Worship for Kids: May 5, 2019

March 27th, 2019

From a Child's Point of View

Resurrection means new life. Today's texts include the stories of two people who received new chances at life from the resurrected Jesus; a psalm about how God saves or heals us; and a poetic image of Jesus, "the (resurrected) Lamb."

Gospel: John 21:1-19. The message of this interesting fishing story is that although Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, Jesus gave him another chance. Children need to know that God and Jesus give many second chances to those who love God but sometimes "chicken out" or make mistakes.

In order to understand the story, children need to be reminded of Peter's triple denial and how Peter felt about it.

Acts 9:1-6 (7-20). The story of Paul's conversion on the Damascus road is another interesting story that children can follow without explanation if it is read with dramatic flair.

The story makes two points to children. First, Paul's conversion is another Easter surprise—almost a joke played by God. God's strategy for ending the persecution of the early church was to turn the leader of the death squad into a Christian missionary! This is not a strategy many Christians would have suggested—even in jest. Some had trouble believing it when it happened. In turning Saul into Paul, God alerts us to look for new life in strange places and people. If God could turn Saul around, there's no guessing what other Easter surprises might be in store for us. Read the story to celebrate God's incredible power and sense of humor.

Second, the story promises forgiveness. If God is willing to forgive Saul, who killed Christians, and put him to work in the Easter kingdom, then perhaps there is a chance for us. To children who are frequently in trouble or feel they never measure up to what is expected of them, this is a very hopeful story.

Psalm: Psalm 30. If this psalm is introduced as the prayer of a person who has been saved from something terrible, and children are urged to listen for clues to what that "terrible thing" might have been (maybe enemies or serious illness), they will hear a few of the clue phrases and catch the message of even more of the praise phrases. The psalm can also be presented as a prayer that Peter or Paul might have prayed after being given a new chance by Jesus.

Epistle: Revelation 5:11-14. This passage is a coded message written during a time when a person who carried a piece of paper with Jesus' name on it could be fed to the lions. Children cannot understand the atonement theology which makes the lamb a good symbol for Jesus. But they can be told that "Lamb" is a code word for Jesus and that "one who sits on the throne" is a code for God. With this information, they can enjoy the challenge of decoding John's Easter message (God and Jesus are worthy of praise by everyone in the world).

Watch Words

Do not let the word Lamb lead you to use other "slain lamb" language in worship today. Children can understand Lamb only as a code word for Jesus.

In talking about the second chance that Peter and Saul received, speak of forgiveness and of being changed rather than of salvation or conversion. (For most children today, conversion is a football term, or what you do with metric system measurements.) So unless your congregation uses the word regularly and specifically defines it, avoid using it today.

Let the Children Sing

"Come, Christians, Join to Sing" continues to be a good Easter-season choice.

"Blessing and Honor and Glory and Powwer" can be fun to sing because it uses the Revelation code for simply worded praises to God. Point out before singing that this would be a good hymn to sing if Christians were being persecuted by those who did not know the code.

The Liturgical Child

1. There is great dialogue in John 21 . Read it as it would have been spoken. Shout out the exchange between the fishermen in the boat and Jesus on shore. Decide how you think John would have said, "It is the Lord!" and speak the line accordingly. As you read verses 15-19, show Peter's embarrassment, hesitation, and self-disgust in your voice, and then let Jesus' forgiving love be apparent. Such a reading will make the whole text (1-19) a story that children can enjoy and appreciate.

2. Before reading John 21, remind the congregation of Peter's three denials and alert them to listen for Jesus' three responses. As you read each question, answer, and command sequence, hold up one, then two, and finally three fingers as clues.

3. Pray about apparently hopeless situations in which new life (or an Easter "turn around") is needed. In addition to noting community and worldwide issues, pray for people at school and at work with whom it is really hard to get along, for peace on school buses, and for problems between brothers and sisters who must share rooms and do chores together.

4. Create a litany of confession and petition in which the worship leader describes a variety of hopeless situations on personal, community, and international levels. To each case, the congregation responds, "Lord, forgive us, and help us find your Easter surprise here." (Only the response needs to be printed in the bulletin.) For example:

Worship Leader: Lord, each of us knows some people who get on our nerves. Something about the way they act just drives us a little crazy. We would like to find a way to be friends with these people, or at least be kind to them, but they bring out the worst in us. We say cruel words almost without thinking. We treat them in ways that surprise us. We'd like to do better.

Congregation: Lord, forgive us, and help us find an Easter surprise.

Sermon Resources

1. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson, is an award-winning children's novel about a ten-year-old terror with one-in-a-long-line of foster parents. (This book is available in the children's section of most public libraries and generally available in bookstores.) Read part of or summarize the whole story's Easter-like changes. Then retell the stories of Saul's change of direction, Peter's forgiveness, and Jesus' resurrection. Gilly, Peter, Saul, and Jesus are all Easter people.

2. Ask the worshippers to produce the Easter tokens they were given last week. (Have the ushers ready to pass out tokens to those who do not have them.) Challenge worshipers to think about the week ahead and identify the difficult people and situations they will encounter. Then instruct them to carry their tokens with them again this week as a reminder that all hopeless situations and people are possible Easter surprises. Suggest that reaching into a pocket to hold the token can help us continue to work with God in frustrating situations.

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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