Worship for Kids: June 3, 2018

April 28th, 2018

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20). In this story a much older man and a young boy are presented as partners who possess the same important ability. Both listened for and obeyed God. Eli taught Samuel how to listen for and respond to God. But God spoke to the student, not the teacher. Children first focus with delight on God speaking to Samuel, rather than to Eli. It raises the possibility that God might use them now not after they grow up. Walter Brueggemann, in First and Second Samuel (Westminster John Knox, 1990), insists that this is indeed the main point of this story. The priests had always been the leaders of Israel, and Eli's sons were next in line to be priests. But God was changing the leadership. Samuel, a "nobody" who listened to God, was chosen to be the prophet and eventually would anoint the kings of Israel. Though children cannot yet comprehend the political significance of this change, they do appreciate the fact that God passed over other candidates to choose a child as spokesperson.

Once they have savored this, they, like Samuel, are impressed by Eli's acceptance of God's terrible message. Eli sets a memorable example by following God's will even when it is hard to do. That example must have helped Samuel face his disappointments for example, the failure of Saul and can help children face theirs.

This passage is also read on the Second Sunday After Epiphany this year. Look there for additional commentary and worship suggestions.

Psalm: 139:1-6, 13-18. This is a good prayer for building the self-esteem of Christian children. It recounts all the ways God knows us, plans for our lives, and cares for us. The children who pray this prayer sense themselves as some of God's treasures (perhaps treasures stored in clay pots). Vocabulary, especially in verses 13-18, can present problems. The Good News Bible's translation is easiest for children.

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 4:5-12. Children will not catch Paul's point as they hear this passage read. But when the point is presented in simpler terms, it is one children need to explore. Paul's image of the clay pot is probably the best starting point. Average children who compare themselves to children who are TV stars, athletic champions, or the kids who win all the prizes, do indeed feel like common clay pots. Paul insists that God works through average "clay-pot" people, in our ordinary lives, to do important work.

Gospel: Mark 2:23-3:6. This generation of American children is not the first to grow up in a culture entirely free of "sabbath restrictions." Stores are open, sports events are held, and, in many households, the laundry is done. While adults appreciate exploring Jesus' indictment of the way the religious leaders of his day were abusing the sabbath, children have more need of a positive presentation of Jesus' belief that we all need to set aside times for reflection, worship, and "doing good." While adults understand the need for a rhythm of work and re-creative leisure, children more readily recognize that what we do affects who we are and who we become for instance, athletes and musicians spend all their time practicing. So if we want to be strong Christians, we need to set aside time for worship and "doing good." For children, keeping the sabbath means setting aside time every week to worship and participate in church activities.

Watch Words

Sabbath will be a new term for most children, even church children. If it is recognized at all, it will be as an old-fashioned word for Sunday. The purpose of sabbath, as Jesus understood it, will need to be explained in concrete terms, with examples of ways to keep such a sabbath today.

Let the Children Sing

"Lord, Speak to Me, That I May Speak" is an easy hymn to sing with Paul and Samuel, to commit ourselves to hear and do God's will.

"Now Thank We All Our God" celebrates God's care and presence, in words children understand.

Though it does not use the word sabbath, "Take Time to Be Holy" illustrates, with everyday examples, what it means to keep the sabbath as Jesus understood it.

The Liturgical Child

1. Ask that chancel flowers be displayed in plain pottery pots or bowls. Refer to the floral treasure in clay pots during the service.

2. Instruct worshipers to put themselves in the "I" of Psalms 139:1-6, 13-18. Begin the reading with, "Let us pray," as you pray it in unison or line it out.

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

4. Charge and Benediction: Today could be a sabbath. Remember that, and keep the day holy. As you leave worship, continue to live this day in God's presence. Do good deeds to share God's love. And as you do, may you know the sabbath peace of God which lasts through the whole week.

Sermon Resources

1. Display at least one fancy vase or bowl and one clay flowerpot on the pulpit. Describe celebrities who are more like the fancy piece. Then describe Paul, with his handicapping "thorn" and rather abrasive personality, and young, unknown Samuel as clay pots. Describe the ways God can use all of us who are clay pots to do important work in our ordinary, everyday lives.

2. The following true story took place in a small town in central North Carolina in 1985:

For months, the members of Cross Roads Presbyterian Church had been preparing to welcome a refugee family. One Saturday afternoon, a sudden call announced that the family would arrive on Monday morning. On Sunday at church, everyone made last-minute plans, and that afternoon, Elder Howard Young loaded his lawnmower on a truck and went to mow the grass at the newly rented house. He was surprised when a policeman stopped and told him that if he continued to mow, he would get a ticket. It seems there was a law against mowing grass on the sabbath. Everyone laughed about that and had fun imagining how the newspaper would have reported the event, if Mr. Young had kept mowing. But everyone also thought that in court, God would have sided with Mr. Young and the good deed he did on the sabbath.

3. Summer has a sabbath quality. Most children are out of school and have more time for the activities they choose. Many organizations stop or curtail activities during the summer, giving adults more time, too. Summer is also vacation time. As the summer begins, challenge worshipers to make this summer a true sabbath. Encourage them to plan time for worship and "doing good." Describe the "sabbath" experiences and feelings of individuals and families who have spent their free time on mission projects.

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