Friday, July 13, 2012

Year B - Proper 14, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 11th Sunday after Pentecost (August 12, 2012)

% Remember to check Back to School in 2012 for ideas about celebrating the return to school.

2 Samuel 18: 5-9, 15, 31-33

L  Adults hearing this story are overwhelmed by David’s parental grief at the death of his rebellious son.  Children, lacking the experience of being parents, are mainly fascinated by Absalom’s being caught in a tree by his hair.  So there are lots of reasons to focus on other passages today.

L  These verses need a lot of back story to make sense.  One way to provide that is to read the story from a children’s Bible Story Book.  “Absalom’s Rebellion” in The Children’s Illustrated Bible, by Selina Hastings.  It can be read aloud in 3 minutes. 

Psalm 130

Note:  This psalm was also paired with the story of David mourning the deaths of Saul and Jonathan on July 1 of this year.  I’ve adapted some of those ideas for use here and added one more.

L To highlight the hope that is easily lost in this psalm, include motions with the reading.  The whole congregation could do the movements in their seats following the lead of a person doing the actions.  Or, children could be called forward to do the motions to help the whole congregation understand David’s psalm.  In either case, a single reader reads the words as another leader leads the motions.

Verses 1-3       kneeling with head bowed, face in hands
Verses 4-6       raise head to look up
Verse 7            a. sitting up on knees
                          b. hands turned up and out to the sides
Verse 8            a. stand
                          b. stand with arms spread out and up

L Even with the motions, children will not follow the details of this psalm as it is read.  But, when it is highlighted they can begin to understand verse 1’s “Out of the depths I cry to you.”  Read the phrase several times.  Brainstorm a list of “out of the depths” situations being sure to include some that will be familiar to children, e.g. family fights (not fussing about what to eat for dinner, but big fights with serious name calling), hopeless fusses with siblings, being stuck for the summer in a camp or child care place you do not like, etc.  Describe David’s “depths” as he heard that his son Absalom had been killed in a battle. 

L Ask what we do when we are in “the depths.”  First we tell God about it, but then….  Read verse 5 and rephrase its insistence that we remember that God loves us and will save us. 

L Give worshipers gray sheets of paper and black pencils with which to write or draw about “the “depths” they face or know of.  Collect them all in baskets to place on the worship table.  Comment on all the pain in those baskets, then read the psalm over the baskets.  

L If you are working with Psalm 23 all summer, connect these verses to the psalm phrase, “when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.”

1 Kings 19:4-8

F  This is one scene in the middle of a much bigger story that is more fully read during Year C in the lectionary cycle.  It would be possible to read the whole story here also or simply to summarize what goes before and after these verses in your own words and reading the verses from the Bible.  In either case, keep listeners’ attention by moving among three spots for the three scenes of the story.  If possible stand in higher places (maybe the top of the chancel steps) for scenes one and three which were big events that took place on mountains and in a lower spot in the middle for scene 2 which was an emotional and geographical low between the two other events.

Scene 1:  Elijah beats the prophets of Baal at Mt Carmel, kills them all, and is threatened by Queen Jezebel.  (1 Kings 18:20-40 and 19:1-3 or your summary of it)

Scene 2:  In the wilderness between the two mountains, God feeds Elijah for his journey. (1 Kings 19:4-8 – read from the Bible)

Scene 3: In a cave on Mt Horeb, God speaks to God in a still small voice and gives him his next assignment.  (1 Kings 19:9-18 or your summary of it)

F  To a short version of the whole story, go to “Elijah, God’s Messenger – Danger!” #165 in The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories, by Mary Batchelor.

V  If you celebrate the eucharist today and it is the Sunday before school starts, connect the bread of the sacrament to all the love and support from God and from the church that goes with students and teachers into the coming year.  As you raise the communion loaf, insist that just as God was with Elijah and fed Elijah on his journey, God will be with students and will feed them during their journey through the school year. 

Psalm 34:1-8

F Though this is one of the alphabet psalms, it is read today mainly for verse 8, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”  It could be read as a grace Elijah might have said over the bread God gave him on his journey.  To do this recall the context just before reading the psalm.

V  “O taste and see that the Lord is good!” is often used in communion rituals as the final statement before the distribution of the elements.  This would obviously be a good day to use it there.  If you do, alert worshipers that it is coming and briefly note what it means and how it connects to this psalm. 

BTW it does NOT mean, “Taste God and Jesus.  Don’t they taste good!”  Literal thinking children can hear it that way unless they are directed to think about how wonderful all of God’s life sustaining gifts are.


Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2 (RC = 4:30 – 5:2)

To separate the items in Paul’s “to-do” or maybe “to be” list, have each item read by a separate reader.  The script below requires 7 readers – maybe members of several households or a class.  It could easily be adapted for fewer by assigning each reader several non-sequential parts.  Two readers could even do the job with one reading odd numbers and the other reading even numbers.


Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2a

All Readers:  Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

Reader 1:  Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.

Reader 2:  Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.

Reader 3:  Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.

Reader 4:  Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.

Reader 5:  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.

Reader 6:  Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,

Reader 7: Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

All Readers:  Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.

From the NRSV


% Lots of commentators stress that these are not just rules.  But for children near the beginning of the school year, they are thought provoking precisely as rules.  In their classes, new teams and clubs they will encounter new rules and may be involved in creating rules for these groups.  Keeping the rules makes them a full member of these important groups.  Just ask a Scout about the Scout laws!  They know and follow those rules because that is what scouts do and it is important to them to be scouts.  In Ephesians Paul offers children rules for Christians.  There are at least two ways to explore them in worship.

1.      Identify the many kinds of rules we encounter in the different groups of which we are part.  Then, challenge worshipers to see the rules in this text as rules for Christians – every day, wherever they are.

2.      Identify the many kinds of rules we encounter in the different groups of which we are part.  Then, challenge worshipers to make up their own rules that they will follow wherever they are and no matter what group they are participating in at the moment.  Encourage them to draw the best from all, but especially from Paul’s list.

% In children’s terms Paul’s rules mean

Always tell the truth, no matter what.  Don’t tell lies.  Be honest.

When you are angry, work it out.  Don’t carry a load of anger around with you.

Don’t steal – stuff or others’ work (cheating is stealing)

Be careful about what you say.  Words can hurt.  So, no gossip, lies about what others do, or name calling.

Don’t be bitter, mad at someone all the time, a name caller, or become full of hurt and angry, evil thoughts.

Do be kind to everyone and forgive others when it is needed.

% Explore one or more of Paul’s rules and  ponder what it means to live it/them out at school by writing key phrase for each one (or selected ones) on separate posters.  Display the posters, then work through each one adding words and phrases that remind us how we keep that rule today.  This could be a children’s time conversation with the children.  Or, it could be part of the real sermon in which your additions apply to school, work and community activities of worshipers of all ages.  In a formal setting the preacher could do all the talking writing clarifying phrases while working through the stack of rule posters, then displaying them as they are completed.  In less formal congregations, this sermon might become an extended conversation with worshipers of all ages.

% If you did not do so last week, this is another opportunity to form new verses of “Lord, I Want to Be A Christian,” i.e. Lord, I want to be more… honest, kind, forgiving or Lord, I want to be less…angry, etc.

John 6:35, 41-51

V  Children are as baffled as Jesus’ first hearers were by his claim that he is the bread of life.  Point this out to the children (and other worshipers).  Then, ponder some of the possibilities.  Laugh at the possibility that Jesus was inviting people to become cannibals and eat his arms and legs.  Describe the possibility of being physically alive, but feeling dead, sad, hopeless, stuck, etc.  Explore how Jesus shows us the way past all those dead feelings to feeling really alive, happy, ready and able to do whatever comes our way, looking forward to the future, etc.  Jesus told us stories and gave us rules that show us how to live well.  But more than that Jesus forgave all the people who killed him on a cross and promised to forgive the rest of us when we mess up, too.  That makes us really, really alive – now and forever.  So just as bread keeps our bodies alive, Jesus keeps our spirits alive.

V  Only after this discussion, explore the meaning of and sing one of the following communion hymns.

Become to Us the Living Bread – Read the first verse connecting it to your conversation.  Then, challenge worshipers to think about the second verse (about the wine) to understand the connection between Jesus’ blood and the communion wine. 

Bread of Heaven, On Thee We Feed is another simple hymn that highlights John’s metaphor.  Again review the first verse in light of your conversation and challenge singers to ponder what the second verse says about wine.

V  They Followed a Bright Star, by Ulises Wensell, is a Christmas book.  It describes the shepherds’ journey to the stable insisting that they invited everyone they met on the way to join them.  But, a number of the people could not go because they too had seen an angel and were following instructions to prepare bread, wine, fish, and water that the child would one day need.  It recalls the feeding story we read last week, connects to communion, and is fun to read out of season in August.  The book is however hard to get.  The best source is to order from a back up Amazon supplier.  So, if you want to use it, order early.  It takes 18 minutes to read aloud, but could be shortened by deleting the section about the kings.   

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