Worship for Kids: September 3, 2023

July 18th, 2020

From a Child’s Point of View

Old Testament: Exodus 3:1-15. Like Moses, most children are fascinated by the bush that burns but does not burn up. Unfortunately, their curiosity about how it happened and what it looked like often keeps them from hearing what God said to Moses.

When they do listen to the conversation, children learn two truths. The first is that when God sees something that needs to be done, God sends specific people to do it. In this case, God was aware of the suffering of the Hebrew slaves and sent Moses to rescue them. Similarly, when God sees people hurting today, God calls on people—people like us—to save them.

The second truth is that even great people like Moses are frightened by trying to do God’s work. Moses’ question “Why me?” is very like our response to setting aside our snack money to feed hungry people, or trying to befriend the kid everyone else ignores or teases. To explore this second point more fully, expand the reading to include the rest of Moses’ attempts to avoid the job (Exod. 4:1-17).

Children, who tend to be interested in meaningful names such as those of Indians, are interested in God’s name, “I am who I am” or “I am who I will be.” In other words, God is bigger and “more” than we can ever describe.

Psalm: 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c. Verses 1-6 of the psalm call on worshipers to praise God, who is at work in the world. Verses 23-26 offer as an example the Hebrew experience in Egypt. The Good News Bible offers the clearest translation for children.

Epistle: Romans 12:9-21. At the beginning of a school and club year, children are keenly aware of and interested in rules. For them, this passage might be titled “Paul’s Rules for Getting Along with People.” Though the passage is somewhat of a hodgepodge, it can be restated:

• Treat every person as a friend.

• Always do what is right.

• Help people when they need your help.

• Pay attention to people’s feelings. Laugh with those who are happy and comfort those who are sad.

• Do not act stuck-up or think you are smarter than you are.

• Ask God to be good to people who give you trouble.

• Do not try to get even with people who are mean to you. Instead, treat then kindly. (Your kindness will make them ashamed of what they did.)

• Do not give in to evil ideas or plans. Instead, find even better good ideas and plans.

Gospel: Matthew 16:21-28. This is a difficult passage for children to understand as it is read. Peter being called Satan by Jesus, talk of stumbling blocks and saving or losing lives, and references to the Son of Man—all these overwhelm children. However, when it is pointed out, children recognize the human inclination (shared by Peter) to avoid suffering and protect ourselves. They are as disturbed as adults are by Jesus’ insistence that our lives will be best when we fight this inclination and sacrifice what we want and need in order to help someone else. Children need to hear examples from family and school life, in which children give up their TV show so that another family member can watch a favorite; do the most hated job in the household (maybe clean the cat’s litter) for another family member; protect a little kid cornered by bigger kids, and so forth.

Text Connections: Though the word cross is not used in Exodus, the story about Moses can be an example of what it means to “take up your cross.” The directives in Romans, however, cannot be used for this purpose. “Taking up your cross” involves much more than getting along with others. It requires putting yourself on the line, or suffering on behalf of others.

Watch Words

Cross is a Christian code word. It stands for a rich variety of related things. In today’s texts it stands for suffering in order to take care of or to save others. Introduce cross as a code word, and be careful that all your references to it clearly fit this definition.

Let the Children Sing

The repetitive phrases and simple format of “Here I Am, Lord” catch the attention of children and invite them to answer God’s call. “Take My Life, and Let It Be Consecrated” and “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian” are also discipleship hymns children can sing.

“I Sing the Almighty Power of God” is a good praise hymn for a holiday weekend when most people are outdoors.

The Liturgical Child

1. In preparing your reading of the Exodus passage, practice saying each of Moses’ lines aloud so that they communicate his fear and make his attempts to wiggle out of God’s call obvious.

2. Invite a children’s class to lead the following version of the psalm, with each child reading one line. In a smaller congregation, ask younger children to read the short phrases, with older children reading the paragraphs at the end. The congregation’s response to each: Alleluia!

Give thanks to God and call on God’s name! Alleluia!

Tell everyone what God has done! Alleluia!

Sing to God! Praise God with music! Alleluia!

Tell of God’s wonderful works! Alleluia!

Be glad that we belong to God! Alleluia!

Let all who worship God rejoice! Alleluia!

Go to the Lord for help! Alleluia!

Worship God continually! Alleluia!

Listen, you descendants of Abraham and Jacob. Remember the marvelous things God has done and the decisions God has made! Alleluia!

When the Hebrews moved to Egypt and settled there, God made them to increase in numbers. God made them stronger than the Egyptians, and the Egyptians hated them and treated them badly. Then God sent Moses and Aaron to rescue them with God’s power. Alleluia!

3. Create a responsive affirmation with short descriptions of suffering and oppression, including global, local, and family problems. The congregation’s response to each need: “God sees their suffering and says to us, ‘Come, I will send you.’ “

Sermon Resources

1. Note that sometimes God sends a whole family to do a job. Describe the relationship among Miriam, Moses, and Aaron, and tell about their work. Cite examples of families in your congregation who do God’s work together (e.g., walking on the CROP walk or packing clothes for a mission).

2. "The Integration of Mary-Larkin Thornhill" by Ann Waldron (E. P. Dutton, 1975), tells about a junior-high girl, the only white student at a black school in the 1970s. She and her family work through crisis after crisis as they make a stand for racial justice. This fictitious story, or similar stories of your own creation, help children to imagine themselves answering God’s call as Moses did.

3. Develop a back-to-school sermon around Paul’s advice in Romans. Open by explaining that though this sermon will speak mostly about living as a Christian at school, what is true for children at school is true also for architects, carpenters, businesswomen, and homemakers.

Make a series of posters based on Paul’s advice: Make your life a gift to God; Use your gifts well; Avoid evil and stick with good; Love one another; Respect all people; Work hard and do not be lazy; Serve God; Be joyful and hopeful; Be patient when you suffer; Pray!; Share with those in need. Give one poster to each of eleven children, to hold up in front of the congregation. Read them one at the time, noting that each gives good advice. Then select three or four for the sermon, take them with you into the pulpit, and prop each one up as you speak about it.

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