Friday, September 14, 2012

Year B - Proper 22, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 19th Sunday after Pentecost, World Communion Sunday (October 7, 2012)

This week is World Communion Sunday in most congregations.  For children that means raising awareness that Christians all around the world are one big family.  We may have skin of different colors, wear different clothes, speak different languages, and do all sorts of different things, but we are all baptized and we all share communion.  Children enjoy imagining people in tropical jungles, way up in the mountains, on the beach, etc. all eating bread and drinking the cup to remember and honor Jesus.  Go to Proper 22 (Year A) for general ideas about drawing children into the congregation’s celebration of this day.

This week is also The Festival of Saint Francis.  Many congregations celebrate this day by blessing the pets on Sunday.  Next year (after I have completed the lectionary cycle J) I promise to do a post on this along with posts on the season of Creation.

Job 1:1; 2:1-10

L The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories, by Mary Batchelor, provides a children’s version of the story of Job in three sections that match the first, third and fourth readings in the RCL series.  (RCL has no account of the friends’ bogus comfort.)  These stories also fill in many of the details omitted by the lectionary readings.  I actually prefer this division of the story and would use it rather than the RCL divisions.  It would be possible to read them as the scripture lesson for each week.  It would also be possible to turn them into readers’ theater.  Create the script by assigning the paragraphs of it to the appropriate readers and omitting all the “he saids” and the one “she said”.  Staging could be as simple as readers standing in different spots in the chancel or include planned movements and a few simple props or costumes.  Presenting it is a good worship leadership assignment for a youth or adult class or a team of five thespians.  The Narrator, Job, God could be read by the same person each week.

“Troubles for Job” tells the story of all Job’s woes.  It can be read in 3 minutes and would need a Narrator, God, Satan, Job and Job’s wife. 

“Cheering Job Up?” summarizes the arguments of Job’s friends.  It can be read in 3 minutes and calls for a Narrator, Friend 1, Friend 2, Friend 3 (the fourth person) and Job.

“God Talks to Job” recounts Job’s conversation with God.  It can also be read in 3 minutes and would need only 3 readers – a Narrator, God, and Job.

L If you plan to worship around Job’s story only once, “The Story of Job” in The Family Story Bible, by Ralph Milton, condenses the entire story into two pages that can be read in 5 minutes.  If I were reading it, I would edit it here and there to reflect my understanding of the story.  But, the basic format is solid.

L Especially if you are going to make this into a worship series, children need to know a few things about the book of Job.

First, and most importantly, they need to be told straight out that this is not a story about real things that happened to real people.  It is a made-up story that people have told for thousands of years to think about why people suffer.  God would never kill children to test their father or make a person sick just to see what the person would do.  God is not like that.

One way to introduce this literary form is to point out that the Bible is a library of many kinds of literature.  There are letters, poems, court records, and important made up stories that people have told each as they try to understand the world. This is one of the latter.

Older children might understand the comparison to “The Tortoise and the Hare” or some other fable designed to make a point.

Satan needs an introduction.  To most children Satan is the same as the Devil and is evil.  Satan tries to lead people to do bad things.  Satan is also the “president of Hell.”  In Job Satan is not trying to lead people to do bad things.  Instead Satan is the tester, the evaluator.  He is like a sparring partner who boxes with an athlete to push him to do better.  His question in Job is whether Job will only love God so long as he has an easy life. 

Related point: Children see t shirts that say “the Devil made me do it” and recognize its claim that the wearer is not responsible for what he or she does.  The book of Job insists that the Devil can’t make us do anything.  We, like Job, are our own bosses and can decide what we do and say in any situation.

L Job knows what the writer of Hebrews also knows.  God/Jesus is awesome, bigger than anything we can imagine, and would be dangerous if God was not so loving.  Older children can be directed to this truth.  God is not like an over the top grandparent who will give whatever we want.  We don’t love God just when things are going great for us.  We can pray, “God I need…” and “God, thank you for…”, but must also pray “God, I don’t understand…” and “God, help me get through…”

L Children’s books that parallel Job’s story include:

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst, begins “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”  And, he was correct.  The book recounts all the awful things that happened to this little kid in a single day.  In the end his mother reassures him that some days are just like that.  Most children know this book and love it.  Though Alexander’s woes are not as serious as Job’s, they can be a good introduction to Job’s woes and to the question about why there are days like that.  It is too long to read in its entirety in owrship.  But, citing one or two pages, and listing in your own words all the other things that went wrong gets the point across and piques children’s curiosity to listen to what happened to Job on his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.  This book is almost surely available in your public library – if it is in.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snicket, bears a letter to the reader on the back cover of the first of 13 books in the series.  It is a good introduction to the series and parallels the situation of Job for children.

Dear Reader,

I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant.  It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children.  Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe.  From the very first page of this book, when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels.   One might say they are magnets for misfortune. 
In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast. 
It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

Psalm 26

If this is introduced as a prayer Job might have prayed while sitting miserably scratching his sores, children will catch an occasional phrase.

Genesis 2:18-24

AThis passage could be tied to the gospel discussion about divorce or to Psalm 8 and the Hebrews comments on human responsibility for the world. 

AIf you focus on human responsibility for the world, try one of two stories from Does God Have a Big Toe, by Marc Gellman. 

“Partners” describes how God got the world “almost finished” then told people to take over as partners.  Adam asked for and got a definition of partner that fits with the picture in psalm 8. 

“Adam’s Animals” is a somewhat longer story and explores Adam’s difficulties naming the animals with lots of comical missteps before he decides to let the animals tell him what they are.  Introduce this story with comments about how knowing a pet’s name gives you the power to call the pet and tell the pet what to do.  It also gives us the responsibility to care for the pet you named.  This story connects us to all the animals in the world in the same way.

AAsk young artists in advance to draw pictures of animals.  Make a collage of their pictures for the cover of the printed worship order.  You can even fill the margins of other pages with animals.

AIf you read this with Mark’s gospel, be careful.  Explain that this story tells what God’s plan for marriage is.  AND, note that we often fail to make that plan happen.  When we fail God still loves us.  More on this in the section on Mark below.

Psalm 8

Invite the whole congregation to echo the worship leader in reading this psalm with interspersed comments, song snippets, and hand motions. 


Psalm 8 Echo Reading

O Lord, our Lord,
your greatness is seen in all the world!

“This is my father’s world” (sing this )

Your praise reaches up to the heavens;

Praise the Lord!  (LOUD)

It is sung by children and babies.

Praise the Lord! (LOUDER)

You are safe and secure from all your enemies;

You stop anyone who opposes you.

When I look at the sky (sweep the sky with arm),
which you (look up) have made,

at the moon (form circle around your head with arms) 

and the stars (sprinkle the sky with stars with your fingers)

which you set in their places-
What are human beings, that you think of them; (make a questioning gesture)
What are men that you think of them? (point to boys)
What are women that you think of them? (point to girls)
mere mortals, that you care for them? (hands out to include all)
Yet you made them inferior only to yourself;

You crowned them (make yourself a crown with your hands) with glory and honor.

You appointed them rulers over everything you made;

In charge of everything you made

Responsible for everything you made,

You placed them over all creation:

sheep and cattle,

and the wild animals too;

the birds and the fish and the creatures in the seas.

Air we breathe and pollute (take a deep breath)

Food for many or a few (lick your lips with satisfaction)

Energy to keep us warm and moving (hug self to keep warm)
O Lord, our Lord, (throw hands up toward the sky)
your greatness is seen in all the world!


                                     Based on the TEV translation


Hebrews1:1-4; 2:5-12

V This text about Jesus the Christ needs a little organizing and restating for the children.  Basically it is saying that…

Jesus was one with God at the beginning of everything and will be one with God after everything ends.

Jesus worked with God on creating the whole world and keeps taking care of it.

In Jesus of Nazareth God lived among us as a person and allowed himself to be crucified.

Jesus is God in human skin.  Everything we know about Jesus tells us what God is like. 

Jesus Christ forgives us.

V Do a little worship education.  Instead of just reading the Apostles’ Creed in unison, focus on the phrases about Jesus in the Creed.  Read through those phrases commenting very briefly on each one.  Then reread the phrases pausing after each one for the congregation to respond, “Jesus is Lord!”

V Use this text to connect the story of the Old Testament with the New Testament.  Hold a Bible open to the Table of Contents, even ask worshipers to open their pew Bibles.  VERY briefly, point out familiar Old Testament stories about how God spoke to people, e.g. in Exodus we hear how God saved the people from slavery.  Then, point to the four gospels that tell us about how God spoke to us in Jesus, Acts that describes how the first Christians tried to follow Jesus, and the letters that show us what people were thinking about God and Jesus then.  Finally, direct everyone to Hebrews 1 and read the text for the day.  Close lifting the Bible saying, “The Word of the Lord” to which the people respond, “Thanks be to God.”

V To help the children grasp all the glory ascribed to Jesus in Hebrews begin a poster today that you add to each week you read from Hebrews.  Today’s word is GLORY!  This text summarizes Jesus’ glory.  Children often see Jesus mainly as their powerful friend and supporter.  This text insists that Jesus is also much bigger than just that.  Jesus was there at the beginning and will be there at the end, Jesus judges the whole world.  Print GLORY! in large letters somewhere on a banner or big poster in gold metallic pen.  Leave the center of the page open to add “LORD!” in the center in glitter pen on the last day of your series. 

Note from the end of this series:  If you try this growing poster/banner, look ahead now.  It got more complicated as I worked through all SEVEN weeks of Hebrews.  Here is what Lou Pennebaker ended up doing with it:
Last month I emailed you regarding your Hebrew Jesus poster idea. For the last 5 weeks I have been using one or two words each week for the children’s message in worship as we have followed the Lectionary through Hebrews. It has been a challenge and has taken me all 5 weeks to completely figure it all out! (I have changed the upcoming words several times.) Like you noted in your blog the verses get very repetitive. I appreciated all your notes each week in your blog and was able to incorporate some of them over the 5 weeks. I was able to use one or two words each week so that when we end this Sunday we will have spelled “Hebrews” (although I had to take a little creative license to do so).

For reasons specific to the life of our congregation we began a few weeks late with Hebrews 5:1-10 on 10/21 with High Priest. The following week (Heb. 7:23-28) we added Eternal. The third week was Communion Sunday (Heb. 9:11-14) so I used Broken (I had considered Blood but decided Broken was better for children and tied it into the words spoken at communion). After that I had to get creative. The 4th week (Heb. 9:24-28) was foR Everyone. And this Sunday (Heb. 10:19-25) we will add Worship JeSus as our response to Jesus who is our Eternal High Priest who was Broken foR Everyone.

The final Poster looks like this:
    High Priest

Thanks for letting me share your plan, Lou!

V World Communion Sunday makes this a good day to point out that Christ is the host at the Table.  In the Presbyterian rite we say “this table is not my table, it is not your table, it is not the table of NAME OF CHURCH, it is not the Table of the Presbyterian Church.  It is the Table of Jesus Christ and…”  Perhaps have the children or the whole congregation echo each phrase with you.  Briefly expound on the privilege of the host to decide who to invite.  Name places and people around the world who are joining you at Jesus’ Table today.  If you use projectors in worship, project photos of people from all around the world as communion is served.

V “Come Christians Join to Sing” and “When Morning Gilds the Sky” are good ways to sing of Christ’s glory today.  Point out the repeated phrases and urge even non-readers to sing them.

V If you are worshiping around theme of the environment perhaps celebrating St. Francis, take time to point out and enjoy the connection between Hebrews and Psalm 8.  Read Hebrews 2:6 -8a emphasizing “as someone once said.”  Have worshipers hold one finger in their pew Bible and turn to Psalm 8  (I’d give them page numbers.)  Read verses 4-6 saying, "guess who is the someone who said that!"  Then invite the congregation to read all of Psalm 8 – possibly using the script above.

Mark 10:2-16

A This text includes two rather separate stories.  To emphasize that and to be sure both stories get heard, have them read by two separate readers.  Ask an older child to read verses 13-16 about Jesus blessing the children.

To add a visual element have several readers move through 3 scenes in the chancel.  Start at one side of the chancel with Jesus, a disciple or two, and a Pharisee or two for verses 2-9.  Jesus and the disciples then step to the center for verses 10-12.  A woman and some young children approach from the other side as the disciples step between them and Jesus.  Jesus steps through the disciples for verses 14-15.  A narrator speaking from the lectern can knit it all together.

A If you are going to speak at length about this hard teaching about divorce remember that children who have experienced divorce are listening too.  They are as hurt by divorce as the adults are – maybe more hurt.  And, they are even more likely than the hurting adults to hear Jesus’ statement as proof that they are no good.  So, it is critical to make two points to them.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->1.      <!--[endif]-->God intends for marriage to be permanent.  Refer to the marriage vows.  Help children aspire to permanent marriages for themselves. 
<!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]-->
<!--[if !supportLists]-->2.      <!--[endif]-->Divorce is a failure.  Children need to be constantly told that their parents’ divorce is their parents’ fault not theirs.  (Many children at some point feel they are to blame.)  Once they are clear that divorce is their parents’ failure, they then get defensive for them.  So, the church needs to help them understand and live with what their parents have done.  We can tell them that divorce is just one more sin – like greed and lying.  One way we know divorce is wrong is that it causes so much hurt for everyone involved.  But, we are humans and we all sin in lots of ways.  We know it is wrong to be greedy, but we all have greedy, grabby moments.  We know it is wrong to lie, but we all do.  All marriages start with high hopes of lasting forever, but some just do not make it.  That is sad, but true.  The good news is that God forgives us for being greedy and for lying and for our divorces. 

COMMENT: I am certain I’ve not got this last paragraph right for all people.  It’s my best stab at it.  I trust you to gather from it what looks right to you and go from there.  This is hard stuff in today’s world!

N Children hear in verses 13-16 that Jesus likes children.  They enjoy the fact that while adults tell them to grow up every day, Jesus tells the adults to be like children.  There is a lot more going on in the story for the adults, but for children it is that simple.

N This is a good day to pray for the children of the church – and to do so in a way that the children will hear.  A general prayer for the precious children of the congregation stuck in the middle of lots of other petitions will be missed entirely by those children.  So, in smaller congregations name all the children.  In larger congregations offer a prayer for each way or group in which the children participate in the church, e.g. “Lord, be with the children as they read the Bible with their teachers.  Help them listen and understand the important stories in it.”

N And of course, it is a great day to sing “Jesus Loves Me”  If you do, remember that older children consider it a baby song and resent being asked to sing it with just children.  So, invite the whole congregation to sing the song together from the hymnal.  Doing so helps them begin to reclaim the song as worthy of keeping as they continue to grow up.


  1. Pastors thinking about divorce should read Andrew Root's excellent article in Christianity Today:

  2. Carolyn - please know that EVERY week, you bless me and the families who are part of the ministry at our church by your work. I am so grateful.

    Your comment about eating the grapes and moving on with the children totally delighted me today. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for that link, Nathan. Helpful thoughts from Andrew Root.

  4. Thank you for your insights. We are developing our liturgy so as to be more intentional in our inclusion of children and adults with leanring dificulties.

    Moran taing (as we say in Gaelic here in Scotland)

    Dugald Cameron


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