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Week of June 20 Devotion & Formation

The Season After Pentecost sometimes called Ordinary Time continues.  The season is green.  What things are green around you?  Green leaves mean life as leaves are how plants make food.

We continue our Bible Adventure with the Parable of the Lost Sheep.  Parables are stories, Jesus used to teach.  Parables were true a long time ago and they are true now.  They are gifts given to us.  Sometimes we see ourselves in different places in a parable, sometimes a parable means something different to us.  That is why parables are wonderful, each time we read it or hear it, it helps us where we are in life.

Bible Story: The Parable of the Good Shepherd (John 10) and Lost Sheep (Luke 15)

“Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”

By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

Meditation:  Our first parable talks about Jesus as the Good Shepherd and the gate.  It is common for us to think about Jesus that way, but at the time Jesus told the story, thinking of God as a shepherd was unheard of.  That God would want to nurture and care for us was not something people had thought about God.  Shepherds were not the top tier of society either, so God, seen through that lens was a shocker.

I used this parable this week to continue the idea that all of us are God’s children.  Did you know sheep come in different colors?  Sheep are all different.  Jesus puts all the sheep together and says they are all under God’s love and they are all one herd.  Like the sheep in this parable, we are all different, yet all belong to God’s family.

In the second parable, Jesus goes even further for the sheep.  The shepherd has 100 sheep and finds that one of the sheep has wandered or run away from the herd.  The shepherd does not say, “Oh well, it is only one.  The 99 in my herd are more valuable.”  No, the shepherd leaves the 99 to go find the one and bring it back to the herd. 

Each of us, each of you, are valuable to God.  You are a part of God’s herd forever.  And when one of us goes off and gets lost, or runs away, God will be there to guide us back.  Sometimes, we are the lost sheep and sometimes, we are a part of the 99.  We see the shepherd chasing after someone who leaves the herd.  That can feel frustrating, if we are part of the 99. But Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are all important to him, so each of us is to be important to each other.

Prayer:   Almighty God, thank you for caring for us and loving us.  Help us to see each other as a part of our family in you.  Help us to care and love for each other.  Give us strength if we do get lost, to know you are there for us.  In your son, Jesus, the Good Shepherd’s name, and through the Holy Spirit, we pray.  Amen.

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

  1. Discussion questions: Does it change your view of others to think of them as a part of your herd, like sheep? What does Jesus being your Good Shepherd mean to you? Have you ever lost something?  What did it feel like?  How did you feel when you found it? How can you help someone who seems or feels lost? What do you need when you are feeling distant from others?
  2. Musical response: I am the Good Shepherd https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPgWagRSKgU The Lost Sheep https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTEhrNeI6Rg The Baa Baa Song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGPQX3vQtU8&feature=share
  3. Craft response: Download the pattern for sheep and shepherd.  Color them and then glue them on toilet paper roles or cut paper towel roll.  https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B07lcb4iixb1ZDNkMWNkNTItYTlmMS00ZTZmLWI1ZjgtODQ0ZDgyZmZiOTUy/edit?hl=en  Use them to retell the story or make a new story. Another craft: Use an outline of a sheep and decorate it with mini-marshmellows, use pretzels for the legs. Piece of chocolate or skittles make a great eye. Eat your creation!
  4. Outreach/community service response: There are lots of adults who act as a shepherd to us.  Make them a thank you card and mail it to them.  It will mean a lot to them. Who are the lost around you?  What can you do for them to help them feel wanted and cared for?
  5.  Activity response: HIDE AND SHEEP: The children will all find a good hiding place and one child will be the “Shepherd” and will try to find the sheep. When a sheep is found, that sheep will join with the “Shepherd” in finding more sheep. For older children: Go through books, magazines, and tv shows.  Find as many different kinds of people including those wearing different clothing, hairstyles, etc.  Talk about being in a herd with all these types of people.  How can you love them?  Find ways you are the same?  What do you share?
  6.  In-reach response: Create a “sheep pen” in a room.  All sit in the pen.  One is the shepherd and this person cares for the “sheep”.  Set a time length and let the shepherd care for the sheep. What does each person need?  Should they get anything they want?  Why or why not?  Which do you like better: being the sheep or the shepherd?  Why?
  7.  Game response: Protect the Sheep Instructions – This is a variation of “The Eagle and Her Chicks” game. Gather supplies to be the sheep (toys, books, balloons, other people, etc.)  Have seven sheep. One is the wolf.  In the game, the wolf tries to tag one of the sheep) take away one of the sheep) while the shepherd tries to protect the sheep from the wolf.  The wolf tries to take away all the sheep.  Have a safe place the shepherd can put the sheep one by one that the wolf cannot get.  If the shepherd gets all the sheep to safety, the shepherd wins. Herding Sheep Game: Let’s practice being shepherds. First, we need some sheep. Let’s pretend these are sheep. [Put some balloons on the floor.] Get a shepherd’s staff [hand each child a dowel, plastic bat, broom, etc.)  The shepherds take their staff and herd their sheep into the pen (the empty box turned on its side). Hold the staff pointing down so no one gets poked, and be careful not to hurt your sheep. Guide it gently! (like playing golf.)
  8.  Watching the story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azTzzZWK1sk (for younger children) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar732X9uO3I (for older children) Veggie Tales: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bu9q01k7q64

For Parable of the Mustard Seed, continue on.


Week of June 13 Devotion & Formation

We continue with the longest season of the church calendar, The Season After Pentecost.  The season is green, for growing.  It is good to focus on learning more about our faith.   Growing spiritually is important. 

We continue our look at parables with the Parable of the Mustard Seed.  Parables are stories used to teach, but they are more than a story; they are a gift given to all of us, even before we are born.  They are true throughout time.  They give us ways to look outward at the world and inward at our heart.  At different times in our lives, the parable can mean different things to us.  We can find ourselves in different characters or places in the parable.  All of the parables were Jesus answering someone’s question.

Bible Story: The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4: 23-34)

23 “Are you listening to this? Really listening?

24-25 “Listen carefully to what I am saying—and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.”

Never Without a Story

26-29 Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!

30-32 “How can we picture God’s kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It’s like a mustard seed. When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yet once it is planted it grows into the largest of shrubs with thick, large branches. Many birds build their nest in it.”

33-34 With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.

Meditation: 

The mustard seed is so tiny, you can barely see it on your finger or in your hand.  It is so tiny that to try to hold it with two fingers, totally blocks it.  It is the tiniest of seeds. 

God’s kingdom is like a seed planted in our hearts and in our being.  It starts off small, but the more we nurture and care for it and the more we focus on it, we see it sprout and grow.  It goes from one tiny seed, to a small blade, to a shrub, and continues to grow until it is so large, it is like a big tree that lots of birds can build their nests in.  It becomes a home for many.

Our focus on God causes our faith, acts of faith, and faith of others to grow.  They grow bigger and bigger and spread.  The community, like the birds, are soon living in God’s kingdom.  We make heaven on earth through small acts of faith. Faith gives us the strength and power to build God’s Kingdom on earth, act by act.  Our faith must be nurtured and cared for, like the seed.

How does your family nurture their faith?  What are practices you can do daily to help your faith grow into something so big it becomes the foundation/home for others?

Going to the gym to build muscles, strength and endurance is not a one and done.  Not even once a week, really, will do the job.  It takes work, it takes making it a priority, and it takes doing it repeatedly (even if you have to force yourself to go some days.)  Soon you can see the rewards of your hard work. 

Faith is like that.  It is a muscle that you must work.  When your practice faith (going to church, giving, prayer, outreach, and scripture), you see the rewards of your hard work.  You feel the rewards.  Your world expands and the world becomes a better place for those around you.  The acts of faith become the foundation for many, helping to create a world of love, God’s Kingdom on earth.

Prayer:   O Lord, help us to grown in faith and love. May our family proclaim your love and truth with boldness, live with compassion for others, seek justice for all and treat all with love through Jesus, your son and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.  Amen.

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

  1. Discussion questions: What are ways you practice your faith?  How do you show God’s love to others? What are some things you can do or practices you can add to your week? What are ways you can “make” yourself do them when you are distracted? How can your support and nurture your family in growing in faith?
  2. Musical response: The Smallest Seed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Mh0UDubiik
  3. Craft response: Make a Prayer Tree. Either pick a branch from outdoors or draw a tree or get an artificial plant.  Make and cut out leaves from a pattern. Write on the leaves people you will pray for every day.  You can plant the tree in a container (can cleaned out, coffee can or thick plastic container).  Fill with stones or glass stones from store to help hold the tree in place.
  4. Outreach/community service response: Plant some flowers for a neighbor!  Watch them grow.  Or grow some vegetables or herbs and share them.
  5.  Activity response:  Make or buy cupcakes or muffins.  Plant a “seed” (M & M or other candy) in the cupcake or muffin.  Cover with icing with green food color added.  Before eating, retell the Parable of the Mustard Seed and say a prayer.
  6.  In-reach response: Plant flowers, herbs or vegetables as a family.  Nurture and grow them!  Start a family practice of faith during this time.  Every time you care for your plant, do a practice.
  7.  Game response: Play a game with water squirters.  Take turns helping each other “grow.”  Play outside and water the lawn and plants too!
  8.  Watching the story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYmRj3s6JLE

Continue on for the Parable of The Good Samaritan