Worship for Kids: January 24, 2021

December 17th, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Jonah 3:1-5, 10. Many children know the story of Jonah's encounter with the fish. If that story is briefly summarized with attention to how much Jonah hated the Ninevites, they will be primed to hear today's reading as the less familiar next chapter in the saga.

The focus here is on the Ninevites who heard God's warning and acted in response. The Ninevites might have responded in other ways they might have laughed at Jonah, beat him up for saying such awful things, or ignored him, hoping he was wrong. Children would be the first to say that it would have been fair for God to destroy the Ninevites, had they responded in such ways. "God did warn them. They knew what would happen." The Ninevites, however, took Jonah's message seriously and took action. We, like the Ninevites, are to pay attention to God and do what God asks.

Children also need to be reassured that God does not look for people to destroy. Instead of destroying Jonah for his disobedience, God sent a storm and a fish to help him rethink what he was doing. (It was like putting him in a "time-out" chair.) Instead of simply destroying Nineveh, God gave the people a forty-day warning. When they used those forty days to change their ways, God happily changed the plan. God loves us.

Gospel: Mark 1:14-20. The call of the four fishing disciples is also familiar. Children, like adults, are caught by the suddenness of Jesus' demand for a decision and response. Though commentators suggest that this was probably not the fishermen's first encounter with Jesus, the point is that on the day Jesus asked the four to leave everything and follow him, they had to make a decision and act immediately. They could not put it off. They either followed or they did not. And what they chose to do affected the rest of their lives. Children, as well as adults, make decisions every day. Sometimes their decisions do not have huge impact (refusing to join in teasing an unpopular classmate), but sometimes they do (refusing drugs or alcohol). We are to act like disciples everyday.

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 7:29-31. Paul has instructions for Christian disciples in action. We are to remember that being a disciple is more important than anything else in life. It is more important than what we wear, what we own, who we marry, what we get to do and don't get to do at school and home, and so forth. Children will not hear this when the passage is read, but will depend on the preacher to restate Paul's point.

Psalm: 62:5-12. A strong, confident reading of this psalm by one reader does most to communicate its message to children. Rather than follow complete sentences, they will hear the psalmist's tone and the single words that describe God's power (refuge, rock, honor). The weighing of the rich and the poor in verse 9 and the comments about riches and robbery in verse 10 require more explaining than their message here merits.

Watch Words

Before using repent to describe what the Ninevites did, recall its use by John the Baptist in the Advent texts. Remind worshipers that repent describes actions, rather than feelings.

Today, a disciple is someone who does what God asks.

Let the Children Sing

"I Sing a Song of the Saints of God" and "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" are probably the best discipleship hymns for children.

"Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated," with its references to serving with different parts of the body, is a good choice if children know the word consecrated.

If you introduced "Here I Am, Lord" last Sunday and worshipers enjoyed it, sing it again this week to build familiarity.

The Liturgical Child

1. In honor of the four fishermen who became disciples, decorate with fish netting. Drape it around the pulpit and lectern, and loop it over the arms of a large cross to remind worshipers of our call to be disciples.

2. Create a responsive prayer of petition. The congregation's response to each prayer: "God, help us to do something." For example:

We claim to be your children. We say that all people are members of your family. So when we see people who are hungry or need clothes, people who are homeless, people who are sick, with no medical help nearby . . . (CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE) Creator God, you made the heavens and the earth. We believe that you call us to be stewards of the earth. So when we see litter along the roads, rivers that are polluted, garbage dumps overflowing . . . (CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE)

3. Charge and Benediction: Jesus said to Peter, Andrew, James, and John, and he says to us today, "Follow me." So I charge you to follow him. At home, at work, at school, and at play, do any needed disciple's work every day. Treat everyone kindly. Forgive people who hurt you. Share your lunch, your friendship, and your time with those who need you. Make friends with the lonely, the outsiders, even the enemies. And as you do, remember that Jesus also said, "I will be with you always, even til the end of the world." Amen.

Sermon Resources

1. Confronted with calls for action from God, parents, teachers, bosses, and so on, people of all ages offer similar excuses:

"I didn't hear you."

"I didn't understand what you wanted."

"That's too hard!"

"You do not understand what you are asking!"

Use these excuses in telling several versions of stories: a ten-year-old boy asked to baby-sit his little brother after school on a pretty day; Jonah trying to avoid God's assignment; the Ninevites trying to avoid repenting. Then point out the real reasons behind these excuses:

"I don't want to!"

"I'm afraid to!"

2. Describe situations in which action is required. The refrain after each situation is "Do something!" Include such things as:

Jackie watched the Olympic gymnasts with wonder. She thought they were beautiful and could almost feel what it would be like to do those flips . . . .

Chris just moved in down the street from Lee. Lee watched him move in, saw the bike come off the truck, even saw Chris exploring the new yard . . . .

Sandy's friends delighted in (the ethnic group most put down in your area) jokes. They told them continually and laughed loudly. The jokes made Sandy uncomfortable . . . .

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

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