Friday, December 30, 2011

Look! I'm on Facebook - I think

In response to several suggestions, I am going into the new year with a Facebook page.  I hope...   I hope a lot of things.  At the moment after spending most of the last two days getting "on," I hope it works.  If any of you more Facebook proficient folks see things that need fixing, I'd love to hear from you.  We dinosaurs need all the help we can get!

And, whether on Facebook or off,

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Year B - 5th Sunday After Epiphany, 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 5, 2012

Isaiah 40:21-31

For the sake of the children read this from the Contemporary English Version (CEV) or Today’s English Version (The Good News Bible or TEV) rather than the NRSV.  The simpler language of the first two is easier for children to follow.

To explore God with us even when it doesn’t feel that way, read only verses 27-31.  Before reading it, brainstorm a list of “what’s wrong in my world” – sort of the opposite of counting your blessings.  You might provide the list encouraging worshipers of all ages to make silent additions (be sure to add children’s woes such as miserable teachers, siblings who make you life difficult, etc.)   In a more informal setting you might invite worshipers to call out additions to the list.  To avoid cutsey pitfalls, do not do this with just the children on the steps.  Next briefly list the woes of the Jews in Exile.  Only then, read or have the congregation read Isaiah 40:27-31 with you.

If you read the entire passage, start by making a list of the most powerful groups and people in the world.  Then, read the passage urging worshipers to listen for who Isaiah said was most powerful and how that One compares to all the others on the list.

Children grasp mainly the chorus of the familiar song “On Eagle’s Wings,” by Josh Groban.  Teach it with simple motions. Then, use it as the benediction perhaps inviting all worshipers to do the motions with you as you say or the choir sings it.  (Google the title to find several YouTube videos illustrating the music.)

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
            Lift up hands then gently flap arms like wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Bring hands together in front of mouth and blow like
blowing dandelions
Make you to shine like the sun,
Hands out to the side of smiling face with fingers like 
rays of the sun
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.
Hold hands out palms up rubbing each one in turn
with the other

Psalm 147:1-11,20c

This psalm is a collection of praises of God that beg for illustration.  Ask an older children’s or youth class to read the psalm in worship.  Each reader flips up an illustration of each verse as it is read.  Either,

Ask each reader to illustrate his/her verse in bright colors or paste a magazine picture that illustrates the verse on a sheet of poster paper.  The verse can be printed on the back for the reader.

Have a set of illustration posters prepared by an older artist.  Then ask the children or youth to read the poster for each verse. 

I offer the generic script below because the language of the NRSV is too male but the more gender inclusive language of the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship is too flowery for children to understand.  (I am hard to pleaseJ.)  If you can find a translation you like for children, do share it with the rest of us!

& & & & & & & & & & & & & & &

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

All:                   Verse 1

Reader 1:        Verse 2.

Reader 2:        Verse 3

Reader 3:        Verse 4

Reader 4:        Verse 5

Reader 5:        Verse 6

Reader 6:        Verse 7 – Instead of illustrating this one, provide a 
                                         tambourine or rattle to shake as the 
                                         verse is read

Reader 7:        Verse 8

Reader 8:        Verse 9

Reader 9:        Verse 10-11

All:                   Verse 20c

& & & & & & & & & & & & & & &

“All Creatures of Our God and King” is a good parallel hymn because it names so many of the creatures God made and because it includes lots of “Alleluias.”  If you generally “bury the alleluia” for Lent, point out that in three weeks there will be no more Alleluias until Easter and encourage worshipers of all ages to sing every one of them in this hymn. 

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Children will not get Paul’s point about being all things to all people as this text is read.  They more easily grasp it in current examples such as

Ø  girls and women who usually go hatless covering their heads when they visit Arab countries,

Ø  people who usually wear their shoes in the house taking them off at the door when visiting an Asian home where that is the practice, or

Ø  refugee sponsors bravely eating barbecued goat offered by the refugee family they support.

Do however take time to point out the subtle but important difference between this and going along with whatever the crowd is doing.

Mark 1:29-39

There are three separate stories in these 10 verses.  To make sure children hear each of them, have each one read by a different reader.  The first is best read by on older woman.

Verses 29-31   Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law
Verses 32-34   The whole town brings the sick to Jesus
Verses 35-39   Jesus goes off to pray, then insists on moving on

There are lots of hands in action in this passage.  Jesus reaches out his hand to heal Peter’s mother-in-law.  She reaches out her hand to Jesus to get his help and then uses her hands to feed Jesus and the disciples and to welcome her neighbors who are bringing the sick to her door for Jesus to heal them by laying his hands on them.  Jesus folds his hands in prayer, and finally (with his hands I imagine) points to the next village where he is going.  Before reading the text have everyone look at their hands.  List together some of the things you can do with your hands (hit, pat, hug, hold hands, dribble a ball, etc).  Then, encourage people to listen for the hands in this story.

Invite worshipers to pray with their hands making the obvious motions as the leader prays the following prayers of confession and intercession.  It helps if the leader also makes the hand motions in a very easy to see manner.

I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I 
God you created our hands beautiful and capable but…

Too often we use them to grab what we want

We ball them up into fists to hit.

We use them to hug only ourselves.

We hide them behind our backs pretending there is nothing we could do to help when we know there is.

So, we turn our hands up to you asking for forgiveness.  Forgive all the bad we have done with our hands.  Wash our hands and make them clean.  Lead us to use our hands well.

Teach us to open our hands to share with others.

Give us the power to shake hands with our neighbors.

Show us how to join hands with our neighbors to build your kingdom of love.

We pray in Jesus’ name and remembering his loving hands.


I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I 

All this talk of hands may lead to singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” or “Jesus Hands Were Kind Hands.”

When Peter’s mother-in-law was healed she immediately went to work welcoming others in need of healing to her home.  A comparison children understand is people who are cured of a disease then work hard to raise money so that others can be cured.  Cite all the walks for different diseases.

If you focus on the healing story, tell about some of your congregation’s healing ministries and show pictures of these healers in action today.  Then, pray for them together.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Year B – 4th Sunday After Epiphany, the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 29, 2012)


The first question to this text is “what is a prophet?”  The adults who think they know will benefit from listening in as you tell the children what a prophet is.  First,help the older children differentiate between a prophet and a profit.  Then introduce a prophet as someone who speaks for God, someone who tells others God’s message.  A prophet does not predict the future so much as tell the truth about the present from God’s point of view.  The child who stands up to friends saying “that is not right,”  “someone is going to get hurt,” or “we’ll get in trouble” is a prophet.  So, it is possible to encourage children to both listen for prophets and to be prophets for God.

If you used a crèche figure to represent John the Baptist during Advent, display it again.  Recall people asking John the Baptist if he was a prophet.  Explain that what people wanted to know is whether John spoke for God.  Note that when Jesus taught in the synagogue, everyone was very impressed, but wanted to know if Jesus spoke for God.  Both John and Jesus did.

Have worshippers of all ages turn to the table of contents in their pew Bibles.  Point out the prophetic books of the Old Testament.  Explain that each has the name of the prophet who wrote it.  For fun, try reading all the names together.  Note that these are not the only books in the Bible about people who speak for God.  Prophet’s stories are everywhere.  The four gospels at the beginning of the New Testament are about Jesus, who spoke and lived God’s message.

After exploring what a prophet is and does, read Deuteronomy 18:18 and wonder aloud if God is raising up prophets among them.

Psalm 111

The structure of this psalm of praise suggests two different readings.  First, one can highlight the fact that it is an alphabet poem by providing 22 children (or worshipers of all ages or choir members) with cards bearing the Hebrew letter and English alliteration that goes with each phrase.  Each one is read aloud before the congregation reads the corresponding phrase.  Readers could stand at the front and flip their card up so the congregation can see it as they read it.  Verse 1 is read in unison to get the praises started.

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

Psalm 111

I give thanks to Yahweh with all my heart,
in the meeting–place of honest people, in the assembly.
2Great are the deeds of Yahweh,
to be pondered by all who delight in them.
3Full of splendour and majesty his work,
his saving justice stands firm for ever.
4He gives us a memorial of his great deeds;
Yahweh is mercy and tenderness.
5He gives food to those who fear him,
he keeps his covenant ever in mind.
6His works show his people his power
in giving them the birthright of the nations.
7The works of his hands are fidelity and justice,
all his precepts are trustworthy,
8established for ever and ever,
accomplished in fidelity and honesty.
9Deliverance he sends to his people,
his covenant he imposes for ever;
holy and awesome his name.
10The root of wisdom is fear of Yahweh;
those who attain it are wise.
His praise will continue for ever.

                                           From the New Jerusalem Bible

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia! 

Since emphasizing the letters at the beginning of each phrase breaks up the praise thoughts, it is also possible to have a group of worshipers (maybe a children’s class) read the psalm with one person reading each verse.  Before they read, point out to the congregation that this psalm is a collection of praises about God.

Invite children to create their own praise of God by filling in the spaces on a Praise Sheet with either words about or pictures of their reasons  for praising God.  I would fill one section of mine with snowflakes because it so amazing that God makes no two snowflakes alike.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

The problem the Corinthians faced, whether to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols, makes no sense to children.  The underlying message about acting in ways that take care of the weaker or younger makes sense when presented with plenty of current examples such as
-          giving extra strikes to younger ball players,
-          going to bed earlier than you need to so younger siblings who do need the sleep will go to bed, 
-    sitting at a children’s table when you could act right sitting at the grown table, and so forth.

Mark 1:21-28

On the simplest level this passage introduces what Jesus is going to do.  He is going to teach and heal.  You might point out to children some of the things Jesus taught (golden rule) and some of the people he healed (the blind, the lepers, etc.) and encourage children to watch for things Jesus did and people he healed as you continue reading Mark this year.

If this passage leads you to speak of Jesus’ power and authority, remember that while the word authority may be beyond them, children are intensely interested in power.  They want to know who has it and how they use it.  Mark insists that Jesus has great power.  He has powerful understanding of what God means for people to be and he can share that understanding in ways that make people want to be more like God wants them to be.  That’s powerful!  Jesus also has the power to heal people from diseases and he uses that power to help people. 

Connect these stories to thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” in the Lord’s Prayer.  Have the congregation repeat the prayer together, stopping them on the last line, repeating it, and commenting that Jesus had God’s power and authority.  No one or no thing (like the demons) are a match for Jesus.

There are two ways to explain demon possession.

One, is that it is a “used to think,” i.e. something that we once understood in a way that we have learned is wrong.  For example, people used to think the world was flat and the sun moved around it.  Today we know that the world is round and that the earth moves around the sun.  In Jesus’ day people “used to think” that what we now call mental illness was caused by invisible evil spirits that took over our bodies making us do and say things that make no sense. 

The second way is to identify demons as evil urges we all have, e.g. jealousy, greed, success, hatred.  The Eugene Peterson paraphrase, The Message, has the demons cry out, “What business do you have here with us, Jesus?   Nazarene!  I know what you’re up to!  You are the Holy One of God and you’ve come to destroy us!” and notes that as people talked after this event they said, “He shuts up defiling, demonic spirits and sends them packing!”

Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, tells of a little boy who acts up, is sent to his room from which his imagination takes him to romp in the land of the Wild Things, who make him their king.  It is fun for a while, but then he decides to go home where he is known and loved.  The Wild Things try to persuade him to stay, but he goes back to his room and finds his supper laid out for him “and it is still warm.”  If you begin by identifying the demons as evil urges, reading this book could capture the sense of healing and coming home that is possible when we walk away from our demons.  This is a stretch for most children.  The youngest will simply enjoy hearing a well-known children’s story read to the whole congregation.  For this reason I would be more likely to incorporate it in the real sermon than read it during a children’s time.

This is my drawing.
Feel free to use it or to pass it
 to another artist for improvements.
Display a poster of a demon – like greed – to help children understand how evil urges can take over our lives.  Brainstorm with them other demons we face today.  Challenge them to draw one of these demons to post in a designated place or to show you after worship.  (This is an activity for older rather than younger children.) 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Year B - 3rd Sunday After Epiphany, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, (January 22, 2012)

This is one of those embarrassment of riches weeks.  There are at least two and possibly three call stories, encouragement from Paul to respond to our own calls to discipleship and a psalm about trusting God when daring to be disciples.  All of them can be meaningfully presented to children! 

Jonah 3:1-5

_ If you read only the verses suggested, you have the story of the Ninevites, the people Jonah despised and the national enemy of the Jews of that day, hearing God’s message, repenting, and being saved by God.  No one, especially Jonah, expected that – or even wanted it.  The clear message is that God loves and calls people we do not like, the people we label as THEM.  To explore that message:

Brainstorm lists of THEMS for your congregation today: national enemies, the opposite political party, rival sports teams, certain people in your class/office/neighborhood who are just so out of it, even certain ethnic groups.  Involve worshipers by giving them small sheets of paper on which to write or draw pictures of some of their THEMS.  When lists are complete, remind them that God loves each of those people.  Instruct them to remind themselves of this by drawing a heart around each name or picture.  Just as Jonah would have had trouble drawing that heart around the Ninevites, worshipers may struggle to draw hearts around their THEMS.  That is good discipleship work.  Doing this with the whole congregation rather than just with the children, helps children see that such discipleship work is a life-time challenge.

January 23-27, 2012 is the ninth annual No Name Calling Week.  It is aimed at fifth through eighth graders with the goal of raising awareness about the damage done by ostracizing others, calling them names and bullying them.  In other words it aims to help children not label anyone as “them” and to stand up to those who do.  Go to No Name Calling Week for a wealth of interesting resources. 

_ But there are actually two call stories in this book - God’s call to the Ninevites and God’s call to Jonah.  Since readings from Jonah appear only twice in the lectionary (today and Year A – Proper 20), this might a good Sunday to look at the entire book and compare the responses of Jonah and the Ninevites.

Go to Year A - Proper 20 for the details of three ways to present the whole book in worship.
1.      Read it all from the Bible with the congregation reading the psalm in the whale.
2.      Have three readers work from Jean Marzolla’s children’s book of it.
3.      Have one reader read Ralph Milton’s 2 page version of the story

I found these 4 inch tall figures
 at a craft shop - maybe a Ten Thousand Villages shop.
After presenting the whole story, compare Jonah’s response to God with that of the Ninevites using several people figures (borrow figures or small dolls from the preschool toy box or a young worshiper).  Set one off to one side of the pulpit, identifying it as Jonah.  Set two or three others off to the other side, identifying them as the people of Nineveh.  Point to the figures or pick them up as you recall what God said to each and how each responded.  Be amazed that Jonah who was a Hebrew and a prophet didn’t do nearly as well as those Ninevites he and all Jews despised.  Use the Ninevite figures to identify the THEMS in our world.  (This could be done in a children’s sermon, but could also be done within the real sermon giving it structure and a visual element while suggesting to children that the real sermon might be for them as well as for the adults.)

Jonah’s story laughs at Jonah, but it also reassures us that God doesn’t punish Jonah as he deserves.  God doesn’t let Jonah drown in the sea and when he is spit up on the beach, God gives him a second chance.  God even provides the vine in an attempt to get through to Jonah who still doesn’t get it.  This is a good balance to the Ninevites and the fishing disciples who respond promptly and correctly.  So, we can hope that God will give us second chances when we need them too.

Psalm 62:5-12

In just the first three verses God is rock, fortress, and refuge.  Help children list ways God is like a rock, a fortress, and a refuge by displaying pictures of each and discussing their function.  After identifying the function of each one, ask or tell how God works in the same way.  Conclude “God is like a…. when God…..” 

If this discussion of rocks leads you to sing either “Rock of Ages” or “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” notice that the words are not all child friendly.   (Actually, “Rock of Ages” has been omitted from many recent hymnals because the language is difficult even for adults.)  But if you must sing them, before singing, point to one or two key phrases saying what it means to sing them while answering God’s call. 

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

_ While adults need to hear about the world view that underlies Paul’s message, it won’t make much sense to children.  What is important to all worshipers is Paul’s insistence that NOW is the time to act.  NOW is the time to live like God’s people.  We can’t wait until we grow up or until we feel like it or until don’t have something else to do or until we are braver. 

_ Paul gave his readers specific examples of ways they could act.  Children need specific examples of ways they can be God’s people today, e.g. being kind to all – even those they don’t particularly like, refusing to join in things they know are wrong, standing up against name-calling and bullying, etc.

_ Especially for children a bell is a call to do something – go to school, change classes, go home.  Emphasize the urgency of responding to God’s call by interspersing the phrases of the familiar hymn “Lord I Want to be a Christian” with a ringing bell.  (The bell needs to be piercing and insistent rather than mellow.)  Before singing the hymn, tell the congregation what will happen and suggest that each time the bell rings they think the word NOW!  

Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart.
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart.
In my heart BELL
In my heart BELL
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart. BELL

Repeat with Lord, I want to be more loving, like Jesus,….

Mark 1:14-20

_ The first 2 verses connect to the call to act NOW in the 1 Corinthians text.  The suggestions there apply here also.

_ The story of the call of the fishing disciples appears in Matthew, Mark and Luke- with Luke including most details – and appears during Epiphany each year of the lectionary.  Go to Year A - Third Sunday After Epiphany  for suggestions that work with all the accounts.

_ Today it is amusing and worthwhile to note that the fishing disciples get up and follow in six verses.  Jonah takes four chapters and then we are not sure he has really got it yet. 

_ Clarify the focus of this service with a matching call to worship and closing.


Call to Worship

Leader:            For just this hour,
People:            Follow me
Leader:            Listen to my word
People:            Follow me
Leader:            Think about your life as my disciple every day
People:            Follow me
Leader:            Pray
People:            Follow me
Leader:            Sing
People:            Follow me
Leader:            Come, let us worship God!


Leader:            As you go out into the world
People:            Follow me
Leader:            At home with your household
People:            Follow me
Leader:            At school and work
People:            Follow me
Leader:            In everything you do this week
People:            Follow me
Leader:            And as you do, remember that I am with you always,
even to the end of the world.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Last Minute Advent Christmas Worship Present

Here is a YouTube Video that is good for the soul, even if you do not include it in worship.  But, it could also be shown as the congregation and/or choir sings the Hallelujah Chorus in the days leading up to Christmas.  In a light-hearted Christmas day service it would be perfect.

Alaskan Village Hallelujah Chorus

Monday, December 5, 2011

Year B - 2nd Sunday After Epiphany, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 15, 2011)

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 Listening to God is not easy.  Byrd Baylor’s picture book The Other Kind of Listening tells about a young Indian girl learning from an older man how to really listen to the world around her.  It is too long to read it all.  But you could read several of the opening pages about listening, then skip to the page on which she nearly gives up but finally hears the hills sing.  True the girl is listening to nature, but there are real similarities to listening for God.

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.

Psalm 139:1-6,13-18

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.

John 1:43-51

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.