Worship for Kids: February 23, 2020

January 7th, 2020

Transfiguration Sunday

From a Child's Point of View

Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9. Children can follow the events of this story fairly easily, but they need help in interpreting them. Perhaps the simplest interpretation is that God was telling the disciples something they should already have figured out, that Jesus was God's Son. But God was taking no chances. To make sure they got the message, God let them see Jesus in powerful new light; God sent Moses and Elijah (two famous Old Testament leaders) to show their support for Jesus; then God told the disciples, flat out, that Jesus is the Son of God.

Epistle: 2 Peter 1:16-21. On one level, this passage is proof that God's efforts at the transfiguration worked. Now that the disciples knew who Jesus was. Peter (or his followers) did not need to make up any stories to explain who Jesus was. They only needed to tell what they had seen and heard. Few children can move beyond this interpretation to consider possible refrenes to the Second Coming, or the writer's concerns about how prophecy is to be interpreted.

Psalm: 2 or 99. Psalm 2 celebrates God's choice of a Messiah, or Son. In a certain sense, it is a great joke at the expense of all the kings and princes, the political leaders who thought they were running things. God began by laughing at their foolishness (vss. 1-4) and announcing the enthronement of the ruler God had chosen (vss. 5-6). The new king then warned the others that they had better respect God (vss. 7-11).

If it is pointed out to them, older children will recognize the phrase, "This is my beloved Son," as an indication that this psalmist, hundreds of years before Jesus was born, already knew God's secret about the coming Son and was looking forward to the day that Son would come.

Psalm 99 assumes familiarity with Old Testament vocabulary and stories that few children possess, so Psalm 2 is a much better choice for children.

Old Testament: Exodus 24:12-18. Adults appreciate the similarities between this story and that of Jesus' transfiguration on the mountain, but children find no particular meaning in those similarities. Instead, they are impressed by all the fire and clouds that come with God's presence. For some, this is proof of God's great power. For others, it raises questions about why such displays are not seen today. There are no satisfying answers to such questions when posed by literal thinkers.

Watch Words

The word transfiguration is so obsolete that the only dictionary definition is a reference to the event in Jesus' life. Consider exploring the story without using the word at all. If Transfiguration Sunday is part of your tradition, use the word only as the name of the day, rather than as a description of what happened.

Let the Children Sing

"O Wondrous Sight! O Vision Fair!" retells the story of the transfiguration in words that most fifth- and sixth-graders will be able to read and sing.

To praise Jesus the Christ, sing a song many young people know, "Alleluia, Alleluia," or a traditional hymn, "When Morning Gilds the Skies." Nonreaders, when encouraged, can join in on the repeated "May Jesus Christ be praised!" and older readers will slowly pick up some of the other phrases.

Sing "Fairest Lord Jesus" only if children have learned it and sing it often in choir or church school.

Do not overlook the gospel hymn "I Love to Tell the Story." Its simple language makes it easy for children to read and understand.

The Liturgical Child

1. Before reading the account of the transfiguration, instruct all worshipers to close their eyes and see in their imagination the events described in Matthew.

2. The New Jerusalem Bible titles Psalm 2 "A Messianic Drama." Following that idea, ask three readers to present the psalm as a simple play. The three readers stand at the center of the worship area, with the narrator off to one side and God a bit behind or perhaps on a step above the Messiah:

Verses 1-5 Narrator reads.
Verse 6 God gestures toward the Messiah while speaking.
Verses 7-11 Messiah reads. Beginning with verse 10, he points finger at the congregation to warn the kings.
If possible, have all presenters memorize their lines, and practice together so that everyone is comfortable. Work for expressions that communicate the humorous put-down of the would-be rulers. This would be most effective with teenage or adult presenters.

3. Create a responsive Affirmation of Faith. A worship leader reads the phrases about Jesus in the Apostles' Creed, and after each phrase, the congregation responds: "God said, 'This is my beloved Son in whom I am pleased.' We will listen to him."

Sermon Resources

1. One way to explore the transfiguration is to present it as God telling us a very special secret: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am pleased." Point out that God told the secret more than once. God told it first when Jesus was baptized, but only John heard. God told it again at the transfiguration, when Peter, James, and John heard. Following Jesus' instructions, the three disciples kept God's secret until Easter. Then they told everyone. Our task is to tell God's secret until everyone in the world has heard it.

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