Worship for Kids: January 31, 2021

December 28th, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Deuteronomy 18:15-20. Setting the scene is an important part of presenting this passage. Children need to know before the reading that Moses is talking about how God does and does not communicate with us.

Moses' warning against expecting God to speak through the "magic" practices that would be encountered in the Promised Land interests children because they are fascinated by magic. They need to hear the difference between the slight-of-hand magic tricks done to entertain, and the attempts to contact the spirit world or the dead to learn secret messages.

Older children are curious about how such things as auguring and divination are done and what they aim to accomplish (an encyclopedia can provide details). While their curiosity needs to be satisfied, children also need to hear clearly Moses' warning that God does not speak through such means and that therefore they are to be avoided. This is good preparation for encounters during early adolescence with New Age channelers, and even dabblers in witchcraft.

Moses then insists that God will speak to them instead through prophets, and especially through one unique prophet (Jesus). Because children's curriculum devotes less time to prophets than to other biblical characters, most children will need to hear examples of biblical and modern prophets to understand the "job description." Jonah, who was highlighted last week, is one of the most familiar and usable examples.

Gospel: Mark 1:21-28. Though older children can understand the difference between the scribes, who based all their teachings on what this or that expert had said, and Jesus, who simply spoke what he knew to be God's word, the difference is of little significance to them. They are more interested in the healing story.

The bottom line of that story is that Jesus has power over all the evil powers that disrupt and corrupt life. In children's words, Jesus/God can beat out any other power in the universe. So we are safe. We can trust God's power.

The most, but not completely, satisfactory explanation of the demons is that they are "used-to-thinks." "Used-to-thinks" are ideas people used to believe but which now have been proved wrong that is, people used to think that the earth was flat; they used to think that the sun traveled across the sky each day. Similarly, people used to think that our problems and illnesses were caused by little invisible demons that went around causing trouble. Today we think that our medical problems are caused by germs and body disorders, and our other problems are caused by uncontrolled evil wishes and desires selfishness and cruelty. But no matter how you describe evil, Mark insists that Jesus can overpower it.

Psalm: 111. This is an acrostic, an alphabet psalm, praising God for powerful deeds. It fits well with either the Old Testament or the Gospel lesson. Unfortunately, most of the praises are general and use abstract words. Older children will catch a line here and there. Most children will appreciate the format more than the content.

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. The Corinthian argument about eating meat sacrificed to idols is not an issue today. Furthermore, there are no obvious parallels. Though adults can identify the principle behind Paul's answer and apply it to a variety of other situations, such thinking is beyond the mental abilities of children. About all they can glean from this text is that being considerate of the needs of others is a very high priority among Christians.

Watch Words

A biblical prophet is not a person who predicts the future, but a person who speaks God's message to others. To many children, an unclean spirit sounds like a dirty ghost. Remember that when you speak of demons and exorcism, children will take everything you say very literally. Even older children still see monsters and demons in the dark. Children also tend to tune in and out of such discussions, and therefore often misunderstand what is said.

Let the Children Sing

Praise Christ, who overcomes all evil, by singing "Come, Christians, Join to Sing." Invite nonreaders to join in on, maybe counting, the Alleluias. Nonreaders also can join in on the phrase "may Jesus Christ be praised" which is repeated twice in each short verse of "When Morning Gilds the Skies."

If the focus is on God speaking, sing, or ask a children's class to sing, the familiar camp song, "Kum-Ba-Ya." Consider creating some verses especially for this service.

"This Is My Father's World," known by many older children, recalls several ways God communicates with us.

The Liturgical Child

1. Have the reader of the Deuteronomy lection assume the role of Moses. After setting the scene, the worship leader may step to the center of the chancel, Bible in hand, to read the text dramatically, using the free hand for rhetorical gestures. Or, after the worship leader sets the scene, a costumed Moses may come to the chancel to present the memorized text dramatically. In either case, consider adding verse 14, to explain the reason for Moses' warning.

2. Following a sermon about God speaking to us through other people, include among the church's prayers opportunities (perhaps times of silence) for worshipers to thank God for the people who have been prophets to them.

3. Create a litany prayer calling on Jesus to overpower the demons that trouble our lives. The congregation's response: "Lord Jesus, defeat the demons that trouble us." For example:

God of giving love, we must fight the demon of selfishness every day. There are so many things we think we need, and even more that we want. We want the right clothes, the latest car, and all the toys we see on television. (CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE) Forgiving God, the demon of war seems to be stronger than ever. No matter how hard we try to solve our problems peacefully, we find ourselves fighting at school, fighting at work, even fighting at home and with our friends. It is not surprising that so many countries are at war. (CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE)

Sermon Resources

1. The Sundays after Epiphany are good days to celebrate the ways God is revealed to us. Today, focus on the way God speaks to us through people. Tell stories of biblical prophets and people you consider prophetic today. Describe people who speak to us publicly and those who speak to individuals. Tell about people through whom God has spoken to you. Invite children to draw pictures of people who have been prophets to them, and suggest that older worshipers write about such people. As worshipers leave, collect their work for display in a hall near the sanctuary.

2. To explore the world of magic, perform a simple slight-of-hand magic trick. (Check the children's section of the public library for books on such tricks.) Then talk about the dangers of misinterpreting the power of Ouija boards. Most older children have played with one and can sense the way the pointer could be moved in order to use it for someone's own ends. Be clear that God speaks through more dependable means such as other people.

To most children, power and love seem to belong to different arenas. People are either powerful or loving. Today's passages describe God as both powerful and loving. God creates the vast world, but knows each star by name and cares for each small creature. God never overlooks even the most hopeless people, but gives them the power they need. Jesus uses his powers to heal unknown people. Paul disciplines his powers to do his loving task. The texts call us both to celebrate God's power and love, and to follow Jesus' and Paul's examples of powerful loving.

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

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