Worship for Kids: June 5, 2016

May 5th, 2016

From a Child's Point of View

Luke 7:11-17. These two passages are very similar stories about the raising from death of the only sons of widows. Both make two important points. The first point is that God is powerful. God, working through Elijah and Jesus, can even bring dead people back to life. The second point is that God is loving and caring. God saved Elijah and the widow and her son from starvation, and God raised the only sons of two widows. In each case the raising of the son is a response to the widowed mother's plight. (At that time a woman depended upon her male relatives. A woman with neither husband nor sons lived in dire poverty.)

The widow's angry accusation of Elijah and Elijah's frustrated speech to God are difficult for children. To accept the widow's speech, one must have some understanding of the Deuteronomic explanation of suffering and the role of anger in the grieving process. To understand Elijah's frustration, one must recognize Elijah's appreciation of the widow's help and recall all that Elijah had suffered as God's prophet. The easiest way to explain all this to children is simply to say that when we are really hurting, we sometimes say mean things. Because she was so upset about her son's death, the widow lashed out at Elijah and God. God understood and kept loving her. Because his friend the widow was so upset, and because he too grieved for her son, Elijah was upset also and told God so. God understood and kept loving him.

Because these stories link God's compassion with miraculous raisings, they may raise a difficult question in two forms. Intellectually curious children may ask, "If God has the power to raise these two sons from death, why doesn't God raise everyone?" Grieving children will ask, "If God could raise those people, why doesn't God raise (my loved relative)?" The only acceptable answer to either question is, "We don't know. That is one of God's secrets." This answer needs to be given with ample assurance that God loves us and cares for us, even when we don't understand. This assurance is critical for a grieving child—for whom this discussion best takes place not in worship but one-on-one, with lots of hugs.

Psalm: 146. This psalm is a happy list of what God does to help people. The activities are concrete and everyday, so children understand most of them as they are read. Do explain unfamiliar phrases: When a prince's "breath departs," he dies; "execute justice" means to provide justice; "those who are bowed down" or "the bent" have disabilities.

Epistle: Galatians 1:11-24. Paul was trying to establish his credibility with the Galatians on their terms. To do so, he insisted that he received the good news straight from God, that he was not someone else's student. Such credibility does not mean much to children, who are constantly dependent upon the knowledge and teaching of others. They are more likely to hear in the passage a summary of Paul's change from persecutor to preacher. A particularly alert older child may ask the mechanical question, "How did God tell Paul the good news while he was in Arabia?" Unfortunately, Paul didn't tell us the answer to that one.

Watch Words

Widow may be a new term for younger children. Explain it before using it to refer to the two mothers.

In speaking of death, use the concrete terms died and dead rather than euphemisms such as passed on. Stick to one or two simple terms, such as raised or brought back to life to describe what happened to the sons.

In speaking of God's powerful care, avoid providence entirely or feature it. (Remember that providence is most recognized as the capital of Rhode Island.)

Let the Children Sing

"I Sing the Almighty Power of God" and "For the Beauty of the Earth" are hymns through which children can praise God's love and power.

"Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" is filled with impossibly big words and strangely abstract phrases describing God. Either avoid this hymn or sing it after exploring it in the sermon (see Sermon Resource 2).

The Liturgical Child

1. Read consecutively the two stories about sons being raised from the dead. Present I Kings as readers' theater, then read the Gospel story. Three readers (the Narrator, Elijah, and the Widow) take places in the chancel. The narrator stands in the middle or most prominent place. Elijah and the widow stand to either side where they can speak directly to each other and turn to speak to God. This is a task for well-rehearsed adult readers with dramatic flair. The Good News Bible offers the simplest translation.

Narrator: Our lessons today are stories about God's powerful and loving care. The first story is from 1 Kings 17:8-24. It is the story of Elijah and a kind widow. Hear the Word of the Lord! (Reads 1 Kings 17:87-10b).
Elijah, the Widow, and Narrator: (Read the dialogue in verses 10c through 24. Omit the "he/she saids" where it makes the reading smoother.)
Narrator: Thus ends our story from I Kings. Now hear a similar story about Jesus from Luke's Gospel. (Reads Gospel text.)

2. Ask a children's class to present Psalm 146 as a choral reading, highlighting its short phrases which name ways God helps people in need. Choose either the New Revised Standard Version or The Good News Bible.

ALL: Verse 1a
Solos: Verses 1b, 2a, and 2b
Solos (older child or class teacher: Verses 3-4
ALL: Verse 5
Solo: Verses 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 7c, 8a, 8b, 8c, 9a, and 9b
ALL: Verse 9c
Solos: Verses 10a and 10b
All: Verse 10c

3. In your prayers, praise God for all the wonders of summer: special summer activities such as swimming, hiking, and whatever summer sport is central for your children; and for the change of pace that comes when school ends.

Sermon Resources

1. Play with the how-great-is-God questions to explore God's great love and power:

"Who was there before God?" (Answer: No one. God always existed. You can't go back far enough to get away from God.)

"Who made God?" (Answer: No one. God always was and always will be.)

"How does God know what is happening everywhere all the time?" (Answer: We don't know how God does it, but we know God does.)

Make up more questions and answers. If you deal with such questions with an open, light-hearted attitude, children will gain a sense of security based on your certainty that God's love and power are bigger than we can imagine and sufficient to meet any need.

2. Invite worshipers to open their hymnals for ready reference while you work through some or all of the verses of "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise." No child will remember all the definitions or explanations. But children can sense that the words are more than we can understand because God is more than we can understand. They also can sense from you that the words and the God they describe are friendly mysteries, to be enjoyed rather than feared.

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