Thursday, August 23, 2012

Year B - Proper 19, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 16th Sunday after Pentecost (September 16, 2012)

Proverbs 1:20-33

F This is not the best reading about Wisdom for children.  She sounds like a peevish teacher reaming out the class about not paying attention and promising dire consequences.  If you do read it, the TEV with its “fools” is better than translations which speak of “simple ones” or “mockers.”

F Thinking about Wisdom led me to search for wise people in children’s literature.  There is Jiminy Cricket to whom the puppet Pinocchio learns to listen.  And there are the sages of fantasy literature – Dumbledore, Gandalf, Yoda, Merlin, Obi-Wan Kenobi….  all wise men guiding young heroes.  Since they are all male, I am on a search for female sages in children’s stories.  If you know of any, share them in the comments. 

F The Greatest Power, by Demi, tells of a Chinese emperor who needs a wise prime minister and to find this person invites the children of the kingdom to think for a year about what is “the greatest power.”  Children come in with examples from Chinese inventions, money, beauty, etc.  Sing brings a single lotus seed because the seed has the power to recreate life every year.


Psalm 19

F The RCL suggests reading the entire psalm today.  With children I would start reading with verse 7 to focus on the Law and would use NRSV which maintains the six different terms for Law.  Print each of these terms on a separate piece of poster paper.  Read each one and pass it to a worshiper who is invited to stand at the front.  Give the more complicated words to older worshipers – maybe “ordinance” to a lawyer – and simpler words to younger worshipers.  Point out that they are synonyms, they are different words for the same thing.  Instruct poster bearers to raise their poster as they hear their word in the psalm.  As you read the verses, pause when you come to each poster word. 

F If you regularly use the prayer in verse 14 in your worship, point it out today and explain why it us used in that place and what it means to pray it then.  Then pray it together.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
          be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

F In honor of verse 10’s claim that the Law is sweeter than honey, give all worshipers a hard candy (perhaps honey flavored) to savor as they listen to a sermon about wisdom and the Law.

Wisdom of Solomon 7:26 – 8:1

Most denominational lectionaries opt for the psalm reading here for good reason.  This description of Wisdom is filled with poetic images.  Each image needs to be explained to the children.  In the end the message is not worth all the effort for children. 

Isaiah 50:4-9a

“I can take it because God is with me” is the simplest summary of these verses.  Children quickly identify what Isaiah is facing (people were beating him, pulling the hair in his beard, spitting in his face).  Because this text also appears on Palm Passion Sunday, Isaiah’s woes can be compared to Jesus’ woes on Good Friday.  Both of these then lead to identifying woes children can face today with God’s help.  If you go this way, be careful not to suggest that children should simply endure all abuse that comes their way.  Bullying and most of the abuse children face needs to be confronted with God's strength rather than endured with God's strength. 

Psalm 116:1-9

This is another psalm I’d skip with the children today.  There is just too much else in the other texts and too many complications in this psalm.

James 3:1-12

Haring, Keith, 1958-1990.
Ten Commandments, unnumbered,
from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
[retrieved August 23, 2012].
F Display this art depicting our dangerous tongues.  Name each of the snakey tongues with ways we use our tongues to do harm – name caller, angry mean yeller, teller of lies about me (to make me look good), teller lies about others (to make them look bad), teller of secrets I promised to keep, stick out (no words just stick out the tongue), explainer trying to prove I’m really OK when I really am not.  In an informal setting children can help you name the tongues and maybe come up with some others. 

F Use these tongues to create a responsive prayer of confession.  The prayer below could be printed for all to read.  Or, the congregational response could be printed and the congregation instructed to respond when the leader pauses.


A Confession About Using Our Tongues

Leader: God, angry words explode out of us.  We do not think about what we say or how it will hurt people.  We only think of our own anger and putting it all into words so everyone will know how angry and hurt we feel.

People: Forgive us for the way we hurt others with our tongues.

Leader:  We say things that are not quite true to make ourselves look good to others.  We add to the truth, change the story just a little bit, even lie for our own good.

People: Forgive us for the way we hurt others with our tongues.

Leader:  We also say things that are not quite true about others to make them look bad.  We change the story just a little bit and even lie so we look better and they look worse.

People: Forgive us for the way we hurt others with our tongues.

Leader:  We know lots of names that are meant to hurt and should never be said.  We don’t really intend to say them, but we do.  We spit them out hoping they will embarrass and humiliate. 

People: Forgive us for the way we hurt others with our tongues.

Leader:  We promise we will never tell a secret.  Then we do.  It is just too good to keep to ourselves, so we break our promise and we tell.

People: Forgive us for the way we hurt others with our tongues.

Leader: We use our tongues to convince ourselves that all the wrong we have done and all the hurt we have caused are not really so bad.  But we know in our hearts that they are.  We have broken your Law.  We have not loved you or others with our tongues or our lives.

People: Forgive us for the way we hurt others with our tongues.

Leader: Lord hear our prayers.  Forgive us and guide us.  May the words of our mouths then be acceptable in your sight.  Amen.


F Children can understand that the biggest problem with our tongues is that we can’t unsay anything.  Once we say it, it is out there.  Apologies help, but the hurt is still there.

F This is also a chance to explore the old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me.”  The fact is that names DO hurt.  When people are called nasty, dirty names they know what the name caller thinks of them – and that hurts.  Those people can be strong, not believe the name caller, and work to prove they are better than the name caller claims.  But, it still hurts. 

There is actually a No Name Calling Week in many schools in January.  Go to No Name Calling Week to learn more about it and download some great resources.  There would still be time to sponsor one in your community this January.

F I’d go straight to the misuse of the tongue by-passing the references to bits in horses mouths and rudders on ships.  Before they understand either of these metaphors children need to learn about the horse’s bit or the ship’s rudder.  Then those need to be connected to tongues.  Neither adds much to what they get from James' direct message.

F In our day of electronic communication James’ message about tongues applies to texts, tweets, twitters, etc. as well as oral communication.  It is really the words that come off our tongues or through our fingers that are the problem.  Once those words are out there, they and the pain they cause can’t be called back.  For some reason many older children with their first devices seem willing to say things on line that they would never say with their tongues.  They needed repeated challenges from a variety of sources to save them from “learning the hard way” how much damage can be done on-line.

Mark 8:27-38

F Most children think Christ is Jesus’ last name.  This is an opportunity to reintroduce Jesus’ name as “Jesus, the Christ” and to explore what the title Christ means.  In simplest terms, Christ is God’s special leader.  When Peter said “You are the Christ” he was saying you are the special leader from God for whom we have been waiting for centuries. 

F Create a litany in which the leader tells events in Jesus’ life ending with a statement about what people said about him to which the congregation responds with “We say, you are the Christ.”  For those of you who have copies of the Forbid Them Not series, go to Year B, page 151 to find a complete script.  Others can create their own version of this.

F Children hear calls to “take up your cross” literally.  They need to be told that Jesus is not calling us to pick up a wooden cross.  He is not even calling us to wear cross jewelry or tattoos.  He is calling us to do hard things to love God and other people – even when they hurt us.  Similarly, “deny yourself” needs to be translated to mean think about others first.  Do not think about what I want, but what they need.  This starts with everyday events like putting down your video game to play with your younger brother so a parent can get some work done. 

F Because children do not use the word cross metaphorically, avoid hymns that do, e.g.”Beneath the Cross of Jesus”.  Instead choose discipleship hymns such as “Take My Life and Let it Be Consecrated.”


  1. How could I not mention the hymn "O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing!" It is the perfect match for the James teachings about using our tongues. For the children look carefully at the verses. There are seventeen of them, but most hymnals print a select few. The ones that begin "O for a thousand tongues to sin..." and "My gracious Master and my God" make most sense to children. So point them out and urge everyone to use their tongues to praise God singing this song.

  2. How about Glinda, the good witch of the north as a female sage.

  3. Of course, Glinda who knew that Dorothy had the means to go home the whole time. Just click your heels together and say, "There is no Place like home!" And, I'll bet there are other bits of wisdom that I can't recall at the moment. Who else?

  4. I wonder if Brave would work? (I didn't see it under the best circumstances - drive-in, 90 degree night, squirmy grands, late night...) As I remember, Merida chafed under Mom Elinor's tutelage, Mom was somewhat rigid, both said mean things to & about each other, w/disastrous, potentially irreversible results... & in the end, the rift was reconciled & they learned to make nice & listen to each other.

  5. Hhm. I haven't seen Brave - YET. Maybe I'll try it and if I'm lucky see it in better circumstances than you did. Lucky kids to have such persistent/loving/try anything in a pinch grandparents.

  6. Oh good grief...I have 2 copies of year a and 1 copy of year c and no b!

  7. Isn't that the story of life! As the "hungry author" I can only say, "what a wonderful opportunity to both complete your collection and pass the extra year A to a friend to start his/her collection!" Or, to try something else this week.

  8. Thinking about the beginning of the Mark passage-- "some say that you are . . . others say . . ." etc. I'm going to talk to our kids calling Jesus the Christ, the special leader sent from (& by) God, and how we all have different names for God that we like and use the most. Along those lines, I'm going to share "In God's Name" by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. If you're not familiar with it, it's a beautiful picture book exploring names for God based on what we do and what we need.

  9. Female sages?
    Grandmother Spider (Native American lore)
    Galadriel (Lord of the Rings trilogy)
    Marjory (the Trash Heap on Fraggle Rock)
    Mame Dennis Burnside (Auntie Mame... yes, THAT Auntie Mame... but not from the musicial, ok?)


Click on Comments below to leave a message or share an idea