Worship for Kids: November 10, 2019

October 2nd, 2019

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Haggai 1:15 b–2:9. This is a specific message for a specific time. Haggai encourages the people and their leaders to be courageous, to work hard, and not to be afraid as they rebuild the Jerusalem Temple after the Exile. Haggai promises that God will be with the people and that the Temple will be a rich and important center. It is a somewhat interesting but remote story for children, although the point of the text can be stretched to encourage children today to be courageous, work hard, and be fearless in doing God's work, whatever that may be for them.

Psalm: 145:1-5, 17-21, or 98. Both are general praise psalms. Both are meant to be experienced rather than understood, and thus children depend on dramatic upbeat presentations that communicate the psalms' moods. Because Psalm 98 includes more calls to easily identified parts of creation and to specific musical instruments, its content is more child accessible than that of the more abstract Psalm 145.

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17. Verses 1-5 deal with first-century concerns about the return of Christ that are beyond the experience and interest of today's children. An exploration of Paul's practical advice and encouragement for his Thessalonian friends in verses 13-17 offers more for these children. With help, they realize that Paul's advice fits them too. God loves them and has put them in a place where they could hear the stories about God and Jesus. In response, they are to remember the stories and obey Jesus' teachings. When they do, God will be with them and help them.

Gospel: Luke 20:27-38. This is the story of another tricky question: "Whose wife will a woman who has been married and widowed seven times be, when all eight of those people get to heaven?" Children do not need to hear about leviratic practices or the Sadducee's motives to understand this question. They will need help with Jesus' answer in verses 34-36, but once it has been explained, it is one they readily accept. No one knows what life beyond death is like. That is one of God's secrets. What we do know is that God will still be loving. Therefore, we can expect only that life will be good. That answer puts the question in a familiar class of questions for which there are no answers—only mysteries.

The Sadducee's question is, of course, also a trap question. But to recognize that and to deal with Jesus' point about the God of the living (vss. 37-38) requires in-depth knowledge about the Sadducees and their logic. Explore this with the grown-ups.

Watch Words

Most children hear lyre (e.g., praise God with the lyre) as liar.

Children usually associate resurrection with Jesus and Easter. So for clarity, speak of life after death, rather than in the resurrection.

If you speak about the Sadducees at any length, point out that they were sad, you see because they did not believe in life after death. This will not help children understand the significance of this passage; it simply helps them recognize a name they will hear again.

Let the Children Sing

"Earth and All Stars" is based on Psalm 98 and adds calls for praise to modern groups of people and situations. (If this is used as an opening hymn, precede it with a call to worship based on Psalm 98:1, 4-9.)

Sing "Lord, You Give the Great Commission," especially if you worked on learning it as a congregation earlier this fall. This hymn also follows the prophecy and Epistle theme.

Sing, "God of Grace and God of Glory," with its repeated prayer phrase, for the Jews who rebuilt Jerusalem, the Christians who endured persecution in Thessalonica, and disciples at work today. Sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," but only after introducing it as a song to be sung by people who work with God. Though children do not understand the big words and complicated images, they do grasp its message in the drama of the music. So provide the most stirring, majestic instrumental backup possible. (Do remember that the chorus is the basis of innumerable children's taunt songs.)

The Liturgical Child

1. If you focus on the Gospel reading, display new-life symbols and banners in the worship center. Suggest that flowering bulbs (Easter lilies, if possible) be the flowers of the day. Then refer to them during the sermon.

2. Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13-17, or the following paraphrase of the passage, as the Charge and Benediction:

Remember that God loves you. God chose you to hear the good news and to live among God's people. Do not forget what you have learned. Live by it. And may our Lord Jesus Christ, and God our Father, and the Holy Spirit give you the courage and strength to say kind words and do loving deeds today and every day. Amen.

Sermon Resources

1. The Jews struggling to rebuild Jerusalem and the Christians in Thessalonia had similar problems, which children can understand. God was busy doing big things in both situations, and the people were hanging back. The Jews were discouraged and frightened. Deep down inside, they didn't believe they or God could do the job. They were ready to give up. (Many children are just as pessimistic about their lives and worlds.) Some of the Christians, on the other hand, believed that God could do anything, but they were doing nothing to help. All they wanted to do was watch and cheer. (Many children are willing to hear about children's church activities, but are unwilling to get involved.) To both groups, and to hesitant disciples today, God says that great things are going to happen and that their help is needed.

2. Build a sermon recounting the great things God has done and describing the human work that was involved. Begin with biblical events (Haggai and the beginning of the church), but include other events from church history and from the recent history of your congregation. Conclude each story with a phrase such as, "Who did it? God did it! How did God do it? God worked through people!"

3. Devote the sermon to exploring ideas about life after death (heaven). Identify some ways we describe heaven: winged angels, harps, golden streets, an entry gate manned by Saint Peter, and so on. Invite people to flip through hymns about heaven or eternal life in the hymnal. Review key ideas and word pictures in several hymns.

Then work through the Gospel text to get to the fact that we really do not know much about what happens after we die. What we do know is that God, who loves us and cares for us on earth, will keep loving and caring for us after we die. We have God's promise and Jesus' promise about that. The cocoon that becomes a butterfly and the egg that hatches into a bird help children appreciate the change that happens to us at death.

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