Monday, December 26, 2011

Year B - 5th Sunday After Epiphany, 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 5, 2012

Isaiah 40:21-31

For the sake of the children read this from the Contemporary English Version (CEV) or Today’s English Version (The Good News Bible or TEV) rather than the NRSV.  The simpler language of the first two is easier for children to follow.

To explore God with us even when it doesn’t feel that way, read only verses 27-31.  Before reading it, brainstorm a list of “what’s wrong in my world” – sort of the opposite of counting your blessings.  You might provide the list encouraging worshipers of all ages to make silent additions (be sure to add children’s woes such as miserable teachers, siblings who make you life difficult, etc.)   In a more informal setting you might invite worshipers to call out additions to the list.  To avoid cutsey pitfalls, do not do this with just the children on the steps.  Next briefly list the woes of the Jews in Exile.  Only then, read or have the congregation read Isaiah 40:27-31 with you.

If you read the entire passage, start by making a list of the most powerful groups and people in the world.  Then, read the passage urging worshipers to listen for who Isaiah said was most powerful and how that One compares to all the others on the list.

Children grasp mainly the chorus of the familiar song “On Eagle’s Wings,” by Josh Groban.  Teach it with simple motions. Then, use it as the benediction perhaps inviting all worshipers to do the motions with you as you say or the choir sings it.  (Google the title to find several YouTube videos illustrating the music.)

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
            Lift up hands then gently flap arms like wings
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Bring hands together in front of mouth and blow like
blowing dandelions
Make you to shine like the sun,
Hands out to the side of smiling face with fingers like 
rays of the sun
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.
Hold hands out palms up rubbing each one in turn
with the other

Psalm 147:1-11,20c

This psalm is a collection of praises of God that beg for illustration.  Ask an older children’s or youth class to read the psalm in worship.  Each reader flips up an illustration of each verse as it is read.  Either,

Ask each reader to illustrate his/her verse in bright colors or paste a magazine picture that illustrates the verse on a sheet of poster paper.  The verse can be printed on the back for the reader.

Have a set of illustration posters prepared by an older artist.  Then ask the children or youth to read the poster for each verse. 

I offer the generic script below because the language of the NRSV is too male but the more gender inclusive language of the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship is too flowery for children to understand.  (I am hard to pleaseJ.)  If you can find a translation you like for children, do share it with the rest of us!

& & & & & & & & & & & & & & &

Psalm 147:1-11, 20c

All:                   Verse 1

Reader 1:        Verse 2.

Reader 2:        Verse 3

Reader 3:        Verse 4

Reader 4:        Verse 5

Reader 5:        Verse 6

Reader 6:        Verse 7 – Instead of illustrating this one, provide a 
                                         tambourine or rattle to shake as the 
                                         verse is read

Reader 7:        Verse 8

Reader 8:        Verse 9

Reader 9:        Verse 10-11

All:                   Verse 20c

& & & & & & & & & & & & & & &

“All Creatures of Our God and King” is a good parallel hymn because it names so many of the creatures God made and because it includes lots of “Alleluias.”  If you generally “bury the alleluia” for Lent, point out that in three weeks there will be no more Alleluias until Easter and encourage worshipers of all ages to sing every one of them in this hymn. 

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

Children will not get Paul’s point about being all things to all people as this text is read.  They more easily grasp it in current examples such as

Ø  girls and women who usually go hatless covering their heads when they visit Arab countries,

Ø  people who usually wear their shoes in the house taking them off at the door when visiting an Asian home where that is the practice, or

Ø  refugee sponsors bravely eating barbecued goat offered by the refugee family they support.

Do however take time to point out the subtle but important difference between this and going along with whatever the crowd is doing.

Mark 1:29-39

There are three separate stories in these 10 verses.  To make sure children hear each of them, have each one read by a different reader.  The first is best read by on older woman.

Verses 29-31   Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law
Verses 32-34   The whole town brings the sick to Jesus
Verses 35-39   Jesus goes off to pray, then insists on moving on

There are lots of hands in action in this passage.  Jesus reaches out his hand to heal Peter’s mother-in-law.  She reaches out her hand to Jesus to get his help and then uses her hands to feed Jesus and the disciples and to welcome her neighbors who are bringing the sick to her door for Jesus to heal them by laying his hands on them.  Jesus folds his hands in prayer, and finally (with his hands I imagine) points to the next village where he is going.  Before reading the text have everyone look at their hands.  List together some of the things you can do with your hands (hit, pat, hug, hold hands, dribble a ball, etc).  Then, encourage people to listen for the hands in this story.

Invite worshipers to pray with their hands making the obvious motions as the leader prays the following prayers of confession and intercession.  It helps if the leader also makes the hand motions in a very easy to see manner.

I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I 
God you created our hands beautiful and capable but…

Too often we use them to grab what we want

We ball them up into fists to hit.

We use them to hug only ourselves.

We hide them behind our backs pretending there is nothing we could do to help when we know there is.

So, we turn our hands up to you asking for forgiveness.  Forgive all the bad we have done with our hands.  Wash our hands and make them clean.  Lead us to use our hands well.

Teach us to open our hands to share with others.

Give us the power to shake hands with our neighbors.

Show us how to join hands with our neighbors to build your kingdom of love.

We pray in Jesus’ name and remembering his loving hands.


I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I 

All this talk of hands may lead to singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” or “Jesus Hands Were Kind Hands.”

When Peter’s mother-in-law was healed she immediately went to work welcoming others in need of healing to her home.  A comparison children understand is people who are cured of a disease then work hard to raise money so that others can be cured.  Cite all the walks for different diseases.

If you focus on the healing story, tell about some of your congregation’s healing ministries and show pictures of these healers in action today.  Then, pray for them together.


  1. Allison in Pennsylvania :0)January 31, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    I can envision preaching a short sermon on Mark and then moving into a prayer service with a simple liturgy that would include laying on hands for those who were interested. (The liturgy would of course use kid-friendly language; all of ours do! I would emphasize giving kids a chance to share their prayer requests as well as the grown-ups.)

    OR ... I could ask the congregation to gather in small groups together in the pews, share prayer requests together (or, if people are too shy to do that, use the bulletin's weekly prayer list), and then have them pray for each other using a prayer included in the bulletin, again making sure kids are included in the sharing and praying process. (They're willing to pray out loud if I give them the words!)

    Decisions, decisions ...

  2. Allison, the prayer I describe above is mainly a prayer of confession. Could you create prayers of intercession that include hand motions in addition to laying on hands, e.g. raising up to God the world or people who are not in the room cupped in your hands or holding hands to pray for unity in the divided world, etc.?

  3. You could get the children to cut round their handprints and to then write a prayer on it of things they will do this week to help people. Or if you have less time, as we do, I think I will use some ready prepared hands and write a prayer on them in advance so they can take it away and think about it. Something like : Jesus, help us to think of others ....or Jesus, help us to help others this week etc. etc. There is also a nice idea at

  4. Dear Carolyn,

    Your blog is a wonderful gift to me week in and week out.

    Here in Australia, the children are returning to school this week after the long summer break. We will use the Eagles Wings refrain as a blessing for them returning to school.

    Many thanks, R

    PS. There is a Josh Groban hymn called Eagle's Wings, but the words you quote are attributed in my hymnal to Michael Joncas.

  5. I'm back on line after my time away. Sorry the last two comments did not get published in time for this year. Love the hands ideas and thanks for the heads up about who wrote the song. I'm publishing the comments now for the folks who will use these texts off-lectionary and for those who will use them when we circle back to Year B in 2015 - not as far in the future as it feels at the moment!!!


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