Talk about over load! This Sunday is 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (featuring the child friendly Zacchaeus story)-and All Hallows Eve. Tomorrow is All Saints Day which has the appeal of celebrating Christian heroes and heroines. Today is also Reformation Sunday (in the year of John Calvin’s 500th birthday) and it is of course Stewardship Season in many congregations. There are all sorts of connections for children.
Halloween is the biggest thing on their agenda today. The Habakkuk and Psalm 119 texts provide an opportunity to explore how we face our fears trusting God.
If you celebrate Reformation Sunday, talk about what a church is.
And, children love hearing the familiar story of Zacchaeus read and discussed in the sanctuary. Hearing it there teaches them that this is not just a children’s Sunday School story, it is a story that is important to the whole church.
Because children are into facing fears on Halloween and the current political campaigns are playing heavily on adult fears, I’m going to work with the texts for this day connecting to Halloween. Please, use the comments section to share what you are doing and suggest other possibilities.
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
God will have the final word about all the evil and violence in the world
Habakkuk complains about the violence and injustice that are causing so much pain in the world. He speaks in generalities about what everyone fears and then delivers God’s promise that the violence and evil will not be the final word. On Halloween we practice facing up to our fears. We tell scary stories, walk through haunted houses, and dress up as monsters. Children’s Halloween picture books range from tales in which heroes rise above their fears and in the process prove the scary thing or place is not so scary after all to tales in which monsters are shown to be just like us. (There is even a take-off on Good Night Moon called Good Night Goon in which a young monster says goodnight to all the scary-to-us stuff that is part of his everyday life and a similar take off on Runaway Bunny called Runaway Mummy.)
Suggest that everyone in the congregation hold hands because you are going to talk about scary things. Then start with Halloween-y things and progress to the violent scary parts of everyday life for people of all ages. Read Habakkuk 2:2-4 again, explaining some of its meaning related to the fears you have named. Shake hands loose or clap hands to celebrate not having to be afraid because God is with us and will not all the bad things have the last word.
Have this scripture read by two readers: one reading Habakkuk’s story in 1:1-4 and 2:1-2a and the other reading God’s message in 2:2b-4.
Display a large poster or some other item with an Alpha and Omega on it (maybe a stole or parament). Explain its meaning and connect it with Habakkuk’s message. Just as God was in charge at the beginning, God will be in charge at the end, so we don’t have to worry. We can trust God.
The best Halloween hymn is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” It was written by Martin Luther while he was hiding in castle from people who wanted to kill him. Tell this brief story of its writing before singing it and encourage worshipers to watch for fear and trust words.
An Alphabet Poem about God’s Word
Psalm 119 is an acrostic, that is an alphabet poem. Each line in each section starts with a word beginning with the same letter. The lines in this section start with the Hebrew letter zade/tsade (צַ). If possible show a Hebrew Bible opened to this psalm or print this passage in Hebrew in your worship bulletin and help people recognize the repeated letter.
When reading the psalm, have the congregation say the Hebrew letter zade before each line is read.
Each line says something about the value of God’s Word. Hebrew poets rhyme ideas rather than sounds. So, they say the same thing over and over again in slightly different ways. For example,
It is a beautiful day.
The sun is bright and there is not a cloud in the sky.
It is wonderfully warm and there is a pleasant breeze.
I wish every day were just like this one.
Then, read one or two of the lines about God’s Word to show their similarity.
Challenge children (and others) to write an alphabet psalm praising God on Halloween or other days when we are afraid. Below is an activity sheet for doing this using words that begin with the letter H in honor of Halloween. (I hope someone can find better fear art to go with this!)
Write a psalm prayer about fear.
Try some of Make each line begin with H in honor
these words of Halloween.
these words of Halloween.
Psalm 32:1-7 SIN TRANSGRESSION INIQUITY DECEIT GUILT
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12