Worship for Kids: October 24, 2021

August 31st, 2021

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Job 42:1-6, 10-17. The writer's literary ploys make this text difficult to follow. The free translation of The Good News Bible presents its gist in the most understandable language.

Job learned that he did not know, and would never know, everything. Some questions, like why God lets terrible things happen to good people, are unanswerable. Children tend to assume (and adults often reenforce that assumption) that there are answers to every question and that adults know them all. Children also assume that if they work hard enough, they eventually will know all the answers too. Job's story is an opportunity to introduce unanswerable questions and the possibility of living comfortably with them because we can trust God, who does know the answers.

As Halloween approaches, children focus on mysterious, scary stories and phenomena. Older children test their abilities to face fears in dealing with the unexplainable. This week before Halloween, Job insists that though there are things we cannot explain, we do not need to be afraid. God understands them all and is in full control.

Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22. This psalm makes most sense when read in context. It is a prayer David offered after his escape from Abimelech, and one that Job might have prayed as his trials ended. The language of the New Revised Standard Version reflects these contexts most clearly and is easiest for children.

As they listen, children catch individual phrases about God's dependable care. Hearing the verses literally, alert children who have broken their own bones wonder whether verse 20 is a mistake, or perhaps an indication that they are not among the righteous.

Epistle: Hebrews 7:23-28. Last week's Epistle reading highlighted the ways Jesus is like a high priest. This week, the focus is on the ways Jesus is better than any human high priest.

Children place more value on Jesus' permanence than on his perfection. Dependability is important to them. Epecially those who must regularly find new "best friends forever" when they move, and those who move from household to household within their extended families, crave a relationship with God and Jesus that lasts "forever and ever, no matter what."

Gospel: Mark 10:46-52. Without help, children hear this simply as another healing story that demonstrates Jesus' power. They can be helped to find more meaning in it by specifically comparing James and John with Bartimaeus. James and John were insiders, friends who had been with Jesus for some time, and so should have understood what Jesus had been teaching and doing. Bartimaeus was an outsider, a blind beggar along the road. No one expected him to understand anything. Mark's surprise is that it is Bartimaeus who knows what to ask for, and he who responds by becoming a follower of Jesus. With such explanations, older children enjoy Mark's subtle point that James and John were really the "blind" ones who could not "see" what Jesus had been telling and showing them, while Bartimaeus was the one who could "see" clearly.

Watch Words

Mystery is a good word for things we do not understand. Begin with Halloween mysteries (maybe a local ghost story or spooky legend) and mystery stories (many adults and children know the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew series), then go on to describe the mysteries of real life.

Be careful about priestly vocabulary. To many children, a priest is a Roman Catholic minister, and a sacrifice is giving up something you want. The sacrifice out in baseball is closer to the Old Testament sacrifice.

Before using blind metaphorically, compare what James and John failed to see with what the physically blind Bartimaeus could see.

Let the Children Sing

Though its obsolete vocabulary is a problem, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" can be sung as a Halloween hymn, and also in honor of Job. Verses 2 and 3 are the most meaningful ones to paraphrase for, and sing with, children at Halloween.

Highlight their references to vision before singing "Amazing Grace" or "Be Thou My Vision" (if they are sung frequently in your congregation).

Sing of Christ, our High Priest, with "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and "Come, Christians, Join to Sing" (lots of Alleluias for young readers). Identify Jesus as the one "begotten of the Father," and point out the "forever" images before singing "Of the Father's Love Begotten." The first verse is the most understandable for children, but the "evermores" in the other verses can be sung by all.

The Liturgical Child

1. To set Psalm 34 in context, tell briefly how David and his followers celebrated his escape from Abimelech. Then ask several prepared children to take the role of his followers, calling out the letters of the Hebrew alphabet as the worship leader reads the appropriate verses. (The New Jerusalem Bible prints the Hebrew letter before each verse.)

2. To set up the comparison of James and John with Bartimaeus, have both stories read and pantomimed by children. Jesus could stand in the middle of the chancel, with James, John and other disciples (perhaps played by the same children who pantomimed their story last week) on one side, and Bartimaeus on the other. Instruct "Jesus," in asking the repeated question to each side, to use the same movements and to read the question with the same emphasis and tone.

4. Build prayers of confession or petition around the ideas of blindness and vision. Instruct worshipers to pray by closing their eyes each time they hear "We close our eyes . . . ," and open them each time they hear "Open our eyes . . . ." For example:

Lord, we close our eyes to people who are not like us. We do not even see those whose clothes or skin or manners are different. We ignore them on the playground, in the grocery store, and at the office. We never meet them or make friends with them.
Open our eyes, so that we may see those who are different. Help us get to know each other, so that we can enjoy and learn from our differences and work together to solve our problems.

5. Remember the upcoming celebration of Halloween in the church's prayers. Praise God, whose power is greater than that of any monster or ghost. Pray that we continue to act like God's loving children, no matter what costume we wear.

Sermon Resources

1. Cite the questions in the folk song "Tell Me Why," as examples of questions to which there are no exact answers. ("Tell me why the stars do shine, . . . the ivy twines, . . . the sky's so blue," and so on.)

2. Describe how several people saw and "were blind to" an elderly woman traveling on an airplane. The stewardess saw a person who needed help getting to her seat and would need more help in an emergency. The teenager seated next to her saw an "old fuddy duddy" and put on his headset. The man seated across the aisle saw her wallet bulging with pictures, and hid in his newspaper so he wouldn't have to hear about her grandchildren. The people who met her at the airport recognized her and said, "Welcome to our city, madam. It is an honor to have an artist like you visit us."

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