_ This is the Sunday before Thanksgiving in the US. Go to Year B Thanksgiving to find ideas for worshiping around this year's Thanksgiving texts. It will also direct you to a more general article that will be useful in planning both for Thanksgiving worship in your own congregation on either Sunday or Wednesday/Thursday and for community services.
_ It is National Bible Sunday. Two ways to feature that with children are:
1. If your congregation responds to the reading of scripture with, “The Word of the Lord - Thanks be to God,” interrupt just after it is said to ask, “what did we just say?” That leads to “why did we say that?” Add a few words about the importance of reading the Bible together, then repeat the response with everyone. (You could call the children for this conversation or hold it with the whole congregation in their seats. Children will tune in for this interruption!)
2. At the beginning of the service give children Bible stickers to put on their printed order of worship every time they hear the Bible read or pray or sing from the Bible. With older children point out the scripture references in the hymnal to help them see the Bible connection there.
1 Samuel 1:4-20
_ For a child-friendly telling of this story read “A Baby for Hannah” in The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories, by Mary Batchelor. In spite of its title, the story ends with Hannah feeling “peaceful and almost happy….She had told God her trouble. Now she would wait for his answer.” (Can be read aloud in 4 minutes)
_ Ask a woman of child bearing years to read this passage to the whole congregation.
I Samuel 2:1-10
_ Hannah’s prayer or song should be read by one or more women. If the group includes women and girls of all ages, it feels like a choir of happy women praising God. The script below lists 15 readers, but could be read by as few as 3 or4 readers with each reading one part in turn. Give each reader a script with her part/s highlighted.
C B C B C B C B C B C B C B C B C B
All: The Lord has filled my heart with joy;
how happy I am because of what he has done!
Reader 1: I laugh at my enemies;
how joyful I am because God has helped me!
Reader 2: No one is holy like the Lord;
there is none like him,
no protector like our God.
Reader 3: Stop your loud boasting;
silence your proud words.
For the Lord is a God who knows,
and he judges all that people do.
Reader 4: The bows of strong soldiers are broken,
but the weak grow strong.
Reader 5: The people who once were well fed
now hire themselves out to get food,
but the hungry are hungry no more.
Reader 6: The childless wife has borne seven children,
but the mother of many is left with none.
Reader 7: The Lord kills and restores to life;
he sends people to the world of the dead
and brings them back again.
Reader 8: The Lord makes some poor and others rich;
he humbles some and makes others great.
Reader 9: The Lord lifts the poor from the dust
and raises the needy from their misery.
Reader 10: The Lord makes them companions of princes
and puts them in places of honor.
Reader 11: The foundations of the earth belong to the Lord;
on them he has built the world.
Reader 12: The Lord protects the lives of his faithful people,
but the wicked disappear in darkness;
Reader 13: People do not triumph by their own strength.
Reader 14: The Lord’s enemies will be destroyed;
he will thunder against them from heaven.
Reader 15: The Lord will judge the whole world;
he will give power to his king,
he will make his chosen king victorious.
Based on the TEV
C B C B C B C B C B C B C B C B C B
_ Hannah prayed when she was really unhappy. She also prayed when she was really, really happy. In her prayers she tells God exactly how she feels. Together make a list of feeling words. Suggest that each child or each worshiper select one that fits them today, then draw or write a prayer to God about that feeling. Collect prayers in prayer baskets or the offering plates and place them on the Table at the front.
_ Leaf through a copy of Happy, by Mies Van Hout. Each page of the book contains one emotion (happy, angry, sad, confused, etc.) illustrated by a fish who displays that emotion. The colors are vivid and the fish clearly emotional. Select two or three emotions to share. Talk about what the picture tells us about how the fish is feeling. Imagine why a fish might feel this way. Identify times we feel that way. Finally, together come up with some prayers we could pray when we feel each of these emotions. The point is that like Hannah we can talk to God about how we feel.
_ To connect Hannah’s prayers to the prayer requests shared in your worship and/or in “the long prayer,” take time to talk about the latter just before they come in your worship. (This could be a children’s time or a conversation addressed to the whole congregation.) Note that Hannah prayed two of the most common prayers – “help!” and “thank you!” Point out several of each that you will include in the church’s prayers this day and encourage young listeners to listen for others.
If I were going to explore apocalyptic themes with children, I’d use the gospel rather than this. But, if you do read this text, for the sake of the children read from The Good News Bible (TEV).
The angel wearing linen clothes said, “At that time the great angel Michael, who guards your people, will appear. Then there will be a time of troubles, the worst since nations first came into existence. When that time comes, all the people of your nation whose names are written in God’s book will be saved. Many of those who have already died will live again: some will enjoy eternal life, and some will suffer eternal disgrace. 3The wise leaders will shine with all the brightness of the sky. And those who have taught many people to do what is right will shine like the stars for ever.”
The NRSV translation is full of biblical images that keep the uninitiated from hearing the joy in the psalm. The TEV translation omits those images and provides a great prayer of praise for the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Children will not hear every line, but will hear thankful lines here and there.
Hebrews 10: 11-14, (15-18), 19-25
Hebrews 10: 11-14, (15-18), 19-25
_ The key phrase for children is “he sat down at the right hand of God.” It is the answer to the question “where is Jesus now?” Jesus is with God and is Lord! Add the word Lord! in big letters in a prominent place on your Hebrews word poster. Then explore verses 19 -25 which answer the question “what shall we do for Lord Jesus?”
_ Because Jesus is Lord we can be bold and courageous. Often children hear calls at church to be kind and nice and gentle. This call to be bold and courageous is an attractive change of pace. This connects to the gospel call to face dangerous or difficult times bravely knowing that God is in charge.
Point out to older children that all the pronouns here are plural. We are not asked to be bold and courageous for Lord Jesus on our own. That would be really hard. But, we can do it together. Talk about scary things we can do together – like go on a mission trip with friends at church, work at a soup kitchen the first time with our whole family, or go on a long hunger hike with our church school class. Name and celebrate brave things your congregation has done together. Show pictures and tell stories.
_ Most often when we “provoke each other,” it is to do things we really ought not to do or we do things that make others angry. The writer of this letter wants us to “provoke each other to good deeds.” Read this phrase. Talk about how we usually provoke each other. Then describe how we can provoke siblings and friends and even people we don’t particularly like to do good things. Describe children bravely welcoming new children in school, reaching out to the outcasts on the bus, even standing up to people who are bullying other kids. Include in your stories the possibility of encouraging other children to do likewise. Two examples,
After a police dog was killed on duty, an 11 year old wanted to buy a $1,200 bullet proof vest for the dog that took his place. She “provoked others” to help her do this by putting collection jars in the local grocery stores and getting a story about her effort in the local paper.
To earn their Eagle Scout Award boy scouts must do a community service project that requires that they organize others to help them do the project. In the process they learn how to “provoke others” to join them in good work that benefits the community.
_ Before reading these verses with children, show them a pictures of your country’s national buildings. Note with pride how big and impressive they look and how proud people feel when they see them. Point out that Jesus and his disciples felt the same way when they saw the Temple in Jerusalem. Then read what Jesus said about that Temple and about God.
_Go to Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Biblical Apocalyptic for general ideas about exploring apocalyptic messages with children.
|Public Domain from NASA|
_ Jesus wanted his disciples to think bigger than their own Temple in their own city. To encourage children to think bigger today display pictures of the universe and talk about how big it is, how small we are and how much bigger the Creator of the universe and us is.
- Go to NASA Picture of Earth from Space for a public domain picture of the earth and moon from space.
- Go to Hubble Telescope Pictures in Space for beautiful pictures of the universe taken from the Hubble space telescope. (They come with several different ways to download them at no cost.)
- Show the segment of the IMAX “Hubble” DVD (available from Netflix) that takes us on a star trip past Orion’s belt and into deep space. It starts about 9 minutes into the show and lasts 3 minutes. It is awesome! (Be sure to get the 2D rather than the 3D version which requires special glasses for all viewers!)
_ Another way to place ourselves in an order that is much larger than us is to read all or parts of Lifetimes: the beautiful way to explain death to children, by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. The author insists that all living things have a beginning, a lifetime and an ending. He describes and compares this pattern in the lives of trees, flowers, rabbits, birds, fish, and people. The unstated but clear message is that we all will die, but that dying is part of the plan. We do not have to be afraid when anything (even the Temple) or anyone ends. Endings are part of God’s plan.
It takes 5 minutes to read the whole book aloud, but it would be possible to omit a few of the lifetimes descriptions to shorten it a bit.
_ Mark’s apocalyptic talk has links to two phrases in the Lord’s Prayer. Explore one of them before the Prayer is voiced in worship today.
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (traditional) or “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven” (ecumenical) are wishes that God will take control of the future on the earth. To explore this gather a list of situations in which God’s will needs to be done. After each one as a group say the prayer line as an eyes-open conversation with God and each other. For example,
When everyone is tired and crabby and bickering…
When countries are going to war…
When we are trying to make a hard decision…
“Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever”(traditional) or “for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours” (ecumenical) remind us that no matter what is going wrong at the moment God still has the final word. To explore this reality collect a list of situations in which it seems like all is lost. After identifying each one, the whole group says the prayer line as a reminder that God is still in control. For example,
Even when the mean kids are making my life miserable on the bus…
Even when I don’t have a single friend…
Even when it looks like the whole world is going crazy…
_ Children overhear and “run with” adult talk about potential dates for the end of the world. Often older elementary students engage in wild speculation among themselves. Since another well publicized date is coming up as the Mayan calendar ends December 21-23 of this year, there is likely to be more such talk. This is a chance to directly tell children that such predictions are always false. Go to Wikipedia Article on Apocalypse for a very detailed list of historic predictions. Select one or two famous ones to share and laugh at with the children. Then remind them that only God knows when the world will end and God is keeping that as a surprise. Jesus told us so.