Worship for Kids: February 19, 2017

January 20th, 2017

From a Child's Point of View

All of today's texts are about getting along with other people.

Old Testament: Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18. For children, these are God's directions for getting along with others. The first two verses make it plain that to be one of God's people, one must follow these directions. The Good News Bible offers the clearest translation, but even some of its details require explanation. Children need to be told about the old practice of leaving some of the grain and fruit in the field for the poor. Older children will be interested in the responsibility of serving on a jury or as a witness in a trial. The rules that affect children most are those in verses 11 (do not steal, cheat, or lie); 14 (do not make fun of anyone with a handicap or weakness); 16 (do not tells about people); 17 (do not bear grudges); and 18 (do not try to get even with those who hurt you).

The summary of the rules in verse 19 is familiar to many children. The teaching point here is that love does not refer to how we feel about our neighbors, but about how we treat them. God expects us to treat all people with the same fairness and kindness with which we want to be treated.

Psalm: 119:33-40. All the lines in the section of the acrostic about God's Torah begin with the Hebrew letter hei. They also use the same eight synonyms for Torah that were found in the verses read on the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany. Of these, only Law, Commandments, and ways make immediate sense to children. Older children who are learning to recognize synonyms at school enjoy using that term in worship. Children will make sense of one or two of the verses as they are read.

Gospel: Matthew 5:38-48. This is one of the "hard sayings" for Christians of all ages. Jesus' point is that following God's directions for getting along with others is easy when we are among friends. The real challenge comes when we are dealing with people who not only will not love us back but probably will take advantage of us and bully us. Jesus insists that as God's people, we are to continue to treat those people well, no matter how they treat us.

For children, "You have heard it said" often refers to the encouragement of adults to learn to stand up for themselves against aggressive children. The challenge to Christian children and their adult guides is (1) not to sink to the level of meanness of those who make life difficult; and (2) to find creative, loving ways to get along with people who hurt you. Children need to know both that this challenge is not easy for Christians of any age and that God expects each of us to work hard at it.

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23. The Corinthian squabble between the followers of Apollos and the followers of Paul is beyond the comprehension of children. But they can explore Paul's insistence that a congregation (both in Corinth and today) is God's temple and that we are to take good care of that temple. Detailing that care by saying we should treat one another with lovingkindness, do the work needed to keep the church going, contribute money to pay church expenses, do the work of the church in the neighborhood and world, and so forth, helps children understand and apply Paul's message.

Watch Words

If you use the term holiness code, take time to explore what it means to be holy. Remember that holy is used today only at church and in cursing.

Avoid uncommon terms such as deal falsely, defraud, revile, slander, and render justice, used in many translations of Leviticus. Instead, speak about lying, cheating, cursing, and being fair.

Vengeance or revenge and retaliation are getting even, in children's words.

Because they perceive enemies as bad, many children will claim to have none. So if you use the term, define it in terms of people who make our lives difficult. Point out that all of us have some enemies, and challenge worshipers to identify theirs. Then proceed to Jesus' teachings about getting along with these folks.

Let the Children Sing

"Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" is the most familiar and best understood hymn for this theme. You may want to improvise new verses based on points of the sermon. "Let There Be Peace on Earth" is another good choice.

Praise God for the blessings of family and friends in the concrete words of "For the Beauty of the Earth."

Sing "We Are the Church" by Avery and Marsh to celebrate God's Temple.

The Liturgical Child

1. Bid worshippers to pray for people with whom they live, work, and play every day. Pray for member of our families, wonderful friends we see every day, friends who live in the other cities or states, people at work or school with whom we must get along, people with whom it is hard to get along, groups of people with whom our community/nation has trouble getting along. After identifying each person or group for whom worshipers are to pray, pause to allow individuals to pray for specific people they know.

Example: Lord, we know that you create every person and love each one. But each of us knows at least one or two people who are very hard to love. They seem to be out to hurt us and make us look bad. They make us want to strike back, or at least protect ourselves. But you expect us to love them. That is not easy. Be with us and hear our prayers for people who hurt us. (silence)

2. Ask eight older children to read the eight verses of Psalm 119:33-40. Individuals may memorize or read their verse. If this is a class project, suggest that the students discuss the meaning of these verses as part of their preparation.

3. Read in unison Psalm 119:33-40 as an affirmation of faith in response to a sermon exploring God's directions for getting along with others. 

4. Remind worshipers that I Corinthians is a letter from Paul to a church he had helped start and where now the people were fussing among themselves and criticizing what Paul had done. Read the text imagining that you are Paul, walking the floor as you dictate this letter. Shrug your shoulders and turn your hands palms up as you read verse 3. Stroke your chin or make another thoughtful gesture as you read verse 4a. Raise a finger and come to attention to make the emphatic point of 4b, then on verse 5, point toward the congregation to direct them not to judge.

5. If you celebrate Communion, note that God dreams and works toward a day when all people everywhere will gather around the table. Invite worshipers to imagine gathered at this table both people with whom they get along well and those with whom it is difficult to get along. Recall that God loves and forgives all of us.

Sermon Resource

In Henry and the Clubhouse by Beverly Cleary, ten-year-old Henry confronts several problems with an after-school paper route. One of them is an embarrassing four-year-old girl named Ramona, who tries to follow and help him every day. He tries several ways to discourage her, but never resorts to mean tricks. He is, however, persistent and creative. He is successful when he writes to Sheriff Bob, her TV hero, and asks him to tell her on television not to follow him around. Sheriff Bob does. Find this book in most children's libraries and bookstores.

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