Worship for Kids: September 29, 2019

August 20th, 2019

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15. Older children are fascinated by the details of this intricate land transaction, but are unable to catch the message Jeremiah is acting out. They depend on adults to point out that buying land when a country is about to be conquered is foolish, because the land will be claimed by the conquerors. In buying the land, Jeremiah was promising the people that the conquerors would eventually leave and their nation (with its land rights) would be restored. Jeremiah's purchase is a symbol of hope.

Children who live very much in the present have trouble finding hope in the promise that things will get better—but a long time from now. Children who are self-centered, rather than community-centered, have trouble finding hope in the promise that although they are going to be conquered and killed or taken as slaves, their country will not be wiped out forever.

Psalm: Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16. Children who have led safe comfortable lives hear in this psalm the promise of God's loving care and protection in the midst of all disasters. They can benefit from exploring some of the images of God as a mother bird protecting her young, as a fortress, and as a shield. Alert children whose experiences have taught them that the good are not always protected, question the reality of the psalm. Therefore, it may be wise to focus more attention on the Jeremiah passage.

Gospel: Luke 16:19-31. This is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man's sin is not that he is rich, but that he, who had the resources to relieve Lazarus' suffering, was so caught up in his own self-interest that he did not even notice Lazarus' need. This happened in spite of the fact that he (and his five brothers) had read the Law and the Prophets, in which such self-centered oblivion to the needs of others is repeatedly condemned.

Children will need help to find this point in the story, but it is a point they need to consider. Even young children can learn to be aware of the needs of those around them. They can learn to "see" when their parents are tired and busy and find ways to help them, rather than make more demands. They can "watch" for unhappy children at school and try to support them. And they can understand this awareness of the needs of others as disciples' work, set out for us by God.

Epistle: 1 Timothy 6:6-19. This passage contains a series of instructions and warnings about living the Christian life. The warnings are aimed at adult concerns and framed in abstract generalizations and theological jargon. Children will understand little when the passage is read. With help, they can hear the message of verses 17-19—that it is better to do good deeds than to collect neat things.

Watch Words

In a day when suicide is becoming increasingly common among children, be precise in using hope. For Christians, hope is not a vaguely optimistic feeling that life will be good, but the belief that the world was created by God, who is good, and that God is at work in the world and in us to bring about good things. We are called to share in that work. Even when it looks as if evil is winning, we have God's promise that in the end, God will win.

Let the Children Sing

With help, children can sing several traditional hymns of hope. Direct their attention to verses with vocabulary and meaning that are easiest for them: the first verse of "Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above" and the third verse of "God of Our Life." Read through the words of "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" before it is sung. Instruct worshipers to listen for its hints that we can rely on God's care in the past, present, and future. Urge even nonreaders to sing the repeated chorus of "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and suggest that older readers listen in the verses for reasons to trust that God will be with us always.

"Be Thou My Vision" fits several of today's themes. Consider highlighting the message of a key verse before singing it.

The Liturgical Child

1. Create a confession that describes some ways we can lose hope. Pattern each confession on one format. For example:

Lord of the Universe, we know that you created this world wonderfully, but sometimes we see only problems. We see only snakes and mosquitos, sweaty summers and freezing winters. We are overwhelmed by the way we have polluted the air and water. So we give up. Forgive us.
Loving God, we know that you created each of us with unique talents and abilities. We know you have hopes and dreams for us. But it is easy for us to see only what we cannot do and things about us that we wish were different. So we give up on ourselves. Forgive us.

2. Present Jesus' story dramatically. Either have three readers (narrator, the rich man, and Abraham) read the passage, or enlist three older youths or adults (Lazarus, the rich man, and Abraham) to pantomime the action while you read. Plan with the actors a central location for the beginning of the story—a place to one side for "heaven," and a place to the other side for "hell." Simple costumes would help the children recognize the characters.

3. Invite worshipers to pray for members of their families, people they encounter every day, and people with special needs in the larger world. Begin each of the three sections with a corporate prayer, followed by silence for individual prayers.

Sermon Resources

1. Decorate the sanctuary with symbols of hope as sermon illustrations—the Alpha and Omega in paraments (God was at the beginning and will be at the end of all things), a rainbow banner (God will not destroy the world), Easter lilies and butterfly banners (from sleeping bulbs and cocoons come new life), even a clay pot into which rolled deeds can be placed.

2. Situations that make a child feel hopeless: being stuck with a teacher he senses does not like or appreciate him; serious conflict at home; living with an abusive or alcoholic parent; being unable to make friends in a new school; being told repeatedly that she is "just like" a problem parent or older sibling; being constantly unfavorably compared with a parent or older sibling ("Why can't you be like . . . ?").

3. Introduce Time Out as a game that families can use to become aware of one another's needs and find ways out of unhappy situations. The game starts with one family member calling "time out" when he or she feels that people are bickering or that a blow-up is imminent. When "time out" is called, they all stop what they are doing. Each person then can speak one sentence to express what he or she feels and wants at the moment. Then the group agrees on what to do to get the work at hand done and to meet everyone's needs as much as possible.

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