Thursday, October 7, 2010

Year C - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 17, 2010)

Jeremiah 31: 27-34, Psalm 119:97-104 or Psalm 19 (alternate Methodist text), and 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
The importance of God’s Word, the Bible

The key verse of the Jeremiah text for children is verse 33.  The day will come when God’s word will not be on stone tablets or in books, but written into our very hearts.   A few children will have experience with learning something by heart, i.e. memorizing it.  Timothy is instructed to be a faithful student and teacher of the Word.  Under that is the belief that to be a strong, true church a congregation must be made up of people who know their Bible well.  Both psalms celebrate the scripture.  For the sake of the children, I’d choose Psalm 19 and maybe even omit verses 1-6.  Explore the importance of scripture using some of the following:

-    Show a Bible that you have all but used to death.  Tell how you got it into this state and note that most of what has made this book so ragged is now so much a part of you that if the book fell apart completely, you’d still have most of it inside you.  Encourage others to use a Bible to pieces.

-     If there is a large Bible displayed and read from in the sanctuary that has a history, tell that story and bring it to where worshipers of all ages can see it during or after the service.

-     Identify all the places the Bible is used in worship.  You might even mark each Bible based part of worship in the bulletin with a small clip art Bible.

-     Encourage family Bible story reading.  Ask how many families read a story each night at bedtime.  Suggest that they start reading two stories, one of the usual ones and one Bible story.  Tell parents that they can usually trust their instincts selecting a Bible Storybook.  Those with sweet cartoony illustrations will likely tell sweet stories.  Those with violent action in most pictures will lean that way in story selection.  More damage is done by waiting to find the right Bible storybook than by starting in with one that you later abandon.  Getting started is what is important.  Two Bible story books that I often suggest to families are:
The Family Story Bible, by Ralph Melton
The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories, by Mary Batchelor

-     Pray for all the study groups and church school classes for students of all ages in your congregation.  Do so in a way that obviously includes children’s and youth classes.

-     Offer a charge and benediction something like this:

Raise a Bible above your head say,
Go home, find your copy of God’s word.  If you don’t have one, buy one.
Open it in front of you
Read it.  Think about it.  Talk about it.
Hug it to your chest.
Let it be written on your heart.  Let the story in it become your story.  Let it become your guide for living every day.   
Raising your other hand in blessing
And as you read, may God be with you and speak to you and call you.  May God’s Spirit work through these words to direct you, empower you, even comfort you.  And, may the peace of God be with you always.

Jeremiah 29:33
’s “God’s word written on our hearts” will need to be explained to literal thinking children.  They quickly understand that having a Bible isn’t worth much.  It is only when you read it and use it that it becomes yours.

Psalm 119 and Psalm 19 compare scripture to the sweetness of honey.  So, before reading one of these psalms or before a sermon about Scripture, give everyone a honey flavored hard candy to enjoy and as a reminder of the sweetness of God's word.

Psalm 19 ends with “Let the words of my mouth…”  If you regularly use this prayer in worship, point it out in the psalm and briefly explain what it means to pray that prayer in the spot you pray it in worship.

Genesis 32:22-31 and Luke 18:1-8
God’s wrestlers

Wrestling with God is an intriguing idea to most children, especially most boys.  The story of Jacob wrestling with God all night not only gives them permission, it invites them to ask their toughest questions, argue with God about what seems “not right,” even fight back.  The idea that we can expect to wrestle with God and God’s direction all through our lives is probably new to most children.  Details in the story that are important to children are:
-     Jacob was strong enough and determined enough to wrestle all night long.  It would be great to be that strong.
-     At the end of the night God gave Jacob a name that praised him for struggling with God and being able to keep up the fight until dawn.  That means wrestling with God is OK.
-     Jacob is left with a limp for the rest of his life.  That demonstrates that struggling with God can be hard on you – but it is worth it.

Jacob wrestled with God all night.  The widow struggled with the unjust judge until he gave her justice.  Both had to stick with it in a long struggle.  Every kid who has asked repeatedly for something and been told “That is enough!” is drawn to Jesus using the woman who pestered the judge until he did what he did not want to do just to get rid of her.  Jesus’ message is that there are times when being a pest is exactly what is needed.  This is an opportunity to tell stories about the church being a pest working in the community on behalf of those whose needs are being overlooked by people in power. 

Outline all the wrestling that goes on in the process of a church mission project – maybe a Hunger Walk, a Habitat House, or a mission trip.  Point out the decisions that have to be wrestled with to get started, the problems that have to be resolved in planning, the strength required to carry it out, and the wrestling with what it might lead to next.  Note the many kinds of strength that are needed.  (It would be possible to link to the Bible theme here by exploring the importance of knowing our Bibles in these struggles.)

If it is Stewardship season, explore the way many of us wrestle with our money by reading all or part of Alexander Who Used to Be Rick Last Sunday, by Judith Viorst.  (Yes, this is the same Alexander of the Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.)  The book describes all the foolish ways Alexander spent the dollar his grandparents brought him until he was left again with no money, only two bus tokens.  He struggles over every purchase.  Reading the whole book takes about seven minutes.  Since it gets repetitive, reading the first several pages would get everyone “into” the subject.  Reading it as part of the sermon teaches children that money is one of the things people struggle with at all ages.

1 comment:

  1. Carolyn - thank you for your faithful work on this blog; I find it EXTREMELY helpful as I prepare worship!


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