought we were. Failing is a hard thing to experience and, when it happens, we might think we – over all – are just failures too. 

We’re going to hear in our story that the disciples that were sent out were successful – but that Jesus also did something special for them. He also prepared them for failure. He prepared and talked to his disciples about what happens when someone turns them away or when things don’t go as well as they wanted. He told them to shake the dust from their shoes – which is a weird expression – but one that could be like shrugging shoulders and saying “oh well” when we fail. It’s a way to admit we haven’t been able to do what we set out to do. That doesn’t mean we won’t feel angry or upset or frustrated because we’re allowed to feel those things. But we don’t have to blame ourselves or believe that because we failed, we ourselves are a failure. Instead, we learn to move on; to try again; to be okay that we’re not supposed to be the best at everything. We’re going to fail and that’s okay because God’s love for us doesn’t depend on whether we are a success. God loves you; God cares for you; God will guide you; and because we have been baptized and brought into Jesus’ special family, it’s safe for us to try and fail because Jesus will never let us go.

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, 7/3/2022.

Children’s Message: Stoles and Grapes

So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And I want to talk a little bit about my stole. The stole is this scarf-like looking thing I wear around my neck and it’s an ancient symbol of my role as a pastor. Part of my responsibility is to preach, share God’s word, and offer baptism, and holy communion – and this scarf, hung around the neck, means I’ve been called – and selected by this congregation – to do exactly that. In our denomination, some leaders called deacons wear their stole like a sash – going from one shoulder to the opposite part on their waist. That’s a symbol that they have been called by God and by a congregation to preach, share God’s word, and to serve others in a specific role like finding people homes, feeding people, sitting with people as they are dying, etc. This stole was a gift from CLC when I first started and I like it a lot because of the symbol it has here on the corner. What does it look like? Grapes! That’s right – grapes. 

I know I’ve shared a few children’s messages with you about grapes because they’re so cool. I love eating grapes and watching grapes grow. Grapes are used to make grape juice and wine – two items often used in holy communion. And I recently learned that when they’re making wine, after crushing up all the grapes and getting all the liquid they need, the left over pieces – smashed up grapes – is called M A R C (i.e. my name). That MARC is then usually used to make compost – which is a kind of fertilizer to help plants grow. Grapes are amazing and grapes are a fruit. What do you think fruits are for?

Plants grow fruit as a way to spread their seeds. They want you to pick them, carry them, eat them, and drop the seed in the ground so a new plant could grow. So plants, over time, evolved to make their fruit as sweet, juicy, and tasty as they can be. This fruit, though, does more than just help the plant make new versions of itself. This plant also helps those who can eat it. It provides us energy, vitamins, and nutrition we need to grow too. Most individual plants, if they don’t grow fruit, can still survive as long as they are healthy. That’s why we sometimes see fruit trees still growing big and strong even though they no longer grow fruit. But this fruit, while designed to bring a seed to a new place, has this happy accident where we are healthier and stronger. Fruit, in a weird way, isn’t just for the plant. It’s also for others too. And that’s what makes fruits really neat.

A writer named Paul [Galatians 5:1,13-25] noticed this about fruit too – how it provides a benefit to the person but really makes a big difference in the lives of others. He used the image of a fruit – to help describe our responsibilities with others. Because Jesus loves us, because we’re baptized, because God says we matter and we belong – we’ve already received what we need to help show others how God loves them too. The presence of God in our life can, and should, bear fruit – but a fruit meant for others. So Paul will list what that “fruit” – our actions – look like. It looks like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When we spread joy, when we help bring peace, when we are kind, when we share and not hoard everything to ourselves, when we are patient with each other, and when we practice self-control – which means not letting our wants force others to do what we want – these are gifts that help others thrive. Because you never know who around you needs a bit of kindness, joy, a little peace, and the knowledge they are loved to become exactly who God wants them be. 

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on the Third Sunday after Pentecost, 6/26/2022

Children’s Message: What Are Psalms

So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And I want to talk about a book from the Bible that we’re going to be hearing a lot in worship over the next few months. The book is a pretty big one and is near the center of a lot of our Bibles when they’re in book form. For example, this is one of my study bibles – which is a bible full of little notes, facts, charts, and figures. This book is over 2000 pages long. When you flip to the middle, you find yourself near the end of one of the largest books in our Bible – the book of Psalms. 

So what’s a psalm? That’s not a super easy question to answer because there are so many of them. In fact, the book of psalms contains 150 psalms. These psalms are songs, poems, and prayers. Some were designed to be sung when a king in ancient Israel was installed as ruler over the country. Others were written as songs to be used when people worshiped in the Holy Temple in Jersualem. A few are specifically songs of thanksgiving – saying thank you to God for all the help God has given to a person. And others are prayers asking God for help. The psalms are full of all kinds of emotions – with the writers sharing their joys, their lows, their sorrow, and even their anger. The psalms, as Martin Luther understood them to be, are designed to explore the highs and the lows in the life of faith. Those highs can be full of fun – when everything is going the way we expect them too; and the lows can be when our hearts are broken in two. “The psalms weep with those who suffer, laugh with those who celebrate, and teach all of us about the long journey of faith.” The psalms are important, meaningful, and a gift God gives us to help us in our lives of faith. And they were so important, even Jesus and those who wrote about Jesus – quoted the psalms a lot.

One way to think about psalms is to think of them like we might our favorite songs. What do you do when you hear a song you really like? You probably play it over and over again. You might sing it really loud in the car when your parents are trying to listen to something else. You might try to learn all the lyrics and maybe even share it with friends. The song is heard over and over again, becoming a part of you because you like the beat, the rhythm, and maybe because it speaks to how you’re feeling or an experience you’ve had. The psalms are like that – a gift given to us by God to let us know that God knows that life can sometimes be awesome and really hard. There are times when we need to know that God sees us, knows us, gets what we’re going through – and that there is also a song or voice we can reach out to that will show us how, no matter what, we’re loved. So I’m going to invite you to pay attention to these psalms over these summer months. And you might find some words or phrases or verses that you’ll find yourself returning to over and over again for support, comfort, and hope.

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, 6/19/2022.

Children’s Message: A Spider-man Trinity

So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And if you don’t know already, I’m a bit of comic book nerd. My three favorite heroes are Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, and Moon Knight. But I’m also pretty fond of Spider-man and so I have with me 3 spider-mans. Now if you’ve seen the movie Spider-man: No Way Home, you’ll remember there’s many scenes where there are three different Spider-mans who come together to save the world. One is a Spider-man played by the actor Tobey Mcquire and he was the original spider-man in the movies that came out in the early 2000s. The other Spider-man was played by Andrew Garfield in the movies that came out in the 2010s. Finally, the third Spider-man was played by Tom Holland who first appeared in the movie Captain America: Civil War in 2016. So we have three actors who played spider-man in three sets of movies. They’re all spider-man but is Tom Holland exactly the same as Andrew Garfield or Tobey Mcquire? No. They’re different. So how can these three actors be spider-man all at the same time while being different from one another? 

Now we could talk about the multiverse and how the marvel comic book imagine the universe – but that idea how they’re all spider-man but their also a little bit different while still being superheroes who love and serve and try to make a difference – is an example we could use to describe the word Trinity. Today is Trinity Sunday when we remember and celebrate who we understand God to be. There is one God who we discover through God the Father – or Creator, God the Son – i.e. Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit. The Creator isn’t exactly the Son or the Spirt and vice versea but they’re all God. They’re individually fully God and still distinct, in their own way. The idea of the Trinity is something that’s not easy to understand and if you think about it too long, your brain might start to hurt. It might sound like we’re talking about three separate God or three parts of God but we’re not. We’re talking about God who we experience in three distinct ways – just like how Spider-man is always spider-man and the actors are always spider-man but there’s distinctiveness and connection and a kind of divine community in God that loves and serves us. The Trinity isn’t easy to understand and it’s okay if we never understand it. Often we don’t understand things and we might feel uncomfortable or sad or even get defensive and angry because of what we don’t know. It’s not easy to not know; it’s not easy to be uncomfortable; it’s not easy to realize that there’s somethings we’re never going to fully grasp. But Jesus teaches us that being uncomfortable isn’t a bad thing; that getting emotional about being uncomfortable is pretty human; and that there are mysteries in life that we can’t always grasp and solve. It’s okay to be uncomfortable but we don’t have to let being uncomfortable dictate how we love, serve, and help one another. We can, instead, trust that the God who lived a human is a God and who told you in baptism you are loved forever – which is a completely weird and hard to understand thing – will always be with you. And God doesn’t ask you to understand that love but rather to experience it, to welcome it, to claim it as your own – and use that love to love others too. 

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on Trinity Sunday , 6/12/2022.

Children’s Message: Doing Something Different

So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And I have a question for you: has anyone showed you how to touch your toes?

I remember in gym class, we often had to touch our toes. It was part of the many ways they, in theory, measured our physical fitness and I couldn’t always do it. Not everyone can touch their toes – which is perfectly a okay – and I sort of thought it was weird that they showed me only one way to touch my toes. They told me to stand up, lean forward, and stretch to the floor. Every time we would do this physical fitness test, we would do it the same way. But I wonder – do you think there’s another way to touch our toes? 

Let the kids show you how to touch your toes. Practice. Try. Reiterate that it’s okay if we can’t. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t; some people will always be able to touch their toes; others never will. Touching our toes or the shape of our body doesn’t determine our worth or love – we’re just here trying to see if there’s another way to touch our toes rather than the one way we always did it. 

Then, once we try a few times, do the trick you saw on TikTok. Bend your knees. Lower your chest. Drop your head. Then straighten up. 

Did you see that? A different way helped us touch our toes. Sometimes, to do what we want to do – or what God wants us to do – we can’t always do things the same way over and over again. Sometimes we need to use our imagination – or our listening skills by asking other people how they do what they do. We – as people – don’t always know everything or have all the answers, and that’s okay. It’s good to say “i don’t know” or “I need help” or ask others for their thoughts. God doesn’t want us to know everything. Instead, God invites us to ask questions, to wonder, and to see if we can imagine things in a new way. And God has wanted us to do that for a long time. We’ll hear, in the book of Acts, a story of when people will hear Jesus’ story in words it hadn’t been spoken in before. God’s story is full of a love that doesn’t end – but a love that also moves, swirls, grows, and changes. God invites us to embrace that kind of change too. That doesn’t mean change is always easy or that change is something we’ll always want. But even in the change, God is with us, transforming us, so that we can share with ourselves and with others the one thing that never changes – which is God’s love for you, me, and the world.

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on Pentecost, 6/5/2022.

Children’s Message: Bad Days Happen

So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And I have a question for you: what do you do when you have a bad day? 

Now a bad day can be different for each of us but we all have bad days. Sometimes those bad days are because of something we did or didn’t do; or maybe because of something that happened to us. If we could choose, we wouldn’t want to have very many bad days but bad days happen – and sometimes they happen over and over again. So when we have a bad day, we sometimes do things – whether we realize it or not. When I have a bad day, I tend to get more irritable and angry. That means – and this is my fault – I’m not as nice as I want to be those I love when I have a bad day. Sometimes a bad day will also make me feel sad or scared or nervous. I might find myself crying by myself or sitting in a car longer when I get to places or, on days when the day has just taken all my energy, I stay up too late and look at my phone. So what do you do when you have a bad day? 

And what would you like to do, instead, when you have a bad day?

I was thinking about this for two reasons. One, I found a book at my school’s bookfair that I helped manage this year called “Even Superheroes have Bad Days.” And it’s true – even superheroes have bad days. If we read comic books or watch comic book movies, we know that the bad days superheroes have usually involves them having to fight supervillians. But they also have days where they get a parking ticket or they don’t listen to a friend like they were supposed to or when they didn’t love as much as they should or didn’t feel the love they also needed. Superheroes could get mad or angry and do awful things – to make the world around them feel the way they feel inside. But…they could also do something different. They could realize they’ve had a bad day – and choose to give themselves a timeout. They could choose to rest, if they could. They could choose to do their best to not take things out on others. And if they were Christians like us – they could choose to worship, to pray, to read the Bible, and to hear how people always have bad days – yet God comes to them again and again to say they are loved and they matter. Superheroes could let the bad day not be what defines them – but rather let love, care, and kindness be what matters. They don’t always get that right – but by thinking about bad days before we have bad days, they have a chance at making sure they don’t harm the people around them.

And the second reason why I was thinking about that is because of our first reading today when Paul, a preacher who traveled around the mediterranean sea, met a woman named Lydia. And while the text doesn’t say why they met outside the walls of a city, in a place where there was water, I wonder if Lydia was there because she had a bad day and needed to get away. Maybe she needed to visit nature – or visit a place that had special meaning for her – or be in a place where here people would gather to worship and to feel loved because things hadn’t gone well. And while there – she met this Paul who told her the love Jesus had for her. And Jesus loved her not because she was always perfect and was good all her days. He loved her because sometimes we have bad days – and we need a God who is with us even when things are hard. So when you have your bad days, learn how to not hurt the people around you. And when you have bad days, remember that a bad day doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t with you. Jesus is right there showing you that your bad days won’t define all the days you get to spend with God. 

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on the Sixth Sunday after Easter, 5/22/2022.

Children’s Message: Showing Your Work

So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And most of the time when I bring you up to these steps, I show you something cool and then we talk about it. But instead of this show and tell, what if we did something first? What if we played a bit of a game? 

Now my three year old loves playing a game called “Monkey Around.” We pick up a card and do whatever it says on it. So let’s do that together. Let’s pick some cards from the game and do the actions it describes. 

You all did an awesome job playing this game with me. And did you happen to notice that it’s a game without a winner? We didn’t have to raise money or fight anyone or take our game pieces from one place to the other before anyone else. All we had to do was play and move to the best of our abilities. Moving and sharing and participating is how we play the game. And that idea of being able to do something is part of our reading about Jesus today. It’s a reading we usually hear right before Easter – during the celebration of Maundy Thursday when we remember Jesus giving us the Lord’s supper. In John’s version of that story, Jesus gives his followers a commandment – something to do. He tells us to love one another. And that word love – isn’t just about how we feel. Love is always an action. When you say you love someone, that love is expressed through the ways you care and support them. Jesus wants us to love everyone – to support everyone – to help everyone – even if we don’t feel like it. It’s hard to know how love other people but one way we can do that is through our prayers. When we pray, we’re talking to God and telling God wat we’re thinking about. It’s a conversation that can feel one-sided – as if God’s isn’t listening to us. But I promise that God is and so one way we love is by praying for each other. That’s something anyone at any age and any physical ability can do. We can tell God who we’re thinking about, what we’re worried about, and the kind of help other people need. And if you can’t come up with something to pray about, use the prayers we say in worship. Save a copy of the bulletin and, every day, repeat those prayers. When we pray, we love. And the more we love, the easier it is for us to pray. 

Each week, I share a reflection for all children of God. The written manuscript serves as a springboard for what I do. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, 5/15/2022.