Worship for Kids: June 18, 2023

May 23rd, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Genesis 21:8-21. Children are bothered by the casting out of Ishmael, as they will be bothered by next week's story of the near sacrifice of Isaac, because they hear the stories from the point of view of the children in the stories. They are offended by the fact that Abraham would turn his own son out into the desert, with God's blessing. (One skinful of water does not seem like much help in that situation.) For children who feel that their parents love another sibling better—and most children feel this occasionally—the story raises unthinkable possibilities about what might happen to them.

To avoid this frightening interpretation, present the text as the story of two mothers, who fought so much that even God could not figure out how they could live peacefully in the same tent. The problem was not that either God or Abraham loved Isaac more than Ishmael. The problem was that Sarah and Hagar bickered and fought so much that the only solution was to separate them. So God suggested that Hagar and her son Ishmael go away. Abraham did what he could for them (gave them water), and God took over from there, promising that Ishmael also would become the father of a great family. Keep the focus on God's loving care, even when we are at our worst.

Epistle: Romans 6:1 b-11. Because the details of Paul's message are a result of baptism as practiced in Judaism and the Greek mystery religions, they are beyond the understanding of children. But Paul's point makes good sense to children if it is presented in terms of living as a "good" boy or girl among God's people. (Review the information about moral development in Proper 4.) According to this kind of thinking, when you join a club or team, you follow the rules and work for the group's goals. So when you become one of God's people, you do what God's people do and follow the rules of God's people. If you do not want to live like God's people do, then you should not join. God's forgiveness is for people who make sincere mistakes as they try to be God's people. It is not an easy out for those who do not want to be God's people.

A related and equally important point is that belonging to God's people affects every part of life. Joining God's people is like being a new person. You cannot be one of God's loving people at church and be a selfish, me-first person at home or a cheating fighter on the soccer team. You must be God's loving person everywhere you go.

So read this passage for the adults, but explore its message with the children as well.

Gospel: Matthew 10:24-39. Jesus' point is that being a Christian means some people are not going to like the way you live. He makes his point with a series of sayings about facing opposition.

Verses 24-25 warn that just as Jesus was called mean names, his followers can expect to be called mean names. Though few children today have been called Beelzebub, Christian children sometimes are taunted with, "Isn't he/she swe-e-e-t!" when they live by Jesus' example.

Faced with daily harassment on the bus and playground, promises about what will happen in the next life (vss. 28, 32-33) mean little to children who live so much in the present. But verses 29-30 promise that God will care for them, even though others may make life miserable.

Verses 34-39 point out that Christians may even encounter opposition at home. Children, however, often miss that point and hear only Jesus' insistence that family loyalty is of secondary importance. Because they are so dependent on their parents' care, that is frightening to them. Ease their fears by listing other loyalties that also should be secondary—winning a game, keeping a popular friend, doing what the group is doing, being a member of a club or gang, and so forth. (Do not let the family turmoil referred to here be confused with that caused by the jealousy between Sarah and Hagar.)

Psalm: 86. If this is introduced as the prayer of a person trying to live as one of God's people (Romans 6) or of a Christian facing the kind of opposition Jesus described (Matthew 10), children will appreciate occasional lines in it.

Watch Words

If you focus on the Genesis story, introduce and use mercy to describe God's treatment of sinners like Sarah and Hagar—and us. If mercy appears in your regular order of confession, point it out and explain its use there.

Do not expect children to make any sense of talk about dying and rising with Christ.

Let the Children Sing

In response to the feuding of Sarah and Hagar, sing "Let There Be Peace on Earth." Or sing "Blest Be the Tie That Binds," as a reminder that we have good reasons not to fight.

Commit yourselves to being one of God's people, even in the face of opposition, with "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian."

The Liturgical Child

1. Base a Prayer of Confession on the bickering of Sarah and Hagar:

Lord, we confess that we often bicker, fight, and feud, just as Sarah and Hagar did. We treat others as if we are better than they are. We boast about what we have that they do not have, and what we can do that they cannot do. We fight to make sure we get everything that is our right and that they get nothing more than is their right. We act as if there is not enough of anything to go around. Forgive us. Teach us how to get along so that we do not doom ourselves to lives of fighting. We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: God loved both Sarah and Hagar. Even when they fought, God did not give up on them. God separated them and took care of them and their sons. God does the same with us when we fight. God keeps on living us, caring for us, separating us when necessary, and working toward that day when we will all live together in peace. That day will come. We have God's word for it. Thanks be to God!

2. To help children pay attention to each of Jesus' sayings about facing opposition, either have each saying read by a different reader, or have a single reader pause between saying (vss. 24-25, 26-27, 28, 29-31, 32-33, 34-39).

3. As you pray about standing up to opposition, be sure to pray for courage to stand firm in the locker room, at the pool, in close ball games, in the cabin at camp, and in other situations in which children must make their witness during the summer.

Sermon Resources

1. Children delight in a sermon that features the bickering of adults rather than that of children. But they also need examples of bickering that include children: (1) being shut up in a mountain cabin with no TV, in the rain for the third day, having played all their games and worked all their puzzles twice; (2) being in the back seat of a car on a long trip; or (3) having arguments over sharing a room, with lines drawn down the middle.

2. To explore the Romans text, tell a story about a boy who played on the Eagles team, but only when it suited him. He wore the team cap everywhere, and boasted about the team, and went to team parties. When he showed up, he was a fairly good player. But he did not always show up for practice, or even for games. If a friend invited him to the movies or to go swimming, he went there instead.

Finally, the coach confronted him and demanded, "Either be a real Eagle, or don't be an Eagle. Stop pretending to be an Eagle only when you feel like it."

comments powered by Disqus