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Neil our webmaster and "Rotation raconteur" started this topic to collect and share inspirational Bible verses and images that speak to these challenging days and especially the "return" to Sunday School. Some are simply meant to be shared with volunteers and staff and you're welcome to do so. Some are posted with Neil's brief thoughts.

Your thoughts and verses are welcome!

Be sure to visit's wider forum of resources for teaching during and after the pandemic.

Haggai and Zechariah: Scriptures for The Return

It is IMPOSSIBLE to read Haggai and Zechariah without thinking of the impending "return" of exiles to in-person ministry and in-church activities.

"This Temple is going to end up far better than it started out."

Haggai 2:9

"You’re interested in religion, I’m interested in people."

Zechariah 7:6

But here's the BIG TIP: To hear the word in Haggai and Zechariah in a FRESH WAY, you really should read them as translated in "The Message" Bible --Eugene Petersen's powerful and contemporary version of scripture. Lots of great teaching/preaching material when you do!

Here are the links to Haggai and Zechariah at in The Message translation. Haggai is only two chapters long, but they are two TERRIFIC chapters for the post-pandemic challenges ahead. Zechariah has nine chapters and most of us are only families with Zech 9:9's description of the king riding the colt, but so much else in Zechariah are about "returning" and "building better."

Below, I've excerpted a few of my favorite verses from these two overlooked "minor" prophets. Do read their full chapters in The Message to see more ideas pop out at you.

Haggai 1:5-7

a little later, God-of-the-Angel-Armies* spoke out again:

“Take a good, hard look at your life.
    Think it over.
You have spent a lot of money,
    but you haven’t much to show for it.
You keep filling your plates,
    but you never get filled up.
You keep drinking and drinking and drinking,
    but you’re always thirsty.
You put on layer after layer of clothes,
    but you can’t get warm.
And the people who work for you,
    what are they getting out of it?
Not much—
    a leaky, rusted-out bucket, that’s what.”

7 That’s why God-of-the-Angel-Armies said:

“Take a good, hard look at your life.
    Think it over.”

Haggai 2:2-5, 9

‘Is there anyone here who saw the Temple the way it used to be, all glorious? And what do you see now? Not much, right?

“‘So get to work, Zerubbabel!’—God is speaking.

“‘Get to work, Joshua son of Jehozadak—high priest!’

“‘Get to work, all you people!’—God is speaking.

“‘Yes, get to work! For I am with you.’ The God-of-the-Angel-Armies is speaking! ‘Put into action the word I covenanted with you when you left Egypt. I’m living and breathing among you right now. Don’t be timid. Don’t hold back.’

“‘This Temple is going to end up far better than it started out, a glorious beginning but an even more glorious finish: a place in which I will hand out wholeness and holiness.’

Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.”

Haggai 2:21

“‘I am about to shake up everything,

to turn everything upside down and start over from top to bottom

—overthrow governments, destroy foreign powers, dismantle the world of weapons and armaments,

and throw armies into confusion

(Some terrific metaphors there!)

NOTE: In other verses, Haggai uses the word "house/home" or "Temple." When he does that, keep in mind that in Hebrew the word "house/home" can mean "FAMILY" or "legacy," and that "Temple" was reimagined as "body" even "body of Christ" in the New Testament.

Zechariah 2:1-5

The Third Vision: The Man with the Tape Measure

I looked up and was surprised to see
a man holding a tape measure in his hand.

I said, “What are you up to?”
“I’m on my way,” he said, “to survey Jerusalem,
to measure its width and length.”

Just then the Messenger-Angel on his way out
met another angel coming in and said,
“Run! Tell the Surveyor, ‘Jerusalem will burst its walls—
bursting with people, bursting with animals.
And I’ll be right there with her’—God’s Decree—‘a wall of fire
around unwalled Jerusalem and a radiant presence within.’”

Zechariah 4:8-10

the Word of God came to me:
“Zerubbabel started rebuilding this Temple and he will complete it. That will be your confirmation that God-of-the-Angel-Armies sent me to you.

Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings? They’ll change their tune when they see Zerubbabel setting the last stone in place!”

Zechariah 7:4-6

God-of-the-Angel-Armies* gave me this Message for them, for all the people and for the priests:

“When you held days of fasting every fifth and seventh month all these seventy years, were you doing it for me? And when you held feasts, was that for me? Hardly. You’re interested in religion, I’m interested in people.

Zechariah 9:10-11

I’ve had it with war

—no more chariots in Ephraim,
no more war horses in Jerusalem,
no more swords and spears, bows and arrows.

Come home, hope-filled prisoners!

(Try substituting the words "council" and "congregations" for Ephraim and Jerusalem!)

*About the phrase, "God of the angel armies"
The phrase is a possible translation of the Hebrew phrase "Lord of Hosts" --a title for God found over 300 times in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for "hosts" (sabaoth) is a military term for "army"  Lord of Hosts is sometimes translated as "Lord Almighty" which doesn't quite capture the original meaning of "army."  The image is one of power and control, conveying confidence and trustworthiness. Learn more.

Recall that "angel" in both Hebrew and Greek means "messenger." Thus, "Angel Armies" could be rephrased as "Army of Messengers."  What is the message that God wants to mobilize our "troops" to deliver?


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Beware the "Back to the Future" Church


quoteThere is no back to the future church that is going to be the Killer App or the plug and play that will sort out the problems your current expression of church has.  Or indeed the wider church in general. Learn from church history. Even the movements that have done amazing things are generally temporal in their white hot zeal. It’s as if God has put a bug in the system to ensure that we don’t get too ahead of ourselves, and that our aching desire is for HIS kingdom to come, and not our empire to be built. Surely not, eh?


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Amy Crane, our Board President, shared this verse from 2 Tim 1:7 back in 2020 during the long summer of COVID (which stretched into fall and winter). It speaks to the post-pandemic future we are now discussing and planning for.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity,
but of power, love, and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7 - NLT


The Greek word for "power" can mean "dynamism."
The word for "love" used here is "agape."
The word for "self-discipline" can also mean "moderation."

Verse 1 in Isaiah 35 speaks to the hope we have in difficult times...

The wilderness and the dry land will be glad;
the desert will rejoice and blossom with wildflowers

Isaiah 35:1


(The Hebrew word for "wildflower" in Isaiah 35:1 is rare and ambiguous. Some translations use like a "rose" or like a "crocus.")


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Numbers 13 and 14, the Story of Moses Sending Out the 12 Spies

"We saw giants, ...we felt like grasshoppers"

"But my servant Caleb had a different attitude"

13:30 But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”

31 But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” 32 So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. 33 We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers

14:20 Then the Lord said, “I will pardon them as you have requested. 21 But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, 22 not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice. 23 They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land.



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Yes, I know Jesus was probably talking about heaven in John 14, but what if he is talking about the future post-pandemic ministry he is preparing for us? 


If you want to see a desert, you will. If you want to see an open door, you'll need to knock.

Click the images to enlarge, save, and use.

John 14:1-3
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

Deuteronomy 31:8
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.


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I hope that the above post about Moses sending out the 12 spies was encouraging to you, You could share that encouragement with your Sunday School children with this lesson set on Joshua & Caleb/the 12 Spies.

  • In the Drama Workshop, the students go on some "spying" missions (a scavenger hunt) to collect props that will help them retell the story.
  • The experiments in the Science Workshop help reinforce ideas about trusting in God, the choices that we make, and realizing that sometimes people will try and pull us away from God's plan.
  • The Games Workshop includes stomping on your fears and running an obstacle course with (and without) the obstacles.
  • Students create dioramas of the story in the Art Workshop.

And in true Rotation fashion, Fishers UMC church adapted one of these lessons into a Lego Workshop

It's frustrating when two people can look at the same thing and see it so differently. Happens a lot in life and at church.

The following photo has been making the rounds on the internet. It's not fake or photoshopped. It is real. The photo struck me as an example of the STRUGGLE many churches and leaders are about to go through as the pandemic lifts. People with different perspectives on the way forward; people who will think certain things are impossible.

When you're ready, click here to see the photo again.


"have the mind of Christ"

1 Corinthians 2:16


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Illustrated Ministry created a series of prayers and coloring pages marking one year since everything changed, FREE for sharing. I have attached the PDF and also the link to their website.



As churches and communities begin to look for ways to mark the passing of time during COVID-19, we thought we’d put together a set of prayers and coloring pages to help with that process.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since COVID-19 changed the world as we knew it. As we brought our kids home from school and college and tried to figure out what Zoom worship looked like (it will only be for a few weeks, right?), we had no idea the amount of time we’d be staying home, the number of people who would die, and the toll the pandemic would take on our bodies: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve started seeing Facebook posts and memes about “Where were you this time last year?” when COVID-19 first started to change our lives drastically.

It’s been over a year since we’ve been together, seen our friends, shared hugs, and experienced the joy of community. And we know that churches, schools, and other community groups are trying to find ways to help people mark this passing of time.

We asked our team of writers to come up with some prayers to help communities mark this year of COVID-19, and we created a set of three coloring pages that go along with these prayers.

This is a free resource, so please feel free to share it widely. Unlike our purchased materials, you can post these free coloring pages on your website and make them available publicly.

Link to Illustrated Ministry site download request.


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John 21:6 The resurrected Jesus gives fishing lessons

What's your "other side" of the boat?

It may not be your "same old side." And the "other side" may also be Jesus' way of saying "don't give up."

As followers of The Great Fisherman, it can be a fun discussion starter to compare what we know about fishing for fish to fishing for people.

For example, have you ever watched professional fishermen or a professional bass fishing tournament on TV? They are fascinating (to some of us). The pros don't stay in one spot, they move until they find the right spot for that day and time. The pros also don't keep using the same rod and lure either, they try out different equipment and techniques until their find what works for that moment's conditions.

I also love the saying, "There's fishing, and then there's catching." Over the years I've also learned that "catching ain't caught" either!  When I used to live in Florida I did a lot of freshwater fishing, and as any Florida fisherman will tell you, alligators will often show interest in what you're doing. I've had more than one go after a lure or try to steal my fish as I reeled it in.  Here's a photo from my cellphone of one particularly curious gator that lived in the fishin lake next to my former house in Florida. We called him "Nippy." (A Florida fisherman also learns to keep an eye on the weeds.)

What and who and where are the alligators in your fishin spot?


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The story of Daniel, the Babylonian Exile, and the RETURN from Exile is  definitely instructive to those of us about to "return" after the pandemic.

Daniel's story reminds us that Exile can be a needed wake-up call. That sometimes our faith and life need to be hauled off so that they can over-hauled. That having to "do without" helps clarify what's really important.

Exile can teach us about living by grace and not the machinations of our own doing.

Their story reminds us that not everyone who went into Exile returned. And not everyone went into Exile, indeed, the Exiles had to reintegrate with those who had never left.

When the Israelites returned from Babylon to Jerusalem, it was not a return to the same-old. In fact, Nehemiah 4:17 says the builders built with one hand and a sword in the other. Sounds like they were worried about "criticism."

And while we often think of them rebuilding "the walls," in fact, they also rebuilt the gates (metaphor!)

The "faith practices" of the Exiles had changed in Exile. They brought many new perspectives back with them, but also returned to some fundamentals which were symbolized by the "Ezra reading of the law" (that is "the scriptures").

It's a story that teaches us that HOPE is not about returning to the past, but walking boldly into an unknown future.

They did not just "rebuild" what was once there. They built it back BETTER than before.

Pin on Dreams & wish's

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"The Journey"

An inspirational & discussion starting video from
for leaders and teachers

Isaiah 40's "A Voice Cries Out in the Wilderness: Prepare the Way," is usually only heard at the beginning of Advent, and that's when and why we originally created this video presentation.

But the truth is, Isaiah's words would make a great discussion starter for any leadership group or group of teachers facing "mountains."

Here's the presentation. Feel free to download and share it. Or view it on YouTube.

Questions for Discussion:

What are the "giants" we feel like we are facing?

How has the pandemic been like a desert for you personally, and as a church leader?

What are the mountains, valleys, and "rough places" we are facing together?

How do construction crews make roads through mountains and valleys?  (And what does that suggest to us about the work ahead?)

Download the MP4 videoYouTube Link

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Click to enlarge


This graphic was created for a post in our "Articles about the Post-pandemic return to church and Sunday School" topic about attendance and ways to get people back in the habit of attending.


The video has "leap of faith" imagery with scriptures Isaiah 40:31 and Galatians 5:25.
See the preview here of this free video discussion starter.


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The Lesson of Ahab and Jonah

MobyDickMD Fly McC 6 Aug 14
Cartoon © Glenn and Gary McCoy. Posted under the "fair use" clause
for the purposes of non-profit teaching and commentary.

Ahab reminds me of Jonah in that both men were willing to go down with the whale rather than change. Jonah the reluctant prophet just wanted things to stay the same and ran the other way when God asked him to go on a difficult mission to a distant town. Ahab was also a man on the wrong mission --seeking revenge against the whale that had taken his leg. The sailors on both boats were glad to be rid of them, and I'm sure the two whales were too.

While I don't believe God "sends" plagues or whales or pandemics to torment, swallow, or punish (pardon my modern perspective), I do believe God sends lessons!

What's your whale?

In many ways, the pandemic is our "whale" right now in Christian education. It's either the whale that's going to take us down like Ahab because of the things we can't let go of, or it's the whale that's going to spit us up in the direction God needs us to go.

Providentially, unlike Moby Dick, the story of Jonah ends without an ending --which seems very appropriate for all of us who are reluctantly worrying and wondering how the church's pandemic story will end. But let's remember why we're here in the first place, ...and it not for the shade.

The Lord said,
“You have been concerned about this plant,
though you did not tend it or make it grow.
It sprang up overnight and died overnight.

And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh,
in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people
who cannot tell their right hand from their left....?”
Jonah 4:9-11 (NIV)

It's easy to be frustrated, even angry about what's happened. But as the last verses of Jonah remind us: it's not about the plant or the shade. Our mission is to the people who still need God’s message whether they are in Nineveh, or at home, or on a soccer field, or waiting expectantly for US to show up.

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Here's a great "return from exile" quote from Ezra 10:4 (free at Here's a post that talks more about what we can learn from the exiles when they returned to Jerusalem.


Click to enlarge and save

I should mention that Ezra gives this advice after much weeping and confession regarding the intermarriage of Jewish men with non-Jewish wives which ends with a call to send these "foreign" wives away. *Sigh*  Fortunately, the Spirit is still speaking and like any other sane Christian or Jew, I can only recommend Ezra 10:4 as a metaphor for dealing with "foreign" attitudes that have no place in the church, such as intolerance, racism, bigotry, hyper-nationalism, judgementalism, etc.


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