Ordinary Time

On this second Sunday after Pentecost we find ourselves in what is sometimes called “Ordinary Time”—one of two time periods in the Church calendar that fall outside of the major Church seasons (Advent, Epiphany, Lent, and Eastertide) that commemorate important events in Jesus’ life (birth, death, resurrection).   As such, Ordinary Time encourages us to focus not on those “special” events, but on other more “ordinary” topics—whether that be the daily interactions Jesus had with people during his time on earth, or even other biblical texts—in this case, a new sermon series from the Old Testament on David.

What I find most appealing about Ordinary Time is that it’s so relatable.  After all, most of the days of our lives are generally ordinary ones filled with the ordinary love and hope and fear common to daily life.  Yet, as the color of the season—green—reminds us, it is often during these ordinary times of life that we grow.  My prayer is that this Ordinary Season may be an opportunity for us not only to learn what it means to live daily in faith, but also to encounter sacredness in the everyday.


Here are some resources to help your child in worshipping today:

The Children’s Message for June 6th, 2021: “The Real King”—is included in today’s worship service posted on the HVBC YouTube Channel.

Trinity Sunday

Dear Families,

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday—the presence of God in three persons.  As you will notice in the children’s message, I will explain the word Trinity (“tri”—indicating “three”), but I do not attempt to “explain” how the Trinity “works” (as in how God can be both Father, Son, and Spirit all at the same time).  That’s because many of the ways that are typically used to explain the Trinity are actually heresies (a belief/opinion contrary to Christian doctrine).  Take for example the popular use of “water” to explain the Trinity.  In it, each of the persons of God are represented by one of the elements of water (Solid, Liquid, and Gas).  Yet, the Trinity is not only the fact that God is in three persons, but that all three of those persons exist at the same time—and the same cup of water cannot be ice and water and steam all at the same time.  Another poor example people may use to represent the Trinity is the three-leafed shamrock.  This, however, encourages people to think of God as three separate leaves (who share a similar nature) whereas the Trinity emphasizes one God in three persons who share an identical nature.

So, how DO we explain the Trinity?  We don’t.  We acknowledge that some things about God are a mystery—inexplicable—while we still seek to understand God’s nature—who God is and what God does.

What I will attempt to explain, however, is how the Trinity works in terms of helping us as Christians.  As we know from our Bibles, Jesus makes the Trinity integral to the Gospel when he commissions his followers in Matthew 28:19 to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  In simple terms then, the Trinity assists us, for the Spirit helps us to follow Jesus and when we follow Jesus, people know that God is our Father—who, in love, came as Jesus to be our Savior, and as the Spirit to help us follow!  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!

Love,
Amy


Here are some resources to help your child in worshipping today:

The Children’s Message for May 30th, 2020: “Trinity Sunday”—is included in today’s worship service posted on the HVBC YouTube Channel and the HVBC website.

P.S.

In the Children’s Message I use a prop called the “Shield of the Trinity.”  Though I won’t go into explaining it, I’ve posted it below for your edification—for it is the most orthodox/highly regarded way of speaking about the Trinity which is—God is the Father, God is the Son, God is the Holy Spirit (all at the same time), yet the Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Father or Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father or Son.  Confusing? 😊

Hearts on Fire

In last week’s Children’s Message, I suggested that Jesus’ ascension was “just the beginning of something new that was a part of God’s plan.”  That something new was the coming of the third person of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit—whose arrival “birthed” a new way of living and of relating to God:  the Church—not a place, but a people indwelt by the very Spirit of God. 

It was revolutionary—this “new part of God’s plan”—not only for those first disciples, but also, especially for those of us who choose to follow Christ today.  As a story attributed to Erasmus, a Catholic priest and scholar during the Renaissance, notes, “after Jesus’ return to Heaven, the angels gathered around him to learn what had happened.  Jesus told them of his miracles, his teachings, and then of his death and resurrection.  When he finished, Michael the archangel asked, ‘But Lord, what happens now?’  Jesus answered, ‘I have left behind eleven faithful men who will declare my message and express my love,,,,  [They] will establish and build my church.’  ‘But,’ responded Michael, ‘what if they fail?  What then?’  Jesus replied, ‘There is no other plan.’” 

Though a mythical tale, Erasmus’ words are compelling.  We have not seen Jesus, heard Jesus, walked with Jesus like those first disciples did.

And yet, beginning with Pentecost, the work of God becomes the work of The Church—the work of all believers who, like those first followers, are empowered by God’s Spirit to continue God’s work.  In this “new plan” we, the Church, are to be God’s hands.  We are to be God’s feet.  We are to be the ones who testify and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world.  Our voices are to speak God’s words of truth, mercy, grace, justice, and love.  And if we are silent, if we fail to act, “what then?”  Though I believe God’s purposes and plans can (and will) be accomplished regardless, what a tragedy if we were to miss our own purpose, to miss being used by God!

As I write this message, the world seems so bleak—millions of deaths worldwide due to COVID-19, rampant injustice and discrimination, cities and streets erupting in violence, plus a host of other ills like dishonesty, slander, and bitterness abound.

It is time for Pentecost.  Time for a fresh wind to awaken and enliven us, for a Holy fire to burn within us.  May God’s Spirit come anew to us this day—that we might be empowered to do, to speak, to live, to love, to be used by God to light our world!

Come, Holy Spirit, Come!  Set our hearts on fire.


Below are some resources to help your child in worshipping today:

The Children’s Message for May 23rd, 2021 is included in today’s worship service posted on the HVBC YouTube Channel and the HVBC website.

Printable Together at Home Activity Sheets for May 23, 2021

A mosaic-style picture of today’s Bible story  (Pentecost—The Birthday of the Church)

Ascension Day

Dear Families,

The Bible tells us that after Jesus’ resurrection he spent 40 days with his disciples—appearing in the upper room, on the road to Emmaus, and by the Sea of Galilee.  He ate with his disciples, worked miracles, and continued to teach them.  But eventually the time came for his return to heaven.  As I mention in today’s children’s message, I wonder sometimes how the disciples felt about this.  Were they confused, sad, scared?  Before his death, Jesus had told his friends that God would send a “helper” and “comforter” to be with them (John 14).  In today’s scripture text from Acts 1, he reminds them yet again of the “gift” God would send to empower them to be his witnesses.  And then Jesus ascends and…. Nothing happens.  At least not yet.

Instead, the disciples return, as Jesus had earlier instructed, to Jerusalem—to the upper room—to WAIT.

The ubiquitous “Waiting Place,” in the lore of Dr. Seuss, where “everyone is just WAITING.”

As we wait for things to return to normal, do you sometimes feel stuck there, too?

We know the rest of the story for the disciples.  That even during such a time of uncertainty, while they were “just waiting,” the Spirit of God shows up.  But do we believe this is true for ourselves?

As I remind the children, God’s gift of the Holy Spirit was “not only to those first disciples, but to every follower of Jesus—then and now.  And that’s Good News.  Because it means that when we choose to believe in and follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to be with us and help us too—guiding us when we’re confused, comforting us when we’re sad or scared, helping us to know and trust in God’s love” and, I would add, in God’s timing.

God knows your needs—especially in this place of waiting—and God’s promise holds true:  The Spirit of God is with you.  You are never alone.


Here are some resources to help your child in worshipping today:

The Children’s Message for May 16th, 2021 will be livestreamed as part of Hope Valley Baptist’s Worship Service for May 9, 2021 on the HVBC YouTube Channel and the HVBC website.  The livestream will begin at 10:50am.  You will also be able to view a recording of the livestream after the conclusion of the service on the church’s YouTube Channel or website.

Printable Together at Home Activity Sheets for May 16, 2021

Printable Color and Pray World Map

A picture of today’s Bible story  (Jesus Ascends)

“Love Comes From God…”

We begin the month of May with two lessons on love.  This Sunday’s message from 1 John 4:7-21 is the starting point, and the children’s message will explore not only what love is and where it comes from, but also what love looks like, how we know we are loved, and how we learn to love. 

As this week’s passage tells us, “love comes from God.” (v. 7) But even more than that, John says “God is Love” (v.8)—a “startling claim,” according to Presbyterian pastor Amy Fiet, at least for first-century Jews who (as we can see from Scripture) seemed to be “far more comfortable talking about what God is like”—in metaphor (e.g., a shepherd, a strong tower, a mother-hen, etc.)—than trying to “say with certainty who God is.”

Yet, in some ways, I suppose this statement may seem profound to us as well.  After all, we live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with weak concepts of love: where we talk about loving certain kinds of food, or sports, or books or movies, and where we equate love with something that makes us feel a certain way—like happy or sappy.

The truth, however, is that these three words are so much more.  They are unexpected hope and the beginning point of salvation.  God loves us with “A Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love*” that is part of who we are.  Made in the image of God, we are made in the image of love—created to be loved and not only to love God but also to love others—participating in God’s love as we follow his command to love one another.

“We love because God first loved us” (v.19) and in so doing “God lives in us and his love is made complete.” (v. 12)

*Don’t you just love this description of God’s love taken from The Jesus Storybook Bible?  It’s so over-the-top—which is exactly how I imagine God’s love to be!  “Reckless”—much like Cory Asbury’s song, “Reckless Love,” which I encourage you to check out: https://video.link/w/Vbhqc.  Hear the story behind the song here: https://video.link/w/7Ygqc

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Here are some resources to help your family in worshipping today:

Printable Together at Home Activity Sheets for May 2, 2021

The Children’s Message for May 2nd, 2021 will be livestreamed as part of Hope Valley Baptist’s Worship Service for May 2, 2021 on the HVBC YouTube Channel and the HVBC website.  The livestream will begin at 10:50am.  You will also be able to view a recording of the livestream after the conclusion of the service on the church’s YouTube Channel or website.

An additional activity entitled “Sending Love” for you to fill out and share (via mail or perhaps hand-delivery) with someone this week.

Good Shepherd Sunday

Happy 4th Sunday of Easter!

Did you know that Psalm 23 and a gospel text about the Good Shepherd are read on the fourth Sunday of Easter every year of the lectionary cycle?  That’s why this Sunday is sometimes called “Good Shepherd Sunday.”

Before digging into the details, it is important to recognize that the Good Shepherd is a metaphor—something that we can tell children about, even though it will take time before they can cognitively understand it.  That’s because children are mostly literal thinkers until they develop the brain skill of transference which primarily happens in adolescence (age 11+).  That being said, the “Good Shepherd” is a key metaphor in the Bible and for Christian life.  Therefore, today’s children’s message is aimed at helping children to become familiar with the concrete parts of this metaphor (what shepherds actually do to care for sheep), while suggesting some of the spiritual realities it embodies—trusting that as children grow, their understanding of the connection will also deepen.  One encouraging story that indicates that stories of the Good Shepherd make “sense to [children] in some way,” comes from Maria Montessori (author of the Montessori theory of education) who once noted “that while working in a children’s hospital she found that when she told sick children stories about the Good Shepherd using small wooden figures, they almost all grabbed the figure and held onto it ‘for keeps.’”

Below you will find one of the oldest known paintings of Jesus (mid-3rd century) which was painted on the ceiling of a Roman catacomb where early Christians often hid to worship.  In the painting, the artist depicts Jesus as a strong young shepherd.  This week, I encourage you to talk with your children about what situations you (and people around the world) may have encountered—especially lately—in which we need a strong (Good and Great) Shepherd.

Here are some resources to help your child in worshipping today:

The Children’s Message for April 25th, 2021: “The Good and Great Shepherd

The Children’s Message for April 25th, 2021 will be livestreamed as part of Hope Valley Baptist’s Worship Service for April 25, 2021 on the HVBC YouTube Channel and the HVBC website.  The livestream will begin at 10:50am.  You will also be able to view a recording of the livestream after the conclusion of the service on the church’s YouTube Channel or website.

A picture of today’s Bible story  (The Good Shepherd—Catacomb of Callixtus)

Doubting Thomas?

The case of Thomas, who was absent at the onset of the appearance of the Risen Christ to His disciples, is typical. How many times we have we said in light of a seemingly unlikely situation, “I’ve got to see it to believe it”?  How many times have we questioned or doubted God?

Thomas simply asked for evidence—evidence that the other disciples had already received.

Despite the fact that we often refer to him as “Doubting Thomas,” Thomas was not a skeptic who was isolated and disadvantaged.  In other moments he was well known for his enthusiasm—a person who dared, searched, investigated, and inquired. Thus, while it is true that Thomas didn’t believe easily, he was also not of bad faith, but was someone who was careful, outspoken, genuine, solid, honest, and true.

This is why when Thomas questions, God delivers him fully. You see, Jesus knew what Thomas wanted, but even more importantly, He also knew what Thomas needed. Jesus knew that if Thomas would actually see Him and touch His wounds, Thomas would believe.

Thomas’s good unbelief made Christ come to him.  Christ offered Himself to Thomas for his sincerity—not in rebuke.

In asking for the truth, Thomas had direct contact with it.  Jesus came back to meet him, just as He will meet every one of us.

God will give us what we need to believe, too.  Not by showing up in His resurrected body, but by lifting us from spiritual death to spiritual life.  That is what the unbelieving heart needs and that is what God can deliver.  We encounter Jesus not only in the testimonies of others (whether recorded in the Bible or shared elsewhere), but also in our own lives as we seek to worship and serve God in our world. 

Perhaps what is most amazing about this passage, though, is that it reveals Jesus isn’t simply thinking about Thomas at this moment. Jesus is thinking of you and me:  “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

The Children’s Message for April 18th, 2021 will be livestreamed as part of Hope Valley Baptist’s Worship Service for April 18, 2021 on the HVBC YouTube Channel and the HVBC website.  The livestream will begin at 10:50am.  You will also be able to view a recording of the livestream after the conclusion of the service on the church’s YouTube Channel or website.

To Emmaus!

Today, we will be exploring together the story of Jesus appearing on the Emmaus Road! You can find it in your Bible in Luke 24:13-35. Read the story together- choose a Bible translation which best suits your family.

A question for adults to ask children:
Why do you think Jesus did not reveal who He was at first?

When Jesus met with Thomas after he had risen he said “Those who believe without seeing me will be truly blessed,”and in 2 Corinthians 5:7 we are encouraged to “live by what we believe, not by what we see.” Jesus wanted the two followers to know he was alive not just because they had seen it, but because they knew it in their hearts. In Luke 24:32 they say that hearing Jesus explain the Bible was like having a fire burning in their hearts. Even though we cannot see Jesus we can still believe that He is alive and read the Bible – why not ask God to help you experience God’s word like a fire today!

A question for children to ask adults:
What is your favorite verse of the Bible? Why is it special to you?

The Palms of Our Hands…

Six years ago, on a Saturday night before Palm Sunday, I and some of my classmates from Campbell Divinity School visited an Antiochian Orthodox Church for a Church History assignment.  Given the date, we weren’t surprised to see a hefty stack of palm fronds on a table in the sanctuary—after all, many of our churches also distributed palm branches to congregants as part of remembering Jesus and his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  We were, however, perplexed by the large bunch of pussy willows next to them.  The Deacon, sensing our puzzlement, explained that since many members of the church were originally from northern and eastern Europe (where palm trees cannot grow), they had traditionally carried pussy willow branches into church on “Palm” Sunday because as the first plant to bloom in the spring in those areas, they were thought to symbolize new life and resurrection.

Though the practice of waving pussy willow branches on Palm Sunday may seem strange to us, I have since learned that in parts of the world where palms are difficult to procure, the use of native plants in their place has always been typical—to the extent that in some countries the day is called “Yew Sunday,” or “Willow Sunday”, or, more simply (and comprehensively), “Branch Sunday.”  Essentially, whatever plant looked alive (indicated by being green or visibly growing) was used.

As we celebrate Palm Sunday today—most of us without the traditional palm branches to wave—I encourage you to not only make note of the signs of resurrection and new life unfurling in the native plants just outside your windows, but also, more importantly (as an article I read this week noted), to perhaps consider how you might make use of another type of palm that most all of us have:  the palms of our hands.

This past year has been difficult, and now, after so much has changed, and while so many are still apart, we should consider these palms carefully.  Are they open hands lifted in praise, folded hands fervent in prayer, working hands reaching out to care for others?  These are the ways we truly remember Jesus.

Here are some resources to help your child in worshipping today:

Printable Together at Home Activity Sheets for March 28, 2021

The Children’s Message for March 28th, 2021 will be livestreamed as part of Hope Valley Baptist’s Worship Service for March 28, 2021 on the HVBC YouTube Channel and the HVBC website.  The livestream will begin at 10:50am.  You will also be able to view a recording of the livestream after the conclusion of the service on the church’s YouTube Channel or website.

Blessings and love,

Amy

Children’s Ministry: Lenten Season Learnings

Lenten Season Learnings: At the beginning of Lent each Hope Valley family with children received a Living Lent Calendar and Devotional Book, as well as a Lenten Activity Egg Kit (consisting of plastic eggs to open each week that contain objects related to the day’s scripture reading). These activities provided an overview of the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and giving, and followed the lectionary readings with specific prayer-related activities for each week. Additional “porch visits” were also made to drop-off a craft for St. Patrick’s Day and materials related to the “Legend of the Pretzel,” and I will soon be visiting the children again to distribute an Easter Sunday craft and gardening materials for our Easter Season (the 90 days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost) activity—“Growing
with God.”

Family Easter Egg Hunts: As in 2020, Easter Eggs have been assembled for Hope Valley children, but this year each family will have the opportunity to participate in a socially-distanced (their children only) outside Easter Egg Hunt held at home! Links to sign-up have been emailed to each family— parents, be sure to sign-up for your family’s date and time, ASAP. Contact Amy or the church office for more details!

Amy Herring