Worship for Kids: January 29, 2023

January 1st, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12. The Beatitudes is one of those familiar passages which adults often think children ought to learn, but which children have little chance of understanding without significant adult help. First they must explore the meaning of blessed. If "blessed" is paraphrased as "happy," that happiness must be defined and differentiated from short-term, shallow satisfaction. Then they need help wading through each verse, many of which are abstract descriptions of human activity followed by somewhat vague promises. Here is one paraphrase suitable for children:

Happy are those who are gentle,
for they are in charge in God's kingdom.
Happy are those who grieve,
for God will comfort them.
Happy are those who obey God,
for God will make them leaders.
Happy are those who wish for fairness for everyone,
for their wish will come true.
Happy are those who forgive others,
for they shall be forgiven.
Happy are those who put being a disciple first in their lives,
for they will know God personally.
Happy are the peacemakers,
for they will be called the children of God.
Happy are those who are mistreated when they do what God wants,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
You will find happiness and peace deep within you
when you are teased or mistreated,
or when others tell lies about you,
because you are my disciples.
You will be happy because you will know
that you are one of God's people,
and God's people have often suffered.

Old Testament: Micah 6:1-8. The courtroom scene in verses 1-5 requires knowledge of covenant theology and events in Old Testament history that children do not yet possess. Read this for the adult biblical scholars.

The question and answer in verses 6-8 offer more to children, but need an introduction to explain the practice of offering animals, farm products (the oil is olive oil, not petroleum), and even children as sacrifices. Because children hear about such sacrifice from the vantage point of a child rather than that of an adult, children often are offended and frightened by these references. They can't imagine that a loving God would demand such a thing, but they worry that God might ask their parents to demonstrate their loyalty by killing them. They need to be reassured that the writer shares their views and that God has never and will never suggest such a show of loyalty. In fact, Micah's point here is that God is not interested in gestures like animal or human sacrifice. What God wants is for us to treat each other fairly and with love.

Epistle: I Corinthians 1:18-31. Few children will follow the reading of the text with its references to Greek wisdom and Jewish love of signs. But the point the passage makes about what is strong and weak—or what is wise and foolish—is critical to their response to the teachings in the Old Testament and Gospel passages. All children are encouraged to be wise and strong. Paul reminds them, along with the people at Corinth, that though God's rules may seem like foolish rules for sissies, they really are for the strong people.

He illustrates his point by pointing to Jesus' crucifixion. Tied up, whipped, and crucified, Jesus—and God—looked weak, while the Roman soldiers and the religious leaders who wanted Jesus dead looked strong. But it turned out that Jesus was stronger. Similarly, though it looks as if demanding and getting your own way is stronger and wiser than giving up what is rightfully yours in order to take care of others, it turns out that the latter makes our life together happier.

Psalm: 15. While children do not catch the exact meaning of the psalmist's questions about God's hill and tent, they do catch his meaning: "Who is qualified to come near to God in worship?" A child's paraphrase of the answer:

Those who obey God,
who do what is right,
who tell the truth,
who say no mean words about others,
who do nothing mean to their friends,
who refuse to tell bad stories about other
who cannot be tempted by wicked people,
who respect God's people,
who do what they say they will—no matter
who do not share just hoping to get some-
thing back, and
who will hurt others in order to get a gift;
People who do these things will always be safe
with God.

Watch Words

Do not use the word beatitude or speak of the Beatitudes without explaining what they are. Also explore the meaning of blessed. Many children use "bless" only in reference to a prayer before eating or in response to a friend's sneezes.

Let the Children Sing

The third verse about right and wrong makes "This Is My Father's World" a good general praise hymn for the day.

"What Does the Lord Require?" with its repeated chorus, which even the youngest can sing, is based on Micah 6:8. Other choices include "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" (to which you could make up new verses related to today's theme), and "We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder."

The Liturgical Child

1. Use Psalm 15 as the Call to Worship: The leader asks the questions (vs. 1); the congregation reads the answer (vss. 2-5a; and all read the conclusion (vs. 5b. 

2. Create a responsive prayer of confession based on the Beatitudes. The worship leader states the beginning of each Beatitude ("Blessed are the . . ."), then describes how we fail to live in that way ("but we prefer to . . . ."). the congregation's response to each confession: "God, forgive us" (or sing the first line of the Kyrie).

3. Invite the children to come and sit with you at the front for the reading of the Gospel. Once they have arrived, point out that Jesus often gathered his disciples around him just like this, to tell them how they were to live. Briefly introduce the format of the Beatitudes before reading the lesson; after the reading, thank the children and send them back to their seats.

4. In prayers of petition, pray for God's foolishness for whatever situations, groups, and individuals have specific need of it. Include family situations, such as sharing a room with a baby sister or doing all the chores no one wants to do, as well as community and global situations.

5. Address Psalm 15 to the congregation as the Charge just before the Benediction.

Sermon Resources

1. Create beatitudes which reflect the secular values in our culture, and compare them to those of Jesus. For example:

Blessed are the winners, for they are the only ones who count. (This is especially good at Super Bowl time and during local sport championships.)
Blessed are the well-dressed, for everyone will deny their style.
Blessed are those with the best toys, for they will always have fun.

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