Worship for Kids: November 3, 2019

October 1st, 2019

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4. This passage deals with fairness on the national/global level. Older children appreciate Habakkuk's question when it is presented in personal terms (e.g., a farmer caught in the cross-fire between warring armies; a child starving in a country where the leaders live in luxury). They quickly agree with Habakkuk that it is not fair, and they wonder why a loving God allows such things to happen.

God's answer—that in the long haul, justice will be done—seems a bit like a cop-out to children who live so much in their own present. It helps to hear a trusted adult speak with appreciation of this view and cite examples. But it will be some years before children really accept this view.

They can, however, apply God's "sign" to their present. Basically, it says that no matter what seems to get the best results at the moment, it is always better to live by God's ways.

Psalm: 119:137-144. This is a psalm to sing while waiting for God's justice to be realized. Its vocabulary is a major obstacle to a straightforward message—judgments, testimonies, precepts, righteousness, commands, laws, and faithfulness are used interchangeably. If it is suggested that all these words describe God's ways, children can begin to understand some of the praise statements. The Good News Bible translation is particularly helpful.

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12. In this letter, Paul and his co-workers greet the Christians at Thessalonica and compliment them on their discipleship. Verses 11 and 12, especially as presented in the Good News Bible, offer two significant encouragements to children:

1. Verse 11 expresses the hope that each of us will live up to the calling (or potential) for which God created us. Underlying that hope is the belief that God has a good plan for each person. Children dream of doing something wonderful and good during their lives. Paul, in this text, tells them that he hopes those dreams will come true. He also hopes that they will be worthy of their dreams and of God's plan for their lives.

2. Verse 12 encourages readers to live so well that people will say, "If this person is a disciple of Jesus, then Jesus must be wonderful," and "You can see the loving power of Jesus in this person."

Children will need help to dig both these encouragements out of Paul's words.

Gospel: Luke 19:1-10. This story of Zacchaeus is most likely familiar to the children. They relate quickly to the short fellow who is elbowed to the back of the crowd, is resourceful enough to climb a tree in order to see Jesus, and then is singled out by Jesus for special attention. The story gives them hope that Jesus notices and cares for them, particularly if they feel overlooked or shoved to the side.

Younger children will overlook the fact that Zacchaeus was a tax-collecting cheat. Jesus' notice of the short guy is plenty to satisfy their needs. Older children appreciate the fact that not only was Zacchaeus short (an awful fate for a ten-to-twelve-year-boy in our sports-minded culture), but he was also unpopular—and deserved to be, because he cheated! Zacchaeus was "pond scum" (substitute the ultimate put-down currently used by children in your congregation)!

Jesus' treatment of Zacchaeus does two things. First, it assures children that Jesus loves them and will forgive them—even when they have acted like pond scum. Second, it challenges them to treat the Zacchaeuses they meet with the same forgiving love that Jesus lavished upon the original.

Watch Words

Avoid speaking in generalizations about the evil, the wicked, and oppression, in favor of naming specific oppressors and evil practices that children recognize.

Instead of speaking of the salvation that came to Zacchaeus' house, talk about the friendship and forgiveness Jesus offered, and about Zacchaeus' response.

Let the Children Sing

The hymns of discipleship mentioned during the last weeks continue to be good choices. "We Shall Overcome" or "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love" are especially appropriate and are singable by children.

Celebrate the importance of the Bible with "Wonderful Words of Life."

"I Sing a Song of the Saints of God" is one way to respond to Paul's challenges.

The Liturgical Child

1. Present Psalm 119 as an acrostic, with each verse praising the Bible read by a different reader. Readers may be of different ages or members of a children's class. Young readers do better if they memorize their verses.

2. Explore the Lord's Prayer petition, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Then offer a litany prayer for God's justice. (To each prayer, the congregation responds: "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.")

Lord, it is easy to pray, "Thy will be done," but so much around us seems to go against your will. We need your direction and courage and power. (RESPONSE)
You created the world filled with food, but we see pictures of hungry children every day on TV. Help us find ways to share. (RESPONSE)
God, we all need a home. But so many people do not have one. Work with us to find houses for all who live in our area. Guide those who work to resettle refugees. (RESPONSE)
Lord, guide us as a nation. Give us the wisdom to elect fair leaders. Direct those leaders to laws and policies that are just. (Describe current situations in the world and your community which cry out for God's justice). (RESPONSE)
God, make us doers of your justice. Help us to play fair at school and at work. Teach us not to make enemies, but to make friends. Give us the courage to stand up for your ways among our friends. And remind us of that way when we are tempted "to forget." (RESPONSE)
WE pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

3. Ask the children's choir or a children's class to sing a song about Zacchaeus as an anthem for the worship service. (Most children's groups have a much-loved Zacchaus song in their repertory.)

4. Base the charge preceding the benediction on 1 Thessalonians 1:11-12:

May God make you worthy of the life to which you are called. May God give you the power to do the good deeds you want to do. May Jesus look good because of what you do. And, may you look good because of what God does through you.

5. Even if you do not celebrate All Saints, praise the God who is so powerful that we need not fear any other force in the universe. Pray for fun and safety while celebrating Halloween. And pray for the wisdom to remain our loving selves while wearing masks and costumes.

Sermon Resources

1. Introduce the Zaccheus Game. Every player takes the role of Jesus, watching for people who are lonely, "up a tree," or just plain having a bad day. when such a "Zacchaeus" is found, the player does something nice for him or her. Sometimes the player does not ever know if the kindness makes a difference. But sometimes the player can see the person respond—almost as readily as Zacchaeus responded to Jesus' request to be his dinner guest.

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