Sunday, 10 May 2009

Preparing a sermon on "love one another"

Next week I am giving the sermon to the 1130 family communion service (an all age workship service where the talk needs to fit for both the young children and their parents). The gospel reading John 15:9-17 for this week has the theme "Love one another as Jesus loves us".

Normally I try and work on my talks (I just don't like the word sermon but that's another issue that reaches into my psyche) a few weeks beforehand but I haven't had a chance. Today I have been nursing aches and pains when I suddenly got some inspiration and decided to try and get some of it down on paper. so here is the process I go through when writing talks/sermons:

1 - I write out the reading for the day.
This time it's John 15:9-17
"9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other."

2 - I read it at least 3 or 4 times.
3 - I note down anything at all that pop out at me.
4 - I go to the resource our church uses for sunday school and all age workship services - Roots and look at what angle they are taking on the reading and make more notes

5 - I stop and think and pray (this stage can take a loooong time because often I just don't get any inspiration when I am hoping for it) and so I wait till I am meant to be writing the talk.

6 - I break down the talk into an introduction, which especially gets the kids attention; the main part which brings the reading alive and gets them thinking about the subject; and the final section which brings it back to the reading and something to take away. (you can tell I haven't done my preaching course yet can't you because I'm not able to explain it very well)

7 - I review and review and review again and add prayer into the mix to make sure the message I'm meant to give gets given.

Because it's an all age service I try to include something fun for the kids, be it making something, or a physical activity or some Godly Play or similar. This time Roots provided a great idea of having the gospel written on a scroll as a letter, this is then put inside a box with a note on top saying "to my friends, love from Jesus". And that's where I started, I wrote a scroll, made a box and had a starting point which will grab the kids attention, I hope.

So to the main part. This needs to talk to both the kids and the adults and I try to make it that the family groups can work together to think through the issues. Although the subject of this talk seems very straightforward at first sight "love one another" it's actually quite a hard concept for young children who won't necessarily know what love means. come to think of it, it can be a challenge for us adults to define. This time I decided to come at the main part with a series of questions for the congregation to answer. Here's what I have written to allow me to lead; the provision of my own thoughts might or might not be used depending on how forthcoming the congregation is but I have learned that it's best to have some ideas in case it all goes eerily quiet!

This gospel tells us we are loved, Jesus fills us with joy because we are loved.

So what is love?
We often say we "love" something but is this real love?
- Eg I say I love chocolate but it's not really love, I just like it a lot.
- what do you sometimes say you love but really it's a liking a lot?
- ask for responses

What is the difference between liking and loving someone?
- ask for responses
- Its difficult to define but I think to like someone is to take pleasure in being with them, feeling happy and having fun. where as to love someone is to have a deep affection and attachment to someone so I think about them all the time and worry about them.

How do you know when you love someone?
- ask for responses
- for me it's easy to define, when I love someone they're always on my mind, where they are, what they're doing, and their happiness is more important than my own.

The gospel refers to "remain in Gods love"; other translations refer to "make yourself at home in Gods love"; I like this concept, being somewhere safe and comfortable; wrapped up in a blanket of love.
- How does it feel to know you are wrapped in Gods love?

Where do you feel at home apart from your own home?
- ask for responses
- I feel at home at rachels grannys house, and at good friends houses and sometimes anywhere where Rachel and I can cuddle up together

How do you make your friends feel at home with you?
- ask for responses
- I make their favourite drink, let them sit down and welcome them anytime

And so to the crux, the final section when I know the kids have started to drift away and when I can speak to the adults and try to link it all back to the gospel again. So to the big question and ending with a prayer which came from Roots again.

How can we be at home with Jesus?
- ask for responses
- it's all about prayer for me, to let him know I love him and that I bask in his love and to know that he is always there for me

The gospel ends with "love one another" to know we are loved by God and give that love to everyone else around. To support each other, to enjoy each other and to know that we are all responsible for each other.

So let us pray:
Loving God
Thank you for this time we have spent together.
As we leave this place, may your love shine through us and on others Amen

And so it's written, I will review it 3 or 4 times during the week to make sure it flows, has the right messages and that I know it since I stand at the front with no lectern, no reading a sermon for this service! On top of that I will spend at least an hour praying about it on Saturday afternoon at which point I will leave it in God's hands that the right message comes across.

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