Worship for Kids: March 1, 2020

February 2nd, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7. Recent studies indicate that all people move through predictable stages or tasks as they develop moral reasoning. The stage of a worshiper's moral development greatly influences the understanding of this Old Testament story.

In the earliest stage, children accept rules as irrefutable. By the age of four or five, they realize that those who are biggest and most powerful set the rules. Decisions to obey or disobey rules are made in order to receive rewards or escape punishment from the powerful. To people who reason this way, this story says that God is the biggest and most powerful being in the world. Indeed, God created the world, and therefore God's rules are to be obeyed. There are serious consequences when one breaks the rules.

Most young elementary children begin to realize that a person's motivations for breaking or obeying rules are important. They struggle with the difference between meaning well and simply being defiant. They experience situations in which the right and loving thing to do requires breaking the rules. From that perspective, the defiance of Adam and Eve is the key to the Fall. Adam and Eve knew what was wrong to do, but they did it anyway, simply for their own satisfaction.

That defiance is further defined by older elementary children, who generally see the world as a conglomerate of groups and individuals, each with an assigned role. It is important to these children to be a "good girl," a "good scout," and so forth. Therefore, when Adam and Eve defied the rule and ate the forbidden apple because they wanted to be "like God," they were stepping beyond their place and role. They were not being "good" people. By stepping out of their role, they broke the trust and peace with each other and between themselves and God. Shame and division resulted.

The challenge to children at each level is that they not do as Adam and Eve did. The truth is that people of all ages often do.

Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11. The temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness are very similar to those children face today. The first temptation was to be selfish, to take care of his own wants and needs. This temptation confronts children in the drive to get the biggest piece of pizza, the best basketball, the prettiest clothes, the most video games, and so forth. Jesus insisted that there are better things to do than worry about how much we gather for ourselves.

Jesus' second temptation was to use his powers for attention--to show off. Children today must decide whether to use their talents and abilities to gain praise and attention, or to help others. Jesus refused to be a show-off.

The third temptation was to be king of the world. Kings make all the decisions. Everyone else does what the king says. Children often wish they could be king or queen and, for once, be in charge. Jesus, though he would have made the very best king ever, refused to take such power. Instead, he chose to obey God.

Matthew presents Jesus' response as a decision to live within the role of a "good" person, as God intended. He planned to obey God.

Epistle: Romans 5:12-19. Paul's highly abstract theology is beyond the mental abilities of children. To their literal minds, it is neither sensible nor fair that either Adam's disobedience or Jesus' obedience should affect them. Read this passable for the adults. The children will find more meaning in comparing the actions of Adam and Jesus.

Psalm: 32. A child's summary of this psalm:

Happy are those who are forgiven by God. When the psalmist tried to cover up his sins, he felt guilty and awful. When he finally admitted what he had done and apologized, God forgave him. He says that a God who forgives you can be counted on to take care of you in any situation. And you would be smart to listen to that God and do as that God teaches.

The sin vocabulary and poetic images make this psalm difficult for children to follow as it is read.

Watch Words

The Fall, to children, is simply a title for the story of Adam and Eve's disobedience. The theological significance of a fall from grace is beyond their literal thinking.

Temptation is a familiar word. 

Let the Children Sing

To sing about resisting temptation, choose "O Jesus, I Have Promised" or "Take Time to Be Holy."

The connection between God's creation of the world and the battle against sin makes "This Is My Father's World" a good choice. Explore the meaning of verse 3 before it is sung.

Most children also know the creation hymns, "All Things Bright and Beautiful" and "For the Beauty of the Earth."

The Liturgical Child

1. Place an apple or an apple with a bite out of it in a greenery display in the worship center.

2. Matthew's account of the temptation is primarily a conversation between Jesus and Satan. As you read, take the two roles. Let the tone of Satan's sly superiority and Jesus' positive commitments be heard in your voice. Turn slightly toward one side while reading Satan's propositions, and toward the other side while reading Jesus' replies. Use your hands to point to the sweep of lands being offered, and to emphasize the suggested leap from the top of the Temple.

3. Focus confession on our tendency to be like Adam and Eve, rather than like Jesus:

Lord God, who created us, we confess that we are a lot like Adam and Eve. We too want to be "like God." We want to be in charge of everything, to know everything, to do everything our way. We are willing to break the rules and hurt one another to have our way. Forgive us.

Help us instead to learn from Jesus. Remind us that having what we want and need is not so very important. Tame our wild desires to be the center of attention, the star, the winner every time. Teach us to know your will and to obey. For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Sermon Resources

1. Before the sermon, or before reading the Genesis text, give each worshiper a piece of wrapped hard candy, but instruct everyone not to eat the candy. During the sermon, describe different reasons for eating the candy as a springboard to exploring our responses to other temptations. At the end of the sermon, invite worshipers to eat the "teaching aid" if they wish.

2. Obey is a key word in the Genesis and Matthew stories. It marks the difference between Adam and Jesus. It is also something most of us do not like to do. Children do not like to obey, and they long for the day they will not need to obey anyone. Most brides no longer promise in their wedding vows to obey their husbands. In business, management techniques often stress group decision-making, rather than obedience to directives from the boss. Children appreciate having their feelings about obedience recognized and hearing about adult problems with obedience.

3. Tell stories about sinners whose experiences follow that of the psalmist (e.g., a child who called a sister a name that hurt badly—first trying to ignore what had happened, then feeling guilty before the sister and before God, finally apologizing to both and accepting forgiveness).

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