Worship for Kids: August 18, 2019

June 26th, 2019

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm: 80:1-2, 8-19. Both Old Testament texts speak of Israel as a grapevine. Isaiah speaks of a vine that has not met its owner's expectations and thus is destroyed. The psalmist prays for God to protect the vine/Israel, which is currently being plundered. Since most children today have little experience with vineyards or wine-making, they need help with vocabulary and an explanation of the agricultural process. Since allegorical thinking is beyond the capability of children, they have difficulty drawing the message from the vine images. The best idea is to tell them something about vineyard keeping, and then put the prophet's message into direct words about God's expectations, discipline, and continued care. Children will make the connection between the images and the message when their mental abilities mature.

Gospel: Luke 12:49-56. The part of this passage that children are most likely to hear is the section about potential division within families. Because they are so dependent on their families, the verses are frightening. They need to hear their fear recognized and hear also that adults are as frightened by these verses as they are. Only then are they ready to explore Jesus' insistence that living as God's person may bring trouble, rather than peaceful happiness. Disciples must be ready to stand up for God's ways, no matter what people—even their friends and relatives—think and say. The tendency to soft-pedal this point with children does them no favor. They know that it is risky to stand up for God's ways on playgrounds, on school buses, and in backyards. Adult failure to acknowledge this appears to children to be a startling lack of perception of the realities children confront. It is far more helpful to recognize these realities and prepare children to cope with them by interpreting them in light of Jesus' message.

Epistle: Hebrews 11:29 –12:2. Verses 11:29-40 recall in general terms the stories of faith heroes and heroines. Because children are more likely to recall biblical heroes other than those mentioned by name, it may be wise to focus on verses 33-37, adding names and specific details where possible.

The summary verses (12:1-2) are filled with poetic images and generalities that mean little to children. A children's paraphrase of them could be: "Let us follow the examples of all the faith heroes and heroines who have lived before us. Let us ignore everything that gets in the way of being disciples, so that we too can become heroes and heroines. Let us remember Jesus, who did not give up because of the cross, but faced the pain and disgrace and now sits at God's right side."

Watch Words

Vineyard and wine vat may be new to urban children. Some younger children may even be unaware that grapes grow on vines, instead of on bushes or trees.

The witnesses of Hebrews 12 are more readily recognized as heroes and heroines, or as examples. If talking about them leads to talk of inspiration, take time to introduce that important term with a description of how one of your heroes or heroines gave you the power to live heroically.

Let the Children Sing

Choose the following hymns (listed in order of ease for children) to celebrate the faith heroes: "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God," "For All the Saints Who from Their Labors Rest" (the younger readers will settle for the Alleluias), or "God of Grace and God of Glory" (the repeated chorus can be sung by all).

A good opening praise hymn for the day is "Come, Christians, Join to Sing."

The Liturgical Child

1. Instead of flowers, display a large arrangement of grapes and grapevines. If possible, make it a two-part arrangement, comparing lush domestic grapes and smell, hard wild grapes. Refer to the display before reading the Old Testament lessons.

2. Introduce the Isaiah text as the work of a very clever prophet who tricked people into hearing more of God's message than they wanted to hear. Describe his disguise as a wandering singer, then assume his role, reading verses 1-6 as if they told a sad story. Then abruptly, change your tone and point your finger at the congregation as you spring the trap and make the accusations of verse 8.

3. After a sermon identifying faith heroes and heroines, invite worshipers to praise God for their own faith heroes and heroines:

Lord God, we are indeed surrounded by people who have lived heroically faithful lives for you. The Bible is full of the stories of everyday people who lived brave, loving lives. For Moses, leading the people across the dry Red Sea; for Rahab, who hid spies; for Isaiah, who bravely told people that God was angry with them and would punish them; for Jesus, willing to die rather than stop loving us, we thank you. Each of us praises you for those people in the Bible who are important to us. (Pause)
But still others have gone before us to show us the way. We remember Martin Luther, who challenged the church to keep its faith strong. We remember Christians who have died rather than give up their faith. We remember missionaries who have risked their lives to tell others of God's love. Each of us praises you for those heroes of the church who show us the way. (Pause)
Each of us also praises you for people we have known personally. For parents, or children, or Sunday school teachers, or friends who have been examples to us and have inspired us to live by God's ways. Hear our thanksgiving for these people. (Pause)
Even as we thank you for this cloud of heroes who surround and inspire us, we are aware of our responsibility. So we ask you for the courage, wisdom, and love to live as heroically as they did. Help us to make good decisions. Give us the power to do what we know you would have us do; for we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

4. Know when school starts for your children and include that in your prayers on the appropriate week. Pray about excitement and fears. In smaller churches, pray by name for children entering school for the first time this fall and those headed for college. Pray for students and teachers and bus drivers and coaches.

Sermon Resources

1. The baseball (and other sports) cards that many children and some adults collect are hero references. Find or borrow a card that describes a current sports hero, and use it as a format in creating "cards" for faith figures. Tell about some of the faith hero/ines you would include in your collection and encourage worshipers to identify and design cards for their faith hero/ines.

2. Include in the sermon a story or two about heroes in the history of your congregation. If possible, link the stories to a building, a tree, or an item seen regularly around the church. Or bring special papers or pictures from the church safe or from a member's home to give reality to the person and events described. Challenge children and adults to follow in the faithful footsteps of their congregational ancestors.

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