Worship for Kids: April 15, 2018

March 15th, 2018

Third Sunday of Easter

From a Child's Point of View

First Reading: Acts 3:12-19. Children need to hear the preceding story of the healing of the lame man (vss. 1-11) to make sense of Peter's sermon. Once they know what had happened, they are impressed by Peter's refusal to take any credit for the healing. They need some adult help to follow Peter's subtle series of accusations and promises.

Psalm: 4. The complex progression of speakers and general language of this psalm make it an interesting puzzle for adult Bible scholars, but a confusing jumble for children. It is, however, possible to explore the last three verses as a prayer we can pray during Easter. In that prayer, we praise God for the invaluable gift of Jesus' resurrection, and we put our trust in God's care whether we are awake or asleep, alive or beyond death.

Epistle: 1 John 3:1-7. John is dealing with an obsolete Greek heresy that is beyond the understanding and interest of children. What they can glean from this passage is that to be Christian is to be like Jesus. We are like Jesus in two ways we will be resurrected, and we can fight sin. John's point about obedience in the fight against sin is particularly clear to elementary children, who tend to understand sin as "breaking the rules."

If you worked with "the children of light" last week, children will be ready to hear "children of God" as another name for God's people and think about the privileges (resurrection) and responsibilities (fight against sin) of being one of "the children of God."

Gospel: Luke 24:36 b-48.  Few children recognize their own mortality or respond with the relieved joy of adults to the promise of resurrection. But most children are curious about what happens to people when they die and what happened to Jesus' body on Easter. Luke speaks concretely to their curiosity. He insists that after the resurrection, Jesus' body was totally new and different. He could appear inside a locked room, but was not a ghost. He had skin the disciples could touch, and his body functioned in some of the old ways for example, he could eat, and it still bore the crucifixion wounds. His friends recognized him (most of the time) by the way his body looked. In short, Jesus' resurrected body was unique, something totally new and different. Because we know about Jesus' resurrected body, we know the answers to some of our questions, but not to all of them.

As another tack to take with children, explore Jesus' explanation of the meaning of his Easter resurrection. Adults, aware of the brevity and vulnerability of life, appreciate the Easter promise of life beyond death. Children, struggling to learn how to live in this world, appreciate more deeply Jesus' explanation in verse 47 that his resurrection means we are forgiven (even when we desert Jesus) and can try again (repent). For them, resurrection is a fresh start, another try.

Watch Words

Today, speak either of resurrection of the body, or of resurrection to forgiveness and new life. If you explore both on the same day, children are overwhelmed and confused.

Introduce repent and forgiven as an Easter word pair. Describe how and why the words go together.

Let the Children Sing

"The Day of Resurrection!" ties in closely with John's demands for obedience. Before singing it, walk through the verses, putting them into your own words and connecting them to the day's message. Downplay the Passover references in the first verse to emphasize the prayer request in verse 2 and the praise in verse 3. Children follow such walk-throughs better with their hymnals open.

If you focus on resurrection of the body, sing "Thine Is the Glory" or "Up from the Grave He Arose." "Thine Is the Glory" is a song the disciples could have sung after the events and discussion in today's Gospel story. You might suggest that worshipers imagine themselves singing it with the disciples. Children enjoy the dramatic change from the somber verses of "Up from the Grave He Arose" to the upbeat chorus that celebrates Jesus' victory over death.

The Liturgical Child

1. To clarify the events in Acts 3, ask a group of costumed clowns to pantomime the whole story (vss. 1-19) as it is read. Peter should be an adult who can dramatize what is said with both body and face. The lame man, John, and two or three crowd clowns may played by older children or teenagers. Peter and John pull their empty pockets inside out when the lame man begs. Peter points up, with assurance, to speak of God; points accusingly at the crowd, which cowers; turns a thumb to himself, as a witness, and nods his head. As verses 17-19 are read, Peter uses inclusive arm gestures, then raises the crowd clowns from their cowering positions, dusts them off a little, and turns them to face the worship center. The reading ends with Peter standing with his arms around them, facing the worship center. (If you have never involved clowns in presenting Scripture, this is a good text with which to begin. Clowns can make clear what a story suggests, but which many hearers fail to catch.)

2. In this Affirmation of Faith, the congregation's response is, "We Believe in the Resurrection of the Body." (If your congregation recites the Apostles' Creed frequently, point out this line.)

When people die, we bury or cremate their bodies. Some of us have decided to donate parts of our bodies when we die, to save others. And some of us will give our bodies to be used in medical studies or research, but . . . (RESPONSE) No one knows exactly what happens after we die, but . . . (RESPONSE) On Easter, three days after he had been killed on a cross, Jesus was alive again. His friends saw him, ate with him, and talked with him. So . . . (RESPONSE) His body was different. He could appear and disappear. But he was the same Jesus. He still loved and cared for people. He explained to his friends what had happened. And though they never really understood it all, the disciples began to say . . . (RESPONSE) Jesus promised that we too will experience resurrection of our bodies, so . . . (RESPONSE) None of us knows exactly what will happen after we die, but we do not need to be afraid. We know that God will be with us and take care of us . . . (RESPONSE)

Sermon Resources

1. Today's Gospel suggests a sermon focused on bodies. Some children get the idea from Christian adults that God is not interested in our bodies, or even that our bodies are dangerous and can get us into trouble. The biblical message is that God created us with bodies, and part of God's plan is the resurrection of our bodies. This means that we are to respect and care for our bodies. The beginning of spring sports opens the way for talking about the joy of using our bodies and the importance of disciplining them. The end of the school year often involves sixth-graders in their first "teenage" parties, at which they may face pressure to try alcohol or drugs.

2. Mary Poppins tells about a father who has a "resurrection," or fresh start. When he loses his bank job because his children Jane and Michael accidentally start a run on the bank during a visit, he repents and plans to pay more attention to his family. Try creating a next chapter which describes the changes he made. What would he look for in a new nanny? What problems might he encounter back at work?

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