Worship for Kids: March 8, 2020

February 5th, 2020
 

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Genesis 12:1-4a. Children can follow this story easily. God asked Abram to move to an unknown land where he would become the father of a nation. Abram went, but the difficulty involved in his going is recognized only when the details of the move are explored. Children who have moved especially appreciate the risk involved in packing up everything, to move to an unannounced destination. They also can wonder, with Abram, how a childless old man was to be father of a country, in a land where other people already lived and ruled. The point is that for Abram, faith was believing God's promise and trusting God to make the promise come true, in God's own time and own way.

Epistle: Romans 4:1-5, 13-17. The vocabulary and theology of this passage are so abstract that this text will mean nothing to children as it is read. Behind it, however, is a simple two-part message children can understand.

1. Abraham had not done or said anything special to make God choose him. God loved him. And it's the same with us. We can do nothing to make God love and choose us. God just does.

2. The mark of being one of Abraham's people or Abraham's family is to trust God as Abraham did.

Psalm: 121. This psalm celebrates the faith in God which we share with Abraham and Paul. If it is read with feeling, some of its meaning will come through to children. To help them understand it more fully, introduce it as a song sung by Jews as they walked up the steep, hot road to Jerusalem to celebrate religious holidays at the Temple. The hill they looked to was the hill on which the Temple was perched.

They celebrated God's unsleeping care of them through the nights (when robbers might attack) and during the heat of the day. Children can then imagine themselves among the travelers, singing this psalm as they walk. Older children can be challenged to write similar psalms to celebrate God's constant care, to be recited while going to school or staying home alone at night.

Gospel: John 3:1-17 or Matthew 17:1-9. Most children and many adults empathize with Nicodemus in this situation. They simply never quite understand Jesus' abstract, symbolic talk. They feel as put down as Nicodemus did by Jesus' surprise that such a great leader couldn't follow this simple discussion.

There are two ways to present this passage that make sense to children. The first is to focus on Jesus' comment about the reality and power of the invisible wind, and explore the reality of other invisible powers, such as God's love and power. Jesus calls Nicodmeus and us to depend on these invisible realities, rather than on things we can see. The second is to focus on Jesus' insistence, in John 3:16, that we can trust God to love us and to save us. There is no need to depend upon ourselves.

The transfiguration story (Matt. 17:1-9) makes more sense to children in the context of the last Sunday after the Epiphany (Transfiguration Sunday) than in the context of today's Lenten texts about trusting God. Should you elect to use it, find resources in "Last Sunday After the Epiphany."

Watch Words

Faith is trusting God. In today's texts, it refers more to a way to live every day than to a set of mental affirmations. Faith is acting as if you can depend on God's love, whethehr on the playground or when sharing a bedroom with a younger brother or sister. It is acting as if following God's directions is the way to a happy life.

Beware of the vocabulary of Romans. Justification and righteousness are indefinable for children. Grace is a girl's name or a prayer before meals. The Law stands for the police, not for earning favor with God by following the rules.

Let the Children Sing

Invite worshipers of all ages to recall their own baptisms by singing "Child of Blessing, Child of Promise." Suggest that they imagine that the whole church is singing it directly to them.

Sing about living by faith with "He Leadeth Me, O Blessed Thought" (children will join in mainly on the chorus), "Be Thou My Vision" (if it is sung by children in other church activities), and "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God" (to celebrate faith heroes and heroines like Abraham).

The Liturgical Child

1. Invite worshipers to declare their membership in the children of Abraham in an Affirmation of Faith. The congregation's response to each affirmation: We are the children of God.

Children of Abraham know that God created them and loves them, and chooses them to be among God's people. (RESPONSE)
Children of Abraham know that even if they tried there is nothing they can do that would be good enough to impress God. They also know that they do not have to earn God's love or be good enough for God. God loves them anyway. (RESPONSE)
Children of Abraham know that God is in charge. They trust that if they follow God's directions, all of God's promises to the children of Abraham will come true for them. (RESPONSE)
Children of Abraham know that God is in charge. They do not act like they are in charge. And, they do not let any person or power be more important than God. (RESPONSE)
Children of Abraham know that God loves all people. They know that everyone they meet could be a child of Abraham and so treat them as brothers and sisters. And, they know that God will not rest until every person in the world is part of the family. (RESPONSE)

Sermon Resources

1. The Velteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (Doubleday, 1969) is a familiar story. Basically, it is a discussion about what makes a stuffed animal "real" (or what makes a person "real"). The conclusion is that one is real when all your buttons have been loved off, your fur (or hair) played into a frayed mess, and so forth. In the context of Jesus' words about the wind, this story tells us that invisible love is more important than a visibly beautiful, intact exterior.

2. Describe some of the ways Abraham might have tried to make himself the "father of a great nation" (e.g., raise an army to drive out the Canaanites; write a constitution and laws to enforce; buy a crown for himself). Instead of doing these things, he trusted God to do what God had promised. Abraham followed God's directions and lived quietly in the country ruled by other people.

God has promised us good lives. It is tempting to take control, respond violently to people who tease and bully us, and make sure we get as much of what we want as we can. Instead, we should follow God's rules, even when it seems that will not be to our advantage, and trust God's plan.

3. Elementary-age children are very interested in clubs, teams, and other groups. When asked to introduce themselves, many older elementary children reply by naming groups to which they belong. They take their membership requirements, group oaths, and rules quite seriously.

Pick up on their keen interest by inviting worshipers to be one of the "children of Abraham." Describe the benefits in terms of God's promise in Genesis 12. Outline members' discipline in terms of trusting God every day. And note the inclusive entrance requirements. Challenge worshippers to join this group and then live as the children of Abraham.

 
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