Worship for Kids: May 7, 2023

April 6th, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

First Reading: Acts 7:55-60. To appreciate this text, both adults and children need to hear the whole story of Stephen's trial and stoning but they do not need to her the content of his statement to the Council.

Stephen is a potential hero. He stood up for Jesus and Jesus' ways even when it made others angry, and he remained loving and forgiving as people were killing him with stones. Because children often risk the anger of their peers when they stand up for Jesus' ways, they appreciate the way Stephen stood up to the Council. And because they have experience in tripping over stones or even being hit with a stone, they identify with Stephen's pain and the difficulty of forgiving people who are throwing stones at you. Stephen is a hero because he "has the guts to make a stand" and because he "can take it"—he can take abuse from others and keep on loving and forgiving. Christian children are called to be as heroic as Stephen.

Psalm: 31:1-8, 15-16. This lament which seeks God's rescue in a time of trouble is included among today's lections because it uses a "rock" as a poetic image of God's protection. Unfortunately, all translations are filled with generalized defense and refuge language unfamiliar to children. However, if before the psalm is read, you introduce the image of God, protecting us as a rock wall or a cave protects people from enemies or storms, older children will catch the meaning of a few lines. Younger children will hear its meaning more in the expression of the reader than in the psalmist's words.

Epistle: 1 Peter 2:2-10. This text compares Christians to newborn babies who must be fed carefully, to the stones in the wall of a temple, and to the king's priests. Even older children are bewildered by this profusion of abstract images. So it is best to focus on one, probably that of stones in the wall. Once the function of the cornerstone is explained, older children can grasp that Jesus is God's cornerstone, and can respond to the challenge to get in line to become part of the wall of Jesus' temple. "Getting in line," however, needs to be described in terms of doing what Jesus did and following Jesus' teachings. People who lie, cheat, and hate do not fit into the wall of the temple for which Jesus is the cornerstone. We must avoid such activities if we want to be part of Jesus' temple/church. Be careful about including more than one or two of the many stone images in this passage, since concrete thinkers are quickly confused.

Gospel: John 14:1-14. Jesus' complex, repetitive statement here holds two messages of interest to children. The first is that God is with them always. The second is that if they want to know what God is like, they should read about Jesus, because God was speaking and acting through Jesus. Neither message will be apparent as the text is read, but will need to be spelled out in the sermon.

Though many children have heard, and some may have memorized the words of John 14:6, they do not understand it. The concepts of "the way, the truth, and the life" are entirely too abstract for their mental abilities.

Watch Words

Defense, fortress, and refuge are general terms that are unfamiliar to children. My rock is an old description of God's protection and is lost on literal thinkers.

Let the Children Sing

Sing Easter praises to God and Jesus with the Alleluias of "Come, Christians, Join to Sing."

"Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation," based directly on the First Peter lesson, is used frequently in most congregations. Its difficult language, however, makes it one children must learn over the years. Before singing the hymn, help that process by pointing out the "cornerstone" phrases in the first verse.

In response to Stephen's heroism and as commitment to be one of the stones in the wall of Christ's temple, sing "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God" or "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian."

Avoid hymns with complex "rock" imagery such as "Rock of Ages."

The Liturgical Child

1. Use rocks in the floral display at the center of the chancel. Challenge children at the beginning of worship to listen for clues in the hymns, prayers, and readings, to find out why there are rocks on the table today. Or simply refer to the rocks during worship.

2. Before reading Psalm 31, give each worshiper a small rock. (Children might gather them before the service and pass them out in baskets during worship.) While the rocks are being passed out, talk about the security of rock walls around cities, the safety of a concrete (or rock) basement during a storm, and the protection of a cave when sleeping or hiding. Introduce the psalm as a poem in which God's loving care is compared to such protection. After reading the psalm, encourage worshipers to carry their rocks in their pockets during the week, as a reminder of God's protecting love.

3. Introduce Stephen, read Acts 6:8-15 and summarize his message—that the religious leaders had often resisted what God was doing, so it was not surprising that they had killed Jesus. Then conclude with Acts 7:54-60. Read dramatically. Plan and practice the way Stephen will say his lines and how the false witnesses will sneer their accusations. Let the intensity and anger of the mob be heard in your voice as you narrate their actions.

4. If your church has a cornerstone, tell its story and note its location during worship. Suggest that worshipers go to look at it after church.

5. Create a prayer based on Christ the Cornerstone. Thank God for calling us to become living stones in the temple Christ is building. Note ways we depend on Christ. Pray for guidance to live as Christ did (following the direction of the cornerstone). Pray for the church/temple. Conclude each prayer with, or have the congregation respond with, "Christ, you are the Cornerstone":

Lord, all of us have our own ideas about what the church should be doing. Remind us that your ideas are the ones that matter. Give us the patience to pray and search the Bible, so that we know what you want the church to be doing. (RESPONSE)

Sermon Resources

1. Build a sermon around the rocks in these passages. Illustrate it with several rocks which can be produced from behind the pulpit at the appropriate times. Use a large concrete block or building bock to remind worshipers of the cornerstone, several smaller rocks to recall Christians who became living stones in Christ's temple (consider drawing crosses on them with a marker while you speak), and a jagged rock for all the rocks thrown at Stephen.

2. Talk about heroes and heroines. Tell about some of your own hero/ines at different times in your life. Challenge worshipers to identify some of theirs. Children's hero/ines often include sport figures, TV or movie superheroes, teenagers or adult friends they admire, and so forth. Older children tend to give greater status to real people than to the fictional characters younger children often cite. Talk about how our heroes and heroines can affect what we do and say. Then introduce Stephen as a candidate for hero status among Christians.

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