Read John 9:1-41 with your family.
Sometimes, no matter how much we want to believe in miracles, it is very hard to do. That is what is happening in our story today. This is another long story from the Gospel of John. All of the stories in John teach about how much God loves the world. And these are lessons that usually confuse those in charge because they have a very narrow way of understanding God. They want to believe, but they seem more focused on rules than acts of helping. So when Jesus helps peopled, they automatically try to find what is wrong rather than being happy for the person being helped.
We do that too. So much of the time rather than believing that God is active in our lives, we look for reasons that good or bad things happen for others. We look at our own lives and wonder why those good things didn’t happen for us, and use that as proof that God really isn’t involved.
Instead we should look at miracles as not big things, but little things every day. Most people who talk about God working big things in their lives are people who had big problems to start. When our problems are smaller, it’s hard to see God doing miracles for us too. But small things happen every day:
- People obey the road signs so it’s safe to cross the road
- Rain helps the flowers grow and washes away dirt
- Saying nice words makes people and animals happy
What are some other everyday miracles?
Read John 4:1-42 with your family.
The Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well was well respected by her community as well as by Jesus. When she asked questions he answered, and when she was confused he explained in more detail.
Imagine a woman who had to go to the well every day for water and never having enough, being told there was Living Water that would always be available to her. It’s understandable that she thought Jesus was talking about the water in the well beside them, and she wanted that. Even after Jesus told her the water was a spiritual experience that would always make her soul feel better the way water made her throat fell better, she wanted it. She knew that promise was from the Messiah, and Jesus told her that was who he was. She was overjoyed. She understood. She got her friends to come and talk to Jesus, too.
The disciples were confused by Jesus talking to a woman alone, because that usually wasn’t done in their society, but they didn’t challenge Jesus. They listened as Jesus explained what had happened in terms of harvest. The disciples didn’t understand, so Jesus explained it in more detail. Jesus explained that the harvesting they had to do was gathering people and telling them about God’s love.
People are ‘thirsty’ for the love of God. They want to know they matter and that they are loved. It is up to us, just like the disciples, to tell people how much God loves them. And when these people have their own experience of God’s love, they will tell others, too.
Read John 3:1-17 with your family.
There are two big parts in this story, first Nicodemus trying to understand what it means to be ‘born from above’ (or born again), and the second is verse 16 where we hear God so loved the world that God gave the only son, that whoever has faith in him will have eternal life.
Both of these have been used by people to hurt others, and that shows they don’t understand God’s message at all.
First, to be ‘born from above’ or ‘born again’, means that when we believe in Jesus and follow what he taught us, it’s like we become a new person. Jesus calls us to be different, to love people and help people. “Born again” does not mean you stop being yourself or stop talking to your friends and family, just that the way you behave and the way you talk to others will change.
Second, God loving the world and expecting faith in Jesus does not mean we have to be Christian. The Christian church didn’t even exist when those words were written in the Gospel of John. What it does mean is having faith in God’s love, and Jesus shows us God’s love.
Many people just stay at verse 16 but don’t go on to verse 17, which says that God isn’t going to judge or punish the world. We forget that sometimes. When we fail to follow Jesus teachings, we are always given another chance to try. God wants the world to be good for everyone, and we are responsible as follows of Jesus, to make that happen.
Read Matthew 4:1-11 with your family.
Every year we begin Lent with the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert. This story has a lot of symbolism in it, and the early Christian church would have recognized the connections between Jesus and Moses, and the other stories in the Hebrew Scriptures. The forty days, for instance, was the same length of time Noah was in the ark, that Moses was in the mountains, that Goliath challenged David, and that Elijah walked before reaching Mount Hebron. We also have he Hebrews in the desert for 40 years.
Lent is 40 days. (We take Sundays off because Sundays are holy days and we should be able to praise on those days.)
This is where we encounter the character ‘Satan’ for the first time. In Hebrew this word was “ha-satan”, meaning the satan. It wasn’t a real name, it was a description. Ha in Hebrew means ‘the’, and satan meant the tempter or challenger. It was the job of ha-satan to test Jesus to make sure Jesus remained focus on what God wanted him to do and didn’t get distracted by an easier life.
Ha-satan tempted Jesus in three ways. 1. Get what you want by changing stones into bread. 2. Force God to save you by making unsafe choices. 3. Worship me and I’ll give you all the money and power you want.
Jesus said no each time. He told ha-satan, and reminded himself, that we are to trust God’s word, not challenge God for proof of God’s power, and find our value in God’s teachings, not in money and power.
Read Matthew 17:1-9 with your family.
Trans means change, and Transfiguration means the person of Jesus, his ‘figure’, changed. He was still himself, but there was a new sense of purpose and this time Jesus’ closest friends were there to witness Jesus once again being given the responsibility to make the world different. The disciples were told that Jesus was the one to listen to.
In the Hebrew tradition, Moses represented the laws of the faith, and Elijah represented all the prophets who encouraged people to follow God’s teachings. It is interesting hearing this story in Matthew after we have been assured during the Sermon on the Mount in Chapter 4, that everything Jesus said followed the teachings of both Moses and Elijah.
The earliest followers of Jesus were still trying to figure out how important Jesus was compared to those two great men of the Hebrew tradition. This story shows that all of them, Jesus, Moses and Elijah, were in agreement and socialized together, however Jesus was the one with the message that was now to be followed.
Jesus was not going to say anything from either Moses or Elijah was wrong or needed to be changed, he was going to take those teachings and explain them further so people could do what God wanted them to do.
Read Matthew 3:13-17 with your family.
Baptism is the special ritual Christian share to welcome someone into our family of God. This is one of the few practices we know was around when Jesus was alive.
Jesus wanted John to baptize him, even though John knew Jesus was God’s son. Jesus showed John, and all of us at the same time, that we all belong, and one of us is not more important than anyone else.
Baptism is a time when we publicly see that everyone is part of the family of God, and that we are all one family. It is the ritual where we see God loves us and thinks we are absolutely perfect just as we are. We are all beloved by God.
Read Matthew 2:13-23 with your family.
We don’t spend a lot of time talking about Jesus as a child, and that is unfortunate. We have two stories from Jesus’ childhood, one when he is 13 and he stayed behind in the temple, scaring his parents (Luke 2:41-52), and this story from when Jesus was about 2 years old and the king wanted to kill him.
When we see pictures on the news or online that show families forced to leave their homes and travel to new countries, it is important to remember that that happened to Jesus, too. When we welcome refugees, it is like we are welcoming Jesus all over again.
Read Luke 2:1-20 with your family.
Enjoy this story with Mary and Joseph and angels and shepherds and Baby Jesus. It is the most beautiful story we can share in our Christian faith.
Read Matthew 1:18-25 with your family.
In first century Palestine, the Hebrew tradition of marriage was you promise yourselves and tell everyone about it, then after one year the wife moves in with her husband. Only after the second part are they allowed to have babies.
Mary and Joseph had only finished the first part, and now Mary was pregnant.
Joseph was upset, and even though he wanted to end the agreement, he didn’t want to hurt Mary.
Angels were messengers, and that was how Joseph found out Mary did nothing wrong and hadn’t set out to upset him.
This story shows how great a man Joseph was. He could have been very mean to Mary and no one would have said a word against him. However, he chose to be kind, and then after the angel’s visit, he chose to be supportive AND the father of Mary’s baby.
We can see how special a father Joseph was to Jesus, because Jesus was always comparing God’s love for us with a father’s love. The only way Jesus would have made that connection is if Joseph had loved Jesus like that first.
Read Matthew 11:2-11 with your family.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we don’t know if John and Jesus had ever met or talked about their ministry. In today’s story, John sent his messenger to question Jesus, since John was in prison at the time.
Jesus takes John’s messenger seriously and gives him a plain answer – that is not something Jesus normally did. Jesus usually turned the question back on the one asking and made them give some answers first. Not this time. Jesus sent the message back to John that he was the one John had been talking about. It must have made John feel relieved knowing the Messiah was now with the people, just as John had told them would happen.
Then Jesus turned to the crowds around and did not give a plain answer, but rather asked them what they were looking for. They had watched the conversation between Jesus and John’s messenger and were curious. Jesus asked them who they thought John was and what they thought was going on. John did not share an easy message, in fact his message was very harsh. John told them they had to stop their poor behaviours and put others ahead of themselves.
The Gospel story quotes another part of the Hebrew scripture, this time Malachi 3:1, which reminded all the listens around Jesus that God’s coming is not just a happy thing, but also something that challenges everyone. God is not going to tell us all we are doing a great job, but instead will tell us what we need to do better.
Jesus tells them John might be the most amazing person on earth at the moment, but with God’s new world everyone is expected to be even better than John.