Service and Giving Thanks

Last Pentecost, Year A
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46

This is the culmination of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, (and for us it is also the finale of the church year) and Jesus does not mince words telling those gathered around him about what we are all called to do and what we all can do each and everyday. This is not rocket science. It’s about treating each person we meet as if they were Jesus, because they are and therefore should be given all the same respect and honor as our Lord.

Note: This is also the last day in the church year, so Option 2 of the lesson focuses a bit more on that if you wish to help the children prepare for the New Year we begin next Sunday on the First Sunday in Advent.

Download the Lesson Plan for Year A

LPTW Last Pentecost, Year A, Younger Children
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Giving to God

Proper 24, Year A
Scripture: Matthew 22:15-22

Once again, people who opposed Jesus and his message are trying to entrap him. This is the first of three exchanges between the Jewish leaders and Jesus. The lesson begins with them buttering Jesus up, and then asking a question that they thought would show that he was speaking out against the government so that he could get arrested. However, Jesus does not fall for it and calls them to the test instead.

Download the Lesson Plans for Proper 24

LPTW Proper 24, Year A, Younger Children
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God’s Presence in Our Lives

Proper 24, Year A, Old Testament Lesson
Scripture: Exodus 33:12-23

Today’s lesson comes after the story of the Golden Calf from last week.  Following on the heels of that story, we hear and exchange between God and Moses about God’s role in their lives and in the rest of their journey.  Moses continues to intercede on behalf of the people of Israel and remind God what God had told them in the past.  We hear that Moses wants a better understanding of how God works so he can serve God better and have a deeper relationship with God.  Moses asks God to be made clearer so he might better understand how best to follow God and therefore how to be a better leader.  Finally, Moses asks to see the glory of God to deepen the relationship and be filled with God’s presence and love.  As God passes by Moses, he cannot see all of God, but only where God has been.  We as humans never see God at work, but only where God has been, only where God was.  Those “God moments” are evidence of where God has been in our lives in order to deepen our faith and understanding in God.

Download the Old Testament Lesson for Proper 24

LPTW Proper 24, Year A, Younger Children, Old Testament
LPTW Proper 24, Year A, Older Children, Old Testament

Focus on God Our Creator

Proper 23, Year A, Old Testament Lesson
Scripture: Exodus 32:1-14

Moses has been on the mountain with God for 40 days and nights which means that the Israelites have been without either of their leaders.  In their anxiousness they turn to Aaron who helps and encourages them create a calf and then to have a festival.  As God sees what they are doing, God becomes angry and wants to get rid of them.  Moses, however, steps in and asks for God’s mercy, quoting God’s promise from Genesis.  This is a great risk for Moses, as he asks God to turn away from anger and remember the promises that were made to the people.  God changes his mind and does not burn wrath upon the people.

Download the Old Testament Lesson Plan for Proper 23

LPTW Proper 23, Year A, Younger Children, Old Testament
LPTW Proper 23, Year A, Older Children, Old Testament

God’s Instructions to Live and Love

Proper 22, Year A, Old Testament
Scripture: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20

Prior to God giving the Israelites the commandments, the people of Israel reached Mount Sinai where God tells Moses how to prepare the people for what is to come.  The people are consecrated and waiting to hear God’s word, when the voice of God comes to them.

The Ten Commandments are straightforward instructions given to the Israelites by God for how to be in relationship with God and with each other.  The first commandment sets the tone for the rest as it is telling the people, I am your God, there will be no other.  It is calling all of Israel to give their life, every part of their being to God, and to put away all other gods that they may have known in the past.  This is a radical restructuring of their lives.

All of the commandments are about how we are to be in community and relationship with one another in this new way.  The first four are about how we are to be in relationship with God, how we are to interact with God and how we are to structure our lives around God.  The final six are about how we are to interact, honor and treat one another.

Download the Old Testament Lesson Plan for Proper 22

LPTW Proper 22, Year A, Younger Children, Old Testament
LPTW Proper 22, Year A, Older Children, Old Testament

Water

Proper 21, Year A, Old Testament Lesson
Scripture: Exodus 17:1-7

In the previous chapter the Israelites faced the hardship of not having enough food and God provided for them.  Now they are thirsty and don’t know where they will get their water for themselves and their livestock.  They once again complain to Moses.  It would be easy for us to see them as a whiney bunch of people who did not have faith.  But let us remember that these are people who have just been freed from slavery, and they are wondering what this journey is all about.  They are thirsty, and if you have ever been REALLY thirsty or if you have been dehydrated, you know that it is not something that you can just “power through.”  This is a life and death situation not only for the people, but also for their livestock and their well-being.

They complain against Moses, wondering again what his plan is or if he brought them out here to die.  Moses appeals to the Lord realizing what a tense situation they are in and God, once again provides for them.

This is one of the many times in Exodus where it is brought to light that the Israelites have trouble trusting in Moses and God.  Through God’s acts of bringing them water and food and water (again), trust is being built.  Remember, these are freed slaves.  Why would they trust in their leaders when their previous leaders and rulers has been cruel to them and made them work in horrid conditions.   Through Moses and through God’s actions, they can see that God can be trusted even in the most dire circumstances.

This also teaches us, the people of God past, present and future, that God is faithful, we can trust God, and we as people of God (like Moses) can make a difference in other people’s lives if we act on what God has called us to do. If nothing else, we see God meeting the people where they are (again) and providing for their journey.  O come, o come Emmanuel.

Download the Old Testament Lesson Plan for Proper 21

LPTW Proper 21, Year A, Younger Children, Old Testament
LPTW Proper 21, Year A, Older Children, Old Testament

We Are All a Part of God’s Work

Proper 20, Year A
Scripture: Matthew 20:1-16

This parable appears in the section of Matthew where those around Jesus are questioning him about everything. As Jesus continues his ministry and the disciples are witnessing his great works, they keep coming to him with questions about taxes, who is the greatest in Heaven, forgiveness, divorce, and how to inherit eternal life. The disciples are trying to figure out this new world that they are experiencing through Jesus’ miracles, parables, and teachings.  Just prior to our lesson today, the disciples have heard Jesus tell the rich young man that he must sell everything and give the money to the poor.  They begin to wonder, “We have left everything and followed you.  What then will we have?”  Meaning, we have left our homes and our families, we have left behind what we know and love to follow you…what will we get in return?

So, Jesus tells them the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.  This is a difficult parable as there are many ways it can be read.  It could be seen as unfair or pitting justice with grace. However we read it, this parable is about God’s generosity and God’s grace.

The writer of Matthew’s Gospel has sandwiched the story of the Laborers in the Vineyard with 19:30 (30But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.) and 20:16 (“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”)  Clearly this is an important message for Matthew to get across.  That there is a reversal of the way we assume things will be and we are playing by a new rulebook.

A good number of the children will have heard “The first will be last and the last will be first.”  We don’t want them to think this is just about letting the last person in line go first or that they should always be last to receive a reward, but that this is about how much God loves them that it does not matter where they are in line or where they are finding God, but more that they are all a part of this together and we will all receive God’s amazing love and grace.  

Download the Lesson Plan for Proper 20

LPTW Proper 20, Year A, Younger Children
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Forgiveness

Proper 19, Year A
Scripture: Matthew 18:21-35

This week’s lesson follows on the heels of Jesus teaching on how we are all to humble ourselves as children in order to enter the Kingdom of God, on how we are to look for the lost sheep if there is one lost, and how we are to solve conflicts in our communities.  This section of Matthew deals with how Jesus calls us to live together in community in this new way which leads to a good number of questions about what this means.

Peter asks Jesus how many times we are to forgive someone who has sinned against us or has done us wrong.  Jesus responds with the parable known as the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.  Throughout the ages as people have interpreted Jesus’ answer of 77 times to mean never.  We are never to stop forgiving and the parable leads us to see that as well.  The servant who comes before the king owes him an outrageous amount. The king’s first reaction is to sell him and his family.  Out of fear, the servant begs for mercy, and he is forgiven his debt.  However, when the servant requires another person to repay him a rather small amount of money and does not forgive that person of his debt, the king shows no mercy.  When the king sees that the servant is unwilling to forgive this small debt, he lets the servant know that he has had enough and hands him over to be tortured until he can pay his debt.

We are to show mercy and forgiveness to others just as God shows us mercy.  The king’s willingness to forgive the debt completely at first is an example of how much God is willing to forgive us. It is only when we see the burden of our own debts that we can see the magnitude of God’s mercy in our lives.

Download the Lesson Plan for Proper 19

LPTW Proper 19, Year A, Younger Children
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God Provides

Proper 20, Year A, Old Testament Lesson
Scripture: Exodus 16:2-15

The Israelites and Moses have just walked through the Red Sea on dry ground, they have survived and witnessed a miracle and are now journeying in the wilderness areas of Shur and Elim.  Our story picks up as they are in between Elim and Sinai in the wilderness, hungry and asking for bread and meat.  One chapter earlier, God provided them with water, and yet now farther on their journey, they seem to forget that and be complaining again, asking Moses if he brought them out here to die.  Wondering if they would have been better off in Egypt where they were at least fed and given drink.  (Oh, how quickly they forget their slavery and the conditions that surrounded them. So now, they challenge Moses.  The Lord responds to Moses with our scripture today. 

Download the Old Testament Lesson Plan for Proper 20

LPTW Proper 20, Year A, Younger Children, Old Testament
LPTW Proper 20, Year A, Older Children, Old Testament

Parting of the Red Sea

Proper 19, Year A, Old Testament Lesson
Scripture: Exodus 14:19-31

The Israelites have fled Egypt, headed toward the Red Sea and are being led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  As they flee, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened once again (as God foretold) and he sends 600 picked chariots and other chariots with Egyptian officers after them.  As the Egyptians close in on the Israelites, they begin doubting Moses and what God had told him to do.  Moses tells them ‘Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.’  Then God tells Moses what to do to escape the Egyptians.

This is a plan by God so that the Egyptians will see God’s power and his might.  The lead up and crossing of the Red Sea puts the power in God’s hand even though there are thousands of Pharaoh’s men following them in chariots with whips.  Their power is useless against God’s power.  This is an amazing reversal of the power that the Israelites had known, and they come to have faith in God.

Download the Old Testament Lesson Plan for Proper 19

LPTW Proper 19, Year A, Younger Children, Old Testament
LPTW Proper 19, Year A, Older Children, Old Testament