Worship for Kids: August 29, 2021

July 22nd, 2021

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Song of Solomon 2:8-13. The Song of Solomon is a collection of love poems. Children are surprised to find them in the Bible and tend to giggle when they are read. But they learn from them that God is interested in love between men and women and blesses that love. If it is pointed out, they also see this as one example of God's involvement in all parts of our lives.

Though some older children can grasp the symbolic way Jews and Christians have traditionally understood these poems to speak of God's relationship to individuals and/or to God's people, they find it rather contrived and prefer to take the poems at face value.

Psalm: 45:1-2, 6-9. This psalm is a wedding song composed by a loyal member of the court for the king on his wedding day. The poet rejoices with the king and reminds the king that his power is a trust from God. Children follow what is said fairly easily, but find little of significance in it. The format, however, provides an interesting invitation for them to write their own prayer-psalms for friends and family members at special times, such as birthdays or the beginning of a new school year.

Epistle: James 1:17-27. This passage includes a series of loosely related wise sayings which overwhelm children with their variety and complexity. Two points make the most sense to them. First, we are to be quick to listen and learn, and slow to speak and act (especially in anger). Active children hear this point frequently from parents and teachers as school starts, and they do not particularly welcome it. Second, we are to act on what we hear.

Children know about using mirrors, but need help to get James' point. Compare a person who fixes the messy hair or washes the dirty face seen in a mirror with one who ignores what is seen. When it is specifically pointed out, children can see the similarities between ignoring the changes in our appearance suggested by mirrors and ignoring the changes in the our behavior suggested by the Bible.

Gospel: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23. While active children rebel at James' insistence that we be quick to listen and slow to act (especially in anger), they respond positively to Jesus' refusal to be upset about how clean a person is. On a literal level, they are delighted to hear that God is not concerned about how dirty our exterior is, but with whether we say kind words and do loving, obedient deeds. With a little adult help, they can move from talk about what makes a person "clean" to what makes a person "good."

Teachers, coaches, and other kids define a "good" person in different ways. Comparing some of those definitions helps children understand how the Pharisees made their mistake and clears the way for talking about God's definition of what makes a person "good."

Potential Misunderstanding: In Jesus' day, people had not yet learned about germs that enter our bodies on dirty food and hands. Today we know that though dirty hands and food will not make us "bad," they can carry the germs that make us sick. Jesus did not say that we need not wash our hands before we eat!

Watch Words

When Jews talked about what made a person clean, they actually were talking about what made a person good. Children hear similar talk today. A Scout learns to be clean in thought, word, and deed. People who are drug free or have no criminal record are declared clean. Similarly, children know about dirty words, books, and so on.

Let the Children Sing

Thank God for all the gifts, especially the gifts of human love, with "For the Beauty of the Earth."

Choose a hymn from the wedding or marriage section of your hymnal. It will probably be unfamiliar, but children will benefit by knowing that just as the Bible includes the love poems of the Song of Solomon, the hymnal includes some hymns about human love.

If the focus is on clean hearts, dedicate your hearts to God with "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian (in my heart)," and your whole body with "Take My Life, and Let It Be Consecrated."

The Liturgical Child

1. On the Sunday after school begins, pray for new teachers (both those who are interesting and those who are frightening or boring), for new friends and old friends, for exciting new studies and scary ones, and for the things we already love and hate about riding the bus, eating lunch, and playing on the playground.

2. Ask a young woman to present the Song of Songs lesson from memory, while standing in a lectern and pretending to look out a window. Then ask a man to take the role of the court poet, to present Psalm 45, also from memory. For full dramatic impact, place an ornate chair in the chancel area and instruct the congregation to imagine the king sitting there with his court, awaiting the arrival of his bride. (The New Jerusalem Bible offers clear translations of both these poems.)

3. Create a responsive prayer of petition about how we live. The congregations response is, "Create in us clean hearts, O God." For example:

When we feel that we are being treated unfairly and feel anger rising in us, (RESPONSE) When we see others being treated unfairly and are tempted to ignore it or to be thankful that it is their problem, not ours, (RESPONSE)

Sermon Resources

1. Build a sermon on Christian views of romance and marriage. Illustrate today's Old Testament poems by telling the stories of biblical couples such as Abraham and Sarah, Ruth and Boaz, Aquila and Priscilla.

2. Make a variety of statements about what "good" people are like and what they do: "Good" people wear clean clothes and keep their shoelaces tied. "Good" people always say, "Yes, ma'am" and "Yes, sir." "Good" people like hamburgers and would have to be forced to eat raw fish. Explore and debunk those statements, then make correct statements about what "good" people do.

3. In Words By Heart by Ouida Sebestyen, Lena, an African American girl whose family has moved to Kansas after the Civil War, must begin to live by the Bible verses she has memorized to win a school contest and impress everybody with her "magic mind."

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