Monday, November 22, 2010

Faith of the Centurion

Scripture Reference: Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:2-10

A lesson about faith and authority.

A Roman Centurion

Though no costume is needed, could wear something that hints at military.

For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. - Romans 13:1CENTURION: I am a Roman Centurion. As my name implies, I am in authority over 100 men, Rome’s finest soldiers. They are fine fighting men, because they understand how to follow orders. Authority and obedience are very important in a soldier. If a man is in battle, it can cost him his life if he does not immediately obey an order without question. I got where I am today, because I understand command and authority. Being a soldier is my career and my life.

That is why when I was sent to Israel, this land forsaken by the gods, I did not question my orders but obeyed. But I can tell you that I was none too pleased. It is not a great honor to be stationed here for it is an odd place. These Jews are a poor people. They are so poor that they have only one god, and they don’t even know what he looks like. We Romans have hundreds of gods with statues of them all over the place. But I have to admit, that the more time I spend here, the more uneasy I become about their God. They seem to draw strength from their God. Our gods don’t do anything. And though the Emperor claims to be a god, no one really believes it.

Then there is this Rabbi who is causing quite a stir. His name is Jesus. They claim he is the Christos, or Messiah in their language. He claims to be their God’s son. Normally, I wouldn’t give any credence to such a claim, but I have heard stories of supernatural occurrences – miracles. The blind seeing, the lame walking, demons cast out, even the dead raised. Not a one of our pantheon of gods can do this. Not even our physicians, the best in the world, can do these things. There is obviously something more to this man than the many charlatans making wild religious claims all over this strange land.

Then one day, one of my servants became gravely ill. He became paralyzed and was suffering terribly. He was about to die. This servant was very dear to me; he was like a son. I went to the rabbi and asked him to heal my servant. He said He would come to my home and heal him. I knew enough about these Jews to know that I was considered a Gentile and therefore unclean. I could not ask the rabbi to degrade himself by coming to my home, so I said to him, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."

I guess the rabbi was impressed by this, because he turned to the crowd and said, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." He then turned to me and said, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would."

When I arrived home, I discovered that my servant had been healed at that very hour.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Family Christmas

by Jeff & Kelli Childs
I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. - Psalms 121:1-2
FATHER & MOTHER – parents of a very large family
HANNA – the grumpy one
CALLIE – the know-it-all
ELIJAH – the Star Wars buff
HAYLEY – the cheerleader
NIKKI – the diva
DALTON – the sleepyhead
AMANDA – the bookworm

Bible with large-font printed verses inserted.
Stuffed animal for Hanna
Large text book for Callie
Light sabers for Elijah & Dalton
Pom-poms for Hayley
Tiara for Nikki
Nativity set

Father and Mother are dressed for an evening at home.
The children are dressed in Christmas pajamas.

Scene opens with MOTHER & FATHER sitting in chairs reading their Bibles. FATHER hears noises from the hall.

FATHER: Are you kids ready for bed? Come on in.

Children come in dressed for bed. Each comes in and starts doing something in character – e.g., DALTON and ELIJAH are having a light saber fight, HAYLEY is doing a cheer. The other children can be playing or trying to get Father to read their book.

FATHER waits patiently then speaks.

FATHER: Quiet everyone! Have a seat!

The children stop playing and gather around the parents.

FATHER: Okay, okay. Tonight we're going read the Christmas story. I think this year you all are old enough to read it for yourselves. (Offering Bible.) Who wants to read first?

HANNA:I will. (Takes Bible.) Where should I start? (Starts flipping through Bible.)

FATHER: Let’s start in the book of Isaiah.

AMANDA: (annoyed) Isaiah?!? That’s the Old Testament. The Christmas story is in the New Testament.

FATHER: But the story of Jesus starts with the prophecies of His birth. Check out these verses in Isaiah written about 700 years before Jesus was born. Hanna you start, and Amanda you finish. (FATHER opens Bible to reading for HANNA.)

HANNA: The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.

AMANDA: For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

MOTHER: Just like the people of Israel were in darkness until the Messiah came, people today live in darkness until Jesus comes to live in their hearts.

CALLIE: (showing off) You know, Jesus is sometimes called Emmanuel, which means "God with us."

FATHER: Very good, Callie. Will you read next for us, please. Luke 1:26-38.

CALLIE: In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

MOTHER: Even though Mary was afraid, she trusted God and was obedient.

FATHER: Let's sing a Christmas song. What would you guys like to sing?

CALLIE and HANNA both put their hands up, but CALLIE answers first.

CALLIE: Silent Night!

All sing. Hanna pouts.

FATHER: That was great. Let's read next about Jesus’ birth? (Noticing that ELIJAH is distracted by his light saber.) Elijah, would you please read Luke 2.

ELIJAH: (once he realizes he has been spoken to, takes Bible and reads)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

What's a manger?

FATHER: A manger is a food trough or box. It was what the cows ate from. It was a weird place to put a baby, but remember they were in a barn. It had a dirt floor covered with animal droppings. (CHILDREN say “Ew!” and “Ick!”) The manger was probably the cleanest place in there.

MOTHER: Now that you know what a manger is, can you think of song with that in it?

ELIJAH and HANNA both put their hands up, but ELIJAH answers first.

ELIJAH: Away in a Manger.

All sing. Hanna pouts.

FATHER: And who wants to read about the shepherds?

HAYLEY: (jumping up & shaking her pom-poms, cheers) I do, I do, I-I-I-I-I-I do!

FATHER: Hmm. How about Hayley. Pick up the story at verse 8.

HAYLEY: And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

FATHER: Think about it. God sent the most important birth announcement ever to this group of dirty, poor men that nobody even wanted to be around.

MOTHER: Let's sing a another song. What should we sing next?

HAYLEY and HANNA both put their hands up, but HAYLEY answers first.

HAYLEY: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

All sing. Hanna pouts.

FATHER: Let’s see. We’ve had Mary and Joseph, the angels, the shepherds. Who are we missing?

NIKKI: (very importantly) The wise men!

FATHER: That’s right! Would you read about the wise men, Nikki, in Matthew 2 please.

NIKKI: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
"'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

MOTHER: By faith the wise men followed the star, and it led them to the King, the baby Jesus.

FATHER: And they brought with them the things they valued most: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They laid these gifts before the baby Jesus as a sign worship and obedience.

MOTHER: We can do that, too.


MOTHER: By surrendering the things that we value most to Jesus. Not just our stuff, but our talents, too.

FATHER: And when we all do that, it will truly bring Joy to the World.

MOTHER: (Smiling) That would make a great song title.

FATHER: (Chuckling) Yes, it would. Why don't we sing Joy to the World?

As everyone sings, one child at a time gets quiet and looks at the thing he/she values most (light saber, tiara, etc.) and lays it in front of the manger then rejoins the singing. Finally, HANNA lays down her stuffed animal, kneels, and prays. When she's done, she smiles and joins in the singing.

FATHER: Okay, kids, it's getting late. Off to bed for all of you.

The CHILDREN leave with hugs and good-nights.

All CHILDREN leave except DALTON, who is asleep. FATHER walks over, picks him up, and carries him out. MOTHER turns out the light and follows them out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blessed Are

Scripture Reference: Matthew 5:1-12

A lesson about the Beatitudes.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:10
DILLY – a southern fried chicken who doesn’t always get things straight
MR. ELIJAH – the teacher who sets her straight

Bible (NIV) – the verses are written in the skit, but the Bible should be opened as if they are being read from Matthew

(MR. ELIJAH begins on stage.)

MR. ELIJAH: While we’re waiting for Dilly, I’m going to go ahead and start reading today’s Bible passage. Starting with Matthew 5:1, “Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

DILLY: (enters as Mr. Elijah starts reading) I don’t think you read that correctly, Mr. Elijah.

MR. ELIJAH: Oh. Hi, Dilly. I’m sure I read that correctly. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

DILLY: Then you must have a faulty translation. Why in the world would God give the kingdom of heaven to the poor?

MR. ELIJAH: The translation is just fine. And it’s the “poor in spirit.”

DILLY: Okay, so why would God give his kingdom to some poor spirit?

MR. ELIJAH: It means God will bless those who recognize their need for Him.

DILLY: I am still unconvinced. But continue.

MR. ELIJAH: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

DILLY: That’s very nice of Him.

MR. ELIJAH: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

DILLY: Well, don’t that just pop out your monocle. First, the poor get heaven, now them mousy folk get the earth. I just can’t believe it.

MR. ELIJAH: Meek doesn’t mean mousy or weak. It means being humble. It means submitting yourself to God.

DILLY: Are you saying God doesn’t want be strong he-man types?

MR. ELIJAH: God wants all types, but only those who let God work through them are blessed.

DILLY: Hmmm. Continue.

MR. ELIJAH: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

DILLY: Isn’t that lovely.

MR. ELIJAH: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

DILLY: That seems equitable.

MR. ELIJAH: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

DILLY: I certainly plan to.

MR. ELIJAH: Don’t forget that God blesses the humble, Dilly.

DILLY: Are you saying that I’m getting’ too big for my britches?

MR. ELIJAH: I’m just saying.

DILLY: I do declare. Continue.

MR. ELIJAH: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

DILLY: Now wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute. I am blessed when I am insulted, persecuted, and have tales told on me?

MR. ELIJAH: That’s what the book says.

DILLY: And I am suppose to have a little shindig when this happens?

MR. ELIJAH: It says, “Rejoice and be glad.”

DILLY: Then I want to know where you got that shirt. I do believe it fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on its way down.

MR. ELIJAH: What does that have to do with anything?

DILLY: You have been insulted. Why are you not doing a little happy dance and rejoicing?

MR. ELIJAH: Ah! Jesus is talking about being insulted and lied about because of the work you’re doing for Him, not because your fashion sense has been questioned.

DILLY: But how is that possible? How are any of these things possible?

MR. ELIJAH: Because “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

DILLY: Oh, that old saw. That’s just for weak folks.

MR. ELIJAH: We are all weak folks, Dilly. That’s what Jesus is saying. Once we recognize our weakness, humble ourselves, and acknowledge our need, then we are blessed and truly happy. It is only in our weakness that He is strong.

DILLY: Well, bust my buttons. I never thought of it that way. How thrillin’! I must go to Flora at once and tell her. She is much weaker than I, so she must be even more blessed. Oh, Flora! Flora! (exits)

MR. ELIJAH: (stares at the stage surprised at Dilly’s sudden departure)

DILLY: (reappears) I almost forgot – bye, y’all! (exits)