Worship for Kids: March 22, 2020

February 8th, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: I Samuel 16:1-13. This story of Samuel anointing David king gives children hope. God did not select the oldest or most grown-up, but the one his family considered too young to come to the sacrificial feast. Children who eat in the kitchen while adults eat in the dining room, or who are left at home with a baby-sitter while parents go to interesting-sounding parties and movies, appreciate God's choice of someone like them.

God's message to Samuel about how God "sees" or judges a person offers children both security and a challenge. The security is that God sees them as they really are. Teachers, coaches, other kids, and even parents may misjudge their behavior. But God knows who they really are, appreciates good intentions that come out all wrong, and empathizes with their internal struggles with problems that others discount. The challenge is to use God's standards in judging others. God sees beyond what a person looks like and does, to what a person thinks and feels. We are to try to do the same.

Psalm: 23. This psalm of trust in God's care and protection is based on two images—the shepherd and the banquet table. Children who attend church school throughout childhood collect the details of shepherd life (pastures, still waters, rods, staffs) and explore the figure of the shepherd as one who is devoted to the sheep and can be depended upon to care for them. These children recognize at an early age that in the Bible sheep often stand for God's people in the same way the American eagle stands for Americans. The unchurched urban child, however, is likely to identify a shepherd as a fierce guard dog, and thus be baffled by the psalm.

Among the banquet images, the overflowing cup needs to be introduced as a continually refilled cup. There are children for whom an overflowing cup at the dinner table rates a scolding for clumsiness. And the only sensible response to having oil poured on your head is gratitude that you do not live in the day when that was considered a treat.

Epistle: Ephesians 5:8-14. Light and darkness are rich images, based in experiences shared by people of all ages. When children are in bed, they are afraid of what they think they may see in the dark. They also worry about bumping into things or falling down if they try to move about in the dark. Based on such experiences, they prefer to be children of light rather than children of the dark. Younger children accept the designation of God's people as the children of light in the same way they accept the name and symbol of their sport team. Older children can begin to identify ways that God's people are like light for the world: We light up the world by loving instead of hating and by caring for those who need help.

Those children who hide in the darkness under the covers, in the closet, or in a clubhouse, to do things they know they should not be doing, understand Paul's instructions to do only those things that can be done without shame in full daylight.

Gospel: John 9:1-41. This story is long and complicated. After hearing it read, few children will be able to retell it in any detail. They will depend on the preacher to raise a few key points and retell the related parts of the story.

Chief among those points is that Jesus loved the blind man enough to do what he could (in Jesus' case, to heal him!). Everyone else was sitting around feeling sad about the man's blindness and wondering why he was blind. We can expect God to respond to our problems with action, just as we are to follow Jesus' example in responding to the needs of others.

Older children enjoy exploring the comparison of the physical blindness of the man with the blindness of the religious leaders (their refusal to see who Jesus was and what God was doing). With help, they can identify other attitudes as blindness: racial or ethnic prejudice (refusal to see certain groups as children of God); hatred of individuals (refusal to see even disagreeable people as God's children); and greedy self-centeredness (refusal to see anyone's needs but our own).

Watch Words

Be careful about "shepherd" vocabulary. Rods and staffs, in particular, may need explanation.

Let the Children Sing

Choose a hymn version of Psalm 23 that is familiar to your congregation and follows the biblical text closely.

Beware of the confusing light images and difficult light language of many hymns focused on light. To sing about our mission to the world, try "God of Grace and God of Glory." Younger children will pick up the repeated phrases.

If your children are familiar with "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," sing it to celebrate Jesus' loving action.

If you focus on David's character, sing of other faith heroes with "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God."

The Liturgical Child

1. If you use candles in your Sunday morning worship, take time to point out their significance in relation to today's texts about light.

2. To help children keep up with the story in John 9, ask a group to pantomime the story as it is read. Since this requires at least ten players (2 disciples, 2 neighbors, 2 Pharisees, the blind man, his 2 parents, and Jesus), it may be a good project for a youth class. Because there is so much movement, plan for at least one good rehearsal. Costumes would be nice but are not essential.

3. Offer a Confession of Sin based on light and dark:

Lord, you have called us to be children of light, but we live more like children of darkness. We allow dark, unhappy feelings to run our lives. We do, in secret, things we want to hide from everyone—especially from you. And we openly say and do things that make people's lives dark and miserable. Forgive us. Help us to soak up so much of your light and love that we cannot help shining for others. We pray in the name of Jesus, who is the light of the whole world. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: Jesus said, "I am the light of the world," and he said to his disciples, "You are the light of the world." The Bible promises us that "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not put it out." So we are forgiven and are called to be the children of light.

Sermon Resources

1. David is often referred to as "a man after God's own heart." Explore Psalm 23 to learn what God might have liked about the person who wrote it, and what God might want to see in us:

Verses 1-2: David did not worry about what he would eat or wear. He trusted God's loving care.

Verse 3b: David expected God to tell him what to do. He knew that God would help him know right from wrong. Note his response when Nathan pointed out his murder of Uraih.

Verse 4: David was brave. Nothing frightened him when he was doing God's work. Cite as an example his killing of Goliath.

Verse 5: David was willing to live with some enemies around, and he expected that life would be good in spite of them.

Verse 6a: David enjoyed life as God's good gift and expected it to be good and happy.

Verse 6b: David wanted to be near God every day, especially in worship. Point to his writing of psalms and the abandon with which he danced before the Ark of the Covenant.

comments powered by Disqus