Worship for Kids: June 17, 2018

May 1st, 2018

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13. Children, who have been left at home while older family members go to interesting-sounding events, or have eaten in the kitchen while the grown-ups eat in the dining room, delight in God's choice of the youngest kid, who was left behind to tend the sheep while the rest of the family went to the sacrifice with the important visitor. It gives them hope that God is aware of them and values their abilities, too. Teachers, coaches, older siblings, friends, and even parents may overlook them, but God, who "looks on the heart," knows who they really are and appreciates their dreams and intentions.

It is, however, important for children to be reminded that being chosen by God did not immediately change David's life. A few years later when all his older brothers went off to fight, David was still left at home to take care of the sheep and was sent to the battle camp only to take extra food to his brothers. God's plan for David began with years of doing the chores of the youngest brother in a large, busy household.

Psalm: 20. If they are told before the reading that this is a prayer for a king, children catch at least some of its petitions. Though the psalm is peppered with references to Temple sacrifices with which children are unfamiliar, the verb phrases of the petitions "protect," "send you help," "give you support" state the requests clearly.

Gospel: Mark 4:26-34. These two parables about growing seeds can either stand alone or complement the story about David. God uses small things like seeds, a shepherd boy, and us, to do important things, such as produce flowers, rule a nation, and build God's kingdom. For children, that means that they can do important work for God in seemingly little ways. Just as God works on seeds, God works on their kind words, small offerings, and attempts to do God's will every day. This is especially important for middle- and older-elementary children who long to do big things in big ways and tend to devalue the small things they can do now.

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13), 14-17. This is the hardest of today's passages for children to understand. To older children attentive enough to sift through all the abstract vocabulary, Paul seems to say that he would rather be dead ("with God") than alive, but he is willing to live in order to do God's work. To children, and to many adults, this is not compelling logic.

The New Jerusalem Bible, however, offers a translation of verse 10 which fits well with the David story: "At the judgment seat of Christ, we are all to be seen for what we are" (italics added). This reminds us that because God sees us as we are and does not overlook us, we are responsible for what we do and say. Because Paul believed that he was responsible for doing the job Christ had given him (to start new churches), he was willing for people to say he was crazy. He knew that Christ's opinion of him mattered more than theirs. We are to be as responsible to Christ as Paul was.

Watch Words

If your congregation does not anoint in worship, introduce it simply as a way of identifying a person who will be king. If your congregation does anoint at baptism and confirmation, compare the way David was identified to become king with the way baptism and confirmation identify us and set us aside to do God's work.

Kingdom of God is a term children easily understand. However, many adults, interested in promoting less monarchical and patriarchal visions of the world, urge that we limit our use of such terms to describe God's action in the world. So try using more "farming" words than "kingdom" words. Speak of God as tending the world and its inhabitants, identify seeds that God is bringing to life, and so forth.

Let the Children Sing

Praise God, who pays attention to both the great and the small, with "All Things Bright and Beautiful."

Sing "Here I Am, Lord" to commit yourselves, with David and Paul, to doing God's will.

Fifth- and sixth-graders can read the vocabulary of "Eternal God, Whose Power Upholds" and, when it is pointed out in advance, appreciate the description in each verse of one human activity through which God may work.

The Liturgical Child

1. Ask the person who provides flowers for the chancel to also provide one seed of that kind of flower for each worshipper. Seeds may be given out by children at the time the Gospel is read, or taped into the bulletins by an older children's class before worship. Point out the mystery of the growth of seed into flower. Then read the Gospel lesson.

2. Anoint worshippers, to show that as God chose David to be king, God has also chosen them for certain service. (Draw a cross on the forehead of each worshipper with one finger dipped in a dish of olive oil.) People may be anointed either as they leave the communion rail or as they leave the sanctuary. Say to each one, "God set David aside to be king. God has a task for you." If this is done at the end of the service, the following would be an appropriate Charge and Benediction:

Go forth to live for God. Make a difference in the world. Remember that no need is too small to deserve your attention and no problem is too big for you to tackle with God's power. God has set you apart and called you. God is working through you and will be with you always. So, go in peace. Amen.

3. To get into the feeling of Psalm 20, invite the congregation to imagine itself among those greeting David when he later became king. Then read the psalm, with halves of the congregation reading the crowd shouts responsively.

4. Remember to include the children's end-of-school concerns in the church's prayers on the appropriate Sunday.

Sermon Resources

1. It takes 54 people, holding hands, to stand in a circle around the trunk of a giant sequoia tree. Two people can put their arms around the trunk of a lodgepole pine tree. The surprise is that the seed-bearing cone of the second tree is 8 to 12 inches long, while the cone of the sequoia is less than 3 inches long. Since many children have seen sequoia trees or pictures of them, they are a good modern example with which to make the point of the mustard-seed parable.

2. Compare the growth of a seed to the results when a child puts a dollar in the offering. Describe what one dollar's worth of food can mean for a hungry child, what a Bible could mean to a family in a refugee camp, what communion means when brought to a homebound member, and so forth.

3. "The Quarreling Book," by Charlotte Zolotow, describes a series of small events that ruin the day, as each in a series of people lash out at someone after being hurt by someone else, until the process is reversed when a dog licks Eddie's hand, regardless of the way Eddie had treated it. It is everyday proof that little deeds, like the seeds referred to in the parable, produce significant results. Bring this very short story to life as you read it, showing the feelings of each person with your facial expressions.

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