Worship for Kids: July 30, 2023

June 10th, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Genesis 29:15-28. In the story of Jacob's weddings to Leah and Rachel, Jacob meets his match in Laban, who tricks him just as Jacob had tricked his own brother and father. On one level it is a morality story, teaching that trickery leads only to more trickery and unhappiness. To put it another way, when we will do anything to get what we want, we end by being unhappy. It is a negative proof-text for the Golden Rule.

But in the context of the Patriarch's saga, the story also insist that God was working, even though the likes of Jacob. God loved Jacob, rascal that he was. In a sense, Jacob could be the patron saint of kids who are continually in trouble at home and among their friends. If linked with Paul's affirmation, this story claims that not even our own scheming and meanness toward one another can separate us from the love of God.

Psalm: 105:1-11, 45b or 128. Children easily hear the short praises with which Psalm 105 begins. If challenged, they listen for the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, about whom they have been hearing the last few Sundays. But few will grasp or share the psalmist's praise of God's faithfulness to the covenant.

Psalm 128 is a wedding song for the groom. It matches the song for the bride in Psalm 45 (see Proper 9). Like its counterpart, it is filled with sex-role stereotypes and images that are no longer appropriate.

However, if these problems are pointed out, the text can be read for Jacob's wedding, to celebrate God's care for families.

Epistle: Romans 8:26-39. Paul's abstract theological jargon (predestination, justification, election, etc.) are two basic truths that are very important to children. The first is that God is all powerful and is in complete control. There is no power that can overcome God's power. Occasionally it may look as if certain evil powers are winning, but they will not last. God will win in the end. The second truth is that this powerful God loves us and takes care of us. Even if we suffer (vss. 35-36), God will be with us.

The key verses for children can be paraphrased: "If God is for us, what does it matter who is against us?" (8:31b; and "I am convinced that absolutely nothing in the universe can separate us from God's loving care" (8:38;-39). To help children understand Paul's final point, paraphrase verses 39-40, replacing Paul's list of evil powers with a list of powers that frighten us today (nuclear bombs, neighborhood bullies, not having enough money for food and clothes, etc.). These two verses give children a deep sense of self-esteem and security, based on God's love for them.

Gospel: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. The term kingdom of heaven leads concrete thinkers to assume that Matthew is speaking of life after death. So begin by explaining that Matthew was speaking about being one of God's people now.

The two parables about pearls point out the value of being one of God's people; they challenge listeners to set aside their other pursuits in order to do something better—to be one of God's people. For children learning to make choices, this is a call to make choices that will make God proud. Those choices include deciding whether to join the soccer team that plays on Sunday or to attend church school; deciding whether to tell that mean but very funny joke; and deciding how to treat people who are not good to you.

The parables about the mustard seed and the yeast claim that the small things can have big results. For adults this is fairly obvious. But children, who long to do really big important tasks, need to hear repeatedly that saying kind words and doing loving deeds each day make big contributions to building God's kingdom. Similarly, the everyday habits of God's people (worship, going to church school, helping other people, etc.) make a big difference in our lives.

The parable of the net may frighten children who fear being left out or found not good enough. It says that many people are swept along with the work and activity of God's people, but not all of them really belong. Deemphasize the threat by focusing on the happiness of being chosen from the net by God.

Watch Words

Paul leads us to speak of predestination, election, justification, and to describe the powers of the world in cosmic terms. Such vocabulary is beyond children's comprehension.

For children, a parable is simply a story Jesus told.

Let the Children Sing

"Be Thou My Vision" uses the treasure images of the parables. "All Things Bright and Beautiful" praises the God who values small things.

Praise the God of Paul's faith with "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty," which has phrases and vocabulary simple enough for older children, or "God Will Take Care of You," which has a much repeated phrase and an easy chorus.

The Liturgical Child

1. Ask that the floral display in the chancel include large flowers. See if you can obtain enough seeds of the chosen flower for the worshipers. Enlist the services of one or more first- or second-grade class(es) to tape one seed on each worship bulletin for the day; Refer to the seed and the flowers during the sermon.

2. Have five different readers read the five short parables. Third- and fourth-graders can prepare these readings successfully with adult help. Introduce the readings in this way: Jesus told five parables about the kingdom of heaven. Each one began, "The kingdom of heaven is like . . . " Listen for God's Word in each of these parables.

3. Pray about the powers we fear might separate us from God's love and care. Children fear many of the same powers that adults fear, such as war and money problems. In addition, children fear the outcome of family fights (What will happen to me if my parents get a divorce?) and failure (What if I get straight F's or make the mistake that loses the game?). Children are intimidated by the power of specific people or groups who seem to be "out to get them." Many children fear new experiences such as going to camp or to a new school.

Sermon Resources

1. Tell a series of vignettes in a rhetorical pattern. In each vignette, describe someone who refused to do small things and concludes that "it doesn't really matter." Retell the event, this time including a small loving deed and its consequence, with the person concluding, "It really did matter after all." Include people of different ages in different situations. For example:

Kurt ran out the door. As he swung his camp bag over his shoulder, it hit Kim who was toddling around on the porch. Kim screamed. Kurt frowned. Kim always seemed to be in his way. Then Kurt said to himself, "It really doesn't matter," and he kept running.

On another day, Kurt ran out the door, but he watched for Kim this time. He stopped to give Him the special handshake he had taught her, and then ran down the sidewalk. Kim yelled after him, "Bye, Kurt." It really did make a difference.

2. Explore tricks and their results. Describe fun tricks, such as April Fools Day jokes. Describe mean tricks that are planned to make fun of people. Then focus on tricks that are planned to get what we want. Recall the trick that Ursula the Seawitch played on Vanessa in the movie "The Little Mermaid," so she could become queen of the ocean; the trick Jacob played on his father to receive the blessing of the first-born son; the trick Laban played on Jacob, to "marry off" both his daughters.

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