Category Archives: Matthew

The story of the EPIPHANY

Revisiting the Epiphany Story

Before you begin with the story-watching/learning process, check out this beautiful song by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, musician, Psalm scholar and liturgical theologian! His gift to us this Epiphany. You can see/hear more of Richard’s work at Worldmaking Publishing and Psalm Immersion –or hear his wonderful weekly segment on the Pulpit Fiction Podcast!



Matthew 2:1-12
As told by Elizabeth Adkisson



HOMAGE–What does it mean to “pay homage”? To pay homage is to pay respect. The wise men wanted to go to find Jesus to show him respect and honor him. Do you think King Herod really wanted to find baby Jesus to “pay him homage”? In what ways did the magi (the “wise men”) pay him homage? How would you or have you paid someone homage?

EPIPHANY This story is called the story of the “Epiphany.” An “epiphany” is an appearance–often an incredibly special one. On January 6, we celebrate the Epiphany (appearance) of Jesus Christ to the Magi (wise men).


For all ages:

***What makes someone wise? Who are the wise men and women that you know today? Who are the wise people in the world?

***Get out your “nativity set” (it can be an actual nativity set or just about any kind of moveable objects)! Since most nativity sets don’t have Herod (he’s not the most popular guy), find something to play Herod. Got a Darth Vader figure, great! Even a salt shaker will do. Be creative! As Ms. Adkisson’s story plays, have your family play out the Epiphany scene. (You can also read another version of the story here.) Then try to tell it yourself as you move the pieces around. (What parts of the story did you remember? What was left out?) manger4

For the older set:

***If I were telling this story, in order to connect with Herod, I might think about a time I struggled with jealousy (fear that something I have will be taken away by someone else). Recall a story of jealousy from your own life.

***Later in Matthew, Jesus says this: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:25) Are you worried about what might be taken away from you (or what you might have to give up) in order to follow God? Tell a story about a time you gave something up to follow God–or witnessed someone else make a sacrifice to follow God.

Improv Wisdom

I begin 2016 with a great joy–getting to participate in an improv class through Washington Improv Theater. I have always loved theater and improv, but have not taken formal classes since I was in school. I have wonderful friends who are doing serious work on the theology of improv–check their blogs out here and here. I am particularly interested in the ways improv can aid us in going deeper into the biblical stories and our stories. While I hope to post more on the connection between improv and storytelling/learning, it strikes me that today’s story involves a great deal of improv on the part of the wise men.

One of the first rules of improv is to say, “YES”–to agree to the situation presented to you, and to move on from there. Much like in life, especially when life throws us unexpected circumstances which force us to be flexible and adjust, for improv to “work,” one must be willing to enter in to what is being offered. The brilliant Tina Fey has a great description of “Yes, AND” in her book, Bossypants:

The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if you say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You ________!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun….

The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own…. To me YES, AND means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion.

In what ways do you see the wise men saying, “yes” to the circumstances presumably unusual circumstances unfolding before them?

The Resurrection Story: as seen and told by women


Matthew 28: 1-10, 16-20
as told by “ByHeart”–Shelley Gnade and Mary-beth Howard (beginning at 2:30)
with opening commentary by Dr. Tom Boomershine
a video produced by The Seed Company in conjunction with the Network of Biblical Storytellers

For more of the Seed Company/NBS stories click HERE.

telling TOGETHER

Shelley and Mary-beth are an incredible storytelling duo based out of Delaware. They are amazing. I am always inspired by what happens when the story is told by more than one person.  I had my first experience of actually doing it at the NEXT Church conference–Jeff Krehbiel and I told a story together. My initial preparations were done alone. When Jeff and I got together to practice, I was amazed by the new things I saw/experienced in the text because of the space that was made present in telling it together.

For all ages: Try telling this story (or another) with a partner! Read the story aloud a few times, and begin by remembering it TOGETHER (in your own words).

For the younger set: Grown ups and kids tell together. For the folks with really young children–start simple–read the story aloud and give them a cue when it’s time to say “DO NOT BE AFRAID!”

Here is the story broken up for telling (CEB):  Matthew 28: 1-10, 16-20.


Telling our way to Jerusalem


Matthew 21:1-11
as told by Rev. Jeff Krehbiel


When learning a story by heart, it is helpful to have a clear idea of what the “Most Important Thing” (MIT) is for your story. Stand up and read Matthew 21 aloud while walking around a few times. What is your initial sense of the MIT for the story?

I am struck with the ties Matthew makes to the Hebrew Testament. After Jesus gives instructions to his disciples (go get a donkey, etc.), Matthew then reminds us of  Zecharaiah 9:9:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
    triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Consider the phrase that leads into it: “This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet….” According to Matthew, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is a fulfillment of Scripture. This includes the way he gets there: Jesus comes into Jerusalem from the East via the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).

As the original teller, perhaps Matthew’s “MIT” is the fulfillment of prophecy. Try telling the story keeping this in mind. How can you make the significance of this fulfillment clear ?

Sometimes (often?) deciphering the MIT does not happen until you’ve already internalized the story…keep at it! Of course, the MIT you choose today, may not be the MIT you will choose the next time you tell the story!


Here is a copy of the story: Matthew 21

For all ages:

Map it out! Take a piece of paper and mark out where all the people/places are in your mind. Now, where are you, the storyteller? Tell the story with your “map” in mind.

For the younger set:

Play it out! Get out any kind of figures (as always, even salt and pepper shakers will do). Have someone read the story while the kids move the pieces…now switch roles. Once you’ve done this a few times, put your “script” down and just tell the story!


Hosanna: The word “hosanna” is translated as “save, please.” In this story, “hosanna” is used as a greeting of praise.

Prophet: noun
1 : one who declares publicly a message that one believes has come from God or a god
2 : one who foretells future events
(from Miriam-Webster “Student” dictionary online:


  Check back here for a short clip in which Jeff Krehbiel tells us about his own storytelling practices in worship.

My favorite tellers: Reflecting on Lent with Children


Children tell Matthew 4:1-11
Filmed/Edited by Alex Bryant

My own kids can’t stop watching.

This is how we do it…

We filmed this in an hour. We removed kids one-by-one from our intergenerational church school program (focused on Matthew 4:1-11) to tell the story. Each child who volunteered was given a line to learn on the spot and then coached by me. They had already encountered the story in church school, but we talked about why the devil said what he said…and why Jesus responded the way he did. The kids were amazing. I imagine they’ll be proud as they watch themselves tell the story…and that the whole story will continue to grow in them through the watching. My own kids, who did not participate, have watched it many, many times. My daughter wanted to know why some of the kids were wagging their fingers! (She was engaging in discussion around gestures!) There is so much to love about this video, but what excites me is that as much as I melt every time I see these kids tell the story–I think my kids enjoyed watching it just as much (if not more). All participants in this production were authorized to be filmed and put online by our parent/guardian release form. 


We used the film as the start to our Lenten worship stations program. Following the debut of the film, people were invited to participate in worship stations set up through the sanctuary. Here is one of our activities:

lent rocks

The devil asked Jesus (who was VERY hungry) to prove that he was the Son of God by turning to a stone to bread. Jesus refused, saying, “It is written: One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

1. Read the blessing of stones left for you.
2. Put those stones back and create your own blessing to be left for the person that will come after you at the table. Be creative!
3. Before you leave this station, take a picture of your stone sentence.

Another activity was displayed on our projector–a chance to OBSERVE Lent. It was inspired by something I read on Theresa Cho’s amazing interactive prayer station website. Here is the video: