Worship for Kids: April 12, 2020

March 2nd, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Gospel: John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10. The text from John is really two Easter stories: (1) the visit of Peter and John to the empty tomb; and (2) Mary's encounter with the Risen Lord. Both stories describe strong interplays of fear with joy, and confusion with understanding. Matthew's account, though it mentions the conflicting feelings and responses of Jesus' friends, is simpler and therefore may be the better choice for children.

For children, the heart of the story in both texts, and in all Easter stories, is that God surprised everyone. On Good Friday, it looked as if the bad guys had won, that hate was stronger than love. On Easter, God proved this was not so. Since few children comprehend the significance of death, they do not sincerely value the resurrection promises related to death. Easter is more a celebration of God's surprise in raising Jesus and proving that God's love is stronger than any other power in the world.

Children, especially girls, also appreciate the fact that God chose to announce the Easter surprise to a couple of unimportant woman, rather than to the twelve disciples, to the state officials who had condemned Jesus to die, or to the religious leaders who planned his death. Since children often feel ignored when important things happen, they like the fact that God included the Marys. That inclusion alerts them to feel that God cares for them and might include them in any action in the future.

Note: During the Easter Season, the Old Testament reading is replaced with a sequential reading from Acts. On Easter, a choice is offered.

First Reading: Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6. Peter's sermon, in its context in Acts, focuses on God's salvation of the whole world, not just Jews. In the Easter liturgy context, it is more or less a summary of the good news about Jesus. Unfortunately, its reference in verse 38 to the kind of things Jesus did—"He went about doing good and healing"—is difficult for children to understand. To help them, cite specific familiar examples.

Because its many Old Testament references assume detailed knowledge of both Exodus and Exile stories, Jeremiah 31:1-6 is a definite second choice for children and those adult worshipers present on this day who do not know these stories.

Psalm: 118:1-2, 14-24. This selection of verses from Psalm 118 is a disjointed series of praises for God's saving activities. Children will more easily tune into its celebrative mood than to the meaning of its words. The last verse is the one most likely to be familiar and understandable as an appropriate Easter praise.

Epistle: Acts 10:34-43 or Colossians 3:1-4. The demand in Colossians makes little sense to literal-minded children when they hear it read. But its message can be restated to make the point more clearly. The point is that just as Jesus' resurrection changed him forever, so it also changes us forever. Jesus did not return to life as he had lived it with his friends. Resurrected life was new and different. Jesus' friends could not go back to living as they had before. Matthew could not go back to being a greedy tax collector, and James and John could no longer let their tempers run wild. And we cannot live as if Easter never happened. They and we know about GOd's Easter surprise. They and we know for sure that God loves us (and all people) enough to keep loving us. Knowing that affects how we treat people and how we spend our time, money, and energy.

Watch Words

For children, resurrection is a church word about what happened on Easter. Use it frequently, but do not expect children to grasp its meaning as related to death, other than Jesus' death.

Alleluia! is an Easter praise word that means "Hurray for God!" "Good job, God!" and "Look what God has done!" Use it frequently today.

Let the Children Sing

"Christ the Lord (Jesus Christ) Is Risen Today! follows every phrase with an Alleluia, so even nonreaders can join on the Alleluias. Older children will understand more and more of the phrases as they sing them.

"Christ Is Risen! Shout Hosanna!" celebrates God's surprising Easter turnaround of the Good Friday events. It is a good story hymn but does include some difficult poetic images (e.g., the tree blooming in the desert).

Children enjoy the change in mood from the sad verses to the upbeat chorus of the gospel hymn, "Up from the Grave He Arose."

If the choir sings the "Hallelujah Chorus," challenge the children to count the Hallelujahs.

The Liturgical Child

1. Children experience the feelings of Easter before they understand the story. So fill the sanctuary with flowers, hang sparkly white, shiny gold, or brightly colored Easter banners; wear stoles, and plan for grand music with brass accompaniment to announce God's big victory. Then, no matter how difficult the logistics of finding space for them, make sure all children are present for at least part of Easter worship. If nothing else, plan for them to come from their other activities to sit on the floor in the hall just outside the sanctuary to hear an Easter anthem.

2. Reading the Easter story is the main event of worship today. The Gospel accounts suggest dramatization, but the event and person of the resurrected Jesus are beyond everyday experience. Plays in which a human Jesus walks through the Easter events never satisfy either children or adults. So keep the vents in the realm of personal imagination by presenting the Scripture story as a radio drama. Let the fear and joy of Jesus' friends show in your voice. Read the narration like a media commentator who is deeply awed and moved by what has happened.

3. Build a Prayer of Confession on our failure to believe in the power of God and in God's Easter surprise:

Almighty God, we sometimes live as if Good Friday happened, but Easter did not. We act as though we think the bad guys and hate and selfishness will always win. We are silent while others are hurt, as if we think no one can protect them. At times we even lie, cheat, and steal, as if that were the only way to get what we want and need. Forgive us. Help us remember that your power and love always win in the end. Give us the courage to live by that love. For we pray in the name of Jesus, who died and rose again. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Those who called for Jesus' death and those who killed him did not have the last word. Jesus forgave them all. Then God raised Jesus from death, proving once and for all that the loving, forgiving power of God is stronger than any force—stronger than greed or hate or fear. God loves us and will love us always. Thanks be to God! Amen.

4. After exploring it in the sermon, invite worshipers to join in the Easter witness by "preaching with Peter," using his words in Acts 10:34-43. If you do not have pew Bibles, print the text in the bulletin.

Sermon Resource

Retell the Easter story, exploring feelings as you go. Consider assuming the role of John or Mary Magdalene. Tell what happened and how you felt about it on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and finally on Sunday morning.

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