PENTECOST - THE BIRTHDAY OF THE CHURCH

Today is someone's birthday!  Well, it's not exactly a birthday for one person.  It's a special kind of birthday for a whole lot of people!  It's our birthday as a church - all of the church in all of the world.

When the church had its first birthday, God gave all the people in the church some birthday presents!  And God keeps on giving people birthday presents.  In fact, God gives people presents all the time.  God doesn't give presents like toys or games or bikes or money, but God gives people the kind of presents that help them be the best person they can be.  There are so many ways to be a wonderful person!

Let me think of a few people I know and the birthday presents I think God has given them.  My friend Gretchen is very kind and gentle.  My friend John does a lot of thinking about the whole wide world and he loves learning about other countries.  Then there is Jason who is an amazing artist.  And Karen who loves to look after people by cooking and baking delicious food.

What kinds of presents has God given us?

What are the best things you can see in your friends?  Who is very patient, or a good listener, or not afraid to ask people to solve an argument?

I am grateful to God for all our presents - including the Holy Spirit - which was sent to us on Pentecost!

                                                  BLOWING BUBBLES!!

Do you have a bottle of bubble soap?  The arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is a little like blowing soap bubbles!  You can dip your wand into the bubble soap, but until air is blown into the mixture, nothing happens.  On Pentecost Sunday, the coming of the wind filled the disciples with the Holy Spirit.  Now blow some bubbles (outside if possible.)  Notice how far the bubbles can go once they are filled with air.  That is the way the good news of Jesus can spread when we share the gifts we are given!

Odd One Out

-Have you ever felt like the odd one out?

-Maybe you are the only one in your class at school who goes to church?

-Maybe you refuse to join in the bullying when everyone else is doing it?

-Maybe you are the only one who seems to care about the mess in the playground, and so you pick up litter while every

It is horrible to feel like the odd one out, when what you are doing is a good thing.

It is unfair that, when you are doing something to help other people, in your local community, school or church, people want to make fun of you.

It is really sad when people think it is easier to do what everyone else is doing, rather than being kind, caring and helpful!

It takes courage to be different.  It takes strength to go against the crowd.  It takes a gritty determination on your part to do the right thing, because you believe with all your heart it is the right thing to do.

Sometimes doing the right thing gets you into deeper trouble.

That's what happened to Stephen in a story in the Bible.

He was helping to look after the people who had nothing.  Those who had become widows, children who had lost their parents, people who had lost their homes because of war.

Stephen wanted to help those people.  He wanted to make sure they had enough to live on and perhaps build a new and better life one day.

He was selected to do the job, and he did it to the very best of his abilities.

Yet no matter how well he did the job of caring for these vulnerable people, there were others who felt they deserved more.  They were jealous and upset about Stephen and they spread lies about him.  They wanted more for themselves, believing they had more right to food and help than the others.

They made up stories about Stephen that got him into trouble, and even though they were lies, some people in authority believed the stories and wanted to get rid of Stephen.  They threw Stephen out of the city and then they threw stones at him.

Yet while they were doing this, Stephen asked God to help him.  He asked God if he would forgive the people who were hurting him, in the same way Jesus prayed that the people who hurt him would be forgiven.

Stephen knew he was doing the right thing, and people remembered his courage, his dignity and his strength, which is why people still talk about the story of Stephen today, that he might be an inspiration to all of us, who decide to do the caring things God asked of each of us.

TWO MEN FROM JERICHO

A Story from Luke 18:31-19:10

A story of two men who lived long ago in a far away city called Jericho.  One man did a job that made everyone fear him so they called him a baddie and never went near him.  The other had no job because he was blind.  He sat for hours every day begging at the roadside.  When Jesus came visiting their city one day, the neighbors said, "You two had better stay away!  A blind man and a bad man Jesus won't want to meet!  So, bad man and blind man, keep out of the street!"  But when Jesus was visiting their city that day, the blind man and the bad man had something to say.  "So I might be a beggar, and I might be blind, but I can see that Jesus is kind."  "And I might do a job that I'm hated for, but I can see that Jesus knows me more!"  And Jesus could see that the blind man was brave, and to the man with the bad job, Jesus gave a big wave!  And he welcomed them both and he made them his friends seeing not blindness or badness but two wonderful men!  Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus, who lived in Jericho, and knew Jesus' kindness a long time ago.

Zacchaeus was a very important tax collector, and he was also very rich.  Hide coins (real or chocolate) around the room and see if your friends can find them all.  After meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus changed his ways and paid back all the money he owed, plus extra!

PLAY THE COIN COLLECTOR GAME

You can read the story of "The Good Samaritan" in the Bible.  Find it in Luke 10 verses 29-37.

WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?

   The Story of the "Good Wisconsinite"

A man was walking down Highway 151 just south of Dodgeville, wearing a Chicago Bears football jersey.  A group of robbers attacked him, stealing his cell phone and wallet, and beating him terribly.  They left him on the side of the road, assuming he would die.  Now by chance, a minister from a church in Madison drove by and saw the man, but not wanting to get involved, he changed lanes and kept on driving.  A car with Illinois license plates slowed down a bit when the passengers noticed the man's body, but they also kept going.  But a resident of Dodgeville, who was on his way to an appointment in Platteville, had compassion for the injured man and pulled over to help.  The Dodgeville native was wearing a Green Bay Packer sweatshirt.  He had always thought those Illinois tourists who clogged Wisconsin highways in the summer were rude and obnoxious.  But he stopped anyway and using the first aid kit from his glove compartment, treated the man's wounds as best he could.  He dialed 911 and stayed with the injured man until help arrived.  He told the EMTs that if the man didn't have health insurance, he would be willing to set up a Go Fund Me page to pay for the man's care.  Jesus has a question for you - which of the people in this story acted like a neighbor?  Of course it was the Dodgeville resident who offered help.  Jesus wants all of us to be this kind of neighbor.

            I'm Here!

Have you ever seen or done something that was both scary and amazing?  This is a story about the scariest and most amazing thing that ever happened to Jesus' three best friends.

One day when Peter, James and John were all feeling a bit down in the dumps, Jesus took them out for a walk in the countryside, up a hill to get some peace and quiet.  Jesus had been telling them that following in his footsteps would not make life easy - sometimes it is really tough to keep on doing good and loving people!

When they got to the top of the hill, they were nearly ready to fall asleep.  Jesus started praying for a while.  Suddenly a very strange thing happened - Peter, James and John could hardly believe what they were seeing - Jesus' face and clothes began to shine brightly, as if a light was shining out of him!  His friends knew that the light was God's way of saying, "I'm here!"

Then two old friends of God appeared - Moses and Elijah who had lived long, long ago.  And they had a talk with Jesus.  Peter, James and John knew that the two old men were God's way of saying, "I'm here!"

Moses and Elijah disappeared again and a huge cloud came down.  That was the very scary part!  But Peter, James and John knew that the cloud was God's way of saying, "I'm here!"

Then they all heard a voice speaking.  The voice said, "This is my Son!  I've chosen him!  Listen to him!"  And Peter, James and John knew that the voice was God's way of saying, "I'm here!"

The voice fell silent, and the cloud fizzled away and there were Jesus, Peter, James and John, sitting on the hilltop in the quietness.  What a scary and amazing time!

God has lots of ways of saying "I'm here!"  Sometimes it might be scary.  Sometimes it might be amazing.  Sometimes it might be very ordinary.  Sometimes we might not even see or hear anything.  But God always wants to let us know.  "I'm here!"

Create a picture of an AMAZING moment in your life!!  Think of all the fun and wonderful times you have had and create a drawing that shows one of them.  You could also make a picture frame out of card stock and decorate it with stickers, beads, shells or whatever seems right.  Then insert a photo of your AMAZING moment.  Share your creation with a friend or family member and tell them what you remember about that AMAZING time in your life!

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF JESUS?

ASK A FRIEND TO HELP YOU ACT OUT THIS DIALOGUE ABOUT JESUS!

Jenna:  Louise, what do you think of this man called Jesus?

Louise:  I have heard lots of people talking about him.  He seems to be a nice man.

Jenna:   Yes, but he is not quite like John the Baptist.

Louise:  Well, they are both very religious, but different.

Jenna:   That's what I mean.  John the Baptist told people how to behave and act, and get their lives sorted out.  He told people how bad they were, and that they needed to be forgiven the wrongs they have done.  He called people to get baptized in the river Jordan as a sign of their commitment to God.

Louise:  Yes, but Jesus is different.  He seems to like to tell stories that encourage  people to think about God.  He seems to be very caring, kind and compassionate toward people.  I have even heard that he has helped sick people to get better and blind people to see!

Jenna:   I have heard that too.  Yet John the Baptist told people that the one to come after him would be the greatest and the best person ever.  That he would be the Messiah, which is the special one from God, who would make our people and our nation great again.  This Jesus does not seem like the person that would crush our enemies under his feet.

Louise:  No, he speaks about forgiving our enemies, living in peace with one another, loving one another.  He kind of makes God seem like one of us.  That's what I like about Jesus.  He laughs, and cries, and loves having fun, just like I do.  John the Baptist lived like a wild man on locusts and wild honey, and was not much for keeping company with other people.  He distanced himself from others.

Jenna:   Yes, but I think I would rather follow a God who was more like Jesus, than someone like John the Baptist who kept telling us how bad we all were.

Louise:  Yes, I know what you are saying Jenna, and yet John was also a force for good.  They both tell us something about God, but in a different kind of way.

Jenna:   Well, I have decided to follow Jesus.

Louise:  Funny you should say that.  I'm also going to follow Jesus and find out what more he can teach us about God!

                                                                                  WHO I AM BOOK

You could make a notebook about you!  Draw a picture of yourself on the front cover and give your book the title "This is Me".  Draw or write in the book as many details about yourself as you can:  who is in your family, your pets, your school, things you like and dislike, favorite foods, favorite color, hobbies, dreams.  Show what makes you unique!

There's No Place Like Home!

In the gospel of Luke chapter 4 verses 14-30, you can read the story of Jesus' homecoming.  The Baby Jesus of Christmas is all grown up now and he has been teaching in the synagogues.  He returns to his home town of Nazareth and tells his former neighbors that he is the person the prophet Isaiah told them would be coming to "preach good news to the poor."  The people of Nazareth are confused.  "Isn't this Joseph the carpenter's son?" they ask.  Later, they become angry and send Jesus away.  Jesus says, "Truly I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country."  This homecoming didn't go so well.  Jesus' old friends and neighbors had trouble accepting this "new Jesus" - a teacher, prophet, and performer of miracles.  They didn't understand that Jesus is God's son.  Did you ever know someone who went away from home for a time?  Were they different when they returned?

                                 ACTION IDEA

Take a walk around your hometown!  What do you see, hear, or smell?  Do you have a favorite building?  What are some fun places to go in your town?  What would you miss about your town if you went away?

A CHRISTMAS PRAYER

It's Christmas Day!  Go and see the baby!

All new and wrinkly all tiny and fragile.

It's Christmas Day!  Did you see the baby?

All wrapped up and waiting to say hello.

It's Christmas Day!  Can you hear the baby?

Crying for cuddles and demanding to be held?

It's Christmas Day!  Here is the baby!

Born for you and me, born for all the world.

It's Christmas Day!  He is our baby!

He is our Savior.  He is God's promise.

It's Christmas Day!  Thank you, Lord, for the baby!

Amen

Announcing the News!

This week's Bible passage is an announcement to Mary of Jesus' birth and that he will receive the throne of David.  You will find it in Luke 1:26-56.  Look though a newspaper and see if you can find an announcement.  Check the sports page - has a team announced the hiring of a new coach or a record being set?  The business section might announce a company's newest deal.  Your local paper might contain wedding or birth announcements.  If you were to announce something important that you, your church, or your school are doing to help others, what would it be?

What is Advent?

The dictionary says that advent is the coming or arrival of something long awaited or momentous.  In the church, we know that the birth of Christ is something very important and worth waiting for!  Advent is the season that helps us prepare for Christmas!  We are not just waiting, we are getting ready for a big event.  The prophet Isaiah said, "Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which means God with us."  God is coming to earth in the form of a human baby.  That is good news for the whole world!

                                                                       ADVENT PRAYER

                                                  Good news,

                                                  God is coming;

                                                  and when God comes

                                                  the world will know,

                                                  because the world will be changed:

                                                  there will be justice and peace,

                                                  all will have enough,

                                                  because

                                                  all will share what they have.

                                                  We long for the day when your good news comes,

                                                  for the day when

                                                  the world finally

                                                  sees you and knows

                                                  that you are God.

                                                   Help us to be good news bearers,

                                                   people who share,

                                                   who give generously to anyone in need;

                                                   people who love our neighbor,

                                                   whoever they may be;

                                                   people who love and live to serve you.

                                                   Amen

The Birds and the Bread

A long, long time ago, one of God's friends, a man called Elijah, was feeling lonely and sad and hungry.  God wanted to look after him and cheer him up, so he sent some wild birds to fly around Elijah and drop food for him to eat.  The big black ravens came to the ravine where Elijah was sheltering, in the morning and again at night, dropping pieces of food for him to eat.  But God knew that the ravens couldn't keep feeding Elijah forever, so he told Elijah to get up and go to a nearby village.  There was a woman there called Emuna who was feeling lonely and sad and hungry too.  Maybe, thought God, Emuna and Elijah could help each other. 

"Excuse me, kind lady," said Elijah, "Could you give me some bread?"

"I'm so sorry, I've got no bread left," said Emuna.  She felt very sad that she couldn't help Elijah.  "I'm on my way home to see my son and bake my last loaf with my last little bit of flour and oil.  I don't think we'll stay alive much longer, we are starving."

But Elijah had a funny feeling that Emuna could help him.  Surely God had sent him to the village to find a friend and find some food.  So he pleaded, "Please could you bake some bread for me first?  Then you and your son can have some," he asked.

Emuna was surprised but she wanted to help, even though her own son was hungry too.  She was even more surprised when Elijah said, "Your flour and oil won't run out just yet.  You'll see!"

Emuna walked home, puzzled but excited, "My flour and oil won't run out?  Why did he say that?  Of course they'll fun out!  I've got so little left in the jars.  Oh dear!  What can I do?  I really want to help that poor man, but I've nothing to give him!  But he says my flour and oil won't run out?"

Emuna got home and began to make dough for the bread.  She poured a little flour.  She poured a little oil.  She mixed the dough.  Surely that was the flour and oil finished.  She tipped up the flour jar again.  Out came more flour.  "Oh!  Look at that!" cried Emuna.  She tipped up the oil jar again.  Out came more oil.  "Oh! Look at this!" cried Emuna.  She would be able to make enough bread for Elijah and for her son and for herself after all!  Nobody was going to go hungry.  She kindly invited Elijah into her house and gave him some bread.  Oh what tasty bread!  Elijah and the woman didn't feel hungry anymore.  They didn't feel sad anymore.  They didn't feel lonely anymore.  Elijah felt glad that the birds and fed him and that Emuna had baked bread for him.  Emuna felt glad that her flour and oil jars still weren't empty and that her visitor was someone special.  Elijah and Emuna were glad they had been able to help each other, just as God thought they could.

Action Idea

 

 

Think about the food you eat each day.  We can say thank you to God for our food by saying grace at mealtimes.  We can also say thanks to those who make our meals at home and in school!

Read Elijah's story in the Bible - 1Kings chapter 17.

A Strange And Special Day

A long, long time ago, there lived a man called Isaiah who was one of God's friends.

God had a special job for Isaiah to do and God wanted to tell Isaiah about it in a really special way.

What happened was this: Isaiah had a vision!

That meant he saw things that were not really there.  But it wasn't like a dream when you're asleep and it wasn't that Isaiah was daydreaming and making things up.

It was God's way of telling him something.  First of all, Isaiah saw a big throne and it looked like a King was sitting there.  The King was wearing a long, long robe.  The air all around the King was full of smoky mist and in the mist angels were flying!  Isaiah thought the King and the throne and the angels were wonderful!

He knew he wasn't dreaming.  He knew there wasn't really a King sitting in front of him.  He knew it was all a big picture God was showing him. 

Then Isaiah saw one of the angels fly to him and touch his mouth with a piece of coal.

Then the King asked, "Who will use their mouth to tell people what I want to say to them?  Who will speak for me?  Who will be my friend?"

What do you think Isaiah said?

He said, "I'll tell people what you want to tell them, God!  I'll be your friend!  You can send me to do that special job!"

It was all a bit strange and quite wonderful, but Isaiah wasn't scared.  He was very, very happy!

You will need:

A cardboard tube from paper towels

Stickers

Ribbons or strips of paper

Markers

Tape or Glue

Decorate the outside of your tube with stickers or your own drawings.  Fasten strips of ribbon or paper on one end like streamers.

Speak into your tube.  Can you see the streamers moving from your breath?

Let a friend talk while you listen.  What would it be like to receive a message from God?

Make a Whisper Tube

Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ

115 W. Merrimac St.

Dodgeville, WI  53533

(608)935-5727

plymouth@mhtc.net

Office Hours:

Tues - Thurs: 8 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

 

An Open and Affirming Congregation of the

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