Sunday, May 31, 2015

Proper 5 B (June 7): Is the Grass Greener on the Other Side?

Bible Readings: 1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15) 16-20) (11:14-15), Psalm 138, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3: 20-35.

About the Images:
Upper Left and Right: Both these images are from Heartlight.  You can access them and many other great images via my link column at left.
Lower Left:This is a free imagebank image - see my link column at left.  The 1 Samuel reading made me think of chess - kings and the God stuff and choices
Lower Right: As above

Listening Song: Always and Forever
By Raze on their album, Power (pictured at left).  This song goes well with the 1 Samuel reading. 

Listening Song: Only the World
By Mandisa on the album, True Beauty (pictured at right) . This song goes well with the Corinthians reading.

Drama: A Little Lawn Story
By Verena Johnson (Ed.), Mega Drama 3, Openbook Publishers, Adelaide, 2002, ISBN 0859109178, page 41ff (pictured at left). This is based on the 2 Corinthians reading.

Film Clip: Psalm 138


Stories, Poems and Lots of Other Good Stuff: Proper 5
Mainly based on the gospel reading and found in Resources For Preaching and Worship Year B compiled by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild, Westminster John Knox Press, 2002, ISBN 100664224776, pages 162-165 (pictured at right).

Story: Temporary Things
Story 706 in 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers and Writers by Craig Brian Larson and Leadership Journal, Baker Books, 2002, ISBN 0801091551 (pictured at left).  This story is based on the Corinthians reading.

Story: Guidance
Found as story No 118 in Your Point Being? by Graham H. Twelftree, Monarch, 2003, ISBN 1854245929. This story fits well with  Psalm 138:7 about listening to God.

Response Activity/Adult Input: Who Has Authority
Found in Bringing the Word To Life Together by Andrew Collis and Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Mediacom, 2010, ISBN 9780949656911, page 92-3. This works well with all the readings.

Meditation: Watching
Found in Meditations from the Iona Community by Ian Reid, Wild Goose Publications, Trowbridge, 1998, ISBN 1901557022, page 36.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Trinity B (May 31): Creator Son Spirit

Readings: Isaiah 6:1-8, Romans 8:12-17,Psalm 29, John 3:1-17

About the Image:
Upper Left: This is a three piece jigsaw puzzle I made to use with the kids. Please feel free to use it. I made mine on A3 paper and laminated the bits.
Upper Right: This comes from the Hermano Leon site (see my links column at left) and is free to use. It will particularly come in handy if you decide to use the response activity (Love) below. Andrej Rublëv is the artist and it would have to be one of my favourite pieces of religious art.
Lower Left: This free image comes from Church Galleries - see my link column at left.
Lower Right: This image comes from This site no longer updates (you will see the sad reason why when you visit) however the artist, Don da Silva, has left a legacy of wonderful images and templates via the site archives.
Decor: Have three candles and drape three pieces of material over the communion table - royal blue, red and gold.

Listening Song: Hands and Feet
by Audio Adrenaline on their album, Underdog. (pictured at left).  This is a song about being sent so fits well with the Isaiah reading.

Psalm 29 The Voice of Christ
In Australian Prayers by Bruce Prewer, Open Book, 1983, page 45 (pictured at right - I think this might be an image of the new edition but I am not sure). This works well with projected images.

Congregational Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8
by Maggie Durran in Building Worship Together by Martha Keys Barker and the Fisherfolk, Celebration, 1983, page 38 (pictured at left). I have used this a few times and the congregations always love taking part.  I project the words so that people are not looking down at papers in their hands but, instead up so that there voices project better.

Film Clip: Chocolat
Sometimes people come in to God’s presence through a vision, others by dreams, some in church, some through the actions of others. The Count De Reynaud (the mayor of the city and town "gate keeper") saw his job as ridding the town of immorality and any threat to its tranquility and tradition. However, after his encounters with the chocolate maker and others in the town, after hearing the priest’s Easter Sermon, and after seeing the chocolate festival in the town square after church, something changes in him.

Discussion Question:
How do you know when you are in the presence of God?
What are the implications of the Bible readings for us as we struggle to share our faith in meaningful ways?

Film Clip: Psalm 29


Handy Illustrations
Chapter 25: On Seeing God in When God Whispers Your Name by Max Lucado, Word, 1994, page 177ff (pictured at left) has some great illustrations pertaining to the Isaiah reading.

Story: The Umbrella and the Queen
in Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks by Wayne Rice, Youth Specialties, 1994, page 167 (pictured at right). This story fits in well with the Isaiah reading.

Isaiah 6 Illustration:
After the mutiny on the Bounty, Fletcher Christian and his men eventually chose Pitcairn Island and arrived on 15 January 1790.
They realized it was originally charted incorrectly (by about 200 miles), thus making them less likely to be found by future voyagers. Deciding to stay on the isolated island, the nine remaining mutineers, their Tahitian women, and nine other Polynesian men and women, unloaded and stripped the ship, then on 23 January set the Bounty on fire so as to hide all evidence of their whereabouts ... The mutineers had not long been on Pitcairn Island when one day Christian ,while rummaging through his sea chest when he found the Bible his mother had given him. He and John Adams often went to a lonely cave on a remote part of the island where they studied the Book. They studied it to further their education as much as anything else.
After a period of four years, the community of Pitcairn had fallen in to turmoil. Fueled by homemade alcohol, disputes over women eventually resulted in the violent deaths of all of the Tahitian men and all but two of the mutineers – Adams and Young were the only two men left. Six years later Young died of asthma and Adams was left with eleven women and 23 children.
One day Adams had a dream in which was the clear message: "Go and train the children in the way of Christian's Bible." Adams turned to the Bible, which led him to repentance and a new outlook on life. Using the Bible, he then educated the children, built a school and organized the community into a Christian way of life. He taught them the Scriptures and helped them obey its instructions. The message of Christ so transformed their lives that twenty years later, in 1808, when the ship Topaz landed on the island, it found a happy society of Christians living in prosperity and peace, free from crime, disease, murder and mutiny.
Today, Christian's Bible, or the "Bounty" Bible, or the Pitcairn Bible is kept in the Seventh-day Adventist church, the island's only house of worship.
(Robert Nicolson, The Pitcairners, University of Hawai’i Press, 1997 and Hymns of the Norfolk Islands, Seventh Day Adventist Church, 1998)

Response Activity: Practice the presence of God.
Ask people to go to a space by themselves and spend some time enjoying the presence of God. Give each person a copy of St Patricks prayer (or a bit of it anyway) to help them to concentrate. If people are getting used to doing things like this, don't have any background music. Allow people to enjoy the silence. If they are not comfortable yet, play some very quiet and soft music in the background. Allow at least five minutes for this activity.
St Patricks Prayer: Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Drama: Born Again
Found in Mega Drama 3 by Verena Johnson (Ed.), Openbook Publishers, Adelaide, 2002, ISBN 0859109178, page 98.  This is a clown drama based on John 3:16-17. 

Invocation: Based on John 3:1-16
By Katherine J. Campbell and found in Before the Amen: Creative Resources for Worship by Marin C and Maria I Tirabassi (Eds), The Pilgrim Press, 2007, ISBN 9780829817508, page 58.
Response Activity: Love
Found in Bringing the Word To Life Together by Andrew Collis and Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Mediacom, 2010, ISBN 9780949656911, page 89. This works well with the gospel reading but could also be used for the other readings.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pentecost B (May 24): Rushing wind

Readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, Romans 8:22-27, John 15:26-27

About the images:
Upper Left: A free Corel background with my text so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Upper Right: This is a photo of the inside of my kitchen stove so you are free to use it for worship and related activities.

Lower Left and Right: These are free Heartlight images - see my link column at left.

Have a birthday cake 
big enough for everybody to share - after all, it is the church's birthday.

Listening Song: Burning Like Fire
By Iona on their album, Beyond These Shores, 1993 (pictured at left).

Kids Story: Unknown
By C
olin Thompson and Anna Pignataro, published by Hodder Headline in Australia and Walker Books in the U.S.A, 2002. ISBN 0733613551 (Aust) or ISBN 0802787304 (U.S.A.) The left picture is the Australian cover and the right picture is the American cover - both found at Colin Thompson's site. (Thanks to Rev Andrew Donnelly for this book suggestion).

Kids Story: Popcorn Disciples
Retell the Acts story using pop corn and a popcorn maker by comparing the unpopped corn in the container with the disciples in the room beforehand – all small and shrivelled and hard and contained in a small space. Then turn on the popcorn maker and compare the heat and the hot air in the maker with the Holy Spirit. When the corn pops compare the corn with the disciples afterwards – all big and soft, open and fluffy - and popping up everywhere!!

Film clip: Pentecost Acts 2 The message

Film Clip : The Dripping Tap
On Leunig Animated, Fruitcup Films, 2001 (pictured at left) This clip is a great introduction to the first part of the Ezekiel reading as is the Keith Green song/poem (below) and the discussion questions (below).

Poem or Listening Song: My Eyes Are Dry
by Keith Green, Ears to Hear Music.

Discussion Questions based on the Ezekiel reading:
When can there be dryness in our lives?
When can our lives be disconnected and scattered?

Story: Holy Spirit Holes in Medieval Churches
Google "Holy Spirit Holes" and you will find heaps of descriptions of these - a great illustration for encouraging people to open up their lives to God's power.

Response activity:
Give everyone a birthday cake candle. Project the words "Holy Spirit come into my life and.....". Ask people to mentally fill in the rest of the sentence and then come forward and light their candle as they pray the whole sentence.

Response Activity: Balloons
As a symbol of the gifts which the Holy Spirit gives to us, give everybody a balloon and ask them to write their particular gift on it. They can talk about it and help each other as they go. Then blow up the balloons and decorate the church with them (or have them blown up and decorating the church when people arrive and take them down to write on and take home). Please do not let balloons go outside - balloons are a choking hazard for wild life in rural and marine areas and make a mess in cities.

Story: The Sea Breeze Hotel
Great for kids and adults alike, the details of this book and heaps of ideas for a Pentecost service based on the Acts reading are found in Worship is For Everyone by Julie Pinazza, Openbook Publishers, Adelaide, 2000, ISBN 0859109259, page 13ff (pictured at right). 

Church Decor and Prayer Idea: Rushing Wind
Found in Worship Feast: 100 Awesome Ideas for Postmodern Youth, Nashville, Abingdon Press, 2003, ISBN 139780687063574, page 73 (pictured at left).  This idea is based on the Acts reading, and I cannot for the life of me, work out why this book is aimed at postmodern youth when the majority of the ideas apply to postmodern anybody.

Response Activity: Filled with the Spirit
From Bringing the Word to Life Together Year B by Andrew Collis and Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Mediacom, 2011, ISBN 9781921945038, page 87ff .

Poem and prayer: ruach
Found in Dad and Daughter by Ron Gordon and Jennie Gordon, 2012, ISBN 9780646586601, page 96. These are based on the gospel reading and the Acts reading.

Lots of Useful Stuff
Found in The Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual 2015 by Jenee Woodard (Ed.), Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2014, page 93ff. These ideas are based on all of the readings.

Meditation: The Valley of Dry Bones
Found in Meditations from the Iona Community by Ian Reid, Wild Goose Publications, Trowbridge, 1998, ISBN 1901557022, page 88. This goes well with the Ezekiel reading.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Easter 7 B (May 17): Leadership/ Being sent

Readings: Acts 1:15-17, 21-26, Psalm 1, 1 John 5:9-13, John 17:6-19.

About the Images:
Upper left: Winter sunrise in the High Country: an illustration for Psalm 1. This is my photo. You are free to use it for worship and related activities. I took it on the Great Alpine Road - the Bairnsdale to Omeo section. For more info about this area visit
Upper Right: a free image from Hearlight - see my link column at left.
Lower Left: This is another image that fits with the Psalm.  I took this photo at a waterhole near Hamilton Station ("station" is a word us Aussies use for large farms) between Mt Dare ( and Oodnadatta (  You are free to use this image for worship and related activities. 
Lower right: A Microsoft free clipart image with my text.

Listening Song: Like a Tree
By Chris Falson on his album By The Water (pictured at left). This song matches up well with the psalm.

Film Clip: Journey to the Centre of the Earth
(pictured at right).There is a great abseiling scene in this film which links in well with the holy Spirit being a rope story. I found the scene via

Discussion: Journey to the Centre of the Earth
1. What holds the three climbers all together?
2. What holds us together as a Christian community?

Film Clip: Living Life
Good clip that challenges us to use our days well.  I thought it connected well with the Acts reading and how the early church was thinking through leadership and mission.

Drama: To Heaven in a Rocket Ship
Based on the 1 John reading. Found
in Mega Drama 3 by Verena Johnson (ed), Openbook 2002, ISBN 0859109178 (v.3) page 29 (pictured at left).

Story: There Is No Plan B
When Jesus ascended to Heaven to return to His Father, the eleven disciples stood and watched Him go. An angel was watching and called out, "Jesus, where are you going?"
"Back to be with my Father in Heaven," he said. "I thought you were going to bring salvation to everyone in the world!" the angel protested. Jesus said, "I have. My work on earth is finished." "But who is going to be your witness and go out into the world to share the Good News and tell people that you love them?" "They are," Jesus said pointing toward his disciples. The angel looked down on the motley bunch of disciples. "Do you have a plan B?".

N.B. Thanks to Nathan Williams for sourcing this story.  He writes: Anonymous
I just happened across the "No Plan B" story in the book Lent & Easter Readings from Iona. They cite it in Daily Readings with George MacLeod, ed. Ron Ferguson (Wild Goose Publications, 2001).

Story: The Hermit's Gift
Found in Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks by Wayne Rice,
Youth Specialties, ISBN 0310402611, 1994, page 112 (pictured at right).

Story: The Holy Spirit is the Rope
This is the fifth story on the following page under the title of church unity and goes well with the gospel reading: .

Quotes ; Joy is Not Found in......
Quotes on joy by various famous people can be found at These make a good contrast to the source of joy found in the gospel reading.

Prayer for Others:
Put a map of the world on the communion table (a laminated one may be safer than a paper one for obvious reasons) and ask people to light a tea light using the Christ candle and put their tea light on the place in the world that they want to pray for.

Response Activity: Prayer Ropes
This activity links in well with the story above about the Holy Spirit being a rope. Instructions on how to make a prayer rope and how to use one as well as the fascinating history of prayer ropes can be found on Wikipedia - just type "prayer rope" into the search engine. Other ideas which would work well for today are finger labrynths, prayer trees, Taize songs...anything really, that help people to pray and show people that there is more than one way to pray.

Response Activity:
Give everyone a small pot and a tree seed and have some potting mix available so that people can pot up a seed to remind them of Psalm 1.  We played Like a Tree (see above) while people participated in this activity.

Maybe a bit more to come as I work on my service for this week. 

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Easter 6 B (May 10): Love Rules!

Bible Readings: Acts 10:44-48, Psalm 98, 1 John 5:1-6, John 15:9-17

About the Images:
Upper Right:
This is the business card I made for everyone (see Response Activity: Postcards below). I used a Publisher template and changed the decoration colour to match the font colour.
Upper Left:
This is a Microsoft free clipart with my text.
Lower Left: A free image from Heartlight - see my link column at left.
Lower Right: A fee image from Church galleries - see my link column at left.

Listening Song: I've Always Loved You
By Third Day on their album, Time (pictured at left)

Call to Worship: Friendship Quotes 
Portray a series of images and quotes about friendship.

Call to Worship: The Lost Parcel
Linked with the John reading, this skit is found in Mega Drama 3 by Verena Johnson (Ed.) Open Book, 2002, ISBN 0859109178, page 17ff (pictured at right. When I used this skit, I used Part 2 before the confession and Part 3 between the kids talk and the sermon or whatever.

Prayer of Confession: Who am I?
By Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers From Prison, Macmillan, 1953, p.222

Kids Talk: God's Love in Our Heart
Linked to the John reading and found in Fun Group Devotions For Children's Ministry, Group Publishing, 1993, ISBN 1559451610, page 27 (pictured at left).

Kids Story Guess How Much I Love You
by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram, Walker
Books, 1994, ISBN 1844281086 (pictured at right).

Film Clip: Crocodile Dundee
(pictured at left) Based on the John reading: Mick says: Of course it took me a week to get this far. I thought I was a goner. I said to meself, "Mick old son, find yourself a nice comfortable spot and lay down and die". Journalist woman: Weren't you afraid ? Mick:Of dying ? Nah. I read The Bible once. You know God and Jesus and all them apostles? They were all fishermen, just like me. Yeah, straight to heaven for Mick Dundee. Yep, me and God, we'd be mates.

Discussion: Crocodile Dundee
What difference would/does it make if you and God were/are best mates?

Film Clip: The Castle
(pictured at right) This film has any amount of scenes about change. If you are Australian and mindful that Sorry Day is around now, then the scene where Daryl Kerrigan realises his family are in much the same boat as indigenous Australians is also a good one

Discussion: Linked to the Gospel Reading
What makes you happy?
Think of a time when you have been joyful.
What is the difference between being happy and being joyful?
What makes a good friend a best mate?
How differently would we see ourselves if we viewed ourselves as "the one Jesus loves"?
How would our lives change if we really believed the words of Jesus: "You are my friends .... You didn't choose me. I chose you".

Story: Real Friends
Found in Hot Illustrations For Youth Talks by Wayne Rice, Youth Specialities, 1994, ISBN 031040261, page 169.  This story belongs with the gospel reading.

Story: I am the One Jesus Loves.
Found in What's So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey, Zondervan Publishing House, 1997,
ISBN 0310218624, page 68. This story goes well with the gospel reading. 

Story: He's Very Fond of Me.
Found in What's So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey, Zondervan Publishing House, 1997,
ISBN 0310218624, page 69. This story also goes well with the gospel reading.

Useful Quote: C.S. Lewis
"It's like waking up in the morning and suddenly realising that the term is over and the holidays have begun".
From (I think) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or The Last Battle by C.S.Lewis.
NB. I haven't seen the film yet, so I do not know if this quote was included or not - if it was, then it would probably make a useful film clip. Somebody may be able to email me some help here..... The quote is stuck in my head (but, unfortunately not the accurate source) because I want "the term is over and the holidays have begun" engraved on my tomb stone when I die :-)

This would probably take the place of the sermon or whatever. Invite two or three members of your congregation to share a story of how the Holy Spirit surprised them and helped them change their minds about something. This is better not done on the spot - give the people you ask enough time to prepare, however reassure them that it is their story that your congregation wants to hear (not a finely crafted sermon) and that each person need only speak from three to five minutes.

Response Activity:
Divide people up into groups of four or five, give them a large piece of paper (if you worship around tables, then make the paper the tablecloth for this week) and marker pens. Ask them to individually and together in their small group, brainstorm practical answers to the question:
Jesus calls us to be a new community - how can we be that new and welcoming community inside and outside our church?
At the conclusion, stick up the sheets of paper around the walls, give everyone two sticker dots and two sticker stars and encourage them to stick the dots beside the two best ideas for being a new and welcoming church community and the two stars beside the two best ideas for being a part of a new and welcoming wider community.

Response Activity: Postcards
This is linked to the two Philip Yancey stories and some of the questions relating to the Gospel (above). Give everyone a business card/postcard/bookmark with the words "I am the one Jesus loves" (see above) printed upon it.


Communion Invitation:
Based on the gospel reading, this invitation can be found in Before the Amen by Maren C. Tirabassi and Maria I. Tirabassi, The Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, 2007, ISBN 9780829817508, page 131.

Response Activity: You Are My Friends
From Bringing the Word to Life Together Year B by Andrew Collis and Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Mediacom, 2011, ISBN 9781921945038, page 81ff .

Poem and prayer: steamed up
Found in Dad and Daughter by Ron Gordon and Jennie Gordon, 2012, ISBN 9780646586601, page 94 These are based on the gospel reading.

Lots of Useful Stuff
Found in The Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual 2015 by Jenee Woodard (Ed.), Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2014, page 86ff. These ideas are based on all of the readings.