for Epiphany 2016: Coloring the Psalms

After the busyness of the Christmas season, Epiphany comes as a breath of fresh air.  Winter continues, and we have a little time to breathe before Lent and Easter make our church lives busy again.  One of the increasingly popular ways to breathe, relax, meditate, and process is adult coloring books — intricately designed black-and-white images that invite the reader to engage and enjoy.  By combining the new imagery of meditative coloring with the traditional words of the psalmists, we create space to engage with the psalms of the lectionary time between Epiphany and Lent.

The following are hand-drawn images suitable for printing.  Each highlights a verse from the psalm for the day.  These meditative coloring images offer a chance to engage with the words of the psalmists and with lectionary texts we may not normally notice.

Continue reading “for Epiphany 2016: Coloring the Psalms”


for Transfiguration Sunday: Dazzling White (Paraments, Scripture, and Lights)

White paraments

Transfiguration Sunday leads us from the celebration of Epiphany into the solemnity of Lent.  We read the story of Jesus on the mountaintop with Peter and James and John, and the sudden dazzling white of his clothes.  We experience the full glory of Christ, standing alongside powerful representatives of the Law and the Prophets, acknowledged to be the beloved son by God’s own voice.

The disciples present with Jesus are overwhelmed by the sights and sounds on the mountain.  We can invite our congregations to experience their amazement by accompanying the scripture readings with actions that are visually engaging.  We can draw attention to the coming change in liturgical seasons by bringing focus to the paraments and worship elements.

This idea uses white altar cloths and paraments and sets them during worship, at key points in the lectionary readings highlighting specific parts of the texts and drawing attention to the way the paraments visually craft the worship space.  Paraments are set out during the reading of scripture.  Alternatively, the lights are dimmed during the gospel and slowly raised again.

Continue reading “for Transfiguration Sunday: Dazzling White (Paraments, Scripture, and Lights)”

for Epiphany 2015: Gifts of God


After the busyness of the Christmas season, Epiphany comes as a breath of fresh air.  Winter continues, and we have a little time to breathe before Lent and Easter make our church lives busy again.  In the midst of our rest, we can reflect on gifts — not the gifts we sent and received for Christmas, but the gifts God offers each day.  The psalmists, in their songs of praise and lament, have given us a whole book of words for what God has done and continues to do.

The following are handwritten images suitable for use as bulletin covers — and designed to be colored!  Each highlights a verse from the psalm for the day, specifically one that names something God has given.  These bulletin covers offer a chance to engage with the gifts of God (via coloring, which is one of the best ways!) and with lectionary texts we may not normally notice.

Continue reading “for Epiphany 2015: Gifts of God”

for Epiphany: The Sound of God Speaking


Epiphany is the season of the church year when we are invited to dwell deeply in the texts that begin Jesus’ ministry.  An epiphany is a revelation — a gift of insight, a “Eureka!” moment, the experience of the burning bush.  Epiphany is the season when we remember the stories of God’s rude interruption into ordinary lives:  Samuel, Jonah, Elijah and Elisha, the disciples … and our own.

Adding new sounds to worship is one way to re-create that experience of surprise and interruption.  Here are a few ideas for ways to wake up ears during Epiphany…

Continue reading “for Epiphany: The Sound of God Speaking”

Blue Christmas / Longest Night

Advent and Christmas are seasons of expectation, celebration, and rejoicing.  Yet many people still struggle and suffer, for a multitude of reasons:  broken families, deep grieving, financial hardship, physical illness, hunger, homelessness, and … the list heartbreakingly goes on.

Some churches have chosen to acknowledge this by offering a Blue Christmas worship service, also called The Longest Night.

Below is a collection of resources for developing such a worship service. Continue reading “Blue Christmas / Longest Night”

for Advent 2014: The Feel of Waiting


The short season of Advent is rich in liturgy and text.  The setting and worship space call us to the season of anticipation in a variety of ways.  One way to engage with the season is to fill the baptismal font with objects that call out themes in the day’s scripture readings.  (These objects could also be set to the side of the font, on a stand, if replacing the water in the font is not desired.)  Placing something new in the baptismal font engages lesser-used senses like smell and touch, and brings attention to the lectionary readings in a new way.

Sunday Scripture Object
Advent 1,
November 30
Mark 13:24-37:  “Keep alert” Lit candles
Advent 2,
December 7
Isaiah 40:1-11:  “In the wilderness”
Mark 1:1-8:  John the Baptist
Advent 3,
December 14
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11:  “A garland instead of ashes” Pine needles
Advent 4,
December 21
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16:  “A house of cedar”
Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26:  “God the rock of my salvation”
Cedar chips or stones

Continue reading “for Advent 2014: The Feel of Waiting”

for Advent: Prayers of the People stations


The “Christmas season” (between Thanksgiving and Christmas) is a frantic time.  Families are coordinating travel, stores are packed from open to close, and budgets and patience are stretched as we try to find the perfect gift for everyone on our list.

During Advent 2012, Light of the World Lutheran Church (in Dakota County, Minn.) turned the Prayers of the People into prayers by the people.  Small decorated tables were set up throughout the worship space to encourage reflective prayer.

We can invite worshippers into a time of rest and peace by creating space during the Prayers of the People for quiet reflection, guided meditation, and focused prayer. Continue reading “for Advent: Prayers of the People stations”

for Advent: Community-Made Icon

During Advent 2012, the community of Light of the World Lutheran Church worked together to craft an icon, made of cut-up Christmas ads.  The idea came from House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver:

HFASS Advent Icon

“This is the icon we created during liturgy over the 4 weeks of Advent. Every piece of this is from ‘Christmas’ ads: circulars, catalogs and all that junk that comes in the mail and the newspaper. We created 1/4 of it each week. An Artist in the community traced the image onto poster board indicating what color should go in each shape. People ages 6-65 cut out the right color from the ads and glued it in the space. Easy and subversive.” (Nadia Bolz-Weber, Sarcastic Lutheran, December 29, 2008)

During the Christmas season, we are bombarded with the idea that we don’t have enough.  This activity is meant to call us to remember what we’ve already been given. Continue reading “for Advent: Community-Made Icon”

for Thanksgiving: A Table Full of Hope


At Thanksgiving, many people share what they’re currently thankful for.  This idea provides a tangible way for the community to wonder about what they hope to be thankful for in a year from now.  Writing or drawing these “thankful hopes” on plates further reminds us of our daily bread and God’s provision — past, present, and future.

During worship, members will be invited to answer the question:  What would you like to be thankful for, one year from now?

  1.  Each member can write their answer on a paper plate.
  2.  The plates are collected during offering.
  3.  Ushers stack the plates and bring them forward with the offering.
  4.  Communion is served using the plates.

Through this, the congregation physically contributes to the communion table, and sees their hopes gathered into one.  Jesus’ promise to be present in the breaking of the bread extends into our past, present, and our future.  Our hopes are gathered into God. Continue reading “for Thanksgiving: A Table Full of Hope”