Worship for Kids: June 11, 2017

May 8th, 2017

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Genesis 1:1 –2:4a. This story of the seven-day creation of the world is familiar to most church children. They enjoy identifying what was created on each day. Fifth- and sixth-graders enjoy learning, from the creation of the domed sky in verses 6-8, that the writer(s) thought the world was like a flat plate covered by an inverted bowl, rather than like a ball suspended in space. Knowing that the scientific redefinition of the shape of the earth did not change our understanding of the God who created it provides budding scientists and historians with a crucial understanding to serve as a foundation for their learning and thinking about the world.

Psalm: 8. Children share the psalmist's awe when looking at the world, and his wonder at the role people play in that world. Most of the words and ideas are concrete enough to be understood by all children. The meaning of those that are not can be communicated in the tones and inflections of a dramatic reading.

Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples into the world in God's three-part name. They are to do the work of God, who created and cares for the world; of Jesus, who loved and forgave us; and of the Holy Spirit, who is working to make the world the wonderful place God intended that it be. Children often learn about God by identifying what God does and what God calls us to do.

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13:11-13. Paul concludes his letter with the hope that the Triune God will be with his readers and support them. Children can learn about God by the ways God acts on our behalf. God created the world and all of us, and God has a good plan for each of us. God in Jesus teaches us how to live and forgives us when we do not do as we should. And God's Spirit lives with us to enjoy life with us and works in us to give us the power to do hard work.

Watch Words

Children first understand Trinity and Triune simply as words we use at church to talk about God. The connection to a triangle helps them to recall and define the word.

Remember that God is neither male nor female. If you prefer not to speak of God in feminine images such as Mother, do avoid overusing masculine images and pronouns.

Let the Children Sing

"Now Thank We All Our God" is probably the best general praise hymn for the day. Second choice is either the familiar "Holy, Holy, Holy!" in which difficult vocabulary is balanced by a repeated opening phrase, or the less familiar "Holy! Holy!" which has simpler vocabulary.

Consider three hymns, one for each person of the Trinity. To God the Creator, sing "For the Beauty of the Earth" or "This Is My Father's World." Sing "Jesus Loves Me!" or "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus" for Jesus the Son. And try "Breathe on Me, Breath of God" for the Holy Spirit, especially if you sang it last week to celebrate Pentecost.

The Liturgical Child

1. The creation story is familiar and loved. It is also long. To keep everyone's attention, ask seven readers to read one day each. In a small sanctuary, readers standing in a semicircle might be heard clearly. If microphones are needed, readers can stand near the microphone and take turns. If two mikes are available, alternate days can be read from each mike. Readers may include people of all ages, or they may be all from one class. One practice session is essential.

2. To help worshippers share the psalmist's awe, invite them to line out Psalm 8. (Lining out psalms and hymns was part of worship every Sunday in colonial America. A worship leader read or sang a line, which the congregation then repeated.) Instruct worshipers to repeat your tone and voice inflections, as well as your words. Ten read the psalm dramatically, one or two lines at a time. Speak majestically the lines about God's glory and majesty. Emphasize the thoughtfulness of the questions in verses 3 and 4. Decide carefully which words to emphasize in verses 5 through 8. (The meaning can be shaded by emphasizing either the "Yous" or the names of the animals put into human care.)

3. Base both the Charge and Benediction on the Trinitarian formula:

Go now to join God the Creator in caring for the earth and all the plants and animals that live here. Tell people about Jesus. Take up Jesus' work of loving the people no one else loves. Pay attention to places where God's Spirit is at work building peace, and do what you can to help.

And as you go, remember that the God who created you watches over you; that Jesus loves you and forgives you; and that God's Spirit will be with you, to comfort you and give you more power than you ever imagined you could have. Amen.

4. At a World Mission conference several years ago, a missionary told of a young Chinese boy who heard the Great Commission from the King James Version ("and lo, I am with you alway"). Because his name was Lo, he felt God speaking directly to him. Tell this story to invite worshipers to hear Jesus speak to them as you repeat the Great Commission as the Benediction.

Sermon Resources

1. Children enjoy the old story abut the blind people who learned about an elephant by touching it. The one who touched one of the legs thought an elephant is like a tree; the one who caught hold of the trunk decided an elephant is like a snake; and so on. Older children have the ability to understand that this can be compared to trying to describe God. God is so big that none of us will ever know all there is to know about God. But we can keep exploring God: We can read the Bible, we can pray; and we can talk and work with others at church.

2. To explore our commission from the Triune God in Matthew 28:19-20, describe God's presence and work in the world in terms of the Trinity. Children recognize God the Creator quickly in the beauty and power of the world. And though they enjoy sunrises and sunsets, most children are more responsive to rainbows and animals, and they are fascinated by baby anythings. Many have experience with puppies, kittens, and baby brothers or sisters. They respond enthusiastically to calls to join God in caring for the created world. Ecology is their science.

Children are also comfortably familiar with stories about Jesus. Jesus is perceived by children as One who loved and took care of people, especially people with needs. They also know from his stories that Jesus wants us to join him in that work (the good Samaritan story may be best known). The preaching task is to identify those around us every day who need this loving care.

Holy Spirit is harder for children to respond to because it operates the abstract. The best introduction is for adults to say, "I feel God's Holy Spirit with us," in high moments of worship, mission, and church fellowship, so that children can collect experiences with the Holy Spirit. So cite times when you have sensed the presence in your congregation, then challenge worshippers to recognize and interpret such experiences to one another, and especially to their children.

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