Worship for Kids: April 19, 2020

March 3rd, 2020

From a Child's Point of View

Gospel: John 20:19-31. This text includes two resurrection stories—Jesus' meeting the disciples on Easter evening and Jesus' encounter with Thomas. It also includes a statement of the purpose of John's Gospel. The stories are interesting to children for several reasons. First, they give cues about what the resurrected Jesus was like. He was different. He could now appear inside a locked room. But he was also the same Jesus. His friends recognized him by sight. He showed his crucifixion wounds, and he was kind to Thomas. From this, older children learn not only interesting information about the resurrected Jesus, but also what our own resurrections might be like.

The second point of interest is that Easter is not the final chapter of Jesus' life. It is the beginning of a new chapter. On Easter evening, Jesus is looking ahead. He gives his disciples two gifts—his peace and his Spirit—and then sends them to work. Their task is to forgive people. Jesus insists that anyone they do not forgive will not be forgiven. While it is possible to interpret this as authority to sit in judgment, it is more in keeping with the gospel to interpret it as a challenge to be sure all people are forgiven—because we are their only chance. That makes forgiving an important Easter activity for Christians, and for he church.

Finally, children who were not present when something exciting and important happened appreciate the story about Thomas. Jesus' treatment of Thomas, who had missed out on Easter evening and had lots of questions, reassures children that (1) Jesus understandings their feelings when they are left out; and (2) no questions are too stupid or embarrassing to ask.

Epistle: 1 Peter 1:3-9. Both the message and the language of these verses make them somewhat remote for children. "Mercy," "living hope," "imperishable inheritance," and so forth are not in the daily vocabulary of most children and speak of concepts too abstract for their mental development. The writer's insistence that readers hold out through bad times in this life, for the sake of salvation in the next, has little impact on children, who live in the present and immediate future.

However, if they are told that this is a letter to Christians who were being tortured and killed for being Christians and that the writer of this letter wanted them to know that being a Christian was worth being tortured or killed, older children can explore the possibility that being a Christian is also worth whatever teasing or grief they take today. In other words, if being a Christian was worth being fed to a lion, then it also must be worth being called a sissy when you refuse to smoke a joint or join the gang in a cruel prank.

First Reading: Acts 2:14 a, 22-32. This section of Peter's Pentecost sermon focuses on the interpretation of Psalm 16. Peter's intricate exegesis and point are beyond the interest and mental ability of children. Older children may follow the description of Jesus' life and death in verses 22-24 before they get lost in the argument about David. Read this mainly for the adults.

Psalm: 16. This is the psalm Peter interpreted as being prophetic of the resurrection, but his interpretation means little to children. Furthermore, the psalmist uses such poetic images as "my cup" and God's "counsel" to speak of trusting God's plan, and the obsolete terms Sheol and the Pit to speak of death. Consequently, the psalmist's simple trust in God is lost in the verbiage.

Watch Words

Today's texts are filled with abstract theological terms such as salvation, mercy, and faith. Remember that this is a foreign language to children. Whenever possible, describe in concrete terms what Jesus said, did, and promised.

If you focus on Thomas, be careful about your use of believe. Children believe in Santa Claus, they clap during Peter Pan to show their belief in Tinkerbell, they believe their team will win the championship this year, and they believe in God. As middle-elementary children begin to sort out the realities involved in life, they often conclude that believe is a "less sure" form of think, or even a well-intended distortion of reality, and thus relegate their belief in God to the same status as their belief in Santa Claus.

So, redefine believe to be even stronger than think. What you believe makes a difference in how you live. For example, before he met the resurrected Jesus, Thomas did not know what to think about what his friends claimed. But when he finally met Jesus, he not only thought that it was true that Jesus had been raised from death, but he knew that fact would make a difference in what he did every day, from that day on.

Let the Children Sing

"O Sons and Daughters, Let us Sing" has one set of verses for Easter Sunday, and a second set related to Thomas's story, for the second Sunday of Easter. Its words are fairly simple and include a chorus of Alleluias for nonreaders. Sing it after reading the Gospel lesson.

"Breathe on Me, Breath of God" is a good choice if the service emphasizes Jesus' gift of the Spirit. Consider working through parts of it in the sermon.

"I've Got Peace Like a River" is a good response to Jesus' Easter-evening gifts of peace and the Spirit.

The Liturgical Child

1. The Gospel stories are the heart of today's worship for children. Like last week's stories, they need to be presented in a way that leaves listeners free to "see" the events in their imaginations. Again, present the stories as radio dramas. Practice the way Jesus and Thomas speak their words, and how you will read the narrator's part.

2. Respond to Jesus' challenge to forgive. In a bidding prayer, offer worshipers opportunities to forgive a variety of people and groups. Include members of our families; friends who have wronged us; people we do not like because we need to forgive them so often, and we do not expect them to ever treat us any better; groups of people (cliques, other nations, other races) who constantly abuse us; and so forth. After describing each group, identifying its possible members, and offering a public prayer of forgiveness, invite worshipers to pray silent personal prayers of forgiveness.

3. If your worship regularly includes an Affirmation of Faith, point it out this morning. Explain why your worship includes this opportunity to say, "I believe. . . ." Challenge worshipers to think about what they are saying and what it will mean for them if they really believe these things. Many creeds follow each "I believe" with several statements. Today, repeat "I believe" before each one. Or, turn the statements into questions to the congregation, to which they are invited to respond, "Yes, we (or I) believe that."

Sermon Resources

Celebrate questions. Review Thomas's questions about Jesus' body and recall the story of Jesus' questions in the temple when he was twelve years old. Point out that questions are not the opposite of believing, but are tools with which we build our beliefs. No genuine question is too stupid or silly to ask. We are to remember this about our own questions, and about the questions of others—especially those of younger children who ask many questions that may sound dumb to us. This is a great opportunity to push Sunday school attendance.

comments powered by Disqus