Worship for Kids: March 12, 2023

February 6th, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Exodus 17:1-7. Do not assume that children know the context of this story. Before reading it, explain that the people Moses led across the desert had been slaves in Egypt. God had sent ten horrible plagues to convince the king of Egypt to let them go, and then had rescued them when they seemed hopelessly trapped between the king's army and the Sea of Reeds.

Though the children will follow the action of the story, they will need help to recognize the amazing lack of trust on the part of the people whom God had cared for so well. Older children enjoy exploring the meaning of the names: Massah, which means trying (as in "You are trying my patience!) and Meribah, which means fault-finding or complaining. The significance of the names helps them to recognize the sin of the people.

Psalm: 95. The praise hymn in verses 1-7a is easy for children, but before they can understand the warning in verses 7b-11, they must hear the Exodus text with enough attention paid to the names Massah and Meribah that they will recognize the reference to that story. To children, the warning is not to try God's patience with constant complaints about what they want and need, but to trust God to love and care for them. Verse 10 in The New Jerusalem Bible speaks clearly to older children. God is speaking:

For forty years that generation sickened me, and I said, "Always fickle hearts; they cannot grasp my ways."

Grumbling and otherwise trying the patience of partners can be used as an example of what it means to test someone and try their patience. But do not use this psalm as a warning against complaining in general. Focus on trusting or not trusting God.

Epistle: Romans 5:1-11. This passage states the point of the Old Testament texts in a Christian setting, and in theological language that is beyond children. Read it for the adults.

Its message in relation to the other texts is that though the travelers in the desert had ample proof of God's love and care, we have even more striking proof in Jesus. If this is pointed out in concrete terms, it can remind the children that they should not follow the example of the exslaves in the desert.

Gospel: John 4:5-42. This complicated passage includes a word play on water, a tricky conversation about an old Jewish-Samaritan dispute, the use of water as a symbol for all that is life-giving and refreshing, and a collection of harvest images. To avoid totally overwhelming children, consider reading only verses 5-26.

Even older children have trouble appreciating Jesus' word play on living or running water. They respond more quickly to the general need for water. Though symbolism is difficult for children, the symbol her is a good one for beginners. John's point is that God's Word and loving care are as important as water to our survival and to our refreshed happiness. Exploring the function of water, and then comparing it to the function of knowing God and God's Word leads children to John's message.

Watch Words

In today's texts, faith is trusting God to continue loving and caring for us as God has done in our past.

Avoid all forms of justified and reconciled in Romans 5. Instead of explaining these complex, abstract terms, move directly to Paul's insistence that we need not worry about anything because God continues to care for us.

Rather than speaking of God's providence (most recognized by children as the capital of Rhode Island), cite specific examples of that loving care.

Let the Children Sing

Praise God, who loves and cares for us in so many ways, with "Now Thank We All Our God" or "For the Beauty of the Earth." Both cite everyday examples of God's love in simple words.

For yourselves and for the slaves in the desert, sing "God Will Take Care of You." Nonreaders can join in on the much repeated title phrase.

The Liturgical Child

1. Present today's texts dramatically:

• Let the frustration of all parties show in your voice and your posture as you read the exchanges in Exodus 17. Use the tones and the inflections that thirsty, tired people would use at the end of another hot, dry day.

• Present the Gospel text as a play, with the worship leader reading John 4:5-7a from the lectern as a costumed Jesus takes his place by a well (or sits on a stool). A woman enters carrying a water jug, and she and Jesus engage in conversation with parts memorized (if possible). Ask older youths or adults to take these parts, and work with them on facial expression, posture, and voice inflections. Their presentations will be essential in bringing an intricate conversation to life. The narrator could read verses 39-42 to complete the story.

• Preserve the division in Psalm 95 by having the congregation read verses 1-7a in unison or responsively, with a worship leader reading verses 7b-11 in the role of the warning priest.

2. Go all-out to appeal to the sense of hearing. Fill the sanctuary with the sound of bubbling water; borrow or rent a champagne fountain and fill it with water. Then challenge a parishioner to create a worship center by placing greens and flowers around the fountain. The display could be on the chancel table or off to one side, perahsp near the baptismal font.

Sermon Resources

1. Imagine with the congregation that it is a hot summer day. Describe the heat of the burning sun, sticky sweat, a dry thirsty mouth. Remember together how it feels to jump into a cool swimming pool or stand in a cool late-afternoon rainstorm. Think about cold drinks you enjoy in summer and imagine drinking an icy cold glass of water. Then review what Jesus was telling the woman at the well and us. (During later winter in cold climates, worshipers of all ages are quite willing to try this, though they may claim they cannot remember ever being hot, or even warm.)

2. Create a modern-day version of the complaining travelers in Exodus 17. Describe a family on the second day of a long drive to Disney World (or some other distant place children love to go). Describe the late afternoon grumbling: "Aren't we there yet?"; "He's on my side, Daddy! He's picking on me"; "Nobody ever pays any attention to me!"; "What do you mean, there isn't a motel for the next hundred miles! I thought you had this planned!"; "How come we can't fly? The Joneses did!"; and so forth. Compare this grumpy group with the thirsty slaves freed from Egypt.

3. After exploring the lack of trust among the Hebrews at Massah and Meribah, give worshipers indidivual packets of M&Ms. Suggest that as they enjoy this treat later today, they name one way God loves and cares for them for each piece of candy eaten. Families might enjoy eating the candies together and sharing their ideas.

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