Worship for Kids: November 12, 2017

October 3rd, 2017

From a Child's Point of View

All of today's texts deal with serving God.

Old Testament: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25. This is a story appreciated by children who are learning to make choices and live with the consequences. In many ways, they face the same situation the Israelites faced.

The Israelites, after years of wandering in the desert, were settling into houses and taking up farming in the Promised Land. Children today are learning their way into life in a world that is new to them.

It was easy for the Israelites to do what their new neighbors did and to forget what God had taught them in the desert. Children today are tempted to go along with their friends and do what everyone else is doing.

Joshua's warning to the Israelites and to today's children is that they cannot go along with the crowd and still be God's people. They have some choices to make.

Some of the decisions children face today include: whether to try drugs or alcohol: whether to attempt dangerous, forbidden feats; whether to join in cruel pranks or jokes; how to treat the popular and unpopular kids; and what clubs and teams to join.

Psalm: 78:1-7. This psalm parallels Joshua's insistence that the Israelites face a choice because God has acted on their behalf and gave them the Law through the patriarchs. Few children will catch that message as the psalm is read, nor will they particularly understand it is explained.

Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13. Because it deals with a wedding, this parable catches the attention of most children. The Middle Eastern focus on the groom's procession, as opposed to the Western focus on the bride's procession, intrigues and amuses them, but it is hard for them to get to the point of the story. Interpreted with apocalyptic literacy, the parable is a call to live as faithful disciples now, because we do not know when the Day of the Lord, Second Coming, or Judgment Day, will occur.

Interpreted in relation to Joshua's call to serve the Lord, the parable insists that serving the Lord is a matter of daily decisions and preparedness. People are to be ready to serve the Lord wherever and whenever God appears. The former threatens children; the latter invites them to bold adventures with God.

Epistle: I Thessalonians 4:13-18. The question of the Thessalonians—whether Christians who died before Jesus returned would be included in Jesus' new kingdom—has been settled and so seems strange to children. But Paul's unspoken assumption that God loves and cares for us, even after we die, is very important to them. They need reassurance that God still loves and cares for us, even after we die, is very important to them. They need reassurance that God still loves and cares for the people they love who have died. They need to know that those people are safe in God's love and that God will love and care for us when we die.

Watch Words

Children, who serve tennis balls, meet servers in restaurants, and read about servants in stories, need many specific examples of what it means to serve God.

Choose carefully your language about God in action. Children are confused when adults use Day of the Lord, Second Coming, Jugment Day, and "when Jesus returns" interchangeably.

Let the Children Sing

Children enjoy the question/answer format of "Are Ye Able?' Said the Master," but have trouble with the symbolic language of the chorus. So put the chorus into your own words before the hymn is sung. (The choir might sing the questions in the verses, the congregation answering with the chorus.)

The repeated opening and closing lines of each verse make "Go Gorth for God" another commitment hymn children can sing at least part of.

"Lord, I Want to Be a Christian," "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God," and "Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated" are good commitment hymns.

The Liturgical Child

1. There are at least two attention-grabbing ways to present the Old Testament Lesson:

A. Ask the members of the congregation to imagine themselves among the Israelites who, after wandering in the desert, were settling into new homes in the Promised Land. Recall some of the things they experienced in the desert and describe their new lives and neighbors. Tell them that a metting has been called, and ask them to stand as the people then did when they gathered. Then read Joshua 24:1-3a and 14-25.

B. Print the text in the bulletin so that it can be read by a narrator (vss. 1-2a, 25); Joshua (vss. 2b-3a, 14-15, 19-20, 22a, 23); and the people/congregation (vss. 16-18, 21, 22b, 24. Omit all the "he saids." "Joshua" should practice his lines using great power to emphasize their meaning.

2. Display an oil lamp (perhaps placed as part of the chancel floral centerpiece) and explain, or even demonstrate how it works. Point out what happens when the oil is gone. Imagine the inconvenience of carrying both the lamp and an extra jug of oil to an evening wedding. Then read the Gospel text, urging children to lisen for mention of some oil lamps and the jugs of extra oil. (Decorative oil lamps are often sold in the candle sections of stores.)

3. Make the charge and benediction responsive:

Leader—Choose this day who you will serve.
People—We will serve the Lord!
Leader—Then go in peace. Serve your Lord faithfully every day. Be ready to do God's work. Be brave and not shy about serving God. And remember that God is with you always, today and every day, even till the end of the world. Amen.

Sermon Resources

1. Not all choices are between good and bad. Many are betwen two different kinds of good. Children increasingly are making choices between church activities and sports teams or other clubs, practicing or traveling during times that used to be reserved for church. Children (and parents) feel caught between the importance of keeping commitments to a team and serving the Lord through church worship, study, and the serving life. When the team is consistently chosen, we are saying that other commitments are more important than commitments to God.

This true story makes an interesting case study: In the Presbyterian Church, to make a profession of faith and join the church, a person must meet with the Session. After participating in preparation classes, "Chris" did not come to the Session meeting because her softball team had a game at the same time. Others in her class faced similar conflicts, but they chose to be at the meeting. The Session said they would meet "Chris" the following Sunday after church, but she was not able to come to that meeting because her family had made other plans. At that meeting, the session decided that the choices Chris was making led them to believe that she was not ready to make a genuine profession of faith and assume the responsibility of church membership. They suggested that she wait a year. "Chris" and her family were very angry.

2. Tell stories of people who, like the wise bridesmaids, were ready when God called them to serve. Tell about families who welcome refugees into their homes and communities, about youth and adult groups who have gone on mission trips, and children who have undertaken projects they believed God wanted done. If at all possible, tell stories about your congregation's actions, interpreting them in light of today's texts.

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

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