From a Child's Point of View
Old Testament: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27. David's grief for Saul and Jonathan provides adults a counterpoint to the Gospel story about healing and resurrection. But the poem assumes a detailed knowledge of the relationships between Saul, Jonathan, and David, and a mature understanding of death and grieving. Consequently, it is not a compelling reading for children.
The alternative Old Testament readings ( 1 Samuel 18:1-5 and Psalms 133) focus on the friendship of David and Jonathan, featured nowhere else in this cycle of David texts. Telling additional stories about David and Jonathan, preaching about their unlikely friendship, and building liturgy focused on friendship, can produce a worship experience in which both children and adults can participate fully.
Psalm: 130. When it is read with great emotion, children hear this as a prayer which might have been prayed by David after Saul and Jonathan died, by Jarius while his daughter was so ill, or by the woman who had been sick for twelve years. They gather this more from the feeling of phrases such as "Out of the depths I cry to you," than from intellectual understanding of the poem as a whole. Much of the vocabulary and many of the concepts require more explanation than is possible in worship.
Gospel: Mark 5:21-43. This double story offers two more examples of faith in action. Children love the synagogue leader, a father who risked his office and what his friends might think, to ask Jesus to heal his terminally ill daughter. Shy children, especially, admire the woman who quietly reached out to touch Jesus, believing he could heal her. Preaching on these stories, however, generally leads to discussions of adult concerns (wholeness, uncleanness, the meaning of new life) and abstract ideas (the link between faith and healing), which are beyond children. Last week's examples fighting a giant and facing a storm are easier to use in meaningfully exploring faith with both adults and children.
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 8:7-15. This is basically a passage about sharing. Paul wants the Corinthians to share some of what they have with Christians in Jerusalem who have great need at the moment. He promises that when the Corinthians are the needy ones, the Christians in Jerusalem will take up an offering for them. He is not calling for sacrificial giving, but sharing some of our plenty.
It is possible to tie in such sharing with the friendship between David and Jonathan. Generous sharing among friends is not something duty forces us to do, but something we want to do.
Believing and having faith mean putting your thoughts into action.
To heal is to cure a person of a disease. To make whole is interpreted literally and thus produces interesting but not very useful mental pictures of the woman who had been bleeding for years. Today, save means either to rescue from identifiable trouble or to set aside for future use. Use it carefully in exploring the Gospel story.
Though 2 Corinthians suggests a stewardship sermon, do not use the word stewardship which relates to doing our duties well. Speak instead of sharing, which arises from generous concern for people we care about. If you use benevolences or benevolent frequently in your worship, take time to define the terms and paraphrase the sentences in which they are used.
Let the Children Sing
Sing about Christ's power with the hymns you sang during Easter. The repeated phrases make "When Morning Gilds the Skies" a first choice.
Most church-school and vacation-Bible-school songbooks contain songs about generous love. "Love, Love, Love, That's What It's All About," and other such songs may be sung by children's classes or Bible-school groups as anthems.
If you feature the friendship of David and Jonathan on a communion Sunday, sing "I Come with Joy." Alert the children to listen for lines about friendship among God's people.
The Liturgical Child
1. To emphasize the story-within-a-story in Mark, have the passage read by two readers. The first reads from the usual lectern. The second reads either from the pulpit or stands beside or in front of the lectern, to highlight the interruption. The readers should practice reading the verses in order to communicate their urgency.
female reader: 25-34
male reader: 35-43
2. Before reading the Epistle, describe the situation in Jerusalem and in Corinth. Ask worshipers to listen for what Paul wanted the people in Corinth to do and why he wanted them to do it. Begin the sermon with comments on that.
3. Before collecting the offering, briefly describe several specific ways your congregation will use the money to share what you have with others. If possible, name sharing efforts with which the children are familiar and in which they have shared time and energy, as well as money.
4. Offer a series of bidding prayers about friends, pausing after each for worshipers to follow the worship leader's directions. Bid worshipers to identify and pray for friends who are older; then younger; then the same age they are. Instruct them to think about and pray for a friend who lives in another town. Ask them to name to themselves, and to God, one friend with whom they are not getting along at the moment. Urge them to think, with God, of ways to work things out with that friend. Suggest that they name to God all their friends in your congregation, and then thank God for something special about each one. Encourage them to identify a person who needs their friendship, and to make a promise to God about offering that friendship this week.
1. Explore the spirit of generosity that lay beneath Paul's call to share, by describing two brothers who shared a bedroom. They had their own dressers and desks, but most of their toys and important things were scattered all over the room and under the beds. Stuff was everywhere. At homework time, one brother's "Have you seen my pencil?" generally was answered, "Who knows! Try this one." Though they had their fusses, they usually got along.
Then trace a spiral of selfishness that began when one brother said, "This is mine. Don't even touch it!" and escalated, with each one identifying what was his, until they drew a line down the middle of the room and posted STAY OUT signs. From that time on, there was constant bickering and checking, to make sure that one did not have anything that was the other's.
2. Jess and Leslie, in "Bridge to Terabithia," by Katherine Paterson, provide a modern example of friendship like that of David and Jonathan. Jess, from a poor rural family, and Leslie, whose family is well-off financially and educationally, forge a creative friendship which ends with Leslie's accidental death. Both their friendship and Jess's grief parallel that of David and Jonathan. This award winner has been read by many fifth- and sixth-graders.
3. If you give the children the puzzle on the Worship Worksheet, use the word benevolent repeatedly, to help build their familiarity with it.