Worship for Kids: January 17, 2021

December 4th, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Gospel: John 1:43-51. Philip and Nathanael are among the least known of the twelve disciples. Nathanael is mentioned in the Bible only in this text and in the lists of "the twelve," in which he is sometimes called Nathanael and sometimes Bartholomew. Children whose parents tend to call them by a brother's or sister's name, or those who tend to feel lost in the crowd in classes and on teams, can empathize with Nathanael's "nobody" status. They also appreciate the fact that Jesus noticed Nathanael and recognized him as a worthwhile person. The unstated promise is that God, who noticed and sought out Nathanael, will not overlook the least among us.

When he met Jesus, Nathanael was surprised that the Messiah knew him and wanted his help. He was also surprised that God's Messiah was from Galilee. Nathanael did not think much of Galilee and did not expect God to speak to him through a Galilean. The warning here is that God also may come to us in surprising ways and through surprising people.

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20). The story of God's call to Samuel is proof that God seeks out children as well as grown-ups. In this situation, God wanted Samuel to deliver a very unpleasant message. He was to tell Eli that God was punishing Eli's whole family severely. Samuel bravely did the job. The story ends by noting that God continued to speak to Samuel and that, while growing up not when he was grown Samuel became known and respected as a person to whom God spoke and who did God's will.

The story also provides a lesson on how to respond when God seeks us out. Like Samuel, we are to say, "Speak, Lord, your servant listens," and then pay close attention and obey. Literal thinkers will need other examples of how God speaks to us, besides through a voice in the night. Examples children recognize include a sense deep inside that God wants them to do something for a person in need or to stop an activity they know is wrong; a sense that God is telling them something through a Bible story they read or hear; or a feeling during a crisis, or when in sight of natural beauty, that God loves them and takes care of them.

Psalm: 139:1-6, 13-18. The psalmist ponders a point that children (and Nathanaels of all ages) appreciate. God is always aware of us and looking out for us. Though some of the poetic images are hard for younger children, and older children will giggle knowingly at the womb references, most children can follow the psalmist's thoughts as the poem is read. The Good News Bible offers the easiest translation for children to understand.

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Because most children experience themselves as spiritual and physical wholes, Paul's point that we are to respond to God's call with body, as well as with soul, has little meaning. To relate this text to the others for the day, simply point to verse 19 and describe ways we can keep our bodies pure temples for God. Needless to say, the sexual relationships Paul describes as an example are best replaced with calls to avoid drugs and alcohol (often available to older-elementary children), eat foods that are good for us, and get exercise.

Watch Words

If you speak of God's presence in everyday terms and celebrate the truth that God seeks out each one of us, vocabulary offers few barriers.

Let the Children Sing

The chorus of "Here I Am, Lord" recalls Samuel'sresponse to God. Older children can follow the words of the verses, but all children can learn the chorus. Consider singing the verses and chorus responsively; as an anthem, an adult choir could sing the verses, with a children's choir singing the chorus; as a hymn, the congregation could sing the verses, with a children's choir or class singing the chorus. If the hymn is new to the congregation, ask that the chorus be introduced to the children during their choir practice.

The Liturgical Child

1. To bring the psalm to life, imagine yourself as the poet talking to God, rather like Tevye talked with God in Fiddler on the Roof. Use your hands to emphasize references to "me" and "you." Especially in verses 13-18, read whole sentences rather than phrases.

2. Present the stories of Samuel and/or Nathanael as readers' theater. The worship leader takes the part of the narrator. Other children, youths, and adults take the other parts. (For Samuel, select a fourth- or fifth-grade boy. For Eli, choose one of the older men in the congregation. God's voice may be heard-off stage or read by a visible man, woman, or child.) Practice together until all know their parts well enough to keep the reading moving smoothly. Work on how different lines are expressed. For instance, how did Samuel say, "Speak, Lord, your servant listens"? Was there hesitant fear in his voice, or was he enthusiastically excited? And how did Nathanael's statements sound?

3. Affirm your faith with responsive statements describing the ways God calls us. The congregational response is that of Samuel: "Speak, Lord, your servant listens."

God, you reach out to us in so many ways. Keep us alert. Help us to pay attention.

When you spread your beautiful world out for us to see; when we feel your power in the power of the ocean waves; when we see tiny bugs and huge elephants and know you made them both; when we see your rainbow, may we say . . . (CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE)

When we are tempted to do what is wrong, but remember what you have told us through our leaders; when everyone else is doing it, but we hear your voice deep inside us saying, "Don't!"; when we want something enough to steal it, but know your rule against stealing, may we say . . . (CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE)

When we see problems and feel you urging us to help solve them; when we see your world littered with garbage and dirtied by pollution, and know there is even one thing we could do to help; when we see people ignored and teased by others and know they need our friendship, may we say . . . (CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE)

When we are sad and lonely, and feel your loving care surrounding us; when friends call to ask how we're doing; when people smile that they understand and say, "How can I help?" may we say . . . (CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE)

When we open our Bibles to read stories, and psalms, and letters to the churches, may we say . . . (CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE)

God, you reach out to us in so many ways. Keep us alert. Help us to pay attention. And may we say . . . (CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE)

Sermon Resources

1. Tell other biblical stories of God's call. God did not call Abraham and Sarah until they were quite old, but David was called when he was young. God called Moses through a burning bush. Through Moses, God called Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land. Isaiah was called to be a prophet while he was worshiping in the Temple. God spoke in a dream to Solomon.

2. Tell about your call to the preaching ministry. When did it happen? How did God "speak" to you? How did you respond?

Today's texts have one message for both children and adults: You must do something! The Ninevites had to do something in response to Jonah's message. The fishermen had to either follow Jesus or keep working. And Paul told Christians how to act.

comments powered by Disqus