Worship for Kids: May 19, 2019

March 29th, 2019

From a Child's Point of View

Gospel: John 13:31-35. Knowledge of the context is key to appreciating this text fully. The disciples and Jesus were gathered in the upper room to celebrate Passover. Judas had just left to betray Jesus. Knowing this, Jesus announced his death and gave the remaining disciples a new commandment. They were to love one another as God/Jesus had loved them (all the way to the cross).

John's intricate, abstract words in verses 31-33 will make little sense to children. But the new command in verses 34-35 is plain. And when it is set in context, children can understand that the kind of love Jesus is talking about is not a happy feeling, but a way of treating people. Loving as Jesus loved means putting ourselves on the line for others. Jesus insists that Christians will be recognized by the loving way they treat others.

Acts 11:1-18. The story of Peter and Cornelius is an example of the love Jesus commanded. Children need to be told before the story is read that Peter's people, the Jews, hated Cornelius' people, the Gentiles. They would not eat with them and claimed that God did not intend for people to eat some of the foods the Gentiles ate. It helps to compare Peter's feelings about the Gentiles with feelings held against some groups today (maybe migrant workers, homeless people, or certain kids at school). Children then appreciate how hard it was for Peter to visit (and presumably eat) in Cornelius' home, and then to baptize him and his Gentile friends. The point of the story on the Fifth Sunday of Easter is that Easter people are called to treat with love all the people they meet (even the ones they do not like or want to be around).

Epistle: Revelation 21:1-6. The Revelation code images in this text, such as "a city dressed as a bride coming down from heaven" and "water from the fountain of life" are too much for children to translate. However, the message from "the one who sits on the throne" is simple. A time is coming when God will live with people and take such care of them that there will be no more tears, and every need will be met.

Psalm: Psalm 148. This happy praise psalm is read also on the First Sunday After Christmas each year. Find comments on children's understanding of Psalm 148 in the section for those Sunday.

Watch Words

In speaking of God's loving care, avoid providence. Those children who recognize the word probably would identify it as the capital of Rhode Island. So talk in specific terms about God's loving care.

For children, Gentiles are a group of people Jews and the first Christians, who were Jewish, did not like. Jews did not want to live near the Gentiles, would not eat with them, and would not let them come into the main worship room of a synagogue.

Let the Children Sing

To commit yourself to keeping Jesus' new command, sing "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love" or "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian."

"All Creatures of Our God and King" parallels the praises of Psalm 148 and invites worshipers to keep the Easter Alleluias going. "Come, Christians, Join to Sing" is another Easter season hymn with lots of Alleluias.

The Liturgical Child

1. In introducing Revelation 21:1-6, remind worshipers of the identity of "the one who sits on the throne" in the Revelation code, and alert them to listen carefully to everything "the one who sits on the throne" says. Raise one hand, with your index finger pointed up (the teaching pose in early Christian art), while reading each of the messages. This will help children hear the straightforward message of the passage without tripping on all the poetic images that surround the message from "the one who sits on the throne."

2. To create a litany prayer of confession, one person or group recites, "Jesus commanded `Love one another even as I have loved you,' " to which a second person or group replies with prayers that confess the ways we fail to love as Jesus commanded. Include confessions of our failures to love within families, among friends, and especially in relating to people we do not like. Confess communal as well as personal failures to love. In the assurance of pardon, remind worshipers that Jesus loves and forgives us always.

3. If you celebrate communion today, point out that Jesus invites all people to eat and drink together at this table. As part of the "Invitation to the Table," name some of the groups that even children know are looked down on in your community as brothers and sisters who are welcome at this table.

Sermon Resources

1. Begin to explore God's promises in Revelation 21 by listing things that make us cry. Babies cry when they are wet, hungry, lonely, hurt, angry, and any other time they do not have what they want or need. Young children cry less frequently than babies: when they are hurt (but they can be brave about small hurts); when they become really angry (throw a temper tantrum); and when they see something sad. Teenagers are more likely to cry because of hurt feelings. Grown-ups cry when very sad things happen to them or to people they love. We all tend to cry at funerals and when good friends move away. Teenagers and grown-ups cry at movies. Some people even cry when they are very, very happy (but these are not the tears we are thinking about today). Describing all these tear-producing situations can set the stage for thinking about ways to love those who are in tears and for recalling God's promise that one day there will be no more tears.

2. Ask how many people still have their Easter tokens. Recall previously made points about what it means to be Easter People. Then present Jesus' new command as the identifying mark of the Easter People. Scouts, sports teams, and even schools have badges and uniforms that identify their members. Christians do not have a badge or uniform. They are to act with such love that people around them will recognize them as Christians. Suggest that the worshipers carry their tokens with them this week as a hidden reminder that their actions should be so loving that others will know they are Easter People.

3. Michele Maria Surat's book Angel Child, Dragon Child is both a children's modern parallel of the story of Peter and Cornlius and an example of the love Jesus commanded. It describes the misery of a young Vietnamese refugee girl, Ut, who tries to adapt to her new country while missing her mother who had to stay behind. When the school principal insists that she and Rymond, who has been bullying her, together write the story of her life, the door to understanding opens. Raymond is then instrumental in starting a carnival to raise money for Ut's mother. The book, available in most children's libraries, can be read by an adult in five minutes. Retell it as a sermon illustration.

As children leave the sanctuary, take time to read and talk briefly about the calls to praise they have written on their Worship Worksheets. When you pay attention to their work, it tells children you value their presence in worship and that a Worship Worksheet is one way they participate in worship.

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