Worship for Kids: April 3, 2016

March 2nd, 2016

From a Child's Point of View

Gospel: John 20:19-31. This passage includes two related, yet separate Easter stories.

John 20:19-23 describes Jesus' first postresurrection encounter with the disciples. His appearance tells us two things about his resurrected body. First, he appears inside a locked room; his "new" body is not like the physical body he had before death. Second, his body bears the wounds of crucifixion; his body is still the same. Children will be curious about this.

During this encounter, Jesus reassured his disciples that he was indeed alive, and then he put them to work. The message to children is that Easter is not an ending; it is a new chapter in God's work. On Easter evening, Jesus is already looking ahead. He gives his disciples the gift of the Spirit and sends them out, saying, "As the Father sent me, so I send you."

To help the children identify what the Father sent Jesus to do, explore key stories about Jesus' ministry. Their challenge is then to find ways to do that kind of work today. Just as Jesus fed the hungry crowd, children can work to help relieve hunger. Just as Jesus befriended the friendless, children can make friends with the lonely people they meet, and so forth.

The story of Thomas reassures children that the Risen Lord is still the kind, understanding Jesus. Thomas, who was left out of the first encounter with Jesus, raises the kinds of questions any child might raise. Jesus is not offended by the questions, but honors them and offers to let Thomas touch the wounds, if that's what it takes to answer his questions. In so doing, Jesus blesses all our questions. No honest question is too silly, disrespectful, or unworthy to be asked and answered (or at least discussed).

Acts 5:27-32. This passage gives an example of the disciples doing as Jesus instructed. They are being witnesses to what God has done through Jesus. For children, the heart of this passage is Peter's statement, "We must obey God rather than men." This is a brave stand. It calls on children to be as heroic as Peter in obeying God's laws and doing God's will, rather than going along with the crowd when the crowd is not going God's way. The "crowd" is most often other children who play together in informal settings, but it also can include their own families, school classes, or even congregation. (Children can become the conscience of their communities.)

Psalm: Psalm 118:14-29 or 150. These exuberant praises are fitting psalms for Jesus' disciples after Easter. When they are read with strong, happy conviction, children understand the meaning of occasional phrases, but they respond more strongly to the mood of the psalms. Dramatic presentation is essential.

Revelation 1:4-8. This passage includes lots of imagery with Old Testament roots, which are beyond children. Two phrases, however, do stand out for children. The first is the set of phrases about God, who is "Alpha and Omega," who "was and is and is to be." These are the answers to the questions, "What was there before God?" or "Who made God?" These answers challenge children to begin thinking of God as bigger than they can imagine. Such conversations lay the foundation of children's theology and provide great security. (If we are in the care of such as power, we are safe.)

The second phrase that grabs children attention is the description of Christians as "a kingdom of priests," or as Protestant children might say, "a kingdom of ministers." This parallels John's sending of the disciples and can be explored in much the same way.

Watch Words

The words of today's texts pose no problems for children. Avoid generalizing the messages of the texts with big words about the omnipotence of the preexisting God.

Let the Children Sing

Singing "Come Christians Join to Sing" is a good way to keep the Alleluias going the week after Easter (and throughout the Easter season).

"Rejoice, the Lord Is King," with its repeated chorus of "Lift up your heart, lift up your voice," celebrates the Lord who is King.

The Liturgical Child

1. Present John 20:19-31 with three readers. The worship leader for the day introduces the passage and recalls what happened in verses 1-18. A second reader then reads verses 19-23. A third reader picks up with verses 24-29. The first reader then concludes byreading verses 30-31. Changing readers for the different stories within the ongoing narrative helps keep the children's attention.

2. Give Acts 5:27-32 your best dramatic reading. Read the high priest's question in an authoritarian voice, looking down your nose at the disciples from one side of the lectern. Then turn slightly as you read Peter's brave, enthusaistic reply.

3. Use Psalm 150 as a call to worship before an Easter praise hymn. Readers (either a children's class, a choir, or the whole congregation) repeat the psalm in unison, pausing after verses 3, 4, and 5 for the instrument(s) mentioned in that verse to be played. In place of the trumpet, lute, and pipes, the organ could be used with the appropriate stops. Each instrumentalist plays the first line of the hymn; the congregation then sings in response to the last verse of the psalm.

4. Ask the adult choir to present Psalm 118 as a spirited choral reading for Easter people:
verse 14—UNISON;
verses 15-18—MEN (perhaps with solos for the shouted phrases of vss. 15-16);
verses 19-20—UNISON;
verses 21-230—WOMEN;
and verse 24—UNISON.

5. If you sing the Gloria patri regularly in worship, take time either just before singing it or during the sermon to explore the meaning of "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end." This is on-the-job worship education.

6. Create a benediction based on John 20:21. For example:

Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, even so I send you . . .
to heal those who are sick and dying . . .
to befriend the friendless in Jesus' name . . .
to tell of God's love . . .
(etc. based on points of the sermon)
As you go, remember that the peace of God is with you, and the power of the Holy Spirit will uphold and direct you because you are the Easter People, a kinigdom of priests for God. Amen.

Sermon Resources

1. These texts and those for the following Sundays suggest a sermon series about Easter People. Explore who the Easter People are, what they do, and what they are like. Challenge worshipers of all ages to see themselves as Easter People. Consider giving each worshiper a small token, perhaps a plastic or metal cross to carry in a pocket each day during the coming weeks, as a reminder that each of them is one of the Easter People. Ask the choir to sing Avery and Marsh's song, "Every Day Is Easter Day," today and several times during the series.

From today's texts we learn that Easter People experience God's peace (John), praise God (Psalms), obey God first (Acts), and are sent to serve (Revelation and John).

2. Tell stories about people who chose to obey God rather than people. Include stories about well-known people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Also, describe activities in your congregation that show you to be Easter People: volunteer work (serving as a kingdom of priests); mission projects (carried out by youth groups); and specific events which give a peace-filled feeling (perhaps a congregational weekend retreat in which children participate).

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