Worship for Kids: October 16, 2016

September 19th, 2016

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:27-34. The detailed and varied poetic images in verses 27-28 make it essential that the liturgist explain directly that Jeremiah is promising the people who were in exile in Babylon that God will one day rebuild their nation. With that background, children can hear and respond strongly to the four specific promises:

—The change in the saying about eating grapes promises that people will be held responsible only for their own actions. This is as welcome to today's children, who want to be treated according to who they are and what they do, as it was to Daniel and the other children who were carried into Babylon because their parents had disobeyed God.
—"I will be their God, and they will be my people" promises the security of God's loving closeness (GNB). Children who yearn for a secure place in a strong group, led by a leader who knows them personally, respond to this invitation to be part of God's people.
—"None of them will have to teach his fellow countryman to know the LORD, because all will know me, from the least to the greatest," paints a picture of knowledge that comes not through teachings but through relationships (GNB). Any child who is tired of having to learn about God from teachers welcomes a promise of knowing God personally, rather than learning about God secondhand.
—"I will write [my law] on their hearts" promises that instead of knowing about God or even knowing God, we will find that God lives within us (NRSV). From about the age of four or five, children develop a growing understanding of the way we use the word heart to talk about our deepest, truest commitments. They learn to put a hand on their heart when they say the Pledge of Allegiance, say "cross my heart" as a kind of oath, and cut out valentine hearts for those they love. So, to think of God's will as being written on our hearts will be plausible, if not totally comprehended by even young children.

Psalm: 119:97-104. This section of Psalm 119 might be titled "The Law (or the Bible) and Me." Each verse tells about what the Bible means to "me" or how "I" use the Bible. Because the verses of the acrostic are loosely connected and not particularly meaningful to children, their best use may be as encouragement to worshipers to write their own verses about what the Bible means to them.

Epistle: 2 Timothy 3:14–4:5. This contains more of Paul's encouragement for Timothy. Verses 3:14-17 suggest that studying the Bible is the way to know about God and what God wants us to do. This is not a new idea for children, but one they need to hear emphasized repeatedly.

In 4:1-5, Paul encourages Timothy to do the work of parching and teaching to which he has been called. He is specifically warned against putting off doing what is difficult. Like Timothy, children often try to put off discipleship until they are older or until it is easier. They need to be reminded that discipleship is never easy. Paul was put in prison for preaching. We do not know what problems Timothy met, but they were problems he wanted to avoid. Like Paul and Timothy, children can expect problems as they do God's work at school and among their friends. Like Paul and Timothy, children are to be strong and patient.

Gospel: Luke 18:1-8. This passage is also about persistence. Jesus uses a story about a villainous judge to make a point. Children are easily confused by this story, unless they are bluntly told that Jesus is saying that even a bad judge will give in to the persistence of an unwanted pest (the woman), so we can expect our loving and fair God to respond to our persistent prayers. They also need to be told bluntly that Jesus was not saying that God is like the bad judge, who only responds when someone becomes a pest.

Watch Words

A covenant is a set of "big" promises between two people or groups. While the promises made in a contract are specific, those in a covenant are broader and affect more of our life. For example, a boss and an employee sign a contract about the work the employee will do and the wages the boss will pay. But when a man and woman marry, they make a covenant to be a family for the rest of their lives.

Point out that the words law, commandments, decrees, precepts, and ordinances are all found in the Bible. Children may understand Psalm 119 better when they substitute the Bible for these words.

Call the Bible the Bible rather than Scriptures, Holy Book, or other names, unless you introduce the names as you use them.

Persistence means sticking with it, not giving up.

Let the Children Sing

Continue singing the hymns of discipleship mentioned for the last weeks.

"Wonderful Words of Life" celebrates the importance of the Bible for direction and has a chorus that children can sing and may know from church school.

If children are familiar with "Be Thou My Vision," sing it today to celebrate the covenant "written on our hearts."

The Liturgical Child

1. Invite an early-elementary children's class to present today's section of Psalm 119, with each child saying aloud one of the short verses. The children stand at the front of the sanctuary like a choir, with each child holding an open Bible, but repeating his or her verse from memory.

2. Create a responsive prayer of confession based on the Ten Commandments. After worshipers read each Commandment, a worship leader offers a prayer about the ways we fail to live with it "written on our hearts." For example:

People: You shall have no other gods before me.
Leader: But there are so many important things we must do, God, and so many we want to do. There are clothes and homes and toys and trips and jobs and awards that we want so badly. Sometimes we write so many wants and dreams on our hearts that they become our gods, instead of You. Forgive us, and write your will in big letters on our hearts.

3. Base the charge and benediction on Paul's charge to Timothy:

IN the presence of God and Christ Jesus, I urge you, just as Paul urged Timothy, to do the work to which God calls you. Be a disciple even when it is inconvenient and risky. Do God's work even when it seems that what you do does not matter. Live by God's rules, even when everyone else is following the rules of me-first and greed. Don't give up. I know you can do this, because you remember that Jesus promised his disciples, "I will be with you always." So go in peace. Amen.

Sermon Resources

1. Help children understand Jeremiah's saying about eating sour grapes by describing more familiar eating experiences, such as the response to drinking sour milk, the way a tongue and mouth pucker when biting into a really sour dill pickle, or the burning mouth and tears that follow hot mustard or spicy chili.

2. Illustrate Jeremiah's point about a "covenant written on the heart" by describing the difference between doing a science project that fascinates you and one that is required but does not interest you, or practicing the piano because you really like a song and want to play it beautifully, instead of because your folks tell you to.

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