Worship for Kids: July 21, 2019

April 8th, 2019

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Amos 8:1-12. References to Old Testament worship practices, measuring units, and slavery make this text hard for children to understand. Amos's topic, however, is important to them. In children's words: Amos was speaking to people who were so greedy they couldn't wait to get out of church! They spent their time in church thinking up new ways to get their own way, to cheat and steal from those who already had less than they did. Amos insisted that God held them responsible for their behavior and would punish them severely.

Children often assume that the basket of summer fruit is a positive image and consequently are confused by Amos's negative message. They depend on the preacher to turn their attention to what is done with rotten fruit.

The Good News Bible provides a free but understandable translation of this passage.

Psalm: 52. To empathize with the strong feelings expressed in this psalm, one has to hear it in the context suggested in the subtitle, "When Doeg the Edomite came to Saul . . ." When the story of Doeg's self-serving behavior (told in 1 Sam. 22) and David's angry psalm response are paired, children can hear the condemnation of people who will do anything to get what they want. Childhood examples of tattling, telling secrets that will get others in trouble, cheating at games in order to win, or doing whatever the biggest or most powerful kid wants in order to stay in his or her favor illustrate Doeg's life-style. (David's anger shines through especially clearly in the New Jerusalem Bible.)

Epistle: Colossians 1:15-28. This complex passage is Paul's explanation of what it means when we say that Jesus is Christ. A child's paraphrase of Paul's points:

Christ is God made visible.
Christ was there during and before creation.
Christ's main job is making friends between God and people.
Christ was raised from death.
Christ is in charge of the church.
Christ lives and works in each of us.
(Paul is an example of this.)

Gospel: Luke 10:38-42. This is the story of Martha's complaint against her sister Mary. Most children, having fresh experiences with such sibling arguments, empathize with the sisters immediately. But the story is not really about sibling arguments. It is about choices. Each sister made a choice about what to do when Jesus arrived. No one forced Martha to go into the kitchen. So Martha had no right to complain about Mary. In the language used in parent-training courses, Martha needed to accept the "natural consequences" of her choice. Similarly, children who plead for piano lessons must then accept the reality that while they are practicing, someone else might be watching television.

Jesus also insisted that Mary had made the better choice. So children need to consider their choices carefully, because some are better than others. Just as Jesus thought it was better to sit and talk about important things than to worry about a fancy meal, it also is better for children to help a younger brother or sister get ready for church than to spend all their time worrying about what they themselves will wear. It is also better to visit a shut-in with their Sunday school class than to accept a last-minute invitation to go to the movies with a friend.

Watch Words

Children often think that Christ is Jesus' last name. It is more like a title, such as Batman or William the Conqueror. It might be wise to use the full Jesus Christ throughout today's worship.

Follow the Good News Bible to speak of God's making friends with us rather than reconciliation.

Let the Children Sing

"Come Christians, Join to Sing" and "When Morning Gilds the Skies" praise Christ and include a repeated phrase which even nonreaders can sing. Sing of Jesus' role in the natural order with the familiar "Fairest Lord Jesus."

The Old Testament and Gospel call for discipleship hymns: "Dear Lord, Lead Me Day by Day," "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian," or "Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated."

The Liturgical Child

1. Prayer of Confession:

God, you give us life and families and friends. You put us in charge of this beautiful planet and universe. You gave us the Bible to show us how to live happily, and you lived among us as Jesus to save us from our sin. We should be happy, generous people, but we are not. Too often, we think only about ourselves. We are greedy. We make long lists of what we think we must have. We are jealous. We want for ourselves every fine thing that belongs to someone else. Often, we are ready to lie, cheat, and steal to get what we want. Forgive us. Help us to look beyond our own wants to the wants and needs of others. Help us learn that sharing can bring us more happiness than grabbing. Help us to recognize all your gifts and be grateful. Amen.

2. Present 1 Samuel 22 and Psalm 52 as two windows on the same event. First, offer some background and read 1 Samuel 22 from the lectern. Next, invite worshipers to hear the psalm from the lips of an adult David, who presents it dramatically from memory, standing in the chancel. David may be in biblical dress.

3. Create a litany affirmation of faith by alternating phrases of the section of the Apostles' Creed about Jesus with the congregational response: Jesus is the Christ!

4. Create a litany that asks God's help in making wise choices. The worship leader briefly describes a variety of decisions. (Include decisions about how to treat people and how to use our time; decisions made by political leaders; decisions about cheating in games and at work, etc.) To each decision the congregation responds, "Lord, help us choose well."

As the story of Mary and Martha is read, have three expressive adults pantomime it. (Adults will more fully express the feelings involved and will be proof to children that adults also engage in spats.) Pause in the readings so that Martha can show her growing frustration.

Sermon Resources

1. On a central table in the chancel, display a large basket of ripe summer fruit, but include one or two rotten pieces. Begin the sermon by taking the rotten pieces from the arrangement, describing what would happen if they remained with the good fruit, and discarding them in a handy garbage can. Then explore what Amos's basket of fruit meant.

2. If the focus is on the psalm, begin by saying, "We do not know much about Doeg, but what we do know suggests that Doeg was the kind of kid who . . . (cite examples of childhood self-serving). When he was a teenager, he probably. . . . And when he was an adult we know that the . . . . (retell the story from 1 Samuel 22 in your own words)."

3. Point out and link to Paul's statements about Christ all symbols for Christ in your sanctuary.

4. To explore choices and their consequences, describe "Create Your Own Adventure" books. In these books, the story is interrupted frequently for the reader to decide which of two options the characters should take. Directions send the reader to different pages to find out what happened as a result of the characters' choice. Most children (third grade and older) have read at least one such book and enjoy reading it to try out different combinations of choices.

A daring preacher with a relaxed mid-summer congregation could begin the sermon by reading part of one of these books, letting the congregation vote on the choices by show of hands. Then the story of Mary and Martha could be presented in the same format. (The first decision is what to do when Jesus arrives, followed by Martha's decision about how to respond to Mary's choice.) This sets the stage for an analysis of how we make and live our choices.

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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