Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An Accordion Book About the Great Feast

Noell Rathbun-Cook of has been pushing The Greatest Table, by Michael J. Rosen, for use on World Communion Sunday. Yesterday I saw a copy of the book at the Union Presbyterian Seminary library. It really is rather special. For one thing it is an accordion book that opens up to nearly 12 feet in length. Each page tells about people eating together and is illustrated by a different well-known illustrator setting their scene in a different culture or eating place (see Patricia Polacco's beginning of the book above). It was originally written as a fund raiser for a hunger ministry. There is no mention of Communion in it, but it could not be a better match for Isaiah's great feast. Since that text appears on All Saints Day on November 1 of this year, I thought I'd mention it to you now while there is time to maybe get hold of a copy. ....

Now for the hard part. The book is out of print, but there are still copies available for anywhere from $15 to $80. Check out some of the dealers on for starters and follow the treasure hunt from there. The folks at Ginter Park Church use The Greatest Table every year in worship, mainly on World Communion Sunday and insist that it is worth the investment. 

And, if you aren't able to spring for the original, what about creating your own accordion book with pictures your children draw of eating around the world? Imagine it spread across the front of the sanctuary as you read it a feasting Sunday or a Sunday focused on sharing.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Year B - All Saints Day (November 1, 2015)

All Saints Day falls on Time Change Sunday in the USA this year.  So remember to turn your clock back and enjoy that wonderful extra hour of sleep.

All Saints Day is one great holy day for children.  It is both an opportunity to point to Christian hero/ines and a chance to explore God’s promise to be with us always and forever no matter how hard things get.  In years A and C of the RCL the focus is on who the saints are and what they do.  In year B (this year) the focus is more on what God promises the saints.  This year All Saints falls on the Sunday after Halloween on Saturday night.  That makes it an especially good opportunity to slam the door on all the scary Halloweeny stuff and focus on trusting God in the face of all the scary things we face on Halloween and every day.  So, I’d go with these texts rather than the Proper 26 texts that would otherwise fall on this day.  If you do go with Proper 26, you will find some All Saints suggestions in my post about them.  There is definitely an All Saints sub-theme among them.

All Saints Day

With children we tend to turn All Saints Day into a celebration of Christian heroes and heroines.  There is value in doing that.  Children need role models and it is wise to offer them some specifically Christian ones. 

To do this (and keep the Halloween costume interest alive for another day) invite children (or worshipers of all ages) to wear costumes or carry a prop related to one of their Christian hero/ines.  Stage a processional in which worshipers stop at a microphone to tell in one sentence the name of their hero/ine and why that person is important to them.  Help parents get their children into this with advanced publicity that defines saint as a person who shows us about God, lists several well-known saints, e.g. St. Patrick, St. Paul, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, at least one local saint and notes that saints may be living or may have already died.  In an oral announcement, identify one of your saints and tell what you would wear or carry to represent that person.  If there are churches named after saints in your community, encourage people to learn about one of those saints.  A light touch throughout will make this a fun and celebratory worship event for everyone.

Instead of wearing costumes, challenge church school classes and households to make a paper banner or poster about one of their saints.  Stage a processional of these art works and display them during worship.

The downside of celebrating saintly hero/ines is that it leaves most of us feeling less than saintly.  To avoid this, emphasize that all God’s people are saints.  Saints are people through whom God shines.  Each saint shows us a different part of God.  Illustrate this by naming what of God you see in some of the saints in your congregation – maybe the music minister or the guy who heads up the CROP Walk every year.  Challenge worshipers to identify what they see of God in people around them.  Remind them that the more people we know and pay attention to, the more we know the grace of God through those people.  To celebrate some of these saints (both living and dead) who are dear to members of the congregation create posters, banners, or table cloths decorated with their names.

Prepare several blank banners (possibly cloud shaped to refer to the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12).  Invite worshipers to arrive early enough to add names of their saints in fabric marking pens to one of the banners.  Just before worship slide the banners on to poles, process in with them, and display them prominently during worship.

Instead of creating banners create a table cloth for the central worship table.   Worshipers can write the names of their saints on a white sheet which is then draped over the worship table at the beginning of worship.  Candles, crosses, even communion elements can be added during a Call to Worship which summons all the saints, both the living and the dead. 

Two children’s picture books about quilts provide good back stories for these creations. 

In The Keeping Quilt, by Patricia Polacco, a woman immigrating to America creates a quilt that connects to memories of family in the old country.  The quilt is used as a bedcover, a Sabbath tablecloth, a wedding canopy, and a baby blanket to wrap a new generation.  The book is too long to read in worship, but can be easily told turning to a few key pictures for illustration.

In The Naming Quilt, by Phyllis Root, a little girl goes to sleep each night with stories about the people represented in her family quilt.  The quilt is destroyed in a storm, but the little girl and her Grandmother still have the memories, and start a new quilt that includes the little girl’s name in the middle.  (This book may be harder to locate than the other.)

To introduce the idea of saints to the children display one of the following pieces of art.

Used by permission.  Go to

“Gathering of the Spirits” is non-literal art and will challenge children.  Some “I wonder” questions will help them understand the picture:
I wonder what that round thing is?  the sun?  the moon?  the light of God?
I wonder who the gold things are? 
Can anyone guess what the square things are? 
(You may have to talk briefly about halos here.)
This should get to a discussion about all the people/saints who we are always aware of, who show us about God by just being there, and who help us live well. 

Used by permission.  Go to
Or, look at her collage “Of Supper and Saints” in which many different kinds of “saints” gather around the Table.  Identify what makes each figure unique.  Then, ponder what holds them together.  What do they share and what do they gain from being together “at the Table.  (This is especially effective if communion will be celebrated during this service.) 

"(I believe in) the communion of saints..."
If you regularly recite the Apostles’ Creed in worship, point to the phrase “(I believe in) the communion of saints.”  Direct worshipers to find it wherever you have it printed.  Note that it is a reminder that we are connected to all the people who have loved God and followed Jesus in all times and all places.  We are a community, a family.  Name some of the saints you will be thinking of today when you say this and invite others to think about the saints they will remember.  Then, recite/read the creed together.

A Little Easter

All Saints Day is also known as a Little Easter.  Children are fascinated by celebrating Easter in a different season.  So bring out all the Easter paraments and robes.  If you “buried” an Alleluia banner or poster during Lent, bring it out and process it around the room as you sing a hymn with lots of alleluias. 

Talk about the difference in celebrating resurrection in the springtime when flowers blooming and in the autumn when everything is turning brown and dying.  Celebrate both the joy of knowing there is new life when you see it all around you and the importance of remembering there is new life when everything around you is looking dead.  Older children enjoy thinking about how different Easter feels in the different hemispheres. 

On this day many congregations remember all the members of the congregation who have died during the last year.  Children are keenly aware of the intensity of this reading.  Indeed, many adults have childhood memories of the occasion.  Ways to enhance this worship event for children (and all worshipers) include:

-        Toll a handbell as each name is read.
-        Light a candle as each name is read and leave the candles lit throughout the service as a reminder of the continuing presence of the saints who have died.
-        One church in Maine projects the names on the walls.  Talk about being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses!
-        Speak briefly about the connection between the living and dead saints.  At its best this can be a time when gratitude takes the center in the grieving process.

Selecting hymns for All Saints Day is almost a no-brainer.  But there are ways to make them more sing-able for the children.

“For All the Saints” is 6 verses long!  Rather than sing all of them at once, spread them throughout the service.  Everyone will pay better attention to the words.  At the beginning of the service point out the Alleluias and practice them so non-readers can join in.

“I Sing A Song of the Saints of God” uses simpler language, names very specific recognizable saints, and asks the singer to commit to sainthood.  Singing it in the congregation suggests to all that children are also saints.

“For All the Saint’s Who’ve Shown Your Love” by John Bell uses simpler language than some All Saints hymns but is not as “cute” as “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God”

“We Are the Church Together” makes the point that the church is not a building, a steeple, or a resting place, but a community of people.  Before singing this song, recite this phrase and remind worshipers that they and all saints together are the church.

The second verse of “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” is especially appropriate for All Saints and Communion.  Walk through it pointing out the connections.  Define cherubim and seraphim simply as angels.  Ask a class of children in advance to make banner illustrating all sorts of people and angels praising God together.  Process the banner in and display it during the singing of the hymn.  Sing the second verse again at communion even in response to the phrase “with the faithful of all times and all places.” 

Highlight the phrase “Praise Him above you heavenly host” in the Doxology.  Note that we are among “all creatures here below” and that everyone who loved God and has died is one of “the heavenly host.”  Point out that all the saints you have been talking about in worship today praised God when they were creatures her below and praise God now among the heavenly host.  Praising God connects us.

Singing “When the Saints Go Marchi’ In” in worship delights children and helps them understand the song in a new way.  I even heard of one congregation that sang “When the Saints Go Marchin’ Out” at the end of service.

Something to think about:  This is one of those days on which rituals, liturgy and songs have more power than preaching.  The challenge is to help children understand some of those rituals and the words in them.  It may be worth spending more time on getting banners made and involving people in rituals than in producing well studied sermons.

Year B All Saints Day Texts

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9

Children live very much in the present.  It is even hard for them to believe it is worth living with braces for several years in order to have straight teeth when they are older.  So it is hard for them to appreciate this writer’s insistence that though it looks like God’s people who were killed for their faith will shine in the future and rule the world with God.  Isaiah makes much more sense to them.

Isaiah 25:6-9

Display pairs of pictures of people or groups who do not get along today and in history.  Briefly describe what they disagree about and how they fight each other.  Spread the pictures around the elements on the Table.  Read this passage or at least verse 6.  Then, leave the pictures in place during the sacrament.  Possible pairs this year include:
2 well known political adversaries
An Arab fighter and a western business man
Skin head and a black activist
A traditionally-dressed older woman and a young woman in a tank top with tats

Different churches say it differently but most have a phrase in the great Prayer of Thanksgiving that calls people to the Table in ways that connects that Table to the feast of Isaiah.  Presbyterians say “joining with all the saints of all times and places.”  Methodists say, “Make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.”  Your congregation may say something else.  Whatever it is, highlight it just before the sacrament.  Practice the congregation’s sung completion of this prayer.  Then, name some of the saints and imagine both living and dead saints from all over the world gathered around the Table with you.  From here go straight into the Invitation to the Table.

Communion on Isaiah’s terms is an upbeat rather than somber rite.  So choose communion hymns accordingly.  Sing mainly verses 1, 2, and 4 of “I Come With Joy.”  Even though older children can follow the words of this hymn you might want to put them into your own words to catch their attention.  Another choice is “For the Bread Which You Have Broken.”  Verses 2 and 3 can also be connected to Isaiah’s feast.

Psalm 24

Psalm 24 is meant to be experienced rather than explained.  To experience it as the call to worship it was have it read by two groups.  “One” could be a worship leader or a choir in place at the front of the sanctuary.  “Two” could be a class/choir/group standing at the rear of the sanctuary or could be the entire congregation.

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Psalm 24

All:       The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
         the world, and those who live in it;
    for he has founded it on the seas,
            and established it on the rivers.

One:    Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
        And who shall stand in his holy place?

Two:    Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
        who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
             and do not swear deceitfully.

One:    They will receive blessing from the Lord,
        and vindication from the God of their salvation.

Two:    Such is the company of those who seek him,
        who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Organ chord, trumpet ta-ta, or other music

Two:    Lift up your heads, O gates!
         and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
         that the King of glory may come in.

One:    Who is the King of glory?

Two:    The Lord, strong and mighty,
        the Lord, mighty in battle.

Organ chord, trumpet ta-ta, or other music

Two:    Lift up your heads, O gates!
        and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
        that the King of glory may come in.

One:    Who is this King of glory?

Two:    The Lord of hosts,
        he is the King of glory.

                                     Based on  NRSV

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Revelation 21:1-6a

If you have been reading Hebrews, remember that the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1-3) does not appear in this series.  In fact it only appears in the RCL on the Wednesday of Holy Week – a time many will miss.  So, it might be a better New Testament reading than Revelation 21 on All Saints Day.  If you do revisit the cloud of witnesses banner and table cloth suggestions at the beginning of this post.

If you do read this text, display Halloween decorations including haunted houses, skeletons, open coffins, and tombstones.  Point out all the scary, evil, awful things seen in these things.  Then read Revelation 21:1-6a stopping as you go to remove the scary things as they are mentioned, i.e. “the city dressed like a bride” is better than a haunted house, “no death” makes the coffin and tombstone unnecessary, etc.  You may want to replace each Halloween item with a Revelation item such as small posters with the red slash over the word death or a smiling face for no more tears.  The point is that God’s power and love have the last word over all the scary, unhappy things in the world.  It’s a good way to wrap up the Halloween season and direct attention toward the coming of Advent in one month.

Recent lectionary texts have included “alpha and omega” references.  If you have those letters stitched, carved, or painted into your sanctuary and have not pointed them out in the last month, do so today.  Identify the first and last letter of several alphabets and explain what the symbol says about Jesus and God being at the beginning and the end of the whole universe.

John 11:32-44

On the Sunday after Halloween children are first amused by all the details about dead, stinky, bound-up Lazarus and then comforted by the proof that not even death can separate the saints from God’s care.

JESUS MAFA. Jesus raises Lazarus to life, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved October 12, 2012]
Use the “Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life” painting to explain a few things about burial in that day before reading the passage.  Point out the cave and the wrapped up Lazarus.  Then invite the congregation to listen to a story about a man who died, was wrapped in strips of cloth and buried in a cave.  Urge them to get ready for a surprising ending to the story.  Then read the gospel.

Before reading the gospel display a Halloweeny skeleton maybe trailing some spider webby fiber.  Point out that up until today’s reading everybody in the world had died.  No one had ever come back from being dead.  Everyone was rather scared about this big unknown end of life.  Then read the story of the raising of Lazarus.  Immediately after the reading, point out that Jesus was giving them a hint about his coming resurrection.  Have an acolyte carry the skeleton ceremoniously out the center aisle.  Then say to the congregation, “the Word of the Lord” to which they will reply with feeling, “thanks be to God.”

Winston Churchill planned his funeral in great detail before his death.  At the end of the service he wanted a bugler to play taps in the back of one of the transepts of the cathedral.  After a brief pause, he wanted another bugler to play reveille at the back of the opposite transept.  If your children are scouts or have other ways to have encountered taps and reveille, they will grasp what Churchill was saying about his death.  If you have a bugler or trumpeter, that person might follow Churchill’s directions at the end of your service or might play taps at the beginning of the service and reveille after the benediction.  If you do the latter, consider calling the children forward immediately after taps and before the call to worship to identify the melody, it’s meaning, and why you are playing it today at the beginning of the service.  Urge them to listen for reveille and image what it means.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Year B - Proper 25, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 22nd Sunday after Pentecost (October 25, 2015)

Next Saturday is Halloween, a high holy day for children on which they work on facing fears.   Most children are just beginning to think about it, but it will be THE topic of conversation as the week goes on.  So, invite children to join Job praising God who is greater and more powerful than any monster, evil or scary thing they will encounter this week.  Also pray with them for help remembering that even in our costumes and behind our masks we are still ourselves.  We are still God’s children and often need God’s help to act like that.  Find a few text-specific Halloween connections scattered below.

This is also Reformation Sunday.  That is a lot less interesting to children than Halloween is!  Still there are a few suggestions here that might be useful in a service celebrating that day. 

There is a lot of talk about seeing in today’s texts.  Blind Bartimaeus is healed after he outshouts a crowd that is blinder than he to who Jesus is.  Job “sees” God in a new way.  This will lead to lots of metaphoric talk about seeing.  Since such “seeing” is often part of worship this is an opportunity to introduce it to children.  Several ways of seeing include
Ø Being physically blind then getting healed – like Bartimaeus
Ø “Now, I see” as in Job saying to God, now, I understand or I get it
Ø “I see you” even when others are ignoring you – like Jesus hearing Bartimaeus through the crowd that was telling him to be quiet and then calling him forward
Ø “I see you” – the real you.  I know who you are and see past what people are saying about you or what you just did that was not really like you
Ø “I see what you mean” means I understand with my mind what you are saying with your mouth. 
Ø “I see why going to the beach with your friend is important to you” means I understand with my heart why going to the beach with your friend is important to you.

To help children watch for “seeing words” in the readings, songs, and prayers of the day, try some of the following. 
Ø Display a poster or banner with a pair of eyes on it at the beginning of worship.
Ø Before the call to worship introduce “I see” as the sponsor of today’s worship ala Sesame Street’s sponsoring letters and numbers.
Ø List some of the words related to vision that will appear in today’s worship and explore some of the literal and metaphorical meanings of seeing.  Or, create a word search of these words for children to work with during worship.  Urge them to re-circle each word every time the hear, sing, say or pray it.
Ø Give children a row of eye stickers with which to mark their printed order of worship every time they hear a vision word. 

Texts for This Week

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

This is a somewhat complexly presented conversation between God and Job.  Job is actually the only one speaking but as he speaks he is recalling what God said to him.  The TEV offers a much clearer translation of the verses, but blunts this internal conversation.  Choose the TEV for clarity or choose the NRSV to emphasize the conversation using a narrating liturgist and two readers (God and Job).  The dialogue reading offers an opportunity to explore the text by reading God’s voice several different ways.
Ø A disembodied voice from “up” in the sound system.
Ø A person standing right beside Job as if sitting with Job on the ash heap
Ø A voice from inside Job (maybe a person reading just behind Job)
As you hear it read in these different ways talk about what each one says about how close God is to Job (and to us) and how each one feels to Job (and to us).  There are no right or wrong answers just a chance to explore different ways we sense God with us.

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Job 42:1-6

Liturgist:  Then Job answered the Lord:

Job:           I know that you can do all things,
                       and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

God          Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?

Job:          Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
                       things too wonderful for me, 
                       which I did not know.

God:         Hear, and I will speak;
                       I will question you, and you declare to me.

Job:           I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
                           but now my eye sees you;
                       therefore I despise myself,
                           and repent in dust and ashes.

(Liturgist may read verses 10-17.)


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If you have been reading Job for the whole month, talk about what Job has learned about God as the story unfolded.  At the beginning of the story Job thought God rewarded people who were good and punished people who were bad.  After he endured lots of bad experiences, he knew that understanding was mistaken.  After God spoke to him, he knew that he did not know the answer to why bad things happened to people – even good people like him.  He understood how little he knew about how the world works AND he knew that God understands exactly how it works and is in charge and can be trusted.  Those are important things to know.

Older children find the ending as odd as adults do.  If they are reminded that this is a made-up story that people created to ask an important question, some of them appreciate the possibility of a storyteller who added to the ending “to make it better.”  Children often encounter stories that offer several possible endings from which to choose, so multiple endings are familiar.  Suggest that this story teller wanted a happy ending for Job and since it was a made-up story, he or she made up this one.  Get a show of hands on who likes the happy ending and who thinks it is better off without that ending.  Again, no right answers, but another chance to talk about the issues in the story.

The Job story helps us ask about one mystery – why does bad stuff happen to good people.  Halloween, which is on Saturday of this week, is a holiday on which we think about all the things we don’t understand about death.  We dress up as ghosts and skeletons.  We dare ourselves to go into graveyards and handle scary goopy stuff.  All this is a way to laugh at the things we don’t understand and to remind ourselves that we can trust God who understands all the mysteries and with us no matter what happens.

This may be copied for non-commercial purposes.
On the Sunday before Halloween, celebrate Jesus’ presence with us as we face all the scary stuff in the world by singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”  To highlight it …

… introduce it as song Job might have sung and that we might sing at Halloween.  Point to the song sheet insisting that there is a fight going on in this song.  Point out the dark side words and the golden “glory words.  Admit that since this song was written 400 years ago some of the words are hard, but insist that if they watch for the gold and dark words they can follow the fight and see which side wins

Or, since the words are challenging for children, call on worshipers to get out their hymnals and follow along while you put the words of verses 2 and 3 into your own words.

Verse 2:
If we trusted in ourselves alone, 
     we would be in big trouble.
If we did not have a strong person chosen by God 
     on our side we’d be losers. 
Who is that strong person?  Jesus, of course. 
He is the Lord and will win every battle.

Verse 3:
Although the world is full of really scary stuff
We will not get TOO scared 
     because God is in charge of the world
We don’t have to worry about even the worst villain
     because we know that in the end God will win.

If you have not checked out the suggestions for the previous readings from Job do go to Proper 22, Proper 23 and Proper 24.

Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)

David was afraid that the King Achish/Abimelech would put him in prison or kill him so he did crazy things like doodling on the city gates and drooling.  The king was disgusted and told his servants to send David away.  David went.  This alphabet psalm celebrates his escape, his sanity, and mostly God’s care for him in a tight situation.

To imagine him safely back at his camp creating this psalm with his men, briefly tell the story then have a different person call out each letter to which David responds with the appropriate verse.  The alphabet readers could sit with a microphone on the first row or be gathered on the floor around David.  In the latter case, rehearse yelling the letters loudly enough to be heard.  For simplicity, I’d stick with the first eight verses and eight letters.

“The fear of the Lord” is an interesting phrase to explore the week before Halloween.  For children Halloween is about facing fears (ghosts, gory stuff in haunted houses, even being out after dark for the youngest).  They fear the things that they think are too powerful for them.  The psalmist claims that the one to fear is God.  God is definitely more powerful that any of us.  Fortunately God loves us, cares for us, and is with us when we are in scary situations.  The underlying message is to fear (to acknowledge as more powerful than we are) the right things and people.  So we do not have to fear ghosts, the dark, walking past the cemetery at night, or anything else.  Instead we, like David, fear/trust God’s loving power.

If you celebrate communion today and use the phrase “O taste and see that the Lord is good” in the liturgy regularly, point out the phrase in verse 8.  Together list all sorts of things we can taste and see that show us that God is indeed good – including the bread and cup of communion.  And, yes Halloween candy does taste good and can remind us that God is more powerful than the monsters and scary places.

Jeremiah 31:7-9

Gather Us In is a lively, but very wordy musical version of this message.  For children, walk through only the “Gather us in” phrases at the end of verses 1, 2 and 4.  Together list all the people God gathers and promises to love forever.  Then as the congregation sings point to them every time that phrase comes in the song. 

Gather us in, the lost and forsaken.
Gather us in the blind and the lame.
Call to us now and we shall awaken.
We shall arise at the sound of our name.

Gather us in, the rich and the haughty.
Gather us in, the proud and the strong.
Give us a heart, so meek and so lowly.
Give us the courage to enter the son.

Gather us in and hold us forever.
Gather us in and make us your own.
Gather us in, all peoples together,
fire of love in our flesh and our bone.

Psalm 126

Verses 1-3 praise God in a good time – when they are returning home from being captives in Babylon for 70 years.  Verses 4-6 praise God in a time when things are not going well – when people weep as they sow seeds and there is not enough rain.  Point out these differences and the possibility of praising God in both.  Then have one half of the congregation read the first 3 verses and the other half read the last three verses.  

BTW: This psalm is one of the texts for Thanksgiving this year.

Hebrews 7:23-28

The poster word for today is ETERNAL, as in Jesus is our eternal, lasting forever, always High Priest and Lord.  Such unending dependability is important to children.  Especially if they must move frequently or move back and forth between the homes of their divorced parents, children place a high value on who/what is always there, no matter where, no matter what.  It is less important to them that Jesus is the High Priest than that Jesus is eternal.  He never ends.  That is good news!

If you have Alpha and Omega stitched, painted or carved into your sanctuary, point them out.  Identify the first and last letters in several alphabets.  Then explain the meaning of the symbol that Jesus was there at the beginning and will be there at the end.  Jesus is eternal, always….

At Halloween we think about monsters and the scary parts of death.  The fact that Jesus is eternal tells us that even after we die Jesus will be with us.  We will be safe.  So we can laugh at all the monsters and ghosts and dead pirates we see this week.

Before singing “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” walk through it with open hymn books.  Invite worshipers to raise their hand whenever you read a word about time.  There are lots of them – ages, years, eternal, before, everlasting, endless, ages, evening, watch, time!  Pause as you come to each one and put what that phrase is saying about time into your own words. 

One job of the High Priest is to intercede for the people.  That makes this a good day to feature intercessory prayer in your worship service.  Just as Christ prays for us, we pray for each other.  If your congregation gathers prayer concerns, walk through the process with the children just before doing it.  Hear their prayer suggestions and be sure to include them in the church’s prayers near the beginning in simple words that they are likely to hear.

Mark 10:46-52

This story can be easily pantomimed by children as it is read.  The liturgist who rehearses this with the children then reads for them in worship not only invites them to one-time worship leadership, but builds a relationship with them that will lure them into listening to their friend at the front during the weeks that follow.

Children enjoy the fact that Bartimaeus did what they are constantly told not to do – and was rewarded for it.  Bartimaeus called out his need even when people told him to be quiet.  He was very determined.  Jesus said his determination and trust that Jesus could heal him were laudable and healed him.  It is possible to both savor this with them and to explore the difference in Bartimaeus’ determined insistence that Jesus hear him and a greedy whiny insistence that you get your own way.  Sorting this out is a lifelong challenge.  Children can begin to understand it and start working on it now.

If you are going to explore what it meant for Bartimaeus to “throw off his cloak,” use a blanket to demonstrate all the ways Bartimaeus used his cloak, i.e. sat on it as he begged, used it to catch money that missed the bowl, wrapped up in it to stay warm at night, put it over his head when it rained, etc.  Remind the children of “blankies” or “loveys” that they may have carried when they were younger (or still carry).  Insist that his cloak was more important to Bartimaeus than a “blankie” or “lovey.”  Doing this near the beginning of the real sermon as an introduction to the story lets you do something visual to draw children into the story without feeling the need to find a lesson in it and suggests to children that the sermon might be for them too. 

Blend the story of Scrawny Cat, by Phyllis Root, with the story of Bartimaeus.  Begin reading about the terrible life scrawny cat was living through “Poor shivery scrawny cat!” (less than 2 minutes to read this part aloud).  The pictures are great, but not essential if you show the cat on the cover.  Begin saying that before you read the Bible story, you want to read a story about a very scrawny, lost, hungry cat.  When you stop assure everyone that is not the end of the story and announce that today’s Bible story is about a man named Bartimaeus who was as scrawny, hungry and lost as the cat and on top of it was blind.  Read the gospel.  Later in the sermon read the rest of the cat’s story.  Enjoy the cat’s and Bartimaeus’ rescue.  From there go where you will.  The point may be that Jesus and God come for all the lost and hungry.  It could also be that we are called to rescue others as Emma and Jesus rescued the cat and Bartimaeus.  Or, it might be something else.  (BTW, my local public library system had 8 copies of Scrawny Cat.  It should be easy to find a copy.)

This story leads to using words about being blind and seeing metaphorically.  (See the suggestions at the beginning of this post.)  If you introduce seeing at the beginning of worship, return to it after reading the gospel to talk about what Bartimaeus could see about Jesus even when his eyes were blind and what the crowds around Bartimaeus were blind to even though they had seeing eyes. 

”Open My Eyes That I May See” with all its body parts is the first choice hymn for this story with children.  If you are paying attention to “seeing” language in worship today, point out the first line and put it into your own words before the congregation sings it.