Shepherds and Giving Thanks

Last Sunday after Pentecost, Year A, Old Testament Lesson
Scripture: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

The prophet Ezekiel’s ministry happened during a time of great upheaval, beginning in 593 BCE (just before the fall of Jerusalem) through 571 BCE (into the Babylonian exile). Throughout the Book of Ezekiel, we hear a message of judgment, destruction and restoration. Ezekiel is warning of the judgment of the leaders and others who have only worried about themselves or have forgotten the ways of God. Our lesson today is a ray of hope from Ezekiel to those who were in the Babylonian exile, telling them of God’s promise to look for them, gather them, care for them, and bring them home as a shepherd bring the sheep home and tends to them after they have been lost.

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 Old Testament Lesson Plan for the Last Sunday in Pentecost

LPTW Last Pentecost, Year A, Younger Children, Old Testament
LPTW Last Pentecost, Year A, Older Children, Old Testament

Being a Leader

Proper 28, Year A, Old Testament Lesson
Scripture: Judges 4:1-7                                                                      

We have spent a good deal of time during Pentecost working our way through the journey of the Israelites. We have talked about Moses’ death and how Joshua took over the role of leader. We are now in the book of Judges, the people of Israel have reached the Promised Land and Joshua has died. Even though they have reached the Promised Land, it does not mean that it is there land yet and they have been fighting with the Canaanites for the land that God promised them. However, once Joshua died, they have been without one central leader and throughout the book of Judges, we see the people of Israel struggle with continuing to remain faithful to God without their leader.

There is a pattern throughout Judges that we see in today’s lesson. It goes something like this: the next generation of Israelites strays from God, God punishes them through oppression of foreign people, the people realize their ways and turn to God to repent and beg God to save them, and in the end, God delivers the people through a judge.

The judges in the book of Judges are not the judges that we think of today. They are leaders who have been raised up by God to deliver the people of Israel from their oppressors. They have spiritual and military power and help the people of Israel fight their battles to free them and gain the land God had promised them.

Today, we hear about Deborah.

Download the Old Testament Lesson Plan for Proper 28

LPTW Proper 28, Year A, Younger Children, Old Testament
LPTW Proper 28, Year A, Older Children, Old Testament

Serving the Lord, Walking with God

Proper 27, Year A, Old Testament Lesson
Scripture: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

This passage comes toward the end of Joshua. Joshua has led them into the promised land and brought them all together to renew their covenant, their promises with God. Joshua helps them understand the weight and importance of their decision by recounting the past for them, going back to what their ancestors went through and the choices they made on their journey. By going back to the beginning of their story, he is showing the Israelites that there has always been a place for them on the path with God.

As we hear the exchange between Joshua and the people, the refrain, “Serve the LORD,” comes again and again. This is not just about worship, but also about serving, about being the person of God in the world. Joshua knows from history and experience that the people of Israel have trouble staying focused on God, especially then the going gets tough. He tries to impress upon them the weight and importance of this decision. This is a life choice and he wants them to understand that.

The Israelites pledge and choose to serve God because of what God has done for them. They retell their story of following God and say to Joshua, if God has done all these things, then this is our God.

Download the Old Testament Lesson Plans for Proper 27

LPTW Proper 27, Year A, Younger Children, Old Testament
LPTW Proper 27, Year A, Older Children, Old Testament

Faith and Following God

Proper 26, Year A, Old Testament Lesson
Scripture: Joshua 3:7-17 (4:1-7 optional)

After Moses’ death, God commissioned Joshua, Moses’ assistant, to continue to lead the people of Israel. God makes promises to Joshua just as promises had been made to Moses about the land they were to possess and how God was to protect them on their journey. Keep in mind that those on the journey are now the children, grandchildren, or maybe even great grandchildren of the Israelites that were freed. They have been journeying their whole lives, they have heard God’s promises, they have followed Moses’ lead and now Joshua is called upon to be the leader of God’s people and lead them into the promised land.

Today’s story tells us about Joshua readying and taking the Israelites across the Jordan.

Note: I would encourage you to read a few verses further than the lectionary gives us today. If you include the next seven verses (Joshua 4:1-7) you will hear about the setting of the 12 stones to help the future generations remember their crossing over through the Jordan, into the promised land. I’ve included it as optional below.

Download the Old Testament Lesson Plans for Proper 26

LPTW Proper 26, Year A, Younger Children, Old Testament
LPTW Proper 26, Year A, Older Children, Old Testament

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
LPTW Last Pentecost, Year A, Older Children
LPTW Last Pentecost, Year A, Adults
LPTW Last Pentecost, Year A, All

Using our Gifts

Proper 28, Year A
Scripture: Matthew 25:14-30

We are working our way closer to the end of the Gospel of Matthew and our readings turn to messages and parables about what we are to do next, what might things look like when Jesus is gone?

Today’s parable, while it is about multiplying money, is about so much more. A talent is worth A LOT of money. For a slave who usually earned 1 denarius a day, it would take 20 years to earn a talent. So our master today is a very generous person and someone who believed in the varied abilities of the slaves, giving each “according to his ability.” The first two double what they were given, receiving praise from the master upon his return, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ In other words, the master is saying, “you have shown that I can trust you to grow what I have given you, and you have come to understand that was the purpose of the gift I gave you. Come and be a part of my celebration. The third slave, however, was scared of loosing the talent, so he hid it and did nothing with it. Upon the master’s return, he receives scorn and is called wicked and lazy. This is harsh, and that is on purpose. Jesus is trying to get across to those hearing the story that they are not supposed to hide and save what God has given them, but rather they are to use what God has given them, growing it so it can be used and have a bigger impact on the world. God does not bless us with things so we can bury them and save them for a specific time. God gives us things so we can cultivate them, nurture them, and develop them into something bigger and more grand. Not doing so, is to squander what God has given us, to waste our gifts and talents.

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LPTW Proper 28, Year A, Younger Children
LPTW Proper 28, Year A, Older Children
LPTW Proper 28, Year A, Adults
LPTW Proper 28, Year A, All

Be Prepared

Proper 27, Year A
Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus is now finished with the confrontations and moved on to talking about preparing for what is ahead. This parable warns of what happens when one does not prepare for something you know is going to happen.

In that culture, weddings were a bit different than they are in our culture. The bridegroom, his family and guests would gather in their house, the bride, her family and guests would gather at their house. When they were ready, the groom and his family would make their way to the bride’s house. Upon their arrival, the groom would take his bride inside the house to consummate the marriage, and they were then married. After the bride and groom join their family and guests again, the party would begin.

This being the case, there was not a definite start time, but you knew it was going to happen on a given day or the day after. You were to prepare and stay prepared and be ready for the celebration that ensued after the marriage took place.

Our lesson for Matthew today is saying that the kingdom of heaven is like this. How so? For Matthew’s community, it was about being immediately ready for Christ to come back and not to fall asleep on watch. 2000+ years later, the message is still to be ready, but in a slightly different way. The kingdom of heaven is both in the future and in the present. The kingdom of heaven is happening now – so how are we prepared? How are we sustaining our life of faith and lighting our lamps with extra oil to show the world who God is?

Download the Lesson Plans for Proper 27

LPTW Proper 27, Year A, Younger Children
LPTW Proper 27, Year A, Older Children
LPTW Proper 27, Year A, Adults
LPTW Proper 27, Year A, All

Blessed Saints: All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day, Year A
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12

This section of Matthew, known as the Beatitudes, is a type of inaugural address for Jesus. These words are not a wish, or a dream, but a statement of what the Kingdom of Heaven is, and of how we should begin to treat one another now. The Beatitudes in Matthew are statements that tell us about the Kingdom of God that is coming and the Kingdom of God here on earth. In pronouncing these, Jesus is once again turning the norm on its head, and reminding us that the Kingdom of God is different. These declarations orient life toward the other, toward equality, toward discipleship and toward love. Those, who follow Jesus, are to be different.

So why do we read these on All Saints’ Day? The nature of the Kingdom of Heaven is that it is already-and-not-yet. They state the character of God and ask if this is the character of God, should it not also be the character of the people of God? The saints are people who understood this and lived into this character in a variety of ways. The saints give us an understanding of what it looks like to have God in our midst, and to live a life with the Beatitudes as a part of our being.

Download the Lesson Plan for All Saints’ Day

LPTW Proper All Saints, Younger Children
LPTW Proper All Saints, Older Children
A Small Sampling of Saints

Following God Humbly

Proper 26, Year A
Scripture: Matthew 23:1-12

We have heard lots of parables and teachings in the last few weeks addressed to the people who were testing Jesus, the religious leaders who were challenging him. Today, however, he outright addresses their behavior. He’s letting all those around him (not just Jews, but anyone in authority) that it is not right to order others around and lay your heavy burdens on them while you sit by showing how wonderful you are. Matthew has already touched on this a bit in Chapter 6 when he talks about practicing your piety in front of others. For Matthew, it is our true, actions that speak of who we are and how we follow Christ. It is not about showing others what we do or how we follow, but the action and the following that are important. We also see this in Matthew 20:25-26, “But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant…”

This is a message that will greatly resonate with children, especially older children who have seen people in authority say one thing and do another or order others around while they do nothing.

Download the Lesson Plans for Proper 26

LPTW Proper 26, Year A, Younger Children
LPTW Proper 26, Year A, Older Children
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The Greatest Commandments

Proper 25, Year A
Scripture: Matthew 22:34-46

Today’s lesson is found near the end of Matthew as conflict between Jesus and the people around him reaches its height. Those that oppose his ministry are still trying to get him to trip up – to go against the religious or secular laws and Jesus will not fall into that trap. Today’s question from them is no different. The Pharisees ask which commandment is the greatest and Jesus responds with Judaism’s most fundamental passage known as the Shema: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) However he does not leave it at that. He adds that another scripture is “like it,” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” In putting these two commandments together, Jesus is able to condense the 613 Hebrew Laws and the Ten Commandments into two laws. These two laws encapsulate his ministry on earth and tell all those around him what is important. Those who love God, must love what God has created – ourselves and others. The 613 Hebrew Laws (although that number and which exact laws are included in that is up for dispute) all look at relationship to God, each other, and ourselves. They describe how we honor and worship God, how we rest on the Sabbath, how we deal with disputes and laws, and how we treat people. All of these laws, in the most broad terms, are encapsulated in The Great Commandments that Jesus outlines in today’s lesson.

The question Jesus asks them about whose son the Messiah is a way of engaging them in further conversation about God and God’s expansiveness. Jesus wants them to think bigger, wants them to understand that God is more than they can imagine, that the Messiah surpasses the lineage as they know it.

Download the Lesson Plans for Proper 25

LPTW Proper 25, Year A, Younger Children
LPTW Proper 25, Year A, Older Children
LPTW Proper 25, Year A, Adult
LPTW Proper 25, Year A, All