From a Child's Point of View
Old Testament: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19. The story of David bringing the Ark to Jerusalem includes several subplots, each of which makes a comment on God's presence. The core of the story is the description of the great parade led by David. (Children need a brief description of the Ark, its history, and its importance as a symbol of God's presence.) As the parade moved to the new capital city, there was lots of music and everyone sang and danced to honor God. It was an exuberant celebration of God's presence. Most children wish more worship would be like that parade.
Verse 16 begins, but does not conclude, the story of Michal's response to David's behavior. Older children, as they begin to feel the pressure of peers who belittle involvement in church activities, find a good example in David's response in verses 20-22. David was willing to have anyone, even his wife, look down on him in order to express his praise and gratitude to God. We are to do likewise. (It is not necessary to point out David's exposure to get to the message of this story: David did not act dignified, "like a king," but became caught up in the singing and dancing as he celebrated God's presence with all his might.)
Psalm: 24. This is a psalm for children to experience, rather than understand. If it is presented dramatically as a responsive Call to Worship, children will follow the questions and answers, and sense the joyful mood of gathering to worship in God's presence. Though they understand the words of the Good News Bible's translation more easily, they sense the mood of the New Revised Standard translation and may recognize verses that are used frequently in your worship.
Epistle: Ephesians 1:3-14. In a way, the writer of these verses is dancing before God with his pen, just as David danced before God with his feet. Unfortunately for children, the writer uses impossibly complex words and ideas, and praises God's work on the unfamiliar cosmic plane. About the only way to present this message to children is to paraphrase some of the individual blessings of God which the writer recognizes. For example:
—Before our birth, God planned for us to belong to God.
—God loves us so much that God sent Jesus so that we might be forgiven.
—God's plan for the world is that we will all become one family, with Jesus as the leader.
—God is carrying out this plan. It will happen.
Gospel: Mark 6:14-29. At first blush, this is not an appropriate story to tell children. It is, however, possible to explore the sin that brought about the death of John the Baptist without going into detail on the sinful sexuality that ran rampant in the family of Herod. Herod's offer of any gift his daughter asked for is similar to the wishes offered by genies in fairy tales. Children are properly appalled at the mother's use of that gift to have an old enemy murdered. They wish the daughter had been brave and righteous enough not to do the terrible thing her mother suggested. They can imagine how angry and hurt Herod must have been by the way his family tricked him. They are ashamed of Herod's giving in to the fear that his friends would laugh at him if he did not give his daughter what he had publicly promised. And they are indignant that a good person like John should be killed in the vicious feuding of this evil family.
Scholars suggest that Mark told this story to foreshadow the way Jesus would be caught up in the sinful power struggles that would lead to his death. So the children's reaction is on target and leads to discussion of how sin can spread to destroy even the good people and things of life.
The Epistle reading may lead you to speak of election, predestination, and revelation. Remember that these, as well as many of the theological terms in the text, are big, abstract words which have little meaning for children.
Describe this Ark, which was not a boat like Noah's ark.
Let the Children Sing
In Psalms 24, worshipers talk about opening the gates of the Temple. In "Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates," we sing about opening up the doors of our hearts and lives to God. Point out this difference before singing the song.
The Presbyterian hymnal includes a version of Psalms 24 (titled Psalms 24 "), set to a whirling Israeli folktune which captures the feeling of David's dancing before God. It is more effective sung well by a choir than haltingly by the congregation.
Other appropriate hymns of praise include "All Creatures of Our God and King," "Earth and All Stars," and "To God Be the Glory."
The Liturgical Child
1. Psalm 24 reflects bringing the Ark into the sanctuary. It is a conversation between those inside the sanctuary and those approaching it, and therefore is most dramatically presented as a Call to Worship by two groups two halves of the congregation, the congregation and the choir, or two choirs (one at the front of the sanctuary and one at the rear). If the last is chosen, it may be followed by a processional hymn, during which banners, candles, crosses, and so forth precede the outer choir. Older children enjoy serving as this outer choir. With encouragement, they read their verses with the exuberance of David dancing before the Ark:
Group 1: 1a Group 1: 5-6
Group 2: 1b Group 2: 7
Group 1: 2a Group 1: 8a
Group 2: 2b Group 2: 8b(pause)9
Group 1: 3 Group 1: 10a
Group 2: 4 Group 2: 10b
2. Base a Prayer of Confession on the sins in Herod's family:
Lord God, you teach us right from wrong. But we ignore you. Like Herod's family, we do what we want, greedily taking what we want, no matter what. We are quick to take revenge on those who hurt us. We pay more attention to what our friends think of us than to what we know is right. Even when we know that others are hurt by what we do, we make no changes. Loving God, forgive us. For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen. Hear the Good News. God is loving and forgiving. More than that, God works in us, giving us the power to do what is right. Thanks be to God!
1. In the movie Chariots of Fire, Olympic runner Eric Liddell said, "God made me fast," and claimed that he could feel God's pleasure when he ran well. For sports-minded children, Eric, running in God's presence, is a powerful parallel to David, dancing before God with all his might.
2. The Quarreling Book, by Charlotte Zolotow, describes how sin spreads through a family and into the community, as one person hurts another after being hurt. The pattern is reversed when a dog continues to wag its tail when snarled at by a little boy.