Worship for Kids: October 31, 2021

September 1st, 2021

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Ruth 1:1-18. Underlying this story are the social realities for single women without a man for support, and laws about leviratic marriage. Older children, teenagers, and adults are interested in detailed explanations of these realities, but younger children get lost in the explanations. The only essential information for listeners of any age is that at the time of this story, women who did not live with their fathers or husbands had very hard lives, and Jewish people did not want foreigners living among them. Consider reading verses 19-22 to clarify the situation of Ruth and Naomi when they returned to Bethlehem. (The Children's Bible in 365 Stories offers helpful ideas for presenting the cultural details simply.)

The focus of this part of the story is on Ruth's difficult, loving decision. Had she, like Orpah, returned to her father's house, she would be staying in her hometown and would have a chance to marry again. If she went with Naomi, she would be a very poor foreigner in a country where foreigners were hated. But Naomi was older now, and needed her. So Ruth decided to go with her.

Children struggle between their desire to do only what they want and the responsibility they are beginning to feel for other members of their families. Ruth provides them with a model, someone who did more than was required, or than was even requested, to take care of a member of her family.

Psalm: 146. Children will hear and understand occasional phrases about God's help and care in this psalm when it is read with expression.

Epistle: Hebrews 9:11-14. Hebrews was written for Jews who had personal experience with the animal sacrifices at the Temple. For today's children, who have no such experience, the text raises confusing questions about why the loving God needs blood (either that of animals or of Jesus) to be able or ready to love us. There are no answers that satisfy literal thinkers. Until their mental abilities develop enough to enable them to hear the text from the point of view of the original readers, and to understand what it meant to them, children are baffled. Though younger children may use the sacrifice language of their elders, they cannot explain its meaning in their own words until early adolescence.

Gospel: Mark 12:28-34. The two great Commandments are familiar to most church children. They have studied them in church school and enjoy encountering them in the sanctuary. They are most helped by everyday examples of people who are following the commands. We express our love for God by singing for God, by using well the gifts God has given us, and by telling God what we are doing (just as we would for any friend). We express our love for others in the way we treat our friends, the people we meet but do not know well (grocery-store cashiers, people riding on the same bus), and even the people with whom we do not get along. Ruth's decision to go with Naomi is an fine example of keeping the Second Commandment.

Watch Words

Do not assume that children know that widows are women whose husbands have died. In a small congregation, the preacher may name some widows the children know and compare their situations to that of Ruth and Naomi.

Adult Christians use blood vocabulary symbolically. Children hear it literally, and the results are confusing. Avoid making statements about the blood of Christ that make it sound like a special substance that was offered to God.

Let the Children Sing

Choose story hymns about the blood of Christ in which blood is used literally (e.g., "Deep Were His Wounds and Red" or "The Old Rugged Cross"), rather than hymns in which it is used symbolically (e.g., "Nothing But the Blood" or "There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood").

"Love, Love, Love, That's What It's All About" is included in many church school repertoires. Ask a children's class or choir to sing it as an anthem.

Choose hymns that reflect the two great Commandments: Sing of our love for God with "For the Beauty of the Earth"; sing about loving neighbors with "Help Us Accept Each Other."

The Liturgical Child

1. Because Ruth is a story about two strong women, suggest that women read the Old Testament Lessons today and next Sunday.

2. If the focus is on Ruth, invite worshipers to pray about their families.

Call to Prayer: Families come in all shapes and sizes big, small, and all sizes in between. They may live in one house or be spread all around the world. Families change over the years as people are born, marry, and die. Ruth and Naomi, a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law were one family. Let us pray for our families.
Prayer: We begin our prayers by thanking you, O God, for families. We thank you for all about them that is good. We thank you for the people in our families who love and care for us. (PAUSE) And we thank you for those we love and care for. (PAUSE) We thank you for the good times we have with our families. (PAUSE) And we thank you for the times our families have stood by us when we needed them. (PAUSE)
But we must admit that our families are not always loving. Hear us as each of us tells you about those in our family with whom we are having trouble. (PAUSE) Hear the ways we have hurt one another. (PAUSE) Forgive us when we think only of ourselves, when we work only for what we want and need, paying no attention to what others want and need. Forgive us, and help us to be as loving as Ruth. (PAUSE)
Because we love them, we pray for those in our families. We share with you what we wish for and worry about, for each one of them. (PAUSE) We know there are some things we need to work on as a family. Help us do the work that is needed. (PAUSE) Most of all, we ask you to be with us. Guide our families and protect us, in Jesus name. Amen.

Sermon Resources

Work through a sequence of comments about blood:

A. Blood is fascinating. Talk about Halloween costumes covered with "blood" and haunted houses in which catsup "blood" spews from victims' mouths. Note that some people faint at the sight of blood.

B. Blood keeps us alive. We can go for three days without water, for seven days without food, but without blood, we die immediately. Describe the biological function of blood and the meaning of the Red Cross call to "Give the gift of life."

C. Blood is often used to prove the closest relationships. Describe Native American blood-brother ceremonies. (Also note the AIDS danger today, to warn children against entering blood-brother pacts with their friends.) Briefly tell about the time Moses splashed blood on the people to show that they accepted the Ten Commandments. Finally, retell the last supper story, when Jesus offered the disciples wine, with the words, "This is my blood . . . ," and talk about what it means to drink the grape juice or wine at communion.

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