Friday, October 7, 2011

Year A – Proper 27, 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (November 6, 2011)

If you are celebrating All Saints Day on November 6, go to Year A - All Saints Day.  If you are following the lectionary for November 6, keep reading.

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

F Invite all worshipers to join in the reading of this text.  Take the role of the Narrator, introduce the Joshua reader, and call the congregation to imagine themselves among the Israelites who had come out of the wilderness and were beginning to settle in the Promised Land.  Tell them that Joshua has called a meeting.  Instruct them to stand in place as the people would have stood.  Then, read the text together.


Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25

Narrator: Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God.   And Joshua said to all the people,

Joshua:   Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve God in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.   Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

People:   Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods;  for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. The Lord protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed;  and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, who is our God.

Joshua:  You cannot serve the Lord, who is a holy God. The Lord is a jealous God; and will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.  If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then God will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good. 

People:  No, we will serve the Lord!

Joshua:  You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.

People:  We are witnesses.

Joshua:  Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.

People:  The Lord our God we will serve and will obey.

                                                                                                Based on NRSV


F Children get the “make good choices” lecture repeatedly.  They enjoy hearing Joshua give it to the adults.  The text also lets them know that making good choices is something they will not outgrow.  They will be facing hard choices and trying to make good choices when they are parents, even grandparents.  So, they might as well start perfecting their choosing skills now. 

F “Choose Your Own Adventure” is a classic series of books for older children.  On every page readers face choices and are sent to different pages to continue the story based on the choice they made.  Each book contains many, many stories dependant on the readers’ choices.  To explore one of these books in worship, read the introductory page to set the scene.  Then read several of the ending pages.   (They are easy to find because they each bear THE END in large print.)  Be amazed at the very different endings and ponder the choices that would bring the reader to them.  The point of this is to emphasize the importance of choices.

Some story-based children’s video games also require choices that effect dramatically how long you can play, how many points you accumulate, and where you end up. Again, choices matter. Or, choices have consequences.

F One of the difficult choices many children and parents face is whether a child will participate in travel team sports.  Being on a travel team brings more advanced competition and coaching.  It also takes over the whole family’s weekend and wipes out church participation for the season.  This is such a hard choice because it a choice between two good things rather than between good and evil.  You’ve got to decide what your stance on these decisions will be. 

IMO, the church has copped out by not giving families guidance on this.  It is a clear, “choose this day who you will serve” decision.  When families choose the travel team, especially if they choose the travel team repeatedly, children get the clear message that sports are more important than being among God’s people on a regular basis.  While you might not want to say that choosing travel team is always a bad choice, you might want to suggest that families include worship (either in their rooms or visiting churches in the towns where they play) in their weekends.  It might also be a once-for-each-child choice.  A church might also provide “on the road” worship resources for families to pack with their gear.

Psalm 78:1-7

Go to Rumors: Sermon Helps for Preachers with a Sense of Humor and scroll down to a paraphrase of Psalm 78:1-7 by Jim Taylor.  He sets it around the ancient campfires with women gathering the children to hear their wisdom.  Ask one or more women to gather the children around them (possibly around a set, but unlit campfire) and read the paraphrase there.

Amos 5:18-24

The heart of this reading is verse 24, “Let justice roll down like water.”  If you do projections, this calls for a video of a river.  Try this one from You Tube

Or go to for a wonderful video of a rushing river carving rocks in Canada.  Personally I prefer this video, but am not sure it can be easily captured and projected clearly.  If anyone finds another rolling water video, please share with the rest of us.

Wisdom of Solomon 6:12 – 16 or Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20
"Figure of Wisdom," stained glass window
 in Unity Church,  North Easton, MA.
Copyright ©2005 by Daniel P. B. Smith
 and released under the terms of
 the GNU Free Documentation license.
Introduce children to the personified Wisdom before reading either of these psalms.  Use the picture to talk about the fact that Wisdom is often pictured as a wise woman with quiet strength and authority.  It might help American children to compare her to the Statue of Liberty which pictures Liberty and a strong tall woman.  Encourage worshipers to listen for other adjectives that describe Wisdom as you read one of the texts. 

Psalm 70

With so much richness in the other texts for the day, I’d skip this psalm with the children – and probably all worshipers.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

F The Christians in Thessalonica, who believed that Jesus’ return was eminent, were worried about the fate of the Christians who died before Jesus returned.  Largely because Paul so clearly settled that question in this text, children today do not ask that particular question.  But they do ask the question, "what happens to us when we die" – more likely, "where is Grandpa now that he has died?"  This text can be used to assure them that when we die we go immediately to be with God and Jesus and are safe there.

F This text also provides an opportunity to speak with children as well as adults about “the rapture” as it appears in lots of current literature.  This text is not so much a calendar of events at the end of time as it is assurance that the dead are safe with God.  Much current literature, e.g. the Left Behind series, however uses this text to build a time line. Be aware that there is a Left Behind series of books for pre-teens that has been widely read and discussed among older children.  This is another situation in which if their church does not speak up about what they are reading and hearing from other children, children are left to draw whatever conclusion they can.  So speak up.

Matthew 25:1-13

F Children need help with a couple of the details in this parable.

Unlike today when the bridesmaids escort the bride to her wedding, in Jesus’ day the bridesmaids escorted the groom to meet the bride for the wedding.  Instead of carrying flowers, they carried oil lamps so that everyone could see how handsome and well dressed (rich) the groom was and the groom could see his way to his bride.

In a day of battery powered flashlight, children need a brief lesson on how to keep an oil lamp burning.  Show an clay lamp (like the one in the picture) and point out where the oil and the wick went.  Or, get a modern floating candle that works just like the oil lamp and actually light it.  Place either in a very visible place for the rest of the service and invite worshipers to listen for ten oil lamps in this parable.

F If you are going to build on the idea that we are called to keep our spiritual lamps burning so that we are always ready to illuminate Christ the Bridegroom, take time to explain oil lamps, specifically list ways we keep our spiritual lamps burning, even sing a few light songs:
Give Me Oil in My Lamp
This Little Light of Mine

F Several commentators worry that this is really an Advent story about staying alert and waiting.  So, get out at least one purple parament or the box with the Advent wreath in it.  Point out that Advent begins in 3 Sundays.  Remind worshipers that Advent is the four weeks before Christmas and is a time when we think about watching and waiting for God.  We tell stories about the surprising ways God came to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the whole world when God came among us as a baby born in a barn.  Then, fold up the parament or close the box.  Insist that it is not yet Advent BUT….  We watch and wait for God every day of the year, not just the four weeks before Christmas.  The bridesmaids in the story needed to be watching and waiting as they got ready for a wedding.  We need to be watching and waiting as we go to school, play on sports teams, ride in the car with our family, etc.

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