You are free to reprint these resources for use in worship. Please include the attribution “RootsOfJusticeTraining.org, 2015.” If text is spoken but not printed, we appreciate printing in your bulletin a general “Thanks to RootsOfJusticeTraining.org for some of the [prayers/text/ideas] used in this service.”
Covenanting God, we gather today as your people, living in a world where the gaps between the have and the have nots is huge and growing greater every day. You have promised that we all shall know you, from the least of us to the greatest. We hear your promise to gather all people to yourselves. We know you will keep your word. Help us be ever more ready to receive you and welcome you into our church, into our relationships, into our hearts, into all of our life.
– Pam Nath, RootsOfJusticeTraining.org 2015
Left: With our whole hearts we seek you.
Right: We wish to see Jesus.
Reader One: Jesus says, “I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
ALL: We need to die to self.
Right: With our whole hearts we seek you.
Left: We wish to see Jesus.
Reader Two: “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
All: With our whole hearts we seek you.
Reader One: Put a new and right spirit within us.
Reader Two: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”
All: Sustain in us a willing spirit.
Reader One: Draw us into you, and write your words on our hearts
All: and we shall be your people.
Reader Two: Let us hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
– Pam Nath, RootsOfJusticeTraining.org 2015
People of God, as you go into the broken world in which we live – a world filled with hatred, discrimination, and fear – will you listen for the voice of those calling out, “I wish to see Jesus,” and will you do your level-best to take them to the Christ?
[Pause for an answer. You may have to encourage it if they’re not use to an interactive benediction.]
Whether you will or won’t, can or can’t, go with the assurance that Christ is all around, gathering us into his reign of justice, binding up the brokenhearted, and convicting those who must repent. Now and then and forever and ever, Amen.
– Caela Simmons Wood, RootsOfJusticeTraining.org 2015
Children’s Sermon Ideas
This children’s sermon idea is about death and rebirth. It may sound morbid talking about death in the children’s sermon, but children need to hear adults talk to them about death. And, this is part of the preparation for the stories of Jesus’s death.
Engage the children by asking about how they know that Spring is nearly here. Draw out responses like flowers are starting to bloom, trees are starting to bud, etc.
Bring a variety of seeds in various shapes and sizes – sunflower, nuts, beans, grain, etc. Ask if any of the kids or their families plant gardens and talk with them about how spring is the time to plant seeds. Ask if the seed is alive or not. Ask, “What happens when you put a seed in the ground?” [Collect responses]
Say, “Jesus talked about seeds, and how they need to die (or so it seems) in order to grow into new plants. After the seed is buried, a new plant grows out of it.” [Since we have the knowledge of modern science to explain how seeds aren’t really dead, an advantage that the Gospel writers didn’t have, don’t say “the seed dies”, say it seems dead, or it is buried. You don’t want to mislead the kids about botany!]
[If you have time (or, you could do this in a children’s church setting), plant one or more seeds. Ideally, use seeds that will germinate in about 10 days, so they are poking through by Easter. Sunflowers would fit the time well; beans would be a bit quick.]
Say: “So a seed is buried and a strong new plant comes out of it. There are some people who have been killed doing good things, and though they didn’t come back to life, new people got strong after they died. Like Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was killed 50 years ago because he believed that everyone, not just people with light-colored skin, should be allowed to vote. His death prompted a whole bunch of people (including Martin Luther King) to go on a march in Selma, Alabama, exactly 50 years ago yesterday [March 21]. And that march helped make sure that everyone was able to vote, just like Jimmie Lee Jackson wanted.”
Continue: “In a couple of weeks we will remember how Jesus died and was buried, but then on Eastern he sprang up with new life! Seeds can help us remember.”
– Phil Morice Brubaker, RootsOfJusticeTraining.org 2015
Phil Morice Brubaker is coordinator and trainer with Roots of Justice.
The Rev. Caela Simmons Wood is pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Manhattan, Kansas. Pastor Caela is passionate about racial justice, LGBT rights, and gender equality. You can read her sermons at her blog.
Pam Nath is a Roots of Justice trainer. She has been living and working in New Orleans for the past eight years and loves being surrounded by water (the Bayou, the Lake, the river), by massive Oak trees, pelicans, and egrets, and by people who work passionately for a better world and who strive to live in Beloved Community with one another.