Tag Archives: Jesus

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?


John 20:19-31
as told by Casey FitzGerald


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.


Don’t you even care?!?!

Learning Mark 4 BY HEART

Today we’ll use three steps to work toward learning Mark 4:35-41 by heart. These three steps can be done by almost every age. If you have non-readers, have them repeat the story out-loud after you when reading is required.

Step 1: Read-Aloud

Click on the text from Mark to see a PDF version of the story formatted for storytelling. Read aloud, walking around (if able). Do this three times. (For those wanting to, you may use the “episode” spaces to name each section–use these names later to jog your memory as you try to tell the story by heart.)

Mark 4 35_41

Step 2: Read with Pictures

Play this video, reading aloud the lines on each image at least two times.


Step 3: Dropping the Script

Tell the story using this video–which has the images from the previous video, but no words.
How much were you able to remember?

Hear the story on Story Divine!

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


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.

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



  • 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


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!

Lent 3 Worship Station Instructions


Too strange NOT to tell: The Transfiguration

Learn the story of the transfiguration, or simply watch the video and do the “Ways to Wonder” exercises near the end of the post.

And be sure to check out Story Divine to hear more stories from the lectionary, along with personal storytelling prompts!


Matthew 17:1-9
The Story of the Transfiguration
as told by MaryAnn McKibben Dana

The transfiguration story is a strange one indeed. Many people have wondered what to make of this story. Storytelling the transfiguration is a wonderful way to connect with the story and to draw others into the experience on the mountain. Who knows–maybe we will be transfigured in the telling! I challenge to you to tell the transfiguration story BY HEART on Transfiguration Sunday this year. Here is a link to the text courtesy of gotell.org!


Tranfiguration is the “act of being transfigured.” To be “transfigured” is to “change in outward appearance; transform” or “to change so as to glorify or exalt.” (dictionary.com) In this story, Jesus is transfigured on the mountain. What does the story say that transfiguration looked like?

Learn it BY HEART

1) As you are working on learning the story, considering using this Retell Wheel (just click the link)–especially if you are learning with the younger set. Just click on the wheel and answer the questions!

2) Divide your text into EPISODES. Episodes are “chunks of the story that are unified by a theme or an image,” (Story Journey, 13). Name each episode. The names for each episode should be brief (1-3 words) and easily understood. Write the names on the margin next to each episode. Choose episode names that will help you recall the content of the episode. When you are ready to tell the story, fold your paper over and see if you can tell it!

3) MAP IT OUT! On a piece of paper, map out the story. Where are Jesus, James, John, and Peter? Where do Elijah and Moses appear? Which way do they go up the mountain? Down? Where is the cloud? Where are you? Once you have mapped it out on paper, try to SEE IT in your mind. Now tell the story. (Hopefully you’ll begin to ask yourself lots of questions about location. For instance, where are you looking when you are Peter talking to Jesus?)


1) What would it have been like to see Jesus so transformed? Imagine the brightness. Is it blinding? Soft? Inviting? Harsh? Spend a few minutes just picturing that part of the scene. Now tell the first episode.

2) Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” Tell a story about an experience you did not want to end. Why was it so good?

Remember to flesh the story out by thinking of the KEYS TO THE STORY:
Where were you? (Consider the sights, smells, sounds, etc.)
Who was there?
What were you (or others) feeling at the time? Thinking? Has that changed over time?
What actions occurred?
Did you have a sense of God in the moment? Has that changed over time?


Watch MaryAnn’s brief commentary on the experience of telling the transfiguration story!

And be sure to check out MaryAnn’s amazing blog, The Blue Room. MaryAnn is a pastor in the PC(USA), blogger, and the author of Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family’s Experiment with Holy Time. (Put this book on your to-read list–it is amazing.) Here is a recent piece she wrote about Faith and Wonder!

Christmas by Heart: Day 10

Almost there! Last two videos will be released Monday and Tuesday. Have a great weekend!


Day 10

Christmas by Heart: Day 8

Thanks to Mark Davis for his wisdom! Check out his blog: leftbehindandlovingit.blogspot.com to read even more of his thoughtful exegetical work!

Day 8

Christmas by Heart: Day 7

Here you go!!!

Day 7

Christmas by Heart: Day 1

 1 Story
12 Days

I love worshiping during Advent and Christmas…but for years, the bane of my liturgy-planning existence was figuring out my Christmas Eve message for the 5p.m. Christmas Eve service–you know, the one with hoards of children, many of whom have not been to church in a year, all of whom are a little excited with Christmas fever. We don’t preach a full sermon at that service, but have tried to stick to a standard format, which means there is time for a short meditation. Every year that I’ve been in charge I’ve struggled to create something accessible to children and adults, that can capture their collective attention. Mostly it’s resulted in fairly-lame attempts to be funny or relevant. All that changed the year I decided to tell the story by heart. What more could I possibly add to the wonder of the story of God’s coming to be with us in the form of an infant? I have come to realize that especially on Christmas Eve, especially at that service, the story is enough. If I can enter into the wonder of it as a storyteller, I can invite others to wonder with me.

Whether you’re telling at home or in worship…do tell! This 12 day series (to be released on weekdays) will help you learn and wonder as your commit the Luke 2 birth narrative to heart. If you participated in the #storyonfire series, this one will have a little overlap, but will certainly be different. I am most excited about the contributions by Mark Davis (who will help us consider the context and translation of the story), and Ann Timmons (who will provide tips for telling)!



About the Contributors


The Rev. Dr. D. Mark Davis

Ordained in 1996, Mark Davis holds a Ph.D. in Theology, Ethics and Culture from the University of Iowa and a D. Min. from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Virginia. He is the author of two books: “Talking About Evangelism,” (May 2006), and “Left Behind and Loving It (Fall 2011), he blogs intensive Bible studies regularly at http://leftbehindandlovingit.blogspot.com,and is a frequent contributor to The Politics of Scripture blog. Mark is a music lover who sings and plays the saxophone. Mark and his wife, Chris, have four children ranging in age from 12 to 23 .

Ann Timmons

Ann Timmons is a communications artist, actor, director and playwright. In her work as a communications artist, she helps clients discover and embrace their unique leadership presence. Clients include current political leaders at the local, state and national levels, as well as national association leaders and executives. Currently, Ann teaches in both the School of Communications and School of Public Affairs at American University. She also consults as a valued speech coach to nonprofit executives, business leaders, and elected officials.

Ann is committed to creating work that examines preconceptions and “received truths” through the prism of history. Her original one-woman show, Off the Wall The Life and Works of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, premiered Off-Broadway at the Samuel Beckett Theatre prior to a nation-wide tour that spanned 16 years. Her most recent work is Becoming Calvin, a play commissioned by the Reformed Institute of  Metropolitan Washington. Becoming Calvin explores the lives of characters living at the crossroads of history, caught up in the complex relationships between royalty and Rome, leaders of the Church and leaders of state. The play takes the audience on a journey with one extraordinary young scholar as he realizes his destiny, as it asks the question: What would you give up for your freedom? Ann has won grants and commissions for her original plays, including Beyond Shadowlands, The Home/Place Play, and The Jamestown Adventure Express(commissioned for America’s 400th Anniversary Celebration).

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wellesley College, she received her Master of Fine Arts in Theatre from the University of Illinois. Ann is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Actors’ Equity Association and  SAG-AFTRA. Visit her website at www.anntimmons.com.

Our CHRISTMAS Story: Part 2

Our Christmas Story

Did you miss part 1? You can find it HERE.

the NAME game

1. You’ll need your printed story and something to write with! (Below is the same story from Part 1)

Luke 2 1_20 Name Epidsodes Luke 2 1_20 Name Epidsodes page 2











2. The story has been broken into sections, which are called “episodes.” Alone or with others, name each episode–give each episode a 1-3 word title that will help you remember what happened. For example, I might name episode 1 “The Enrollment”. If you are using a different version, you can break it up into parts based on my translation, or choose your own parts…then write your episode names in the left margin. For the younger set, this is a chance to list the main parts of the story (i.e., Joseph goes to Nazareth, Mary has the baby, etc.).

3. Once you have finished naming the episodes, fold your paper(s) along the vertical line, so that you can ONLY see the episode names. Now, try to tell the story to a partner!

Once More, with FEELING!

1. Print the “Emotion Cards” sheet (link below) and cut out the words to make your Emotion Cards.



2. Everyone chooses an emotion card. One verse at a time, participants should take turns reading the lines with their assigned emotion (everyone reads the same verse, then when every one is done, move on to the next verse):

While they were there, the time came for her to have her baby.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son
and wrapped him in bands of cloth,
and laid him in a manger,
because there was no place for them in the inn.


Then an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were terrified.


“Do not be afraid; for see—
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…”


“Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”


But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

I have also included a PDF of the quotesHERE.

How are you…REALLY?

1. The “Once More…with Feeling!” activity is a fun way to try out different emotions in the text. Now take some time to consider how the different characters in the story felt.

How do you think

the angel
the shepherds


How can you tell?

2. TELL!!! Pick one of the emotions…tell a story about a time you felt that emotion.

3. Try telling the story from Luke 2 using only your episode titles again

STAY TUNED for Part 3 of Our CHRISTMAS Story…coming soon!