Worship for Kids: October 23, 2022

April 25th, 2022

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Joel 2:23-32. This passage includes two rather distinct sections. The first (vss. 23-27) is Joel's prediction of the end of the locust plague that has eaten the country into a famine. Good weather and good crops are promised for the coming year. With a little explaining, children can understand the images. But today's nonagricultural children do not appreciate the significance of Joel's promised relief.

The second section (vss. 28-32) is part of Joel's vision of the Day of the Lord. One of the benefits of that day is that God's Spirit will enable great dreams and visions. From this, children learn that God's Holy Spirit is the source of our best dreams for ourselves and for the world. In fact, one job of the Holy Spirit is dream-making. So our dreams are to be taken seriously as gifts from God.

Epistle: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18. These are the observations of Paul, who, realizing that he soon will be executed, is looking back over his ministry. He expresses satisfaction that he has done his best, forgives those who did not stand up for him when he was arrested, and credits God for the power to use his long imprisonment as an opportunity to tell the good news to the Gentiles. It is hard for children, at the beginning of their lives, to appreciate Paul's statements, but they can see, as an example, his forgiveness of those who failed him. Adults would like them to comprehend the satisfaction of having done their best, but few children will appreciate that until they have more personal experience with having done both their best and less than their best.

Gospel: Luke 18:9-14. This passage describes the prayers of a proud Pharisee and a repentant tax collector. Children respond quickly to Jesus' caricatures and grasp his point that God is not impressed by show-offs, but by people who are honest—even about their faults. Young children accept the terms Pharisee and tax collector as labels for the two men, without asking about the significance of the words. The understanding of older children is enriched by definitions of these labels.

Psalm: 65. This is a prayer of praise and thanks that could be prayed by Paul, the tax collector, and by all those who trust the promises of Joel. It is a prayer of humble contentment with what God provides. Children will catch occasional phrases and the overall mood, if the psalm is read well. (The Good News Bible translates Old Testament agricultural images into terms today's children can understand.)

Watch Words

Define dreams and visions as ideas about what could be. They are not weird experiences in which we see things that are not there, nor do they enable us to see into the future in a magic way.

Paul's race and crown-of-righteousness images are difficult to translate and do not communicate to children what Paul wants to say. So use them for the adults and speak to children through other passages and images.

Let the Children Sing

Sing of dreaming God's dreams with "Be Thou My Vision" or "Open My Eyes That I May See." Before singing the latter, rephrase the repeated "illumine me" to emphasize the recognition of dreams.

"Jesus Loves Me, This I Know" is a song the tax collector and Paul might have sung. Sing it with the same reliance on God that they had.

"Have Thine Own Way, Lord" is a song of submission to God's will for our lives. Children will benefit especially from singing it if you featured a potter earlier this year.

The Liturgical Child

1. Pray responsively about dreams for the world:

Leader: God, who created us and this world, you have promised that you will pour out your Spirit upon us with dreams of how the world could be and visions of how to attain these dreams. So we share these dreams and ask that you help us to bring them about.
We dream of a world in which everyone has enough food to eat and a safe, warm place to live. But we see pictures of people starving all over he world. In our own town, we know that people are living in shacks and on the streets. And we hardly know how to help.
People: Lord, pour out your Spirit among us.
Leader: We dream of a healthy world. We dream of finding cures for cancer and AIDS. We dream of medical care for everyone, so that children do not die from curable diseases like measles.
People: Lord, pour out your Spirit among us.
Leader: We dream of a beautiful world that is safe for all people, plants, and animals. We worry about all our garbage and polluted rivers and poisoned air. We want to save the whales and the elephants—and ourselves. But we cannot seem to find a way to do it.
People: Lord, pour out your Spirit among us.
Leader: We dream of a world at peace. We hope for the end of racism, for the settling of old feuds between nations and tribes, for sharing between rich and poor, and even for peace in our families. But we have trouble setting aside our own selfish wants to work for the good of us all.
People: Lord, pour out your Spirit among us.
Leader: Lord, be with us and these dreams you have given us. Give us the courage to make changes in the way we do things and to demand that others also make needed changes. Give us the strength to keep dreaming and working when it looks hopeless. And keep us open to new dreams and visions and possibilities.
People: Lord, pour out your Spirit among us.
ALL: Amen!

2. Ask the adult choir to present "The Pharisee and the Publican," by Heinrich Schutz. The work features two male solos which capture wonderfully the character of the two worshipers in the story. (Do point out that publican is another word for tax collector.)

3. Take the parts of both the Pharisee and the tax collector as you read the Luke text. For the Pharisee, stand to one side of the lectern with haughty posture, and read the words with a rather loud, pretentious tone. For the tax collector, stand to the other side and speak with genuine sorrow, in a calm voice.

4. Prayer of confession and petition:

God of the universe, forgive us when we are so sure we are right that we stop listening to the ideas of others. Remind us that we do not know everything.
Lord, forgive us when we are too impressed with our own ideas and what we can do. Keep us from becoming braggy.
Loving Father and Mother, forgive us when we want something so much that we ignore warnings that we may want the wrong thing. Help us to control our "wants."
God of the Bible, forgive us when we think that stories about your love are meant for us and that demands for change are meant for other people. Be with us as we read the Bible, and help us hear what you are saying to us. Amen.

Sermon Resources

Tell stories about people who work to realize dreams. Recall how the "I Have a Dream" speech of Martin Luther King, Jr., gave people the courage to work for civil rights. Describe the importance of being able to "see yourself doing it" in order to succeed in sports. Tell about children in the fifth-grade Sunday school class who worked successfully on their dream for a beautiful world by writing to the board of their church, asking that the church not use styrofoam cups and plates.

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