Worship for Kids: November 22, 2020

October 7th, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Here the church concludes one Christian year and looks forward to Advent-Christmas-Epiphany, with which the next year begins. Christ the King Sunday looks back over the whole story of God's revelation in Christ and looks forward to the consummation of that story. But this is beyond the comprehension of children. For them it is simply a Sunday to think about Jesus as the King, the ultimate power of the universe. Today's texts invite us to praise and serve Jesus, the King who chooses to be a shepherd.

Epistle: Ephesians 1:15-23. Paul's compound-complex sentences and long abstract words totally overwhelm children. There is no way they can follow the text as it is read. But its proclamation of Christ as King, and of ourselves as power-filled subjects of Christ, is the heart of today's texts.

If verses 20b through 22 are read separately, children can hear the proclamation of Jesus as King of the universe. Though they take that proclamation literally, they also grasp the truth that Christ is the absolute power of the universe. No power—not scary storms, not threatening military powers, not monsters that seem to lurk in the closet at night, not even people who make life hard for us—is as powerful as Christ the King.

When it is pointed out to them, children also appreciate God's wish to put that same great power to work in and through us. This means that as servants of this King, we are very powerful people. We have the power to love others as Jesus did, to care enough to heal the sick (using medical as well as prayer power), and to teach people God's ways. We need not be timid about doing the King's work. We can be brave and daring. For children to see themselves as the power-filled servants of Christ the King builds their Christian self-esteem.

Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46. Though the text mentions shepherds, this passage describes Christ the king as a judge. To the basic question, How do we serve Christ the King? the answer is, We take care of "the least of these."

For children, "the least of these" includes the youngest child in any multilaged neighborhood group, all younger brothers or sisters (especially bothersome ones), the most ignored kids in the class, the kid who is always chosen last, and so forth. Children, especially idealistic older children, would prefer to care in dramatic ways for the starving, the homeless, the abused. But the King's orders are that we look around us and take care of those close at hand. Children need to hear that until they learn how to care for "the least ones" that they encounter every day, they will not be able to do much about the big problems—like hunger.

Old Testament: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24. The mixture of national and shepherd images make this a difficult passage for children. The text does, however, repeat the promise that God's King will care for the people as a shepherd cares for the sheep; it also offers a promise/warning that is of particular interest to children. That promise/warning is that the King not only will protect the sheep from outside enemies (wolves, fast running water, etc.), but also will protect the weaker sheep from the more aggressive sheep. With help, children can connect the "pushing with shoulder and flank" in verse 21 to their pushy attempts to grab attention or get their own way in their classes and activities. Children therefore learn that Christ the King insists that his subjects treat one another gently.

Watch Words

Watch your shepherds vocabulary. It is a foreign language for urban children, to whom shepherds are large dogs, and a staff is the group of paid people at the church or recreation center.

Let the Children Sing

"Rejoice, the Lord, Is King." "Come, Christians Join to Sing," "When Morning Gilds the Skies," and "From All That Dwell Below the Skies" praise Christ the King in short phrases and simple words. Their repeated choruses or phrases make them easy for nonreaders.

The spiritual "He Is King of Kings" can be sung by the congregation or by a children's class or choir.

As Thanksgiving approaches, children are studying about the pilgrims. "All People Who on Earth Do Dwell" sets Psalm 100 to music, in the style the pilgrims sang. So sing this hymn to recall that people in other times have also worshiped God the King.

Avoid the complex theological language of most shepherd hymns. If you focus on the shepherd King, sing the most familiar hymn version of Psalm 23.

The Liturgical Child

1. Read Ephesians 1:21-22 as the Call to Worship. Conclude the reding by saying, or by inviting the congregation to respond, "Let us worship the King!" The Good News Bible offers the clearest translation for children.

2. The short phrases and simple vocabulary of Psalm 100 invite rsponsive readings. Fifth-and sixth-graders can usually read along in the New Revised Standard or Good News translations. Third- and fourth-graders can read several lines with practice. The psalm can be read responsively by halves of the congregation, by congregation and choir, or by two children's classes.

3. Turn a section about Jesus from a familiar creed into a responsive affirmation of faith by asking the congregation to respond after each phrase: Christ is King! For example, in the Apostles' Creed:

I believe in Jesus Christ, [God's] only Son our Lord,
Christ is King!
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost (Spirit)
Christ is King!
[who was] born of the Virgin Mary,
Christ is King! [and so forth.]

Sermon Resources

1. Talk about the various symbols of several countries (e.g., an eagle for USA, a dragon for China). Describe the characteristics of the creature being claimed by each country. Then examine what we can learn about a king who chooses as his symbol not a fierce, strong animal, but a gentle shepherd who works hard and risks his life for his sheep. Talk about how such a king would act and what the subjects of that king would do.

2. Paraphrase Matthew 25:35-36. For example:

I sat alone in the cafeteria, with little to eat, and you sat with me and shared your lunch. Kids laughed at my old clothes, but you treated me as if they were brand new. I was never chosen for any team, but when it was your turn to choose, you chose me. Everyone laughed at my mistakes, but you said kind words to make me feel better. When I stayed home, I thought no one would miss me, but you called me and asked when I would be back.

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

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