Worship for Kids: August 20, 2017

July 2nd, 2017

From a Child’s Point of View

Old Testament: Genesis 45:1-15. Before children can understand this story, they need to hear about the brothers’ sale of Joseph and be told that Joseph rose from slavery to leadership in Egypt.

Their focus then is on Joseph’s refusal to take revenge on his brothers. If anyone was ever in a perfect position for satisfying, justified revenge, it was Joseph. Younger children are amazed that Joseph could forgive his brothers after what they did to him. And they often conclude that if Joseph could forgive his brothers then they ought to be able to forgive people for lesser crimes. But Joseph did not forgive because he had become a loving, forgiving person. Older children can begin to understand, if it is pointed out to them, that Joseph forgave because he had a vision that was more important to him than getting even with his brothers. He knew that God was using him to keep his family (and everyone in Egypt) alive through a famine. So, like Joseph, children learn that there are more important things than getting even with those who hurt you.

Psalm: 133. The opening verse and theme of this psalm is one children appreciate: “How good it is when we all get along happily together” (paraphrase). The two examples, however, are strange. Although it was a treat for the psalmist, being anointed with oil sounds slimy and yucky to us today. So explain anointing briefly, laugh at it, and note that in a few thousand years, people probably will think some of our treats just as awful. Though few children have seen the beauty of the dew on Mount Hermon (or even pictures of it), they can identify beautiful places they do treasure. Children get most effectively into the spirit of the psalm when they create their own verses to describe people living together happily (e.g., like a family trip to the beach when the weather is perfect and everyone gets along well together).

Epistle: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32. The question about the Jews is a grown-up’s question. Unless they have been raised with blatant anti-Semitism, few children have pondered the question or find Paul’s answer particularly meaningful. The underlying message that is important to children is that God cares about everyone and does not write off any person or group.

Gospel: Matthew 15:(10-20) 21-28. The story in verses 21-28 confuses children. Jesus’ turning away the pleading mother seems totally out of character. Even when the cultural situation and Jesus’ point are explained, children remain distressed by Jesus’ words and actions.

The teachings in optional verses 10-20 about what comes out of our mouths are, however, very important to children. Though older children are curious about Jewish eating customs, the main point of the passage for all children is that we need to discipline our tongues. We can do a lot of damage with words. Children recognize name calling, cruel teasing, angry words aimed at hurting others, lies, and bad stories told on others (both tattling and gossiping) as some of the defilers that come out of our mouths.

Watch Words

Forgiveness in Joseph’s story means refusing to get even with those who hurt us.

Defiles means gets us into trouble with God (e.g., what comes out of our mouths can get us into trouble with God).

Let the Children Sing

“Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive” is one of the few hymns that focus on our forgiving one another rather than on God forgiving us. After some help with the words, older children can sing along. Consider omitting verse 3, which breaks the focus by speaking of God forgiving.

“Let There Be Peace on Earth” recalls Psalm 113 and Joseph’s willingness to forgive. It also may be used to commit our mouths to peacemaking.

“Go Forth for God,” with its identical opening and closing lines, is a hymn with which the congregation can send its children to live as God’s people at school. Though younger children cannot keep up with all the vocabulary within the verses, they can sing the opening and closing lines and do appreciate that the congregation is singing for them.

The Liturgical Child

1. To create a litany prayer of confession, the leader offers a series of confessions related to our individual and corporate failures to forgive one another. The congregation’s response: Forgive us our debts (trespasses) as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us).

2. Emphasize that we should take care about what comes out of our mouths; both in our homes and with other people.

Prayer of Confession:

God, you created us with mouths to speak. You made us able to say kind words, to talk about important ideas, to laugh together at shared jokes, and to tell stories of your love. We confess that we often misuse your gift. We are more quick to use angry, hurting words than kind ones. We are easily drawn to mean gossip, rumors, and even lies, and we easily forget to tell about the good that others do. We too often hear ourselves laugh at people instead of with them. We are truly surprised, embarrassed, and ashamed of some of the things that come out of our mouths. Forgive us. Work within us until our words are the words you would speak, for we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: When Jonah ran away rather than speak God’s good words in Nineveh, God caught him with a fish and brought him back to speak the words. When Jesus called James and John to be his disciples, they were known as “sons of thunder” because of their mouthy tempers. When Saul set out, muttering threats against the Christians at Damascus, Jesus stopped him in his tracks and sent him to preach God’s good news. The God who created their mouths was able to reform them. And God can do the same with our rebellious mouths. Thanks be to God! Amen.

3. The beginning of a new school year is an intense and important time for children and youths. There is excitement about new clothes and school supplies, new experiences such as having a locker or riding a bus, and new teachers and friends. At the same time, there is fear of each of these new things and a fear of higher standards. Children for whom last year was difficult dread even harder work and the probability of more failures this year. Pray about both the excitement and the fears on the Sunday before school starts. Then the Sunday after classes began, invite children, parents, and adult friends to pray about the new year. Thank God for teachers, but remember that all students are not thankful for all their teachers. Pray about getting along with other students. And ask for help where it will be needed.

Sermon Resources

1. Devote the sermon to retelling the story of Joseph’s confrontation with his brothers (Gen. 42-45). Take time to interpret and enjoy the detailed plot.

2. Being able to forgive requires being able to see what has happened from a position other than our own. This is not easy for children whose early thinking is egocentric. To help them develop this ability, offer a series of examples: Forgiving a little brother who cut up your favorite book (he did not know any better); forgiving an older sister who yelled at you (she had a bad day at school); not throwing a tantrum when everyone else at the picnic got seconds (the fun of the picnic is more important than having seconds); Joseph feeding his brothers rather than getting even with them (God keeping the promises about Joseph’s family was more important than what the brothers had done).

3. Conclude a sermon about forgiveness by having worshipers find “Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive” in their hymnbooks. Put the verses into your own words. Then invite the congregation to sing it.

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