Worship for Kids: June 14, 2020

May 5th, 2020

Second Sunday after Pentecost

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7). Children can keep up with the events in this interesting two-part story when it is well read. They are fascinated by God appearing as not one person, but three people. From this they learn that God can come to us in any form God chooses. Children follow the events of the story with the curiosity shared by listeners of all ages. Even the youngest child knows that people almost one hundred years old do not have babies. Older children know why that is the case. All share in Sarah's disbelieving laughter as she eaves drops form inside the tent, and in her happy laughter as she plays with her "surprise" son. With adult guidance, children can learn from the story that nothing is impossible for God and that God often surprises us when we think we are hopelessly trapped.

Epistle: Romans 5:1-8. Paul engages here in very adult, abstract logic, totally beyond the thinking abilities of even the oldest children. He speaks about justification attained through Christ, who died in order that we might be reconciled with God.

The underlying idea that does make sense to children is that God wants to be friends with us so much that God does not wait for us to decide we want to be friends. Instead, God comes to us while we are still enemies, to make friends with us. Celebrate that amazing, underserved love, rather than trying to explain it. There are no theologically sound explanations of the way God used Jesus' death to make friends with us that will satisfy literal thinkers.

Gospel: Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23). The description of Jesus' work (9:35-36) is easier for children to adopt as an example for themselves than are the instructions for the mission of the Twelve (10:5-23). The latter describes unfamiliar activities (casting out unclean spirits, cleansing lepers, (etc.), while the former speaks in familiar generalities (teaching, proclaiming the good news, healing, having compassion). Older children respond especially readily to Jesus' call for workers to show and tell others about God's great love.

Because children need lots of help to decipher the significance of the instructions in 10:9-23, and they can be frightened by the warnings about family betrayals, it may be wise to stop the reading with verse 8. If you do read on, you will find that the instructions about taking pay mean little to children. You will need to explain that verses 11-15 are directions for what to do when our good efforts are not accepted. And you will need to explain the animal images. Though few children choose to be sheep among wolves, many are attracted to the possibility of being clever as a snake but gentle as a dove. The snake's cleverness lies in going a little this way and a little that way to get to the goal.

Psalm: 116:1-2, 12-19. The references to Temple thank offerings and sacrifices make this a difficult psalm for children. Therefore the best use of it may be to raise the question asked in verse 12 and ponder modern answers—that is, I will keep the promises made at my baptism; I will worship with God's people; and so forth.

Verse 15 can disturb children. So choose The Good News Bible's "How painful it is to the Lord when one of his people dies!" rather than other translations, such as the NRSV's "precious . . . is the death of the faithful."

Watch Words

In Romans, reconciliation describes "making friends," and justified is defined as "being good enough."

If you speak of going on assignment or tasks, contrast these kinds of missions to the assignments of spies.

Let the Children Sing

Sing "Now Thank We All Our God," to name God's many blessings.

Try "Child of Blessing, Child of Promise" or "Wonder of Wonders, Here Revealed," two new baptism hymns with simple vocabulary. Sing them to celebrate Isaac's surprising birth or God's powerful love (Romans).

"Lord, Make Us Servants of Your Peace" invites us to dedicate ourselves to mission by singing Saint Francis' famous prayer.

The Liturgical Child

1. The Genesis text is easily followed when it is read with dramatic inflection worthy of the good story. It also can be presented as a readers' theater by four readers (Abraham, the visitors, Sarah, and God). Or it can be pantomimed by a youth or adult group, as a narrator reads.

2. Celebrate God's power with a litany about laughter. The congregation's response to each account: Is anything impossible with the Lord? Before the reading, help the congregation practice saying the response with a feeling of happy amazement at what God does.

Abraham and Sarah were old and childless. They thought they would be the last of their family. Then when they were nearly one hundred years old, God promised that their family would be great. They laughed about having a baby at their age. (RESPONSE)

Moses and the Hebrew slaves saw the army of Pharaoh behind them and the Red Sea in front of them, and they thought they were dead. But God cleared the way across the sea, and on the other side, they laughed and sang to God. (RESPONSE)

Jesus was arrested, tried, and killed on Friday by people who thought they had gotten rid of a troublemaker. But on Sunday, Jesus rose from death. Christians have been laughing and singing about God's power ever since. (RESPONSE)

God interrupted Paul on his way to arrest Christians in Damascus and called him to become a church leader instead. The frightened Christians were suspicious at first, but then, how they laughed about what God had done. (RESPONSE)

(Briefly tell one or two stories about God's action in your congregation, community, and world. For example, I would speak of the laughter as the Berlin wall came down, and the laughter at a church work party to help someone in need.)

3. If you are focusing on the sending of the Twelve, invite each worshipper to write on a slip of paper the group or person to whom he or she will pass God's love this summer, and place that paper in the offering plate as it is passed. Promise confidentiality and instruct the ushers to respect this promise. 

Sermon Resources

1. Speak about some of the things it is hard for children to believe God can do: Change a bully into a friend; do something about serious family problems; and make a difference in problems that, to them, seem hopeless.

2. Ask people to imagine what might happen if members of your congregation, of all ages, took Jesus' instructions to the Twelve seriously for the summer. Point out that Jesus did not send his disciples far away, but told them to go to work right where they were. He told them to volunteer and not expect to receive much reward. Then help worshipers identify where God's love is needed in your community. Be as specific as possible. Challenge each worshiper to select one person or group to whom he or she will pass God's love this summer. Warn them that it will not be easy (Matt. 10:16, 17, 22) and promise that God will be with them. helping them to say an do what is needed (10:18-20).

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