Sunday, May 25, 2014

Easter 7 A (June 1): Power to Spare

Bible Readings: Acts 1:6-14, Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35, 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11, John 17:1-11

About the images:
Upper Left: This is a free
image from of the 1982 eruption of Galungung volcanoe in Indonesia with my text.
Upper Right: This is a free microsoft clipart image with text from the Bible.
Lower Left: This is St Paul's Anglican Cathedral in Melbourne seen from the top of the Eureka Tower.  The words are from the Newsboys song below.
 Listening Song: He Reigns
By the Newsboys and found on their album, Adoration, Sparrow Records or on WOW 2004 (pictured at left).

Story: Fox
By Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks, Allen and Unwin, 2000, ISBN 1864484659 (pictured at right). This is a children's story but I used it as part of the sermon and followed it with a question for discussion:
What are the r
aging lions (I Peter) or manipulating foxes (this story) in our lives?

Film Clip:The World's Fastest Indian.
(pictured at left) Show th
e clip where he needs a push start to get his bike going on the beach. See clip below

The World's Fastest Indian | Movie Trailer | Review

Questions: The World's Fastest Indian.
1. Why is he left behind on the beach?
2. What helps him get going?
3. What sort of things stop us from getting going?

Drama: They Can Find Their Own Chairs
Found in Mega Drama 5 by Verena Johnson (Ed), Open Book, 2002, ISBN 0859109194, page 24 (pictured at right). This drama is based on the Acts reading and/or the Ascension day Luke reading.

Drama: It's Contagious
Found in Let's Make Another Scene 3 by Verena Johnson, Open Book Publishers, 1995, ISBN 0859107620, page 28 (pictured at left).  This drama is based on the Acts reading.

Discussion: On the Acts story of the disciples left standing and staring at the sky
What sort of things are liable to immobilise us?

Story: Power To Spare

Found in Micro Messages by Rich Bundschuh and Tom Finlay, Gospel light, 1995, ISBN 0838715789, page 161 (pictured at right). This is based on the Acts reading.

Story: Assault on a Soda Machine
Found in Case Studies, Talk Sheets and Discussion Starters by Jim Burns and Mark Simone, Gospel Light, 1997, ISBN 0830718842, page 23. This story fits well with the 1 Peter reading.

Poem: Acts 1:9
Found in In Due Season by Herbert F Brokering, Augsburg Publishing, 1966 in the Autumn section.

Prayers: Easter 7A
in Imaging the Word Volume 2 by Susan A. Blain Sharon Iverson Glouwens, Catherine O'Callaghan, Grant Spradling (Eds.), United Church Press, 1995, ISBN 0829810331, page 204-207.  These prayers go well with the 1 Peter reading.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lent 5 A (April 6): The Power of God/God's Big Surprises

Bible Readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45
About the Images:
Upper Left: Just an image of surprise - it is mine so please feel free to use it for worship and related activities.
Upper Right: This is a Microsoft free clipart image. I liked the way it portrays God's new life as something that we discover and find in unexpected places and that all of that is part of a reality bigger than the one we see in front of us.

Lower Left: Another excellent free image from the Heartlight site - see my link in the column at the left.

Listening Song: Panis Angelicus
By Russel Watson on his album, The Voice (pictured at left). Great song to use for the introduction or during a communion service.

Listening Song: You Raise Me Up
By Selah on their album, Hiding Place, (pictured at right) and on WOW 2005.. This goes well with pretty much all the readings.

 Kids: Emotion Faces
As I have mentioned in earlier blogs I have a set of large cards with dinner plate sized round faces drawn upon them. Each face depicts a different emotion; happy, sad, puzzled, angry, surpised etc etc. The gospel story this week really lends itself to these emotion cards. Tell the story (or get a good story teller to tell the story) and either have kids pick the face which goes with a particular part of the story or hold up the appropriate card and get the kids (and the congregation) to mimic the face or act out the emotion.

Kids: Bubbles
Give everyone (I am giving one to all the adults as well - why should they be left out of the fun) a small bottle of bubble solution and ask them to blow bubbles without opening their mouths. Have some fun with this before encouraging everybody to blow bubbles. Link: Just as we breathe life into the bubbles so God breathed life into the dry bones, and so God's Spirit breathes life in to us.

Film Clip: The Shawshank Redemption
(pictured at left) After Brooks kills himself after being released from prison and Andy has just completed two weeks in solitary confinement for playing Mozart over the prison speaker system, Red and Andy have a fascinating conversation about hope. Show the conversation.

Discussion: On The Shawshank Redemption film clip

1. What is Red's attitude to hope?
2. What is Andy's opinion of hope?
3. What value is hope for us? 

Film Clip: The Hurricane
(pictured at right) Show the scene where Rubin quotes Genesis 49 and tells Lesera (another version of the name Lazarus) that it is Lesera's love that has raised/saved him and given him new life.

Film Clip: Castaway
(pictured at right) Show the clip which is about 1hour 40 minutes in from the credits where Wilson, the volley ball which Chuck becomes so attached to in his loneliness that he treats it as real person, falls loose. Chuck repeats "I'm sorry, Wilson" over and over again.

Discussion: On Castaway Film Clip
What sort of situations cause us to grieve and make us sad?
How can we survive grief?

Artwork: The Raising of Lazarus, 1990

By Pro Hart. Ask people to look at the different expressions on the people surrounding Lazarus. Relate this to the responses some people may have had to Ezekiel's life giving vision. Then ask people to think about how they respond to the Good News of the gospel and mention that, depending on our circumstances at different times, we are not always overjoyed. Ask them to look at the painting to see if they can see their present response somewhere in it.

Bible Reading: John 11:1-45
This is a very long reading for any church service despite being a great story. Try it as a Good News Bible reading via the relevant film clip from the Vision Bible film of The Gospel of John (pictured at left) or read it as a beautiful and moving story from Walter Wangerin Junior's book The Book of God, Zondervan, 1996, ISBN 0310200059, page 756 ff.

Story: Comfort
Found as story No 31 in Your Point Being? by Graham H. Twelftree, Monarch, 2003, ISBN 1854245929 . Fits well with the gospel reading.

Meditation: Lazarus
Found in He Was in the World by John L. Bell, Wild Goose Publications, 1995, ISBN 094798870X, page 77.

Meditation: Prayers That Jesus Hears
Found in Present on Earth by Wild Goose Worship Group, Wild Goose, 2002, ISBN 0901557642, page 93.

Prayer for Others/Response Activity
This one needs a bit of work on your part before the service. Boil the meat off one or two chooks (translate "chicken" for the non Australians) and then dry the bones in an oven (at least you get a good feed for your efforts :-) ) Give everyone a chicken bone before or during the Ezekiel reading. During the prayer for others or response activity project or give out the words of the Bishop Oscar Romaro quote (below). Encourage people in a time of silence to talk to God about a situation they consider to be hopeless or beyond them to solve. Ask them to give the situation to God to deal with by placing their dried bone at the foot of the cross.

Quote: Bishop Oscar Romero
"We are living in a black night but Christianity discerns that beyond the night the dawn already glows. The hope that does not fail is carried in the heart. Christ goes with us."

Response Activity: Three Choices
Let people choose between:
1. Watch a powerpoint meditation. I put images and music to Bruce Prewer's From Death to Life found at
2. Group Discussion:
a) How does Jesus' response to Lazarus' death and Mary's weeping help you to trust him more?
b) What have you found helpful when you are called upon to help a friend who is undergoing a hard time?
3. Make cards for people who are sad.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lent 4 A (March 29): You Are Special/Lookiing on the Inside/

Bible Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45

About the image:
Upper Left: From Wikipedia Commons and therefore free (indexed under "love") .
Upper Right: This is microsoft free clip art with my text.

Lower Left: This is microsoft free clip art with my text.

Listening Song: Looking on the Outside
By the Allies on their album, Shoulder to Shoulder (pictured at right). This song goes very well with the 1 Samuel reading and is based on the verse about God looking at our hearts more than anything else.

 Listening Song: Into You
By Jennifer Knapp on her album Lay It Down (pictured at left) or on WOW 2001. This also goes very well with the Samuel reading.

Kid's (Adult) Story: You Are Special
By Max Lucado, Christian Art Publishers, 2000, ISBN 1868525791 (pictured at right). This goes well with the Samuel reading. There is also a DVD of this story available.

Activity Related to Above Story

I included all the adults in this activity as well and they loved it. Before the service, make business cards with the words "You are special" printed on one side. Fold each one in half so that the words are on the inside and fix the cards shut with small stickers of stars and dots. Before I read the above story I gave out the cards and I asked everyone to write on the blank outside a couple of words to represent how they thought the world judges/sees them and the way they judge/see themselves. I took pains to explain that nobody else would see these words. After the story, I read the meditation below.

Meditation related to Above story by Rosemary Broadstock c.2002
God is blind…..

To outward appearance
To what seems to be
To labels
To judgement by prejudices
God looks on the heart.
There, God has eyes wide open.

Are our eyes wide shut?
When I look at God’s creation every day,
The stars, the hills, a blue sky, fresh rain
Do I se
When I look at another
Do I take the time
to see?
to listen?
to appreciate?

to marvel?
When I look at the people of other countries
When I look at an immigrant, a refugee
Do I see God’s child?

When I look at the cross
Do I see the courage, the power
In the face o
f God
When I look at the cross
Do I see
the message
"For You
God sees beyond all fault, all mistakes, all past, all facades.
He sees the child He made.
And God says
“For you are beautiful, Son of Adam
For you are beautiful, daughter of Eve
May we be blind as God is blind
May we be sighted as God is sighted.
And as we learn what really matters, may all our dots fall off.

Take off the stars or dots keeping your card shut and see what God has to say to you.'
Sermon Illustration: A Box of Potential
Found in Case Studies Talk Sheets and Discussion Starters by Jim Burns and Mark Simone, Gospel Light, 1997, ISBN 0830718842, page 59 (pictured at left). This goes well with the Samuel reading as well.

Drama: How to Install Love
A terrific drama but unfortunately now that we are up to Windows 8 and Mac whatever it is becoming a little dated. It is a great idea and worth modernising if you  have the time. It can be  found at It comes complete with a link to a powerpoint that is necessary for the drama. 

Quote: Paul Tillich
We are free to look at all things unimpeded. But when we are tired of seeing the world in all its disorder, its facades, its hate and separation, its demonic destruction, its adoration of the false, then let us close our eyes. Then we will see someone who looks at us with eyes of infinite human depth and power. And those eyes say to us "come and see".

Offering: Inside Gifts for the Church

During the offering time ask people to think about the person on their right and the person on their left and to think about what inner quality each person has which is a gift to the church. At the conclusion of the offering allow time for people to tell their neighbour what they have been thinking about.

Response Activity: Psalm 23

I first saw a version of this in the MediaCom Whole People of God ( theme conversation for this week in 1999 and have used it in varying ways with psalms ever since. The easiest way to do this activity with a whole congregation is to give everyone (or a groups of people) a printed copy of the psalm with blank spaces where significant words should be. In this case for instance leave out the word "shepherd" and in small brackets or with a verbal explanation ask people to fill in the space with an image they think of as appropriate as a protector and carer. A small child used "father". a mad keen sailing teenager used "captain' and a bushwalker used "guide". Continue through the psalm in the same manner. You will discover that not only do people proudly write amazingly personal psalms , they also write thematic psalms connected to the things they are interested in or hold in high regard. It makes the psalm very applicable and understandable.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Lent 3 A (March 23): Thirsting for God/What's the Point of Worship

Bible readings: Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95, Romans 5:1-11, John 4: 5-42

About the Images:

Left: This is a microsoft free clipart with my text.
Right: This is an image I took while traversing the Simpson Desert last year (for more info on the Simpson please see The words are from the psalm. Please feel free to use this image for worship and related activities.
Left: This is a microsoft free clipart with text from Th Valley Song below.

Listening Song: You Move Me
By Susan Ashton from her album, A Distan
t Call (pictured at left) or on the album, Nothing But Pop. This goes well with the Romans reading.

Listening Song: The Valley Song
By Jars of Clay on their album, Furthermore (pictured at right) or on WOW 2004. This goes well with the Exodus reading.

Listening Song: Lifesongs
By Casting Crowns on their album, Lifesong (pictured at left) or on WOW 2007. This goes very well with psalm 95.

Dramatic reading: John 4:5-42
Using the translation you prefer, you can turn this reading into a script very easily by having people speak the words of Jesus, the woman, Disciple 1, Disciple 2, and the crowd (use the whole congregation for the crowd). Any scripture that doesn't fit these characters and groups can be read by a Narrator. 

Film Clip: Walk the Line
(pictured at right) The scene where Jonny Cash and his band sing for the record producer and the producer tells him that if he doesn't mean the songs and live the songs then he is never going to be a good gospel singer - great clip for psalm 95.

Discussion: On Walk the Line film clip
What is the point of worship?
Discuss together a definition of worship.

Film Clip: Patch Adams
Show the clip following the death of Patch's fiance where he has a conversation with God while standing on the edge of a cliff. (pictured at right)

Discussion: On Patch Adams film clip
Have you ever questioned God like Patch does?
Did God answer?
What is the significance of the butterfly?

Drama; Coffee Break
Found in Let's Make a Scene For.... by Verena Johnson, Open Book Publishers, 1998, ISBN 0859108937, page 10 (pictured at right). ...Goes well with the psalm.

Story: Tribulation
A young man was having a great deal of trouble developing patience. He had tried everything, but could not develop the habit. Finally, in desperation, he visited the nearby monastary and the wise man who lived there. "Father", said the young man, "Please help me! I am so impatient and nothing I can do seems to help! I would really appreciate it if you could pray and ask God to develop in me some patience!" "Certainly," replied the wise priest, and began to pray. "Heavenly Father, send this young man tribulation. Send him tribulation in the morning, send him tribulation in the evening..." "Stop!" cried the young man. "Tribulation? I asked you to pray for God to develop in me some patience! Why are you you asking Him to send me tribulation? That's the last thing I need!" The wise priest smiled at him. "How else do you think you are going to develop patience unless you get a chance to practice it? Hence the need for tribulation!" This story which fits well with Romans 5:3-5 is one of those emails that is forwarded around the net rather regularly.

Story: Worship
Found as story No 298 in Your Point Being? by Graham H. Twelftree, Monarch, 2003, ISBN 1854245929 . Fits well with the gospel reading.

Sermon: Exodus 17:1-7
Tell three stories with similar sub-headings (see below)
1. The story of Exodus 17:1-7

2. The story entitled Urgent Messages in When You Walk by Adrian Plass, The Bible Reading Fellowship, 1997, ISBN 0745935524, page 237. This story is based on the gospel reading.
3. A personal story of your own
Sub-headings: a) the journey, b) a distressing event, c) when God seems absent, d) God IS present.

Response Activities:

Allow each member of the congregation to choose one of three different options:
1. Make a rain stick each (there is so much water symbolism in these readings!)
2. Discuss one of the readings.
3. Sit quietly and watch a powerpoint meditation - I put pictures and meditative music to psalm 95 followed by a prayer - I put both the psalm and the prayer up one line per slide and allowed around 15 seconds per slide.

Response Activity: Psalm Consequences
In Multi-Sensory Scripture by Sue Wallace, Scripture Union, 2005, ISBN 1844271668, page 19.

Drama: A Monty Python Version of the John reading
For this to work well the actors need to be Monty Python addicts!
Cast: Jesus
Samaritan woman - with large plastic bucket
Three disciples - wearing tea towels and headbands not quite straight

(Jesus and disciples enter down left aisle - Jesus sits slightly to left of centre, disciples stand in centre half facing him and congregation)

J: Oh good, a well! I'm hot, tired, thirsty and hungry.
D1: What about we go and buy a bit of lunch, then?
D2: Oooh, what a good idea!
D3: Can I come too?
(Start up centre aisle of church - make sure conversation finishes before door)
D1: Ham and salad sandwiches would be nice!
D2 : Freshly baked rolls would be the thing!
D3: Um.... I can't really see ham being on the menu, can you?
D1: Well, anyway, I think I should pay!
D2 : No, No, No.... I'm sure it's my turn!
D3: I really do think one of you should do it?
D2: What is ham anyway?
D3: Pig.......... Hang on a minute, now. We can't eat pig, can we? It's against all the rules.
D1: Are you quite sure its pig?
D2: Pig: a hoofed domestic animal, reared for its flesh...... or an oblong mass of melted metal as in pig iron: ....... and to follow on : piggish: pertaining to or like pigs, dirty, greedy, stubborn; pig tail: the tail of a pig, a braid of hair hanging from the back of the head.........(on 'head' all three leave the church).

(Samaritan woman comes down right aisle to draw water from the well)

J: Excuse me, would you mind giving me a drink, please?
W: What? Are you asking me? You're a Jew!..... (pause) And I'm a Samaritan, in case you haven't noticed. (pause)...And we're not supposed to talk to each other, are we now?
J: You don't know what God wants to give you. If you knew me you'd be asking me for the water that gives life.
W: But, you've got no bucket!!! This is a deep well, you know.... Or have you got a better well somewhere else?
J: If you drink the water I give you, then you will never be thirsty again.
W: What! Are you saying that I can just throw this bucket away? A perfectly good bucket! J: Go and bring your husband.
W: Um....well actual fact.....ah, to put it bluntly .......... I have no husband.
J: That's nicely put. You have hit the nail on the head. You've already had five husbands and the man you're living with now isn't even your husband.
W: Oh ho! So you're a prophet, are you. You know what ? The Messiah's coming. When he arrives we'll get the whole story from him!
J: Well, you're speaking to him!
(Disciples enter and stop halfway down the church centre aisle laden with shopping bags or with a filled supermarket trolley)
D1: Well, would you look at that! A Samaritan woman! At the well! In the middle of the day!
D2: My goodness! Jesus is talking to her!
D3: And what's more - she's a Samaritan!
D2: And another thing - she's a woman!
D1: And , wink, wink, nudge, nudge, - she's obviously not your most popular lassy around town if she's here at lunch time.!

(to Jesus) I want to tell everyone about you!
(She runs off down right aisle leaving her bucket at Jesus' feet)
D3: Look she's leaving!
(All shoosh each other and tell each other to pretend not to have noticed that Jesus was talking to the woman as they shuffle up to Jesus).
D1: Mmmmm, lovely bucket!
D2: No holes - a good sound one, isn't it?
D3: Very comely shade of um.... er ......
D2: Bucket! Vessel for drawing or carrying water; piston of pump; scoop of dredging machine or grain elevator, socket for whip carbine or wooden leg etc.; and to follow on - kick the bucket: slang term for die or perhaps obsolete form of......
D1: (obviously changing topic) My goodness. I'm hungry! Teacher, you must be starved. What about a bite to eat?
J: I have food that you don't know anything about
D1: What's this, then? Who bought food out here?
D2: What are we going to do with this lot then?
D3: (sarcastically) Hark, do I hear a street vendor's dulcet tones in the distance.
D1: Well, this is just not good enough, is it? Undermines our responsibilities!
D2: Dulcet: adjective, sweet, soothing especially of sounds; dulcify: sweeten, make gentle, hence dulcification, dulcimer: 15th century musical instrument.......
J: (shaking his head and breaking in gently) Stop a minute, you lot. Listen.

(Disciples sit at Jesus' feet to listen)
My food is to do what God wants! He is the one who sent me, and I must finish the work that he gave me to do.c. Rosemary Broadstock and Ann Scull

Poem and prayer: woman at the well.
Found in Dad and Daughter by Ron Gordon and Jennie Gordon, 2012, ISBN 9780646586601, page 22. These are based on the gospel reading.

Response Activity: Around noon

Found in Bringing the Word To Life Together: Year A by Andrew Collis and Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Mediacom, Adelaide, 2010, ISBN 9780949656919, page 57ff. This is based on the Gospel reading and the old Testament reading.

Lots of Useful Stuff
Found in The Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual by Jenee Woodard (Ed.), Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2013, page 70ff.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Epiphany 5 A (February 9): Daring to shine

Bible Readings: Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12), Psalm 112:1-10, 1 Corinthians 2:1-12(13-16), Matthew 5:13-20

About the images:
Upper left and right: These are free Heartlight images. To visit the Heartlight site, please go to my Links column below left.
Lower left: This is a Microsoft free clipart with my text.

Listening Song: Shine
By the Newsboys on their album, Shine: The Hits (pictured at left) or on WOW 1996. This song uses words from the gospel reading.

1. Salt and light have lost their preciousness in many ways to the Western world. What might Jesus say to us today if he was talking to us? You are like........
2. How do we shine God's light onto those around us?


Brainstorm definitions of the word "disciple".

Story: Why the Potatoes Sprouted
This story can be found at Story No. 1430. It is based on the gospel story.

Story: Thermometers and Themostat

Found in Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks by Wayne Rice, Youth Specialties Inc, 1994, ISBN 031040261, page 198 (pictured at right). This story is based on the Matthew reading.

Poem and prayer: salt and light.
Found in Dad and Daughter by Ron Gordon and Jennie Gordon, 2012, ISBN 9780646586601, page 14 (pictured at left).  These are based on the gospel reading.

Response Activity: Shout aloud!

Found in Bringing the Word To Life Together: Year A by Andrew Collis and Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Mediacom, Adelaide, 2010, ISBN 9780949656919, page 40ff (pictured at right). This is based on the Gospel reading and the old Testament reading.

Lots of Useful Stuff
Found in The Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual by Jenee Woodard (Ed.), Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2013, page 39ff (pictured at left).