Worship for Kids: April 3, 2022

September 2nd, 2021

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Isaiah 43:16-21. Knowing the historical context of the passage is essential to understanding Isaiah's message. Isaiah was speaking to people who were being carried into exile, to assure them that God would not forget them, that this was part of God's plan, and that a wonderful new deed was going to happen. To fully understand Isaiah's messag, listeners must know both the Exodus story and the Exile story. This means that few children will grasp what is going on by simply listening to the reading.

However, if the situation is presented as a leader speaking to people who are being carried away from their homes by a conquering army, the child can understand Isaiah's message of hope. Two dimensions of this message speak particularly to children.

First, children can explore the fact that God is working even in unhappy, awful events. The people suffered as slaves in Egypt before they could go into the Promised Land. The Jews had to go into exile before they could rebuild. Jesus had to die on the cross before there could be a resurrection. This reality is good preparation for walking through the dark events of Holy Week.

Second, children can be alerted to look for signs of God at work around them. If God can be at work among people being led away to exile, certainly God can be at work in classrooms, on playgrounds, and in families.

Psalm: 126. All the references to the return from exile and the foreign wilderness images make this psalm hard for children to understand. If the psalm is presented using the reading plan in "The Liturgical Child," some of the older children will catch the flow of the poem—from "God, you rescued us in the past!" to "God, we need your rescue again," to "We know you can do it, God." Otherwise, this is a psalm for older Bible students.

Gospel: John 12:1-8. Most children like both giving and receiving gifts. They will work for hours crafting a birthday or Christmas gift for a special friend or loved relative, so naturally they are sensitive about how their gifts are received. This is the story of an exquisite gift of love given by Mary to Jesus, who accepted it and protected her and her gift from Judas' mockery. To children, it says that God accepts and values their gifts, just as Jesus accepted and valued Mary's gift.

Although pouring expensive perfume on a person's feet sounds strange to us today, children can follow the story with little explanation. It will, however, help the younger ones if, before the reading, they hear that this Mary was not Jesus' mother but a good friend who also was named Mary.

Epistle: Philippians 3:4 b-14. This is difficult reading even for adults. Few children will be able to follow Paul's complex sentences and thoughts. Plan to present Paul's message in the sermon. Themes to develop for the children include the following:

1. Paul knew what was important and what was not. Read verses 4-7 for Paul's list of "garbage." For Paul, being Jesus' disciple was the most important thing. He spent his whole life living as Jesus lived—telling others about God, even when that got him into trouble.

2. Paul did not become a missionary evangelist to earn God's love or to impress God. Instead, Paul traveled and started churches as a gift to God. Just as Mary gave her gift of nard to Jesus because she loved him, Paul showed his love for God by preaching and starting churches.

Watch Words

The vocabulary in today's readings and themes is fairly simple. Be careful in selecting "exile" and "refugee" vocabulary. Exile, especially, may be a new term for the children. Help them decode all the poetic images in Isaiah and Psalm 126. Beware of the temptation to speak about Paul's message in big theological terms such as sanctification. If you must use these terms, take care to explain them in everyday-living terms.

Let the Children Sing

To sing about giving God our gifts, choose "Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated." (Before singing, define consecrated as "a way of saying that we are giving ourselves to God.")

If spring is beginning, sing a hymn of praise to the God of creation—"I Sing the Almighty Power of God" or "All Things Bright and Beautiful."

"Tell Me the Stories of Jesus" is a familiar hymn that is good for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.

The Liturgical Child

1. Present Psalm 126 in three sections, with each being read by a different reader or group within the congregation. Identify the sections by the titles below to help worshipers follow the thinking of the poet:

Remember (verses 1-3)
Help! (verses 4-5)
Hope (verse 6)

2. To set the Isaiah passage in context without going into great historical detail, invite the worshipers to imagine that they are refugees living in a foreign country, wishing they could return home. Then read the passage. (The Jerusalem Bible offers a particularly straightforward translation.)

3. If your worship will be focused on gift giving, place on the worship center a large beautifully wrapped gift box with a slot cut in the top. During the offering or at the end of the service, invite the children to put in the box pictures of what they want to give God. Youths and adults also may be invited to put in the box slips of paper on which they have written about gifts they intend to give God.

Sermon Resources

1. Devote the sermon to telling the story of the Isaiah passage—perhaps from the view of a Jewish family watching as the nation is being destroyed and the family is taken into exile in a foreign country with new food and new ways. Talk about what different members of the family would miss most. Then read Isaiah's message. Imagine how this message might have been received by the refugees. What comfort could they find in believing their exile was part of a plan that would end in good? Identifyand challenge worshipers to identify dead-end places where God could be at work today.

2. Challenge worshippers to think about the best gift they ever received. Tell about one special gift you have received. Who gave it to you? What made it special? (Note: The best gifts draw giver and receiver closer together.) Mary's gift was her way of showing Jesus how much she loved him. Paul showed his love for Christ by preaching, teaching, and even suffering in prison for talking about Jesus. Challenge worshipers to identify the gifts they give and could give to God.

3. Use Eric Liddell's story (Liddell was the hero in the movie Chariots of Fire) to illustrate the effect of knowing what is important. Liddell, after training for months to race in the Olympics, refused to run, even when the king insisted, because the race was to be held on Sunday. He believed that racing on Sunday was disrespectful to God. He loved to run, but he knew God was more important than any race.

About the Author

Carolyn C. Brown

Carolyn C. Brown is a certified Christian educator and children’s ministry consultant who believes children read more…
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