First Reading: Jeremiah 31:1-6
Lily and the Paper Man by Rebecca Upjohn
(Written for 4-8)
Comment: God’s love is everlasting meaning it exists before us and it exists after us. The prophet reminds us that even in the wilderness, God has not stopped loving us and being faithful to us. Even when God’s love is professed out of an event of wrath (as it is here in Jeremiah 31), the love and care exists out of the very nature of God, which is something we humans cannot fully comprehend. God promises to be the God of all families of Israel and that they shall be God’s people. This is a care that we humans cannot fathom about the love of God. Everlasting love from God often is unrequited, unconditional, spontaneous, and indifferent of value. It is also faithful. Lily is a girl who experiences a homeless neighbor and doesn’t quite know how to handle the news or the appearance/actions of the man selling the papers for one dollar everyday after school. Despite her mom purchasing one on their walk home each time they pass him, Lily becomes scared and decides to avoid the man. One day, however, the weather changes her mind because she loves the snow so they walk home past the man again. Here is where Lily notices the thin shirt under a jacket, boots with holes, no gloves, no warm socks, and no hat. Lily falls asleep thinking about how much she has that he doesn’t. Ultimately she devises a plan to make him warm, and invites her family and friends to participate. Lily introduces herself to Ray and offers him a bag full of warm clothes, including her most favorite warm blanket that her grandmother made for her. Lily exhibits unconditional, spontaneous, unrequited love, similar to the love that Jeremiah reminds us that God exhibits and gives to us. While Lily’s might have been a one-time gift of love toward one man, God’s is everlasting toward all of Israel (and all of God’s children).
Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-4
For the Beauty of the Earth by Folliott S. Pierpont and Lucy Fleming (Illustrator)
(Written for ages 3-8)
Comment: Paul’s letter to the Colossians includes a bit of baptismal language couched in geographic imagery when he speaks of new life in Christ Jesus. The baptism discussion reminds the followers of Christ that they are living a life resurrected with Christ, even now. This life means there is a freedom to live in the world without fear of death or obsessive regard for things that will perish and fade away. Lifting up thoughts, minds, hearts, and prayers to “things above” does not mean abandoning the world we presently inhabit, rather to change our perspective and view the world through the glory of Christ. Since Jesus Christ has been resurrected, and since we are resurrected with him, we rejoice in the good news that death is behind us and live in a new life freed by Christ. Setting our minds on things above” encourages us to recognize new possibilities, new expectations, and new capabilities as children revealed with Christ in glory. Illustrator Lucy Fleming has brought new life to the 1864 Folliot Pierpoint hymn in this book. Her illustrations attached to the powerful words of a hymn celebrating creation, community, family, and faith encourage the reader to “set your mind on things above.” The book shows the majesty of God’s creation. and includes beautiful depictions of relationships. As they reach the chorus pages of the book, the reader cannot help but sing the praises of God and the glory of Christ as they raise “this our song of thankful praise.” Living in a world that can encourage us to keep thoughts on earthly things, it’s always spiritually uplifting to read a story and rest in comforting illustrations that help one to remember to be appreciative for the resurrection with Christ that we receive. And also remember the need for us to keep our thoughts on things above so that we may explore new possibilities, new capabilities, and new expectations as ones raised with Jesus Christ.
Gospel Reading: John 20:1-18
A Fish Named Glub by Dan Bar-el
(Written for ages 6-10)
Comment: Looking a bit differently at the Gospel message from John this week, I’d like to focus on the phrase Jesus offers to Mary Magdalene: “Do not hold onto me…”. When Jesus reveals himself to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, he commands that she not hold onto him but go and share the news with others because he still must ascend the father. This is John’s way of pointing out to us that while Christ has been resurrected, thus providing salvation to all, Jesus had not completed his purpose on earth. In order for death’s defeat to be accomplished he still had to ascend into heaven. Glub is a fish with many big questions about life. While meeting others who help him answer some questions, Glub realizes that there are still many unanswered questions and unfulfilled desires. Glub realizes that his purpose is not to exist in a glass bowl for the entirety of his life, no matter how happy his presence makes others. Mary was grieved over the loss of Jesus, and even more so when his body was missing from the tomb. To her delight and happiness, Jesus appeared to her. He quickly reminded her however, that his presence would soon end as his purpose had not been completed. No matter how overjoyed Mary and Peter and the disciples were to see Christ risen from the grave, they must also hear from him that his purpose was not to remain on earth but to return to God. Both Jesus and Glub recognize what their existences mean to others, but they also share that they have much bigger purposes to fulfill. Christ’s friends, like Glub’s friends, could not hold onto him any longer.
The writer of the Lectionary Links this week is Katie Barrett Todd, Associate University Minister at Nebraska Wesleyan Univeristy in Lincoln, NE. She also leads worship at Dunbar Presbyterian Church, Dunbar, NE.