Worship for Kids: May 29, 2016

May 1st, 2016

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: 1 Kings 18:20-21 (22-29), 30-39. Children enjoy this action-packed story in which God is proved to be "real" and Baal is proved to be a fake. Most children can follow the stroy of two sacrifices when they are well read from any translation. They, however, need help understanding the problem that led to the contest. They need to hear the situation described in verses 21 and 22 explained in simple language. (The people were trying to worship both Baal and God. They liked going to the Baal parties and they also went to some of the ceremonies at the Temple. Elijah said they had to make a choice.)

Though children do not choose between worshiping two different gods and cannot yet understand that sports, clothes, or popularity can be gods, they do face choices about their activities and their values. The faithful child is learning to leave slumber parties in time to go to church, to choose church school over soccer practice, and to love enemies on schoolbuses as well as at church. Elijah calls children to make "faithful" choices. They are not to be like "the people," who do whatever everyone else is doing or what seems like fun at the moment. Instead, they are to be God's faithful people every day, everywhere they are.

Gospel: Luke 7:1-10. This healing story is so tersely presented that children may misunderstand some of its details. The centurion's message about giving orders can leave children thinking that the centurion thought he could order Jesus around, rather than that Jesus could heal the slave without even being in the same room with him. That makes a big difference in the interpretation of Jesus' statement about the centurion's faith. Jesus was impressed by the man's total trust both that Jesus could heal his slave and that Jesus would heal his slave, even though the request came from a Roman soldier. So you may need to retell the story, elaborating on the key details.

Epistle: Galatians 1:1-12. This is not a passage for children to understand intellectully, but to respond to emotionally. Paul's passion for the gospel is what impresses them. They like the fact that he became so angry at people who were spreading false ideas about Jesus that he cured them not once but twice—in writing! In this passion Paul is the opposite of the people to whom Elijah spoke. Children are called to care as much as Paul did.

If you will be focusing on Galatians for the coming weeks, children, because they like getting mail, will be interested in the format of New Testament letters as displayed in these verses. They enjoy identifying the writer, the receivers, and the greeting in verses 1-3.

Psalm: 96. If Yahweh is introduced as a name for God used by people in Elijah's time. The New Jerusalem Bible's translation makes sense to children as a psalm that Elijah and the people might have sung after God burned up the bulls. It is also a song that the centurion or Paul could have sung. Children respond to individual short praise phrases within the psalm, rather than to the psalm as a whole.

Watch Words

Faith, the key word underlying today's texts, is a word children hear only at church. It is an abstract term that adults use in many ways and have trouble defining clearly even for themselves. Children hear it, say it, and sing it before they understand it. Today, faith involves choosing. We, like Elijah's hearers the Christians at Galatia, must make choices about what we do and whom we follow. The centurion chooses to risk Jesus' public rejection and his slave's life when he asks Jesus to heal the slave. The centurion's faith involves trust as well as choosing. He trusts Jesus' compassion and love. Use the word faith repeatedly today, but focus your comments on faithful choosing and trusting faith.

Let the Children Sing

The repeated phrase, "Sing to the Lord a new song," makes the new hymn "Earth and All Stars" a good echo of Psalm 96.

The third verse of "God Created Heaven and Earth" mentions handmade gods of wood and clay, similar to the idol Baal. To introduce this Tiwanese melody to less musically adventurous congregations, ask a children's or adult choir to sing it as an anthem. Children enjoy learning hymns from different cultures.

Sing "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God" in honor of the faithful centurion, Elijah and Paul.

Avoid "Faith of Our Fathers," which is filled with abstract ideas and dated language. Even the repeated chorus does not make much sense to children.

The Liturgical Child

1. Today's texts beg for dramatic presentation:

—Announce that you are going to share one of the great stories of God's people. Invite the children to meet you at the front. Hold the big pulpit Bible in your lap as you read or tell the story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel in your best storyteller style. Thunder Elijah's angry indignation and his knowing questions at the frustrated Baal priests; carefully describe Elijah's preparations for his sacrifice; and read with powerful awe God's response.

—Explain that Galatians is a letter Paul sent to Christians in a church he had started. Then either assume the role of Paul writing the letter as you read, or let the reading be done by someone else who assumes Paul's role. Paul might be presented either doing his own writing or dictating to a secretary. In either case, demonstrate Paul's strong feelings in the way he says the words, paces back and forth and uses body language (if he is dictating); or writes with flourishing emphasis (if he is writing).

—Read Psalm 96 immediately after the Elijah story. Either read the whole psalm dramatically or line out the short phrases, inviting the congregation to repeat your tone, emphasis, and volume. Suggest that the people imagine themselves among those on Mt. Carmel.

2. Carefully plan today's creed or affirmation of faith. If the congregation regularly recites a given creed, present it today as a series of questions, to which the congregation replies, "Yes, we believe that!" (e.g., "Do you believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth?")

3. Remember to include end-of-school and beginning-of-summer concerns in the church's prayers. 

Sermon Resources

1. Give examples of faith as choosing: choosing between basketball and church camp; between Bible school and swimming lessons; between going along with the crowd and standing up for what you know is right; and even between experimenting with alcohol, drugs, or smoking and saying No.

Give examples of faith as trusting: jumping from the edge of the swimming pool into the arms of a parent standing in the water; riding a roller coaster for the first time with a trusted friend who has ridden before and says it is fun.

2. Use the format of Paul's letter to the Galatians as the format of your sermon. Follow the form of the greeting, then speak to choices the people are called to make. Cite choices that children as well as adults face as they live faithfully. Present the letter either as what Paul might write to your congregation, or as a letter you are writing to them.

About the Author

Carolyn C. Brown

Carolyn C. Brown is a certified Christian educator and children’s ministry consultant who believes children read more…
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