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The Kingdom of God Goes to School

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For October 3, 2021:

Mary AustinThe Kingdom of God Goes to School
by Mary Austin
Mark 10:2-16

“We spent the first three weeks working on how to hold a pencil,” my teacher brother told me, about teaching summer school kindergarten. A Spanish teacher for teenagers during the school year, he teaches bilingual kindergarten each summer. With no opportunity for preschool because of Covid, the kids in his class were having their very first experience of school, and it was a rough road for both the students and the teacher.

His experience is one small glimpse of how things are going with this school year, as kids, teachers and school employees return to in-person school. For some students, this is their first time in a classroom in eighteen months. Others had a few weeks of school last year. As this school year limps along, students are finding it hard to sit in classrooms after roaming around the house during online school. Teachers lament that students have lost the ability to write, to ask questions, to interact with each other.

Covid is looming over classrooms this year. This year, instruction is happening with masks on in most places and frequent notices of testing and exposures to Covid. In New York City, an exuberant start quickly yielded to reality, where “by the end of the third day of school in New York City, 169 classrooms shuttered due to outbreaks and 125 more experienced partial closures as 403 students and staff tested positive for Covid-19 — a swift and grim, if not expected, reminder that even school districts that deploy aggressive risk mitigation strategies, like the masking, vaccine and testing mandates that govern New York City schools, cannot fully inoculate themselves from the highly contagious delta variant.”

In this week’s scripture, Jesus lifts up the experience of children, commending their worldview to all who want to see the realm of God. If we see the presence of God through the eyes of children, right now we’re seeing through the lenses of struggle, joy, confusion, hope and fatigue.

In the News
If we see this school year through the eyes of children, we see most people in masks, doing the best they can with changing guidance and changing adults around them. Covid continues to affect students, school employees, and teachers, even as public health experts say the benefits of having students in school outweigh the risks.

In some school districts, key adults are missing. There are more open teaching positions than in typical years. “In Los Angeles, the district started the year short 500 teachers, a figure that stood around 100 for the last two years. In Memphis-area schools, more than 200 teaching positions were unfilled as the year began, a five-year high. The share of empty teaching positions is often only 2 or 3%. But the numbers mean thousands of students started the school year without full-time teachers or extra help schools had hoped to provide — a worrying sign for schools trying to help students recover from the pandemic.” Other positions are vacant, too. “Meanwhile, many schools are dealing with shortages in other roles, most prominently bus drivers but also paraprofessionals, counselors, nurses, and security officers. At the same time, they’re weighing how aggressively to enforce vaccine mandates on reluctant employees. More staff members are also out on any given day because of quarantines, which means every adult counts.”

Teachers who are in the classroom have adjusted their teaching style to work with students who have been out of the classroom for 18 months — or who are attending school for the first time. One veteran educator says, “Instead of singling out students, even for doing a good job, [a] sixth grade science teacher in Brooklyn will keep tabs privately, so it’s more “for me and for the student,” he said. His goal is to let students show they’re engaged however they’re comfortable, even if that means a student passes him a note instead of responding aloud. “This is the year not to call out students,” he said…He knows the return will be joyful for some, stressful for others, with a side of typical middle school angst.”

Children who have had Covid struggle, like adults, with long term symptoms. “At an April congressional hearing, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, cited one study suggesting that between 11 percent and 15 percent of infected youths might “end up with this long-term consequence, which can be pretty devastating in terms of things like school performance.” The challenges facing young patients come as pediatric Covid-19 cases rise sharply, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant and the fact that well under half of 12-to-17-year-olds are fully vaccinated and children under 12 are still ineligible for vaccines. Doctors say even youths with mild or asymptomatic initial infections may experience long Covid: confounding, sometimes debilitating issues that disrupt their schooling, sleep, extracurricular activities and other aspects of life.” Once a student falls behind in school, it’s hard to catch up.

In the Scriptures
The gospel of Mark joins together two teachings here, one on divorce and the other on children. In both places, Jesus makes a strong statement about the value of someone who isn’t intrinsically valuable in his world.

Dr. Sakari Hakkinen, who studies poverty in the world of the Bible, notes that reputation was as important as money in measuring wealth. The “fundamental value was honour and the public reputation of the family and its members. It has to be remembered that the culture was not individualistic; therefore the honour of the family and the kin was superior to that of an individual. Honour was achieved by being born in an honourable family or gained with some honourable deeds. It was challenged all the time and could be lost quite easily. Honour was a limited good related to control of scarce resources including land, crops, livestock, political clout and female sexuality. Honour determined the position of the family in public and granted access to a better life. The counterpart of honour is shame. Being poor and especially falling to extreme poverty was never just the matter of survival of the economic crisis; much worse was the lost honour and becoming publicly despised. It was rare for the poor to be publicly respected, and very difficult to gain back honour that was once lost.” Divorced women are at risk socially and economically. Children are dependent on their parents. 

She adds, “The state did not show much concern for the poor.” Jesus, however, consistently speaks for and to poor people, and here he lifts up two groups of people who were overlooked by others. Jesus brings grace into the equation for people who might not find it elsewhere.

In the Sermon
The sermon might also look at the places where the realm of God is appearing in schools, where teachers and other professionals are working so hard to welcome children. In spite of Covid, and the setbacks of last year, thousands of teachers, bus drivers, aides, nurses and social workers are laboring for the well-being of children.

Or, the sermon might look at the lives of children in our world, and whether we have lived up to Jesus’ call to care for them. The pandemic, with family losses and reduced income, has moved many young people out of childhood quickly. A recent article told the story of Azariah Baker, a 15-year-old in Chicago, who “has been caring for her 70-year-old grandmother, who had a stroke at the start of 2020, as well as her 2-year-old niece. Her grandmother is the legal guardian for Azariah and her niece but since the stroke, which left her extremely fatigued with blurry vision and headaches, Azariah has done the heavy lifting at home. She would wake up every day at 7 a.m., make them all breakfast, then log on for virtual school at 8 a.m. When school was out, she’d go to work at a grocery store. Then she’d come back home and cook dinner. She often felt overwhelmed. “I remember one night, I was making dinner and I was having a panic attack. I was crying, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and my heart was racing,” Azariah said. “But then my alarm went off for something in the oven,” she said, and she put her own needs aside.” Her childhood has ended long before its time, eroded by her responsibilities. Other young people have shouldered similar burdens in this time.

Or, the sermon might look at other people on the edges in our world, and what Jesus would say about their place in the world. Immigrants, LGBTQ+ people, the chronically ill in mind or body, unhoused people — Jesus would surely notice them, and welcome them, more fully than we manage to do.

As we think about the world around us, and about the stresses of Covid, Jesus invites us to see the pain of this time through the eyes of children, so that we might also see God at work the way a child would.



Chris KeatingSECOND THOUGHTS
Confessions of a Star Gazer
by Chris Keating
Psalm 8

Lift up your heads, O backyard astronomers. Lift your heads and rejoice! Early autumn skies will be brilliant this week with rich displays of the moon’s shadowed waning gibbous craters to possible sightings of Venus and Saturn, and the twinkling constellation of Taurus the Bull. (Take a look at The Sky This Week for additional hints.)

It’s a perfect time to sip beverages by a backyard fire, while gazing at the stars to contemplate the purpose of life. Make it a complete evening by bringing along a dog-eared copy of the Psalter to meditate on the vast question of human purpose posed by Psalm 8.

Psalm 8’s stanzas of praise and reflections on theological anthropology pair nicely with World Communion Sunday by plunging into questions of human purpose and vocation. It dives deep by looking up, glancing around at the glory of God manifest in the splendor of the heavens. On this day marking Christian unity in a world of divisions, take a moment to consider the psalmist’s soulful question, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”

In our neighborhood, dusk generally signals the beginning of nightly dog walking. I sometimes imagine that my dog and I are walking the twisting pathways of a labyrinth charted across the floor of a medieval cathedral. As sidewalks wind around the cul-de-sacs of our 1980’s subdivision, my dog leads me in prayer. He walks me as much as I walk him. As we go, I look for the moon and awakening stars. It fills me with the same wonderment that caused the psalmist to consider the possibilities and struggles of human life.

God’s glory soars high in the heavens, and every twinkling star bears the imprint of God. Suddenly the shook-foil of glistening creation reveals a darker, more complex reality. There’s a moment — a deep, sharp, and almost agonizing pause — between verses four and five. The question is asked, and then the psalmist takes a deep breath as if to consider the implications that question raises.

What are human beings, anyway? What does it mean for us to be entrusted with the delicate work of exercising dominion?

The answer to that question is multivalent. Human beings are the scared refugees frantically fleeing Afghanistan. They are anguished and confused Haitians coalesced around the border between Texas and Mexico, yearning for a new chance while being pushed back by federal agents on horseback. They are the thousands of Americans who have died in the past two weeks from Covid-19. They are Senator Mitch McConnell and Malala Yousafzai, Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

They are the little ones the disciples fruitlessly push away from Jesus. But no sooner are they shooed away than Jesus turns and blesses them. Every one of them, even that kid from youth group who asks annoying questions. The psalmist reminds us that it is to these persons that God has entrusted the entire kit and caboodle of creation.

This can be a scary thought. One wonders if God was sleep deprived when this decision was made. Perhaps it was rushed through committee.

Or maybe the psalmist is reminding us of what is involved in exercising dominion. It is hard work, but it is our work, and it is work that we are called to do with each other.

After photographs showing Customs and Border Patrol officers on horseback “twirling the reigns” to confront Haitians crossing into the United States, President Biden told reporters “This isn’t who we are.” He called the agents’ actions “horrible.” “It’s outrageous, I promise you, those people will pay,” said Biden.

Texas governor Greg Abbott, however, had a different message. He praised the agents and said they’d have jobs waiting for them in Texas. Abbott said their work was necessary to “secure the sovereignty of the United States.”

It’s worth noting that the person who took the picture has said the events portrayed in the photograph have been misconstrued. Photographer Paul Ratje told reporters that the agents near Del Rio, Texas, were not yielding whips, but were rather using reins to protect the migrants by keeping them back from the charging horses.

Yet whatever their intent, this was not a pretty moment. It was neither an attack on our national sovereignty nor was it an aberration. It is the sort of event that happens too frequently, an ugly reminder that we have not thoughtfully considered the questions posed by the psalmist.

The government’s decision to deport them back to Haiti is equally deplorable. Many had not lived in Haiti in decades. They have been returned to a tiny nation still reeling from overlapping natural and political disasters. Haitian government officials said the prospect of resettling the 14,000 and finding them adequate food is hard to imagine.

What are human beings? They are the siblings with whom we share the sacred task of exercising faithful stewardship over creation. They are those whom Christ welcomes to the feast. They are our partners with whom we are called to faithfully manage creation. They are the powerless infants whose babbling cries God uses to establish a stronghold of glory.

Look up at the stars. See the vastness of creation, and wonder how it is that we may become stewards of God’s grace with those who eat our bread and drink our wine.



ILLUSTRATIONS

Katy StentaFrom team member Katy Stenta:

Mark 10:2-16
To Whom Do You Belong
In The Lion King a typical parenting scene plays out: “Your son is awake” Simba’s Mom Sarabi says, when Simba comes bounding in early the morning. Mufasa says back “before sunrise he’s your son.”

An extra funny joke from a king who claims to rule “everything the light touches.” In these texts Jesus is asked about divorce, who does the woman and man belong to after divorce? Jesus’ response is almost comical — what a human question, for in heaven it no longer matters. We all belong together, and ultimately you belong to God. Then, when the question comes up with the children, the disciples try to shoo them away. However, Jesus urges the children on, assuring the disciples that they too belong to God. The joke between Mufasa and Sarabi is only funny if Simba irrevocably belongs to both his mom and dad no matter what. These two passages only fit together if one understands that they are both about who belongs to God. Jesus gives the answer, which is, everyone, all of them, both, yes.

* * *

Genesis 2:18-24
Loneliness
Humans are not meant to be alone. From the very beginning, God decrees it is not good for us to be alone. In a time when tech and pandemics reign, it is sometimes hard to remember, that we are not meant to be alone. We are meant to have companions, friends, fellowship. We are meant to cling to one another. Humans are commanded to go forth and multiply — perhaps less to conquer the earth and more so as not to be alone. Studies show that if a person has even a plant to care for, they are happier and even live longer which is amazing. We are meant to be caring creatures, it is not good to be alone.

* * *

Psalm 8
Little Lower Than Angels
Do you see yourself as a little lower than the angels? Do you look in the mirror and see God reflected in your eyes? Can you see the spark of the Holy Spirit in your imagination? Are you created in God’s image? What piece of yourself can you stake out as a part of God’s? Where do you see God in creation? In the stars? In the grass? What part of the human body fascinates you the most? The elbow? The ankle? The foot? The brain? The imagination? How are we made a little lower than angels — can we let ourselves marvel like the psalm?

* * * * * *

Dean FeldmeyerFrom team member Dean Feldmeyer:

Mark 10:2-16
Teaching Kids To Welcome Others

The web site raisinglifelonglearners.com offers these tips for teaching our children to be welcoming and accepting persons:

Little Kids
  • We can start by having them watch us greet others in love. Go out of your way to make others feel welcome wherever you are. Model greetings for your kids, and have them practice with family and friends so that they become comfortable greeting everyone.
  • When a friend comes over, encourage your child to answer the door and greet the guest, offering to take their coat, get them a drink, and show them in.
  • If a friend or someone from co-op or church has a baby, welcome the new arrival with your child by making cards, a small gift, and drawing a picture.
Bigger Kids
  • Help homebound neighbors feel welcome and connected to the neighborhood or your church congregation by bringing them cookies and news of what’s going on.
  • Create a “welcome wagon” for new neighbors or new members of your church or homeschool group. Include a small welcome gift like a book, plant, or craft kit for the kids. Include a folder with any forms they may need, tips for joining in events, and photos of other members with their names so that they might feel connected more quickly.
  • Have children go along to visit sick friends (or those with new babies) to play with the other children. Oftentimes the other kids feel pushed aside and this will help them feel like they’re an important and welcome part of the family.
* * *

Mark 10:2-16
Welcome.US
In a September 24 editorial, the Dallas Morning News welcomed and congratulated the work of WELCOME.US, an organization which operates in the true spirit of the motto of the United States of America, E pluribus unum (from many, one).

In that spirit, three former presidents and first ladies have joined together, along with faith-based groups and more than 250 nonprofit organizations and businesses, to address the needs of the thousands of Afghan refugees already in the US and the many more we should welcome.

Its honorary co-chairs — Presidents Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; as well as first ladies Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama — come from both sides of the aisle. Launched on Sept. 14, Welcome.US is a needed response to the incredible outpouring of support Americans have shown Afghan refugees. Bringing political, nongovernmental, religious, military and private-sector leaders, it provides anyone interested in donating funds, supplies or time to refugee resettlement organizations with a one-stop website to do so regardless of their city or state of residence.

Co-chaired by Cecilia Muñoz, senior adviser to New America and former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under Obama; and John Bridgeland, CEO of the Covid Collaborative and former director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under Bush. The idea is to transcend partisan politics and continue America’s long tradition of welcoming immigrants and refugees, especially those who fought alongside us for the cause of democracy in their homeland.

“America has long been a beacon of hope and refuge for those in search of safety,” Muñoz and Bridgeland said in a press release when Welcome.US was launched. “This effort to welcome Afghans who have already contributed so much will enrich us all by their very presence and show the world America at our very best. Now is the time for all of us to come together to welcome Afghans seeking safety, embrace them as our neighbors and discover in our outreach to them a new sense of purpose for ourselves and nation.”

* * *

Mark 10:2-16
Ancient Welcome Mats

Sarah Bond teaches Classics at the University of Iowa and has focused much of her studies on the role of artwork and inscriptions and the role the played in the ancient world. Of special interest to her is how doorways and thresholds in the Greek and Roman world held important symbolic power.

“Writing was and is a means of delineating and mapping space,” Bond explains, and “certain words could serve to set the tone for guests entering a household, just as a welcome mat does for us today.”

Some historical examples, she has discovered, are quite comparable to modern welcome mats, with many mosaics designed to protect against evil influences, curses, or just plain old bad luck.

Bond describes one extreme example that combines a number of such strategies, employing what she calls “the ‘kitchen sink’ approach to protecting one’s self.” One mosaic from a second-century house in Antioch features “an evil eye, but also a raven, trident, sword, scorpion, dog, serpent, centipede, panther, and a dwarf with a large phallus (because of course you need one of those).” It also has the protective inscription “KAICY,” which helps to create “a layered mosaic for protection.”

More common, however, were those like the stoop of Pompeii’s House of the Faun, the floor of which was engraved simply with the word “HAVE” (meaning: welcome).

* * *

Genesis 2:18-24
Wearing Our Red Shirts

There aren’t many places where it feels as good to be part of the crowd as at a Big-10 college football game.

When our son was admitted to the Ohio State University Marching Band, we immediately went out and bought Ohio State jerseys to wear to the games. We also soon learned about the “Skull Session.” Called “the best free show in town,” it is a concert given by the band every Saturday of a home football game about two hours before kickoff and it takes place before a standing-room-only crowd of 13,000+ screaming fans, some of whom will also go to the game.

The band marches into the arena, plays a couple of numbers, and then breaks to go and greet their friends and families in the stands. After a brief visiting time, they return to the main floor where they play several traditional songs and then the music from the halftime show, which they will perform that day.

The first time we went, wanting to make sure that Ben could find us in the crowd, my wife advised him that we would be wearing our new jerseys. Ben was kind enough not to inform her that, scarlet and grey being the official colors of OSU, practically every one of the 13,000+ people in the stand would also be wearing red shirts. We found out soon enough.

But it still felt good to belong.

* * *

Genesis 2:18-24
Not Meant To Be Alone

For years, Google was nearly obsessed with the concept of teamwork. What, they wanted to know, made for a team of people who worked well — efficiently, productively, and cooperatively — together?

To the end of answering that question, in 2012, the company ran a project known as Project Aristotle which took several years and included interviews with hundreds of employees. They analyzed data about the people on more than 100 active teams at the company.

“We looked at 180 teams from all over the company,” said Abeer Dubey, a manager in Google’s People Analytics division. “We had lots of data, but there was nothing showing that a mix of specific personality types or skills or backgrounds made any difference. The ‘who’ part of the equation didn’t seem to matter.’’

As it turned out, Google’s intense data collection led to the same conclusions that good managers have always known: On the best teams, members show sensitivity, and most importantly, listen to one another.

* * *

Genesis 2:18-24
Half A Croissant Later

According to many sources, Steve Wynn, the founder of Wynn Resort & Casino, once took his family on vacation to Paris where they stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel. They ordered breakfast from room service and his daughter ate only half of her croissant, leaving the other half for later.

The family left to explore Paris, and upon returning to the hotel room, the pastry was gone and they assumed that the housekeeping staff had thrown it away.

But, there was a message from the front desk on the telephone. Housekeeping had, indeed, removed the half croissant from the room, assuming that upon arrival, they would prefer a fresh pastry. So, the front desk contacted the kitchen to set aside a croissant, and room service was informed that upon request, they would need to deliver it to the Wynn’s’ room.

Wynn says that he was amazed by the level of teamwork and communication between different departments in the hotel and he continues to tell the story to his employees to inspire them to work as one in providing excellent service to their customers.

* * * * * *

Quantisha Mason-DollFrom team member Quantisha Mason-Doll:

Psalms 26
Be your own hype person
In my opinion the Psalms tend to be perfect standalone text that require little effort on the part of the reader to understand. But then you have psalms like Psalm 26, where we find our psalmist being their own sort of hype person. Depending on how you read or what kind of tone of voice you attribute to the psalmist this could be a sad and desperate plea toward God to somehow justify an action that we do not know. Or one could read this as someone with a pompous attitude that is making demands of the Almighty. No matter which way you look at it I think this is a very human psalm. Both tones of voice show the duality that we, as humans, face in this reality. I for one sometimes have a nagging voice in my head that tells me I am not good enough or that I am a failure that can never be loved. Taking this song and using it as your own pick me up as a reminder that you are loved by God and that if you follow the path that God has laid forth for us we can do all these things that the psalmist claims. In doing so we proclaim in singing loud the praises of God while also lifting ourselves up and validating all the good work that we are trying to do in this world. Here is a psalm that is telling us it is okay to be selfish.

Sometimes it is justified to sit yourself down and say I have done good work and I am deserving of the rewards that have been given to me.

* * *

Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
Ministry is having the willingness to embrace something different
Friends — this is where I out myself as an older generation millennial that is still young enough to be mistaken for a Gen Z kid. For clarification, I use social media a lot and not because of the pandemic. Assumptions aside, social media and its many platforms, in my opinion, are valid forms of ministry. My “For You” page, which are algorithm generated pages, are a wash with with the creative expressions of faithfulness. While I’m aware that some people might not review social media platforms as a valid expression of faith and faithfulness, we cannot deny that some of these posts are spot on theologically. This is to say that revelation or the act of revelation has already been done through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ though the interpretation and the engagement with that revelation is ongoing and transformative. I like the stance that Hebrews takes. God has not forgotten God’s chosen people nor will God forsake them just because time has changed. That same sentiment still stands for our religious communities. What worked for her ancestors might not necessarily work for us and God knows that the divine will needs new ways of expression. This is all to say that sometimes we find God in the strangest of places. Know that Jesus has already done it all. Jesus has seen it all. Jesus wants you to be called home.


* * * * * *

George ReedWORSHIP
by George Reed

Call to Worship:
One: Come, let us walk in integrity with our God.
All: We will trust in God without wavering.
One: Let us in innocence gather around God’s altar.
All: We will sing songs of thanksgiving, telling of God’s deeds.
One: Redeem us, O God, and be gracious to us.
All: As we gather together we will our God.

OR

One: God calls the family to the table today.
All: We rejoice to come and feast with our God.
One: God is calling all of the family of humankind.
All: With open arms we will welcome all who come.
One: God is calling even those who will not answer.
All: We will take God’s presence out to all we encounter.

Hymns and Songs
All Creatures of Our God and King
UMH: 62
H82: 400
PH: 455
AAHH: 147
NNBH: 33
NCH: 17
CH: 22
LBW: 527
ELW: 835
W&P: 23
AMEC: 50
STLT: 203
Renew: 47

Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty
UMH: 64/65
H82: 362
PH: 138
AAHH: 329
NNBH: 1
NCH: 277
CH: 4
LBW: 165
ELW: 413
W&P: 136
AMEC: 25
STLT: 26
CCB: 15
Renew: 204

All People That on Earth Do Dwell
UMH: 75
H82: 377/378
PH: 220/221
NNBH: 36
NCH: 7
CH: 18
LBW: 245
ELW: 883
W&P        661
AMEC: 73
STLT: 370

I Come with Joy
UMH: 617
H82: 304
PH: 507
NCH: 349
CH: 420
ELW: 482
W&P: 706
Renew: 195

One Bread, One Body
UMH: 620
CH: 393
ELW: 496
W&P: 689
CCB: 49

You Satisfy the Hungry Heart
UMH: 629
PH: 521
CH: 429
ELW: 484
W&P: 705

Let Us Break Bread Together
UMH: 618
H82: 325
PH: 513
AAHH: 686
NNBH: 358
NCH: 330
CH: 425
LBW: 212
ELW: 471
W&P: 699
AMEC: 530
STLT: 406
CCB: 46

O God of Every Nation
UMH: 435
H82: 607
PH: 289
CH: 680
LBW: 416
ELW: 713
W&P: 626

N.B. These next two hymns are designed for baptism but may be useful if you choose to work with the ‘little ones’ theme.

Wash, O God, Our Sons and Daughters
UMH: 605         
PH: 296
ELW: 445

Child of Blessing, Child of Promise
UMH: 611         
PH: 498
NCH: 325
W&P: 677

We Are One in Christ Jesus (Somos uno en Cristo)
CCB: 43  

O How He Loves You and Me
CCB: 38
Renew: 27

Music Resources Key
UMH: United Methodist Hymnal
H82: The Hymnal 1982
PH: Presbyterian Hymnal
AAHH: African American Heritage Hymnal
NNBH: The New National Baptist Hymnal
NCH: The New Century Hymnal
CH: Chalice Hymnal
LBW: Lutheran Book of Worship
ELW: Evangelical Lutheran Worship
W&P: Worship & Praise
AMEC: African Methodist Episcopal Church Hymnal
STLT: Singing the Living Tradition
CCB: Cokesbury Chorus Book
Renew: Renew! Songs & Hymns for Blended Worship

Prayer for the Day/Collect
O God who is the great parent of us all:
Grant us the grace to open ourselves to you
and to all your children everywhere;
through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

OR

We praise you, O God, because you are the great parent of us all. You created us and you claim us as your own children. Help us to extend your love and welcome to all your people everywhere. Amen.

Prayer of Confession
One: Let us confess to God and before one another our sins and especially our claims of being more beloved by you than others are. 

All: We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. You have made us all one people on this earth and yet we have found way to be divided. We have marked those like us as being your beloved and those who are not like us as being lost. In spite of all you have taught us through the law, the prophets, and your Christ, we put barriers between ourselves and others. We have even tried to put barriers between others and yourself. How foolish we have been. Forgive us and renew your spirit of love and grace within us that we may share your love and care for all creation. Amen.

One: God does love and claim all creation and all who dwell in it. Receive God’s love and share it with others.

Prayers of the People
Praised and glorious is your name, O God of all creation. You made us all in your image and likeness and imparted your Spirit to us.

(The following paragraph may be used if a separate prayer of confession has not been used.)

We confess to you, O God, and before one another that we have sinned. You have made us all one people on this earth and yet we have found way to be divided. We have marked those like us as being your beloved and those who are not like us as being lost. In spite of all you have taught us through the law, the prophets, and your Christ, we put barriers between ourselves and others. We have even tried to put barriers between others and yourself. How foolish we have been. Forgive us and renew your spirit of love and grace within us that we may share your love and care for all creation.

We give you thanks for all the blessings you have given us. You have called us your beloved and you claim us as your own. You have given us the wonderful diversity of humanity so that we may share many perspectives. You have given us the joy of human companionship so that we may more fully reflect your own nature.

(Other thanksgivings may be offered.)

We pray for one another in our need. We pray especially for your little ones. We pray for those who have been pushed aside from your table because some have said they do not belong. We pray for your unity to embrace all your children.

(Other intercessions may be offered.)

All these things we ask in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together saying:

Our Father....Amen.

(Or if the Our Father is not used at this point in the service.)

All this we ask in the name of the Blessed and Holy Trinity. Amen.


* * * * * *

Tom WilladsenCHILDREN'S SERMON
The Image of God
by Tom Willadsen
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12

(Jesus) is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being… (Hebrews 1:3a, NRSV)

Supplies: Have a mirror that is small enough for the kids to hold by themselves.

Today is World Communion Sunday, a good day to emphasize that Christians all over the world share a lot of things in common. If you have ever worshiped in a Christian community in a language you did not understand, tell the kids how it felt to understand what was going on, even if you did not understand what people were saying, or the words of the songs they sang.

When I went to church one Sunday morning in Denmark the only words I understood all morning were “Jesus” and “Amen.” When I mentioned this to the pastor as I left she threw her hands in the air and said, “You got the point!”

There were some things I understood even without understanding the language. There was a baptism, and I could follow the “action.” There was communion, and even though the bread and wine were different from what I am used to, I was able to participate fully.

At one point in the service the congregation recited the Lord’s Prayer and I knew what they were doing just from hearing the rhythm and intonation.

Substitute your own experience of being unfamiliar in a sort of familiar place.

Have each child look at themself in the mirror. Ask what they see. Look into the mirror yourself. Remind them of the passage above, “Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory….” Ask what it means to reflect something. Reflections are images that bounce back, or return. What you see in the mirror is not yourself, but a reflection of yourself.

Next ask the children if they have ever seen God. If they have ask them to describe what they saw. If no one has an experience to share, ask them to imagine what God looks like and try to put that into words.

Ask if they have ever heard that people are made in God’s image — that every single one of us looks like God. That means that every single person they see can remind them of God’s presence and love. And it means that every time they look in the mirror they get a glimpse — a reflection of God on earth. That’s true for people who live in different countries, who eat different foods and speak languages we don’t understand. Being made in God’s image is something we all have in common.

Prayer: Good morning, God. Thank you for making such a beautiful world, and filling it with people who are alive, and who help us remember that we are all your children. Amen.


* * * * * * * * * * * * *


The Immediate Word, October 3, 2021 issue.

Copyright 2021 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to The Immediate Word service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons and in worship and classroom settings only. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45807.
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