Worship for Kids: September 1, 2019

July 25th, 2019

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Jeremiah 2:4-13. To understand Jeremiah's accusation, children need to be briefly reminded of the Exodus history, and they need help with the water images in verse 13. The first requires a simple sketching of how God brought the people to the Promised Land and how the people acted when they settled there. The second requires more careful attention.

The easiest way to introduce the water images to literal thinkers is with a question: "Which would you rather drink—a cup of clear water from a cold mountain stream or a cup of muddy water from a leaky well?" The choice is obvious. Jeremiah's point (for literal thinkers) is that choosing to ignore God is as dumb as choosing to drink muddy water.

The two accusations of verse 13 should be paraphrased for children: (1) My people have forgotten and ignored me; and (2) My people have chosen to worship worthless gods and spend their lives on activities that will not make them healthy and happy.

Psalm: 81:1, 10-16. The Good News Bible offers the clearest translation of this psalm for children. The psalm parallels Jeremiah's message. Once either of these is explained, the other makes sense also.

Epistle: Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16. This is a series of minilectures about how to live. Children are frequently on the receiving end of such lectures and will recognize them. The lectures are in verses 1 (on loving); 2 (on treating strangers kindly); 3a (on remembering prisoners); 3b (on caring for those who are not well treated by others); 4 (on honoring marriage); 5-6 (on love of money); and 7 (on respecting leaders). Children can understand them, but none of the lectures are developed in a way that speaks to their lives with particular clarity and force. Verses 8 and 15-16 provide the content for doing the things mentioned in verses 1-7—that is, we do them in response to Jesus Christ.

Gospel: Luke 14:1, 7-14. This passage tells two parables about parties. The first story is for party guests. Reminders of arguments about who gets to sit by Grandma, or who has to share the piano bench at a family reunion dinner, help children understand the feelings attached to seat assignments at first-century dinner parties. With this background, children can deal with the two levels of Jesus' teachings. They appreciate the practical fact that if you take a "good place," you will be embarrassed when you are asked to move. They can also appreciate Jesus' unstated message that where you sit is not that important anyway, and we should not be upset about such matters.

The second story is for hosts—of birthday parties, spend-the-night parties, trips to football games, and afternoons at the movies. Like adults, most children treat parties as chances to invite only those they want to invite. They choose their friends and those they would like to have for friends. Older children, especially girls, already recognize the possibility of inviting people who will "invite you back." Jesus suggests that a party is a chance to extend our friendship to people without friends, and to those who do not have anything to return. Because children often are given strict limits as to the number of friends they may invite to parties or outings, this is a call for tough, self-sacrificing living. Be aware that Jesus is asking more of children than of adults in this parable.

Watch Words

Cisterns are wells, and even wells are not familiar to many children.

The problem with God's people, according to Jeremiah, is that they were disloyal to God.

Let the Children Sing

Sing "For the Beauty of the Earth" to recite God's wonders on a holiday weekend when people tend to be outdoors.

Repeat the discipleship hymns sung last week, to build familiarity, or choose a new one: "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian," "Be Thou My Vision," or "Go Forth for God."

The Liturgical Child

1. Since it is Labor Day weekend, pray about last picnics and other end-of-summer events. Pray about settling into fall schedules with school and after-school activities. 

2. Take the role of Jeremiah, reading his indignant message with all the passion with which he delivered it. Pay attention to the delivery of the rhetorical questions. Emphasize the different groups of leaders (vs. 8) who failed to be loyal to God. Pause before verse 12. Then say, "Be appalled," using strong inflection a person might use with a child or teenager who has done something beyond belief—"I'm appalled!" Raise one, then two fingers, to emphasize the two accusations of verse 8.

3. Create a responsive prayer of petitions about living as God's people. A worship leader describes a series of temptations, based on the chosen Scripture texts for the day. To each, the congregation responds with the following line from the Lord's Prayer: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." For example:

It is tempting to forget you—to be so busy with our friends that we have no time to become friends with you; to pay so much attention to what we want that we forget to think about what you want for us; to read newspapers and novels, but not the Bible. So we pray

. . . (RESPONSE)

It is tempting to do what others do, say what others say, and think as others think—to go along with our friends rather than stick with what we know to be right; to fall for all the TV ads that promise us happiness if we buy the right things; to spend our time and energy following sports heroes and heroines instead of faith heroes and heroines. So we pray

. . . (RESPONSE)

Sermon Resources

1. To illustrate Jeremiah's image, display two large glasses of water on either side of the pulpit. Fill one with clear water and the other with muddy water. Lift each up for the congregation to see as you ask which they would rather drink. To relate Jeremiah's point to modern living and choices, identify activities that are about as worthwhile as drinking muddy water. Children's muddy-water activities that are about as worthwhile as drinking muddy water. Children's muddy-water activities include: being so intent on winning class elections, games, and so forth that we are poor sports when we lose; thinking we must have certain toys or wear certain clothes to be happy; and spending every free minute on TV or computer games.

2. Challenge worshipers to make a list of the five people they would invite to a super birthday party—for children, it might be a bowling and pizza party; for youths, a set of concert tickets; for adults, dinner in a fine restaurant. As they work, explore Jesus' insights into how we usually compile such lists. Next, ask the worshipers to think of two people in their class at school, at their workplace, or in their neighborhood, who probably never are invited to parties. After they have had a minute to think, reread Jesus' points about who to invite, and encourage everyone to imagine including one of those two outcasts on their list. Suggest possible impact on the new guest. Imagine what difference it would make at the party.

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