From a Child's Point of View
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 17:1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49. Most church children have heard and enjoy this story. They like it because it is action-oriented and because a child acts courageously and successfully, while the adults sit around frightened. They want to be like David.
They are interested in Goliath's size. Translate his height and the weight of his armor into recognizable measurements. Compare the weight of his javelin, 19 pounds, with the weight of javelins thrown in competitions today, 1 1/2 pounds. Point out that we are not sure exactly how tall Goliath was. He may have been as short as 7 feet or as tall as 10. In any case, he was not the taller-than-a-house giant of cartoons, but just a very large man. He was big and mean, but he was still human.
The challenge in telling this story is to be sure the children listen to David's words as well as his deeds. It is his words that tell why and how he did what he did. He fought Goliath because Goliath belittled God. David wanted everyone to know that God was more powerful than any bullying giant or threatening army. David won because he trusted God and used the skills he knew best. He did not give in to the exciting offer of the king's armor, but, knowing what he had to do, chose his slingshot.
One powerful preaching point for children is that through all those days of doing the youngest-brother job of tending the sheep, God had been preparing David. During the long dark nights, David learned to be brave. Protecting the sheep from attacking animals, he learned to fight. And spending so much time alone, he had time to think about God and God's world. At times, he must have longed to do something more interesting and exciting, but by sticking with his assigned job, he learned skills and attitudes he would need as a warrior and king. By doing boring school work and tedious chores, or practicing exercises instead of playing songs, today's children can achieve the same results.
Psalm: 9:9-20. This psalm is a rather disjointed collection of statements about God's trustworthiness and people and nations who do and do not trust God. Children can catch only a few phrases.
Gospel: Mark 4:35-41. Children may fantasize about bravely fighting a giant bully, but trusting God in a summer storm is closer to reality. Most people of all ages are frightened of the power of summer storms and can easily imagine the disciples' fear when caught out on a big lake, in a small boat, in a storm, in the middle of the night. It's hard to imagine a scarier situation.
Jesus' question to the fearful disciples, and to us, is "Why are you afraid?" Children know that people are injured or killed in storms, and they appreciate hearing such realities identified as the reasons we might rightly be afraid, before listening to the faith reasons for not being afraid.
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 6:1-13. This passage is too complicated for children to follow as it is read. Read on its own, it offers an example of commitment and discipleship. Read in the context of today's other texts, it offers an example of trusting God from day to day, rather than at times of dramatic events. Paul was brave and faithful enough to stick with one task for years. His task was to tell the Gentiles about Jesus, and he stuck with it even when frightening things happened. He stuck with it when he was hurt and discouraged. He stuck with it when people did not listen to him. And he never let anything else get in the way of his doing the best job he could. Paul was faithful and trusting from day to day.
Before speaking symbolically of fighting giants, describe one or two non-literal giants with which people battle for example, a fear of beginning some new activity.
Faith, for David, Paul, and Jesus, was putting what they knew about God into action. Because David had faith in God's power, he fought Goliath. Because Jesus had faith in God's care, he slept through the storm. Because Paul had faith that he was doing work that was important to God, he gave it his best and never gave up.
Let the Children Sing
Invite a young children's class or choir to sing "Only a Boy Named David" as an anthem, perhaps with hand motions.
Remind worshipers of the ways David and/or Paul trusted God with their bodies, before singing "Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated." Recall the trust David learned as a shepherd by singing the hymn version of Psalms 23 most familiar to your congregation.
Choose storm hymns carefully. The vocabulary of "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" is very difficult for children to read. The storm images of "Lonely the Boat" alternate between the literal and symbolic. "Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me" is so symbolic that children cannot interpret it.
The repeated lines in the chorus of "God of Grace and God of Glory" can be sung as a prayer by even nonreaders.
The Liturgical Child
1. Read 1 Samuel 17 in good storyteller style. Use a booming voice for Goliath, a younger, more enthusiastic tone for David, and a sad, resigned voice for Saul. You may want to gather children on the steps to hear this story which has been a favorite for thousands of years.
2. Because Psalms 9 is part of an acrostic poem, have each "letter" read by a different reader. The change in readers helps children catch more phrases. Suggest that older listeners decide to whom, in the story of David and Goliath, each "letter" applies. (The New Jerusalem Bible prints the Hebrew letters in the margins beside the verses.)
3. Prayer of Confession:
God of David, we would like to be brave like David, but we see too quickly the things we think we cannot do and ignore what we might do with your power working through us. Forgive us when we are too hesitant, too unsure, too cautious. Savior of the disciples, we too are easily frightened. Forgive us when we are afraid afraid we will be hurt, afraid we will be misunderstood, afraid we will fail. Give us the courage to face our fears and move past them. Lord of Paul, unlike Paul, we give up too easily. Forgive us when we forget what you have called us to do, when we are ready to "chicken out" on being disciples, when we have lost hope and feel like failures. Give us the kind of commitment Paul had and the courage to keep trying, even when we are not succeeding. Forgive us, and give us new power and strength to rise up as your people. For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
1. Summer is filled with opportunities to trust God: going away to camp for the first time; standing up for God's ways at camp and in locker rooms; trying new feats (jumping off the diving board), and so on.
2. David learned how to kill a giant by tending his father's sheep. Similarly, in the movie The Karate Kid, a man offers to teach a boy karate, but puts the boy to work polishing cars and painting a fence. The boy protests, until the man proves to him that by doing the work, he has perfected several movements that are critical to karate.