This week it is all about the texts. Their themes are all over the place – mourning, a healing and raising to life that bring two marginal women back into the community, and sharing with folks in need. Each one has something to offer children.
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
L Not just the children, but most worshipers, will need the back story on this. Who is Jonathan? How did Saul and Jonathan die? And, then what is David saying about them in this funeral song? At the least, read 2 Samuel 17:57 – 18:5, 10-16 (the alternate reading for last week) or replace this text with one of the stories about David that have been omitted from the lectionary. See Year B - Planning for NINE weeks of David Stories.
J If the focus is more on the friendship between David and Jonathon than on David’s grief when Saul and Jonathon died, invite children to write poems about their good friends following the format below.
L Many children today have little experience with shared mourning or funerals. This story could be an opportunity to introduce them to the strong feelings that one feels and hears from others at such times and to lead them to expect that those feelings are normal and safe within God’s love. It can be good preparation that they are not likely to get anywhere else today.
L If you are adding images to a picture of David as you work through his stories, today add two tears to David’s face – one for Saul and one for Jonathan (?) Or, if the emphasis is more on the friendships than the grieving, add a heart inscribed, “Jonathon, My Best Friend” to David’s chest.
L If you do build worship around David’s mourning, help children learn to mourn by introducing ways we let all the sadness out. Show the obituary page and explain that when a person dies family and friends write about all the things a person did and who was special to them. If you have a cemetery, talk about what is written on stones to tell how special that person was. Even describe memorial services. Then tell that when David’s best friend Jonathan died, David let all his sadness out in a poem. Read it from the Bible or from this Bible storybook version of it.
On the hills of Israel out leaders are dead!
The bravest of our soldiers have fallen!
Saul and Jonathan, so wonderful and dear;
Together in life, together in death;
Swifter than eagles, stronger than lions.
Jonathan lies dead in the hills.
I grieve for you, my brother Jonathan;
How dear you were to me!
How wonderful was your love for me.
From The Children’s Bible in 265 Stories, Mary Batchelor
L The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst, is a classic book about death for children. For today’s purposes, read only pages 3-8 (or maybe 9) which tell how a little boy felt when his cat Barney died and how the family held a funeral during which the little boy named nine good things about Barney. The little boy and his family are doing exactly what David was doing as he sang for Saul and Jonathan. Children appreciate that connection.
L This is a psalm that could have been prayed by David or Jairus or the woman who had been sick for 12 years. If you point out these connections before reading the psalm and read it with feeling, children will follow and gather more of its meaning from the tone rather than from intellectually understanding the words read. It would be possible to have it read three times by three different readers in the role of the different characters in the day’s stories.
L Focus on the key phrase “Out of the depths I cry to you.” Read the phrase several times. Brainstorm a list of “out of the depths” situations being sure to include some that will be familiar to children, e.g. family fights (not fussing about little stuff like what to eat for dinner, but big fights with angry name calling), hopeless fusses with siblings, being stuck for the summer in a camp or child care place you do not like, etc. Describe David’s “depths” as he heard that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in a battle. Read David’s funeral poem listening for how sad David felt.
L Ask what we do when we are in “the depths.” First we tell God about it, but then…. Read verse 5 and rephrase its insistence that we remember that God loves us and will save us.
L If you are working with Psalm 23 all summer, connect “out of the depths I will cry to you” with “when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.” Point out the language that makes sense when awful things have happened. Put the two phrases into your own words noting how they are alike and different and how it is important to remember them both.
L Give worshipers gray sheets of paper and black pencils with which to write or draw about “the “depths” they face or know. Collect them all in baskets to place on the worship table. Comment on all the pain in those baskets, then read the psalm over the baskets. (Yes, this similar to last week's suggestion for praying about things we fear.)
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
This is here to echo the gospel reading. It is however filled with complicated words and phrases that have to be explained and then linked together to make the point of the whole text. This is harder to do than the benefit it brings to children. They will pick up the message more readily from the day’s stories. So read this one for the adults.
Lamentations 3:23-33 or Psalm 30
L Given this choice, I’d go with Psalm 30 for the children - if I used either one.
L Most children live exactly in the present, the now. This psalm requires a longer view than they have. Probably the best way to share it with them is simply to read it as a prayer that the woman who had been sick for 12 years or the dad whose little girl was dying could have prayed.
L Point out to the children that there is a difference in happiness and joy. Happiness and Joy are what we feel when everything is going great. Happiness disappears when things start going badly (someone is sick, scary things are happening, things we want to happen don’t happen). But, because we know God is with us even in the bad times, we still can have joy. A monk named David Steindl-Rast says that joy is “that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.” Another person rephrased verse 5b “weeping and sadness come to spend the night, but joy moves in to stay.” That is a challenging, but useful idea to children who are only beginning to learn that their feelings at any given moment don’t have to run their lives.
L Celebrate the psalmist’s sturdy joy by singing the old favorite “I’ve Got A Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart.” “I’ve got the love of Jesus, love of Jesus” and “I’ve got the peace that passes understanding” are good verses for this psalm and the other texts for today.
L This and several of the other Old Testaments for the day are laments. The details of each lament are difficult for children to understand. But, we can use them to introduce children to the astounding reality that we can tell God about all the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. When we are totally mad or hurt or sick, we can pour it all out to God. This prayer poster is a lament one 10 year old girl taped in her window for God. List things we can lament about today, then incorporate them into prayer.
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
$$ Display or project pictures of people living in poverty and in comfort. Identify the similarities and differences. Note that the Christians in Jerusalem were living more like the people in the poverty picture and the Christians in Corinth were more like those living in comfort. Then, challenge worshipers to listen to what Paul said to the people in the church in Corinth as you read this text.
$$ Compare the Christians at Corinth sending money to the struggling Christians in Jerusalem to some of your congregation’s sending money to people who need it today. Display pictures of specific projects with which the children are familiar and at least one that will be less familiar. If any youth or families in your congregation are going on mission trips this summer, mention them or maybe hear a report from them. Embedding their report in the sermon makes it feel less like an announcement and more like an illustration of a point of the sermon.
$$ Don’t overlook the possibility that children have money or other gifts to share. Some families hosting birthday parties for children ask guests to bring something that will be given to a child other than the birthday child. The birthday child has the honor of picking what the gifts will be and where they will go. Examples I have heard of include bringing books that are given to refugee children learning English and bringing favorite kid foods to go to the local food bank (I think this one netted lots of blue box mac and cheese and sugary cerealsJ). Describing this practice plants seeds with families that know they don’t need a huge pile of birthday gifts.
$$ Boxes for Katje, by Candace Fleming, tells of an American girl who shortly after World War II became a pen pal with a Dutch girl. In response to hearing about the needs of her family Rosie sent a box of food and clothes to Katje. As their correspondence continued Rosie involved her whole town in shipping boxes to the Dutch community. In return the Dutch sent a huge box of Dutch bulbs. Each was sending what they had that the others needed.
> This is one of the few Bible stories that feature a child. Children, especially the girls, appreciate the fact that the first person Jesus raised from the dead was not some important grownup, but a little girl. They hear kindness in the way Jesus speaks to her and tells her parents to get her something to eat. To be sure you have their attention before reading, introduce the reading with “listen for twelve year old girl who was dying and a woman who had been sick for twelve years.
> To separate the two stories and help listeners hear them both, ask two readers (one male, one female) to read this text. The man starts reading from the lectern. At the proper time, the woman comes from her seat and nudges him aside to read her part, then steps aside walking out a side door to make space for the man to finish the story. Encourage the readers to take the roles of Jairus and the sick woman and to read dramatically as those people might have told this story about themselves.
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Man: When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him.
Woman: Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Man: While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
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Do NOT Interrupt Me!!!!!
> Children are often told by adults not to interrupt them, but are often interrupted by adults who want them to stop what they are doing to do whatever the adult wants NOW. This story provides them both good news and a challenge. The good news is that when the sick woman interrupted Jesus, he did not get upset but stopped to help her. So, Jesus is willing to hear from us whenever we need him. We don’t have to worry that we are interrupting. The challenge is that as Jesus’ disciples we are called to be like Jesus. That means we need to be willing to be interrupted too. We need to pay attention to the needs of others around us and be willing to stop what we are doing when they need us.
Exploring the involvement of the whole community in making these two women whole (goes beyond Jesus making them healthy to restoring them to the whole community). Illustrate this with ways people used their hands to minister to them when they were ill, to keep them at a distance and then hug them and welcome them back when they were healthy. Also describe the ways we use our hands to minister to and heal people (everything from medical care to knitting prayer shawls…). Then sing “Jesus Hands Were Kind Hands.”
> If your congregation practices rites for healing, this is a good day to explain them and walk through them with children. If oil is used show them how it used. Be sure to address the fact that not everyone who prays for healing or uses this ritual will be healed. If anyone who is more familiar with these rituals than I am has ideas about how to introduce them to children, please share. I and others are all ears.