21 May 2023
Bible readings for today
Today is the 7th Sunday after Easter, and also marks Christian Unity.
you have not left us alone
but promised your abiding protection.
In all we face,
grant us such a knowledge of your presence, and abiding care,
that nothing can destroy our trust
in Jesus Christ and the strength of the Holy Spirit;
who with the Father and the Son,
live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Jesus prays for unity (John 17:1-7)
You may like to read this story using the Message translation
"Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said:
Father, it’s time.
Display the bright splendor of your Son
So the Son in turn may show your bright splendour."
Jesus prays for his friends
As Jesus approaches his final days, this passage in John 17 reveals what is on his mind — including his love for his his disciples.
Jesus has spent time sharing a meal with them, explaining more about the Father, the Holy Spirit and who He is. Jesus first prays that for himself earlier in John 17, "Father, the hour has come. Glory your Son, that your Son may glorify you." Prayer was important to Jesus and this is one of the longest prayers we have recorded.
He then goes on to pray for his disciples, thanking God for them and acknowledging that they are a gift from God. Jesus clearly loved his friends, asking his "Holy Father, protect them in the power of your name" — some translations say "keep them faithful to your name," so that "they may be as one, as we are one." Jesus had an intimate, loving, close relationship with God the Father, and he prays that we will have that too. and to protect them as they go out into the world. He knows that they will face opposition, tough times and spiritual battles, and he prays for faithfulness and unity.
Later in the prayer, we see that this prayer is not just for the disciples, but for us too. (verse 20). We too need to pray for a close relationship with Jesus, for protection from spiritual battles and to remain faithful.
Game: Get the message
What you need/preparation: A list of bible verses or a list of phrases eg. The cat ran under the fence at midnight.
What to do: Get the children to sit in a circle. Ask for a volunteer. Whisper in their ear the first verse or phrase on your list. You can only whisper it once. Then, get them to whisper what they heard to the next person. Keep going until you get to the last person. Ask them to say out loud to the group what they heard. Then get the first person to say what it was. See if they are different!
You can repeat this with different people starting.
Does God hear us clearly when we talk to him, or does he struggle to hear what we say?
Praying to God can just be like having a conversation, and we can trust that He hears us when we talk to him. We can use the words we want to, whenever we want to, and he always hears us clearly.
Praying for the world collage
What you need:
Recent newspapers and magazines, paper, glue, scissors, felts and crayons What to do. Get the children to go through the newspapers and magazines to find articles on situations that need prayer. Get them to cut them out and glue them on the large piece of paper. Next to each article, have the children either draw or write a prayer to God about the situation in the article.
At the end, pray together aloud as a group, all the prayers.
You may like to let the adults know what you have been doing and give them an opportunity to look at the prayer collage.
In this reflection for the week, Archdeacon Martin Robinson reflects on the passage from John 17:1-11, in which Jesus prays a High Priestly prayer.
Jesus' Ascension (Acts 1:6-14)
Today also marks the Sunday after the Ascension of Jesus, which is written about in Luke 24: 44-53 and Acts 1:9-14
This week in kids church we explored the idea of journey using prayer labyrinths. Most kids, and many adults, struggle to pray while sitting still and doing ‘nothing’. It can be easier to focus if fingers or bodies are engaged with something. Just think about the latest fidget spinner craze! Visual, kinetic and tactile forms of prayer (like labyrinths) can really help kids connect with God.
Labyrinths have been used by Christians as a spiritual practice for many centuries. They were originally used as a symbolic alternative to pilgrimage when the physical journey could not be undertaken. There is nothing mystical, magical or inherently transformative about labyrinths – they are simply a visual, tactile, and kinetic way of praying – much like taking a long walk, lighting a candle, writing in a journal, holding a cross or prayer beads, or many of the other tools we use to help ourselves notice God’s presence with us.
Walking a labyrinth (or using a finger labyrinth) is also a great way to slow down from our busy lives and pay attention to God’s presence with us.
If you or your kids are interested you might like to check out some larger outside labyrinths. We know of some in cathedrals, churches and outdoors all across New Zealand. Just last week, we walked the one in Nelson Cathedral.
Try making your own finger labyrinths out of lego, cord, or clay. Or here are some easy printable ones. May you be aware of God’s presence with you and your family this week
Blow bubbles and they have to pop them/catch them, try blowing from low down and blowing them up in the air. If it seems appropriate, you can mention that today we are thinking about Ascension day when Jesus went back up to heaven to be with God and we are blowing the bubbles up to the sky like Jesus going up to God.
You will need:
Christian Unity resources
All age talk
What you need: cake ingredients, such as flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, eggs, milk.
Look at all the things I have to show you this morning. (Hold up several items and comment on each.) I have some flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, eggs, milk, and much more. Just by looking at the individual items, you might not know what we could do with them. The individual items could have many uses, but guess what we might be able to do with them if we put them all together. Well, for one thing, we could make a chocolate cake! Would you like to eat a spoonful of flour? How about a spoonful of salt or some vegetable oil? I didn't think so! Most of the items we have here wouldn't taste very good by themselves, but when you mix them all together in one bowl, put them in a pan and bake them in the oven, you can end up with a delicious cake!
These different ingredients that go into baking a cake can teach us an important lesson about the church. The church is made up of many individual members. Like these ingredients, the members of a church are quite different, but when you put them all together and they work together as one, the church can do some wonderful things. In our Bible reading this morning, Jesus himself prayed that all believers would be one so that the world would see God's love in them. You and I are part of the church. Jesus wants us to love one another, help one another, and serve one another. When we do that, we become one, just as Jesus prayed we would be, and when we are one, the world can see God's love in us.
Unfortunately, sometimes the individual members of the church have a hard time being one with one another. We may hear people in the church saying things like "I don't like the songs we sing" or "The preacher preaches too long." When we say things like that and want to have everything our way, we are no longer being one. We are like the individual ingredients of the cake. The world cannot see God's love in us. They don't get to enjoy the wonderful things that God has in store for them.
If you ever find yourself thinking about yourself, rather than being united with others in the church, remember that Jesus prayed that we would be one. When we are one, bound together by Christ's love, the world gets a taste of the wonderful things that God has for them.
Dear Father, help us to be one so that the world may taste your sweet love in us. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
"We come to re-weave the unravelling fabric of community.
To re-connect once more with the larger human family.
To find once more that place of calm.
To remind ourselves that we belong.
And to remember what it is we belong to."
See more in this link - Gathering Prayer (Church of Scotland) - scroll down to find the prayer!
Thy Kingdom Come
Thy Kingdom come is a global prayer movement between Ascension and Pentecost that encourages the church to pray for people to become Christians and follow Jesus. There are lots of prayer ideas on our Strandz website, such as praying for 5, labyrinth prayers, and our prayer puzzle.
Christian Unity Resources
Children's Group resources doc (CAFOD)
Christian unity colouring sheet (CAFOD)