Worship for Kids: August 19, 2018

July 9th, 2018

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14. The story of God's offer of a gift to Solomon is like many stories in which a person is granted one or more wishes. Children easily understand what is going on. Younger children, however, need help to get through all of Solomon's rich language to what he is really asking God to give him. God's response is more easily understood. Children appreciate both Solomon's choice of the gift of the wisdom to rule well, and God's response to that selfless choice by giving him extra gifts.

Psalm: 111. This psalm of praise is too general to catch and hold the attention of children. They are more likely to hear and appreciate an occasional phrase. Though it is an acrostic, emphasizing the alphabet base as the psalm is read gets in the way of the message, rather than enhancing it.

Epistle: Ephesians 5:15-20. Paul warns today's children to be wise, and then suggests ways to be wise. The key to wisdom is to know God's will. Children are to live by God's will in two ways: They should use their time well and avoid alcohol (and drugs). Paul insists that they can have more fun and be just as happy by living in the singing Christian community. Children, bored as summer winds down and thinking about what clubs and teams to join when school starts, need to hear the directions about using their time well. They also need strong warnings against any involvement with alcohol and drugs and those who use them.

Gospel: John 6:51-58. Today John's focus is on the bread of communion. The question raised is one that literal-thinking children share: "What does it mean to eat the body of Christ in communion?" The answer is that when we eat the bread, we become part of Christ, and Christ becomes part of us.

Fifth- and sixth-graders are interested in the ancient practice of eating food that has been sacrificed to the gods, in order to become one with the gods. With information about the Jewish practice of eating what was sacrificed at the Temple (especially the Passover lambs), and the meals of the mystery religions which were familiar to John's readers, older children begin to understand what Jesus' words about eating his flesh meant to his first hearers.

All children can follow modern scientific understanding of digestion to reach conclusions similar to those of the first-century readers. Children know that what we eat becomes part of us. (We are what we eat.) So if we eat bread that stands for Jesus, Jesus becomes part of us.

On an emotional level, children also recognize our feelings of closeness to the cook as we eat a specialty: the cookies Grandma sent or Dad's special pancakes. So when we eat the bread of communion, we feel close to Jesus, who left it for us as a special sign of his love.

Watch Words

Today, bread is the bread of Communion. Speaking of bread both symbolically and literally confuses children, so avoid poetic images bread of life or bread of heaven and speak specifically and only about the physical bread we eat in Communion, and what it means for us.

Children use many words to talk about different kinds of wisdom. Genius, brainy, smart, smart alec (or wise guy), common sense, and good judgment are part of their vocabulary. The wisdom they most crave is the ability to understand what is going on around them and to know what to do in all situations.

Let the Children Sing

Sing about wisdom with "Be Thou My Vision" or "Seek Ye First."

"Become to Us the Living Bread," with all its Alleluias and its focus on eating the bread, is perhaps the best choice for children. Sing "For the Bread Which You Have Broken" or "Here, O My Lord, I See Thee" after explaining their meaning during the sermon. All three deal with what it means to eat the bread, or body, of Christ.

The Liturgical Child

1. Pray for wisdom:

Lord, like Solomon, we pray for wisdom. We pray for the wisdom that comes with education. We thank you for schools and for teachers, and we ask you to help us learn. Help us to pay attention and to understand new ideas. Give us knowledge of the world and how it works. We pray for the wisdom to do the right thing. We need your help to know right from wrong and your power to do what is right. Be with us to show us your ways and to help us follow them. We pray for the wisdom to say the right words. Even when we try to be kind and helpful, we sometimes cannot find the words we need to show our love. Give us wise, helping, disciples' words. God of Wisdom, it is not just for ourselves that we pray. We pray too for the leaders of our world, for presidents and prime ministers, for governors and legislators. Give them the wisdom to make decisions and pass laws that benefit all people. We pray for business men and women. Give them the wisdom to look beyond what makes money to what makes life better for all of us. We pray for those who serve sales clerks and bus drivers, phone operators, and waiters. Give them the wisdom to understand, and to treat kindly even those who do not treat them with respect. Amen.

2. Even if you do not normally celebrate Communion on this Sunday, consider doing so if the bread in the Gospel lesson is to be the focus of worship. Celebrating the sacrament helps worshipers of all ages act on what they have heard about this bread in the sermon. If you do not celebrate communion, display bread and a chalice, or communion banners that feature bread.

3. The return to school is an intense time for children. Many will have new clothes and school supplies and will be looking forward to new experiences. Those for whom school was difficult last year hope that this year will be different, but fear it may be more of the same. The hopes and fears are most intense for those who will be going to new schools. Remember all these concerns in the church's prayers on the Sunday before classes begin.

Sermon Resources

1. Especially if children are going back to school in the next week or two, develop an alphabet sermon on wisdom. For each letter of the alphabet, identify and comment on a word that begins with that letter and is related to wisdom for living in today's world as Christians: B is for the Bible, through which we know God's will; D is for drugs wise Christians avoid; and so on.

2. Illustrate the wisdom God gave Solomon by telling how he settled the dispute between two mothers who claimed the same child 1 Kings 3:16-28). Children need help to understand how Solomon's "decision" helped him identify the true mother, but are impressed by what Solomon did.

3. In order to clear up any magical thinking about the bread of communion, tell where the bread your church uses is bought and how it is prepared. Then talk about what does make it special.

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