Monday, December 16, 2013

Year A - Second Sunday after Epiphany, Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 19, 2014)

Isaiah 49:1-7

> Reading this text in which the speaker is telling a story and within the story quoting God extensively requires practice.  The reader needs to imagine himself (or herself, but in this case probably himself) speaking dramatically before a large crowd. 

>  In verse 6 the task of the servant Israel is to be a light to the nations.  Explaining to literal thinking children what it means for either God or people to be light is not easy.  Describing the difference lanterns, flashlights, even candles make in a dark room or at night is easy enough.  But, connecting that difference with the difference kind words and deeds of love and mercy make is quite a stretch.  Children’s brains simply have not developed the necessary transference ability to do this. 

Instead use this as an opportunity for some worship education about the use of candles in worship.  If you did not do so on Epiphany Sunday, describe how your congregation uses candles in worship and the significance of what you do.  If you involve acolytes in lighting the candles describe their leadership role.  If you do this before the call to worship, have a special candle lighting liturgy for today, maybe –

Leader:  Isaiah said “the people who lived in darkness have seen a great light.”  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” 

Congregation:  We light this candle /these candles to remind us of God’s love and presence with us. 

All:  Let us worship God.


Without getting tangled up in the “light to the nations” image, explore Isaiah’s insistence that God doesn’t want us just to look out for ourselves, our church, and our community, but to be concerned for everyone in the whole world.  Reread just verse 6, putting some of the ideas into your own words.  Then,

Describe at least one way your congregation reaches out to people far away.  If possible select an activity in which children are involved, such as packing disaster relief kits.

Think together of a prayer to offer for the people who live on each continent.  (Trace your prayer journey on a globe or world map.)  Then offer those prayers.

Psalm 40:1-11

Children quickly get lost in this long song.  The important thing for them is that the psalmist promises to sing God’s praises and to talk about what God has done.  Readers are invited to join in.

Like the psalmist children can sing God’s praises.  Singing songs praising God with others at church and singing songs praising God on their own are important disciplines to cultivate.  Today children are more likely to listen to music than to sing it.  Encourage them to sing by telling stories in which singing is important and by doing a lot of congregational singing during worship today.  Assign worshipers a familiar hymn (maybe the Doxology) you have sung and discussed in worship today to sing in the car on their way home.  (Encourage them to do this whether they are singing a solo or with a “choir”.)

Children can also speak up on God’s behalf every day.  Tell the children “a secret you think the psalmist knew.”  Saying something out loud to other people makes it more real than just thinking it.  As examples describe telling someone you love them rather than just thinking it, saying “this is a really great dinner!” rather than just thinking it, or talking with others you are with about how beautiful a spot (maybe the Grand Canyon or a cozy fire in your own fireplace or a clear starry night) is rather than just thinking it to yourself.  Then, talk about what happens when you tell friends something you know about God or Jesus or when you insist that you know something the group is thinking of doing is either wrong or very right. 

This weekend the psalmist reminds us of Martin Luther King who spoke to the American nation on God’s behalf of the injustices being endured by African Americans.   He said, “I have a dream…” but he meant “God has a dream and will make it come true.”   His words about this dream inspired people to make difficult changes to right the injustices.  King and his followers also sang songs, spirituals that echoed his words.  Together the speaking and singing of God is powerful.  King spoke to and sang with millions of people.  Few of us do that.  But, we can sing songs for God and we can speak up among our friends.  We can stand up for God’s ways and point out when people are starting to do things that are wrong.  Martin Luther King had to be brave to speak up for God and so do we. 

Sing one or more of the spirituals that were sung during the civil rights movement such as “We Shall Overcome,” “Go Tell it On The Mountain,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “We Shall not be Moved.”

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

For the next seven weeks we will be reading from 1 Corinthians.  This may be the first generation of children who need to learn what a letter is.  Strange, but true!  They are increasingly used to communicating in short emails, tweets, or IMs that are sent quickly, read and generally deleted.  They have little experience with a several page letter that was carefully composed, read and reread, and then kept to be read repeatedly in the future.  So before reading from this letter, take time to explore what the letter was and meant to the early Christians.

Bring a stamped envelope containing a several page handwritten letter, a smart phone displaying an email or text message, and the pulpit Bible opened to the beginning of 1 Corinthians.  You might even mention the way Harry Potter and other wizards communicated with messages carried by owls.  Talk about the similarities and differences in each one.  Some take more time to write.  Some are harder to deliver and take longer to reach the receiver.  Some are considered more worth saving to reread and to share with others.  Explain that Corinthians is a letter sent from Paul to the Christians in Corinth and that they thought it was so important that they saved it, copied it, and shared it with others.  
From Wikimedia Commons
Display pictures of Corinthian ruins and modern day Corinth and have a map on hand to point out where Corinth is.  Ask if anyone in the congregation has been to Corinth.  The point is simply to realize that Corinth is a real place with real people. 

Briefly introduce Paul telling how he knew the people in Corinth.  Point out some of his other letters to other churches in the Bible.

Read verse 2 that tells to whom the letter is sent.  Stop as you get to the parts that describe the saints beyond Corinth.  “Hey, wait!  That is us.  We are….  You and you are…   We have mail!”

Then invite worshipers to listen to what Paul says as the letter begins.

If you are going to explore the gifts Paul recognized in the members of the church in Corinth and in us, offer children a worksheet printed with a large gift box.  Invite them to write about or draw into the boxes some of the gifts/abilities/talents God has given them.  Point out that God wants them to use those gifts to love other people in the world.  Invite them to drop their drawings into the offering plates as a way of thanking God for those gifts or to share them with you as they leave the sanctuary.  Suggest that in one part of the box they draw a cross or a heart for the gift of God’s love.

Feel free to use this or create your own on this pattern

John 1:29-42

Next Sunday’s gospel is Matthew’s account of the call of the fishing disciples.  Attentive children will be surprised by these apparently contradictory accounts and ask questions about which is true.  Rather than dig into that in the sanctuary, it might be better to read only one of these versions of the story this year.

> Names are important to children.  In this story John gives Jesus 3 names – Lamb of God, Son of God and Messiah.  Andrew gives him another one – Rabbi (or Teacher).  At the end Jesus gives Simon a new name – Cephas or Peter.  With their new names both Jesus and Simon Peter start out on something very new.  It is almost like Harry Potter being told he is not a stupid kid who lives under the stairs, but is a wizard and being invited to learn the skills that will make him a great wizard.

> Lamb of God is a nickname or a symbol for Jesus.  But, it is a hard one for children to understand.  To understand the Passover connection it will be necessary to retell that story.  To make the connection to the thank offerings, it will be necessary to explain the thinking behind that practice to children to whom it tends to sound cruel and weird.   Instead, simply introduce Lamb of God as a nickname or mascot for Jesus.

If your sanctuary includes Lamb of God images, point them out and simply say that they remind us of Jesus. 

Point out in the worship bulletin the places you will pray, say or sing “Lamb of God” today.  Maybe suggest that children underline the name every time they find it in the bulletin.  Then instruct them to think “Jesus” as they use the term.

> Eyes are important.  Using them well to really see is even more important!  John the Baptist saw and knew who Jesus was when he came to be baptized.  When Andrew and another of John the Baptist’s disciples asked to join Jesus, Jesus replied “Come and see.”  And they saw a lot in the years that followed!  Use this story to urge children to really see or pay attention to people and to what is happening around them.  Point out that many people saw Jesus.  At first only John the Baptist saw who Jesus really was.  Several people heard John point Jesus out and tell who he was, but only 2 of them went after Jesus.  Likewise, hundreds of people saw Jesus heal people and feed the crowd, but only a few stayed around to live the way Jesus wanted them to live. 

At the end of this discussion touch the eyes of each child saying “God, bless NAME’s eyes.  Help him/her really see you.”  Or, have the entire congregation bless each other’s eyes in the pews.

> This is a story about people who told others what they knew and introduced their friends to important people.  John pointed out Jesus to his disciples.  Andrew brought his brother to meet Jesus.  They each about Jesus in everyday situations to people they knew.  Challenge children to be like them and to speak up to their friends and siblings at home or school or wherever they are.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Carolyn, Just a word of gratitude for your site, which I have visited many times but not commented on. Came by today with no idea at all about what to do with Psalm 40, and am leaving with 3 such GOOD ideas, I dont know how I'll choose between them. Thanks so much for your invaluable ministry!


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