Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Year C - Proper 5, 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (June 9, 2013)

Often during Ordinary Time one reading echoes another.  But today’s stories of the raising of the sons of two widows are so alike that even the children will catch the similarities.  It is possible to choose one story to read or to read them both.  If you read both stories, open a Bible to both stories pointing out that these very similar stories come from near the beginning and near the end of the Bible and hence tell us something very important about God that is always the same – God IS compassionate. 


F Compassion is a big word that may be new to children and is an attitude that can be hard for children to adopt.  Display the word on a big poster and savor saying it together.  Divide it into “com” and “passion.”  Define passion as caring a lot.  Note that “com” comes from the Latin word for “with.”  So compassion means “caring a whole lot WITH another person.”  To have compassion is to stand with a person, to see the world through their eyes, to know how they are feeling AND to care so much about them that you will do whatever you can to help them.  Cite easy examples of compassion such as going for help when you see someone get hurt and harder examples such as inviting a person who looks lonely to sit with you.

Some children seem to be naturally compassionate from an early age.  But, many children have to work hard to develop compassion.  Often, they are accused of being unkind, but the real problem is that they do not easily see things from another person’s point of view.  It is a skill they have to work over years to develop.  Hearing stories in which people display compassion alerts them to the possibility and encourages them to work at paying attention to the needs and feelings of others.  Today’s stories help further by insisting that God is very compassionate and calls us to be compassionate too.

F After exploring God’s compassion for people in tough situations, invite worshipers to pray for those in tough situations today.  Children can draw pictures of these people and drop them into an offering or prayer basket.  In smaller congregations, worshipers can light tea candles to place on a floor map of the world remembering people around the world who need help and concern.  (Younger children will need help locating the place to put their candle on the map.)

F Identify one or more ministries of your congregation as ministries of compassion.  Compare them to the compassion of Elijah and Jesus.  Choose at least one in which children are involved, e.g. food drives.

F Tell stories about people hiding Jews during World War II or about people operating the Underground Railroad to get slaves to freedom.  There are lots of these stories and most can be told in terms of people who could feel how other people were hurting and who risked their own safety to help those people.

F You may not want to read My Heart Will Not Sit Down, by Mara Rockliff, straight through during worship.  But, it is a story about compassion with a key phrase worth telling in your words in worship, maybe reading a few pages from the middle of the book.  Kedi, a little girl in Cameroon, hears from her teacher that many people were starving in New York during the Great Depression.  Kedi’s “heart stands up” for those people.  Her questions lead villagers to bring what little money they have to send to New York.  They say “our hearts would not sit down until we helped.”  This is a true story.  Their gift was $3.77.  Wonderful art adds to it.  I read about this on Children's Literature: A Resource for Ministry and found a copy in the public library.
1 Kings 17:8-16, (17-24)

F Background:  Before this story is read, everyone needs to hear that it takes place during a long drought that left everyone hungry and thirsty.  Children may also need to hear that a widow is a woman whose husband has died and hear briefly about how hard it was for a widow without a son to get food, clothes and a place to live.

F Since most of this rather long story is conversation, bring it to life by having it read by three readers: a narrator (probably the usual reader), Elijah, and the widow.  The text below is mostly straight NRSV with the “he said”s and “she said”s omitted.  If the Luke story is introduced immediately after this reading as another very similar story about Jesus, children can follow that reading easily and grasp the similarities.

h h h h h h h h h h h h h

Reading Script for 1 Kings 17: 8-24

Narrator:  Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”  So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, 

Elijah:  Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.

Narrator:  As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said,

Elijah:  Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.

Widow:  As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.

Elijah:  Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son.  For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.

Narrator:  She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days.  The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. (Brief pause)  After this the son of the woman, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.  She then said to Elijah,

Widow:  What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!

Elijah:  Give me your son.

Narrator:  He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed.  He cried out to the Lord,

Elijah:  O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?

Narrator:  Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord,

Elijah:  O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.

Narrator:  The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.  Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother;

Elijah:  See, your son is alive.

Widow:  Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.

                               From NRSV

h h h h h h h h h h h h h

F This and the gospel story are about widows who are living on the edge.  God reaches out to care for them through Elijah and Jesus.  If you will be exploring compassion, display an almost empty bag of flour and jar of cooking oil.  Before reading the story, note that this was all the widow had left – no meat, no eggs, no peanut butter, and no hope of getting anything else.  After reading the lessons, point again to the flour and oil noting that the world is full of people in the situation of the widow.

Psalm 146

F Of the two psalms listed for today, this is the one for the children.  It is a happy list of what God does to help people in need.  The activities listed are concrete and everyday, so children understand as they are read.  The script below makes the list clearer by replacing all the “he”s with “The Lord.”  Include the congregation in reading the psalm either by having different halves of the congregation read alternating statements saying “the Lord” with great emphasis or by 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

Psalm 146

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.

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

Psalm 30

F This psalm is filled with unfamiliar vocabulary (e.g. Sheol, the Pit) and ideas that make it hard for children.  If you do read it, introduce it as a song that might have been sung by either widow and by the funeral crowd who were with the widow of Nain after the sons were raised.  With this introduction, the children catch a phrase here and there, but it might be best to choose one or two verses to pray today – maybe verses 11-12.

You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance;
you have taken away my sorrow
and surrounded me with joy.
So I will not be silent;
I will sing praise to you.
I will give you thanks for ever.

                                                   Today’s English Version

Galatians 1:11-24

F Paul’s explanation of how he came to be a faithful Christian makes less than the story of the Damascus road.  If you are going to focus on this text in worship, I’d tell or read some of the Damascus road story for the children (and maybe to remind the adults of the details that are assumed in Galatians).  “Saul Learns About Jesus” from The Family Story Bible, by Ralph Milton, is a good choice but you might want to omit the sentence “And please, Ananias. While I’m eating, tell me more about Jesus.” to match the Galatians argument.

Luke 7:11-17

For children it is all about compassion.  See the beginning of this post.


Yet another reminder for those whose children are still in school: the end of the school year is hugely important to your children.  So, go to School Is Out!!!!! for ideas for recognizing it in the congregation’s worship on the appropriate Sunday.


  1. Carolyn, I just need to say that this site is one of the first I visit when beginning to plan worship. Even if I don't use an idea you share for a particular Sunday, you spark my imagination in ways that include rather than exclude children. Thank you. Tea Candles and compassion are the sparks this week.

  2. Absolutely agree


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