Children’s Church: Who is God to me?

Talk: Remind the children of all they have looked at over the last few weeks in Children’s Church, God has said lots of things about himself, but today we’re going to look at what we think about God and who God is to us.

Activity: Lay some pictures out on the tables (planets, church, cake, mess, trees, animals, people, buildings, storms, anything you can think of). Allow the kids to pick one that makes them think about God. Allow them to think for a few moments and then ask why that picture makes them think about God. All answers here are right.

Activity: Write on a sheet of paper or a body shape, What we know about God. Get the kids to say their answers. When all who want to have said their bit (all answers are right) we move onto the reading. As we go through, prompt the kids to shout out if they remember, or hear something new about God we don’t have on our sheet.

Story: Acts17:16-34.

When Paul entered Athens he talked to everyone that would listen to him and told them all about Christ.  He told people who were like him and he told people who were very different from him.  The people of Athens could have had Paul kicked out of the city or sent to jail for proclaiming that Jesus was God’s son, but he trusted God and boldly told them about God anyway.  The people in Athens were typically educated and enjoyed debating the latest religions, even though they didn’t understand that what Paul was saying was true

While wandering through the city Paul saw an alter that said: To an Unknown God.  He took this opportunity to tell the people about the one and only true God.

Paul teaches that God is the Creator. He created the world.  He created us. 

Paul teaches that God is the Ruler of the world.  He created all of the people in the world and determined their lives.  He rules over everything that happens in the world and has placed us in a place where we can best serve him. 

He also told them we are dependent upon God.  God is the Sustainer.  He sustains our life and allows us to continue to live on this Earth.  He sustains us through good times and bad times.  We need him in our lives.  Without him we could do nothing.

Paul teaches them we are called God’s children.  That means that we are his children.  We have been adopted into his family.  God is a Father to his children.  He is not an image or an idol that we cannot reach, but our Father.  He loves us because we are one of his own. 

The people listened to what Paul had to say.  Some believed and others did not.  But, Paul was not discouraged and staying in Athens and continued to teach the people about God.   

(This version of the Acts reading was stolen from I hope they don’t mind)

Children’s Church: I AM the Alpha and Omega


Activity: Spread out on the tables the letters of the alphabet including some characters from the Greek alphabet and ask the kids to put the letters in the correct order. (If you want to be mean you could print out the whole of the Greek alphabet and watch them scratch their heads).

After a few short puzzled moments explain that today we’re looking at what God means when he says that he is the Alpha and Omega.

Gather everyone together and explain that the Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, which is the language that the New Testament was originally written in. And what is being said here is that God is the beginning and the end, the first and the last. We could say he is the A and the Z.

Story: First few verses of Genesis ‘In the beginning God created…’ (We used The Lion Storytellers Bible)

Revelation 1. 7-8 ‘I am the alpha and omega’ (My First Message Bible has a good kids version of heaven from revelation)

Craft: Each of the kids are going to make their own timelines, making out when they where born, went to school, made friends, joined a group, fell over, went on holiday, got a pet etc. Give them each a piece of paper and get them to draw a line, at one end should be the day they were born, at the other today and in-between important events.

Before the end of the session, ask them to re-cap what you’ve been talking about, (God being beginning and end), ask the kids how many of them put God into their timelines?? God is the beginning and end, even of their own lives.

They could write it in or you could have stickers prepared.

Children’s Church: I Am he

During the summer holidays in St Albans Cathedral, Children’s Church replaces the Sunday Club, and for this summer the Children’s Church continued some of the work that Sunday Club started by looking at some of the I AM sayings.

Sunday Club had covered, I AM the true vine, I AM the bread of life, I AM the good shepherd and I AM the way.

So… Children’s Church looked at I AM he, I AM the light of the world, I AM the resurrection, I AM the Alpha and Omega and finally they looked at Who is God to me?

So over the next few days I’m going to post what they did. Feel free to use these ideas with your own group if you wish.

26th July I AM he

Game: Have all players stand or sit in a circle. Each player can either do a different motion for each syllable of their name or clap it out (whatever is more suitable for the groups ability). For example Christopher, Chris(stomp feet)-to(click)-fer(wave hands in the air). The next player does the same thing with their name using different motions until everyone has had their turn.

Talk: Names are really important. They are something we own, and no one is able to take your name away from you. Most of the time, its one of the first things our parents do for us. They give us a name to separate us from others and to make us unique. Sometimes names can mean special things.
Does anyone know if their name has a special meaning??
Claire: Clear and bright
Sally: Princess
Jeffrey: God’s peace
Richard: Powerful Leader

(Have a book of names and look up some of the meanings of the kids names)

Activity: Explain that there are lots of different names for God, and lots of these have special meanings too. Get the kids to think of names they know for God and names they call him (Father, Almighty, Lord etc)

Have some lining paper spread out, or a large body shape and get the kids to write and draw on it the names they come up with for God.

For the older children we also got some youth bibles with names and verses slipped into them so they could find names and learn where in the bible they can be found.

(Abba Mark 14.36, Alpha and Omega Revelation 1.8, Bread of life John 6.35, Cornerstone Acts 4.11, Creator Psalms 121.2, Father Matthew 5.16, Good Shepherd John 10: 11, High Priest Hebrews 3.1, Holy Spirit John 14.26, I AM Exodus 3.14, King of kings 1 Timothy 6.15, Lord of Lords I Timothy 6.15, Lamb of God John 1.29, Light of the world John 8.12, Messiah Matthew 1.1, Prince of Peace Isaiah 9.6, Counsellor Isaiah 9.6, Powerful God Isaiah 9.6, Rabbi John 1.38, Redeemer Isaiah 59.20, The Way John 14.6, The word John 1.1, True vine John 15.1)

Amos and the plumbline – children’s sermon

I hope you were all listening hard to our Old Testament reading this morning because it will give you the answer to my first question.

What is this?

A plumbline

And what is it used for?

It’s used to see if something is straight.

People use them when building walls and houses to make sure what they are building is going to be straight and strong. They are also used to see if a building or structure has moved, and if not, then by how much. Because if a wall is not straight, what might happen to it?

It might fall down.

Our OT reading for today says that God uses a plumbline. God says to a special man called Amos ‘I’m setting a plumbline in the midst of my people, I will never again pass them by. I will never let their crooked ways pass inspection anymore’.

God’s people were called Israel and they had a special agreement with Him that they would keep his laws and his rules.

What laws are they. You all know 10 special ones

But God people didn’t keep these, and that made God really tired and upset. They didn’t keep their end of the agreement and they took advantage of Gods goodness, they were fighting with each other and with other people. And it needed to stop.

So God said to Amos, I’m going to measure all my people to see how straight and strong and true they are, or how crooked and bad they have become. Only those who have kept my laws will be my people.

To live a straight and upright life means making choices. We make choices everyday to do things or to not do things. To be good or to be bad.

Where can we find help in making the right choices that God wants for us?

Jesus, the Bible, 10 commandments, parents, teachers, priests?????

There are many things we can use to help us measure up to the plumbline, the most important of these is Jesus, because he is perfect and when we try to be like him, that means we line up with God.

Christingle Sermon

Reading Hebrews 1.1-3

(I had a child read for the service). Thank you for reading so clearly. It’s important that this reading especially was read clearly because it talks about all those different ways God uses to speak to us.

He gave us the bible, and all the stories in it and speaks to us through them. And we’re told that he can speak to us through prophets and visions and dreams.

And today we’re going to see if he can speak to us and tell us anything special through some objects that I have here.

(Get 5 children up to hold the objects, questioning them in turn what each of them are.)

Firstly what is this? An orange

Secondly what is this? Some ribbon

Thirdly? Four cocktail sticks

Next? Some sweets (I’ve counted them, and I’ll be checking at the end to see how many there are)

And finally?  A Candle

Now, a really difficult question: if you put all of these things together what would you make? A Christingle

As you will probably know the various things that make up the Christingle all represent something and tell us, speaks to us something about God:

The orange represents the world in which we live. The four sticks remind us of the four seasons of the year. The red ribbon reminds us of the blood of Jesus and the fact that he died on the cross for us. The sweets remind us that God gives us a lot of great gifts in our lives, and of course the candle on the top reminds us of Jesus himself – the light of the world.

And so when all those ordinary objects are put together we have something through which God can speak to us, and He can tell us through this the story of creation, and of Jesus and his love for us.

But individually those things are nothing more than what they’re meant to be – the orange is an orange, the stick is a stick, the candle is a candle and so on…

And the same can true for all of us – as we approach Christmas we can all have a good time hopefully, we can enjoy giving and receiving cards and presents, but if we leave Jesus out of Christmas then we are missing out on the real purpose of all these celebrations and we’re missing the one thing that gives meaning to it all.
(Get the kids to assemble the Christingle while you tell the story)

There’s a little story about Mary, Jesus’ mum, she had a very strange dream one night

she sees signs lit up saying Happy Christmas, she sees houses decorated, and people rushing around the shops buying lots of presents and food and drinks.

She hears of parties being arranged, and thinks how wonderful it is to see people enjoying her son Jesus’ birthday.

But then Christmas comes and she realises that people aren’t giving their presents to Jesus, and in fact, they’re not even mentioning him – She is filled with sadness as she realises that people have forgotten to thank Jesus for all he’s done for them, even on his birthday.

We must remember in the middle of all of the celebrations that we’re going to have, that Christmas is about, the light in the middle of our Christingles, it’s about Jesus coming to earth as a baby, and Jesus coming to us, as the light in our lives.

and it would be wrong to leave him out of his own celebrations,

So today God speaks to us, through our Christingles and reminds us again of the story of the world as we prepare to celebrate Jesus, light of the world coming to us. Amen

Llandanwg Flower Festival Sermon 2013

I want to start by giving our heartfelt thanks to all those who have worked so hard setting up this flower festival, and all those who have helped keep the church open so that hundreds of visitors can come and visit this beautiful church in this beautiful place. A special thanks to Pam and Tony who continue to work tirelessly for this church.

Flower festivals are really important occasions, they are nice things to do and they help raise money for the upkeep and mission of the church. It helps bring people into the church who might not otherwise come through the door.

It provides us with a social event to come together. But most importantly it provides a chance for people to express their God given gifts and talents for creativity and to give an expression to their relationship with God.

We use these events to give glory to God, glory being the manifestation of the divine, and how appropriate for us to be gathered here, on this day, what better way could the divine be shown to us then in these beautiful displays, in this thin place, and surrounded by nature and God’s creation.

I’ve never been much good with flowers, other than being able to cut the steams down and put them in water, I wouldn’t have a clue on how to start and arrangement. So I really appreciate the talent that others have for it.

I dare not ask or count how many different varieties of flowers there are here in this church today. Nor do I want to think about the thousands plus varieties there are in this country. When we look at a flower, we may appreciate its shape, and colour, texture and smell.

There is a great and wonderful complexity and simplicity about flowers that tell us so much about our nature and our relationships.

Any scientist worth their salt would be able to say that the biological make up of any flower is complex. And I don’t think it would be stretching it too far to say that the whole universe and God himself is contained within each single flower. Each single flower contains with its growth the wind, rain and sun, the breath of 1000’s of people, from all around the world. The complexity of a single flower when you start to think about it is incredible.

Gwen and the Dragon
Gwen and the Dragon

And yet, a flower is so simple, even the smallest of children can appreciate it. And we have a picture from earlier this week of one of our Arch Noa mums and tots babies appreciating the ‘Dragon’ display. Flowers need no explanation; they speak for themselves by their very being. And that’s one of the things we love about them.

The same could be said for us, human beings, created by God, in the image and likeness of God. We are complex beings, in every sense of the term, biologically, physically, spiritually, psychologically. We too contain the universe and God within us. In each of us is contained the total of our experiences and knowledge, all of those people who have crossed our path, influenced us and taught us about the world and ourselves. We are so complex that each of us are individual, there are no two people the same, anywhere, ever.

And again, we are simple. Are basic human needs are the same. Our desires in life and our calling from God.

Food, water, shelter, comfort and connections with others. The things we need.

And our calling, to love one another. Those who were in church this morning will remember from our Old Testament reading (Deuteronomy 30:9-14) and the gospel (Luke 10:25-37) of the Good Samaritan both spoke about about the law of God, ‘to love God with heart, soul, strength and mind and our neighbour as ourselves’ and now, our epistle (1 John 4:7-13, 21) tells us ‘love one another, because love is from God’.

Complexity and simplicity, co-existing; in nature, in ourselves, in community, in love.

So as we view and appreciate these displays of creativity and life, and appreciate the complexity and simplicity of each flower, let us also observe ourselves within them, and within these arrangements, our communities.

We give thanks today for the complexity and simplicity of life, the complexity and simplicity of creation. For the flowers, and the talent, for each other and for the opportunity to express all these things and more to our creator.

Let us thank God for flower festivals, and all the things he teaches us within the talent and expression of these arrangements.




A Simple Trinity Sermon

I posted this up last month, but it seems to have walked… posting it again.

“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Last week the church celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the ways god revealed himself through the apostles.

This week we celebrate the Trinity. The three ways we have encounter God, the three ways god has revealed himself to the church.

The Father The Son The Holy Spirit Many people find it hard to get their minds around the trinity, even great and clever theologians struggle, that they are one God but just three different ways we experience God. There are many images that are used to try and explain this great mystery, Water, ice, steam The peal, fruit and core of a apple The three wheels on a tricycle The chocolate, cake and orange of a Jaffa cake three things that together make part of a whole.

These images can be helpful, but they don’t fully explain how the father, son and spirit are one. There is a very long and complicated creed in the church called the Athanasian Creed, for those of you who know of it, don’t worry, i’m not going to make us say it, but there are some key lines which try to explain what the trinity is, most importantly it says “So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God.” Three parts of God.

I’m not going to try and explain this anymore, but I would like us to think for a moment about what affect this has in our lives. Trinity Sunday is about celebrating how God had revealed himself to us, and that’s one of the joys for a Christian, seeking how God is revealed in our own lives. So I wonder, how God has made his presence known in your lives this week. And I have some pieces of paper here and some pens and pencils we can use just to make a note of how God has been there in your lives. I’m not going to make you share them or show them to anyone if you don’t want. They are personal to you.

Here are some examples from people I asked on Facebook.
Energy in prayer
a situation sorting itself out,
through good times with a friend
picking flowers in the garden
laughter of their children on the beach

So we give thanks for all the ways God shows himself to the church and to us, and pray that we will always be watchful for Gods action in the world. Amen

(Preached to Dyffryn Church & Boys Brigade)

Disturbed into action

Today we celebrated Candlemas in many of our churches, well… The Presentation of Christ. There was no blessing of candles, but there was celebration for the end of this Christmas/ epiphany season. I am also quite grateful to be able to take down my decorations. However much I love them, they do look a little sorry at this stage of the year.

I took two services this morning, a standard Eucharist, and a family service. For the standard service I looked at the song of Simeon, how familiar it is in the evensong service and how lovely and reassuring evensong can be, especially in places like cathedrals where usually there is no participation required from the individuals in the congregation.

I posted on twitter the other day: “@sjj_poppy: We can turn worship into an escape from the world, Simeon and Anna were in the temple not to escape, but seeking God’s presence in the world”

I was thinking especially about some of the congregations we take care of, for how many of them has church become an escape? Escape from the world and all it’s troubles. We create (or try to create) for ourselves a world that appears constant and unchanging, where the old ways are the only way of doing things. John Betjeman creates this image in his poem which starts ‘Across the wet November night’.

But it’s true that these characters who live and work within the temple at Jerusalem were not there to escape the world, but to seek God’s presence in the world.

Is our worship meant to be only a reassuring retreat from the world? Is it not meant to disturb us?

If we read and reconnect with our liturgies and scriptures, we do not find a comfortable escape. We find a place that challenge us. We find a calling from God which cannot be ignored. When we are confronted with the awesomeness and wonder of God and when we consider the reality of God, are we not drawn and called to action and to actively seek out our God? Not sit back and escape these realities?

Confronting God is not always comforting experience, for Simeon he knew what this meant, hence his words to Mary “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Our image of the meek and mild Jesus does not match our knowledge of the disturbing force can be. For Simeon and Anna their disturbance was also met with joy. For others they are met with the reality of themselves.

We know the affect that Jesus has in our lives. Look at the early church in the acts of the apostles, not much comfort and retreating from the world going on there!!! These activities, and the motivation of the people came from their encounters, and experience of Jesus. They allowed themselves to be disturbed into action and their lives were never the same again.

We are called to be people of The Way, a pilgrim people, not holding onto the past, not apart from the world, but moving on and through the world.

I told my congregation that if we are not disturbed, then the church will die and if we are not moved by our encounters with God then our churches will become monuments to a past ages which our future generations will fail to understand.

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation”. Luke 2:29-30

May we be one day be blessed with Simeon’s peace, with his knowledge that he has done all that the Lord has required. May we not miss out on our opportunities to know that there is more to life then the here and now.