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Acts 8.26-40; Psalm 22.25-31; 1 John 4.7-21; John 15.1-8

Open the Word

Ways to help all ages engage with the readings

Adult & All Age

To help the listener

Context to today's readings 1 John 4.7-21, John 15.1-8

The reader could use these words to provide context:
Today’s reading from 1 John has perhaps the greatest passage in the Bible on love: the love of God for the world, shown through his Son, is a love we should also show for each other. This is how we come to know God, and to know that God is love.

Present the New Testament

Acts 8.26-40

For a while in Acts, Philip becomes the main character in the story of how the gospel spread ‘to the ends of the earth’. He meets a man, a pious Gentile from Ethiopia, who had just begun his journey home after coming to Jerusalem to worship.

You need a narrator, and two people to speak the words of Philip and the Ethiopian. The narrator reads from a lectern or central place. Philip and the Ethiopian begin beside the narrator, walking slowly round the worship space, ‘talking’ to one another – although the only words spoken aloud will be those in the text – and arriving near to the place of baptism by verse 36. Pause the reading to act out the baptism. Then Philip and the Ethiopian go separate ways – the Ethiopian returns to the side of the narrator, celebrating all the way. Philip disappears by whatever route is easiest in your context.

 

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Present the Gospel

The reading has images of a living vine being pruned to encourage it to become more fruitful.

While having a vine or similar to prune as the story is read would be ideal, it is impractical in most contexts. However, in the UK, this month is the time for the aftercare of daffodils that flowered back in March. Dig up some bulbs that are due for replanting anyway, selecting mostly those that still have the remains of the dead flower attached. While the passage is read, one or more people prune the bulbs, removing the flower heads and arranging the bulbs neatly on a tray and throwing way the flower heads. At the end of the reading, one of the pruners could say: ‘We remove the flowers because it helps the bulbs save their energy for next year. What would be the equivalent for our church?’

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Children

Present the reading & Talk together

John 15.1-8 - Two ways to tell the story, followed by ideas for discussion time

Jesus offers an image of himself as a vine to emphasise how we are all connected to him.

Choose from these two ways of telling the story:

Garden sketch

Take a large sheet of paper and a marker pen and ask another leader to read the first paragraph as you draw it: the vine, roots, rain and sun, branches, grapes. Cross out branches to represent pruning and add more fruit. As you read the second paragraph, point to different parts of the drawing for emphasis.

Physical storytelling

Use group mime to act out the story, inviting people to represent the following characters/things: God the gardener, a single vine plant, lots of branches, fruit, Jesus. The children could perform the piece in church.

 

Talk together  ( Connect faith with everyday life)

  • I wonder why Jesus used a vine as a picture of himself.
  • Have you ever seen a vine growing?
  • How are we connected to Jesus? How can we stay like that?
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For very young children

For very young children

Play and wonder about Jesus the vine and fruitfulness.

Play materials: branches and toy gardening tools.

Gathering prayers

Young children love repetition. Using the same prayer to start your session each time you meet will create a sense of familiarity and expectation.

Suggestion 1: God loves me

From the top of my head
(Touch head)

to the tips of my toes;
(Touch toes)

from the lobes of my ears
(Touch ear lobes)

to the end of my nose;
(Touch nose)

from my back, to my front
(Turn round)

to my wiggly fingers,
(stretch out arms and wiggle fingers)

God loves me!
(jump up and down)

Suggestion 2: God loves...

Leader: God loves
Child 1: (say name)

Leader: and God loves
Child 2: (say name)

Go round the circle until all the children have been named (the leader or accompanying adult can say the name of pre-verbal or shy children)

All: Thanks be to God!

Storytelling

Lay down a green felt circle, and place and move card/felt pieces as you tell the story: green stem, green branches, purple grapes.
Jesus said, ‘I am the vine, (stem)
and you are the branches. (branches)
Those who stay in me will grow a lot of fruit. (grapes)
God the Father is the gardener.
He cuts off every branch that doesn’t grow fruit, (remove some branches)
and he prunes every branch that bears fruit,
so it will grow even more.’ (add more fruit)

Play

Invite the group to ‘grow’ a vine by piecing together green card strips and leaves, and purple card grapes, on a brown cloth. Have lots of pieces so the children can spread the vine wherever they want it to go. Invite them to care for the vine using toy gardening tools.

Create

Invite the children to pot up multipacks of seasonal plants, e.g. pansies, tomatoes, strawberries, using plant pots, spoons or trowels and multipurpose compost. Water with a spray or small watering cans, take home and grow.

Musical mime

Play some ‘growing’ music (see suggestions below) and invite the children to curl up in a ball, gradually stretch out and grow, sway in the breeze, then open and close hands to show fruit growing.

Suggestions for ‘growing’ music:

Air on the G string, Bach
Spring Waltz, Chopin
Reverie, Debussy

Pray

Invite each child to take a piece of fruit from a bowl that includes grapes. Before eating it, repeat together:

Thank you, God,
for food that helps us to grow
and gives us energy to play.
Amen.

Additional activities

These activities are from this week's Explore & respond page can be adapted for Under 5s:

Rope walk   10 mins W E

Play a game to symbolise staying connected to each other

You will need: a length of rope.

  • Show the children the rope and explain that it represents the vine that Jesus was talking about. Invite them to hold onto the rope. Lead them on a journey, adding some obstacles, if appropriate.
  • Afterwards, reflect that being connected to Jesus is like being attached to an invisible rope. We can’t see it while we are at home, at school or out playing, but it we know it’s there and that it links us all together.

Fruitful trees   10 mins   W E S

Explore the meaning of bearing good fruit

You will need: tree shapes (template), one per child, pencils, coloured crayons, a potted herb.

  • Give each child a tree shape. Talk together about what kind of things Jesus meant by ‘bearing fruit’, e.g. being kind, generous (see Galatians 5.22-23).
  • Invite the children to draw some fruit on their tree and write down some practical examples in the leaves.
  • Show them the herb and its roots. What kind of roots do we need to bear good fruit? Invite the children to write down some ideas among the roots of their tree, e.g. praying, reading Bible stories, going to church.
  • The children can finish by lightly shading their trees, so the words remain visible.

 
Colouring sheets

Black and white colouring sheet

Black and white colouring sheet in Welsh

Sing

God Loves Me, Doug Horley on Lovely Jubbly 
Five little fruit jumping on the bed (Adapt rhyme ‘Five little monkeys jumping on the bed’).

A sending out prayer

Young children love repetition. Using the same prayer to end your session each time you meet will create a sense of familiarity and expectation.

God bless you,
(Point to others)

and God bless me.
(Point to self)

Amen. (Wave arms)

Leader: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Children and parents: In the name of Christ, Amen.

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