This is a good week to peak ahead as you plan. This week features the stories of Samuel’s call and Nathanael’s call. Next week features the after-the-fish part of the Jonah story in which Jonah preaches to the Ninevites and they repent and Mark’s account of Jesus’ calling the fishermen (another unlikely choice) to follow him. All these call stories are similar AND different. Planning is required to avoid using up all your good points this week.
I Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
This is one of the few stories in the Bible about children. So, involve the children in reading it during worship.
|He is not reading scripture, |
but can't yo see this boy reading
the whole story or just the part of Samuel!
F At the very least ask a 10-12 year old boy to read the story. If possible let him, like Samuel, assist in other parts of worship. He could carry in the Bible, light candles, etc.
F Have an older boy and white haired man pantomime the story as it is read. (This may be a good assignment for a grandfather – grandson duo.)
F Use the readers theater script below for a dramatic presentation of the text. Samuel could be read by a young boy and Eli by a white haired man. The Narrator might be the usual worship leader or another man in the congregation. The readers could stand in place or move around as they read following the action of the story. I included some of the movement directions, but assume readers don’t need many directions to do the back and forth between Samuel and Eli.
1 Samuel 3:1-20
Narrator: Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; (Eli takes place at one side of area) the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord (Samuel lies down in front of the central table) where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and Samuel said,
Samuel: “Here I am!” (sitting up)
Narrator: and ran to Eli,
Samuel: “Here I am, for you called me.”
Eli:“I did not call; lie down again.”
Narrator: So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli,
Samuel: “Here I am, for you called me.”
Eli: “I did not call, my son; lie down again.”
Narrator: Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli,
Samuel: “Here I am, for you called me.”
Narrator: Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel,
Eli: “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ”
Narrator: So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said,
Samuel: “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
Narrator: Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.” (Samuel lies down.)
Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. (Samuel might rise and push open imaginary doors, then move off to the side away from Eli) Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said,
Eli: “Samuel, my son.”
Samuel: “Here I am.”
Eli: “What was it that God told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.”
Narrator: So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then Eli said,
Eli: “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
Narrator: As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.
From the NRSV
In a sermon, a preacher (not one of the readers) could direct the readers in re-presenting the story, freezing them at certain points to make comments.
Samuel’s call offers several ideas to discuss with children.
F God speaks to children and asks them to share the message with others. You don’t have to wait until you grow up.
F Listening to God is not easy. Samuel needed Eli’s help to realize that God was speaking for him and to get ready to listen. (Nathanael needed Philip’s urging before he paid any attention to Jesus.) Identify people who teach us how to recognize God’s voice – teachers, special friends or relatives, camp counselors, even other kids. This may be the time to share a story of someone who suggested to you that God might be calling you to be a minister – or to be part of the church in some other way.
F Identify ways God speaks. In this story God speaks through a voice that Samuel can hear with his ears. But God speaks in other ways too. Sometimes we read something in the Bible and know it is meant for us. Sometimes when we are scared or sad, we feel God very close to us helping us be brave. Sometimes when we are outside, we see something God has made and feel God loving us. Sometimes we have a feeling deep inside that God wants us to do something to take care of another person. Identify some of those ways to suggest that God speaks to each of us through all these ways as well as to Samuel.
F We tend to stop this story before the judgmental message for Eli that God gives Samuel. But, when that message is clarified – because you sons have been bad priests and you did not stop them, no one in your family will ever be a priest again – and the morning-after story is dramatized (imagine Samuel tip-toeing around the Temple and avoiding Eli), children understand and are impressed. God has entrusted a difficult message to a kid and Eli listened to the kid with respect. (I imagine Samuel must have remembered Eli’s response to the message with awe for the rest of his life.) The story as a whole is one of the best arguments I know for intergenerational ministry in all parts of the congregation’s life.
The chorus of the hymn “Here I Am, Lord” is based on Samuel’s response to God’s call. Today introduce the hymn with a boy soloist singing the chorus before the congregation sings the entire hymn. Or, sing the hymn responsively with the choir singing the verses and the congregation singing the chorus. The latter could be a sung Affirmation of Faith.
This well known psalm is a series of short related messages. To help children understand them invite a group of children (maybe a children’s class) to read the psalm in worship. In preparing help the children put each message into their own words. In worship readers stand in a line stepping up to a microphone to read their verses if amplification is needed. There are enough verses for 11 readers. Smaller groups of readers read two or more if needed verses.
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
Reader 1: Lord, you have examined me and you know me.
You know everything I do;
from far away you understand all my thoughts.
Reader 2: You see me, whether I am working or resting;
you know all my actions.
Reader 3: Even before I speak,
you already know what I will say.
Reader 4: You are all round me on every side;
you protect me with your power.
Reader 5: Your knowledge of me is too deep;
it is beyond my understanding.
Reader 6: You created every part of me;
you put me together in my mother’s womb.
Reader 7/1: I praise you because you are to be feared;
all you do is strange and wonderful.
I know it with all my heart.
Reader 8/2: When my bones were being formed,
carefully put together in my mother’s womb,
when I was growing there in secret,
you knew that I was there-
you saw me before I was born.
Reader 9/3: The days allotted to me
had all been recorded in your book,
before any of them ever began.
Reader 10/4: O God, how difficult I find your thoughts;
how many of them there are!
Reader 11/5: If I counted them,
they would be more than the grains of sand.
When I awake, I am still with you.
Good News Bible (TEV)
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Adults and teens may want to explore Paul’s message that though all things are lawful, they may not be helpful. Children will however be more interested in what Paul has to say about care and use of our bodies. There are several points to explore.
FGod made each of our bodies. They are a gift and are good. This is an opportunity to counter cultural insistence that only certain sizes and shapes are OK. Point out all the different kinds of eyes, hair, or noses. Insist that God made and likes each one. Remember that children often begin hating their bodies at very early ages. Do be sensitive to children with birth defects that are very real problems.
F To help children understand what Paul means when he says our bodies are God’s temples, identify all the ways we use and maintain the sanctuary. Then, compare those to the ways we use and take care of our bodies. This is obvious to adults but a stretch for literal thinking children.
F If your congregation does such things, hand out children’s flyers about eating well, good health practices, avoiding drugs and alcohol, etc. The public health department can provide these. As you do, clearly connect taking good care of your body to being a good disciple or thanking God for their body.
F Anybody know any great books about bodies that could be read in worship?
After discussing care of bodies with children, anoint each forehead with oil saying, “Take care of this body which God has given you.” (This may be just for children, but I wonder if body conscious teens, stressed out middle aged adults, and older adults whose bodies are falling apart would also appreciate this anointing.)
Sing “Guide My Feet” or “Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated” with all their mention of body parts to celebrate God’s awareness of our bodies, connect to the call stories of the day, and even recall Psalm 139.
Given the more interesting story of the call of Samuel this week and the call of the fishing disciples next week, I’d tend to downplay this story with children. But, it does have several interesting possibilities to explore.
F First, Nathanael is a nobody. He appears in the Bible only in the two lists of the names of the twelve disciples. In one he is Nathanael. In the other Bartholomew. Children who feel they are often unknowns in groups (maybe especially in groups at larger churches), appreciate the fact that Jesus knew Nathanael immediately, saw value in him, and called him to be one of the twelve. Jesus paid attention to Nathanael just as God called Samuel when he was just a kid to give Eli a really difficult message.
F Second, on Martin Luther King’s birthday, it is worth noting that Nathanael had to get past his prejudice about people from Nazareth before he could follow Jesus. Nathanael couldn’t believe that anyone from Nazareth could say anything worth listening to. Only because his friend Philip insisted that Jesus was worth meeting, did he pay any attention at all to Jesus.
You might compare this to feelings about sports rivals. When my Hokie (Virginia Tech) sister-in-law told her sixth grade students that she was going to spend Thanksgiving in Charlottesville (home of UVA), they were aghast. She had to explain to them that she had family in Charlottesville. It helped that none of us are connected to UVA. (If you use a similar story, be sure to follow it by challenging worshipers to identify other more significant groups of people whom it is easy to ignore.)
Friends can help people get past their prejudices. Just as Philip insisted that Nathanael meet Jesus, friends can insist that others step past their prejudices to meet others. (There has got to be a good children’s story in which a child resolves a prejudice situation, but I can’t think of one. Anyone know one? )
F Taking a slightly different tack, friends can also help friends know God better. Eli taught Samuel what to say when God called. Samuel told Eli what God had told him, even though he knew Eli would not like it. Philip got Nathanael to listen to Jesus even though Nathanael did not believe anyone from Nazareth would have anything important to say. So, name some ways people help each other get to know God in your congregation. Also point out the possibility that each person has the potential to be such a friend to others.