Saturday, April 25, 2015

Easter 5 B (May 3): Sharing What We Know


Acts 8:26-40, Psalm 22:25-31, 1 John 4:7-21, John 15:1-8

About the Images:
Upper Left: This image is mine so please feel free to use it as you wish for worship and related activities. This obviously suits the John reading.
Upper Right: Microsoft free clip art and words by Eugene Peterson which are acknowledged on the image. I used this with the Acts reading.
Lower Left: Vineyards near Geelong, Victoria, Australia.  This image is mine so please feel free to use it as you wish for worship and related activities.
Lower Right: A free image  from the Hermano Leon site (see my link column at left).  I gave everyone a copy of this image in a small time of mediation and encouraged people to take image home to se as a prayer aid.  I suggested they colour in the image while praying about how they can nurture and encourage one another as part of a cohesive and supportive community

If you are using the Acts reading, have the baptismal font with coloured lengths of cloth or arrows spread out in all directions from its base.

Illustration: Hampton Court Grapevine
Pictures are available by visiting Hampton Court on the web.

Listening Song: Power of the Gospel
by Ben Harper on his Fight for Your Mind album (pictured at right). I used this song with the Acts reading in respect to verse 35.
Film Clip: Horton Hears a Who
(pictured at left) Show the clip where the Mayor of Whoville tries to explain to his wife that there is someone much bigger than them who is looking out for them. I have now used this film three times  - it has some very useful stuff in it and not only engages the kids but engages the adults as well and makes it easy to have a multi-aged discussion. I once again used a clip from (see my links at left) - they do it so well!

Discussion: Horton Hears a Who
1. What is the Good News which we have to share?
2. How difficult is it for us to share the Good News?
3. What makes it difficult?

Children's Story: Basil the Branch
This is another brilliant book (pictured at right)  by Andrew McDonough, Lost Sheep Resources, 2006.  The great thing about these books is that they only around $A5 and for a further $A10 (or instead of) you can buy on line the story in any format you need to project the pictures in church.  There are also free activity sheets and for a cost activity books for both teachers and children.  Visit to check out all the excellent resources.

Drama: The Search
Based on the Acts reading and found in Mega Drama 3 by Verona Johnson (ed) Openbook, 2002, ISBN 0859109178 (v.3), page 13, (pictured at left).

Choose Your Own Adventure
The Acts story turns into a great choose your own adventure. I thought the easiest way to explain this was to print the whole thing below and you should get the picture. It can be done on overheads or as a powerpoint or printed on separate pages and worked on in groups. Adults enjoy this as much as kids and teenagers.
The Lord’s angel said to Philip, “Get ready and go south along the desert road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This road is not used nowadays).
So Philip
(a) got ready and went (go to page 7)
(b) realised that a desert road was a hot and probably dangerous place, was a little doubtful whether God would really want him to use that road instead of the freeway and decided that he could serve God better at home. (go to page 3)
Philip heard the man reading aloud from the book of Isaiah. Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The official answered: “How can I understand unless someone helps me?” He then invited Philip to come and sit beside him. Philip
(a) climbed up into the chariot (go to page 5)
(b) refused because he was too nervous to speak with such a high official and anyway he might be asked a question he couldn’t answer. Besides, he had forgotten to have his quiet time that morning and he was feeling a little out of sorts. (go to page 3)
So the Philip never did what God asked him to do and the Ethiopian official never heard about Jesus and never shared the good news with the people of Africa.
After they had come out of the water the Lord’s Spirit took Philip away. The official never saw him again, but he was very happy as he went on his way. Philip later appeared in Azotus. He went from town to town, all the way to Caesarea, telling people about Jesus.
The man was reading the passage that said,
‘He was led like a sheep on its way to be killed. He was as silent as a lamb whose wool is being shorn, and he didn’t say a word. He was treated like a nobody and didn’t receive a fair trial. How can he have children, if his life is snatched away.’ The official said to Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or about someone else”.
So Philip
(a) began at this place in the Scriptures and explained the good news about Jesus. (go to page 6)
(b) said that he was a little embarrassed talking about God
because it was such a personal thing and could he please be dropped of at the next oasis. (go to page 3)
As they were going along the road, they came to a place where there was some water. The official said, “Look! Here’s some water. Why can’t I be baptised?” He ordered the chariot to stop. Then they both went down into the water and
(a) explained that he wasn’t sure whether this was the proper time and place or whether he was qualified to do it (go to page 3)
(b) baptised him. (go to page 4)
An important Ethiopian official happened to be going along that road in his chariot. He was the chief treasurer for Candace, the Queen of Ethiopia. The official had gone to Jerusalem to worship and was now on his way home. He was sitting in his chariot reading the book of the prophet Isaiah.The Spirit told Philip to catch up with the chariot.
(a) couldn’t think how he could possibly start a conversation while simultaneously running beside a chariot. He might even be arrested for stalking! Anyway the Ethiopian official was already reading his Bible so he probably didn’t need anybody telling him anything about God. So instead of trying to catch up with the chariot Philip took a well deserved break. (go to page 3)
(b) Philip ran up close (go to page 2)

Discussion Questions for the Acts Reading:
What does this story tell us about the way Phillip followed God?
What would help us to speak when we have the chance?
How can we take action?
How can we be involved in the world?
How can we know the message better?

Story: High Voltage
From Could Someone Wake Me Up Before I Drool On the Desk by Kevin Johnson, Bethany House, 1995, ISBN 1556614160, page 83, (pictured at left). This is a youth story about sharing the gospel.
Interesting Quote: Eugene Peterson
No life of faith can be lived privately. There must be overflow into the lives of others.

Response Activity: Prayer Stations
Station 1:
Have a prayer of confession written in such a way that people can read it to themselves and fill in the gaps.
Station 2: Put the quote above and the Acts discussion questions on a business card and provide a pen or pencil for people to write the answer to one of the questions on the back of the card.
Station 3: Have pens and pencils and copies of the Acts reading available for people to read and sit with, including instructions as follows: In your imagination, be present in the story as you slowly read it. On the back of the reading, write/draw any thoughts, feelings, discoveries, images or resolves that come to you.

Response Activity:
Give each person a card with a grapevine printed on it or a piece of paper cut into the shape of a vine leaf. Ask them to write a response to one of the final four questions from the discussion questions for the Acts reading (see above) on the back and then lay their leaf at the foot of a cross. While they do this, have some quiet music playing in the background.

Response Activity:
If you have a good sized grapevine or other vine, know some one who does or live in a wine growing area give everyone a vine clipping to take home and plant. If you live in Australia, please don't substitute  an English ivy clipping because people don't seem to be terribly happy when it takes over their whole garden and kills off every other living plant!

Response Activity:
From Bringing the Word to Life Together Year B by Andrew Collis and Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Mediacom, 2011, ISBN 9781921945038, page 79ff .

Poem and prayer: sacred secateurs
Found in Dad and Daughter by Ron Gordon and Jennie Gordon, 2012, ISBN 9780646586601, page 93 .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 83ff. These ideas are based on all of the readings.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Easter 4 B (April 26): Love is a Doing Word/Comfort for a Troubled World

Bible Readings: Acts 4:5-13, Psalm 23, 1 John 3:16-24, John 10:11-18
About the images:
Upper Left: Another excellent image from
Upper Right: A grandfather and grandson from my last church working on fire recovery in the Victorian High country. Love is a doing word.
Lower Left: A free image from Heartlight images.  See my links column at left.
Lower Right: A free image from Heartlight images.  See my links column at left.
Listening Song: Love is a Verb
By dc Talk on their Free at Last album (pictured at left).  This song goes very well with the Acts reading.

Listening Song: The Lord is My Shepherd
By Sons of Korah on their album, Hand to the Plough (pictured at right).
Film Clip: Pleasantville
Show the scene where the girl asks the boy what it is like outside Pleasantville. He tells her that it is a lot noisier, kind of scary, and a lot more dangerous. She replies that it sounds wonderful and she smiles and you can see the wonder and the yearning in her eyes. This scene is optional. I would definitely show the court scene where everybody starts changing from being black and white to full and living colour.....

Discussion: Pleasantville
1. What made the difference so that the people changed from black and white to colour?
2. The disciples life was very black and white during the crucifixion and very colourful in the Acts story today. What made the difference?
3. What does our Christianity look like to the outside world? Is black and white or in colour ?

Film Clip: Horton Hears a Who
(pictured at left) Show the clip where Horton argues with kangaroo about whether there is anybody bigger than us looking out for us. It goes for about a minute and I got the clip from This goes well with the Acts reading, the Psalm and the Acts reading.

Discussion: Horton Hears a Who
1. Who wants to look out for us and love us?
2. What difference will it make to our lives?

Drama: Give Me a J
Based on Acts 12 and found in Let's Make a Scene for..... by Verena Johnson, Open Book, 1998, ISBN 0859108937, page 15 (pictured at right). This goes well with the Acts reading.

Story: The Praying Hands
The story behind the famous Praying Hands picture which is found, among many other places, in Illustrations, Stories and Quotes to Hang Your Message On by Jim Burns and Greg McKinnon, Gospel Light, 1997, page 163 (pictured at left). This goes well with Acts reading.

Response Activity: Shepherding
From Bringing the Word to Life Together Year B by Andrew Collis and Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Mediacom, 2011, ISBN 9781921945038, page 77ff. This activity is based on the gospel reading and the Ephesians reading.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Easter 3 B (April 19): Never alone

Bible Readings: Acts 3:12-19, Psalm 4, 1 John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36b-48.

About the Images:
Upper Left: This is part of the card I give out (see below in the Response Activity). I cannot remember where I got this image or whether I made it. If anybody could shed light on its copyright or source, I would be very pleased.
Upper Right: This was supposed to be an ordinary red hibiscus - what an a -hah moment when it blossomed into red, orange and yellow. I also like the fact that it has flowered through the wire. This is my photo so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Lower Left: This is St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne and reminded me of the line in the Newsboys song below: "Let praises echo from the towers of cathedrals". This is my photo so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Lower Right: This is the underground church in Coober Pedy and reminded me of the line in the Newsboys song below: "To the faithful gathered underground". This is my photo so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Try dividing the service into four sections based on the Luke readings:
1.The Joy: Luke 24: 36-43
2. The Cross: Luke 24:44-46

3. The Need: Luke 24:47-48

4. The Power: Luke 24:49

Listening Song: Jubilate
By Robert Prizeman on Libera (pictured at right).

Listening Song
: He Reigns
By Newsboys on their album, Adoration, or WOW 2004 (pictured at left)

Kids: New Perspectives
Show kids a number of images of things taken from unrecognisable angles. Have a bit of a guessing game as to what they are. Then talk about how Easter helps us see things from a new perspective.

Film Clip: Can't Keep Me Down
I went to www.wingclips for this clip (as usual - an excellent site). It can be found in their transformation section. I used it to illustrate that true happiness can only be found when you know/accept that you are a child of God (pictured at right)

Introductory Plenary or Pew Discussion

When you were growing up, what was one thing that was difficult for you to believe in?

Drama: Dial A Prayer
Found in Let's
Make A Scene 4 by Verena Johnson, Openbook Publishers, 1198, ISBN 0859108937, page 12 (pictured at left). This fits in well with the Acts reading and the 1 John reading or as an introduction to the prayer of confession.

Story: Luiqi Tariso and the Violins
Found in James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, Wheaton Tyndale, 1988, page 492. You can also find this story at

These next four stories all match up well with the 1 John reading:

Story: Heaven
Found in 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching by Michael P Green, Baker Books, 1989, ISBN 0801063302, story no. 640 (pictured at right).

Story: Children of God

Found in 750 Engaging Illustrations from Craig Brian Larson and Leadership Journal, Barker Books, 1993, ISBN 0801091551, Story No. 61 (pictured at left).

Story: Success
Found in 750 Engaging Illustrations from Craig Brian Larson and leadership Journal, Barker Books, 1993, ISBN 0801091551, Story No. 693

Story: Worth
Found in 750 Engaging Illustrations from Craig Brian Larson and leadership Journal, Barker Books, 1993, ISBN 0801091551, Story No. 775.

Creed: Creed from Nicaraguan Mass
Found in Imaging the Word, Volume 3 by Susan A Blain(Ed.), United Church Press, 1996, ISBN 0829810862, page 202 .

Response Activity: Handprint Creed
Found in Multi-Sensory Church by Sue Wallace, Scripture Union, 2002, ISBN 1859996671, page 20. Fits with the first few verses of the 1 John reading.

Response Activity:Give out
business cards with an icthus fish printed on each in colours of red and yellow. Underneath the fish print the words: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour (the card is pictured at the beginning of this blog). Ask people to contemplate the card for a time noticing that the fish symbol reminds us that Jesus is always with us and that the colours remind us that the Holy Spirit is always with us.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Easter 2 B (April 12): On a Mission from God

Bible readings: Acts 4:32-35, Psalm 133, 1 John 1:1-2:2, John 20:19-31.

About the images:

Upper Left: Doubting Thomas by Michelangelo Caravaggio (1602-3)
Upper Right: My photo so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Lower left: A free Heartlight image - see my link column at left.
Lower Right: A free Imagebank image - see my link column at left - which I thought went well with the Psalm for today.

Call to Worship:
Bits of Psalm 133 make a good call to worship if you use a modern translation or paraphrase.

Listening Song: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
By U2 on their album, The Joshua Tree or The Best of 1980-1990 (pictured at right) or by The Sensitive New Age Cowboys on Tim Winton: Dirt Music. This makes a good starting point for Thomas' story in the gospel reading.

Prayer of Confession and Assurance:
Bits of the 1 John reading are useful here as long as you use a modern translation or paraphrase.

Introduction to the theme: What am I?I was created in the 1970’s.
People go to see me all of the time all over the world.
Often they go to see me late at night and they see me more than once.
People often dress up when they go to see me.
I have recently had a revival.
People wear dark sunglasses when they see me.
People, both men and women of all ages from children to the elderly, wear dark suits, white shirts and narrow black ties.
People wear small pork pie hats when they see me.

I am.....the Blues Brothers film.
This can lead in to a discussion/sermon about what it means to be on a mission from God.

Film Clip: The Blues Brothers
The part early on in the film where Jake and Elwood believe that God has spoken to them and that they are now on a mission from God. (pictured at left)

Pew Discussion:
One of the signs of "delusions of grandeur" on various psychological tests is the positive answer to the question "Do you believe you are a special agent of the Lord?"
What would you write if you had to do such a test?
Could you seriously say that you are on a mission for God?
Do you believe that other people are?

Drama: Who Me?
Found in Let's Make a Scene Too by Verena Johnson, Lutheran Publishing, 1991, page 41 (pictured at right). This goes well with the John reading where Jesus talks about sending his disciples out into the world.

Response Activity:
Ask: what do you need to do today to be God’s special agent. Is it just a matter of saying OK, I’ll do it. Is it a matter of discovering what God wants you to do. Is there something else? Give each person a small business card and encourage people to think about their response to what is written on it (as follows):
My challenge: To be God sent
My authority: God’s say so
My help: the Holy Spirit
My response:...........................


Meditation: The Peacemakers
Found in Meditations from the Iona Community by Ian Reid, Wild Goose Publications, Trowbridge, 1998, ISBN 1901557022, page 89. This goes well with the Psalm 133 reading.