F I would omit verses 11b-14a to avoid having to spend time explaining levirate marriage to worshipers of all ages. I would also add verses 19-22 to complete the opening of this story.
F This is a story to be read by an older woman.
F The story also begs to be pantomimed by older children so that all can follow the action. Elimelech and Naomi start at one side of the chancel then walk to the other side when they move to Moab. As each of the males die they simply sit down in place. Their women then step in front of them and move on together.
F Paired with the two great commandments in the gospel, Ruth’s story is an opportunity to explore family love. Children struggle with the desire to do only what they want and learning to take care of others in their families and elsewhere. Ruth can be a model for them. She loved Naomi and showed it by moving with her to a strange country and doing hard field work to feed them. Love is not a feeling but the way we act toward people and the decisions we make about what we do with them every day.
After exploring family love, give children or all worshipers a piece of paper on which to draw a large heart for each member of their household and then to write a prayer for each person in one of the hearts and/or decorate the heart for that person as you pray for them. Papers may be taken home, dropped in the offering plate as a prayer to God, or placed in prayer baskets passed through the congregation and placed on the central table with words about all the love families share.
F Many youth groups have gone gleaning in support of the local food bank. If your youth have gleaned, refer to what they did to explain what Ruth did to feed herself and Naomi.
F As I write this older children are very aware of the story of Malala, the Pakistani teenager who was shot because she advocated allowing girls to go to school. There is no telling where the story will be by the first week in November. But her treatment could be used as an example of the problems faced by girls and women like Ruth and Naomi in some cultures.
F Ruth got included in the Bible as a story that insists that God loves all people, not just the Jews or “people like us.” So before reading the story display a map of the Old Testament lands. Point to Bethlehem identifying it as the place Naomi started out and the place where Jesus was born. Then point to Moab and note that people who lived in Bethlehem thought the people who lived in Moab were dirty, dumb, and “not as good as we are.” They ignored people from Moab when they came around and treated them poorly. Then, read the story. If you are reading Ruth in two parts, wonder aloud what will happen to Naomi when she and her Moabite daughter-in-law Ruth get back to BEthlehem. If you are reading all of Ruth today, read the whole story repeating and reveling in the last statement that the great King David’s great grandmother was a woman from Moab.
Identify and ask worshipers to identify who gets treated like Moabites today. Ask what the Bible is telling us about those people. Pray both for those people and for those who mistreat them.
Identify groups of foreigners that tend to get treated like Moabites today. Insist that these people are God’s children and pray for them.
F This is the first of two readings about Ruth. If you use the All Saints readings on November 4, you will be left to tell the whole story of Ruth on one Sunday. For a concise telling of the story try ”Two Brave Women” in The Family Story Bible, by Ralph Milton. It can be read aloud in 5 minutes. I mention it here should you be telling the entire story of Ruth this week.
F On the Sunday before the oh so hotly contested election in the US, highlight verses 3-4 before reading the whole psalm. For the children add presidents, vice-presidents, senators, etc. to “the princes.” Note that whoever wins or loses the election on Tuesday, we still depend most on God’s power and love. The congregation could read the entire psalm together or using the script below.
F Verses 5-10 list what God does with emphasis on the care of those like Ruth and Naomi who marginalized. To make the list even clearer, replace all the he’s with “The Lord” or “God.” Include the congregation in reading the psalm by either having different halves of the congregation read alternating statements saying “the Lord” with great emphasis or having the congregation say “The Lord” with a leader completing each phrase.
d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d
LEADER: Praise the Lord!Praise the Lord, my soul!
ALL: I will praise him as long as I live;
I will sing to my God all my life.
LEADER: Don’t put your trust in human leaders;no human being can save you.
When they die, they return to the dust;
on that day all their plans come to an end.
ALL or ALTERNATING GROUPS or
ALL READ “THE LORD” WITH LEADER COMPLETING THE SENTENCE
The Lord created heaven, earth, and sea, and all that is in them.
The Lord keeps every promise;
The Lord judges in favor of the oppressed
The Lord gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free
The Lord gives sight to the blind.
The Lord lifts those who have fallen;
The Lord loves righteous people.
The Lord protects the strangers who live in our land;
The Lord helps widows and orphans, but takes the wicked to their ruin.
LEADER: The Lord is king forever. Your God, O Zion, will reign for all time.
ALL: Praise the Lord!
Based on TEV
d d d d d d d d d d d d d d d
|See the mezuzah in the door frame?|
F Introduce this reading by showing a mezuzah, explaining its use, and pulling the scripture parchment out of it. Enjoy the Hebrew lettering, then read the verses from an English Bible. Note that just as Jewish families touch the mezuzah each time the enter or leave their home, Jesus did the same in his home. Suggest that worshipers remember this as they listen to the gospel reading. (This could be a children’s time or you could make it the Old Testament reading for the day.)
F Often the psalm or a part of it is read as a prayer or call to worship without much comment. Today take time introducing Psalm 119. It is the longest psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible. It has 176 verses divided into sets of 8 verses. Every line in each set begins with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The verses we read today begin with the first letter – aleph. Prove this showing the psalm in a Hebrew Bible with the matching letter at the far right of the line. (That requires marveling at the fact that Hebrew reads right to left!) Note that every single line is a line praising God’s Law. That is how much the psalmist thought about God’s Law! Then read it together. (Have worshipers find the psalm in their Bibles and read from it.)
F The psalm uses 6 synonyms for Law that appear in these verses. If you haven’t recently done so, display each one on a separate small poster. Give them to 6 different worshipers to hold in the front as you read instructing each one to raise his or her poster every time the word is used. The words used in the NRSV are
F It is hard to read this passage without getting tripped up in the details of blood sacrifices and the one-up-manship that is employed against the Temple worship and Judaism in general. Children are offended by the animal sacrifices and can hear that Christians are better than Jews. So, I’d downplay this or skip it entirely. But, if you do read it….
ONCE AND FOR ALLF The main word is that Jesus died ONCE FOR ALL, i.e. he died on Good Friday for all the people of the world then and now. God loves us every day, but on Good Friday God in human skin forgave us when we nailed God/Jesus with all that love to a cross. That is what makes Good Friday and Easter so special. Because God forgave the people who killed Jesus on that day and because Jesus did not stay dead but was alive again on Easter we know that today and every day God loves and forgives us.
One could embellish ONCE FOR ALL saying once for all people, once for people of all times, once for people of all places, once for people of all races, etc. Enjoy all the people who are included in the FOR ALL.
F If you are celebrating Communion today, talk with the children about the bread and the cup. Speak about them as symbols that remind us about what happened on Good Friday. The bread reminds us that people whipped Jesus’ body and nailed it to the cross. They broke his body. The purple wine/grape juice reminds us that on Good Friday Jesus bled. He bled when he was whipped and he bled from the nails on the cross. When each of us eats and drinks here we are saying that we are among the people Jesus was broken for and bled for.
Depending on your denomination’s theology, you may want to explore the fact that though we say “this is Christ’s body broken for you” and “this is Christ’s blood shed for you,” the bread is just bread and the cup contains plain old wine or grape juice. We eat and drink them together to remember that Jesus’ very real body was broken and blood was shed.
This may be stretching it, but if your worship is focused on the 2 great commandments, it would be possible to use a heart shaped loaf of bread as the loaf that is picked up and broken before serving. The point is that Jesus/God loved us so much that Jesus/God forgave us even when we broke Jesus body and make him bleed on the cross. Before serving the sacrament with this loaf, show it to the children and all worshipers and ponder its significance.
Children who attend church school most likely know the two great commandments. When they hear them in the sanctuary today, they realize that these are indeed important rules and not just for children but for all people.
F Identify specific ways one can love God with soul, mind and strength. We love God with our souls when we sing songs for God in the sanctuary and when we thank God for all our blessings every day. We love God with our minds when we both study the world God created and work on taking good care of it and when we study the Bible to learn how God wants us to live with each other. We love God with our strength when we build Habitat houses or give a lonely person a hug.
F After talking about the 2 great commands, offer each family a red posterboard heart strung on a piece of yarn or string and printed with “Love God” on one side and “Love people” on the other side. Instruct them to hang this heart in a frequently used door in their home to remind them of God’s rules. These hearts could be produced by an older children’s church school class as a gift to the congregation.
To further emphasize this heart, hang a large heart mobile printed with the commands at the front of the sanctuary or in each door to the sanctuary for the entire service.
And yes, this heart is rather like the Jewish mezuzah.
F Sing one song with which to love God and one about loving each other. Introduce each identifying its purpose. Two possibilities:
“For the Beauty of the Earth” for loving God
“Lord Help Us Accept Each Other” for loving each other
F If you are reading Ruth’s story today, reread the paragraph in the Ruth section above using Ruth as an example of the nitty-gritty work that love takes and the suggestion about illustrated prayers for your family members.