Worship for Kids: March 20, 2022

September 2nd, 2021

From a Child's Point of View

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. This passage, a call to repentance, is the centerpiece of today's lections. The message to children is that all of us are to obey God's family schedules. We all face temptations. God understands that we are not perfect, but God also expects us to try—and try hard—to do what is right. Verse 13 summarizes these points well.

Unfortunately for children (and for many other worshipers), verses 1-11 assume that readers know the complete story of the Exodus and wilderness wanderings. To understand Paul's points in verse 13, children will need to hear these stories in greater detail.

Gospel: Luke 13:1-9. Few children give death much general thought. Instead, they respond to specific experiences when their pets and people they know die. Therefore, although few children have considered the possibility that terrible deaths are repayment for terrible sins, many older children will be interested in the examples of death that Jesus cites and the problem they present. (They will, however, need helpin fleshing out the sketchy biblical references.) The text also provides an opportunity to speak to the common childhood fear that "I have caused the death of (someone I love) by (something terrible I said or did.)"

It is hard for children to find the point in the parable of the fig tree without some help. In children's words, the parable says that God sets high standards for us but is willing to give us many second chances. The parable can be helpfully recast with coaches, as they decide whether to cut a player from the team.

Old Testament: Isaiah 55:1-9. This text offers a truth that is critical to today's discussion of repentance. The truth is that we can trust God to always forgive us when we repent. Without that assurance, even young children know that confession is a risky business. Telling a friend that you told a secret, or telling a parent that you did something forbidden, may meet understanding forgiveness, or it may meet anger and punishment. Even with good friends and loving parents, it can be hard to predict what will happen. Isaiah, however, insists that when we confess to God, we know for sure that we will be forgiven. God is more loving and forgiving than we can imagine.

Unfortunately, children have trouble finding this truth buried in Isaiah's poetic images (verses 1-5 are especially difficult). They are more likely to get the message from the preacher's sermon than from Isaiah's poetic promise.

Psalm: 63:1-8. If this psalm is introduced as a prayer that David prayed while he was hiding in the desert from his enemies, older children will follow and catch the meaning of the first verse. Beyond that, they quickly get lost in the multiple images, even in the Good News Bible's translation. They will grasp the meaning of the psalm more from its happy, confident tone (when it is read well) than from explanations of its content.

Watch Words

Be attentive to the words used to talk, sing, and pray about sin and forgiveness. Many of the traditional words are no longer part of everyday conversation. This means that children need both explanations of and practice in hearing and saying these words in your worship setting.

When speaking of sin, use with care the words transgressions, trespasses (even if your congregation uses the word regularly in the Lord's Prayer), immortality, iniquity, and evil. Remember that for most boys, offence is the team with the football and that today's definition of trespass is to go uninvited on private land. Sins and wrongs are just about the only words that require no explanation.

Avoid, when possible, chide, rebuke and requite to speak of God's judgment of sin. Punish, repay, and scold are actions children recognize.

Mercy and vindication are not everyday words. The redemption of coupons, the only redemption with which most children are familiar, is not a good parallel to God's activity, grace is a girl's name or a reference to moving in a pleasing manner. Forgiveness and pardon are better words.

Let the Children Sing

Read hymns about repentance carefully. They are so filled with "sin" jargon that none can be suggested for children without reservation. To help children, explore it in the sermon or in a children's time before singing it.

"Let My People Go" is a familiar spiritual that retells the Exodus story. Some of the vocabulary in the verses is obsolete, but the familiar chorus is appealing to children.

"Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" in one songin which all of us can sing our commitment to do better. "O Jesus, I Have Promised" is more complex, but it can be sung by older children with a little encouragement.

The Liturgical Child

1. Pay special attention to the usual prayers of confession and pardon in your worship today. Point them out in the bulletin. Explain the movement—from praise, to confession, to thanksgiving. Describe the feeling behind such acts as rising to our feet to sing the "Gloria Patri," after hearing that God forgives us. If there are statements made or responses sung each week, paraphrase them for children before using them. For example, "Kyrie Eleison" means "God forgive me for the unloving things I have said and done."

2. If you celebrate communion today, highlight the fact that when we eat and drink at this table, we remember that God forgives us. Tell stories about Jesus' forgiving the thief who died with him, his frightened friend Peter who pretended not to know him, and even those who killed him. Instruct worshipers to say to the person to whom they pass the elements, "Name, God loves us" and "Name, we are forgiven."

3. Recite 1 Corinthians 10:13 as a charge to the congregation before the benediction.

Sermon Resources

1. Set up a rhetorical form in which to tell the Exodus stories cited in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. For example:

God gave the Hebrew slaves freedom . . . (tell about crossing the Sea of Reeds). But did the people trust God and live as God's people after this? No . . . (tell about the grumbling about food). We are not to do as they did.

God gave the Hebrew slaves food in the desert . . . (tell the story of the quail). But did the people trust God and live as God's people after this? No . . . (tell about the grumbling about eating only meat). We are not to do as they did.

(Repeat this format with stories of manna, water, God's presence in the pillar of fire and the cloud, and the giving of the Ten Commandments.)

Break out of this format to explore Paul's call to repentance in verses 12 and 13.

2. Talk about sins of which children are capable: cheating; taking what does not belong to them (especially "borrowing" from brothers and sisters); calling names, teasing, or "cutting someone out"; telling lies (or improving upon the truth) to keep out of trouble or to impress friends; breaking promises; and so on.

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