Worship for Kids: March 17, 2019

February 2nd, 2019

From a Child's Point of View

During Lent we wait for God's easter promises to come true. Today's texts provides an opportunity for children to explore one of God's other promises—the covenant with Abram—to think about what it means to live according to God's promises Psalm 27, the Transfiguration story, and Paul's challenge to the Philippians), and to look ahead to the Easter promises (Luke 13).

Old Testament: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18. This is a complicated passage for children, but a part of the familiar story of God's promises to Abram. Recalling some of the rest of this story (Abram's moves and Isaac's birth) will help children understand the promises God made in this chapter.

To help children follow God's conversation with Abram, read from the Good News Bible and take time to explain Abram's concern about not having a son.

If children hear nothing else in this reading, most of them will tune in to the details of the gory covenant-making ritual. The idea that God passed between the split animals in the form of a flaming pot and torch—which, in effect, said to Abram, "May I be split open and left to die if I do not keep the promises I have made to you today"—has great appeal to children. (Remember, this is the age of "blood-brother" rituals and tree-house rites.) The message to children is that God is serious about this and other promises. God's promises can be trusted.

Psalm: 27. This psalm falls neatly into two related halves. Verses 1-6 could be titled "trusting God when everything is going well." Verses 7-14 follow with "trusting God when everything is going wrong." Heard together, the halves remind us that God's promises to not guarantee that everything will always go as we wish it would; but no matter how things are going for us, we can and must trust God's promises. This is a point that older children understand and appreciate, but it is too subtle for them to grasp on their own. They depend on the worship leaders to make the point in introducing the psalm or while exploring the psalm in the sermon.

The Good News Bible offers the easiest translation for children to understand. But if the psalm is read with great passion (see Liturgical Child 2), children can hear past the more difficult vocabulary of other translations to the feelings expressed.

Gospel: Luke 13:31-35 or Luke 9:28-36. Both these passages look forward to Jesus' coming death and resurrection, and both are difficult for children to understand.

In Luke 13 , Jesus responds to Herod's threat with the resolve to continue his ministry and go to Jerusalem to fulfill God's promises by dying on the cross. The focus of this passage, however, is less on Jesus' understanding of God's promises than on Luke's readers' (that's us!) anticipation of the promise fulfillment that is to come. Given the poetic "three-day" language, the mother-hen images, and the references to prophetic history, this anticipation can be communicated to the children best by talking in your own words about the coming of Easter and the importance of Jesus' death and resurrection.

The Transfiguration story in Luke 9 promises that God supports those who live by God's promises. In this case, God gives Jesus support to face his coming death so that he may fulfill God's promises. If you read this passage, review the material for Last Sunday After the Epiphany (Transfiguration Sunday).

Epistle: Philippians 3:17 –4:1. This passage is also hard for children to understand when they hear it read, but with adult help, they can understand its message—that we are to live as we believe God's promises. If we believe that God is building a kingdom of love, we should live loving lives, rather than selfish lives focused on getting whatever we want at the moment. Good examples of living according to God's promises can be seen in Paul, Jesus, and Abram.

Watch Words

Promises, especially God's promises to Abram, often lead us to speak of covenants. For children, covenant terminology may or may not be familiar. So if you use it, take care to provide definitions as you go. Or avoid misunderstandings by staying with the language of promises.

Let the Children Sing

"God Will Take Care of You," which may be listed as "Be Not Dismayed Whate'er Betide," celebrates trust in God's promises. Although many children will not grasp all the language of the verses, the phrase repeated in both the verses and the chorus contains the heart of the message and enables even nonreaders to join in the singing.

"O Wondrous Sight! O Vision Fair" retells the Transfiguration story in song.

The Liturgical Child

Your presentation of these rather complex passages is crucial to how well children will be able to "hear" them.

1. Before reading the Genesis passage, challenge worshipers (especially the children) to listen for the two promises God made to Abram. Either right after the Scripture reading or during the sermon, identify the promises and their source in the text so that children can check for themselves.

2. Emphasize the difference in the two halves of Psalm 27. Ask two people to recite the psalm. As the psalm is introduced, they take their positions, standing back to back at the center of the chancel. They may simply stand without expression, or they may assume positions that reflect their parts of the psalm. The first turns to face the congregation, recites verses 1-6 with happy exuberance, and returns to place. The second then faces the congregation to present verses 7-14, with appropriate expression, and returns to place.

If one person reads the whole psalm, that person can emphasize the difference in the two halves by pausing between verses 6 and 7, turning slightly, and assuming an appropriately different expression and tone for the second half.

3. When reading Luke 13 , imagine that you are an actor portraying the scene in the role of Jesus. Read the narrative lines in a matter-of-face stage-director voice. Read Jesus' lines with great force to portray the humor when he called Herod an old fox and to communicate Jesus' pain in thinking about Jerusalem.

Sermon Resources

1. To pave the way for talking about God's promises, cite some of the promises that are crucial to our relationships with one another. Teachers promise to teach their students what is true and important. When we join a sports team, we promise to attend practices and follow the set disciplines so the team has a chance to win. When two people marry, they promise to love and take care of each other and to be a family. Scouts, Indian Guides, and other clubs require that members make promises when they join.

Describe what it feels like to live according to one of these promises on a good day and on a bad day. For example, it is easy to live by the promises made to teammates when you are playing with friends and the teamis winning. It is harder, but just as important, to live by the promises when the team is losing and you feel as if all your work is getting no results. (You might want to tell about a team that goes through both experiences in the same season.)

2. Tell stories of several of God's Promises, such as the promise of the rainbow, the promise of the Messiah, and the promise of the fulfillment of the kingdom of God's love on earth.

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