Thursday, May 28, 2020

Reflections for Youth - Holy Spirit

I am sure for many of us, this time during the Covid-19 Pandemic has given us a lot of "downtime."  Canceled plans and staying at home has us all restless. Many of you have talked about feeling anxious and bored all at the same time. Me too! When I feel this way I tend to over-function, make lists, and try to fill my time with projects and things to fill up the emptiness. I want to do al the things! 

But there are some days I don't feel like doing anything at all.  Can you relate?

I've been working on trying to embrace those times when I am feeling unmotivated and let myself just be that way.  I've been working on trying to slow down my mind and body to leave some space for this thing we call the Holy Spirit. I am thinking this week about how I can better listen and watch for the Holy Spirit that is at work in the world around me.

We are celebrating Pentecost this week which is the go-to story from the New Testament when it comes to the Holy Spirit.  The book of Acts tells us about how, after Jesus is no longer on earth, the disciples are gathered and hiding out  (kind of like we are now) and wondering what to do and what will happen next. 

You can read the story of Pentecost here: Acts 2: 1-13.  

Pentecost is the Greek name for Shavuot, the spring harvest festival of the Israelites, which was going on when the disciples were together in Jerusalem after Jesus' Resurrection and return to heaven. On that morning, however,  there appeared tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  They began to speak in other languages. Because of the festival, crowds of visitors were in Jerusalem, speaking many languages. The scripture tells us the disciples of Jesus moved among them and spoke to them all, and “every man heard them speak in his own language” about “the wonderful works of God.”  If you read further in chapter 2,  Peter then makes a powerful speech to the crowds in the city and many were baptized as followers of Jesus. This last part is why we celebrate Pentecost as the birthday or beginning of the church. 

Another passage from the Gospel of John reminds us that Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit long before the ever-famous "tongues, as of fire" and "rush of a violent wind" from the book of Acts. I wrote about this passage a few weeks ago. 

Check this out:
Read John 14: 15-31

     In this scripture, Jesus is talking to the disciples and tells them soon they will no longer see him - but God will send the Holy Spirit through which he will always be with us. "I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you all that I have said to you." 

     What is God teaching me today? Perhaps I need to shut my mouth, open my eyes wide, and give myself the space to take it all in. What's causing the noise in your life today? Today might be chaotic and hectic. It might be filled with groans and side-eyes and sighs. You might be frustrated and anxious. 

   But, I think today might also be filled with the Holy Spirit and the voice of God. And we just might hear it if we are quiet enough to listen. What could God be teaching you today?

What to understand more about the Holy Spirit? Watch this! 

Pentecost 2020

Celebrate and learn about Pentecost at home with the story from the Book of Acts, coloring sheets, and kid's bulletin from Illustrated Ministry.

Download Here! 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

May 31 Sunday School Lesson, 2020

We will experience the exciting story of Pentecost and celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Things you may need: 
  • Streamers   
  • Scissors, crayons, and glue 
  • hole punch
  • new unsharpened pencils,
  • pipe cleaners and pony beads
  • wind toys
  • Optional:  cupcakes or cookies, knives, frosting, sprinkles or small candies, soda, clear cups

Note: Our Sunday school lesson is from the 2020 Feasting on the Word curriculum published  by Westminster John Knox Press and is posted here for family home use only,

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Reflections for Youth - Prayers and Good-byes

Sometimes saying goodbye can really - well, suck.  It's especially hard if you have to say goodbye to good friends and people that you love.  For a lot of people, this time of quarantine due to Covid-19 has caused things to end abruptly. There have been a lot of missed opportunities for people to say goodbye.

Here's a quick fun fact: The English language the word good-bye is actually a shortened version of the original, more formal, farewell that people used to say: “God be with thee” or “God bless you.”

Last week I wrote about friends and how important they are in our lives.

In our scripture for this week, Jesus prays for the disciples. It's a prayer of farewell and also a prayer and hope and strength for his friends.

Read  John 17:1–11

As the passage begins, Jesus has been teaching the disciples in Jerusalem but things have gotten rather scary. The previous four chapters of the Gospel of John describes Jesus’ teachings and actions as he tries to prepare his followers for his departure. The disciples realize that Jesus is in danger, but they don't really get it yet. They don’t understand what is going to happen. They have listened to him talking about leaving and I am sure they are confused because it's not an easy thing to hear.  According to John's scripture, this prayer to God is Jesus' last action on behalf of his disciples.  In the next chapter, Jesus is arrested.

Jesus’ prayer for his disciples is also a prayer for followers of  Jesus today. As a Christian
community, we pray for one another. Jesus’ prayer is a type of prayer known as intercessory prayer (intercessory means on behalf of another). In our worship service at church, we often have a time called "Prayers for the People" where prayers are spoken on behalf of others.

Do you ever pray for your friends?.

Some things to think about:
  • How does it feel when there is no opportunity to say good-bye?
  • Who could you pray for? Who would you include in your own "Prayers for the People"? 

This week I invite you to take some time to offer some prayers to God for your friends and for those who have not had the opportunity to say good-bye.

And I will be praying for you, my friends!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

May 24 Sunday School Lesson - 2020

In this lesson, we will study Jesus’ prayer for his followers and compose prayers for the church.

Items you may need for this lesson: 

  • Plastic or paper cup
  • Markers
  • Craft sticks or popsicle sticks
  • Ballons
  • game pieces or buttons
  • Six-Sided die
  • Strips of colored and white paper
  • Stapler or glue

May 24 Sunday School Lesson

Colorpack Pages

Note: Our Sunday school lesson is from the 2020 Feasting on the Word curriculum published  by Westminster John Knox Press and is posted here for family home use only,

Friday, May 15, 2020

Refections for Youth - Friends (not the TV show)

I've been thinking a lot about my friends lately. I am sure you have, too.  In these quarantine days, while we are able to connect through our phones and technology, it sure is no fun not being able to be with our friends in person.

Friends are so important to us. They are our sounding boards. They make us laugh. They listen to our rants and raves.  They encourage us. No matter what our age our friends offer us a way to experience the world outside our families.

When I was a little kid, I remember when my grandfather would come to visit he would always sit at the piano and sing hymns.  One of his favorite things to play and sing was "What a friend we have in Jesus."   That's a little weird isn't' it?  Being friends with Jesus?  For some people, it's hard to get our minds around what it means to have a friendship with someone that we have never met in person and only read about in scripture.  How can we be friends with Jesus? What does it mean to have a "relationship" with God? 

This week's scripture passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus is preparing his friends for his departure and expresses his love and concern for his friends.

Read John 14: 15-21 

Some quick things:
  • John’s Gospel was written in the late first century, about seventy years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  • John in chapters 13–17 records John’s version of the Last Supper. Interestingly, it contains no specific mention of the meal or the institution of the Lord’s Supper as the other Gospels record (Matthew 26:17–35; Mark 14:12–31; Luke 22:1–38). In its place, John records the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.
For me when I read scripture it's often helpful to look at different translations of the Bible and take a look at the way the passage is interpreted. Here are verses 15, 16, and 17 in several different versions. 

New Revised Standard Version: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
Good News Translation: “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God. The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you.”
The Message: “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!”
Contemporary English Version: “If you love me, you will do as I command. Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you. The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don’t see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you.”
King James Version: “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
Revised Standard Version: “If you love me, you will keep my
commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another
Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world
cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him,
for he dwells with you, and will be in you.
Common English Bible: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever. This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you.

In all these different versions, these are the words that jumped out at me that are different from each other:
Holy Spirit
Do they all mean the same thing to you? What if we use all these words to help us to understand what Jesus is saying? Perhaps all these words help us recognize that Christ is truly present among us when we keep his commandments to love and serve one another.

Things to think about:
  • Look around you in your community-your church community as well as the greater community in which you live and serve—and see where you can identify ways that God is working in the word.  
  • What's the best thing about having a friend?
  • What's the best thing about being a friend?
  • What are some other words that you can think up for "friend"?
Here is some bonus content! If you have some time, watch this video by pastor and author Rob Bell.  The video is about what it means to have a relationship with God.  There are always more questions than answers! There are some questions below to think about after you watch. 

  • When you think about God, what images come to mind?
  • What is it about a relationship with God that you find difficult to comprehend?
  • In what ways does the narrator answer his question: “Are you in tune?”
  • How does Jesus show us how to live in tune with the song?
  • In what ways is playing in an orchestra like being a part of a church?

  • Tuesday, May 12, 2020

    May 17 Sunday School Lesson - 2020

    John 14:15–21

    In this lesson, we will reflect on Jesus’ promise to be with us and seek ways to welcome the Spirit into their lives.

    Things you may need:
    • construction paper, card stock, or craft foam sheets
    • scissors 
    •  markers 
    • staples
    • glue stick or glue
    •  colorful tape

    Note: Our Sunday school lesson is from the 2020 Feasting on the Word curriculum published  by Westminster John Knox Press and is posted here for family home use only,

    Wednesday, May 6, 2020

    Reflections for Youth - That's what HE said

    No doubt you have heard the parental question "If everyone jumped off a bridge - would you?"

    I was thinking about this today as I read this week's scripture passage from the gospel of John.  Jesus is talking to the disciples and later in the passage, he tells them that everyone who believes in him will do the work that he did. AND will do greater works. 

    "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. " (verse 12) 
    Jesus has great expectations for us. He encourages us to do more - be greater! That is reassuring and comforting to me in today's current times when we have been trying to love God and love our neighbors from a safe, social distance. 

    So,  if Jesus jumps off a bridge, would you? 
    I think he wants us to. He wants up to not just jump off the bridge - but to leap.

    To soar. 

    Any maybe even fly. 

    But he doesn't want us to do it alone. 

    This is such a beautiful passage so I am posting the whole thing here. This is the NRVS translation. 

    Jesus the Way to the Father
    14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe[a] in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”[c] Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know[d] my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me[e] for anything, I will do it.

    Jesus tells the disciples they are going to do even greater things than he has done. That's a pretty amazing thing for him to say. (Also, just a little bit of pressure? You think? :)

    He's saying that he wants us to play "Simon Says" and do the things that he says. He also wants us to play "Simon DOES" and not just do what he says - but do what he does. 

    And then do more. 

    So, what if all of us play this game along with Jesus?  Jesus was just one person. Jesus is telling the disciples and us that there are more of us. So we can do great things and do them louder and greater. 
    Jesus might be saying:
     Do what I've said  - and do what I've done - and when you do, do that TOGETHER - then you will do what I have done. And because there are more of you doing these things - it just might be greater than what I have done. (Whew. That was quite a sentence.)
    So, what do we do? We love God and love our neighbor. 
    So, how do we do that? We do it together. 
    Reach out to a friend today and remind them we are all in this crazy world together.