Jeremiah grieves over the suffering people of conquered Jerusalem
A lament over the nation after it is destroyed and pillaged with a plea for mercy
This psalm is not for the children.
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Praying for leaders and a Christological hymn
These seven verses offer a rather amazing variety of worship themes, some more relevant for children than others.
Paul begins with a call to prayer for leaders. In this election season with all the trash talking about leaders, have a respectful conversation and prayer with children about civic leaders. Together name some local, state and national leaders and list some of the jobs they do. You may also want to add people who are running for office. With the children, identify some prayers for our leaders, then offer those prayers.
The great Christological hymn describing Christ as a mediator between God and people is hard for children. Much of our talk with them about God has focused on God as their loving friend who is always available to them. A mediator is only needed when there are conflicts to be settled and gaps to be bridged. So, before children can see Christ as a welcome mediator, they need to identify the estrangement with God. Some older children will begin to pick up on some of the preacher’s comments, but Christ as mediator is not a great topic for a children’s time.
The theme in this hymn that does speak to children is that God loves all people and Jesus died for all people. Paul’s point was God loves all people not just the Jewish ones. Today the point is God loves all people, not just the ones like me.
- During the children’s time, present the gathered children with portraits of people. (Old “National Geographics” are good sources.) Present two very different looking people at a time with the question, “Does God love one of these people more than the other?” After discussing several pairs, conclude that God loves and cares for all the people in the world.
A resource you will use again: Portraits is a collection of 250 5x8 inch portraits of individuals from all over the world taken by Steve McCurry, renowned National Geographic photographer. Because it has a soft bindng, I took the book apart and now have a collection of beautiful portraits that celebrate the differences and similarities in people. Use it this Sunday for this conversation and save it for many other activities in the future. Available through Amazon.com for about $16.
- Before singing “In Christ There Is No East or West” introduce the geographical directions in the first verse by illustrating them with hand motions. Point to your right for “east,” to your left for “west,” up for “north,” and down for “south.” Then form a huge circle with your arms for “one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.” As you do, summarize the message of the verse. This could be a brief introduction before the singing of the hymn with encouragement to children to sing with the congregation. Or, it could become a children’s time –also best done just before singing the hymn.
Parable of the Shrewd Manager, sayings about our use of stuff
Usually with children, it is best to go with the story rather than the teachings. Not here. The story is tough for adults and almost incomprehensible to children. (You may however want to check out a puppet-less puppet show that takes artistic liberties with the parable at http://www.sarahlaughed.net/lectionary/2004/09/for_panicking_c.html ) In this text, the sayings that follow the parable offer more to children.
Being faithful in small things: Read this saying aloud from the big Bible. Then, admit that we would all like to do big things - important things, things that get reported on TV and make people admire us. PAUSE But most of the time most of us we don’t. Instead we do regular every day, “little” things. Jesus has two things to tell us about these “little” things. First, being faithful in little things does make a difference. Being kind to the kid no one else talks to, forgiving the person who called you a mean name, saying “thank you” and really meaning it, all those little things often make a bigger difference to people than we ever know. The second thing about being faithful in little things is that it is important practice. Shooting hoops over and over again is practice for making the important shot in the big game. In the same way being kind, forgiving, loving people on the normal days is practice for being God’s loving, forgiving people when it is REALLY, REALLY hard to do. In both basketball and being disciples, practice on the small things is very important.
Children think literally. Loving “wealth” means loving the cash and coins. I can clearly remember feeling that I was safe on this as a child. I did not love quarters or even paper bills. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I caught that the problem wasn’t the cash, it was what you could buy with the cash. Talk about a preacher who had left off preaching and gone to meddling! The text took on a whole new meaning for me. To help children get the real meaning of the text, talk about “stuff” rather than “wealth.” Cite examples like cell phones, “in” shoes, double stuffed Oreos, computer games, even the money to register to be on a sports team or see a show… It is not that any of this stuff is bad, lots of it is really cool. What Jesus tells us is that how we use our stuff is important. We can be selfish with our stuff, not sharing with others. We can spend all our time thinking about and messing with our stuff, never taking time to see what people around us may want and need from us. We can forget that who we are is more important than what we wear and what we have. The child’s version of Jesus' saying is “who you are and what you do are more important than what you have.”
- Straight conversations like this can be worked into the main sermon mixing examples from adulthood and childhood. When they hear such conversations, children (1) conclude that the sermon is for them too and (2) they begin to realize that the adults around them struggle with some of the same problems they do. When the conversation becomes the children’s time, older children who tend to disappear from the steps because the usual stories told there are for babies, may tune in and find that worship has something to say to them too.
- Bring a cool electronic gadget (maybe a fancy cell phone or blackberry) to the gathering of children. Show them what it will do and let them know how much you enjoy having it. Then, tell them you think Jesus cares about how you use your whatever-it-is. Point out that you could say “it’s mine! Don’t touch it!” Or, you could say, “Look how it works? You want to try it?” You could spend so much time seeing what you can make it do, that you ignore everything and everyone else. Note that you know you’ve done this when people say, “Earth to YOUR NAME – are you there?” Or, you could enjoy it some, but not all the time. Etc. Conclude that Jesus said we are to learn to use our stuff well. We are to enjoy stuff, but not make it the only thing we think about. Jesus made it very clear that people are always more important than things.