Who me? Deny Christ?

a person writes a to-do listDo you start off your day with a list of what you need to do? I do!

But I wonder… in all of my busy, everything must be perfect, planning… have I left room for God?

Is “cultivate my faith” on my to-do list?

Am I denying God entry into my life?

Peter pretended like he didn’t know who Jesus was. Now, that is denial. But do my choices make me just as guilty?

The Denial of Saint Peter-Caravaggio (1610)

Paraphrased from John 18:16-18, 25-27, Peter said…

Open quote markAre you talking to me? I don’t know who that man is!

What does denying Christ look like for us today?

Here’s a discussion for your family, at the family dinner table (or wherever your family is gathered together).

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  • What does it mean to deny that something happened? (It means saying that something is not true, when in fact, it is true!)
  • Tell about a time when someone pretended like they didn’t know you—they denied that you were their friend.
  • What do you suppose it would feel like to have someone say, “No, I don’t know that person?”
  • Have you ever denied knowing someone?
  • Adults: share a story from your growing-up years. And then share Peter’s story.
  • It is easy to see that saying you don’t know someone is denial. Do you suppose that we ever deny Jesus? How about when we…
    • speak harshly?
    • are quick to follow the crowd – trying to make them like us?
    • forget to pray?
    • turn the other way when someone needs our help?
    • are mostly concerned about our needs?

All of us, through our lifestyles, actions and attitudes, have denied Jesus. But, be reassured, there is hope!

Open quote markSo turn to God! Give up your sins, and you will be forgiven. Acts 3:19

I am thankful for God’s grace!

Stay tuned for the rest of the story: Forgiveness!

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Photo credits…
To-do lists by John Athayde, originally licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).
The Denial of Saint Peter by Caravaggio, circa 1610; in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Darkness and light; so goes life

Dark and light. Polar opposites, yet we can’t have one without the other.

I remember a picture book that I used to “read” to my kids when they were young: Fast-Slow High-Low, by Peter Spier. It was a book of few words, inviting discussion over the meaning behind its numerous artful drawings.

Cover of the book Fast-Slow High-LowWe often would make-up lively stories about the various opposites portrayed—leading to interesting tales! (I love wordless books for young children. They invite imaginative thinking.) Light and dark were illustrated in an expected way: with a lamp “on” and “off.”

I don’t recall that dark and light were depicted beyond the brightness of bulbs; it would be hard to sketch light and dark as a way to describe life circumstances!

The contrast of light and dark is evident when one does a Rotation on Peter’s view of Easter. (This story is a good one to do post-Easter, as a follow-up to other Easter stories.) It’s about Peter, who was one of Jesus’ disciples, the one Jesus called the “Rock.”

Peter had reason to want to hide in the dark.

Our story starts off in the dark. Well, sort of—it did take place in the evening. There is probably some light as the disciples gathered with Jesus in the Upper Room to share the Passover meal; the one that we call the “Last Supper.”

Jesus and his disciples recline at the table during the Last Supper

Peter tells Jesus I'll never deny youBut there were “dark” moments during that gathering. Like when Jesus tells his disciple Peter that he will soon deny him. Can you imagine Peter’s shock? “Who me?, Peter says, “Never! I am ready to die for you.”

“Really?” (Can you imagine the incredulous tone of voice that Jesus uses?) “Really? You’ll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you’ll deny me three times.” John 13:38

Peter denies knowing Jesus

Then there is the dark moment in our story when Peter does deny Christ. (John 18:15-18 and 25-27) Let alone the darkness that envelopes Jesus’ followers to see their beloved Jesus hanging on a cross.

But on the third day, morning comes, and with it, light! Great light!

Moments before sunrise

Jesus is alive! He visits his disciples, several times over the next few days.

But how is Peter feeling? Luke’s Gospel has Peter weeping bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)

We will find out that Jesus forgives Peter (John 21:1-17). But it brings to mind an apply-it-to-our-life question:

What do you do with failure?

Pass it off as I’ll do better next time, or continually beat yourself up?

Thankfully, Jesus offers forgiveness!

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Photo credits…
First image, from my archives—a photo of the book.
Story images by artist Paula Nash Giltner, from Free Bible Images, licensed under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND 4.0). Photos are here and compiled from here, offered by a joint venture of Good News Productions & College Press Publishing Co.
Moments before sunrise by Vincentiu Solomon, released under Unsplash License.

Easter has come: Now run towards Jesus!

Mary Magdalene has reported that Jesus’ tomb is empty! Disciples John and Peter waste no time in quickly running towards the tomb; wondering what they would find (John 20:1-4).

Disciples John and Peter on their way to the tomb on Easter morning

Of course, they didn’t find his body at the tomb, because Jesus is alive!

Later they would see the risen Jesus several times. And once more Peter would find himself “running” towards Jesus. (Okay, there was probably some swimming involved, more than running, see John 21:7.)

How often do you find yourself wishing for an opportunity to run to Jesus?

When things are rough.
When it seems like everything is turning against you.
When you are ready to give up…

What is holding you back? Don’t walk—Run!

When was the last time you reminded your family members, your friends, and even yourself, that running towards Jesus is always an option?

When you are weary.
When it looks like there is no hope.
When you can’t think of a better way…

What is holding you back?

Quote marks So turn to God! Give up your sins, and you will be forgiven.
Acts 3:19

Quote marks But the people who trust the Lord will become strong again.
They will be able to rise up as an eagle in the sky.
They will run without needing rest.
They will walk without becoming tired.
Isaiah 40:31

A cross decorated with palm branchesAn Easter blessing:

On this day and every day,
regardless of where you are at,
or how you are feeling,
may you turn and run to Jesus.

Happy Easter !
— Carol

 

 

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Photo credits…
Disciples John and Peter running on their way to the tomb on Easter morning, a painting by Eugène Burnand. Offered by crazyapplefangirl, on Flickr licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 2.0). Palm-tied cross is from my archives, offered here.

Preparing for Easter: Telling the story

Colorful plastic Easter Eggs

Got any of these around?

I figured you might.

That’s good because they can be useful… to tell the Easter story… and I don’t mean the Easter bunny version! These eggs can be filled with symbols of the story from Palm Sunday to Easter. Use them to help children to learn and re-tell the story of Easter.

First, shoo away the chickens and gather some eggs
You’ll need some plastic, separating eggs – 8, or perhaps 12, or more! It all depends on how detailed you’d like to get in telling the tale. This is a project where creativity can reign!

It should be noted that you can buy a set of 12 pre-filled eggs (do a Google search on “Resurrection Eggs”). But where is the fun in that?

If you have young children perhaps you’d like to make a set of 8 eggs and open one every day from Palm Sunday to Easter; a sort of “advent calendar” for Easter week! (Though the elements inside the eggs, except for the two Sundays, don’t really relate to the days of what we call “Holy week.”)

If you’ve got readers in your family, add slips of paper with the Bible verses written on them (as indicated below). Include reading the verses as part of the daily opening of an egg.

For older children perhaps you’d like to elicit their help in preparing the eggs. Ask them which details to include in the story, thus determining how many eggs will be used.

Keeping your ducks in a row eggs in order!
Whatever the number of eggs you create, you’re going to want to keep track of the order in which they should be opened. Use a permanent marking pen to number each egg or use different colors of eggs, or different color combinations of eggs (maize and blue is my favorite combination). If you go the color route, create a numbered list of the objects placed in the eggs and write down the color of the egg next to each object.

Following are some ideas of what to include in your eggs…

The 8 egg version – open one a day between Palm Sunday and Easter
  1. Palm Sunday – a piece of palm branch (that you brought home from church, or cut one out of green paper) – Mark 11:1-10
  2. Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus – a couple coins – Luke 22:1-6
  3. The Last Supper – a cup (use a small bottle cap) or a piece of bread – Luke 22:7-20
  4. The Garden of Gethsemane – a twisted pretzel (because pretzels were first made in this shape to represent someone praying), or perhaps a drawing of praying hands – Matthew 26:36-46
  5. Jesus is arrested – A slip of paper with a lip print – Matthew 26:47-56
    A Lip Print
  6. Jesus is killed on a cross – use a bread twist-tie to wire together two small twigs as a cross – Luke 23:26, 32-49
  7. Jesus is buried – a rock (to cover the tomb) – Matthew 27:57-60
  8. Jesus is risen (the tomb is empty) – an empty egg! – John 20:1-20

If you’d like… Add more story details and more eggs! (You’ll have to re-number your list!)

  • Mary anointed Jesus’ feet – a cotton ball with some vanilla extract or some perfume on it – John12:1-8 (Make this a new egg #1)
  • Split Palm Sunday into 2 eggs… Procuring a donkey – A picture of a donkey, or a piece of fake fur, or even dog hair!
 – Mark 11:1-6, and the palm branch portion of the story – Mark 11:8-10
  • Then come eggs #2, 3, 4 and 5 from the list above.
  • Next, add Peter’s denial with a feather or a picture of a rooster – Matthew 26:69-75
    a rooster
  • Then add Jesus being bound – a piece of rope – Matthew 27:1-2
  • Pilate washing his hands – a small piece of soap – Matthew 27:15-24
  • Jesus beaten with whips – a piece of leather cording or a shoe string – Matthew 27:26
  • A crown of thorns is placed on Jesus – a piece of a rose bush
 or a drawn crown of thorns – Matthew 27:27-31
  • Change the cross egg (the tied together twigs) to Matthew 27:31-32
  • Add an egg with a slip of paper saying “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” – John 19:19-22
  • Then add an egg for the dividing of Jesus’ clothing – A dice or two – John 19:23-24
  • Add a piece of cloth ripped in half – Mark 15:38-39
  • Finish with eggs #7 and #8 (from the list above).
  • Have fun telling, and re-telling, the Easter story!

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    Photo credits…
    From Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0):
    Easter eggs by Jeff Petersen, and Lips by Jan McLaughlin.
    And from Pixabay:
    Rooster by OpenClipart-Vectors, released under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain.

    I love a parade, don’t you?

    It’s Lent!
    Rather than giving something up, how about adding daily family faith discussion.
    Make it your Lenten investment!

    Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey on what we now call Palm Sunday

    If you are doing a Rotation on the events of Holy Week, you are covering a lot of scripture! So this post will be the start of several which will provide mini reading plans for small portions of each story in the “Events of Holy Week.”. Included are discussion questions for use around the family dinner table. (Or wherever your family is gathered together—perhaps in the car on the way to soccer practice?) Use the chart below to read and talk about this portion of our story… in stages… over the course of several days.

    First up: What we now call Palm Sunday!

    If you’d like to print out this reading plan/discussion guide, click here.

    Read Talk about or do…
    Matthew 21:7-9 This is like a parade! Describe a parade you’d like to be in.
    What town is Jesus entering? (Jerusalem)
    Why is this first event in Holy Week called “Palm Sunday?” How do you plan to celebrate Palm Sunday?
    Matthew 21:8-9 Imagine the excitement! Does the Bible you are using have a footnote that explains the meaning of the word “Hosanna?”
    In Hebrew Hosanna means “save us now,” although over time it had come to be an exclamation of praise. What words do you shout when you are excited and full of appreciation? Shout some worshipful words!
    Mark 11:1-6 Take a look at a Bible map (here’s one). Find Jerusalem, Bethany, and Bethphage. Jesus and his disciples walked everywhere. How far did they walk between those towns? What is the furthest you’ve ever walked?
    Luke 19:28-34 What would you think if someone asked you to do what Jesus asked? Would you wonder how you’d ever find this colt? Would you be afraid of being accused of stealing?! Would you be anxious to see Jesus riding a never-been-ridden-before, animal? I wonder why Jesus felt that these details were important?
    Matthew 21:1-5 Does the Bible you are using help you to discover which prophet said these words? (Hint: Look at Zechariah 9:9)
    What sort of king were the people expecting?
    +++++A) a riding-on-a-giant-horse, ’m-going-to-whip-everybody-into-shape sort of a king OR
    +++++B) a gentle-loving riding-on-a-donkey king?
    What sort of king did Jesus turn out to be?
    Matthew 21:10,11 Obviously not everyone knew about Jesus! The people had been waiting for hundreds of years for the Messiah! Look up the word “Messiah” in a he dictionary (there is usually one in the back of a Bible).
    Matt 21:8,9
    Mark 11:8-10
    Luke 19:36-38
    John 12:12-16
    What differences do you notice between these four accounts of this story?

    Why do you suppose these differences exist?

    What do you make of John’s reference to looking back on this story after Jesus’ resurrection?

    How does it feel to add faith talk for Lent?


    Photo credits:
    Palm
    Sunday, originally posted by Waiting For The Word on Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

    How to prepare for Hosanna-ing with a bit of make-believe

    Christ's Entry into Jerusalem Hippolyte Flandrin-1842

    I like this painting that depicts the inaugurating event of Palm Sunday, because it includes children. Look over on the upper, right-hand side. Notice the man holding a baby(!) up over his shoulders? (One can easily miss seeing!)

    Show this picture to your kids and point out the taking-flight toddler.

    Close up of Christ's Entry into Jerusalem - a painting by HippolyteThere are other kids. Can you find them?

    Notice this child in particular… (The one designated with the red arrow in the close-up shot.

    Have your child pretend that they are that kid. Place yourself in the painting!

    You are witnessing Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem!

    What do you see?

    What do you smell?

    What do you hear?

    There were of course, lots of people. Some happy and others not. And probably the usual noise a loud crowd makes.

    (“Is he coming yet?” “I can’t see!” “Excuse me, you are stepping on my foot!”)

    palm waving-2The Bible tells us there were loud cries of “Hosanna!” (John 12:13). Which was like saying “Save us!”

    Go ahead and shout some Hosannas!

    Practice for this coming Sunday at FUMC.

    Do you suppose there were people at this “parade” who wondered what the Hosanna hoopla was all about?

    Why do we celebrate Palm Sunday? (If you’re not sure, go ahead and click on that link to learn more.)

    Why did the people greet Jesus with such enthusiasm?

    How would you greet Jesus today?

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    Photo credits:
    Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem by Hippolyte Flandrin, 1842, from FreeChristImages.org, used under license.
    Palm Sunday photo copyright from my archives.

    How to prepare to hear youth champion choosing love?

    Youth Worship 2017 LogoThis weekend, the Youth in grades 7-12 will lead worship at both Greenwood on Saturday evening and downtown Sunday morning. Why should you make sure that you and the kiddos attend one of these services?

    Three reasons:

    • Little kids need to espy big kids in action. (Hey, I get to do that some day!)
    • The viewpoint the Youth will promote is wise: Choose Love.
    • There will not be any Cool Disciples workshops for grades 1-6 this weekend!

    Do you suppose the “open door” in their logo, parodies to a degree, that old TV show Let’s Make a Deal – where contestants picked either door number 1, 2 or 3?  (The Bible story the Youth will reference does have three characters making choices about showing love.)

    But choosing love is not random. And it is more than just choosing to love and care for someone else – it also involves choosing to allow God to love us!

    This door opens two ways: to receive God’s love and to show love to others.

    A little preparation for worship may be helpful. (And certainly a debriefing afterwards!) How about using three ways – all involving stories and song. (Something I’m sure that we’ll hear lots of in worship!)

    the number one  The Parable of The Good Samaritan is depicted in artLet’s start with a review of a familiar Bible story: The Good Samaritan.

    Read the story in Luke 10:25-37.

    Which of the three in this parable that Jesus taught – the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan – chose a loving response to the beaten man by the side of the road?

    What were the risks that each person faced? Why do you suppose the Samaritan chose love?

     

    the number two  The cover of the book Forever Young by Bob DylanNext, how about a storybook based on a song? Forever Young by Bob Dylan (yes, THAT Bob Dylan) for ages 5 – 10, is about a young boy who is given a guitar by a street singer; his story shows how a gift to another can impact countless lives. (Ann Arbor District Library has this book. See if it is available!)

    Do you suppose a simple act of giving (and loving) can still have an impact in today’s world?
    Do you think it is better to give love or to receive love? Why?

     
    the number three  And the third choice is a song by Pete Townshend: Let My Love Open the Door. The Youth have been learning this song and we’ll hear it this weekend.

    Consider how these words could be God speaking to us, reaching out in love.
    “I have the only key to your heart
    I can stop you falling apart
    Try today you’ll find this way
    Come on and give me a chance to say
    Let my love open the door
    It’s all I’m living for
    Release yourself from misery
    There’s only one thing gonna set you free
    That’s my love
    That’s my love
    Let my love open the door
    Let my love open the door.”

     

    The Youth from FUMC at Soulfull Retreat 2017
    Youth at Soulfull Retreat at Lake Louise Retreat Center, 2017

    Come experience the youth as they share their faith in music, drama, and liturgy. Members of the senior class of 2017 will share their journeys with the congregation. (Always a tear-jerker for me!)

    a blue line


    Photo credits:
    Choose Love logo designed by Wendy Everett. Group photo of youth at Soulfull Retreat at Lake Louise Retreat Center, by Peter DeHart, © 2017. Used by permission.
    An icon of The Good Samaritan, photo by Ted, licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0). Orange Numbers in the Public Domain via WPClipart.com.

    How “acting as if” makes way for a miracle?

    The formerly paralyzed man walks!

    The crowd inside the house was packed tight. And now four hard-working, faith-filled, determined men had created a hole in the roof so as to lower their paralyzed friend into Jesus’ presence. These friends were certain that Jesus would heal their buddy.

    They chose to act as if it were already true.

    I have read this story countless times. (It’s what I do when I am writing Rotation lessons.) I even will find myself returning to the story, reading it again, after the lesson is complete. Why?

    Because usually I discover a new insight.

    And sure enough I did. Something occurred to me that I hadn’t previously considered.

    When Jesus says to the lame man:

    '
Get up, take your mat and go home.

    What would have happened if the lame man hadn’t gotten up?

    What if he was too afraid?
    (He could fall flat on his face, and make a spectacle of himself!)

    I had discovered another miracle in this story! The story that already contained several miracles — the industrious nature of the four friends, who overcame hardships to take a friend to Jesus, and the miracle of sins being forgiven and of course, the miracle of a previously paralyzed man able to walk! And now this miracle:

    The lame man had to get up. He had to act as if the miracle were true.

    'Immediately the paralyzed man stood up. He took his mat and walked out. (Mark 2:12)

    Acting on a truth is what is needed for it to actually become your truth.

    What is stopping you? Can your faith be an instrument that helps someone “get to” Jesus?

    What about your kids?

    Act as if your child is a spiritual being. (Because we are all spiritual beings!)
    Act as if your child is interested in talking about faith.
    Act as if you will discover something new.

    You need to be brave — to “act as if” — to take part in miracles – however big or small they may be.

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    Photo credits:
    The lame man walks is a screenshot from a video posted by Bible Society Australia, who licensed their work under a Creative Commons (BY-NC 2.0) License.