Monday, August 29, 2011

Year A - Proper 20, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 18, 2011)

Exodus 16:2-15

X To make this story easier for children to follow I would omit verses 6-8.  They are basically repeated in a slightly different form in verses 9-12.

OK, it is not bread but rice.  For some
 reason in looked more like manna than
 the plastic slice of loaf bread did.
X Before reading the story show worshipers the piece of plastic fried chicken and slice of plastic bread   (To secure these, formally borrow them from the children in a kindergarten class telling them how you will use them.  If the church does not have plastic food, many preschoolers have it at home.  Ask around to get a loan for worship.  The involved preschoolers will feel instantly more connected to worship.)  Tell worshipers that this is a story about food and encourage them to listen for what the people ate.  After the reading or after a sermon exploring the story, place the chicken and bread where they belong in the Moses display.

X If you are going to explore the lack of trust of the people and their whining, set the stage for the story by recalling in detail God’s deliverance and nurture something like…

When the people were made slaves by Pharaoh and cried out to God to save them, God sent them Moses to lead them out of slavery.
When Pharaoh refused to let them go, God sent plagues to help him change his mind.
When Pharaoh did not let the people go in response to the frogs, the gnats, the darkness, the cattle diseases, or the itchy sores, God staged the Passover and Moses led the people out of slavery.
When Pharaoh came after them with his whole army, God opened the sea for them to cross safely to the other side, away from Pharaoh forever.
You’d think after all this they would understand, but after they had been walking across the desert for a while, listen to what happened.

All this detail helps the children remember the stories you have been telling and prepares them to hear today’s story in context.

MY GOODNESS!  We have a series going and I didn’t realize it until now.  Almost every Sunday in September and early October has a Lord’s Prayer connection.  So, I have doubled back to add one connection I had missed on September 4 and highlight the one I had in place on September 11.  The one for August 28 will have to wait until the next trip through the lectionary.  Below is today’s connection.  Watch for more in the weeks ahead.

X Before or just after praying the Lord’s Prayer, direct worshipers to the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Note that it says give US OUR bread rather than give ME MY bread.  Jesus insists that we pray for everyone.  Using a globe or map point out places where food is a problem.  Recall some of the food ministries in which your congregation participates.  And, pray for all of these.  The prayers may be voiced by one person after exploring all the food spots or the process could become a responsive prayer of petitions like the following.

g g g g g g g g g g g g

God, in East Africa your people feel just like the slaves in the wilderness.  They are walking miles and miles across the wilderness searching for food.  Animals and armed gangs chase them.  Be with your people, God.  Keep them safe and guide them to food.

Give us this day our daily bread.

There are people working hard to get food to your hungry people.  They gather food from all over the world and risk great danger to get it to the people who need it.  Protect them.  Keep them safe and help them get the food to those who need it.

Give us this day our daily bread.

God of the harvest, bring rain and sunshine to crops growing in the fields all around your world.  Give us good harvests so that people may have food to eat.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Loving God, teach us to share.  So often there is enough food for everyone.  We simply need to share it.  Give us generous hearts and hands so that we may all eat.

Give us this day our daily bread.

g g g g g g g g g g g g

Psalm 105:1-6,37-45

Do not use this psalm in worship until the Exodus text has been read and explored.  Before reading it, tell worshipers that this psalm was written remembering how God led them out of Egypt and fed them in the wilderness.  Urge young worshipers to listen for words like Egypt, food and quail.

Jonah 3:10-4:11

X FYI: Jonah shows up in the lectionary only here and on the third Sunday of Epiphany in Year B (January 22, 2012).  The Epiphany reading tells only that God sent Jonah to Nineveh the second time and that Nineveh repented.  Today’s reading adds Jonah’s preaching in Nineveh and the story of the vine.  Neither tells about the whale.  I would be tempted to build worship around the whole story on one of these Sundays. 

Either take time to read the whole book (it is very short) dramatically with worshipers following along in pew Bibles.  The whole congregation could read the psalm in chapter 2 in unison.

Or read the whole story of Jonah with three readers using Jonah and the Whale, by Jean Marzollo.  Secure and rehearse two readers – God and Jonah.  God reads all the yellow statements by God, Jonah reads his lines which are printed around his pictures.  You read the narrator’s text.  For ease, omit the statement by the Ninevites and all the fish in the whale’s belly.  Also omit the last page of the book on which Marzolla goes beyond the biblical story claiming that Jonah did forgive the Ninevites.  If sound allows, have God stand behind the central table, Jonah sit or stand on the steps off to the side, and the narrator read from the lectern.  Each one reads from his/her copy of the book.

from The Family Story Bible,
by Ralph Milton
For a one-reader telling of the whole story try, “The Funny Story of Jonah” on pages 152-154 in The Family Story Bible, by Ralph Milton.  (Reading time: just under 5 minutes)

X Before reading the story in any form point to Nineveh on a map and explain why Jonah hated the Ninevites.

X To respond to the story of Jonah, brainstorm a list of enemies.  Mention Al-Qaeda and other national enemies aloud.  Invite worshipers to silently list their own “least favorite people.”  Then lead in prayer for the welfare of those people.

X If you are exploring the grace theme (see Matthew parable), point out that Jonah was glad when God gave him grace.  He knew he did not deserve to be saved after running away from God and it was OK with him if God made a plant grow over him for shade.  What was not OK with him was God giving grace to people he  Jonah did not like.  He did not want to get what he deserved, but he wanted his enemies to get what they deserved.  Children can see the problem with that – even though they understand Jonah’s angry wish.

Psalm 145:1-8

This psalm praising God begs for dramatic reading that includes the congregation.  It is an acrostic, an alphabet poem.  Each line begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  That means the verses are independent praises.  So,

Arrange the psalm for responsive reading between congregation and leader or choir or between two sides of the congregation.

Or to enjoy the acrostic nature of the psalm invite the children forward.  Teach them the Hebrew letters in today’s psalm then with them say the appropriate letter as the congregation reads each line of the psalm.  To streamline this, work with one class of children in advance then invite them to lead the psalm with you.

& & & & & & & & & & &

PSALM 145:1-8

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.

Every day I will bless you,
and praise your name forever and ever.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.

On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
and I will declare your greatness.

They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

                                                         New Revised Standard Version

& & & & & & & & & & &

Philippians 1:21-30

On a Sunday with three strong stories, it is hard to get excited about unpacking this text for children.  It requires lots of explaining to get to a message that does not have a strong connection to their lives.

Verse 27 may be effectively used as a charge to the congregation just before the benediction.  Preface it with “As Paul wrote the Christians in Philippi, I charge you….”

Matthew 20:1-16

X Read this parable from a translation that uses current times (noon and three o’clock) rather than the old hours of the day (fifth and ninth hour).  NRSV and TEV are two such translations.

X Dramatize the reading of this parable.  Before worship find and prepare the landowner.  During worship ask for volunteers (maybe all children or worshipers of many ages) to help you show Jesus’ parable to the congregation.  You need a minimum of five volunteers and more is much better.  When they arrive at the front, tell them that they are to be grape pickers in this parable.  Show them how to pick grapes off a vine at shoulder level then stoop to put them in a basket at their feet.  Repeat the motion with them several times.  Tell them that once they are hired to work at the vineyard, they must keep repeating the motion until the end of the work day.  Then, divide them into five groups standing a little apart from each other.  Introduce the landowner and point out where the vineyard is.  Finally, go to the Bible to read the parable.  As the story unfolds the landowner moves more and more workers to picking grapes in a row across the front of the sanctuary in the order in which he hired them.  When the time to pay the workers comes, the landowner hands each worker a large coin (maybe a Mardi Gras coin, a play money coin, or even a cardboard disk painted gold) starting with last to be hired. 

This could be the reading of the gospel for the day.  In that case at the end of the reading call for the usual congregational response to the reading of the gospel, thank the volunteers for their help and send them back to their seats.

Or, you could move into the sermon, stepping into the last scene to ask workers hired at different times how they felt about their day’s work and pay.  Only then send them back to their seats and proceed with your comments.

X “It’s not fair!” is the frequent impassioned cry of 7-9 year olds.  They watch what everyone around them is doing and getting and insist that they get their fair share of the fries, the privileges, and all the other goodies.  They totally understand the complaint of the first hired workers.  One of their other passions – rules – helps them understand Jesus’ point.  Walk them through the agreement each group of workers made when they were hired and what they were paid, then to ask “was that fair.”  Some will suggest that had they known what the others would be paid for less work, the first hired workers would not have agreed.  Simply insist that the first hired did not know that and still made the agreement they did.  Because the landowner followed the rules, the children will grudgingly admit that it was fair.  Having admitted that, they can explore the landowner’s claim that he did not mistreat the first hired.  Instead, he was generous to the last hired. 

X Sometimes it is better to be loving than to be fair.  Giving little kids extra strikes or letting them stand closer to the pitcher in family ball games is not fair to the older players, but it is loving.  Doing a sibling’s chores while they are sick, is not fair, but it is loving.  Giving up what you want to do on a Saturday afternoon to take care of a younger sibling is not fair, but it is loving.  And, paying the workers who only worked one hour the same amount you paid the workers who worked all day, is not fair, but it is loving. 

             GRACIOUS     GRACE     GRACEFUL

X If you use the word GRACE frequently in today’s worship, take time to introduce it.  Display a big poster with GRACE and possibly GRACIOUS printed in large letters on it.  Point out some of the very different meanings of the word –
-         Grace is a girl’s name (ask if there is anyone named Grace in the congregation)
-         When a person can move beautifully (dancing, athletics) we say they have grace or are graceful
-         The prayer we say before eating is called a grace
-         Giving someone something they do not deserve
- a grace period to turn in homework you did not finish
- the landowner paying the last hired workers a whole day’s wage
- God forgiving us even when we don’t deserve us
Present the poster and introduce the word GRACE at the beginning of the service encouraging worshipers to listen for the word in your worship today.  Refer to it when appropriate during the service.

X Before singing “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy” read through the words connecting it to God’s love seen in this parable and in the Jonah story.  Worshipers of all ages will then pay more attention to the words as they sing them.


  1. Carolyn, thank you so much for this great blog! I am thinking of preaching on Holy Communion this week (we only have it twice a month at my church, so I talk about it whenever I can), but I also love the Lord's Prayer connection. Luckily, it's only Tuesday . . .

  2. This is a wonderful resource! Thank you so much for you time and dedication to helping the children of the congregation learn!


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