Children are fascinated by the idea of day on which Christians all around the world celebrate Communion. Given the generally adult oriented texts for this day, World Communion might be the best entry to worship for the children. Possible ways to invite them into this celebration include:
- Utilizing music and instruments from many different cultures in worship
- Including people of many different racial, ethnic background in worship leadership, possibly in native dress
- Featuring breads from around the world – sourdough, pumpernickel, cornbread, pita, etc. Children as part of a larger processional may bring a variety of loaves to place in a big basket in front of the communion table. Or, a variety of types of bread could be used in the sacrament. An older children’s class can even cut bread into cubes which are stored in the freezer in plastic bags until they are poured into baskets on Sunday morning.
- In the internet age, there are greetings from churches around the world posted on line. Go to http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/abc-worldwidecommunionsunday.php for connections and ideas about using the greetings in worship.
- Hear stories from people who have shared communion with Christians in different parts of the world.
- Globes, maps, national flags, etc. are all grand additions to this day. Share your ideas with the rest of us by clicking on comments at the end of this post.
Lamentations 1:1-6, 3:19-26; Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; Psalm 37:1-9 even Psalm 137
Together the Old Testament texts are a sampler of people talking back to God. These are deeply hurt, terribly sad, and totally angry people, and they are willing to tell God so. We talk to children often about telling God the happy things, confessing our sins to God, and asking God for help. But, we also need to give them permission, even encourage them to tell God when they are angry, when life seems unfair, when it looks to them as if God isn’t doing God’s job the way it should be done. These texts and other stories teach us that God can take such straight talk and even wants it. Indeed, all these writers seem to work through their outburst to a kind of peace or patience or hope in the middle of their mess.
One way to explore this in either a children’s time or the day’s sermon is to present photos of people in horrible situations, e.g. portraits of children with harelips, pictures of people living in deep poverty, someone in a hospital bed, etc. Add situations such as “your parents are getting a divorce.” Explore the feelings of the people in these situations. Say aloud some of the things they make you want to say to God and some of the questions you’d like to ask God about these situations. Note that just as it sometimes helps to talk our feelings out with another person, it can also help to talk them out with God. Sometimes, in the process of explaining just how horrible it is, we find something we could do to make it better, e.g. telling God how unfair it is for the children to be born with harelips may make you realize that there are ways you could help those children. Other times, in the process of telling God how bad it is, we remember some of the good things we have too and that makes us feel better. Or, we remember someone else who has a similar problem and begin to think of ways we can work on the problem together. And sometimes, it just feels like we’re yelling and God is not listening. That is the hardest time. But even then lots of people tell us that if you keep talking to God about it, eventually, sometimes after a very long time, it helps. No one can say exactly how or why. But it helps. So, today I’m telling you, when you are really, really angry and hurt and sad, tell God all about it.
Introduce the angriest, meanest, maddest verse in the Bible – Psalm 137:8b-9. Explain that invaders had conquered the psalmist’s city, burned all the buildings in it, killed most of the people, and taken the rest (including the poet) back to their country as prisoners. Note that the psalmist had every right to be very angry and sad. Then read the verses. React with your face and voice to show how offensive this wish is. State that it is rather surprising it is in the Bible. Then, with a change of face and tone, note that you are actually rather glad this verse is there because it reminds us of something that we don’t like to talk about. That something is that when we are mad and feel mean, no matter how bad it gets, we can tell God all about it. God can take it. God can even help us deal with it.
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Tell the back story about Timothy with the focus on his faith family. Timothy’s mother and grandmother told him stories and led him to the Christian community. There he met Paul who claims to love him like a son and who ordained him to be a minister. Identify some of the people in your faith family and encourage worshipers of all ages to identify the members of their faith families. This is great chance to explore the importance families and friends have in shaping each other’s faith. Encourage households to continue this discussion at home.
Explore Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to have more self-discipline. Children long to be more and more “my own boss.” Usually they mean that they want to be able to do what they want to do. For Paul however, being your own boss means being able to control your actions and emotions, being able to not go along with the crowd, and being able to keep your own rules. Paul encourages Timothy to have more self-discipline, he says that Timothy knows what he believes about God and Jesus and he knows what rules he wants to live by. What he needs to work on is not letting other people lead him astray. He, not other people, is to be his own boss. He is to discipline himself.
Luke 17: 5-10
The apparent starting place here is the mustard seed and the message that you can do big things if you have only a little faith. Unfortunately, the verse is linked to either verses 1-5 about the challenge of forgiving or verses 7-10 with deal with accepting your role as a slave. There are much easier texts with which to explore forgiveness with children (and these verses are not the text of the day anyway). And, to understand verses 7-10 one must explore the intricacies of slavery as practiced in the first century, deduce from that the point that Jesus was making, and then apply that point to the life of children today. Way too big a task for the children! So, work this text with the adults.