Worship for Kids: September 10, 2017

August 1st, 2017

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Exodus 12:1-14. The killing of the first-born frightens children, especially those who are first-born, and it also raises questions about whether it was fair for God to kill children in order to straighten out an evil king. Though they appreciate the protection offered by the blood on the doorpost, many children remain concerned for the Egyptian first-born. There is no truly satisfactory answer to their concerns.

There are two ways to present this story to children in the context of these lections. First, if services are being planned around the Exodus texts for several weeks, put the focus of today's worship on the contest between the pharaoh and God. Read or tell of some of the plagues and how they made conditions worse for the slaves. The point is that no one, not even a powerful king, can outwit or find a way around God. The Passover is God's final word to the pharaoh and others like him.

But there is a second way to present the story. The central theme of the Passover, "God saves us," is repeated in the crossing of the sea, the text for next week. Since that story is easier for children, use it rather than the Passover to explore the "God saves us" theme.

A word about the lamb: Children whose meat comes from the grocery can be repelled by the directions for killing and cooking lambs. Remind them that every day, all people killed animals to eat. Moses' killing and cooking instructions did not seem weird to the slaves. What was different were the instructions about smearing blood on the doorposts, eating only unleavened bread, and eating while standing up and dressed for travel.

Psalm: 149. Verses 1-5 are easy to understand and share. The military images of verses 6-9, however, are a problem for worshipers of all ages. The only explanation for children is that the Bible is the story of people who were meeting and learning about God. These verses were written by people who thought that God's chosen people were meant to be the strongest military power in the world, but they were wrong. Jesus explained that God's people were chosen to love and serve. Reading such misunderstandings in the Bible reminds us to be ready to learn more about God, so as to clear up any of our misunderstandings.

This passage falls into two separate sections. The first speaks more clearly to children. Verses 8-10 point out that Jesus' teachings about love fit well with the old rules—rules like the Ten Commandments. This point challenges older children, who are basing their moral decisions on what keeps or breaks the rules, to rise to the next level of moral reasoning. That higher level requires the evaluation of all rules by the principle, or spirit, behind them. Paul says that the Old Testament rules are good rules—not because they are in the Bible, but because they are based on love. He points out that if we always do the loving thing, we will find that we are following God's rules. A move from following rules to living by love is a big step.

The second section (vss. 11-14) expresses a sense of urgency, based upon a belief that time is short. Since time seems limitless to children, Paul's sense of urgency about the undated return of Christ is hard for them to accept.

Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20. Alert children will be the first to point out that this is one Bible teaching the church does not follow. The fact that procedures do exist for such disciples evades the reality that they are followed only in extremely serious cases. To understand this passage, one must be able to explore textual problems that are beyond children. What children can understand is the truth that underlies this teaching: We are to work hard at resolving conflicts among ourselves. We are not to hide them, but admit them and work to solve them.

Watch Words

Do not assume that children are familiar with Passover terms. Define Passover, first-born, and unleavened bread.

Love is a key word in exploring both the Matthew and the Romans text. Remember that to many children, love is a mushy word or a term for sexual passion. Be sure to use strong terms in defining love as being about taking care of others. Use masculine as well as feminine examples.

Reconciliation is the adult word for settling a fight between friends. If you use it, take time to introduce it and make it the word of the day.

Let the Children Sing

"Let My People Go" ("Go Down, Moses"), probably the best known spiritual related to the Exodus, might be sung on several Sundays during an Exodus series. The United Methodist Hymnal offers eleven verses!

The triumphant music of "God of the Ages, Whose Almighty Hand" carries its message, even though its words are difficult for children.

If you link Communion with the Passover, sing "God of Our Life," which links past, present, and future.

Though "Let There Be Peace on Earth" is usually sung in reference to global peace, it can be sung as commitment to peace among individuals within the church and around the world.

The Liturgical Child

1. Divide the congregation into two groups, or have the congregation and choir read responsively the short praises of Psalm 149:1-5. Each verse includes two phrases. Verse 1 includes three, the first of which can be said by the whole congregation (or by choir and congregation). Encourage groups to read each phrase as if it were a crowd cheer for God.

2. To emphasize the connection between Passover and the Lord's Supper, use unleavened bread, matzoh, available in most large supermarkets. Point out that this is the bread Jesus used as he and his disciples celebrated passover, at the time he instituted Communion.

3. Prayer of Confession: Lord, you have chosen us to be your family. We confess that we are a family that too often fusses and fights. No matter how hard we try, we seem to get into trouble with one another. Then we make matters worse by holding our angry feelings inside until we explode, by holding grudges, by trying to get people to side with us against those who have hurt us. Forgive us. Teach us how to solve our problems, instead of getting even. Be with us when we try to talk it out. Help us speak honestly but kindly. Remind us to listen, as well as to tell our side. Work with us to keep your family together. For we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Sermon Resources

1. In a sermon about God's contest with the pharaoh, take time to describe each of the plagues. Enjoy some of the early ones: Name the places frogs were found (in your drawers, under your pillow); describe the discomfort of gnat bites on your elbows, behind your knees, in your ears. Comment on the growing seriousness of the plagues and the mounting worry about the consequences of the pharaoh's game with God. Help the children and the whole congregation relish the old family story of the way God beat the evil king and freed God's people.

2. To explore the relationship between rules and love, work through several situations in which the rules of a game are changed. Describe a softball game in which the teams decide to allow the younger players four strikes, so they will have a better change of getting a hit. Compare that rule change to the one demanded by a player who insists, in the last inning of a tied game, that s/he should be allowed four strikes instead of three.

Adapted from Forbid Them Not: Involving Children in Sunday Worship © Abingdon Press

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