Worship for Kids: June 28, 2020

May 25th, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

The story of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac is frightening for worshipers of any age, but particularly for children,. who are totally dependent upon their parents. Therefore, preaching on this text demands great sensitivity to the fears and needs of the children in the congregation.

Old Testament: Genesis 22:1-14. Because children hear this story from Isaac's point of view, they may wonder whether God would ask their parents to prove their faith by killing them, and whether their parents would do it. About the only way to head off the terrifying possibilities this suggests is to introduce the story of Isaac as one of the scariest stories in the Bible. Point out that it frightens both parents and children. It scares children because they wonder if God would test their parents that way, and how their parents would respond. It scares parents because most parents though they trust and want to obey God, would rather kill themselves than hurt their children.

That puts the focus on testing. Children need to know that all of us will face difficult decisions about how we treat people and how we live, and in these situations, we must be brave and do what is right. They also need to be reassured that God, who does the testing, loves us. Isaac was never in any danger. God was not about to allow Abraham to kill him. Likewise, God will not test us with tasks that will destroy us or those we love.

Psalm: 13. Children, for whom time seems so much longer than it does for adults, empathize with the psalmist's's repeated question, "How long?" They know what it is to wait and endure, and they are generally pleased to find a psalm that reflects their impatience. It helps to paraphrase verse 5: "I wait patiently because God's love lasts forever."

Epistle: Romans 6:12-23. Children know what is expected of a slave. They also are encouraged to avoid "being a slave" to anything. So they need help to understand Paul's assumptions that we all are slaves to something, and the only question is, To what will we enslave ourselves? Exploring the slavery of professional athletes and musicians to their crafts, the slavery of an addict to a drug, or the slavery of a person to a project such as a soup kitchen, helps older children to grasp Paul's point. The challenge then is to explore the way we live out our slavery to God each day.

If you prefer to avoid the image of slavery, develop the image of being an instrument or tool ready for God's use (vs. 13). Speak of the jobs God is doing and the things we can do to help get that work done.

Gospel: Matthew 10:40-42. These verses are based on the rewards of hospitality. Older children begin to understand that there are different kinds of rewards for being friends with different kinds of people. Though they will not grasp Jesus' three examples, they can explore the difference in befriending popular people who will include them in fun parties, befriending tough people who will get them in trouble, and befriending those who have nothing to offer but who need a good friend.

Watch Words

Testing is a difficult concept. If you use it, relate it less to school tests and more to a team that tests itself against the agility of another team.

Speak of slavery to persons (God or Jesus) or activities (football, drugs), rather than to abstract concepts such as righteousness, law, or sin.

Describe what instruments and tools do, then ask children to do similar work, rather than ask them to become the instruments or tools.

Let the Children Sing

Sing of testing with "Fight the Good Fight," which is filled with contest images familiar to children, or "God of Grace and God of Glory," with it's repeated chorus.

Commit each part of your body to be used by God, with "Take My Life, and Let It Be Consecrated."

The Liturgical Child

1. Read Psalm 13:5-6 as a call to worship, or ask a children's class to repeat it together at the front of the sanctuary. They can join their parents during the opening hymn. Rephrase the first verse from the New Revised Standard Version: "I trust in God's everlasting love; my heart shall rejoice in God's salvation."

2. If you focus on testing, explain the meaning of this line in the Lord's Prayer: "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Then use the phrase as the congregation's response in a litany prayer:

Lord of our lives, You made us and we are yours. But all around there are temptations for us to pretend that we can do whatever we want and that we are the only ones who matter. We need your help and protection, so we pray . . . (RESPONSE)

Lord, your world is filled with beautiful, interesting things. Commercials promise that if we buy these things, we will be happy. It is easy to believe those promises and to spend our lives getting and enjoying things. So we pray . . . (RESPONSE)

Creator God, you made us and gave us talents. People urge us to use those talents to be the best and to come out at the top. It is easy to forget that winning isn't everything. It is tempting to ignore the rules and the needs of others as we work hard to win. So we pray . . . (RESPONSE)

God, our Father and Mother, we are part of your big family. But we think so much about what we are doing, what we want, and what we need that we tend to overlook the needs and wants of others. We easily forget those we do not see. We even forget those we are with every day. So we pray . . . (RESPONSE)

Lord of the world, we live in a rich and powerful nation. Remind us that we are responsible for the use of that power. Be with our leaders when they are thinking of using power unfairly to get our way. So we pray . . . (RESPONSE)

Lord, when we pray "lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil," we remember thankfully that "thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever and ever." And we say, let it be so! Amen.

3. Benediction: Go forth from this place to be God's slaves. Do what God has commanded. Take care of others, as Jesus did. Tell the good news of your Master's love. And as you go, remember that God goes with you. The power of your Master s working through you and supports you in everything you do.

Sermon Resources

1. In chapter 15 of On the Banks of Plum Creek (Harper & Row, 1953), one of the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Laura nearly drowns in a stream swollen by spring rains. She had been strongly warned against playing in the stream, but on the first warm day after a long miserable winter, she put just her toes in, then her feet . . . then she was caught in the current!

2. Describe the functions of several kinds of tools or instruments. For example, a military tank is a tool for destruction, while a tractor is a tool for farmers to grow things. Similarly, a piano, when banged at, makes irritating noise, but when played by a trained pianist, makes beautiful music. Described children (of all ages) who cause trouble wherever they go and those who spread happiness and fun. St. Francis" prayer, "Make me an instrument of peace," makes sense to children after such an exploration of tools and instruments.

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