Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Year A - Proper 13, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 31, 2011)

Genesis 32:22-31

F Most children, especially most boys, are delighted by this story in which God appears as a wrestler.  The idea that God is willing to get down and tussle with Jacob is appealing.  The fact that the fight was a friendly one rather than a vicious one leads them to think God was on Jacob’s side (and our side) all along.  They are also pleased that God is strong enough and gentle enough to leave Jacob lame (with a reminder of God’s strength), but not horribly damaged.  They however will not tumble to all this simply hearing the text read, it will have to be pointed out to them and savored with them.  (If you have a teenage wrestler in the congregation, ask him to read this story after noting the that this text is appropriately read by a wrestler.)

F In the aftermath of all the Harry Potter mania, point young worshipers to The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis by comparing Aslan the Lion who represents Jesus in these books to God wrestling with Jacob.  In The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe  (the first book in the series) Susan and Lucy ask Mr. and Mrs. Beaver to describe Aslan. They ask if Aslan is a man. Mr. Beaver replies.

"Aslan a man?  Certainly not.  I tell you he is the King of the Wood and the son of the great Emperor Beyond the Sea.  Don't you know who is the King of the Beasts?  Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion."

"Ooh!" said Susan.  "I thought he was a man.  Is he -- quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."

"That you will, dearie, and make no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.

"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver.  "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about being safe?  'Course he isn't safe.  But he's good.  He's the King, I tell you."

F Celebrate God’s power by singing “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.”  Before singing point out a few of the examples of God’s power and encourage worshipers to listen for others as they sing.

Psalm 17:1-7

The images in this psalm will go right past children.  Let them.  The psalm will mean more to them later in life.

Isaiah 55:1-5

F Bring a piece of “how could I ever have gone out in public in this” clothing and if possible a picture of yourself wearing it, back when it was high style.  (If you were in college in the 60’s as I was, there are probably several excellent candidates for this deep in your closet.  I wore the one in the picture with bright yellow tights!  It is now part of a clown costume.)  Recall how important it was to you to have that item then and how ridiculous it seems now.  Then reread verse   2. 

“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy? “

Put it into your own words discussing our tendency to go after things we think we have to have, things that we think will make us happy, things that years , or even days, later look so very foolish.

F Create a responsive prayer about the things we want that “do not satisfy” using “Give us this day our daily bread” as the congregation’s response.

Leader: God help us recognize the difference between what we want
              and what we really need.
All:         Give us this day our daily bread.

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

Use the adapted version of this psalm (from TEV) as a responsive reading with the congregation reading THE LORD in each verse and the liturgist or choir reading the remainder of each verse.  (And, yes, there are lots of male pronouns referring to God in this psalm.  I tried to make it more inclusive, but failed.  If someone else creates or knows of a better one, please share.)

8     The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9     The Lord is good to all,
and God’s compassion is over all he has made.
14     The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15     The eyes of all look to The Lord,
and The Lord gives them their food in due season.
16     The Lord opens his hand,
satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17     The Lord is just in all his ways,
and kind in all his doings.
18     The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19     The Lord He fulfills the desire of all who fear him;
he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20     The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21     My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.

Romans 9:1-5 

F Paul’s concern for the Jews is better taken up with children in other places and in other ways than these verses.  

F The Roman Catholic lectionary suggests Romans 8: 35,37-39 - last week’s list of all the things that cannot come between us and God’s powerful love for this week.  It could be an interesting match with God the wrestler in the Genesis story.

Matthew 14:13-21

JESUS MAFA. Jesus multiplies the loaves and fish,
from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of
the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
[retrieved June 21, 2011].
F The story of the loaves and fishes meal appears in all four gospels.  In only John’s is the food offered by a child.  Still, most people will add the child as they hear the other three accounts read.  So, ask an older child to read this text in worship.

F Consider creating the whole sermon around imaging yourselves as different people in this story.  Ponder what they might have been thinking, feeling, and learning as the meal came together. Children may lose you when you explore a more adult possibility for a character, but will be drawn back in when you move to the next character/s.  For starters…

* Wanting a little quiet to mourn John the Baptist’s death, he is confronted by a large crowd who want his attention.  What was he thinking and feeling as he responded to their needs instead of his own. 
* Some see this as a turning point.  Jesus has been letting the disciples witness him in action.  Learning of John’s murder makes him realize more fully what is ahead for him and leads him to begin preparing his disciples for leadership.  How does that influence his relationships with his disciples?

The disciples
* How did they feel when Jesus told them to feed the crowd?
* What did they think when they realized that there was going to be enough? 
* What do you think they did with the leftover food? 
* How did this event change them?

The crowd
* How did it feel to be offered free food with no questions asked in a remote place in a time when food was not abundant?
* In that day who you ate with was important.  Jesus often got in trouble over the people with whom he ate.  How did it feel to sit down with huge numbers of strangers to share food?

* What do we in OUR TOWN at OUR CHURCH like about this story?
* With which character/s do we most identify?
* What does this story suggest we need to work on a bit more?
F This story will lead many to speak about scarcity thinking in today’s world.  Children engage in scarcity thinking when they ask,
Ø  Will I get my fair share of the fries, the goldfish, the candies….?
Ø  When is MY turn?  And, will my turn be as long as theirs?
Ø  Do they (especially parents, but also other loved adults and peers) love me as much as they love them?  (If there is a finite amount of love, I want to be sure to get some of it.)

F Tie this story to a summer food drive.  Most emergency food banks need food during the summer months when there are fewer food drives, but people still need to eat.  So, after reading and exploring the story, give worshipers a shopping list (most food banks provide one) or a paper plate to remind them to bring food the following Sunday or during the week.  Encourage families to shop for the list together.    This could be launched during the sermon.  Or, the lists or plates could be handed out just before the benediction with Jesus' charge to the disciples “YOU give them something to eat” and followed with a benediction sending them out to do this in God’s presence.

F Do a little worship education about the phrases “Give us this day our daily bread” from the Lord’s prayer.  Point out that the pronouns are plural.  We can’t pray just for our own needs.  Identify things in addition to food that are physical needs for all people.  Then, pray a responsive prayer of intercession for the hungry of the world.  The congregation’s response to each petition is “Give us this day our daily bread.” 

This could be addressed to the whole congregation just before the prayer or it could be the a children’s time just before and during this prayer of intercession.

F Discuss the practice of saying a blessing or grace before meals.  Offer samples.  If you sense that many in the congregation have let this practice go, challenge individuals and households to try it at least one meal each day this week.  Suggest that they agree on a meal and the prayer they will say in the car on the way home from church.  Call it worship homework.



  1. Hi Carolyn- thanks for all of your creative ways to engage children. Perhaps the version of Psalm 145 in the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship is on the right track because it addresses God in the second person rather than the third thus avoiding the male pronouns.

    8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, * slow to anger and of great kindness.
    9 O LORD, you are loving to everyone, * and your compassion is over all your works. R

    14 The LORD upholds all those who fall * and lifts up those who are bowed down.
    15 The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD, * and you give them their food in due season.
    16 You open wide your hand * and satisfy the needs of every living creature. R
    17 O LORD, you are righteous in all your ways * and loving in all your works.
    18 O LORD, you are near to those who call upon you, * to all who call upon you faithfully.
    19 You fulfill the desire of those who fear you; * you hear their cry and help them.
    20 O LORD, you preserve all those who love you, * but you destroy all the wicked.
    21 My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD; * let all flesh bless your holy name forever and ever.

  2. Thank you, luseana! Not only a good solution for this psalm today, but also a good resource to check out in the future. It is in a collection of all the psalms meant to be used in corporate worship. I, a Presbyterian, did not even realize it was there - duh. So double thanks.

    Carolyn, who at the moment can't make the comments show may name. Computers!!!!


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