Showing posts with label Brothers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brothers. Show all posts

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Year B - Proper 6, 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (June 17, 2012)



One writer titled an essay about this set of texts, “Just a Kid, Just a Seed, Just a Church” and pointed out that the texts insist not only that God CAN use small things to do big things, but that God’s preferred method of operation is small things.  This is a welcome message to children for at least two reasons. 

First, children who are often sent to eat at the kids table and are shuttled aside at interesting looking events often feel over looked and undervalued.  They, like David, have been left behind when the rest of the family went off for a sacrifice and feast.  So they appreciate God’s making everyone wait until David can be included and God’s insistence (in front of all his big brothers and father) that David is “the one.” 

Second, children are growing up with superheroes and heroines who “save the world” with splashy deeds.  They admire real life people who make the big plays in sports and other parts of the real world.  They long to do something “special,” “important,” “big,”… .  They sense in the question, “what will you do/be when you grow up?” the need to have a plan or at least a wish to do something important that will “save the world.”  So they tend to devalue what they can do here and now, every day.  David's anointing and Jesus’ small-seeds-that-grow parables challenge them to value and to seek out opportunities to do small deeds of kindness and justice knowing that God will work in them to do big things. 

The Quarreling Book, by Charlotte Zolotow, seems rather mis-titled to me.  It is not so much about quarreling as it is the story of a day made miserable for everyone by a cascading series of little hurts people inflict on each other in turn.  The day changes when the dog licks the hand of a boy who has just pushed him off the bed.  That begins a reverse cascade of small kindnesses that rescue the day.  Read it in about five minutes to remind worshipers how small things can make a big difference for either good or bad. 


1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13

_On Father’s Day bring this story to life, by having it read and pantomimed by a group of men and boys.  The seven brothers can simply step out from the group and stand in place (maybe in the military “at ease” pose) as the brothers are called out in the story.  Old Samuel looks at each one shaking his head with surprise as God says, "not him."  Finally, young David is brought in.  Or, send Jesse to the side door to open it and whistle for David who then appears, kneels to be anointed, then goes back out the side door.  A rehearsal will be needed so all actors are sure of their movements and to work with everyone on using their faces to react to what is happening.  This should be a fun bonding time for the group. 

NOTE: As I write this the week after Mother’s Day, I am aware of all the sensitivity to women who are not mothers on that day.  I suspect there are also men who do not need another reminder that they are not fathers or who know they have been less than fine dads.  So, include among these readers some fathers, sons, and even grandsons, but also some men of all ages who do not have children.

_The story as presented in the Bible is fairly easy for children to follow if they are invited to listen with an introduction like, “Today’s reading is the story of a boy named David who has seven, count them – seven!, older brothers.” 

_If you want a shorter version of the story turn to “King David Is Anointed” in Children of God Storybook Bible, by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

_Hiccup (How To Train Your Dragon – animated summer of 2010 blockbuster movie from Pixar) is the son of a Viking chief, who expects him to be the next chief.  Because Hiccup is not the brawny warrior his dad is, Dad and everyone else looks down on him and belittles him.  Hiccup however is paying attention to the dragons who attack the town.  Rather than kill the young dragon he finds, he befriends it and uses what he learns about dragons from it to befriend all the dragons.  This could be useful today to explore a familiar runt who turned out to be special (like David, Hiccup is a future leader who will be great) or you might want to use it next week as a companion story to David and Goliath.  Next week it offers a young hero who wins the day by turning the enemy into a friend rather than by killing him - which is welcome, but more about that next week.  

_If your congregation uses anointing in worship, this is a good chance for some worship education.  Name and even walk through the different kinds of anointing you do.  Then, introduce anointing a king as practiced in the Old Testament.  You might even anoint children (or all worshipers) with a dap of good smelling lotion or simply olive oil saying to them something like, “God chose David to be a king.  God has work for you to do too.”  This could be done during a children’s time, as worshipers leave the communion rail, or as they leave the sanctuary.

_To focus on Samuel rather David, preface the reading with brief remarks about Samuel the great prophet who had anointed Saul the first king.  Read 15:34 – 16:2a.  Pause to reread “Saul will kill me!” with feeling and note why Samuel might have been scared to do what God wanted.  Read 16.2b -4.  Pause again to note why the town leaders were trembling. Read 16:5-6.  Stop and remind worshipers that Samuel was called “The Seer” and what that meant.  Read the remaining verses using your voice and facial expressions to emphasize the fact that “the Seer” was not seeing well here.  Then comment on God’s seeing and human seeing.  This could be a children’s time, the reading of the day, or the beginning of the sermon.


Psalm 20

Psalm 20 is a prayer for the king to be sung during a ceremony in the Temple.  For adults to dig through the details of royal liturgy and theology might be interesting and set the stage for preaching about governing leaders today.  But children will miss most of this.  For them I’d read Psalm 23, connecting the line “he anoints my head with oil” to David and imagining David singing this psalm when he is back in the field looking out for the sheep – and nothing much has changed yet.  In this situation it becomes a way for David to remember happily being singled out and wondering what the anointing will mean for him in the future. 

THINKING AHEAD:  We assume that everyone knows Psalm 23, but in this day that is not always true, especially for children.  This summer’s stories about David invite worship leaders to connect different verses in the psalm to events in David’s life.  You might even

-          give children small journals with one line of the psalm written on each page.  These pages could be illustrated or journaled on during the summer. Or,

-          challenge children to learn the psalm by heart during the summer.  Offer a small prize for any child (or any worshiper) who can do it.  If an older worshiper already knows it, invite him/her to recite it for the congregation and say briefly why they are glad they know it by heart.”


Ezekiel 17:22-24

This is a parallel to the parables about growth in the gospel.  For children it requires another round of explanations and does not add anything to the parables.  So, I’d read it for the adults or skip it entirely.


Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15

On a Sunday with so much rich material for children, I’d skip this psalm too.  Really Psalm 23 makes more sense for this day. 


2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17

_This complex logic about life beyond death is for the adults.  Children’s ideas and questions about death tend in other directions.  If you plan worship around this text, click on "Death" in the word cloud to explore other resources and ideas about death that you may want to use with the children.

_Verse 17 offers children an interesting to them idea – “you are a new creation.”  For them it is the promise of endless second chances.  Tell stories of children who go off to camp or join a summer sports team where they know no one and become a different person because no one knows what to expect of them.  They can be “a new creation.”  Insist that God says they don’t even have to go to a place where no one knows them to be a new creation.  Every day they can get up with a fresh start and be a new creation, living as God’s person.  Create a litany in which the congregation responds to descriptions of situations in which we might feel stuck because of what people already think about us with “Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new creation. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.”


Mark 4:26-34

_Celebrate the truth in these parables with the old children’s folk song “Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow.”  The song tells what the farmer does but admits in every chorus “you, nor I, nor anyone knows how….”  Below are links to ta video of children singing and a site with the lyrics.

Kindergarten class singing at Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow 

Find the lyrics at Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow 

_There are several ways to explore the seed metaphor with children.  If you use any of them take time to work with both sides of the metaphor.  Children have trouble getting the “teaching point” in metaphors.

Show or give each child a seed of one of the flowers being displayed in the sanctuary today.  Ponder how such a small, dull little thing becomes such a colorful, wonderful flower.  Make Jesus’ point that just as the flower grows from the seed, God’s Kingdom grows from each of our little gifts and deeds.

Display a single mustard seed (found in the spice section of grocery stores) and a photo of a mustard tree.  Be amazed that such a small lump can turn into such a big shrub.  Make Jesus’ point that every small thing we do can make such a big difference.  Then, inform worshipers that one little mustard seed doesn’t just produce one bush.  Mustard bushes are weeds.  One quickly becomes several and several soon take over the whole field.  That tells us something else about God’s Kingdom – it is unstoppable.  It is going to fill the whole world.

Cut open an apple. Slice it and core it with the children.  Together count the seeds in it to figure out how many trees could come from this one apple.  (There were five in the one I ate for lunch.)  Then point to one of the seeds and ask, ”If we planted this seed and it grew into an apple tree, how many apples would that tree produce?”  Enjoy wild guesses and the possibility of this many apples every season for lots of seasons.  Marvel at what comes from one little apple seed.  Then go to Jesus’ point that just as much comes from each of our words, deeds, and gifts.  If you have a small number of children, give each child an apple slice to eat.  (I got this idea from someone who couldn’t remember where it came from.  If anyone knows, let the rest of us know.)

_The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss, is the simplest of stories about a little boy who plants a seed a waits for it to grow.  Everyone tells him it will not grow, but he keeps tending it, and it does grow into a carrot.  The book can be read aloud in about 2 minutes, but enjoying the pictures might add another minute.  Today it is a child’s version of the growth parables and proof that when small things are done by small people with commitment, wonderful things can happen.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Year A - Proper 15, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 14, 2011)

Genesis 45:1-15

u For children this story is partly about Joseph forgiving his brothers and partly about Joseph refusing to take revenge on his brothers.  They easily understand that Joseph could use his position in Egypt to “get even” with them in a very big way.  They have a harder time identifying why Joseph did not.  Younger children can only conclude that Joseph was a good guy and did the right thing.  When it is clearly explained, older children can begin to understand that Joseph was able forgive his brothers because he had a larger vision.  He knew that God had sent him to Egypt and arranged his rise to power in order to save the whole family – and a lot of other people – from starving during a famine.  He was OK with that. 

Most children do well to see in this story the possibility of refusing to take revenge on someone who has wronged you.  Asking them to apply it to situations in their own lives is asking a lot.  We may serve them best when we tell the story in a memorable way, talk with admiration about what Joseph did, and let the children live with the story.

u This week’s text jumps over a lot of the story of Joseph.  We never hear about Potiphar’s house, dreams interpreted in prison, or even the dreams of pharaoh and Joseph’s rise to power.   That leaves worship planners with several possibilities.

Briefly recall Joseph’s sale into slavery and note that it is now years later and Joseph has risen to great power in Egypt.  There is a huge famine and Joseph’s brothers have come to Egypt in search of food.  They do not recognize the man overseeing food distribution as their brother Joseph.  Then read Genesis 45:1-15.

illustration of Pharaoh's Dreams
from The Family Story Bible,
used with permission

Fill in the gap by reading to the children and whole congregation from a children’s Bible version.   The Family Story Bible, by Ralph Milton, “Joseph Helps Pharaoh”, p.66 tells the story of Joseph as he goes down into Egypt, ends up in prison, interprets pharaoh’s dreams, and is appointed to oversee food collection.    It ends with the famine coming.  It can be read in about 4 minutes.

If you use projections, fill in the gaps with scenes from Joseph, King of Dreams, an animated DVD.

u This story presents an opportunity to highlight both the congregation’s prayers for forgiveness and “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” from the Lord’s Prayer.

Save the prayers of confession until after a sermon exploring forgiveness.  Or, repeat the ones that were prayed at the beginning of the service after the sermon.  In either case, review with worshipers the words of the prayer and/or the sequence of the confession and assurance of pardon.

Create a responsive prayer of confession in which the congregation’s response is “forgive us…as we forgive …”.  

If the children will return to school this week, identify things people might want to confess to God about their summer so that they go back to school with a clean slate.  Some possibilities include problems between friends, things they wish they had not done, words they know they should not have said, etc.  The pardon needs to include both the promise that God was with us all summer, is proud of the good things we did, and forgives us for all the times we messed up and the promise that God will be with us as we return to school, will be proud of us when we do well, and will love us and forgive us when we mess up there.  With these promises children can go back to school in peace.   (This could be a children’s time or could part of or the total of the congregation’s confession this week.  The adults will quickly adapt the prayers and pardons to their own summers and the coming autumn.)




Psalm 133

u Pour a little good smelling (but not too flowery for the sake of the boys) lotion on each child’s hands.  While they rub it in explain the biblical custom of pouring good smelling oil not only on hands, but over their heads.  Laugh about how yucky that sounds to us.  Then read Psalm 133.

u After pointing out the two pleasures listed in the psalm, challenge worshipers of all ages to think of other examples of pleasure that are as good as being happy together with people you love.  Possibilities:
It is like warming yourself by a crackling campfire (Southern hemisphere in August)
It is like splashing in a cool pool on a hot day (Northern hemisphere in August)


Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

u Children won’t follow the abstract language of this passage.  But they do understand its insistence that no one is left to be an “outsider” in God’s world.  It is up to the worship leaders to restate the message to children and to add specific examples that illustrate it to children.

u After discussing people who are often left out at school, in the community and in the world, invite worshipers of all ages to write or draw on slips of paper people who are outsiders and are hard for them to get along with.  Collect the slips in “prayer baskets” (same as offering baskets) that are then placed on the central table.  A worship leader then voices a prayer stating concern for all the people who are named in the baskets and asking for the strength to reach out to these people where we meet them.


Psalm 67

This is another psalm that lends itself to responsive reading.  Before reading it,  practice the congregation’s response so young readers can join in.

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

Psalm 67

Leader:     May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known upon earth,
your saving power among all nations.

People:    Let the peoples praise you, O God;
                    let all the peoples praise you.

Leader:     Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
                    for you judge the peoples with equity
                    and guide the nations upon earth.

People:    Let the peoples praise you, O God;
                    let all the peoples praise you.

Leader:     The earth has yielded its increase;
                    God, our God, has blessed us.
                    May God continue to bless us;
                    let all the ends of the earth revere him.

People:    Let the peoples praise you, O God;
                    let all the peoples praise you.

                      (Based on New Revised Standard Version)

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII


Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

u Fortunately, Paul’s problem is not a problem for most children today.  So, this text is of little significance to them.

u If you do address this issue, The Christmas Menorahs, by Janice Cohn, D.S.W., is a children’s account of the true story in which the children of Billings Montana rise up to stood with the community’s Jewish families against a hate group that was throwing rocks through the windows of Jewish homes displaying menorahs.  It is too long to read in worship, but could be well used as a sermon illustration or told by a worship leader in his or her own words.  It may be available in your public library.


Matthew 15: (1-20), 21-28

u Most children are only vaguely interested in old Jewish laws and what you eat and how you eat it.  But, they sit up at take notice of Jesus’ insistence that what comes out of our mouths defiles us or makes us dirty.  They need help naming the things that come out of our mouths – like lies, name-calling, cussing, gossip, hurtful putdowns, tattling, arguments (did so, did not)…

u After exploring some the things that come out of our mouths and defile us, sing at least the verse of “Take My Life and Let it Be” that dedicates our mouths to God.  If you sing the entire hymn, point out the relevant verse and read the words aloud before the congregation sings them.
Take my voice and let me sing always, only, for my King. 
Take my lips and let them be Filled with messages from Thee,

u In a service focused on what comes out of our mouths, anoint the lips of the children with good tasting oil saying “May the words of this mouth be acceptable in your sight, O Lord.”  This could be done during a children’s time or could be offered to the whole congregation.  (OK this is a little way out, but it might make a big impression on children.)

u The story about Jesus’ conversation with the Gentile woman who wanted him to heal her daughter is offensive to children for the same reason it offends adults.  Unfortunately, all the adult attempts to make sense of it are difficult for children to follow.  I really have no idea how to unpack this story honestly and meaningfully with children.  I hope maybe one of you does and can share it in comments.  I am all ears.

For more ideas about noticing the return to school in worship go to Back To School!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Year A - Proper 14, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 7, 2011)

This week’s texts provide an embarrassment of riches for children.. Then, to add to the feast, the Episcopalians offer yet another intriguing set of readings.  To Matthew’s story about Jesus and Peter walking on the water in the middle of a storm, they add Jonah being tossed into the sea during an Old Testament storm, and Psalm 29 which celebrates the power of a storm.  This is a set of readings with a clear theme that worshipers of all ages can respond to from where they are – everywhere from trusting God in a season of storms to trusting God in all life’s storms (even the ones we, like Jonah, create).  If you pursue this…

At the very beginning of the service, maybe just before the Call to Worship, speak to the children (either in their pews or on the steps).  Talk briefly about weather storms describing how they scare us because they are so powerful.  Then, suggest that there are storms that have nothing to do with weather, e.g. fights between best friends or between brothers and sisters, even wars.  After very bluntly connecting the power and potential for harm in these different kinds of storms, urge the children to listen for all the storms in the songs, hymns, and stories today and to listen for ways we can face frightening storms of all sorts.

Go to Year A - Baptism of the Lord Sunday for suggestions about reading Psalm 29 with sound effects generated by the congregation and a stormy art project to be done in pews during worship.

If you are working with the Revised Common Lectionary readings…….


Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

Children who are constantly pushed by their parents to get along better with their siblings LOVE THIS STORY.  There may have been times they wished a troublesome brother or sister would disappear, but few have seriously contemplated making it happen, much less done something about it.  The fact that such a story appears in the Bible leads them to think that God may understand the realities of their daily lives after all.

The story begs for dramatic presentation both so everyone can enjoy it and so the children get it.  This may be a day for a longer, more elaborate scripture presentation and a shorter sermon that really is commentary on the story.

At the very least tell (in your best story teller style) the stories of the coat and Joseph’s dreams as “two things you need to know about Joseph and his eleven older brothers before you hear today’s story.”  This could be done as a children’s time after which you send the children to their seats to listen the reading from the Bible.

Gather 12 older elementary, teenage, and young adult guys (and maybe a white haired man for Jacob) to pantomime the story.  If possible provide costumes.  If you do not have that many biblical costumes, have all but Joseph wear jeans and a white or dark colored  t shirt.  Have Joseph wear jeans and a very fancy shirt of some sort – maybe a tie-dyed t shirt or a tuxedo tucked or ruffled shirt?   In rehearsal work on showing feelings with your face and body.  Consider adding the coat and dream stories and omitting the stop at Dothan.  (This is one great male bonding opportunity!)     ---  FYI the Exodus text (the birth and adoption of Moses) on August 21 provides a similar opportunity for the girls and women.

Go to http://seedstuff.blogspot.com/2008/07/proper-14-ordinary-19-pentecost-13.html for a simple humorous, bring it to life, reading script for this story.  In an informal worship setting enlist readers during the service, handing out highlighted scripts.   (Another great resource from Ann Scull’s Mustard Seeds blog.)


If you use projections during worship consider using

Ø  The appropriate sections of “Joseph – King of Dreams” the animated DVD

Ø  Selected “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” songs
1.       Joseph’s Coat
2.       Joseph’s Dream
3.       Poor, Poor Joseph (Joseph is sold and ends up in prison in Egypt)


The Bible is not clear about what kind of coat Jacob gave Joseph.  Depending on the translation it was a fancy coat, a beautifully decorated coat, a coat with long sleeves (for one who does not have to work), or a coat of many colors.  Point out to the children that the Bible was written in another language centuries ago and no one knows exactly what kind of coat it was.  Name some of the possibilities, then explain that whatever kind of coat it was, it did cause trouble.  From there ask what causes jealousy between siblings today – electronic gadgets, special shoes or clothes, special privileges, special lessons or teams,  anything I would like to have but can’t and my sibling can.  These things make brothers and sisters everywhere say aloud or grumpily to themselves – “It is not fair!”


from The Family Story Bible
by Ralph Milton
Children sympathize with the brothers.  Joseph was an arrogant, pain.  They also had a legitimate complaint against their father who was playing favorites.  It wasn’t fair that Joseph got the fancy coat and they had their old clothes.  It wasn’t fair that the youngest brother was not required to work with the others and was actually sent to check up on them.  Where the brothers got into trouble was when they used an unfair strategy (selling their defenseless brother) to get what seemed only fair for themselves.  That is something for children to remember today.  It also worth highlighting Judah and Ruben’s attempt to save Joseph as proof of how hard it sometimes is to be a peacemaker.

Create a prayer of confession about all the ways we get as mad as the brothers were in our families, communities, even in our world. 


Psalm 105:1-6,16-22, 45b

This psalm assumes the readers already know the rest of the story of Joseph.  Many do not.  So, either omit it or read it suggesting that listeners look for clues about what lies ahead for Joseph and his brothers and promising that you will pick up that story next Sunday. 

OR

Introduce this psalm as a long story poem that might have been told as families sat around their fires or on their roofs on summer evenings (before DVDs, computers, TVs, or even books).  People sat around telling stories about what was important in life.  They enjoyed retelling those stories in new beautiful ways.  This psalm told the story from Abraham through Moses.  We’ll just read the beginning and the verses about Joseph.  Everyone responds with 45b, as family might have done after the story at night.


1 Kings 19:9-18

This story raises the question “How does God speak to us?”  Literal thinking children assume that when the Bible says God spoke, people heard God with their ears.  When adults around them use this same language they assume those adults hear God speak with their ears and wonder why God never speaks to them that way.  Often they conclude that they are not good enough for God to speak to.  This story provides an opportunity to explore all this.  Point out that the Hebrew slaves knew God was with them as they left Egypt and started across the desert because there was a tall column of fire in from of them at night.  But when the fire came past Elijah on the mountain, God was not there.  When the disciples were hiding out after Jesus was resurrected there was a strong wind that blew through them and they felt God explaining to them who Jesus was, but when the wind passed Elijah on the mountain, God was not in it.  Some people have felt God with them in earthquakes, but not Elijah.  Then read the NRSV translation that says Elijah heard God in “the sound of sheer silence.”  Clearly explain that sometimes we know God is telling us something, even when we do not hear a word with our ears.  We feel God telling us deep inside us. 


Psalm 85:8-13

This psalm is so full of metaphorical language that it makes little sense to children.  It appears again in Year B on the Second Sunday of Advent when it fits the texts in ways that can more easily interpreted to children.  I’d wait until then to explore it with children.


Romans 10:5-15

Children don’t understand Paul’s problems with legalism.  Preschool children believe the “biggest” person  present makes the rules and everyone else follows them.  It’s just the way it works.  Elementary school children begin to understand that rules are set by the community and can be negotiated (hence the game playing sessions in which more time is spent arguing about the rules than playing the game).  They also believe that good people obey the rules and will tell you with conviction that they keep the important rules like the 10 commandments perfectly.  They simply cannot grasp Paul’s more ”experienced” concerns about the problems with “living by the rules.”  That will have to wait a few years for them.


Matthew 14:22-33

Like the Genesis text, this story begs for dramatic presentation.

Read it dramatically reading faster and louder as the storm grows.  Say “It’s a ghost” like you think the disciples might have said it.  Pause when the storm ceases and read the rest in a very calm voice. 

To get the congregation “in the boat with the disciples” tell them to pretend they are not sitting in a pew/chair but in a boat.  When all are aboard, push off, enjoy bobbing around in the water,  even do some rowing together.  Then, notice the storm coming at you across the water.  Rock and roll as the waves and wind build.  Hold onto the sides of the boat.  Remark on water coming into the boat.  Then, point in fear at an imaginary Jesus coming across the water.  Tell what Peter did.  Once Peter and Jesus are back in the boat, whip your arm in a stop signal and quietly say “the winds stopped”  and read the last verse.  (This could be a children’s time, but is more effectively done as the real gospel "reading" with the whole congregation.)

The key word is FAITH.  Children understand it best as trusting God.  Trust is almost a better word for them because it is more familiar. 

Introduce FAITH and TRUST at the beginning of the service.  Briefly define them and urge children to listen for them in the prayers, readings, songs, and stories of the day.  For big impact, put a real boat in the center of the sanctuary.  Equip it with a large paper sail on which is printed FAITH and/or TRUST and any other synonyms that you will be using today.  Or, display a large drawing of boat with the same sail.


If your children are among those going back to school in early August, use this story to talk about all the things you can do (master new subjects, learn new skills, make new friends…) if you are willing to try.  Instead of being hard on Peter for flunking water walking, praise him for trying while the others stayed in the boat.  Note that God made us able to learn and do many amazing things.  We need to trust God enough to try new things.  (Be sure to point out that this does not mean we can do anything – like jump off a building expecting to fly like Superman.  God gave us brains and expects us to use them to figure out what to try and what to avoid.)


Common childhood experiences that parallel this story of faith include
-          Riding a bicycle for the first time without training wheels
-          Realizing that you are halfway across the pool the first time you try to swim all the way across the pool in the deep end
-          Realizing what you are doing in the middle of standing up to a bully,
       even if he/she is responding well
-          Realizing what you are doing halfway through your recital piece
      (people often lose their concentration and mess up when this happens)
-          Realizing what you are doing the first time you stay home on your own

If all the talk of the sea leads you to sing “Eternal Father Strong to Save” begin by pointing out that it is a prayer for people who spend a lot of time on the sea.  List or ask the congregation to help you list some of these people (sailors, fishing crews, scientists studying the ocean, travelers on cruise ships, people who work on off-shore oil well platforms, etc.) before singing the song together.

Two hymns about trusting God:

“I Sing the Mighty Power of God”  answers the question “why can we trust God” with examples of God’s great power and loving care.  So suggest that it is a good song to sing when we are doing something new and scary.

The short hymn “Give to the Winds Thy Fears” is another good song for scary moments.  Especially if it is unfamiliar to the congregation, read through the words stopping to put a few phrases into your own words for clarity.  Then, invite the congregation to sing it thinking about the disciples in the boat or themselves in a scary situation.

If your children are going back to school soon, go to my Back To School! post.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Year A - Proper 11, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 17, 2011)

Genesis 28:10-19a

This text needs a context to make sense.  Before hearing it, listeners need to be reminded of the feuding brothers we met last week and hear the story of Jacob and his mother tricking his father Isaac into giving him brother Esau’s blessing.  One way to do this is to invite the children forward and tell the story in your best storyteller style.  End with Rebekah hurrying Jacob away from the furious Esau out into the desert with directions to his Uncle Laban’s house – a long way away.  Then send them back to their seats to listen to what happened next as you read it from the Bible.


Genesis 28:10-19a and Psalm 139:1-12,23-24

Jacob says “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.”  The Psalmist says that God knows me completely and is with me wherever I go. 

Instead of gathering prayer concerns, gather where I will be or what I will be doing this week statements from worshipers of all ages.  Start it by describing briefly someplace you will be or something you will do during the coming week, then saying “Surely the Lord is in this place.”  Ask one or two others to say where they will be responding to each with “Surely the Lord is in this place.”  Then, hear statements from the congregation.  Depending on the number of worshipers, you (or the whole congregation) can repeat the phrase after each statement or wait until all the plans for the week are named before repeating the phrase for the group. 

The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown, is a conversation between a young bunny who is planning to run away and his mother who promises to come after him no matter where he goes.  In the end he decides he might as well stay home.  There is an easy connection between the mother bunny and God who comes after us and supports wherever we go.  It can be read aloud in 3 or 4 minutes - unless you take time to look at the art and ponder it a bit with worshipers. 

The book could be read as a bedtime story for Jacob as he falls asleep away from home with a rock for a pillow in the middle of the desert or it can be read as another poet’s version of Psalm 139.

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate is yet another way of saying what the psalmist says and what Jacob learned in the desert.  Introduce it to children by inviting them to copy your motions as you read it slowly.  Use it again at the benediction either leading the whole congregation in the movements or asking the children to come stand with you and lead the congregation in the benediction.

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Christ with me (hug yourself),
Christ before me (both palms up in front of you),
Christ behind me (arms behind you),
Christ in me (hands over heart),
Christ beneath me (spread legs and firm your stance),
Christ above me (hands over head),
Christ on my right (hand out to right),
Christ on my left, (hand out to left)
Christ when I lie down
       (make a pillow with your hands and lay your head in it),
Christ when I sit down (sit down),
Christ when I arise (stand up),
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me (point to head),
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me (point to mouth),
Christ in every eye that sees me (point to eyes),
Christ in every ear that hears me (point to ears).

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Romans 8:12-25

The idea of being a full member of God’s family is the most child-accessible idea in this passage.  Do not however, expect children to hear it as the text is read.  Instead, talk about what it means to be a member of a family.  On the good days family members take care of each other and enjoy being together.  Families make their home together.  Some families run a business together, some garden together, some share interests and concerns that they work on together.  They celebrate holidays and sometimes go on vacations together.  Even on the bad days, families take care of each other and work together.  If someone in the family gets sick or if there isn’t enough money, everyone in the family is involved.  Then read the Good News Translation of verses 14-17 in which the family language is much clearer.  The key points are

1.      God doesn’t say to us that we can be God’s slaves or servants or even that God will keep us around as long as we do well.  Instead God says that we are part of the family now and forever, no matter what.

2.      Because we are part of God’s family, we can expect to enjoy the happy days in the family.  But we must also be ready to stick with the family when the going gets hard.  We have to take care of members of the family who need us and we have to stand up for the family.  When I was growing up and wanted to do something that my parents knew I should not, I often said, “but all the other kids are….” to which my father frequently replied, “but you are not all the other kids.  You are a Carter girl and the Carters do not….”

If you are also reading the story of Jacob, point out that even after all he did God did not kick Jacob out of the family.  Instead, God promised to stick with him throughout his life and even told him that through him everyone in the world would be blessed.  Jacob is a good person to remember when we feel like we should be kicked out of God’s family.


Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Before reading this parable, display a collection of photographs of blooming plants.  Ask worshipers to identify those that are flowers and those that are weeds.  Include a few like a dandelion that are familiar weeds.  But also include some questionable ones, e.g. Queen Anne’s Lace used to be considered a weed, but is now grown in some gardens.  Conclude that is very hard to know what is weed and what is a desirable flower.  Then read the parable.

Or, challenge a gardener to create a floral display in which weeds and flowers are intermingled.  During worship have a conversation with him or her about which are which.  Note how hard it is for most people, even good gardeners, to tell them apart.  Then read the parable.


Severus Snape
In the Harry Potter books there are several evil people (total weeds), but there are many more people whose loyalties are questionable.  Severus Snape was a teacher everyone hated and seemed often to be on the side of evil.  Repeatedly during the books, Dumbledore warns Harry that his dislike of Snape may not be fair.  In the end he is proven to be a hero.  Likewise, the whole Malfoy family (Lucius, Narcissa, and Draco) in the end is left among the bystanders.  They harbored serious prejudices against all who were not pure-blooded wizards and were allied with Lord Voldemort, but they loved each other and sacrificed to save others in several crisis situations.  J. K. Rowling, like Jesus, warns people not to write other people off as “evil weeds.”  In the parable Jesus insists that it is God who judges.  We are to withhold judgment because we cannot see everything.