First Congregational Church
September 13, 2015
Worship, Blessing of the Backpacks, Eva Strom’s Baptism
First Day of Sunday School, Grandparents Day!
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Lena asked her eight eager 10-year-old Sunday Schoolers if they would give $1,000,000 to missionaries. "YES!" they all screamed!! "Would you give $1,000?" Again they shouted “YES!" "How about $100?" "Oh, YES we would!" they all agreed!! "Would you give just a dollar to the missionaries?" she asked. The boys exclaimed "YES!" just as before except for Ole. "Ole," Lena said as she noticed the boy clutching his pocket, "why didn't you say 'YES' this time?” "Well," he stammered, "I HAVE a dollar.”
I’m guessing that sometimes, you all, like myself, wonders how so may elements of a Sunday morning come together. How it happened this week was in part because of an editorial I read in this week’s Record Patriot, written by a church member. (Go look it up later, because you don’t want to miss it now, trying to figure out who wrote it.)
If you been around here long enough you realize that I don’t often use things from the editorial column because they can be so politically charged, and true to my Swedish heritage, I try hard to avoid politically charged anything. But this article was so good - on so many levels.
It read, “In the grueling world of competitive cross-country running, the athletes are always talking about striving to achieve their personal best time when they compete in the various events.
On August 29, at the Pete Moss invitational, held at Benzie Central, I had the privilege to see what that really means.
With the finish line in sight, I watched as a member of the Cadillac Junior Varsity girls team begin to slow down and eventually stop as she had reached the limits of her endurance and was unable to cross the finish line. It was heartbreaking to watch as runner after runner streamed past her.
Then, something incredible happened – two members of the Traverse City St. Francis team, along with one of her own teammates, stopped their own quests for personal best times, and went back to offer assistance.
With kind words of encouragement and gentle hands, they helped this exhausted runner get back on her feet. It was one of the most out standing displays of good sportsmanship I have ever witnessed, but what they did next took my breath away.
These amazing young women linked up arm in arm and crossed the finish line together.
While I do not know their names I want to thank these young athletes for renewing my faith in the future. That being said, I also want to acknowledge the hard work and effort of the coaches, the parents and the community members who play an active role in developing the kind of character and courage that seemed to come so naturally for them when these young athletes decided to put their own goals aside to help someone else, they exemplify the true meaning of the phrase, “personal best”. Their actions should serve as a reminder to the rest of us that the opportunity to achieve our own personal best can arise when we least expect it. We just have to take notice then take action.”
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Thank you, Jim. This morning is one of those days about lifting up those who are actively helping to mature the younger ones of our family. With our vow of helping to raise little Eva Marie and surrounding those who are learning about and teaching what it means to be a follower of Christ, we take on the promise to speak truth in love, helping those same individuals to grow into the mature body of Christ. Our work in this little area may not give cause for any of us to see a single one of them stop their own foot race to help another walk across the finish line, but with our prayers and support, hopefully that will happen metaphorically over and over and over again, as they become those who take our place in the chain of Christ followers.
Bringing in the Grandparents Day aspect, we can recognize those young folks among us. With smiles and eye contact, yes. But remember when you were little and an older person recognized you - and spoke to you - and how that felt? If it was in a church, didn’t it make you feel even more a part of that family? We all get to make memories in the lives of those people that come through our doors, memories that help them continue that link of Christ followers since his resurrection.
Blessing backpacks may not seem like a big thing, or it may seem like a busy thing, but through it we remind our children that they have important work, not only as members of this family, but as bringers of hope to those who fall, especially when a ligament breaks or is injured. So shall we do part of our part as we pray for them?
Gracious and loving God, we thank you that you care whether one of us falls - really or metaphorically. Thank you for those who come around to speak kind words of encouragement and use gentle hands to get us back on our feet. Help us to be the bringer of those words and at the ends of those gentle hands. Help us to remember our vows to help our little ones grow in faith that they may fully become the people you have always seen them to be. Help each of those that leave this place and go into the big world realize that sometimes our help may be as simple as the offer of a hand or a silent reminder of their value and importance. For the answers to all our prayers, all your people say, Amen.
Blessing of the Backpacks
Blessing of the Backpacks
Today, we have before us backpacks to be carried to and from school by the children and youth gathered here. These backpacks will contain work to be done, work that's been returned, books to be studied, tools to complete homework. Notebooks with blank pages waiting to be filled, pencils with erasers, pointy crayons, rulers, safety scissors, glue sticks, calculators and other items used for school work will find their way in and out of these backpacks.
And now our young people may come forward.
One of the big lessons we learn in school is how to be patient, and today we’re learning how to do that here, as we wait for the real tags to come in the mail. But for now, these are sort of what they would look like.
The words this year will say, “You are stronger than you think.” Sometimes school may feel hard and you might forget that God made us to be able to do great, wonderful things. So the tags will be reminders to you that God knows you are strong and able, no matter how you might feel, to do great things in this world. Sometimes other people can feel sad or down or not very strong, maybe a person you don’t really know, and you may not know that they need to remember that they are strong, too. So your tag will be like a secret reminder that God knows they are able, no matter how they feel, to do great things in this world. But if you don’t remember any of that, remember this.
These people love you a lot. They want the best for each one of you, and they believe that you are already strong, that you can do more than you may believe you can. So your tag is a reminder - from us - that you are greatly loved - by God and us.
As our young people come down to the floor, I invite anyone who wishes, to come and bless them with the laying on of your hands.
Let us pray. God, we thank you for these special people. Bless them with curiosity, understanding and respect. May their backpacks and tags be signs to them that they have everything they need to learn and grow this year in school and in Sunday School. Give them peace when they feel nervous, focus when they feel distracted, energy when they feel tired. Help them to make friends that build one another up, and be friends to those who need them. Help them and us to remember that asking the right questions is often as important as giving the right answers. May they be reminded of the love and care of this congregation that surrounds them each day. All this we ask in the name of Jesus, who as a child in the temple showed his longing to learn about you, and as an adult taught by story and example your great love for us. Amen.
Commissioning of Sunday School Teachers
Commissioning of God’s Servants
To begin our blessing time, I’d like to invite our Sunday School teachers to come forward.
As we set you apart to do this special work with our young people, we encourage each of you to teach and live in such a way that you are an example to those who learn. We ask that you join us in praying for your students and encourage them to grow in faith and godliness. Let us all pray for you.
Lord, bless those in the ministry of teaching future generations. As they embark on a new school year, grant them energy, passion, discipline, and endurance for their daily tasks. Infuse their classrooms with an atmosphere of care and mutual respect, that all interactions there will be bathed in patience and understanding. Help their lessons to grow pupils in both knowledge and character, and help us all to support the work these teachers do building up our community and our future. Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.