Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Year B - 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (January 18, 2015)

This is a good week to peek ahead as you plan because both this week and next week include call stories.  This week features the stories of Samuel’s call and Nathanael’s call.  Next week features the after-the-fish part of the Jonah story in which Jonah preaches (presents God's call) to the Ninevites and they repent and Mark’s account of Jesus’ calling the fishermen to follow him.  All these call stories are similar AND different.  Planning is required to avoid using up all your good points this week.

The Texts

I Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)

This is one of the few stories in the Bible about children.  So, involve the children in reading it during worship. 

Ask a 10-12 year old boy to read the story

Have an older boy and white haired man pantomime the story as it is read.  (This may be a good assignment for a grandfather – grandson duo.)

Use the readers’ theater script below for a dramatic presentation of the text.  Samuel could be read by a young boy and Eli by a white haired man.  The Narrator might be the usual worship leader or another man in the congregation.  The readers could stand in place or move around as they read following the action of the story.  I included some of the movement directions, but assume readers don’t need many directions to do the back and forth between Samuel and Eli.

He isn’t reading scripture, but can’t you see this boy
reading either the Samuel part or the whole story?

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1 Samuel 3:1-20

Narrator:  Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.  At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; (Eli takes place at one side of area)  the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord (Samuel lies down in front of the central table) where the ark of God was.  Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and Samuel said,

Samuel: “Here I am!” (sitting up)

Narrator:  and ran to Eli,

Samuel:  “Here I am, for you called me.”

Eli:“I did not call; lie down again.”

Narrator:  So he went and lay down.   The Lord called again, “Samuel!”  Samuel got up and went to Eli,

Samuel:  “Here I am, for you called me.”

Eli:   “I did not call, my son; lie down again.”

Narrator:   Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.  The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli,

Samuel:    “Here I am, for you called me.”

Narrator:  Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy.  Therefore Eli said to Samuel,

Eli:   “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ”

Narrator:  So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said,

Samuel:   “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 

Narrator:  Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.  On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.  For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.  Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”  (Samuel lies down.)
Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. (Samuel might rise and push open imaginary doors, then move off to the side away from Eli)  Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.  But Eli called Samuel and said,

Eli:  “Samuel, my son.”

Samuel:  “Here I am.”

Eli: “What was it that God told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 

Narrator:  So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then Eli said,

Eli:   “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”

Narrator:  As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.  And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.

                                                                From the NRSV

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

>  In a sermon, a preacher (not one of the readers) could direct the readers in re-
presenting the story, freezing them at certain points to make comments.

>  Further highlight the partnership between the old and young by asking older men and boys to work in pairs as greeters, ushers, acolytes, offering collectors, etc. in worship today.

Samuel’s call offers several ideas to discuss with children.

>  God speaks to children and asks them to share the message with others.  You don’t have to wait until you grow up.

>  Listening to God is not easy.  Samuel needed Eli’s help to realize that God was speaking for him and to get ready to listen.  (Nathanael needed Philip’s urging before he paid any attention to Jesus.)  Identify people who teach us how to recognize God’s voice – teachers, special friends or relatives, camp counselors, even other kids.  This may be the time to share a story of someone who suggested to you that God might be calling you to be a minister – or to be part of the church in some other way.

>  Listening to God is not easy.  Byrd Baylor’s picture book The Other Way to Listen tells about a young Indian girl learning from an older man how to really listen to the world around her.  It is too long to read it all.  But you could read several of the opening pages about listening, then skip to the page on which she nearly gives up but finally hears the hills sing.  True the girl is listening to nature, but there are real similarities to listening for God.

>  Identify ways God speaks.  In this story God speaks through a voice that Samuel can hear with his ears.  But God speaks in other ways too.  Sometimes we read something in the Bible and know it is meant for us.  Sometimes when we are scared or sad, we feel God very close to us helping us be brave.  Sometimes when we are outside, we see something God has made and feel God loving us.  Sometimes we have a feeling deep inside that God wants us to do something to take care of another person.  Identify some of those ways to suggest that God speaks to each of us through all these ways as well as to Samuel. 

>  We tend to stop this story before the judgmental message for Eli that God gives Samuel.  But, when that message is clarified – because your sons have been bad priests and you did not stop them, no one in your family will ever be a priest again – and the morning-after story is dramatized (imagine Samuel tip-toeing around the Temple and avoiding Eli), children understand and are impressed.  God has entrusted a difficult message to a kid and Eli listened to the kid with respect.  (I imagine Samuel must have remembered Eli’s response to the message with awe for the rest of his life.)  The story as a whole is one of the best arguments I know for intergenerational ministry in all parts of the congregation’s life.

>  Introduce the hymn “Here I Am, Lord” with a boy soloist singing the chorus before the congregation sings the entire hymn.  Or, sing the hymn responsively with the choir singing the verses and the congregation singing the chorus.  The latter could be a sung Affirmation of Faith.

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

>  This well-known psalm is a series of short related messages.  To help children understand them invite a group of children (maybe a children’s class) to read the psalm in worship.  In preparing help the children put each message into their own words.  In worship readers stand in a line stepping up to a microphone to read their verses if amplification is needed.  There are enough verses for 11 readers.  Smaller groups of readers read two or more if needed verses. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

Reader 1:      Lord, you have examined me and you know me.
   You know everything I do;
from far away you understand 
all my thoughts.

Reader 2:     You see me, whether I am working or resting;
you know all my actions.

Reader 3:     Even before I speak,
you already know what I will say.

Reader 4:     You are all round me on every side;
you protect me with your power.

Reader 5:     Your knowledge of me is too deep;
it is beyond my understanding.

Reader 6:     You created every part of me;
you put me together in my mother’s womb.

Reader 7/1:  I praise you because you are to be feared;
all you do is strange and wonderful.
   I know it with all my heart.

Reader 8/2:  When my bones were being formed,
carefully put together in my mother’s womb,
   when I was growing there in secret,
you knew that I was there-
you saw me before I was born.

Reader 9/3:  The days allotted to me
had all been recorded in your book,
before any of them ever began.

Reader 10/4:  O God, how difficult I find your thoughts;
how many of them there are!

Reader 11/5:  If I counted them, they would be more 
                                than the grains of sand.
                       When I awake, I am still with you.

                                                         Good News Bible (TEV)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“How well does God know me?”  As well as Jesus knew Nathanael.  Turn the psalm into a responsive reading with one reader or group asking “How well does God know me?” before the congregation or another group reads the answering verses.  (Use the divisions in the script above possibly deleting readers 7, 8 , 10, and 11 which do not answer the question being asked.)

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Adults and teens may want to explore Paul’s message that though all things are lawful, they may not be helpful.  Children will however be more interested in what Paul has to say about care and use of our bodies.  There are several points to explore.

>  God made each of our bodies.  They are a gift and are good.  This is an opportunity to counter cultural insistence that only certain sizes and shapes are OK.  Point out all the different kinds of eyes, hair, or noses.  Insist that God made and likes each one.  Remember that children often begin hating their bodies at very early ages.  Do be sensitive to children with birth defects that are very real problems.

>  Display pictures of different body parts, e.g. the pages of noses or hair or skin colors, in Peter Spier’s book People.  Compare them with each other and with those of people in the congregation.  Insist that God made and loves them all.

>  To help children understand what Paul means when he says our bodies are God’s temples, identify all the ways we use and maintain the sanctuary.  For example we worship and are quiet there rather than play basketball.  In some sanctuaries the thermostat has to be kept at a certain setting for the good of the pipe organ.  We keep it clean.  Then, compare those to the ways we use and take care of our bodies.  For example, we take care of our bodies, keeping them clean and well-fed.  We don’t misuse them – we are careful around stoves so we don’t burn them. This connection is obvious to adults but a stretch for literal thinking children.  It helps the children if we spell out the details.

>  If your congregation does such things, hand out children’s flyers about eating well, good health practices, avoiding drugs and alcohol, etc.  The public health department can provide these.  As you do, clearly connect taking good care of your body to being a good disciple or thanking God for their body.

>  All of Me: A Book of Thanks, by Molly Bang, is a psalm about our bodies.  It mentions each part of a body celebrating some of the things it does.  It could be read in at least two ways. 

1. Invite worshipers to touch or wiggle each part of their body as you read about it.  Encourage them by doing the same yourself.  Conclude the book saying “Thank God for our wonderful bodies!”

2. Turn the book into a responsive psalm with the reader pausing after the sentences about each part of the body for the children/whole congregation to say “Thank you God for our wonderful bodies” or if you think they can do it, “Thank you God for our NAME OF BODY PART”

>  After discussing care of bodies with children, anoint each forehead with oil saying, “Take care of this body which God has given you.”  (This may be just for children, but I wonder if body conscious teens, stressed out middle aged adults, and older adults whose bodies are falling apart would also appreciate this anointing.)

>  Sing “Guide My Feet” or “Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated” with all their mention of body parts to celebrate God’s awareness of our bodies, connect to the call stories of the day, and even recall Psalm 139.

John 1:43-51

>  There is lots of conversation in this story.  What people say is easier for children to follow when it is pantomimed by older youth and adults who work on facial expression and body language that communicates the meaning of what is said.  You will need Jesus, Phillip and Nathanael in addition to the reader. 

Given the story of the call of the boy Samuel this week and the more detailed call of the fishing disciples next week, I’d tend to downplay this story with children.  But, it does have two interesting possibilities to explore.

>  First, Nathanael is a nobody.  He appears in the Bible only in the two lists of the names of the twelve disciples.  In one he is Nathanael.  In the other Bartholomew.  Children who feel they are often unknowns in groups (maybe especially in groups at larger churches), appreciate the fact that Jesus knew Nathanael immediately, saw value in him, and called him to be one of the twelve.  Jesus paid attention to Nathanael just as God called Samuel when he was just a kid to give Eli a really difficult message. 

>  Second, on Martin Luther King’s birthday, it is worth noting that Nathanael had to get past his prejudice about people from Nazareth before he could follow Jesus.  Nathanael couldn’t believe that anyone from Nazareth could say anything worth listening to.  Only because his friend Philip insisted that Jesus was worth meeting, did he pay any attention at all to Jesus. 

>  You might compare this to feelings about sports rivals. When my Hokie (Virginia Tech) sister-in-law told her sixth grade students that she was going to spend Thanksgiving in Charlottesville (home of UVA), they were aghast.  She had to explain to them that she had family in Charlottesville.  It helped that none of us are connected to UVA.  (If you use a similar story, be sure to follow it by challenging worshipers to identify other more significant groups of people whom it is easy to ignore.)

>  Friends can help people get past their prejudices.  Just as Philip insisted that Nathanael meet Jesus, friends today can insist that others step past their prejudices to meet others.  

>  Prejudice is a complicated, tangle of issues.  Especially this year in the USA, there is lots of difficult adult stuff to explore.  But, some simpler children’s stories about getting past our fears of people we do not know or perceive as different can help both the adults and the children.  Try one of these.  And, share in Comments other books you know.

Nicolas Where Have You Been? By Leo Lionni, tells of a young field mouse who hates the birds who get to the ripest berries before the mice can.  When he is caught by a big bird and dropped into a nest of baby birds, they all swap mouse and bird stories and songs.  Mother bird brings him lots of big berries.  Once the baby birds leave the nest, Nicolas climbs down to rejoin the other field mice and tell them story of his time with the birds.  Birds then bring red berries and they all feast together.  It takes just under five minutes to read and there is no way to shorten it.  But, particularly in the USA this weekend it might be worth reading in its entirety perhaps at the end of fa sermon delving into some of the more complex issues of race relations.

Apt. 3, by Ezra Jack Keating, tells of 2 brothers searching their apartment building for the person who played the harmonica.  They are at first frightened by the blind man in Apt 3, but quickly learn that he will be a wonderful friend.  Read the whole book in just under five minutes.  Or, after reading through “Sam went into the hall and listened.  No music.  His little brother Ben tagged along.” on the second page.  Skip the pages describing what they heard in all the apartments that did not belong to the harmonica player.  Then, pick it up with “Apt. 3 was quiet.  Just a container of milk outside the door.” and read to the end of the book (just over 3 minutes to read the shorter version.)

Terrible Things, by Eve Bunting, tells of the fear of the animals of the clearing as one by one the Terrible Things came for each kind of animal.  None of them stand up for any of the others, actually remembered things they did not like about the victims, and were glad they had not been come for.  In the end only a small white rabbit is left to go warn the other animals in the forest – if they will listen. 

>  Taking a slightly different tack, friends can also help friends know God better.  Eli taught Samuel what to say when God called.  Samuel told Eli what God had told him, even though he knew Eli would not like it.  Philip got Nathanael to listen to Jesus even though Nathanael did not believe anyone from Nazareth would have anything important to say.  So, name some ways people help each other get to know God in your congregation.  Also point out the possibility that each person has the potential to be such a friend to others. 

>  Sing Carolyn Winfrey Gillette’s hymn about all the people (men, women and children) who followed Jesus.  Simple new words set to the familiar tune “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy” makes singers of all ages pay sharper attention to what they are singing.  Find the words at Carolyn's Hymns


  1. When the call of Samuel comes up in the lectionary, the music minister at the church I serve has the choir sing the anthem "Samuel Was a Friend of God" while two children act it out. Last time Samuel and Eli were played by two brothers. It was great.

    Also, we posted a list of books on the topics of prejudices and tolerance on Storypath today. Many potentials came up in my search, but only half were available in my local library. I think people could find some additional good options if they search their public library catalogs.

    1. Hmm, don't know the song, but it sounds good. What would happen if the next to act it out were a grandfather - grandson pair. Bet that would be cool too.

    2. that would be cool. I think we only have one family that would fit in that category, and not sure we could get the grandfather or the grandson on board! but I love the idea.


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