Worship for Kids: October 13, 2019

August 24th, 2019

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7. Exile means being stuck where you do not want to be. The Jews to whom Jeremiah spoke were stuck in Babylon, where their conquerors forced them to live. Children are often exiled: stuck in school classes they do not like; assigned to one reading group while their friends or those they want for friends are assigned to another; moved to a new town or neighborhood from an old one they loved; moved from their room or their home in the fallout from divorce, remarriage, or when older grandparents move in; and so forth. Jeremiah's encouragement to make the best of bad situations speaks pointedly to all who live in exile. Help children get Jeremiah's message by paraphrasing it to fit their exile situations. For example, make friends among your new classmates, pray for your teachers and the people with whom you are stuck, join in on what others are doing, and so forth.

Gospel: Luke 17:11-19. This story of ten lepers is often told to children to remind them of the importance of saying "Thank you." But the story is not about manners. It is about an appreciative attitude toward life. Nine lepers took their gifts (their cures) and ran. The tenth leper stopped to think about the significance of the girt he had been given and to respond to that gift. He probably responded the same way when someone gave him food, when a sick friend shared space in a dry cave, or when he saw a beautiful sunset. This attitude was a big part of the faith that made him "whole." This is similar to the attitude Jeremiah was urging upon the exiled Jews. (All this, of course, is between the lines. Children will need direction to dig out this meaning and apply it to their lives.)

Psalm: 66:1-12. This is a psalm for trusting exiles and healed lepers. Children easily understand the general praises expressed in verses 1-9 and enjoy the repeated use of the word Awesome to describe what God has done.

Verses 10-12 offer a concise description of the way faithful people deal with "exile" and other adversity, but children understand it only if each example is explained. For instance, they need to hear how silver is refined and to what the poetic image of "people riding over our heads" refers. Children, who regularly cope with discipline under parents and coaches, are perhaps more ready than adults to accept the idea that God would have us experience hard situations for our own good.

Epistle: 2 Timothy 2:8-15. This passage follows a very complex line of thinking that quickly loses the attention of children. But Paul's basic point—that he is willing to be imprisoned in order to do God's work (preaching, in his case)—is attractive, especially to idealistic older children. The picturesque claim (vs. 9) that they can chain Paul, but they cannot chain God's word makes powerful sense to these literal thinkers.

With help, in the hymns (vss. 11-13), older children can begin to understand the call to keep their commitments to Jesus. The first theological affirmation (vs. 11) is one they simply will need to grow into as their thinking matures. But the rest of the hymn can be understood as:

If we do God's work no matter what,
we shall be partners with God;
If we pretend we do not know God's teachings
or what God wants us to do,
God will pretend not to know us.
But even when we do not live right,
God keeps on loving and caring for the world.

Watch Words

Either use exile strictly in reference to the Babylonian exile, or in reference to all situations in which we get stuck against our will. Do not alternate between the two uses without deliberate warning.

Being faithful is continuing to be a disciple even when it is not easy. Jeremiah told the people in exile to be faithful, to make the best of a bad situation, knowing that God still loved and cared for them Paul urged Christians to be faithful, to live as disciples even when it got them in trouble.

Thankful, grateful, and appreciative are adult words about knowing that something is wonderful and good, a gift.

Let the Children Sing

Sing your gratitude with "Now Thank We All Our God" or "For the Beauty of the Earth." Sing "Father, We Thank Thee for the Night" as a round between a children's class or choir and the congregation or adult choir.

Sing of trusting God in difficult situations with "This Is My Father's World," "God Will Take Care of You" (young children learn the repeated chorus quickly), or the hymn version of Psalm 23 that is most familiar to your congregation (point out the meaning for exiles of "though I walk through the valley").

The Liturgical Child

1. Create a praise litany in which the worship leader describes a series of God's great deeds. To each, the congregation responds, "Praise God who has done awesome deeds!" Include such deeds as creation of the world, leading the slaves safely out of Egypt, sending the people to be captives and staying with them while they learned their lesson about trusting God, and specific deeds in the life of your congregation.

2. If focusing on gratitude, before you sing "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow," point out its meaning and its significance in your order of worship. Be sure to define blessings as something other than the prayer we say before meals.

3. Invite all worshipers to make a list of ten good things, people, events, or activities they consider gifts from God. Urge them to put their lists in the offering plate along with their money gifts, as a way to express their gratitude to God.

Sermon Resources

1. To help children understand the feelings and the temptations to give in to despair faced by the exiles Jeremiah spoke to, describe the feelings and problems of refugees who start new lives in this country after fleeing from war in their own countries.

2. Retell some of the events in the story of Polyanna, a little girl who treats all of life as a gift and has a way of finding the good in everything and everyone. Borrow the book from a public library or rent the video to review the story.

3. The task in preaching about the tenth leper is not to berate worshipers for being ungrateful, but to help them look at their lives with appreciation, identify their blessings, and learn disciplines that cultivate gratitude. Remember that when children voice thank-you prayers, they often mention their families, special friends (some of whom may be adults), a recent trip or party, unusual but beautiful weather (especially snow), and loved activities such as sports. They resent being told what to feel thankful for (e.g., most children, at certain times, are not at all thankful for their family).

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