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Feed My Sheep

Children's Liturgy and Story
Call to Worship:
Jesus had compassion on the crowds and said to his disciples, "Give them something to eat." In our worship today, let us explore how we could fulfil that request in our own circumstances.

Invitation to Confession:
Jesus, the crowds are too huge and they overwhelm me.
Lord, have mercy.
Jesus, I don't have the resources to feed your sheep.
Christ, have mercy.
Jesus, nourishing those who don't attend church must be someone else's job.
Lord, have mercy.

Matthew 14:13-21 (NRSV)
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. [14] When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. [15] When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." [16] Jesus said to them, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." [17] They replied, "We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish." [18] And he said, "Bring them here to me." [19] Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. [20] And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. [21] And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Jesus first asked his disciples to feed the crowds, but they were unable to do so. They couldn't make use of the meagre resources which were offered. But when Jesus took a hand, those meagre resources were more than enough to feed everyone.

This story is about a church which has meagre resources, but asks Jesus how they should manage them and then follows him.

Feed My Sheep
There were no children in the church. There were no young people of any description. In fact, there were two elderly ladies, one elderly man, an occasional couple, and about fifty at Christmas for the carol service. The church was too small for a service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

One of the old ladies looked after the church as best as she could, but no-one would stand as churchwarden or secretary or treasurer.

"We should close the church," declared the occasional couple. "There's a lovely church in the town. We could go there. We have a car; we'd give anyone a lift."

But the old ladies and the old man didn't want to go to the church in the town.

The vicar sighed. "We'll give it one more year, then. But if no-one else comes during that year, we'll have to close. I'm sorry, but it's a poor use of precious resources to keep St Mary's open for just three people."

The old man invited the two old ladies round for tea. They talked long and hard about the situation and agreed that they were all too old and too frail to do anything. "We need fresh blood," they said. "A new family or two with a bit of spark and enthusiasm."

"Let's pray for that," suggested one of the old ladies. "There's nothing else we can do. If God wants to keep this church open, he's going to have to organise it for us."

After a hesitant and slightly embarrassed start, the other two began to pray with her. They prayed for two new families to come to their church and for God's help to keep it open.

Two months went by. The old folk prayed together in exactly the same way every week and began to pray at midday every day when they were in their own homes. They got to know each other really well and felt very close to each other, but no new families turned up at church.

Meanwhile, the old man found a young man who agreed to keep his garden tidy for him. Jim turned out to be an excellent gardener and a very pleasant young man. The old man took his courage in both hands and eventually asked Jim whether he would consider cutting the grass in the churchyard. Jim was pleased to oblige.

In the summer Jim told the old man that his youngest daughter had a birthday coming up. "I wondered whether we might bring a crowd of kids and have a picnic on that nice stretch of grass outside the church? We could play rounders and party games. I'd make sure they all behaved and there wasn't any mess."
The old man approached the vicar and relayed Jim's request. The vicar shrugged. He couldn't think of any reason to ban the party.

The day of the party was warm and sunny. The old man took along some picnic chairs and the two old ladies made cakes. They sat and watched the youngsters playing and joined with them for tea. They were soon chatting as though they'd all known each other for ever.

But it was an English summer, so then the rain came. One of the old ladies had brought her church key, so she opened the church and everyone rushed inside to shelter from the rain. The youngsters began to wander round and Jim and his wife asked all sorts of questions about the church.

Before they went home, Jim's wife had offered to clean the church once a week. "I like being in here," she explained. "It's so quiet and peaceful."

By September, Jim's wife had organised a rota of people to clean the church. It seemed that quite a lot of people liked being in the church for peace and quiet. One or two began to drift along to services now and again. "We like to see the results of all our work," they explained.

One of them had taken early retirement as a teacher. She approached the old man. "Could I bring a group of youngsters in here once a week?" she asked. "Like a sort of Sunday School, but on a weekday evening." The old man approached the vicar, who said he would have to interview the lady first and sort out Child Protection. The old man and the two old ladies were afraid that such a process would put off their potential Sunday School teacher, so they prayed about it. They also prayed each week for every one of their new friends, by name.

Months later, the children sang a song and acted a nativity play at the carol service. The church was packed with parents and children. Nothing more was said about closing the church, but the three old folks went on praying and praying.

Within five years the church was a bustling hive of activity. There was a Parents and Toddlers group, a Youth Club, a Mid-week Sunday School, a Prayer meeting, a Bible Study group and much more.

The old man and the two old ladies looked at each other at their weekly prayer group. "We only asked for two families," they said, "and look what God has done with just the three of us! Who'd have thought it?" they added, amazed.

You need:
A £1 coin for each child.
A flipchart and pens
A notebook and pen

Tell the story of the great picnic (feeding of the five thousand) and point out how Jesus used the slim resources offered by one child to feed everyone.

Have a talents competition. Give a pound coin to each child and explain that you want the children to see whether they can make their pound grow. Brainstorm ideas and put all ideas on the flipchart. Then get the children to join with a partner and dicuss between them what they might do, either singly or together. Agree a date for the closing of the competition.

Finally, write down in your notebook what each child is planning to do to make their pound grow. Agree together where the money generated should go, preferably to a charity chosen by the children.

NB. You may need to contact the children during the week to see how they're getting on and to offer some help. And you might consider a treat for everyone at the end of the competiton - such as a picnic or a tube of Smarties each or a games evening.

Regenerating God, so fill our hearts with love for you and our souls with prayer, that our church is regenerated and reinvigorated. May we be willing to follow where you lead, even when your guidance disturbs us.

Regenerating God, so fill the hearts of the world with love for you and their souls with prayer, that hatred crumbles away and terrorism disintegrates. May swords be beaten into ploughshares and may we live in peace with ine another.

Regenerating God, so fill me with love and my heart with prayer that I'm able to hear your voice and to grow towards you. May I accept all people with the unconditional love that you offer me and so enable your healing to occur.

Regenerating God, so fill the hearts of those who are sick with your love and their souls with prayer that they may recover quickly and soon be restored to full health and strength. We pray especially for ...

May your heart be filled with love
and your soul with prayer
so that God may shower you
with his overwhelming gifts.
And may the blessing of God Almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Be with you, be in your homes
And in your families,
With those whom you love
And with those for whom you pray,
Both now and always. Amen.
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