Worship for Kids: September 4, 2016

August 1st, 2016

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Jeremiah 18:1-11. This passage presents an image that is both familiar and challenging for children. Though they may not have seen a potter working at a wheel, most children have had many enjoyable experiences working with clay. They understand the process of reworking a piece until you get what you want. Younger children, however, will need help making the connection between potters working with clay and God working with us. The natural expectation of concrete thinkers is to visualize God reworking the shapes of our bodies. To get beyond this to Jeremiah's message, children need to hear such examples as God working selfishness into generosity, or a quick temper into a controlled one. Children also need to explore what this reworking is like. Obviously, God does not punch us down into a lump (or turn us back into babies) and start over again. God works on us by giving us teachers and examples in the lives of others. God gives us the messages of the Bible to help us know how to live. God is with us, helping us learn from events in our lives.

Although we often focus on God's shaping of our personal lives, God was speaking to Jeremiah about shaping the nations. Older children, having an interest in the larger world and focusing on groups to which they belong, are primed to hear that God shapes and reworks the lives of groups and nations.

Psalm: 139:1-6, 13-18. This is the psalmist's praise of God, who created him and knows him thoroughly. The original Jerusalem Bible translation is probably clearest to children. It emphasizes the psalmist's appreciation for the way he was made. To children, it is an opportunity to appreciate the unique talents and potentials that God has given them.

Epistle: Philemon 1 –21. This passage deals with a situation totally foreign to children. They have neither an understanding of first-century slavery nor appreciation for the social stand Paul was asking of Philemon. If asked what Philemon should do, their response is, "Simple! He should do what Paul asked, because Paul was the great teacher and leader of the church." They are generally impressed with Onesimus' courage in returning to Philemon.

Gospel: Luke 14:25-33. This passage includes two concrete stories which illustrate a very "hard" lesson about discipleship. Children can understand the stories about the tower builder and the king going to war, but they will need help to interpret them and relate them to Jesus' point in verses 25-27 and 33.

Jesus was speaking to adults, not to children, when he demanded that they "hate"—that is, "be totally detached from" their families. He overstated his case to make the point that our discipleship is to take priority over all other loyalties and commitments, even those to family. For adults, this is difficult but possible. For children, who are dependent upon the love and care of their families, it is not even remotely comprehensible. It is also scary because of what it demands of children and what it suggests might be demanded of the parents upon whom they are so dependent. Children need to hear this verse with reassurances about Jesus' point. It helps to read it with verses 27 and 33, which insist that each of us must be a good disciple and that following Jesus is to be the most important thing in our lives.

Watch Words

The job of the potter and the function of the potter's wheel need to be described so that children can recognize the similarity between that process and their own experiences working with clay.

Let the Children Sing

The Jeremiah text all but demands the use of "Have Thine Own Way, Lord." While the concepts in verses 2-4 are beyond most children, there is no better Sunday on which to introduce the hymn.

Sing of God's creative work in us with "Now Thank We All Our God," "He Leadeth Me: O Blessed Thought" (children pick up on the chorus first), or "God Will Take Care of You" (the repeated phrase and easy chorus overshadow the obsolete vocabulary of the verses).

Sing your featured discipleship hymn or "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God," to celebrate the sainthood to which Philemon and we are called.

The Liturgical Child

1. To bring Jeremiah's experience in the potter's shop to life, arrange for a local potter to work at a potter's wheel during the reading of the Scripture. Read slowly enough so that the potter can demonstrate what Jeremiah saw, or take time just before the reading to discuss with the potter how pots are shaped and reshaped.

2. Follow the psalmist in praising the wonderful ways God has created and cares for each of us:

Lord, we want to talk to you about how you have made us and shaped our lives.
Creator God, you gave each of us a one-of-a-kind body. There are things we like about our bodies and things we wish were different. We confess that we sometimes eat and drink things that are harmful to our bodies. In the silence, let us each speak to God about our bodies. (PAUSE)
Lord of Our Lives, you gave each of us special talents and skills. Sometimes we forget to say thank you for them. Sometimes we need to talk to you about how we use these skills in order to love others. In the silence, let each of us speak to God about our talents and skills. (PAUSE)
Loving God, you placed certain qualities in each of us. It's easy for us to list those with which we struggle. But we are less ready to notice our admirable qualitiesLeader:the patience and kindness and generosity you have planted in us. In the silence, let us each honestly thank God for the good qualities that we recognize in ourselves. (PAUSE)

The worship leader concludes the prayer by praying aloud Psalm 139:13-18, changing the singular pronouns to plural ones.

3. Children are fascinated by Philemon because it is the shortest book in the Bible. So invite worshipers to follow along in their Bibles as you read the entire book. Then congratulate them on having read a whole book of the Bible and encourage them to read others.

Before the reading, explain the situation that prompted this letter and encourage worshipers to imagine themselves as Philemon, opening his door to his runaway slave and reading this letter from Paul.

Sermon Resources

1. Give each worshiper an egg-sized lump of clay to work in their hands during the sermon. The physical experience of working the clay will sharpen Jeremiah's message. Having something to do with their hands also helps children listen to the sermon. The clay could be passed out by ushers or by a children's class as the sermon begins. Children's modeling dough (either homemade or purchased) is the cleanest and least expensive to use. Invite worshiper to leave their clay in a dishpan at the rear of the church or take it home with them.

2. Tell stories about starting things that cannot be finished: an unhappy eight-year-old who runs away from home without food or any idea of where to go; an overly ambitious science-fair project (perhaps dissecting a pig, which cannot be obtained); a boast about being brave enough to explore a deserted house. Proceed to ambitious discipleship stories: a commitment to set aside snack money each day for a hunger offering at church; a design to keep on forgiving someone who continually teases you; and so on.

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