Worship for Kids: March 7, 2021

February 4th, 2021

From a Child's Point of View

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. A case can be made for using this text as the summary text for worship, celebrating the wisdom of God, which, though it looks foolish by the standards of this world, is wiser than any human wisdom. Children will, however, have trouble with Paul's examples. For them, Paul's comments about the Jewish wish for miracles and the Greek interest in philosophy are foreign. They find more meaning in a comparison between the "foolish" Ten Commandments and the "wise" look-out-for-yourself mentality of today's world. Use specific examples, such as comparing the short-term wisdom of stealing what you want with the long-term wisdom of living among people who can trust one another not to steal. Children appreciate the summary in verse 25.

Old Testament: Exodus 20:1-17. Children place high value on, and have great interest in rules. They learn Scout, club, class, and team rules. Though they are not aware of it, they often evaluate groups by the quality of their rules. The Ten Commandments, viewed as the rules of God's people, tell much about God and God's people. They can be used in the context of today's other texts as a standard for measuring the wisdom or foolishness of God and God's people. Unfortunately, in a world in which most school children feel that cheating is all right if you don't get caught; more than half the children have divorced or single parents; and ads urge children to want more and more of everything, the Ten Commandments make God's people and God look pretty foolish. It is best to admit this honestly, and then explore examples of real strength and wisdom.

Psalm: 19. In the context of today's themes, verses 7-14 are key. Once children have explored and evaluated the Ten Commandments, they are generally ready to praise God for these "wise" rules. Before they can do so using this psalm, they need help in identifying the six strange words that are synonyms for God's rules (laws, decrees, etc.). Then they will catch the meaning of one or two of the phrases and will enjoy celebrating God's good rules in general.

Gospel: John 2:13-22. Children are impressed by Jesus' strong action in the Temple. The Jesus they see here knows what is right and wrong, and protests strongly when he sees things that are terribly wrong. He is not afraid to turn over tables and make a scene to make an important point.

Read in the context of the other texts, Jesus' action in the Temple is a fine example of God's "foolishness." When he turned over the money changers' tables, Jesus made some very powerful people angry. It was not a "wise" thing to do. He would not have gotten into so much trouble if he had written a letter or talked quietly to people in private. But Jesus was thinking from God's point of view and making God's point as clearly as he could. Making that point was worth getting into trouble.

Also in the context of the other readings, Jesus' conversation with the leaders about rebuilding the Temple is a joke on the foolish leaders who thought they were smart. They called Jesus foolish, but since the resurrection, we know who the real fools were.

Watch Words

Do not speak of the foolishness of the cross without describing it specifically that is, Jesus, God's Son, who could have forced everyone to obey, did not. Instead, he loved them. He did not stop loving them, even when they killed him.

Law, decrees, precepts, Commandments, fear, ordinances all these words are synonyms (words that mean the same as) for God's rules, or Torah ( Psalms 19) .

Explain the function of the money changers before telling the Gospel story.

Let the Children Sing

The repeated chorus of "God of Grace and God of Glory" is a prayer ("grant us wisdom, grant us courage . . .") which even nonreaders can sing. But the vocabulary of "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" makes it strictly an adult hymn about God's wisdom. If you featured "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" during the reading of Exodus last fall, this is a good Sunday to sing it again.

Once they know that in "O God, What You Ordain Is Right," ordain means what God decides or declares (rather than to ordain a minister or church officer), children can follow the simple language. If they sing it frequently in other settings in which its meaning is explored, children can sing of God's wisdom and power with "How Great Thou Art."

The Liturgical Child

1. Have a children's class "read" the Old Testament lesson. Each of ten children recites one of the Ten Commandments. Have the children stand in the correct order so that they need to remember only their Commandment and its number.

2. As an Affirmation of Faith in God's wisdom, the congregation reads 1 Corinthians 1:25 in response to each of the Ten Commandments read by the worship leader. The New Revised Standard Version offers a translation that is clear to worshipers of all ages. For example:

Leader: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

People: We believe that "God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength."

4. Be daring! Invite an adult clown in full makeup and costume (featuring a large cross or other Christian symbol) to be present and move about being helpful before and at the beginning of the service by escorting people to their places, dusting their seats, handing them hymnbooks, holding the hand of the first person in the processional, straightening the minister's notes or the organist's music, and so forth. Then at the appropriate time, the clown comes to the lectern to read the Epistle lesson for emphasis, reading verse 25 both first and last. During the sermon, compare the clown's "foolishness" with God's "foolishness." Try this only if you can find a clown who will do the job with both creativity and sensitivity.

Sermon Resources

1. Create some opposites for each of the Ten Commandments. Let each reflect the "wisdom" of our world and the "foolishness" of God's rules. For example, opposites for "Do not steal" could be "Finders keepers," "If I can take it, it's mine!" and "If you want it, figure out how to get it."

2. Hans Christian Anderson speaks about wisdom and foolishness in "The Emperor's New Clothes," in which scoundrels promise the emperor a set of magic clothes that those who are "stupid" and "unfit for their jobs" (i.e., foolish) cannot see. When the scoundrels provide the clothes, no one, including the emperor, can see them, but everyone who wants to be wise pretends to see them and comments on their beauty. It is a "foolish" child who finally blurts out the truth, as the emperor parades through the streets in his "magic" clothes.

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

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