Worship for Kids: August 13, 2017

June 30th, 2017

From a Child’s Point of View

Old Testament: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28. Children, particularly those whose parents are continually after them to get along better with their brothers and sisters, love this Bible story. It tells of a set of siblings who treated one another worse than most children ever do. Though many children daydream about the possibility of life without a particularly pesky brother or sister, most would not go to the extremes that Joseph’s brothers did to realize their dream.

Though the suggested lection omits Joseph’s dreams (vss. 5-11), including them explains why Joseph’s brothers hated him so much. It was not simply that he had the misfortune to be the favorite of a father who should have known that playing favorites so blatantly leads to trouble. Joseph was a braggy pain in the neck. His brothers had good reason to detest him.

Children also can hear in this story a warning that family bickering can get out of hand. Boasting, as Joseph did; playing favorites, as Jacob did; letting hate build up, as the brothers did, can lead to explosions such as kidnapping and attempted murder.

The only hope is that families can identify their problems and work to solve them before they get out of hand.

Psalm: 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b. This storytelling psalm describes Joseph’s life after his brothers sold him. Unfortunately, the psalmist uses pithy phrases to recall whole events and assumes that readers can fill in the details. Few children can, so either tell the whole story or choose another psalm for the day.

Epistle: Romans 10:5-15. This passage is an appeal to Jews to abandon legalism and accept grace. It is addressed to adults who have had enough experience in trying to live by the letter of the Law that they can see the problems. They knew exactly what Paul was talking about. Children, however, are at a stage of moral development when rules are seen as a good way to order our relationships with one another. Many children believe they can and do keep the rules perfectly. It will be several years before they learn from experience what legalism is all about. Furthermore, children live unconsciously by grace, trusting adults to provide their basic necessities. So Paul’s appeal is not a meaningful text for childhood.

The ideas in verses 12-15 are more child accessible. Paul insists that we are brothers and sisters of all Christians, no matter how different they look or act. He further points out that we are called to make sure that every person in the world hears about God’s grace.

Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33. This is another story that fascinates children. However, they need to be told clearly that the point of the story is not that we can walk on water or do other nature-defying deeds, if we only believe in God, or believe strongly enough that we can. Jesus had invited Peter to walk on water. The point is that we can do whatever Jesus commands or invites us to do—even deeds that look dangerous and hard. The key is trust. Jesus insists that we, like Peter, can trust God to give us the power to do whatever God asks.

Watch Words

Trust is more familiar than faith, and speaks more precisely of the issue in the Gospel text. Using the two interchangeably builds children’s understanding and comfort with faith.

Paul’s use of the Law in referring to the Jewish approach to living for God makes little sense to children.

Let the Children Sing

“God of Grace and God of Glory” is usually sung in reference to the church at work in the world, but it also can be sung by the church at work in our families. Even the youngest children can join in praying the repeated “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage” as they face family problems.

Before singing “Give to the Winds Thy Fears,” point out the “storm” words that connect verses 1 and 2 with Peter’s story. Then paraphrase the last two verses: (3) If you let God be the leader, you’ll fin that God leads you well; (4) Praise God, who is worthy of our trust.

The Liturgical Child

1. Ask a group of elementary boys to pantomime the Genesis story as it is read. You will need ten brothers (one being Reuben), Joseph, Jacob, the man Joseph met at Shechem, and one or more slave traders. If space or available actors is limited, you might reduce the number of brothers to three or four. If possible, provide costumes. During rehearsal, work on ways to show feelings with facial expression and body posture. (This is a good opportunity for informal discussion about how we express anger.)

2. Read the story of Jesus walking on the water with all the drama you would use in telling a good story around a campfire. Read faster and louder as you describe the disciples’ fear of the storm and the figure as it walked toward them. Read the disciples’ line, “It is a ghost,” the way you think they would have said it. Let the tone of your voice communicate Peter’s feelings and Jesus’ calm.

Sermon Resources

1. Speak to parents and children about solving family problems before they grow too big. Point out the similarities of the problems in Joseph’s family and those in many families today. Describe some ways the members of Joseph’s family might have worked on their problems. Encourage families to identify and work on their problems before they get out of hand.

2. Devote the sermon to the whole story of Joseph and his brothers, or tell it up to the point when the brothers went to Egypt for food, which is among next Sunday’s lections. Take time to relate the details and explore their meanings. Interpret the events as you tell them. Few children or adults recall all the subplots, and therefore enjoy hearing and thinking about the whole amazing saga.

3. Childhood parallels to Peter’s mid-walk loss of trust include the panic felt when you suddenly realize that you are riding your bike without training wheels for the first time, or when you realize that you have swum halfway across the pool for the first time. A parallel that is even closer to Jesus’ point is realizing in the middle of what you are saying that you are standing-up to the gang and becoming frightened of your power and its consequences.

4. After the movie "Superman" was released, several children were injured when they attempted to fly. They mistakenly thought they would be able to fly if they “believed” strongly that they could. Describe the difference in what these children did and what we do when we trust or have faith in Jesus.

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