Worship for Kids: July 5, 2020

May 28th, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Old Testament: Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, and 58-67. Children, who are generally interested in wedding stories, are fascinated by this story of how Isaac and Rebekah met and were married. They enjoy hearing the details of the arranged marriage and with help can appreciate the underlying assumption of the story that God is concerned about and involved in all parts of our lives—in this case in whom we marry. God had a good plan for Isaac and Rebekah. Abraham's servant recognized it. Rebekah and Isaac accepted it and followed it. We are called to watch for signs of God's plans for us and to respond as they did.

Psalm: 45:10-17. Children will be interested to find this wedding song among the psalms. Though the sexual stereotypes in the psalm have a Middle Eastern or fairy tale bias that will need to be dealt with in the sermon, the very presence of the psalm indicates that God cares about all parts of our daily lives—including our marriages.

Epistle: Romans 7:15-25a. Children, like many adults, become hopelessly tangled in Paul's complex sentences and logic. But they understand, with painful clarity. Paul's basic message that we never live up to our good intentions. During elementary-school years, children struggle to recognize the intentions of others and themselves. Adults repeatedly urge children to forgive others because "he or she didn't mean to do it." But the same adults apply different standards when asking, "Why did you do it? Good girls (boys) do not do that. Don't you want to be a good girl (boy)?" The answer to the question is, of course, "I don't know why I did it. I didn't mean to, but. . . . " Children appreciate hearing that everyone has the same problem. Living up to our good intentions is something all of us work on, but never achieve.

Gospel: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. Although this passage speaks of children, much of its message is too sophisticated for children. Both Jesus' point that some people will never be satisfied with God's activity (they had criticized the asceticism of John the Baptist and accused Jesus of gluttony) and the Wisdom references in verses 25-27 require intellectual skills children do not possess.

Verses 28-30, while they are familiar, present two problems. The first is that children have little knowledge of yokes, a problem that is fairly easily solved. Beyond that is the fact that Jesus was addressing Jewish adults overburdened with Pharisaic demands about following God's rules. For them, the rules (the Law) had become a burden rather than an asset. Six- to twelve-year-olds, on the other hands, are at the stage of moral development when rules are seen as good, useful ways of relating happily with one another. Children really do not want relief from rules—at least not from good rules. Therefore, the promise Jesus offered his Jewish listeners means little to them.

It is, however, possible to explore that promise as the offer of a plan for our lives that is designed especially for us or our group. Jesus promised not to force us into a plan, or yoke, that fits someone else, or that others wish would fit us. Instead, Jesus promised a plan\yoke that is uniquely ours.

Consider linking these verses with the Genesis story to encourage worshipers to be as responsive to God's plan (a marriage) as the Old Testament families were, rather than as unresponsive to God's plan (the work of Jesus and John) as Jesus' critics were.

Watch Words

A yoke is a harness (usually wooden) with which horses or oxen pull wagons or plows. A yoke is also the work God has for us to do. Just as an ox yoke is carved to fit a particular animal, so God's plan for us is designed to fit us.

Should these texts lead you to speak of predestination, simply tell children that God has a plan for us, just as God had a plan for Rebekah and Isaac.

Let the Children Sing

Praise God, the Creator and Planner, with "For the Beauty of the Earth" or "All Creatures of Our God and King." with its repeated Alleluias.

Commit yourselves to God's plans with "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God." or with "Be Thou My Vision," if children frequently sing it elsewhere.

The Liturgical Child

1. If you can find a horse or ox yoke, display it in the chancel. Use it to explain the fit and function of yokes.

2. Prayer of Confession:

God, sometimes we do not understand ourselves. We know right from wrong, but that could not be proved by what we do. We are full of good intentions. We want to treat our family and friends kindly. We want to help people who need our help and make friends with people who are lonely. We dream of standing up bravely for your justice. But when the time comes to do those things, we forget or get busy or simply chicken out. Forgive us for all the good we do not do.

Lord, we also know what is wrong. We are against cheating, lying, and language that is used in anger. But we sometimes cheat in order to win. We lie when it keeps us out of trouble. We say angry words, which embarrass us even as we say them. All too often we go along with the crowd, rather than pointing out that what the crowd is doing is wrong. Forgive us for the wrong we do knowingly.

At times, God, we are ready to give up on ourselves. All we can do is ask you to forgive us and pray that you will not give up on us. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon: We are not alone. Paul insisted that all people have sinned and been less than God intended for us to be. But God loves us and forgives us. God accepts our apologies and urges us to keep trying. God promises to work with us and in us and through us, to do what is right. Thanks be to God.

Sermon Resources

1. Use the story of Rebekah and Isaac as an opportunity to talk about marriage as part of God's plan for some people. Tell other marriage stories (your own if appropriate), in which partners consider their marriage part of God's plan. Admit that we sometimes misread God's plans and make unhappy marriages. Encourage parents to tell children how marriage has been part of God's plan for their lives. Suggest signs to look for in deciding whether a potential marriage is part of God's plan.

2. Shoes (for working people) may be the closest modern equivalent to yokes (for working animals). So talk about wearing shoes that are too big (walking out of them), or too small (ouch!), the wrong style (you wore dress-up shoes to a party where everyone was playing soccer), or shoes that would be OK for someone else but not for you (Mom wants you to get plain tennis shoes, but you want high-tops with irridescent laces). Describe the difficulties of wearing shoes that are not quite right and the pleasure of wearing shoes that are just right. This leads to talking about jobs that are just right for us.

3. If you wear a clerical stole in worship, describe its function as a reminder of the yoke to which you are fitted as a preacher. Talk about how you feel about that yoke and how it affects your life. Name the invisible yokes you see others wearing.

4. Among your examples of failed intentions, include some from childhood, such as intending to get along with your brother or sister while your parents are gone, or meaning to stay in the yard so you'll be there when dinner is ready, or meaning to sit with the new kid at lunch, and so forth.

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