Worship for Kids: May 22, 2022

January 1st, 2022

From a Child's Point of View

Gospel: John 14:23-29. This is a rich text, providing several themes that are important to children. All the themes are more powerful if the text is set in its context: the Last Supper.

First is the question of how to show our love for Jesus. Loyalty among friends is very important to children. Best friends prove their devotion by being together, wearing matching clothes, or joining the same teams. Children express their devotion to their heroes by collecting baseball cards, memorizing sports statistics, and wearing shirts that bear those persons' names. So the question, "How can we show our love for Jesus?" has some urgency. Jesus' answer is clear. We are to show our love not by what we wear or by memorizing all the facts about Jesus, but by following Jesus' teachings. (The GNB's "obey my teachings" makes more sense to children than the NRSV's "keep my word.")

Second, Jesus promises those who love him and obey his teachings that God will be with them always. Again, this speaks to children's insistence that friends be loyal. Jesus promises them friendship that they can count on always. Nothing can come between them and God. Just as God was with the disciples through Jesus during his life on earth, so God will be with them (and us) in the Holy Spirit after Jesus is gone. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit will be so close, they will be inside us.

Finally, Jesus promises his disciples (whose world is about to be torn apart by Jesus' crucifixion) that his presence with them will result in peace and that peace will become a mark of the church. The other texts celebrate this peace (Psalm 67), describe how people spread it (Acts and John 5) , and look forward to the day when the peace will be complete (Revelation).

Psalm: Psalm 67. This harvest psalm acknowledges that God gives the peace, that nations are to share it, that peace and justice are related gifts from God, and that a good harvest is a peaceful blessing from God. This is a psalm for children to enjoy rather than to understand. The New Jerusalem Bible offers a particularly clear, beautiful translation.

Epistle: Revelation 21:10 ; 22:22–22:5. This passage is John's coded glimpse of the city of peace that will finally come. Some older children can crack enough of the code to discover that the presence of God and Jesus in the city will be so great that there will be no need for a church—the whole city will be a church. Hardly any children can decipher the significance of the life-giving river flowing from the throne of God. A few children will understand that people of all nations will be welcomed and will share their wealth. (The GNB's "wealth" or NJB"s "treasures" brought to the city are clearer than NRSV's "glory.") Many children will simply enjoy the fact that the Bible includes such cleverly coded messages and perhaps learn the code words they will be able to understand later.

Acts 16:9-15. Paul and Lydia are Easter people. In response to a vision, Paul travels to a new place to tell people about Jesus. In response to what she hears about Jesus, Lydia is baptized and offers her large, comfortable house as a home for Paul and a meeting place for the first Christians in her town. Though what Lydia did does not seem as exciting as what Paul did, they are equally important. We, like Paul and Lydia, are to respond to God's Easter message and do what we can to spread God's peace.

Alternate Gospel: John 5:1-9. Paul preaches, Lydia provides a home, and Jesus heals. Children understand the hopeless situation of the man by the pool and appreciate the help Jesus gave him. The challenge to them is to recognize people around them who need help and to help them.

Watch Words

Use the word peace in such a way that children realize it includes justice and inclusiveness, not just absence of war.

Also describe peace as feeling very good inside because you know that what you are doing is right. Compare that feeling with the excited feeling of going someplace special (e.g., an amusement park), or the feeling of getting something you do not deserve (e.g., winning a game by cheating).

Let the Children Sing

"Let All the World in Every Corner Sing" is a simple praise hymn which reflects Psalm 67.

"Savior Again to Thy Dear Name We Pray" includes many of the themes of these texts is simple concrete language children can understand as they sing.

"Dona Nobis Pacem," a prayer for peace learned by many children at camp, would be effective sung as a round by several choirs of different ages, or as a congregational hymn.

"I've Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart" is another camp song that Christians of all ages can sing together or that a choir can present as an anthem. Be sure to include the line, "I've got the peace that passes understanding down in the depths of my heart."

The Liturgical Child

1. Ask a group of older children to pantomime the action as Acts 16 is read. You will need Paul, a Macedonian, and several women, including Lydia. Paul's vision is staged at one side of the chancel. He then crosses to the other side to meet the women and is escorted farther in that direction by Lydia. The Macedonian might say, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." Simple costumes help, and one good practice is essential.

2. To read Psalm 67 as a litany, teach the congregation the response in verses 3 and 5. The worship leader then reads the other verses, pausing at appropriate times for the congregational response. (Consider printing the response in the worship bulletin.)

3. Pass the Peace at the close of the service. The worship leaders (perhaps with the help of ushers or prepared children) move down the aisles and shake hands with the person at the end of each row, saying, "The peace of God be with you." The worshiper responds, "and also with you," and turns to pass the wish to his or her neighbor, who then passes it on down the row.

4. Pray for situations in which God's peace is needed. Pray for peace in families, peace on schoolbuses, peace among friends, peace among folks who do not get along easily, peace among different racial and ethnic groups in your community, and peace in the world. Consider asking several children in advance to identify such situations in their schools and your community.

Sermon Resources

1. Inquire about the Easter tokens. Suggest that this week worshipers carry the tokens as a reminder that God's peace is with them and that they, as the Easter People, are called to work for peace.

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