Today’s featured cross may be metal crosses on communion ware or the verbal ones in the communion liturgy. Or, it may be cross stickers reminding wearers to take up their crosses to follow Jesus. Look for them all below.
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Have this text read by the oldest member or by the oldest man (vss 1-7) and oldest woman (vss 15-16) in the congregation. If needed take a Bible and microphone to him/her/them in the pews so that they can read from there. If you had a boy read the story of Samuel a few weeks ago, ask that boy to come forward. Recall God’s call to Samuel while he was a young boy. Then call the elder/s forward or send the boy to hold the microphone for them as they read about God’s call to some very old people. Thank all three of them and send them back to their seats. This sets you up to explore God’s call to us at all ages of our lives.
Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct, by Mo Willems, tells of a loving dinosaur who bakes cookies for everyone and is generally happy and loved. Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie, however, insists to everyone that she is extinct. No one will listen to him – except gentle kind Edwina, who hears him out and says he is right, but simply doesn’t care. The two leave together to bake more cookies. This might be the beginning of a sermon about faith. Abraham and Sarah should have known they couldn’t have a baby at 100. And, we should know that God can’t change this world into a kingdom of peace and love. Some people say the church is extinct – but…. Abraham, Sarah, and we move on in faith. From this light hearted start, a preacher could delve into more complicated concerns. But it is one good starting place. (Reading time: a minimum of 4 minutes, but probably a bit longer because some of the pictures have no words but do tell part of the story.)
This is the second covenant for Lent. (Recall what a covenant is bringing out the word poster from last week.) In today’s covenant God promises Abraham and Sarah that they will be parents of a great family that will actually grow into many nations. For children the promise is that we will always be part of a family or community. We will not be on our own. Point out some of the ways the church is a family welcoming babies, telling and celebrating the stories, taking care of each other when life gets hard (casseroles, visits, driving help, and other specifics make this real), being with us and our families when we die. God promises this big family is always there for us. The only way we can end up totally alone is to choose not to participate.
Abraham and Sarah are featured the second week of Lent each year. Go to Year A - The Second Sunday in Lent for additional ideas about their faith.
Verses 27-31 provide a worship education opportunity. Read the verses stopping as you go to put into your own words who will praise the Lord (all the families of all the nations living on the earth today, those who have died, generations yet to be born). Then, point out that during the prayers before communion we re-enact praising God with all those people. If you follow a prayer book, point out
“We praise you, joining our voices with the heavenly choirs and with all the faithful of every time and place, who forever sing to the glory of your name:” Then practice the song or spoken chorus your congregation will use this morning. Urge worshipers to listen for the phrase and to imagine themselves singing with all people who have ever praised God, praise God today, and will praise God in the future. (This could be done as a children’s moment just before the sacrament or be embedded in the sermon – even the practicing!)
Romans 4:13-25 or 8:31-39
There are two big words GRACE and FAITH that preachers tend to use in combination in single sentences while unpacking this text. Both are complex, abstract theological concepts and are hard for children to understand. Help them by picking one to define and use today. (You’ll have opportunities to use the other later.)
If you choose grace, remember that to children grace is first a girl’s name, the prayer said before eating, or the ability to move beautifully. You will have to introduce the biblical definition of grace as God’s love as a free gift with no strings attached.
If you choose faith, remember Edwina the dinosaur described under the Genesis text. She lived on faith.
The Episcopalian and Roman Catholic lectionaries set Romans 8:31-39 with its insistence “that nothing can separate us from the love of God, neither……” It is a good balance to Mark’s call to carry our crosses.
Mark 8:31-38 or 9:2-9
|Talk about the crosses|
worn in worship with robes
AND those worn everyday
Because children think literally, they need help with Jesus’ call to take up our cross and follow him. Cross jewelry and cross tattoos are good discussion starters. Wearing them is one way of saying that I am a Christian. But, simply wearing them, doesn’t make me a Christian. I have to live like Jesus. I have to love God every day and love the people around me even when it gets hard.
Go to Let The Children Come - Second Sunday in Lent Year B for a children’s sermon that uses riddles as a set up for exploring what it means to lose life in order to find it. Children may not fully understand what the preacher says, but they will get glimpses of it and they will hear her admit to not fully understanding Jesus’ instructions either.
For older children Harry Potter and Voldemort are the most familiar examples of giving up your life. Voldemort kills others in an attempt to gain everlasting life and power for himself. He ultimately fails and is killed by his own killer curse. Harry Potter on the other hand, willingly dies in order to save the lives of his friends. His love saves him and he lives. Go to Harry potter and the July Worship Planner for more details and/or read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book in the series in which the final confrontation between the two takes place.
This text and the celebration of communion on this day provide several crosses to feature:
U After recalling that it was Valentine’s Day last month and that we celebrated love with cards, candy, and flowers, offer each worshiper a cross sticker pointing out that love is not always sweet and easy. God loved us so much that Jesus was whipped and killed on a cross. God calls us to love each other even when it is not easy. It is one thing to give our brother a valentine card and another to give up playing your video game to play his stupid little kid board game. This could be done during the offering time with some ushers passing plates to collect our money love gifts and others (maybe a children’s class) passing out the cross stickers reminding us to love God and others even when it hurts.
U If you serve communion to people in their pews, there is often a cross on the lid of each stack of cup trays. Point to that cross or lift one of the lids to display it to the whole congregation. (This could be the cross of the day.) Briefly recite what is said about what is in those cups – the blood of Christ – and what is actually in those cups – wine or grape juice. Briefly explain that there is nothing magic about what is in the cups. We drink it to remember that God loved us enough to get beat up and killed on a cross for us.
Barbara Brown Taylor tells of a polite six year old at the altar rail who responded to her priest’s words about the body and blood of Christ by saying, “I don’t want any, thank you.” This is your chance to avoid any such misgivings among the children in your congregation.
U Another worship education opportunity would be to point to the cross on the communion trays and then to introduce the congregation’s chorus “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” Practice it together. Briefly recount the whole crucifixion-resurrection story and encourage worshipers to sing/say the words when they come up in Eucharist.
from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library,
[retrieved February 15, 2012].Add caption
If you read Mark 9:2-9 (the transfiguration story) today, go to Year B - Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday for ideas about sharing it with children.