Monday, August 1, 2011

Year A - Proper 17, 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 28, 2011)

Exodus 3:1-15

' Before reading this story remind worshipers of last week’s story about the baby Moses.  Briefly note that Moses grew up in the palace, got a great education, but knew all the time he was a Hebrew.  One day when he had grown up he killed a guard who was beating a Hebrew slave and so had to run away into the desert.  That is where Moses had been for years when today’s story happened.

' The animated film “Moses, Prince of Egypt” offers a scene of the burning bush story that all ages appreciate.  Read the biblical account, then show the film version.  Take time to identify what the artists got right in your opinion and what you would have done differently.  In informal settings, invite worshipers of all ages to share their ideas about this.

' After exploring the story, light a short pillar candle or a candle in a clear container on the Moses display.  ( Go to Moses Display for full details.)   Light this candle every Sunday during the Exodus readings either as the other candles in the sanctuary are lit at the beginning of the service or just before the Exodus reading for the day.

' Bring out all the candles used in worship during the year – the Advent wreath, the Christ candle, the table candles , baptismal candles, even a little candle in a holder from annual candle lighting service.  Light each one as you talk about what it means summarizing that we use all these candles to remind us of God’s presence with us.  Then connect the candles to the bush from which God spoke to Moses.  This could be done as the call to worship or just before the reading of the Exodus text.

' If a flame appears in your congregation’s or denomination’s logo, point it out and explain its significance as a statement about God’s presence with you.  Print it in your worship handout for all to see close up.  Point out the logo anywhere it appears around your building.

' There are several ways to explore the name of God – I AM WHO I AM, I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.  At the heart of all of them is the fact that God is always more than we understand or know. 

Children enjoy telling things they know about God and adding “and more” to each description, e.g. God was here before anything else and will be here after everything – and more.  With encouragement they can collect used-to-thinks about God.  For example, “I used to think God was an old man.  Now I think God is both man and woman – and more.”

Read only the first part of Old Turtle, by Douglas Wood.  This is an argument between all the animals about what God is like.  Old Turtle finally speaks up to tell them they are all correct.  It ends “God IS.”  (This part of the book can be read dramatically without the pictures in about 4 minutes.) 

This is a good opportunity to enjoy all the bigger than we can understand words describing God in “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.”  Before singing it put one or two phrases into your own words and point out the beginning of the first verse “Immortal, invisible, God only wise, In light inaccessible hid from our eyes” and the last phrase of the last verse, “’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!”

' Children need adult help to explore Moses’ response to God’s call.  Retell the story to highlight the fact that Moses said no at first, to identify his excuses, to hear how God stuck with him until Moses finally said yes.  Point out that God had been preparing Moses for this job since Moses was born.  He was born into a family that worked hard to save him from pharaoh, he got a great education in the palace school, and learned how the pharaoh did things.  Suggest to the children that God is preparing each of them for tasks too.  Urge them to stick with their work and to pay attention.

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45b

This reading includes opening praises followed by an account of God’s people in Egypt and a final call to praise God for this activity.   The praises can be read  responsively by either the choir or a liturgist and the congregation or by two halves of the congregation.  It will set the story verses off if they are read by a new voice. 

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Psalm 105: 1-6, 23-26, 45b

Leader:   O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name,
      make known his deeds among the peoples.
All:          Sing to him, sing praises to him;
         tell of all his wonderful works.
Leader:   Glory in his holy name;
         let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
All:          Seek the Lord and his strength;
     seek his presence continually.
Leader:   Remember the wonderful works he has done,
         his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,
All:          O offspring of his servant Abraham,
        children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
Reader:  Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham.
   And the Lord made his people very fruitful,
     and made them stronger than their foes,
        whose hearts he then turned to hate his people,
           to deal craftily with his servants.
   He sent his servant Moses,
       and Aaron whom he had chosen.
         All:         Praise the Lord!

                           New Revised Standard Version

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Jeremiah 15:15-21 and Psalm 26:1-8

These are abstract texts with complex vocabulary and ideas.  Even with the adults they are most likely to be read as support for the gospel or epistle.  In this case I would focus on the primary texts with the children.  They may hear a meaningful phrase here and there in these texts.

Romans 12:9-21

' The items on Paul’s to do list for Christians are appropriate for children but the list is too long and wordy to keep their attention.  They need a streamlined child’s version.  Below is my attempt at it in short phrases and in single words on a poster.  Give each child a poster.  Walk through it using the phrases to embellish the single words.  Admit that doing all these things is not easy.  The reason doing them is so hard is that they require us to think about other people and their wants and needs rather than just our own wants and needs.  That is why they are on a cross – because when we pay attention to others we are being like Jesus.  Give the posters out just before the reading of the text.  Encourage children to decorate their poster while they listen to the sermon and to find a place to hang it or stuff it where they will see it often.

Love one another.
Do not think you are way smart and way better than others.
Forget about getting even.
Treat with respect everyone you meet.
Be kind - even to those who are not kind to you.
Pay attention to the feelings of others.  Care about them.

Matthew 16:21-28

' If school has been in session for even a few days, ask children to raise their hand if they got even one answer wrong this week.  It may take a little humor to tease this out.  Ask the adults how many of them got something wrong during the last week.  After affirming that in spite of our best efforts and intentions we all mess up, recall Peter’s conversation with Jesus from last week.  Celebrate how well he had answered Jesus’ question.  Then with a hint that Peter will not continue to be a superstar, read today’s gospel.

' It’s a good time to highlight frequently-used phrases from a traditional prayer of confession. 

Almighty and merciful God,
We have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against your holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
And we have done those things which we ought not to have done.

I’d skip over the sheep image and go straight to the list of ways we mess up.  Put each one in your own words.  This could be done with the whole congregation or as a children’s time just before the Prayers of Confession.  Conclude your conversation with reference to the assurance of pardon to emphasize that God forgives no matter how many ways we mess up.

' Peter messed up by refusing to believe that Jesus would have to suffer.  He wanted Jesus (and all God’s people) to always be the winner and the great good king.  He did not want to think about anything bad happening to him.  Children do well to simply hear that Peter did not realize that there would be suffering for Jesus.  That was his mistake.  The larger questions about Jesus’ suffering that adults want to explore are way beyond the children. 

For children, Jesus’ call to take up our crosses connects more easily to either Paul’s To Do list for Christians or Moses answering his call from God than to Jeremiah’s insistence that God’s people will have to endure suffering. 

' If school will begin this week, go to Back to School! for more general ideas about including this important event in worship.

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