Worship for Kids: February 27, 2022

September 2nd, 2021

Transfiguration Sunday

From a Child's Point of View

We seldom choose to tell children the two stories that are the focal point of today's texts because they lead children to ask uncomfortably unanswerable questions:

Why did God speak to Moses and not to the others? Was God playing favorites?

If I were really in the presence of God, would my face shine? I love God, so how come my face doesn't shine?

Why doesn't the face of anyone in our church shine? Is it because we are not good enough, or was this a special magic trick God did for Moses and Jesus? Did it really happen that way?

Few answers to such questions will satisfy literal-minded children. Children can, however, become familiar with these strange, interesting stories and explore a few key ideas that may seem unrelated to the stories now but will prove related as the children grow older.

Old Testament: Exodus 34:29-35. Children are better able to follow the Transfiguration story if they know that Moses had been on the mountain talking with God for forty days and was bringing back the Ten Commandments written on stone. (The Good News Bible translation is clearest about what Moses was carrying.)

The unstated message of this story is that if you live in God's presence, it will make a difference that others will notice. Moses' shiny face can be seen by adults as a symbol of his attitude toward life and his behavior. While children cannot make this connection, they can understand that knowing God will make a noticeable difference in their lives. Because they know God loves them, they will love others. Their actions will reflect God's love. As their symbol-making powers grow, they will see a natural connection between this truth and Moses' shiny face.

Epistle: 2 Corinthians 3:12 –4:2. Paul uses Moses' veil as a symbol of all the things we let come between us and God. Paul's argument requires more knowledge of Jews and the Law than children have. But if you restate Paul's message without the first-century details, children can hear Paul's warning not to let anything come between us and knowing God. For children, this means making time to be at church with God's people (because that is one good place to meet God), learning more about God by reading the Bible, and praying (sharing with God) with others and alone.

Gospel: Luke 9:28-36 (37-43). On their first hearing, this story simply says to children that Jesus was special. God showed this with the light and the spoken message. That understanding is a fine place to start living with this story. Older children, if they know who Elijah and Moses were, can learn from this story that God was present with Jesus when he faced a hard task—going to Jerusalem to die. Knowing that God was present to comfort and encourage Jesus, children can be led to expect that God will be present to comfort and encourage them when they face difficult tasks. It would be helpful, however, to point out some phenomena in which we sense God's presence, other than light and voice messages (e.g., God comforting us through the words and presence of other people; a feeling deep inside that God is with us; remembering a Bible verse or singing a song about God).

Psalm: Psalm 99. This psalm celebrates the God who shines around Moses and Jesus. To really understand the psalm, one needs to be familiar with Old Testament enthronement language and practices, and to know who Moses, Aaron, Samuel, and Jacob were. Few children do.

However, if children hear this passage introduced as a psalm that praises God, the King of the whole universe, and then we are urged to listen carefully to hear what kind of king God is, they can share in the confident mood of the psalm and probably can understand some of the phrases.

Watch Words

Transfiguration has become so obsolete that its dictionary definition refers only to this story about Jesus. It is easy and advisable to explore all the passages without using that word at all. If your tradition names this day of the church year Transfiguration of the Lord, let the term stand as the name of a specific day, rather than try to explain it as a description of what happened to Jesus.

Let the Children Sing

"O Wondrous Sight! O Vision Fair" retells the story of the Transfiguration in fairly simple concrete language.

"Take Time to Be Holy" allows us to sing in short phrases about everyday ways to be close to God.

The Liturgical Child

1. Read the Old Testament and Gospel lessons back to back. Invite the congregation to hear two stories that are very similar. Then read the Old Testament and Gospel stories in your best storyteller style. If you spend "time on the steps" with the children, take the lectern Bible with you and read both lessons there.

2. After introducing it as an enthronement psalm and inviting the congregation to imagine they are in a huge crowd, greeting "God, the King of the Universe," read Psalm 99 responsively. Arrange verses 1-4 and 6-8 in short phrases for responsive reading by alternate halves of the congregation. Plan to read verses 5 and 9 in unison. If there are two worship leaders, have one read with each half of the congregation to keep the pace upbeat and make the readings sound like crowd shouts.

3. Base the prayer of confession for the day on the ways we put a veil between ourselves and God. Children and adults "keep the veil up" when we (1) keep too busy with sports, homework, and television to participate in activities in which we might meet God; (2) avoid activities in which we might meet God, for fear our friends, or even our families might think we are weird and laugh at us; and (3) not even try to meet God because we are now sure how to do it and do not know what it would be like (e.g., we are scared).

Note: Children need to hear the lessons for the day before they can join in this prayer with understanding.

Sermon Resources

1. When two-year-old Jessica McClure was trapped in a well for hours, rescue teams heard her singing Sunday school songs over the microphone they had dropped down the well to monitor her. No one knows for sure what was going on in her mind, but a legitimate case can be made that she sang those songs to comfort herself by remembering times she felt safe and loved—by others and even by God.

2. Invite worshipers to think about times they have sensed God's presence. Share some of your own stories. Be sure to include at least one story from your childhood. For example, I remember sitting on my mother's bed with my brother and sisters to learn the Lord's Prayer. When I peeked at Mother as we were praying together, I felt that she loved God very much and I knew deeply that God loved all of us.

3. Early in the sermon, encourage children to draw pictures of times they have sensed God's presence with them. Be ready to respond to these pictures as the children leave the sanctuary.

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