Worship for Kids: November 5, 2017

October 1st, 2017

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Joshua 3:7-17. If you worshipped around the story of crossing the sea (Proper 19), even children will recognize the parallels between the crossings. In both, God's people are crossing a border on their trip to the Promised Land. In both, God opened a path through a water barrier so that they could pass. At the Red Sea, Moses was the leader. At the Jordan River, Moses' successor Joshua was in charge. By opening the sea, God proved to the people that it was God's power, and not their own, that made their escape from Egypt possible.

At the Jordan River, God reminded the people that God was with them as they claimed the Promised Land. Children are not ready to deal with the possibility of archetypal stories. For them, these are simply two very similar incidents. Rather than raise the issues behind the comparisons, it is advisable to preach on the crossing of either the sea or the river, but not both in such close proximity.

Psalm: 107:33-43. The psalmist recounts a series of surprising turnarounds, in which God acts on behalf of those who are weak and against those who are cruel. The language is difficult for childdren to follow in any translation, but it's theme is important to them. Children who feel weak and vulnerable appreciate hearing that God takes the side of such people. And successful, strong children need to hear that God punishes those who use their strength and power to hurt others.

Gospel: Matthew 23:1-12. The heart of this text is in verses 11-12. (Consider reading verses 11-12 before 1-10, as well as after.) Living up to these verses is as difficult for children as it is for adults. Children are urged by both teachers and parents to be achievers, to become "the best," to be elected to class office, to win awards. Jesus' call to be servants seems to be in opposition to all this pressure for success. The challenge is to help children see the difference between achieving recognition for self and achieving on behalf of others. As an example, compare a coach bent on becoming Number One, with one bent on helping the team members play the best they can and enjoy the sport.

Rather than becoming tangled in the fringe, phylacteries, titles, and seats coveted by the religious leaders in verses 1-10, focus on the summary verses and how they are to be lived out today.

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13. Paul and his co-workers provide good examples of faithful servants in action. They worked night and day to introduce the Thessalonians to God's love. They were careful to set the very best examples of God's love, and they themselves loved each of the people they worked with. Finally, they were delighted with the good results of all their work.

Watch Words

Before reading the Joshua story, tell worshippers that Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites were people who lived in the Promised Land.

The Ark of the Covenant, unlike Noah's ark, was not a boat. Describe this ark, and what it meant to the Jews, before reading about its role in crossing the river.

In Christian worship, Jordan River is used figuratively as the boundary between life and death. Before using it thus with children, explain that the point of today's text—God will go with you—applies to all the big changes in our lives, even to dying.

Let the Children Sing

"Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" is filled with Exodus images which should be familiar if you have been following that story. Explain its use of "the Jordan" and "Canaan" before singing the hymn.

"Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" is the simplest way to commit ourselves to a servanthood like that of Jesus. "I'm Gonna Live So God Can Use Me" is another spiritual that young readers can join in on.

The Liturgical Child

1. Ask a children's class to pantomime the crossing of the Jordan River as it is read. As the reader announces the text, two children (river bearers) take their places at the front of the sanctuaty, holding the ends of a long strip of blue fabric, waving it waist high.

The rest of the class enters from the back, with Joshua in the lead, followed by the Ark (a cardboard box painted gold), its carriers, and the rest of God's people. The procession stop when Joshua reaches the river.

Joshua turns around to face the people as verse 7 is read. At the beginning of verse 8, he raises his arms to speak to the people. At verse 14, he drops his arms and steps aside.

As the Ark bearers come to the edge of the river (verse 15), the river bearers drop the blue fabric to the floor for the people to cross the river. The people stand across the front of the sanctuary as the concluding verses are read.

After the reader makes the customary statements to mark the end of the reading, the children respond, "We praise the Lord!" then leave the sanctuary or take their seats.

Practice is essential, and simple costumes (even just head scarves) make the presentation more effective.

2. To help children identify all the turnarounds God affects in Psalm 107:33-43, read it as follows:

Leader—Introduce the psalm and announce the reading of Scripture in the usual manner.
Reader 1—verses 33-34
Reader 2—verses 35-38
Reader 1—verses 39-40
Reader 2—verse 41
Leader—verses 42-43 (the summary verses)

3. Base a Prayer of Confession on being servants: Lord God of the universe, we confess that we want to be the best, the first, the most, the top. We want to be the one in charge, the one who sets the rules and makes the plans. We want to win all the prizes and always be Number One. We want people to like us, to respect our ideas, and be our friends. We are so full of what we want to do and be that we can think of nothing else. Forgive our self-centeredness. Teach us to look and listen for the needs and wants of others. Remind us that we are called to be servants, not masters. Help us find the happiness that comes when we care for and support others. Amen.

4. Pray for turnarounds such as those in Psalm 107 that are needed today. Give worshipers silence in which to pray for individuals they know who need such a turnaround. Pray for the homeless, for bullies who need an internal turnaround, and for community or national events in which a turnaround is needed.

5. Pray for safety for all who trick-or-treat and enjoy Halloween parties or haunted houses. Pray for the wisdom to remember that behind our masks, we are still God's loving people, and we are to treat people accordingly.

Sermon Resources

1. The stories about Cinderella and her ugly step-sisters, and the fable of the Ugly Duckling, are well-known turnarounds that people of all ages understand.

2. Do a little research on what your children will wear for Halloween. Compare what makes those characters great with what Jesus said makes a person great. Be alert for costumes such as nurses or clowns, which do fit into Jesus' definition of greatness through care of others.

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

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