Worship for Kids: October 1, 2023

August 25th, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Exodus 17:1-7. The story of the water from the rock parallels last week's story of manna and quail. In each case the people worry and complain, and God provides what is needed. Again, the key issue is to trust God, particularly for the necessities of life. For children, who must depend on others for these basics, the point it not very meaningful. Instead, they focus on the details and repetitive point in these stories. They may feel a little superior to the travelers who were such slow learners and will enjoy adding the story of water from the rock to their growing repertory of Exodus stories.

Psalm: 78:1-4, 12-16. This psalmist praises God for bringing water from a rock. If you have been worshiping around the Exodus texts, children will recognize the references to other events on the journey and appreciate the psalmist's point of view.

Epistle: Philippians 2:1-13. Paul urges the Philippians to live as Jesus did, and then quotes a hymn/poem about Jesus to illustrate what he means. Children will follow neither as they are read, but with help, they can appreciate Paul's point. The Philippians (and we) are to be as obedient to God's will as Jesus was. Though Jesus ruled the universe and rightfully should have been treated like a king, he was willing to come to earth as our servant in order to share God's love.

Therefore, we are to be willing to give up what is rightfully ours in order to be servants to one another and to share God's love. Because most children are deeply concerned about getting their fair share and missing out on nothing that is rightfully theirs, they are impressed by Jesus' willingness to give up what was rightfully his in order to serve us.

Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32. The parable of the two sons is set in the text of a conversation between Jesus and some Temple leaders about the authority of Jesus and John the Baptist. The intricacies of the conversation are beyond children, but the parable is clear and speaks of a familiar childhood situation—obedience to parents. Children quickly realize that neither of these sons is a "good" son, but that the first is better than the second. With adult help, they can grasp Jesus' point about what it means to do God's will. For children, the point is that the Christian who goes to church and claims to know about God's love and to be a disciple of Jesus, but who does not follow God's rules or share God's love at school and in the neighborhood, is not doing God's will. In fact, the person who never goes to church, but who lives by God's rules and shares God's love, comes closer to doing God's will.

Watch Words

Follow up on last week's attention to providence by making trust the word of this week.

Few children know the meaning of the mercy or compassion of God mentioned in the psalm. Speak instead of God's patient understanding with the complaining, untrusting travelers.

A clearer word for God's will is God's plan. God's will is what God intends or plans. For example, a dinner says to a waitress, "I will have fried chicken for dinner," or a teacher says to the class, "I will have quiet before we go on." Both are stating their intent. To do God's will is to follow God's rules and work on God's plan.

Let the Children Sing

Last week's Exodus hymns remain good choices. Singing "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" two Sundays in a row helps children to learn it.

If the focus is on obedience, sing "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God" or "Take My Life, and Let It Be Consecrated." Add verses to the spiritual "I'm Goin' a Sing When the Spirit Says Sing," such as "I'm going' a obey" or "I'm goin' a serve."

Praise the Christ of the Philippian hymn with "Come, Christians, Join to Sing"; nonreaders can sing at least the Alleluias. Even though it is not Christmas, sing "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly," which reflects Paul's hymn.

The Liturgical Child

  1. Prayer of Confession: Amighty God, you love us and take care of us just as you loved and took care of the travelers in the wilderness. But, like them, we complain and worry. We complain about the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the house we live in, the jobs we do. We worry that we are missing out on things that we deserve. We are jealous of anything others have that we do not. And, we worry that we will lose even what we have. Help us recognize all the ways you take care of us. Help us appreciate and enjoy your gifts. And teach us to trust you to give us what we need. Amen. Assurance of Pardon: Even after God led them away from Pharaoh and through the Reed Sea, even after God fed them with manna and quail and made water flow from a rock, the people complained. God had every right to give up on them. But, God was patient. God took care of them and taught them and forgave them. God promises to do the same for you and for me. We have Jesus' word on it. Thanks be to God!
  2. Invite the congregation to read in unison the Psalm section for the day from the Common English Bible.
  3. Invite the children to sit with you at the front for the reading of the Gospel lesson. In your own words, tell the parable of the two sons, concluding with Jesus' question. Hear and briefly discuss the children's answers. Then inform them that Jesus told the same story to a group of church leaders and asked the same question. Urge them to listen for the story as you read the text from the Bible, perhaps holding in your lap the big Bible from the lectern. (Begin and end the reading with whatever admonitions customarily accompany the reading of the Gospel.) Then send the children back to their seats.
  4. Offer a series of petitions about God's will being done, to which the congregation responds, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. For example:

Creating God, who made and loves each of us, we know it is not your will that people should be homeless. When we see people sleeping on sidewalks, we hurt inside. But their problems seem too big for us. Give us the courage not to look away, but to look for a way to help. (RESPONSE)

Sermon Resources

  1. If you begin the sermon with examples of our complaining and whining, include some children's complaints: School is too hard; My parents love my sister more than me; Coach doesn't like me, so I never get to play; I never get to . . . ; He always gets to . . . ; Everyone else has a . . . ; No one else has a little brother as pesky as mine; and so forth!
  2. To recall the Exodus stories of God's care, present a series of teaching pictures or symbols. Find teaching pictures in the church-school files, or draw symbols on sheets of posterboard. These may be mounted on dowels set in buckets of sand, propped against as railing in the chancel, or displayed one at the time on an easel. As each is presented, recall God's care for the people in that situation.

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

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