Category Archives: John

Who Tells God’s Story?

Watch and Wonder

The Woman at the Well
John 4: 5-42

 

Do Tell!

In this story, Jesus sees this woman, this foreign woman, this woman he has NO BUSINESS being with (“Jews and Samaritans do not share things in common!”)–he sees her and reflects back to her the story of her life. In turn, in being seen, she begins to see Jesus for who he is– she sees the story of God unfolding before her. “Could this really be the Messiah?”

Suddenly her story and God’s story are bound together. She runs off to her people to tell them–I have met a man who told me my story, a man who might just be the savior of the world. 

In being known by God, and in witnessing God’s work in Jesus Christ, this woman is compelled to tell God’s story. She becomes God’s story-bearer to the Samaritans. Hearing God’s story come from the Samaritan woman at the well gives it special meaning and purpose–in her telling it, we glimpse more fully what God intends for God’s kingdom.

If I have learned one thing in my time storytelling, it is this: the stories of God belong to ALL people, and should be told by ALL people. So when I was asked to put together an ensemble of first time storytellers for the NEXT Church national gathering of the PC(USA), I was thrilled. The more we can hear these stories told and interpreted by others, especially folks who do not share the same life experience, the more fully we are able to see God’s story.

Tell a Story

As part of your reflecting on this text, tell a story you felt seen/known.

Reflect

  1. For what do you thirst?
  2. What does “living water” look like for you? What feeds and sustains you?
  3. Who in your life is able to tell your story?
  4. If you could tell God’s story in two sentences, what would they be?

 

Image courtesy of The Presbyterian Outlook from the NEXT Church National Gathering (2017)

What does it take to SEE Jesus? (John 20:19-31)

A previous post–updated!

Each year on the second Sunday of Easter we encounter the story of Thomas. This year the story seems especially important. Will we let fear and doubt be our primary narratives, or will we learn to tell a different story?

WATCH and WONDER

John 20:19-31
as told by Casey FitzGerald

BREAK IT down

A great way to start remembering the story as an adult and to help children get the basics is to break it down to the main points. Yes, the details are very important…but you will be able to tell the story with much more confidence (and remember it better) if you know the key parts. This is akin to naming “episodes,” but with full descriptive sentences.

For the younger set: You may want to learn the story summaries in parts. To begin, just learn the initial appearance. If I were breaking it up into a child-friendly summary, it might look something like this:

  • Jesus had been killed
  • The disciples locked themselves in a house because they were afraid.
  • Jesus appeared in the locked room!
  • He said, “Peace be with you.”
  • The disciples rejoiced because Jesus was ALIVE!

Before learning the “abridged” version, be sure to read/tell the whole section/story aloud so that they can hear it from you first. HERE is a link to the story from GoTell Communications. After reading/telling the whole story, learn the simple version. See if they can repeat the story. See if they can remember what was left out in the simple version (i.e., showing his hands and side).

seeing JESUS

This is one of my all-time favorite stories. It was the first that I recorded for my certification through the Academy for Biblical Storytelling. I thought about showing you that recording and letting you compare, but I’m not quite ready for that yet. Let’s just say I moved around…A LOT. I most recently told it at the 2015 NEXT Church national gathering.

There are so many reasons to love this story. Though it’s often called the “doubting Thomas” story, it is clear that the other disciples also doubted. The other disciples also had to SEE to believe. (They don’t actually recognize Jesus until he shows them his wounds: he showed them his hands and his sides–THEN the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.)

I love the ending commentary of the story:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples,
which are not written in this book.
But these are written so that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Messiah,
the Son of God,
and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Though we don’t see Jesus in the way that the disciples did in that locked house…it just might be that we see him when we hear and tell the stories. These stories of Jesus are the means through which we have LIFE.

So GO and TELL!

in a room filled with fear

A story from last year (2014):

A few months ago, I got a call in my office from the administrative assistant–“Don’t leave, we are on lock-down.” In the late morning, a beloved woman in the church neighborhood received a knock on her door and was gunned down by a stranger. So we were on lock-down. It happened that the lock-down was enforced just minutes before the release of our weekday preschool. Parents waited in locked cars in our parking lot. Kids sheltered in dark bathrooms. Our teachers made instant transformations into heroes. And we waited…locked in the church. Police with dogs and guns came, searching the building as their colleagues searched the neighborhood. Rumors of ties to other unsolved local murders swept twitter-feeds and the news outlets. It was scary at the time, but perhaps more scary in the days following…especially for our parents.

Lying in bed that night, I was trying to imagine what story I would tell myself and the members of my church (many of whom reside in this neighborhood, many of whom knew and loved the victim). I thought about the parents in the parking lot…how afraid they must have been…and how, because the murderer had not (and has not) been caught, I could not offer them easy assurances. The threat still seemed to loom. That’s when I remembered this story from John. The disciples had real reasons to be afraid. Their leader had been crucified. They were under threat of similar persecution. They were mourning and fearful. So they locked themselves in a house and tried to regroup. In the midst of this fear and sorrow, Jesus entered with the gift of peace…and everything changed. Actually, nothing on the outside changed. They still had every reason to fear the authorities. Yet, in that moment when they saw the risen Lord, they were freed from the bonds of fear. Jesus’ appearance re-framed their story. The details are mostly the same, but the way that they saw the world was forever changed. “Peace be with you,” Jesus said…and they rejoiced.

I told myself the story a few times that week. In simple ways I told it to a number of members. Seeing the risen Lord has the power to re-frame all of our stories.

May the peace of Jesus Christ enter into every fear-filled room in which you find yourself.

 

Kids Tell The Nicodemus Story!

Here is the video we filmed a few years ago! If you are interested in a family liturgy around this story–please visit Practicing Families!

 

Episode 15: The Vine Abides

StoryDivine.com is experiencing technical difficulties–so enjoy this week’s podcast here!

Easter 5B

Casey FitzGerald tells John 15:1-11

Find the video story (along with storytelling ideas for all ages) from Acts 8:26-40 at Faith and Wonder (or just scroll down!)

Come to the Festival Gathering of the Network of Biblical Storytellers this August!

Find Jason Chesnut of The Slate Project HERE

Tracy Radosevic, Storyteller, Dean of the Academy for Biblical Storytelling

 

Nicodemus and the children: Lent 2 Stories and Stations

In case any of you are working on the RCL text this week–here are stations based on the FIRST HALF of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus along with our kid telling!

And check out Story Divine for a telling of the whole story!

WATCH and WONDER
Kids tell John 3:1-10, 16-17

This is a tricky story to have the kids tell–it’s hard for adults to understand! What I am learning from these experiences of putting the kids on video is that so much more of the learning of the story happens in the watching–not the participating. This is not surprising, but I continue to be surprised by how engaged the kids are in watching the story. I chose to leave out verses 11-15 because I thought it would be too much for the kids to do without a lot of unpacking. Normally when I tell stories, I do not omit verses. I also used the Common English Bible (CEB) for the telling. It is much easier for kids to speak aloud (and often for people to understand). On occasion, we changed some of the language to accommodate the kids, but I do not believe this sacrificed the integrity of the story in any way! Here is the CEB version of John 3.

If you want to hear the story told in full and begin to learn it yourself, see my previous post with links to Tim Coomb’s telling.

WORSHIP stations

Our worship stations this week included the following:

Lent prayer wall 2

Prayer wall (week 2): My husband and I constructed this prayer wall out of wood and chicken wire–then we painted it with chalkboard paint. Each week something different is written on it. Participants were asked to pray about something concerning birth, life, death, or new life–writing it one a slip of red paper (a new color each week) and putting it in the wall.Global Prayers (week 2): Last week we circled places we were praying for…this week participants were asked to write words that named the things that come into the world through the gift of God’s son.Lent globe prayers 1 Lent globe 2Water and Spirit: The notion of being born of “water and spirit” can be a bit…puzzling. Participants were asked to take a puzzle piece and draw an image of water or spirit. They were also asked to take an edge piece and write a word or phrase which described what it might look like to be born of water and spirit.Lent puzzles 2Lent puzzlesLent ROCKS: This week, remembering that Nicodemus recognized Jesus as a teacher from God, we used our rock words to teach one another. Each participant left a “teaching” for the next participant to read. (We had each person take a picture of their rock teachings.)

Lent rocks 2
Tell me a STORY: Our “story booth” continued with the recording of stories about “encounters with strangers.” Stay tuned for more info next week…we had one elementary school boy tell us about meeting his friend for the first time and their subsequent formation of the “Elemental Buddies.” LOVE.

We also played back our stories of birth, adoption, and new beginnings in the narthex. Amazing. (I hope to post some of these later…but I need some more time to edit!) Lent story stations

Finally, we set aside part of the sanctuary for telling stories of birth and adoption. Baby dolls were put out for the youngest kids. Folks were encouraged to tell their children stories of their births…and folks who did not come with children were encouraged to tell someone the story of their own birth or adoption.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, we also premiered our video.Lent video pic

 

 

Worship Stations for Lent: Part 2

Last year I posted information on our worship stations for our Wednesday night Lenten suppers…but I posted them after they occurred. This meant I could tell you about the stations, what went well, what didn’t–and you could see pictures. This year the only pictures will be borrowed from other sites that have done the projects–my own photos to be inserted later! My thanks to my colleague Patty Chamberlain and our Children’s ministry team members for brainstorming with me!

One final note–as these are for Wednesday nights beginning the week after Ash Wednesday, and focus on the scripture for the following Sundays–there is no “Lent 1″ section! Click HERE for Part I.

LENT 3
Story: Jesus and the Money Lenders
John 2:13-22

Recurring Stations

Look for a variation of these stations each week. In addition to these, there will be 1-2 “special stations” each week.

1. Story video

Thanks to the amazing Alex Bryant for filming and editing. 🙂 It was so fun to work with these kids again…especially noticing how the older ones have grown and changed…and inviting our newest recruits. LOVE THIS WORK.

2. Prayer WallLent prayer wall 2

Prayer prompt will say: “Jesus was upset because people were focused on themselves, and not on God. Write a prayer saying “sorry” to God. We call this a “prayer of confession.” When you are done, make sure to read what the wall says and remember you are forgiven!” (The wall will say: “God sees you, forgives you, loves you.”)

Supplies: Prayer wall (made from wood, chicken wire, chalkboard paint), red slips of paper, markers, instruction sheet.

3. Book Nook

Book nook pic

Featured stories: Enemies of Slavery by David A. Adler (8 & up) and The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia C. McKissack (4-8)

Thanks again to Storypath for their incredible resource! I have taken the description of the stories (written by Katie Todd) and put them in the inside cover of the books for parents to read and consider.

4. Tell Me a Story

Instructions: Tell a story about a time you were angry. Did people know you were angry? How? What did you do to calm down? (Got an idea for calming down, write it on a post-it note and stick it on the poster!)

Supplies: Poster-board, post-it notes, instructions

5. Sanctuary Sleuths

magnifying-glass-021114-ykwv1

Instructions:

  • Pick ONE card
  • Answer the question on the card by investigating the sanctuary
  • When you have the answer, write your name and the answer and place the card in the “answered” basket!

I also included Sleuth Levels

Below are links to the different levels (to be printed on corresponding sheet colors and cut out):
Pink Sanctuary Sleuths
Green Sanctuary Sleuths
Blue Sanctuary Sleuths

6. Making Crosses: Praying the News

Lent cross

Newspaper clippings/headlines are glued on large cross as we pray the news and remember that Jesus came to redeem all.

Questions to consider: How would the story you chose make God feel?

Supplies: Large wooden cross, Mod Podge, brushes, drop cloth, scissors, instructions, newspapers, magazines

 

 

 7. Pew Labyrinth

Labyrinthweekone

This station was the big winner last week…so we are putting a new one in this week. The picture to the left is of last week’s labyrinth. For last week, I had everyone choose a word to walk with on their labyrinth journey. This week I may have them all focus on one word.

 

Below is a drawing of my plans for this week. (There are places it overlaps, but we are limited by bolted-down pews!)Labyplansweek2

Supplies: blue painters tape…and lots of it!

 

 

 

 

New Station

8. With our Hands

Using an idea based on Beth Williams’ worship room at APCE, Patty Chamberlain used an old moving chalkboard, strung Christmas lights across it, then put pieces of white paper (the kind on rolls) on top (so that it is back-lit). Using somewhat transparent colored paper, participants will trace their hands, cut them out and write/draw based on the following prompt:

People in the temple used their hands to sell animals and lend money–taking advantage of those who traveled to the temple for Passover. Jesus used his hands to turn over the tables, to point them out the door, and to remind them about what God wants. On your hand cut-out, use words or pictures to show how YOU can use your hands to do God’s work.

The hands will then be glued on the wall.

Take a copy of the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila home with you–read it at least once a day this week as you consider how God is working through you.

Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

(Taken from HERE.)

Supplies: Christmas lights, large board, transparent-colored paper, scissors, glue sticks, instructions, large roll of white paper, glue

Pictures to follow!

HERE IS A PDF OF ALL THE INSTRUCTION SHEETS FOR THIS WEEK!
Lent 3 Worship Station Instructions

 

Raising Lazarus through Story (Kids tell John 11)

WATCH and WONDER

Kids tell John 11:38-44

 

WEEK 5 WORSHIP STATIONS

Our texts for this week were Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:38-44. Along with watching the two story videos, the worship stations focused on God “making all things new,” (Rev. 21:5). 
It was sort of a catch-all kind of night…as it was to be our last supper for the season, we wanted to incorporate something of Holy Week and Easter.

dry bones kids

CREATIVE LISTENING While watching Ezekiel 37, kids were invited to draw in the aisle. I explained to them what I had experienced at the NEXT Church conference thanks to the incredible pastor/artist Shawna Bowman. At the close of my NEXT talk, as I told a personal story and Ecclesiastes 3, Shawna created. I wanted the kids to have something of this experience. We put paper and crayons down the center aisle, away we went!

Dry bones art

 I think it was helpful that they had heard the story already the previous Sunday. It was also discussed in the children’s time during worship (though this somehow morphed momentarily into a discussion on zombies).

 

PRAYER WALL In our final week, we did not write down prayers…we offered prayer for prayers. Each person was invited to take down a few prayers from the wall and plant it in the soil in our flower pots. Flowers will be planted on top of the prayers. (At the Western Wall in Jerusalem, prayers are periodically removed and planted in the ground.) When planting, people were invited to  pray for others and ask God to make us all new. (I kept the stations a little more simple this week…watching two videos would occupy more time than usual.

Lent 5 prayer wall

STORY TIME Participants were invited to tell each other stories of Easter. (Yes, it’s that simple–just tell a story.)

GLOBAL PRAYERS At the right is a poster that I made with the kids at the start of Lent (in our Sunday school Making all things new posterprogram)–the idea was taken from Flame: Creative Children’s Ministry. The poster was displayed above our “Global Prayers” station.

New Earth GlobeFor our Global Prayers this week, participants were invited to coat the world with glitter-filled Mod Podge while thanking God for making all things new.

ROCK WORDS For our final week with our rocks, participants were asked to pick a rock word and take it home with them–placing it in a plastic Easter egg–to be hidden and found on Easter morning.

PATCHWORK “QUILT” Someone randomly dropped off a huge bag of paint chips for church school. We decided to make something new–a paper quilt. Everyone took a square and drew symbols of Easter. The quilt will be displayed on Easter morning.

LAST SUPPER We actually made this during our intergenerational education experience the previous week, but it was finished and displayed for the worship station time–and I just love it. Kids were invited to paint themselves into the Last Supper scene. I used three large canvas pieces and painted a table at the bottom and Jesus in the center. I then penciled in circles for heads (just to give some placement help to kids). I wasn’t in the room when they added themselves in (as well as a sun!)–when I saw their finished portraits, it took my breath away. This was a wonderful activity that definitely could have been done as a worship station. Because they are on canvas, we can always add another leaf to the table…I think Jesus would like that.

Last Supper kids Painting

I am done with the children’s videos for a while, and going back to the story-learning blog format…but I am sure the kids will be back to tell more stories soon enough!

 

The Children at the Well: Lent 3 video and stations

WATCH and WONDER

Kids tell John 4

I had very limited recording time this week–and the woman at the well story is about 40 verses–so this is our abridged version! To put the story into context, I added some commentary at the beginning and end. I prefer not to interfere with the kids’ magic, but I also wanted to put the story in context. Because of the lack of time, I was also forced to film quickly–which meant a lot of choppy shots! I used some repetition to try to adjust. As we create these videos, more ideas are coming to mind about how best to prepare for them–but these ideas will probably not be enacted until after our Lent videos are done. 🙂 HERE is a link to the full story.

I was thrilled this week to get an email from our wonderful missions staff person who wanted to know if it might be possible to have some of the kids from communities (national and international) that we support help to tell these stories. YES!!! People are talking about ways this sort of format might connect people–it is truly exciting.

WEEK 3 WORSHIP STATIONS

FILMING! This week, in lieu of recording stories in our story booth, we filmed a new story to be debuted on Sunday during worship (this will help give the whole congregation an idea of what is happening on Wednesday nights). We used both adults and children to tell the story this week–stay tuned!

GLOBAL PRAYERS Our prayers with the globe continued this week as we focused on water issues throughout the world. World Water Day was on March 22, and since our story was about the meeting at the well, I could not think of a more appropriate focus. I displayed water fact sheets I found through www.unwater.org concerning water issues throughout the world. I also included some samples from their  Children’s Letters to Ministers PDF. The participants were asked to draw droplets of water on the countries they would be praying for this week.

THE WELL Using scraps of material from our storage, I turned the baptismal font into an overflowing well. well 1 well 2Inside the font I placed paper droplets of water with words on them. Instructions were as follows:

  1. Remember that Jesus Christ offers LIVING WATER for our deepest thirsts.
  2. Approach the “well” and take a drop of water from the font.
  3. Use your water word to reflect this week.

Here is the link to my PDF of the drops: take what you need water drops

glad we met 1

GLAD WE MET Jesus is a stranger to the Samaritan woman, but because of their encounter, her life is transformed. At this station, people will encouraged to write a note to a person they are thankful to know. We provided cards, envelopes, and offered to mail them for those with addresses on hand.

Gushing up

GUSHING UP! Jesus said, “The water that I give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4: 14)

Jesus’ gift of “living water” is something that becomes a part of us. He says it will “gush up” in us! At this station I attempted to have people begin to create the water gushing up with their fingerprints. My idea was to then draw in a figure with lifted hands (as if behind the water)…they were supposed to stay within the lines (see image on left, where I have drawn said lines).

gushing up 2

 

Yeah, that did NOT happen (see totally out of control image on right)! At first I was trying to think of ways to “fix it”–but the truth is, they made the water truly gush up…despite my trying to control it. Somehow I’ll get a person in the picture…a person bursting with living water!!!

 

STORY BOOTH Finally, we had our story booth stories–focused on stories of meeting. These are terrific. You can find them for a limited time here. Special thanks to Alex Bryant for editing these!

A lot more than John 3:16–Lent 2 for Telling

WATCH and WONDER

John 3:1-17
As told by Rev. Timothy Coombs
Recorded for the Network of Biblical Storytellers
Link to full text HERE

This is the story for the second Sunday of Lent. I love Tim’s portrayal of Jesus and the way he tells the story as a conversation (because it IS a conversation). Jesus does not speak from “on high”–he does not condescend–he tries his best to explain to Nicodemus what it means to be born again (or, as the NRSV translates, “born from above”).

What did YOU notice about the way Tim told the story? Who is Nicodemus in this telling? Who is Jesus? To whom do you relate?

EMBODY it!

Gestures can greatly enhance the telling of a story. While it’s best not to overdo it, while you are learning the story try on gestures. Some questions for consideration when using gestures: Does the gesture feel natural? Does the gesture further the audience’s understanding of the story? Are you gesturing in the “right” direction? Are you committed to the gesture? Does it need to be a BIG gesture, or will a more subtle gesture do?

Play with the line below…what gestures might Jesus use as he explains his point to Nicodemus in your telling?

Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Go back to the video and observe the way Tim uses gesture–it is both natural and intentional.

yOUR stories

For all ages: 

*Tell a story of birth or adoption.

*Tell a story about a time you got a second chance.

For the older set:

We often hear the words of John 3:16 alone: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” These words are sometimes used as a means of exclusion. Some of us even have baggage around them. Tell a story of a time you felt included or excluded within the Christian community.

MORE to TELL

Watch Timothy Coombs as he discusses his use of performance criticism in learning the story.

Check out the website Biblical Performance Criticism for more information on performance critcism.