Worship for Kids: June 12, 2016

May 16th, 2016

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: I Kings 21:1-10 (11-14), 15-21a. This is the story of Ahab's murder of Naboth in order to get his vineyard. The message in the story is simple: God cares about us and pays attention to what we do. God will not allow Naboth's unjust death to go unnoticed, nor will God let Ahab continually get away with such terrible behavior. Younger children, who generally make moral decisions in order to avoid punishment or to claim rewards, respond especially quickly to this message. Older children may realize that not all evildoers are caught as Ahab was. Indeed, some seem to profit by their evil actions.

Gospel: Luke 7:36 –8:3. This is a story (7:41-42) within a story (7:36-50), followed by a tag-along story (8:1-3).

When the verses 41-50 are read alone, they provide a counterpoint to the story of Ahab. Although God cares about what we do, we do not need to earn God's love. Jesus loved the sinful woman as much as he loved the "good" Simon. The only difference was that the woman was very sorry about what she had done, so she was a lot more appreciative of God's love than Simon was.

The good news for the children who get in fights, are frequently punished, and are constantly told that they do not do what they should, is that God loves them in spite of their deeds. God is willing to forgive, even when parents, teachers, and friends are not.

It is also a call to "good" kids/people not to think they are any better than those who do not go to church as we do, or who are not as kind as we are, or who fail to meet our standards in any area. If God loves "bad" kids/people and accepts them, they should be good enough for us. In fact, Jesus tells us a sober secret: Sometimes people who have had to be forgiven many times are more loving than those who have always been good. It takes a while for children to grasp that secret, but it is a truth that especially those who are growing up as "good" kids need to encounter.

An entire service also could be constructed around the women who traveled with Jesus and his male disciples Luke 8:1-3). Worshipers of all ages can enjoy learning about those women and imagining how they got along.

Psalm: 5:1-8. This psalmist moves from the recognition of sin to the acceptance of both God's judgment and grace, to the peititon for God's help in avoiding sin in the future. Children, however, do not follow this progression. Instead, they catch occasional phrases (especially in verses 4-6). To them, the psalm makes most sense as a prayer that might have been prayed by Ahab or the woman in Luke's story.

Epistle: Galatians 2:15-21. This passage will mean nothing to children when they hear it read. The sentences are too complex, and the vocabulary is both too abstract and too technical. But its message is very similar to Luke's message: God loves us. Jesus came to live among us and die for us to prove that God loves us. So we do not need to pile up good deeds or perfect-attendance awards to make God like us.

Watch Words

Avoid obsolete words about sin such as transgressions and abominations. Speak instead of sin and doing what is wrong. Remember that children are most likely to have heard the word righteous in reference to unattractive self-righteousness.

Rather than speaking of vindication or justification, talk of God's forgiving love and being friends with God.

Avoid Paul's use of the Law as a catch phrase for earning approval by keeping God's rules. Elementary children are at the stage of moral development in which rules and laws are seen as good ways to live, work, and play together. They make moral decisions in reference to rules and laws. Paul's image is confusing because it sounds like a put-down of all rules and laws, rather than a challenge to the Pharisee's use of God's Law.

Also tell younger children what a vineyard is.

Let the Children Sing

Child-accessible hymns about sin and forgiveness are hard to find. The vocabulary and images in the most familiar ones make little sense to children. It may be a good day to sing "Jesus Loves Me." (In deference to older children, who often resent the request for children to sing this song for adults, sing it together). Or sing "There's a Wideness in God's Mercy." Simple commitment hymns such as "Be Thou My Vision" or "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" are good second choices.

The Liturgical Child

1. The story of Ahab has all the marks of a morality play. So take advantage of the children's summer schedules or a willing children's church-school class to produce a simple play. With only one good rehearsal, as few as seven children (Ahab, Jezebel, Naboth, at least one town leader, two false witnesses, and Elijah) can pantomime the story while the worship leader reads it. Simple costumes and props help. In rehearsal, help the children act with their whole bodies as well as with their faces.

2. Base a prayer of confession on the story of Ahab:

Lord, God, Ahab and Jezebel seem absolutely terrible until we look at ourselves. When we are honest, we admit that, like Ahab, we get jealous of what others have, then mope if we cannot have it for ourselves. Like Jezebel, we twist, and even break the rules in order to get what we want. We act as if we are somehow special and need not follow your commands. Like Ahab, we have done the wrong that others have suggested, hoping you would blame them and not us. Forgive us. Forgive us for the wrongs we do and for all the ways we deny and try to cover them up. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: The Bible tells us that when Ahab confessed his terrible sins to God and asked for forgiveness, God forgave even him. Jesus has promised that God also will forgive us when we confess. There is nothing so sinful that it cannot be confessed to, and forgiven by, the God who loves us so much that Jesus came to live and die and rise among us.

3. Before reading Luke's story, place on the lectern a "flask of ointment" (maybe a decorative perfume bottle) and 11 cardboard coins. Explain that each coin is worth 50 denarii. Put one denarii by itself and count out the other 10 into a stack, pointing out that there are 50 denarii in one stack and 500 in the other. Urge the children to listen for each of these items in the story you will read from Luke. Point to the items as you come to them in the story.

For dramatic emphasis and clarity, present the story as a one-person play. As you read the narrative, face forward in the lectern. While reading the Pharisee's words, turn a little to one side; while reading Jesus' words, turn a little to the other side. Imagine that the woman is kneeling on the floor a little behind Jesus. Assume the roles of Jesus and Simon with your facial expression and hand movements as you read their parts.

Sermon Resources

1. Recall how Pinocchio's wooden nose grew every time he told a lie. He learned that one lie led to another and that he could not hide his sins. Compare the experiences of Ahab, Pinocchio, and ourselves in pretending that our sinful actions do not matter.

2. Words by Heart, by Ouida Sebestyen, is a powerful novel about an African American girl in post-Civil War Kansas, who learns to live by all the Bible verses she has memorized. She learns from her father to love and forgive a white family that causes his death. (Available in most public libraries.)

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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