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Devotion & Formation for July 25, 2021

This Sunday is the Ninth Sunday in the Season After Pentecost.  The liturgical color of green still fills our churches.

Last week, we hear how God choose a boy, the youngest, who was a shepherd to do his mighty work.  This week, we will hear how God chose a man who was old and wandered through the desert for his home. 

Bible Story: God Chooses an Old Man, Abram

Once there was a man named Abram.  He wandered in the desert, moving his tent from place to place.  He loved God and believed in God.  One day the Lord came to talk to Abram, and Abram asked, “Who will have all my things when I die”.  Abram was sad because he did not have any children to share his life with.  God promised Abram and his wife Sarai that one day they would be parents, even though they were old and had no children.  God wasn’t sure that Abram understood.  So that night He took him outside, and said, “Do you see all the stars that are in the sky”?  When Abram looked up, the whole night sky was full of stars, so many in fact that he would never be able to count them.  Then God said, “That is how many children you will have”.  Abram was happy that God would bless him with children!

Quite a few years later when Abram was ninety-nine years old (older than even your grandparents) the Lord decided to change Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “father of many.”  He also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah.  God told them again that they would be parents and that they would have a boy.  This time Abraham laughed so hard he fell on his face!  It was hard to believe that he and Sarah would have a child in their old age.  They had waited so long and still did not have children.  They both thought they were too old. 

One day three visitors came to Abraham’s house.  He hurried to meet them.  “May I get you something to eat and drink?”  Abraham asked.  “Please come in and join us, and have a rest on our pillows.”

The visitors agreed, so Abraham brought them some fresh bread, milk, and yummy food..

While the visitors were eating, they asked Abraham, “Where is your wife Sarah?”  Abraham thought this was a little strange, but he replied, “She’s in the other room”.  He had not told them his wife’s name.

Then one of the men spoke and said, “I will come back to see you at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening behind the tent flap.  She started to laugh, but covered her mouth and laughed to herself because she didn’t want to be heard.  Then she said to herself, “How can I have a child, I’m almost one hundred years old?”

Later when the visitors had left, Abraham and Sarah realized that the man who had told them this was indeed God.  They hoped and trusted God.  But it was hard and sometimes they made had trouble trusting that God would make it happen.  They wanted it on their time and not God’s time.

Later Sarah did have a son.  She and Abraham named him Isaac, which means “he laughs.”  

They were very excited, and remembered to thank God for Isaac.

Meditation:  Abraham was not the smartest or the strongest man.  Abraham was not perfect.  He goes on to make lots of mistakes and even to sin, yet God chose him above all others to set in motion a plan that would change the world.  God could have set this plan in motion when Abraham and Sarah were at their prime for having children, but God waited until they were much older. 

It is sometimes easy for us to forget that God’s measure of what makes a person great does not always come close to our expectations.  Our expectations come from a measure of the things we have been taught to value.  God has said along and throughout the Bible, that is a person’s heart that God values.  What is great is that heart does not have to perfect or do all the right things, just a heart that does not forget God.

God sees your heart, too and loves you for who you are inside.  What if we tried to look at others in the way God does.  How would we see others different? 

It is, also, easy to think that things should happen on our schedule, but the story tells us, it is not about Abraham and Sarah’s timing, it is about God’s timing.  Patience is waiting and waiting.  Faith is believing and trusting in God’s timing.

Prayer: Almighty Father, you see us as no other can.  Help us to see others through the love you have for each of us.  Help us to see each other through the eyes of our heart.  Also, help us to be patient and know that your timing is always the best.  Through Jesus Christ, your Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Activities (choose one or more to do during the week):

  1. Discussion questions- Last week, we heard a story about a boy who was told he was too young and this week, we hear a story about a man who was too old.  What do you think this tells us about God?  What does it say about the age of our physical bodies?  How can you look at others?  What do you think it would mean to try to see others through the lens of God’s love?  Is there anyone that it would be hard to look at that way?  What are some things you are too old for, but wish you could still do?
  • Outreach/community service response: Older people in our community often feel isolated.  Draw pictures and mail with a letter to as many members of the church you can think of.  They will love knowing you care.
  •  Activity response: For younger children, here is a coloring page of Sarah & Abraham traveling: https://www.biblewise.com/kids/fun/coloring/abraham-sarah-traveling.php, for older children, have them build a tent and take turns welcoming in other family members with a snack.  Then pack up the tent and move to another room.  What would it be like to live all the time in a tent?   Another idea, go lay out and try to count the stars.
  •  In-reach response:  Take turns for each meal throughout the week being the hospitality person.  The child welcomes each person as they come to the meal (not sitting down until the last one is there) and then acts as a server.  At end of week, how did it feel to be the hospitality person?  How was it to receive the hospitality?  What are ways we can show others hospitality?
  •  Game response: Play “Red Light, Green Light” but use the words “Wait and Go!”  or hide star throughout a play area.  All go in and see how many stars each can find.  The one with the most get to hide all the stars and play begins again. 

Devotion & Formation for July 11, 2021

Remaining in the Season After Pentecost, this Sunday is the Seventh Sunday After Pentecost.  We have many more days until the season changes. Our liturgical color is green.

So much is happening in our country and in this past year.  Growing in faith means looking a little deeper.  St. Paul’s is doing a Summer with a Purpose.  We continue our series on loving all people of God, with an Old Testament story about people who were different, yet who created a friendship that changed history.

Bible Story: Ruth & Naomi, Summary of Ruth

In a place called Moab there lived a nice family.  Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons moved there because there was more food there than where they used to live.  After a while Elimelech died but Naomi wasn’t alone she still had two sons.  Even though she did not want her sons to marry women from Moab, they fell in love and married.  The people had believed that people from Moab were different and did not follow God.  After about ten years, Naomi’s sons died too.  At least Naomi still had her sons wives to keep her company, their names were Orpah and Ruth.  Even though, they were different from her, Naomi loved them.  Naomi longed to return to Bethlehem and be with her people.

Naomi called her sons wives and told them, “I am going to go back to where I used to live and I would like you also to go back to your family where you used to live.  May God show you kindness as you have showed me.”  All the women cried and hugged each other because they were such good friends.

Orpah didn’t want to leave Naomi but Naomi told her not to worry, she would be fine.  So Orpah left to go back to her family.  But no matter what Naomi said to Ruth, Ruth would not leave.  “Don’t ask me to leave.  Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your friends will be my friends and your God will be my God.”  So Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem together.  The journey was long and hard (they had to walk the whole way.)  Several times, Naomi told Ruth she would return home and marry another. But Ruth wanted to stay with Naomi and make sure she was safe and loved. It was a good thing Ruth went with Naomi because Bethlehem was very far away and Naomi couldn’t have traveled all that way by herself.  Ruth never complains and is a good friend to Naomi.  Ruth was not expecting anything in return, she just wanted to help.

When they got to Bethlehem, they did not have a home or a job, but Ruth did not return to Moab.  She stayed to take care of Naomi.  Ruth decided that she should do some kind of work.  It was harvest time, so she worked in the fields following behind the harvesters and picked up any barley that they had dropped.

The owner of the field came by to greet the harvesters and noticed Ruth in the field.  He asked one of the harvesters who she was.  “She came back from Moab with Naomi, that’s all I know.”  Lucky for Ruth the owner of the field was Boaz, he was a kind man who believed in God.  He had also been related to Elimelech (Naomi’s husband that died).

Boaz went to go talk to Ruth, he said to her, “Don’t go work in any other field but stay here with the other servant girls.  I will make sure you are safe and whenever you are thirsty go and get a drink from the water jars.”  When Ruth heard this, she bowed down to Boaz and asked, “Why are you being so nice to me, I’m not even from here.”

Boaz replied, “I know what you’ve done for Naomi, you left your family and moved to a place you’ve never been.  May the Lord reward you for your kindness.”

Ruth thanked Boaz and continued with her work in the hot sun.  Boaz even ordered his workers to drop extra barley so Ruth could have more for herself.

Ruth took all the barley home and shared what she had with Naomi. Ruth and Boaz fell in love.  They married and everyone was very happy!

Naomi thought she would be left alone, but Ruth said, “No, you are my friend and family.”  Naomi moved in with Ruth and Boaz.  They had a baby and Ruth made Naomi the grandmother.  Ruth, from another land and faith, became the mother of Obed.  Obed became the father of Jesse, who became David’s father.  Ruth was the great-great-great-great-(many great) grandmother of Jesus.

Meditation: 

Ruth and Naomi had many differences and those differences made others see them in a way that said they should not be friends.  Ruth and Naomi did not listen to other’s expectations.  Ruth and Naomi did not let others tell them who they could be friends with or who they could call family.  They let their love for each other develop.  That friendship and love changed those around them.  Ruth, who chose to put Naomi first, led to an event that changed the world in Jesus. God could have chosen anyone to be the family line of Jesus.  He could have made sure the family he chose were all people from the Jewish family and born believers, but he did not.  He chose someone seen as different, but whose heart was full of love and kindness.  Jesus’ family line included Ruth, whose people were considered unclean and different.  From Ruth, the greatest friendship and family line came.  If God chooses those who are different than what we expect, why do we think we have a right to call God’s beloved less than?  We do not.  As in our Baptism Covenant (vows), we are to seek Christ in every person and respect the dignity of all people.  Ruth and Naomi got it right.

Prayer:  Father, help us to see all people as your family and to love and care for others, the way Ruth and Naomi did.  Help us be loyal and kind to others.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Activities (choose one or more to do during the week):

  1. Discussion questions: How do you choose your friends?  What do you like about your friends? How can you be a good friend?  Can you be friends with those in your family?  Is that different from friends you meet out in the world?  Do you have any friends who are very different than you?  How can you make friends?
  2. Musical responseBe a Friend https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saUyfyAXub8, Jesu, Jesu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvQz513Jl8M, guitar version of Jesu, Jesu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSuTmW1t8zs
  3. Craft response: For young children, Friendship wreath: https://www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/friendship/mwreath.htm , Family Necklace: Give each of the children a piece of string for their necklace.  Lay out the beading materials on the table. Have the children choose a bead or noodle for each person in their family. Have them thread the object onto their necklace. When they are finished threading, tie the ends.  Write the name of each family member on the bead or noodle.  Harvest of friends: on each leaf write a friends name. Use the basket of friends to pray for your friends each night: https://sundayschoolzone.com/activity/god-helped-ruth-and-naomi-bible-craft/
  4. Outreach/community service response: Make a card or letter for each friend and say what you like about them.  Mail them to your friends.  Pick two people you do not know well, but see regularly and send them a card too.
  5.  Activity response: On pieces of paper write down the qualities you like in a friend.  Use it to play a game of charades where everyone has to guess the quality.  Everyday, pull one of the qualities out and everyone try to focus on showing that quality or pointing it out in others.  Talk about the day at dinner.
  6.  In-reach response:  using ready to cook bread or make bread from scratch.  As you prepare the bread together talk about bread and the work to make it.  Talk about how we use bread in our church service.  After you cook it together, have butter, honey, peanut butter, jelly and other toppings.  Take turns fixing a slice of the bread for another.  Sharing and helping is joyful with friends and family.
  7.  Game response: Reflection Game-One person tries to mimic another as they stand face to face. One person leads. Start with simple things, like imitating hand and leg movements. Then graduate to various mime motions for concepts such as prayer, worship, strength, service, love, and then acceptance.   Now switch and do the opposite of the person you are standing face to face with.  Which is harder?  Spot the differences-https://www.biblewise.com/kids/images/fun/spot_difference_ruth.pdf
  8.  Watching the story: From Bible Kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIeRJmLDeQ0 Holy Tales: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pI0_2cNSW10