Sunday, September 19, 2010

Year C - 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time (September 26, 2010)

Yesterday at the lectionary study group I attend, five of six preachers were planning to preach on the Isaiah text and all were thinking about the housing foreclosure crisis.  If you are joinging them, remember that children are as seriously affected by foreclosure as their parents.  They sense the stress in their parents.  They are embarassed in front of classmates, who might not correctly understand what is going on.  They are often crowded in sharing space with cousins or friends or even landing in a shelter.  They are as much in need of God's protection and comfort and of understanding from their church friends of all ages as their parents are.

Jeremiah  32: 1-3a, 6-15
Jeremiah buys land just before Babylon invades

Most children know very little about the details of buying and selling of property and even less about the problems of impending conquest by foreigners.  It is hard for them to get from the details to any meaningful-to-them message.  So, for children, simply hearing the story and learning a little of what it meant to people in Jeremiah’s day is enough.  To do that, try one or more of the following:

Introduce the props before reading the story.  Show two paper deeds (one to file publicly and one to keep for your own records), a check, and a glass jar big enough to hold the check.  Explain what a deed is and why there are two of them.  Compare today’s buyer writing a check to give the seller of the property with Jeremiah’s weighing out gold coins.  Then, drop one of the deeds into the jar and put the lid on.  Note that Jeremiah used a clay jar because that is what he had.  But that either glass or clay the jar makes sure the deed will last a lot longer than just putting it in a drawer.  Then, read the story encouraging your listeners to listen for the props.  (This could be a discussion addressed to the whole congregation or a children’s time.)  If possible display these props for the remainder of the service.


Deed of Sale
I, Hanamel, sell my property in Anathtoth
to my cousin Jeremiah on this day.
Seller’s signature:__Hanamel_____
Buyer’s signature:___Jeremiah_____


Have 3 people act out the story as it is read.  The king (maybe wearing a crown) takes his place off to one side (verse 1).  A big man wearing a fierce expression and either carrying a weapon or with his arms folded menacingly across his chest takes his place in the center aisle (verse 2a).  And, Jeremiah stands beside a table (verse 2b).  Hanamel enters on verse 8 and he and Jeremiah act out the sale.  For added impact Jeremiah might speak verses 14-15 from memory.  If a response to scripture is your practice, all actors and the reader then say together, “The Word of the Lord” to which the congregation replies “Thanks be to God.”

The closest I can come to putting Jeremiah’s message into terms that are meaningful for today’s children goes something like this:  Even when you get an awful teacher who doesn’t like you, even when you feel like you don’t have a single friend, even when you don’t make the team or get the part you wanted in the play, even when you feel ugly and dumb and hopeless, remember that is not the last word.  God is looking further ahead than you are.  God is planning for you.  You’ve got to wait and be patient and trust God.   It isn’t easy.

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
Assurance of God’s Protection

All the unfamiliar words (snare, fowler, pestilence, pinions, buckler, refuge) make this a hard psalm for children.  Several familiar hymns communicate the message better.

“Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” is based on Psalm 90 instead of 91, but carries the same message.  Before singing it point everyone to verse 3 and note that God takes a much longer view of our lives than we do.  “A thousand ages are like an evening.”

“A Mighty Fortress is Our God” is also based on another psalm (Psalm 46), but carries the message of this one too.  The words are difficult for young readers, but the music communicates brave confidence and most congregations sing it with that feeling.  Before singing it, tell the story of its writing.  Powerful people wanted Martin Luther dead.  So, his friends were hiding him in a castle.  He and his friends were very scared.  While he was there he wrote this song to help his friends and himself remember that God was with them.

“God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again” sung at the conclusion of this service is an opportunity for a little worship education about benedictions.  Explain to worshipers that the benediction (the very last words in every worship service) is a reminder that we can trust God to be with us no matter what comes our way.  Put the words of the verses into your own words, something like:

May God guide you.
Trust God to care for you like a shepherd.
May God protect you.
May God provide you physical and spiritual food.
When life gets tough may God’s arms be wrapped around you.
May God’s love be your motto and may God be with you at your death.

Encourage children to at least sing the repeated beginnings and endings of each verse.  Even older elementary readers will be able to read the short words of the verses.

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Before reading this text, tell the back story.  Paul is writing to encourage Timothy, a young minister who is having a hard time.

Paul’s message to Timothy is that he needs to remember what is important.  He needs to pay attention to what is important and ignore what isn’t that important.  One way to help children identify the difference between the important and the not important is to name some of the things that we feel we gotta have, gotta do, gotta be only to learn after a bit that they were really not that important.   Display an article that you thought you gotta have at some point, but quickly discovered wasn’t worth much  (clothes or shoes that once seemed essential, a video game or gadget that I had to have, etc.)  Tell about wanting it, going to great effort to get it, and finding it wasn’t that cool.  Or, tell about some group you thought you had to be part of or some award you thought you had to win, but did not.  

Luke 16:19-31
The Rich Man and Lazarus

The rich man’s sin was that he ignored Lazarus and his needs.  Lazarus was right there in front of him, hungry, sick, plagued by dogs and the rich man did nothing to help him.  Psychologists tell us that infants perceive only themselves and their needs.  They see themselves not as the center of the universe, but as the whole universe.  Everything around them exists only in relation to them.  If all goes well, children grow beyond this throughout their childhood until the see themselves as one among many and as people who are called to help other people.  Our culture complicates the process because it allows us, even encourages us, to remain oblivious to certain others.  The challenge in this text is for listeners of all ages to identify some of the people around them who are regularly ignored, even treated as if they are invisible, and then to reach out to them.  For children these ignored ones include the outcast kids at school, at times even members of their own household, people of all ages in their neighborhood who are looked down on, people in certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups, etc.

To help children (and other worshipers) follow this rather long story, prepare three male readers to read it while moving around the front of the sanctuary to follow the movement in the story.  Place their scripts inside black choir binders for esthetics.  Below is a script.


Reader One (from center): There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

Reader Two (below and off to one side):  And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.  The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. (Move to opposite side and up a step or two if possible.)

Reader One:  The rich man also died and was buried.  (Move to side opposite Reader Two and down a step or two if possible.)  In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.  (Reader Three come to stand by Reader Two.)  He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’

Reader Three: Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.  Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’

Reader Two:   ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’

Reader Three: ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’

Reader One: ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

Reader Three:  ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

All:  The Word of the Lord!
                                                                       New Revised Standard Version

1 comment:

  1. This is a fabulous resource! I wish I had known about it when I was a solo pastor. I'm now temporarily preaching at a church and will be availing myself of your work regularly. Thank you!


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