Worship for Kids: October 18, 2015

August 15th, 2015

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Job 38:1-7 (34-41). The summary of God's answer to Job is that God is "more" than Job can even imagine. For children, that is not a very satisfactory answer to Job's questions. It is rather like what adults say when they tell children they must do something because "I say so and I am the mother and you are the little girl." But it does invite children to explore their unanswerable questions about God:

—What was there before God?

—How can God be everywhere at the same time?

—How can God know everything that everyone in the world is thinking and doing all the time?

—How could God make the world out of nothing?

The answer to all these questions and others, is that God is bigger and "more" than we can imagine. The response is to celebrate God's power and "moreness."

Psalm: 104:1-9, 24, 35c. The first four verses describe God's "moreness" with poetic images that children appreciate. The remaining verses describe God's power as the Creator. When older children are told about "the deep" and the psalmist's ideas about how the world was created, they particularly enjoy the mental picture of the receding waters in verses 5-9. The language and verb tenses of The New Jerusalem Bible make it easiest for children to follow.

Epistle: Hebrews 5:1-10. To explain to Jewish readers who Jesus is and why Jesus is important, the writer of Hebrews compared Jesus to something very familiar to Jews, a high priest. Because they knew high priests and their work, those readers immediately caught what the writer was saying about Jesus. But today's readers, especially children, must start by learning about high priests. Even then, it is hard for them to catch the writer's point, because the priest's job of killing an animal to say we are sorry for our sins does not "make sense" today. Still, fifth- and sixth-graders, who are interested in the different ways people understand and do things, are interested in this comparison. They are helped if the high priest is presented as a go-between for the people and God. When the details of the three ways Jesus and a high priest are alike are then examined, Jesus is shown to be the best go-between imaginable.

(Next week's Epistle details the ways Jesus is different from any human priest. The texts could be combined to explore Jesus' priesthood in one Sunday.)

Gospel: Mark 10:35-45. Though adults may be appalled at the request of James and John about seating, children understand and empathize. Those who have had to share a piano bench at the end of a family-reunion dinner table, or have been sent to eat in the kitchen, feel the importance of where one sits. They want to sit in a "big" chair near the guest of honor (especially if it is Grandma). Children also know that the other ten were not offended by the brothers' request, but angry. They were angry that the two had gotten their request in first.

Because children are often told what to do, they long for the day when they can make their own decisions. In frustration, they long for the tables to be turned, so that they can give the instructions. It is that wish that makes them bossy with one another, and it is to this that Jesus speaks. Jesus insists that he is not impressed by those who sit in the best places or give orders; instead, he is impressed by those who go about quietly, taking care of the needs of others.

Watch Words

This is a good opportunity to focus on the big words that describe the ways God is more than we can understand: immortal, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, and so forth. Define them and use them repeatedly. Celebrate them!

The deep does not refer to the waters of deep oceans. It was the water that covered the entire earth before the continents were formed.

Do not use priestly or sacrificial language without explaining it.

Let the Children Sing

The vocabulary of "I Sing the (Al)mighty Power of God" makes it one of the easiest creation hymns for children. "God of the Sparrow" may be best sung by a children's choir or class. The impossibly big words in "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" normally deter children but can be attempted today to invite them to sing about God's greatness. Before singing, point out some of the big words and briefly tell what they say about God.

Continue singing discipleship hymns noted in Proper 19. Though children do not understand many of the words of "Are Ye Able?" they enjoy the format and can sing the "Lord, we are able" answer sincerely.

The Liturgical Child

1. Use Psalms 104:1-4 as a Call to Worship. The congregation responds in unison, "Bless the Lord, O my soul!" and then sings a hymn praising God.

2. Because they are familiar with the feelings involved, children can easily pantomime today's Gospel lesson as it is read by a worship leader. Biblical costumes would help them to assume their roles.

3. A Prayer of Confession about being servants:

When we read Jesus' call to be unselfish servants, God, we are embarrassed. We are embarrassed because we know how hard we work to get our own way; we know how much we want to be first in every line; we know how greedily we grab for the most of everything; and we admit that we dream of winning every game, every prize, every award. Even when we try to follow your example, we find that we think first about ourselves and what we want and need. Forgive us, and remake us into people who can love and serve others. For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Jesus did not give up on James or John, or any of the other self-centered disciples. Instead, he kept loving them and forgiving them and teaching them. He worked in them and through them, to start the church. And he will do the same with us!

Sermon Resources

1. Children face today's Gospel teaching most directly when older children are left "in charge of" younger children or siblings. The older ones struggle with the tension between making the younger ones do what the older ones want them to do, and helping them do what they want to do. Younger ones clearly refer to this passage in demanding "their rights."

2. The classic Charlotte's Web by E. B. White offers several examples of gentle, loving service. Wilbur, the runt of the litter of pigs, is saved from early death by Fern, who refuses to let her father kill him, and then nurses him to health until he becomes a championship pig. Wilbur is saved later from becoming Christmas ham by a spider named Charlotte, who weaves complimentary words about Wilbur into her web above his pen. After Charlotte saves Wilbur, she dies giving birth to her young, who continue to be Wilbur's friends.

3. Describe several "used-to thinks" about God. For example:

Christians used to think that the world was flat and that God lived up above it. Now we think that the earth is a very small round planet in a vast universe, and God moves everywhere throughout the universe.

OR:

I used to think that if God spoke to me, it would be with words my ears would hear. Now I have found that God communicates with me in many ways, such as through things I see and words that other people say or write.

"Used-to-thinks" emphasize the truth that we never know all there is to know about God, so they encourage worshipers of all ages to keep revising their understandings about God.

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