Where Your Heart Is.
READ: Jesus told many stories encouraging his followers to consider what was most important in their lives. After he told the story of the rich man who tore down all of his barns, he went on to teach them more about what was most important in life. He reminded them that each one of them was loved completely by God, who cares for them as a loving shepherd cares for every one of their sheep and knows each sheep’s name. Every sheep, no matter how big or small, is loved totally by God, without exception. One time Jesus told his friends, “Don’t be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” He explained, saying “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving.” Jesus knew that when we learn to trust in God’s love for us, what’s most important to us shifts, and we are free to be generous to others. “Where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and the place you end up being,” Jesus told them. (Luke 12:22-40)
I wonder how the sheep feel when the shepherd calls them by name?
I wonder what things are most important for the sheep?
I wonder what things they could do without?
I wonder if the sheep have things they could share?
I wonder what things you have that you think are really important?
I wonder what things you have you think are not necessary?
PRAY: Good Shepherd, thank you for knowing us by name and for your tender care for us. Help us to learn to share what we have with others who need our help. Amen.
Whose Stuff Is This Anyway?
READ: Once someone asked Jesus to intervene in a family dispute over money and property. Jesus listened and then gently told them, “Friend, be careful. The desire for money and possessions is dangerous. You’ll never find what is most important in life if you’re consumed with acquiring things.”
And then Jesus went on to tell a parable about a rich man who owned much farmland. The land was good and produced many crops. The rich man was so impressed with his great harvest he decided to tear down all his old barns and to build newer and larger ones to hold all of his crops for himself. That very night the rich man went to sleep dreaming of his great bounty and all of his plans for keeping his crops for himself. He never built those barns, and he never enjoyed his crops, though. For the rich man died that night, and everything he had, he left behind. (Luke 12:13-21)
WONDER: I wonder why the person asked Jesus to step in and fix their family argument over money?
I wonder why Jesus told this parable?
I wonder what the rich man thought he would do with all of his crops?
I wonder how the rich man’s neighbors thought about his plans to tear down his barns and build new ones?
I wonder why Jesus warned about the desire for money and possessions?
SAY: When someone asked Jesus to help them gain possessions from a family dispute, Jesus tells a story about a man who has many things, but has no concern for others. Jesus points out for us that when we focus on gaining possessions without thinking about others and how what we have can help others, we are missing out on what is most important in our lives.
PRAY: Dear God, thank you for providing us with what we need in our lives. Help us to share what we have with others. Amen.
READ: Once when Jesus was traveling with his disciples they stayed in the home of Martha and Mary. As the two sisters welcomed Jesus and his friends in their home, Martha was busy making things ready for their guests. There was so much to do. Mary, on the other hand, sat down next to Jesus, listening to him teach. Martha was distracted by everything on her to-do list, and she came to Jesus and asked him, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.”
Jesus smiled at Martha and said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, when there is only one thing which matters. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42)
WONDER: I wonder how Martha felt when she welcomed Jesus and all his disciples into their home?
I wonder how Mary felt as she sat with Jesus and listened to him teach?
I wonder why Martha was distracted?
Jesus told Martha that there was only one thing that really matters. I wonder what that one thing is?
I wonder which part of this story you like the best?
PRAY: Loving God, thank you for this story of Jesus. Help us make good choices, and to find what is most important in our lives. Amen.
Who Is My Neighbor?
READ: One day a person asked Jesus what the most important thing in life was. Jesus said, “You already know.” The person replied, “I do. It is to love God and to love people just like they are your neighbors.” Not finished, the person then asked Jesus, “But who is my neighbor?”
Jesus then told him this parable. There was once someone who went from Jerusalem down to Jericho. As he went on his way, he was attacked by robbers. They hurt him, took everything he had, and left him half dead along the side of the road.
There was also a priest of the temple in Jerusalem who was traveling the same road. He came upon the poor traveler lying hurt on the side of the road, with all his belongings taken from him, left half dead. When the priest saw him, he went to the other side of the road and went on his way. Another person who worked at the temple helping the priests who was called a Levite came upon the poor man, still left on the side of the road half dead, with everything taken from him. The Levite, too, crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way.
There was also another person on the road, who lived not in Jerusalem, but in a country called Samaria. The people of Samaria did not like the people of Jerusalem, and the people of Jerusalem did not like people from Samaria. When the stranger saw the traveler who had been hurt, lying on the side of the road with everything taken from him, the stranger went over to him. He treated the traveler’s wounds with medicine, gave him his own coat to wear, put him on his donkey, and took him to a place to spend the night. In the morning, the stranger gave the innkeeper enough money so that the traveler could stay there until he was healthy again.
After telling the story, Jesus asked the person, “I wonder who is the neighbor to the person who was hurt, had everything taken from him, and was left by the side of the road?
WONDER: I wonder who is the neighbor to the person who was hurt, with all his belongings taken away, left by the side of the road?
I wonder what would happen if the person finding the injured traveler were a child?
I wonder what it means to be a neighbor?
I wonder who is the neighbor to the priest? to the Levite? to the Samaritan?
I wonder if we can leave out any of the story and still have all the story we need?
PRAY: Loving God, thank you for the stories Jesus told, stories which make us think, stories which show us what it means to live out your love in our world. Amen.
Jesus Sends out his Disciples
READ: Jesus taught his disciples about the household of God and how God wants us to live together. Sometimes he taught them with special stories, which we call parables. Other times he showed them God’s love in his care and healing of those who were sick. At times he sent the disciples out on their own, in pairs of two, to share his stories and to help people in towns throughout the countryside. Jesus told them to pack lightly and to accept the kindnesses of others. If the people of a town didn’t welcome them, Jesus told them to leave that place behind and go on their way. One time he sent out seventy-two disciples to visit towns along the way to Jerusalem. Sometimes the disciples were welcomed warmly, although in some places they were not accepted. They were learning how hard it could be to share the good news Jesus taught. After some time had gone by, the disciples came back to Jesus joyfully telling him of all that had happened while they were away. (Luke 10:1-11, 16-20)
WONDER: I wonder how it felt to leave Jesus and travel with a partner to share the good news of God?
I wonder why Jesus sent them out in pairs?
I wonder how it felt when the people of a town welcomed them?
I wonder how Jesus felt when his disciples returned and shared their stories?
I wonder what is your favorite part of this story?
PRAY: Loving God, thank you for being in our lives, for being with us on good days and bad days, and for loving us no matter what. Thank you for sending us people who love us and take care of us. Help us to live with kindness and care for people we meet. Amen.
READ: Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia is an important one in the Bible. As he draws his letter to a close he writes words of encouragement to his friends. He reminds them of an old commandment which is in the Jewish scriptures in Leviticus (19:18), “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus had thought it such an important rule that when he was asked “Of all the commandments, of all the ten best ways to live, which is the most important?” Jesus responded, “Love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And then he added, “The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these. (Mark 12:28-34)
Paul agrees with Jesus. And he builds on that commandment to love others as we love ourselves by describing what living according to the ways of God’s Spirit looks like. He imagines that a life freely lived in God’s Spirit is one filled with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” He calls these “fruits of the Spirit,” outward expressions of how the Spirit leads us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
(Galatians 5:1, 13-25)
WONDER: I wonder how the people in the church of Galatia feel when they read Paul’s words to love their neighbors as themselves?
I wonder how it feels when people love God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength?
I wonder if it’s hard to love some people?
I wonder what your favorite gift of the Spirit is: kindness? joy? love? patience?
I wonder how the Spirit helps us?
SAY: In this part of Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, we see how the teachings of Jesus were passed on to others. Paul shares the most important commandment from God for us--loving our neighbors as ourselves.
PRAY: Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for people who help us learn more about you and how you want us to live. Thank you for the Spirit who gives us the fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Amen.
Paul Writes Letters to his Friends
READ: The Apostle Paul traveled to many different places as he shared the stories of Jesus and of God’s love for the whole world. He would spend time in a town, making friends and teaching about the kingdom of God. When he left a town, there would be a group of people who continued to meet together, worshiping and learning about Jesus. Traveling took time in Paul’s day. There were no airplanes to make travel fast, and no phones or email. To keep up with the friends he had made and the new churches who were meeting in each town, sometimes Paul would write a letter to them. He would answer questions they may have had, or try to help them with a problem, or share a concern with them. When a church received one of Paul’s letters, they would read the letter aloud in their worship, just like a sermon.
In our Bibles we have a letter written by Paul to a church he had started in a town called Galatia. After he left, they had questions. Some people were claiming that in order to be a part of the church there were many steps that a person had to follow, and those that didn’t do everything weren’t fully a part of the church. Paul explained that this was not what he had taught them. When a person was baptized, that meant they were now all part of the same family, God’s family, the church. It didn’t matter where they were from, what language they spoke, what job they may have had, whether they were female or male--they belonged to Christ now. And that was all that mattered. (Galatians 3:23-29)
WONDER: I wonder what it was like to receive a letter from Paul?
I wonder what it is like to be baptized in water?
I wonder how it felt to be told you weren’t fully part of God’s family, the church?
I wonder how Paul felt when he heard some people were being left out of the church in Galatia?
I wonder what it feels like to be a part of the family of families, God’s family?
SAY: Paul loved the church in Galatia, and he wanted them to be a place that welcomed everyone. His letter to the church is an important part of our Scripture and helps us know more about God’s love for all people.
PRAY: Let’s pray. Thank you, God, for giving us a church to belong to, with people who love and care for us. Help us to share your love with one another. Amen.
Jesus Says Goodbye to his Friends
READ: As Jesus was saying goodbye to his friends, he understood that there hadn’t been enough time to tell them everything he wanted them to know. And there were things that he had told them which they had a hard time understanding. The disciples were worried and fearful. Jesus reassured his friends by saying that after he went back to God he would send them a friend, God’s Holy Spirit. The Spirit would stay with them and teach them some of those many things they didn’t know. (John 16:12-15)
I wonder how the disciples felt when they heard Jesus would be leaving them?
I wonder what questions the disciples wanted to ask Jesus?
I wonder what it’s like to listen to the Holy Spirit?
I wonder how the Spirit teaches us today?
SAY: All of us have questions, things we don’t understand, mysteries which perplex us. In our story today we learn that Jesus’s closest friends had questions, too. Jesus reassured them that it was ok to have questions, and that God’s Spirit would be with them as they asked tough questions and learned more about how to follow in God’s ways of peace.
PRAY: Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for all the questions we have, for the mysteries we don’t fully understand. And thank you for giving us your Spirit to help us with our questions. Help us to listen and to learn how to love others as Jesus loves us. Amen.
READ: We’ve come to Pentecost, the day we’ve been waiting for since Easter. Pentecost is a very special day with a great mystery in its story. On the first Pentecost all the followers of Jesus were together in one place in an upper room. Suddenly, there was a sound, like the rush of a mighty wind. It filled the room, and fire was within each one. It was as if each one of them had received a tongue of fire, a sign of God’s presence in the world. A gift from the very heart of God. That’s why the color of Pentecost is red. It was the Holy Spirit. Their fear left them and they were all filled with joy. They were so excited they left the upper room and went out into the streets. There in the city were many people who spoke many different languages. The followers of Jesus began talking to everyone. People could see that they had come close to God, and that God was also close to them in a new and amazing way.
This was when they started becoming leaders, for now they began to know the Creator within each of them. Once they were called disciples, now they were known as apostles. From this moment on they went out into the world to tell the stories of Jesus. Ever since this first Pentecost, Christians have celebrated this special day and told this story. (Acts 2:1-21)
WONDER: I wonder how they felt when the sound of the mighty wind filled the room?
I wonder what it felt like to be that close to God?
I wonder what they will do now that they have the gift of the Holy Spirit?
I wonder if there are any other signs from God, from God’s heart, that we may find in the world?
I wonder if you have ever felt like something new is being created within you?
I wonder if there is anything in our church sanctuary that reminds you of this story?
SAY: In the Pentecost story we hear of a sign of God’s presence in the world, a flame of hope, tongues of fire. All of the signs of God’s presence in the world come from the very heart of God.
PRAY: Today’s prayer is a breath prayer. It’s a simple prayer we can repeat over and over as we breathe in and breathe out. Say, “Dear God,” silently as you breathe in slowly. As you slowly let your breath out say to yourself, “be with me.”
Paul and Silas in Philippi
READ: While they were staying with Lydia in Philippi Paul and his friend Silas went out into the city to find a place to pray. While they were walking a young girl who was enslaved followed behind them, shouting at everyone that Paul and Silas were sent by God. She was known to be a fortune-teller, and her owners made money from her visions. Paul was exasperated at her endless shouting, for this was not the way he intended to share the good news of Jesus. He turned to face the young girl and he healed her. Once healed she could no longer tell fortunes, which made her owners very angry.
Her owners grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the city leaders. Together with the crowd, they hit Paul and Silas with rods. The two were thrown in prison, with their feet in chains.
Around midnight Paul and Silas were singing hymns and praying. All the other prisoners were listening to them sing and pray. When suddenly there was a great earthquake. It was so strong that the shaking opened the prison doors and loosened all the prisoners’ chains. The jailer woke up and saw the doors to the prison open and he was afraid that he would be punished if the prisoners had escaped. Paul shouted out to the jailer that they were still all there. The jailer was so grateful, that he asked Paul to tell him more about Jesus and what he needed to do to be saved. He was so grateful he took Paul and Silas to his own home and washed their wounds. The jailer wanted to follow Jesus, so that very night he and his entire family were baptized. (Acts 16:16-34)
WONDER: I wonder how did Paul and Silas listen to the Holy Spirit?
I wonder how it feels to be led by the Spirit?
I wonder why Paul and Silas decided to sing and pray in prison?
I wonder what the other prisoners thought when they heard Paul and Silas sing and pray?
I wonder how the jailer felt when he learned that all the prisoners were still there?
SAY: Today we have heard three stories of bondage and freedom. The young girl who was a slave is freed from her forced work of fortune-telling. Paul and Silas are freed from prison. And the jailer finds freedom in following Jesus.
PRAY: Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for always being near us, in good times and in bad. Help us to trust in you and your love for us. Amen.
Weekly Faith Conversations
Use these guides as conversation starters with your family. A short retelling of the scripture passage is offered, or you may want to look the story up in your own bible or in a children's bible. The wondering questions are written to open up faith exploration with children and adults.