Thursday, December 9, 2010

Year A - Fifth Sunday in Epiphany, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 6, 2011)

Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)

What can you say about the fact that a text about fasting is the lesson for the day on Super Bowl Sunday, the biggest junk food pig out on the American calendar?!  Many churches will also celebrate communion on this day.  Delicious ironies abound – for the adults!

Fasting is not a spiritual discipline with which children are familiar.  They may not even know the word.  If you work with this text in worship take time to introduce fasting.  Define it as the practice of going without food for a set time in order to remind yourself that food is not the most important thing in life.  If your congregation will practice “giving something up for Lent” in four weeks, lay the groundwork this week explaining why it is done and comparing it to fasting.  Describe the Muslim practice of fasting from sunrise to sunset every day for the month of Ramadan.  Then, describe the problems with fasting that Isaiah was warning against.  Imagine together how one might get crabby while one fasts.  Only then will children and other worshipers be ready to listen to this passage read

Psalm 112:1-9 (10)

This is one of the alphabet psalms.  Each line begins with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet .  The poet is rhyming ideas rather than sounds.  Every line says something about “the righteous” or “good people.”  To highlight its format and help worshipers of all ages appreciate its message, briefly explain then it and then read the psalm “artfully.”  Have a worship leader call out the Hebrew letter before each line is read.  The lines may be read by the entire congregation or by an older children’s class (think choir without music).  If a class reads the lines, they may read in unison or individuals may read the lines in turn.  The practice required for a class to prepare this reading is an opportunity for children to work with worship leaders and for children to become worship leaders.   This script below is free translation written with young readers in mind.  You could create a similar script using any Biblical translation


Psalm 112

ALL:              Praise the Lord!

Leader:            Aleph
ALL:              Happy are those who honor the Lord,

Leader:            Bet
ALL:              They take pleasure in obeying in God’s commandments!

Leader:            Gimel
ALL:              Their descendants shall be mighty on the earth.

Leader:            Dalet
ALL:              The honest shall be blessed.

Leader:            He
ALL:              Riches and wealth are theirs;

Leader:            Waw
ALL:              and they will prosper forever.

Leader:            Zain
ALL:              They shine like a lamp in the dark.

Leader:            Het
ALL:              They are generous, kind, and fair.

Leader:            Tet
ALL:              All goes well for those who lend generously,

Leader:            Yod
ALL:              and for those who run their businesses honestly.

Leader:            Kaph
ALL:              Good people will never fail.

Leader:            Lamed
ALL:              They will be remembered forever.

Leader:            Mem
ALL:              God’s people are not afraid of bad news.

Leader:            Nun
ALL:              Their faith is strong and they trust in the Lord.

Leader:            Samek
ALL:              They are not worried or afraid.

Leader:            Ain
ALL:              They are certain to see their enemies defeated.

Leader:            Pe
ALL:              Good people give generously to the poor.

Leader:            Zade
ALL:              They are always, always kind.

Leader:            Qoph
ALL:              Other people will respect them.

Leader:            Resh
ALL:              The wicked see this and are angry.

Leader:            Shin
ALL:              They glare in hate and disappear.

Leader:            Taw
ALL:              The wicked will not get what they scheme to get.


1 Corinthians 2:1-12

This is in many ways a continuation of last week’s reading from Paul’s letter.  The subject is the difference between God’s wisdom and the world’s wisdom.  Click on Fourth Sunday in Epiphany for ideas. 

Matthew 5:13-20

To help children follow this three part text, have each part read by a separate reader.  Before each reader reads, the symbol from that section is placed on a central table.  For salt use a salt shaker or a bag of rock salt for the sidewalk (depending on what use of salt you plan to highlight).  For light add a candle or lantern.  For the Law add a large copy of the Bible.  The symbol may be put in place by the reader who then goes to the lectern to read.  Or, another person could carry the item up the central aisle and place it on the table while the reader reads. 

Jesus says, “you are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the world.”  These may be the best known object lessons in the New Testament.  Listeners are asked to draw spiritual truths from descriptions of physical realities.  We know that children’s brains are not able to do this.  (For fuller description of this go Background .)  Still, we can begin teaching them what is involved in these metaphors that are used frequently in the church’s life and worship.  We can delineate the qualities of salt and light and describe how we act as salt and light in the world.  At some point during their teen years they will be able to connect those lists more fully.

Salt of the earth  

Salt seasons or adds taste to food.  Imagine French fries or pretzels without salt.
God’s people act like salt when they make life better for people around them.  Kindess and friendly words are good seasoning for life.

Salt can be used to clean things.  Salt can be used to scour burned food out of a frying pan.  Bath salts are gentle cleaners poured into bathwater.
God’s people can help clean things up too.  Many churches pack hygiene kits or disaster clean up kits to send to people who need them.

Salt melts ice.  In  North America in February most children have experience with using salt on sidewalks and roads to melt ice.
God’s people can melt hard hatred, by adding our loving care.   We can refuse to be part of anything that is hurting other people whether it is teasing and name-calling or prejudices that cut groups of  people out.
Light of the world

Some lights are bright and help us see what needs to be seen, e.g. lighthouse, search light.
God’s people often pay attention to people who are ignored and need help, e.g. churches often provide overnight shelter for homeless people.  Also, God’s people often point out unfair situations and work to get them changed. 

Some lights are soft and make us see the beauty of the world, e.g. candles.
God’s people do whatever they can to make the world more loving for everyone. 

Select from these possibilities one characteristic of either salt or light to explore with children. 

If you do light two candles during worship each week and have not explored their meaning recently, do so today.  Click on Second Sunday in Epiphany .

In his comments about fulfilling the Law, Jesus was speaking to adults who were concerned that he was challenging the Torah (their Bible).  He tells these folks to relax, that he doesn’t want to set aside any of it, he simply wants to take it to its intended depths.  This whole debate is of little interest to children at this point in their lives.  So, explore it with the adults and expect that the children will get to it later in their lives or omit this section in order to focus on the salt and light images.

1 comment:

  1. I'm in a congregation of about 80 and as I read your thoughts I envisioned having two baskets with baggies. In one basket the baggies contain sea salt and in the other basket the baggies have a birthday candle. After talking about the ways in which we are salt and light (and I love your descriptions and would include an example on a slip of paper in the baggies) then the children could take some of each of the baggies to disperse to the congregation at coffee hour asking folks if they would like to be salt or light this week and give them the bag of their choice. Our kids are elementary age so they could grasp the idea.


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