Sparked and Sustained

Sparked & Sustained by the Spirit:

Guiding Principles of Spirit-Filled Cross+Generational Faith Formation in EVERY Congregation

– Rev. Breen Marie Sipes

Nebraska Synod Re:Formation Workshop: October 19, 2021 at 1:30 PM on Zoom

Cross+Generational Faith Formation which is meaningful and engaging for all ages and stages can be daunting to begin, and challenging to sustain.  Whether you are a beginner or looking to up your Cross+Gen game, join Rev. Breen Marie Sipes as we explore six guiding principles which spark and sustain Cross-Generational Faith Formation through the gifts of the Spirit.  During this workshop you will discover the principles, investigate how they apply in real-world scenarios, and explore how you can immediately begin using these principles to take it home to your own context. This will be a hybrid workshop, available both in person and online.  Bring a notebook, writing utensil, and a willingness to engage one or two partners in discussion over the course of our time together.  

Rev. Breen Marie Sipes is usually a parish pastor, and currently the full-time home educator of her three children.  She is an active member of the Nebraska Synod’s 4G Network, and an emerging leader in Music the Makes Community.  She curates the weekly Taking Worship Home website (https://takingworshiphome.weebly.com/), as well as providing curriculum and ministry ideas for children, youth, adults, and Cross+Gen ministry through Feed My Faith (https://feedmyfaith.weebly.com/).  She lives in North Platte, Nebraska with her husband, 3 children, 2 cats, and 1 dog.

PDF Resource

Download the PDF handout for this workshop below.

PowerPoint Slides

Download the PDF of the Powerpoint slides for this workshop below.

Video

Access the video of this workshop here:

Prayer Practice: Praying with Keys

The following is a guest post by my husband, Rev. Patrick L. Sipes. It is a prayer practice developed for First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska for use at the beginning of worship, and throughout the week. We pray it may help to deepen your conversations with God.

https://flic.kr/p/2TZ3CF

The congregation I serve has been going through the Faith5 course over the last few weeks and one thing that has stuck with me that Dr. Rich Melheim says is that, “if you don’t know your highs and lows (the good and the bad things that are going on in your life) you don’t really know yourself.” I also had one of my class members tell me afterwards, “This is a new thing for me and something I’m going to have to practice.”

The following is an “Everyday Object Prayer” that is meant to help you work on naming your highs and lows. The everyday object we’ll be using is a key. As you choose a key pick one that has peaks and valleys on it as you look at it from the side and starting on the tip end, follow the ridge up to the first peak with one of your fingers. As you rest there at the peak, bring to mind something that was a high for your week, something good that happened to you, something that helped you feel accomplished, something that came to completion or resolution. Bring this thought to God in celebration and then travel down the key to a valley and bring to mind a low spot of your week, something that didn’t go as you had wished, something that caused you to struggle and hasn’t yet resolved, something you are still unsure about. Bring this low spot to God and ask for God to be with you in it, and to give you wisdom for journeying with it. Continue down your key in this manner bringing to your focus, the highs and lows of your week.

As you come across this key throughout your week, consider when you might take time to use it in prayer again.

Amen

Morning Prayer for Fall 2021

Sandhills by Chris M Morris on flickr.com

Opening

God of honey and harvest
of grain and grape
of ocean and orchard:
This harvest time
may we both praise and pray;
praise you for the abundance
and pray that this harvest is not just shared
but shared justly.

God of beehives and breadbaskets
of living webs and the weaving of life
of ecosystems and economy:
This harvest time
may we both praise and pray
praise you for the wealth of the harvest
and pray that this harvest is not just a promise
but is full of promise for all.

God of bumble bees and blue whales
evolution and environment
ice-field and star-field:
This harvest time
may we both praise and pray
praise you for the sheer wonder of the world
and pray that this harvest is not about our wealth
but the wealth of our generosity. Amen.

Prayer of Commitment written by Roddy Hamilton, and posted on Mucky Paws. http://www.nkchurch.org.uk/index.php/mucky-paws

Psalmody

Prayer and Readings for Today 

Prayer and Readings from dailylectio.net.

Dwelling in the Word

1. What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this reading?
2. What delights or comforts me in this reading?
3. What stories or memories does this story stir up within me?
4. What is God calling me to do or to be in this reading?

Gospel Canticle

Prayers of the People

The Lord’s Prayer

Blessing/Sending

God of harvest,
gardener supreme,
you place us at the centre,
feed us, equip us and,
having provided for us,
look to a different harvest—
a fruitfulness of lives
in service to you
and others.
God of harvest,
feed us
prune us
harvest us
that our lives
might bring glory to you.
Amen.

—Copyright © John Birch, posted on Faith and Worship – Prayers and Resources.

Locked Doors: A Prayer Meditation for the Season of Easter 2021

My husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a prayer meditation for the Easter season. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.

“Locked” by Phong6698 on flickr.com

Bible Reading

John 20:19-31 NRSV: Jesus Appears to the Disciples

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Jesus and Thomas
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
The Purpose of This Book
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 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.

Prayer Meditation

On the evening of the resurrection, Jesus visits his disciples in the upper room where they are hiding behind locked doors. As he enters, the room, he greets the disciples with the phrase, “Peace be with you.” Through this prayer, we ask for that same peace in many places of our own lives.

In our lives, we have places of fear, fear of illness, fear of injury, fear of others, fear at times that we simply cannot place a finger on or name but it is there none the less. This morning we take a few moments to bring those places of fear to Jesus.

(Take some time for bringing fears to mind, heart, and body.)

As you bring your fears to Jesus, hear his words, “Peace be with you.”

In our lives we have reason to rejoice. Places where we see new life coming, accomplishments that we have achieved, birthdays, anniversaries of many kinds, small things like simply getting out of bed. This morning, we take a few moments to bring those places of celebration to Jesus.

(Take some time for bringing things that make you rejoice to mind, heart, and body.)

As you rejoice with Jesus, hear his words, “Peace be with you.”

In our lives there are things that make us doubt. There is news that seems to good to be true, there or places where our expectations have not been met, there are lies and half truths that are difficult to sort through. This morning, we take a few moments to bring our doubts to Jesus.

(Take some time for bringing doubts to mind, heart, and body.)

As you bring your doubts to Jesus hear his words, “Peace be with you.”

May this time of worship be a time that fills your whole being with the peace of Christ. Amen.

Palm Branch Meditation: Palm Sunday 2021

During the season of Lent, my husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a series of tactile meditations exploring Sunday’s Gospel text. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.

“Palm Sunday” by Bennilover on flickr.com

For this meditation you will need a palm branch. If a live palm branch is not available to you, you could cut one out of green cardstock or paper. There is a good template for one here: https://coloringpage.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/pabch.pdf

Today is Palm Sunday, on this day, Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem as a king might be. With no hesitation, animals are lent to him, crowds of people come out shouting in victory, and the road is strewn with palm branches and cloaks, a sign of honor for the one who is coming. It is quite the scene and sounds quite the alarm for the political and religious elite in Jerusalem. For them, Jesus represents a threat to their existence and way of life. For them, Jesus is someone who must be dealt with, quickly, dramatically, and publicly. Over the next week, we will take time to remember these events, to reflect on where we see Jesus as savior and where we fear Jesus as a threat to our own way of life. But for today, we join the crowd, we take our palm, and we join the throng.

As the day begins, Jesus sends a couple disciples on a mission to collect a mount for him to ride on. Telling the disciples if anyone questions you, just tell them that the Lord has need of it and will send it back later. And it works. As you hold your palm, contemplate for a few moments what you have that Jesus might need or use for his mission in the world.

(Spend a few moments in reflection.)

Knowing that you will get them back when he is done with them, offer these things for Jesus’ use when he asks for them in the future.

As the parade continues down the mountain side to Jerusalem, the crowds shout Hosanna, which means “Save us.” As you wave your palm, bring to the place of your meditation the places in your life where you need Jesus’ saving, and contemplate what that really looks like to you.

(Spend a few moments in reflection.)

With the places where we need Jesus in our lives and on our hearts and minds, we say to him Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!

As they approached Jerusalem, people laid their cloaks on the ground, and spread palm branches on the road, a sign of deep respect and honor. As you lay your palm on your lap, bring to the place of your meditation ways in which you might show honor to Jesus in the coming week.

(Spend a few moments in reflection.)

Knowing better what you need to lay down for Jesus to show him honor, ask him for help with doing so in the coming week.

Let us now enter into this Holy Week, aware of God’s connection to us, and walking through it at Jesus’ side. Amen.

If you would like to explore this text as a family devotion, check out my post for Lent in a Dish 2021 on Family God Time: https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2021/03/25/lent-in-a-dish-2021-week-6-jesus-is-welcomed-to-jerusalem/

Seed Meditation: Lent 5 2021

During the season of Lent, my husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a series of tactile meditations exploring Sunday’s Gospel text. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.

Head Start seeds HAFA Farm by Media Mike Hazard on flickr.com

For this reflection you will need a seed. If you will be doing some gardening this year, and have some seed already, one of your garden seeds would be perfect for this meditation, because your prayer will continue through the summer as that plant grows. If you aren’t planning a garden, really, any seed will work, a dry bean, a kernel of popcorn, a seed that you saved from a piece of fruit that you ate, and if you don’t have any of that, feel free to scavenge in your yard or at a local park for seeds that a tree may have dropped last fall.

We begin with a seed today because in the gospel, Jesus tells us that, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” So as we begin today, take your seed, place it in a cupped hand and gaze upon it. As you reflect upon your seed, consider its smallness, consider how vulnerable it is, consider the care it needs to be brought to a more vigorous state of livelihood. As you reflect on these things, bring into the space of your meditation, the places in your life that feel as if they are seeds, places where you feel small, places where you are vulnerable, places where you could use some more care. Take some time to let these things come to you. As these things and places come to you, ask Jesus for what you need to give the seeds in your life the potential for new growth.

As you continue to reflect on your seed, take your other hand and cover it up, as if planting it in the soil. Reflect on your seed and the potential that it has for growth, imagine it putting roots down, and then reaching for the sky. As your seed begins to grow, bring into the place of your meditation, the places in your life that would allow a seed to grow, where is the soil of your life good for putting down roots that will support and sustain a newly growing thing, where is there light, and space, and openness where things will not get crowded out. Take some time to see where good soil and good spaces are present in your life. As these spaces come to you, talk with Jesus about what might grow in that space.

Now as you reflect on your seed, lift it up and imagine your seed having grown to its fullest and come to bear fruit. What fruit has come of it, how much, and whom did it feed? Bring to the place of your meditation, that fruit you desire to bear in the world, and who you wish that fruit to feed. Take some time to explore the answers to these questions. As you find answers, bring them to Jesus, let him know what you desire to do to bear fruit, and ask him to help you see the way to do so.

As you leave this time of meditation, take your seed with you, return to it as you find it helpful and continue this time of prayer with Jesus as you look deeper into the seeds within you.

Amen

If you would like to explore this text as a family devotion, check out my post for Lent in a Dish 2021 on Family God Time: https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2021/03/18/lent-in-a-dish-2021-week-5-a-seed-dies-to-live/

Light and Darkness Meditation: Lent 4 2021

During the season of Lent, my husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a series of tactile meditations exploring Sunday’s Gospel text. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.

Items needed: a small piece (2-3 inches square) of dark, preferably black paper and a piece of white paper

“If this was Middle Earth” by neilmoralee on flickr.com

Dr. Craig Koester, a professor who taught me a great deal about the book of John, emphasized the contrast between light and darkness that runs throughout the book. It begins early on with John’s proclamation that “in him (Christ) was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5 NRSV) This theme of light and dark continues with our Gospel reading today and it is toward these themes that we turn in meditation and prayer today.

As we begin, take a few moments to get comfortable and breathe. Take your dark and light pieces of paper and hold them together in your hands. Feel free to turn them back and forth to experience the contrast between light and dark that they give. Take a few moments to feel this contrast and then settle in on the dark square that you hold.

As you hold this dark colored square before you, I invite you, as you are comfortable doing, to bring into the space of your meditation the places of darkness that you experience in your life. For each of us, these places are different, but what they make us experience are often similar. Our places of darkness leave us scared, our places of darkness leave us feeling abandoned, our places of darkness leave us feeling hopeless. Take some time to sit with your places of darkness.

(Allow some time for reflection)

As you find your places of darkness, acknowledge them, and also acknowledge that you are not alone. You are in a room full of people who know similar feelings to your own, and you are here to worship your God who has also experienced fear, and abandonment, and hopelessness. With your darkness feel and know that he is there with you, and as you feel that presence, turn your squares over to their light side.

As you hold this light colored square before you, see it as the Light of Christ. In contrast to darkness, light allows us to see what is actually around us and thus casts out fear. Light allows us to see who is around us and takes away our sense of abandonment. Light allows us to see new pathways forward and with that comes hope. Take a few moments to sit with the places that you find light in your life.

(Allow some time for reflection)

As you find your places of light, acknowledge them, and also acknowledge that their source is Jesus. It is Jesus who helps us to see when we are afraid, it is Jesus who shines in the lives of people around us, it is Jesus who gives us wisdom to walk new paths in life.

This is the light that we are promised, through Jesus, the light in our darkness, the light no darkness can overcome.

Amen

If you would like to explore this text as a family devotion, check out my post for Lent in a Dish 2021 on Family God Time: https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2021/03/11/lent-in-a-dish-2021-week-4-jesus-is-the-light-of-the-world/

Cleansing the Temple Meditation: Lent 3 2021

During the season of Lent, my husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a series of tactile meditations exploring Sunday’s Gospel text. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.

Items needed: a few strands of yarn

Spindle Whorl and Loom Weights by Giles Watson on flickr.com

As we reflect on Jesus cleansing of the temple this morning, you will need a piece of string or yarn, preferably with several strands to it. As you pray you may feel most comfortable just holding the string in your hands, or if you are more of an active person, feel free to pull the strands of string apart as you reflect, and use them to make a “whip of cords” as Jesus did.

As we begin, we look at the words, “But he was speaking of the temple of his body.” We do this, because as we change the events of the day from an actual to a metaphorical one, it allows us to begin moving from Jesus cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem, to Jesus cleansing the temples of our bodies.

We begin with the cattle and the sheep that Jesus drives out. These animals were in the temple to make offering a sacrifice easier, but as animals go, they were loud, they had a tendency to not smell so good in afternoon sun, they could be dangerous if they were not controlled well enough, and Jesus drove them out. I invite you as you reflect on the whip that you hold, to bring to mind the cattle and sheep that roam in your life. Those parts that are too loud for your liking, those parts that don’t smell so good to you, those parts that can be dangerous if they get out of control and that you work too hard to keep under control. Those parts you’ve tried to shake but just don’t seem able to do…

(Take time to reflect on the sheep and cattle that roam in your temple.)

Hear this, know this, Jesus is here to drive those things out of you. Jesus is here to clean your temple, and to make you clean.

Jesus also turns over the tables of the money changers. These people were there to change foreign money to Hebrew money that was acceptable in the temple, and to turn a tidy profit for themselves as they did so. In our lives, we do not always act fairly either. As you reflect on the whip that you hold, bring to mind those places in your life where you are not fair to others…

(Take time to reflect on those places where you are a money changer that treats others unfairly.)

Hear this, know this, Jesus is here to upset the ways in which you treat others unfairly, to turn over the tables on which you work your injustice, and to bring your temple into right relationship with others. 

Jesus tells those who sell doves, “Get these things out of here.” Doves were meant for the poor, an acceptable substitute sacrifice for those who could not afford something better. In our lives, there are many things that make us feel unworthy of God, or that we feel are unworthy to give to God. In other words, we feel poor in God’s sight and so we bring our doves, our substitute offering that marks us as poor to all who can see. As you reflect on your whip, bring to mind those places in your life that you feel poor in God’s sight, those places where you do not feel worthy, those places where you substitute something less when what you have is something more…

(Take time to reflect on where you feel poor in God’s eyes.)

Hear this, know this, Jesus is here to tell you get those things out of here, Jesus is here to tell you, you are enough, you have great things to give to him, you are richly blessed by the Holy Spirit.

As your temple is swept clean by Jesus, enjoy the openness, enjoy the peacefulness, enjoy the more easy connection you find there with God.

Amen

If you would like to explore this text as a family devotion, check out my post for Lent in a Dish 2021 on Family God Time: https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2021/03/04/lent-in-a-dish-2021-week-3-jesus-and-the-temple-traders/

Cross and Suffering Meditation: Lent 2 2021

During the season of Lent, my husband, Pastor Patrick Sipes, will be our guest blogger with a series of tactile meditations exploring Sunday’s Gospel text. He is currently serving as the transitional minister at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska, and will be inviting congregation members into these meditations in worship. May God bless you as you explore Scripture through Prayer.

Items needed: a small cross, could be made of wood, ceramic, metal, or even paper. A cross you can trace and hold in your hand.

“Day 19” by redbettyblack on flickr.com

The Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Lent has Jesus instructing us to pick up our cross and follow him. These are some frightening instructions if you delve into them. They ask us to pick something up that will cause us suffering and death, but at the same time as Christians, we believe the death that happens there is also the source of new life and resurrection. However, this is a tall order. We are hardwired as human beings to avoid things that cause us pain be it physical, mental, or emotional. From some painful events in my own life that I refused to watch at the time, I learned that overcoming this aversion to pain and having a basic willingness to actually look at the suffering of others is the starting point of compassion. As a place of beginning to look at suffering, I choose to look at Jesus on the cross. I do so because I believe we find in Jesus all the suffering of the world united. Further, if I can begin to look at his suffering there, I have the strength to look at suffering in other places and the wisdom to see it as Jesus’ suffering as well.

As we begin our reflection today, I invite you to pick up your cross, as Jesus asked you to do, and hold it in your hand. With you finger or your thumb, begin to trace the cross from top to bottom and side to side, top to bottom and side to side. 

On this cross, if we dare to look, we will see Jesus suffering, but what’s more, as he promises us that we are in him and he is in us, his suffering is our suffering, and truly, in him is the suffering of the whole world. To look at a cross is to take the bold step of opening your eyes to seeing all those who suffer in the world.

If you are willing to look at this suffering, I invite you to take some time to look at your cross. As you do so, bring to mind the places where you know suffering to be in this world. It may be in your own body, or other places in your life. It may be in your neighborhood, or your place of work, it may be across town, across the state or across the world. Bring these places of suffering to mind, and then bring them to Jesus and to his cross. Take the time you need to bring to mind the places of suffering that you know of. As you do this, recognize how through the cross suffering is united. Notice that your suffering is the suffering of others, and their suffering is your own, and all of your suffering is united through Christ’s suffering. This can feel overwhelming at first but sit with it for a moment and what will begin to emerge is a deep knowing that what this really means is that through the cross you never suffer alone. Suffering wishes you to feel alone, suffering wishes you to feel disconnected from others and the world around you but through the cross we are never alone.

What’s more, for Christians, the cross is the way to new life, the death it brought Jesus was the way in which he defeated death. As you continue to hold your cross, as you continue to trace it, bring to mind where you are in need of new life. Bring to mind those places that might be feeling a little dead to you, those places that are looking like last year’s flowers dried out and dead through the winter. Take some time in your prayer to bring those things to Jesus. Tell him about them, place them in his hands, let go of them as you see fit, to one you trust such as him. And now the hard part…wait.

Wait and see what happens. But as you do, know that this is part of your prayer as well, that continuous sort of prayer that Paul talks about is embodied in your waiting, and coming full circle, in the suffering your waiting might cause you, know that Jesus is with you.

Amen

If you would like to explore this text as a family devotion, check out my post for Lent in a Dish 2021 on Family God Time: https://familygodtime.wordpress.com/2021/02/25/lent-in-a-dish-2021-week-2-following-jesus/