Saturday, August 24, 2013

Year C – Proper 20, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 18th Sunday after Pentecost (September 22, 2013)

Jeremiah 8:18 – 9:1

_ Before reading this psalm help the children understand that Jeremiah is really, really sad after his town Jerusalem was destroyed in war and many people were killed or carried off as prisoners.  Read 9:1 first to introduce Jeremiah’s prayer.  Note that it is a prayer that many of the people in Egypt and Syria might pray today. 

_ Children will hear BOMB instead of BALM.  Laugh about the difference noting that nobody needs any more BOMBS.  Then display a tube of balm.  If children are close, give each one a squeeze of balm to rub into their hands as they listen to Jeremiah’s prayer for his hurting people.

This is a good opportunity to connect Jeremiah’s prayer to the spiritual “There is A Balm in Gilead” that was first sung by slaves wishing for balm for all the hardships of their lives.  Talk about it. Then sing it.

This could lead to collecting names of hurting people who need God’s loving care today.  More on this in the section on 1 Timothy today.

Psalm 79:1-9

This is not a great psalm for children.  If you do read it, start by reading verses 1-4 in the TEV to answer the questions “how bad was it?” and/or “why was Jeremiah so sad.”

Amos 8:4-7

_ The ephahs, shekels, and selling the needy for a pair of sandals of Old Testament commerce make it almost impossible for children to understand this text as it is read.  Furthermore, they lose interest before we can explain all these details.  They depend on worship leaders to give them the theme in terms they can understand.  The bottom line is that God is not happy when some people are very rich and have more of everything they want and need while other people go without basic needs of life.  God thinks that is not fair.

Read either the TEV or CEV version to get past some of the particulars and to Amos’ message

Unidentified Flemish painter. Rich and Poor, or, War and Peace,
from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
[retrieved August 21, 2013]. Original source:
_ Display this over the top comparison of rich and poor.  Identify the differences in the two men in the painting.  Then note that God does not like this painting.  God thinks it is unfair that one man should have everything and the other man have nothing.  With this conversation as background, read the Amos text (preferably for TEV or CEV).  Children will get the message.

Psalm 113

The psalmist praises the high God who leans over to lift the poor.  Either point this out verbally by going through the psalm finding all the high, low, and lifting words before reading it.  Or, line out the psalm with hand motions.  The latter is best done with the whole congregation but could be presented by a rehearsed children’s class who have been invited to be worship leaders by acting it out as you read it.
Psalm 113 with Motions

Praise the Lord!
      Arms outstretched palms turned up

You servants of the Lord, praise his name!
      Arms reaching out to the congregation
May his name be praised now and for ever.
      Repeat outstretched arms with palms turned up.

From the east to the west praise the name of the Lord!
      Point to the east, then arc arm to the west

The Lord rules over all nations; his glory is above the heavens.
      Bent arms out to the sides in an expression of power

There is no one like the Lord our God.
      Pointing up with one hand as in a teaching position

He lives in the heights above,
      Look up and reach your arms overhead

            but he bends down to see the heavens and the earth.
                  Lean over to look down moving your arms out to the

He raises the poor from the dust;
      Still leaning over cup your hands as if scooping up people

he lifts the needy from their misery
raise your cupped hands a little

      and makes them companions of princes,
                  raise your cupped hands to shoulder height

the princes of his people. 
      Open cupped hands and reach out to your sides as if holding hands

      He honours the childless wife in her home;
                  Hold arms down at your sides

he makes her happy by giving her children. 
     Rock a baby in your arms

Praise the Lord!
            Raise hands in traditional praise position

1 Timothy 2:1-7

These seven verses offer a rather amazing variety of worship themes, some more relevant for children than others.

_ The great Christological hymn describing Christ as a mediator between God and people is hard for children.  Much of our talk with them about God focuses on God as their loving friend who is always available to them.  A mediator is only needed when there are conflicts to be settled and gaps to be bridged.  So, before children can see Christ as a welcome mediator, they need to identify the estrangement with God.  Some older children will begin to pick up on some of the preacher’s comments, but Christ as mediator is not a great concept for children.

_ Ransom is also a difficult concept for children to grasp as a description of Christ’s work.  To them ransom is money paid to kidnappers who have stolen a child or loved family member in order to get the kidnapped one back.  Since it is the bad guys who demand ransom, it is hard to understand how a loving God could demand a ransom.  Many adults never really resonate with the ransom image, but those who do will not get it until their teenage years or later.

_ The theme in this hymn that does speak to children is that God loves all people and Jesus died for all people.  Paul’s point was God loves all people not just the Jewish ones.  Today the point is God loves all people, not just the ones like me. 

_ Present the gathered children with portraits of people. (Old “National Geographic” magazines are good sources.)  Present two very different looking people at a time with the question, “Does God love one of these people more than the other?”  After discussing several pairs, conclude that God loves and cares for all the people in the world.

_ Before singing “In Christ There Is No East or West” introduce the geographical directions in the first verse by illustrating them with hand motions.  Point to your right for “east,” to your left for “west,” up for “north,” and down for “south.”  Then form a huge circle with your arms for “one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.”  As you do, summarize the message of the verse.  This could be a brief introduction before the singing of the hymn with encouragement to children to sing with the congregation.   Or, it could become a children’s time done just before singing the hymn.

_ ”He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” is another good choice for this theme.

_ Paul’s call for prayer for all people is an opportunity to explore the congregation’s practice of intercessory prayer.  Before that prayer time, pause to describe what you are going to do and why.  If you collect public prayer concerns explain why and how you do that.  If you do this with the children on the steps, gather some of their prayer concerns, then mention them at the beginning of the prayer that follows.

This is a good time to encourage children to speak up at this time and to show them how to raise their hand for a turn to speak.  You may also want to point out that it is appropriate to pray for any person for whom you are truly concerned or happy, but that you need to think before you speak about whether that person would be embarrassed by what you say.

_ Using a globe take a prayer trip around the world.  Before leaving/praying together identify people in different parts of the world for whom to pray.  Then pray your way around the world from one continent to the next.  This could be an eyes open prayer pointing to each prayer stop as you move. 

THINK AHEAD:  World Communion Sunday is the first week in October.  You may want to save this prayer form for that day.

_ Encourage children to pray for other people with a prayer calendar.  Give them a blank calendar for one week.  Invite them to write one person’s or group of people’s name in each day’s block then to decorate that block with designs or words about that person.  Encourage them to post the calendar will they will see it this week and to pray for each person on their day.

Luke 16:1-13

_ For starters realize that children hear MAMMON as maybe some kind of MAMMAL.  Laugh about this old word and define it as money or wealth (a more current, but still not very familiar to many children word).  Remember that children think literally.  Loving “wealth” means loving the cash and coins.  I can clearly remember feeling safe about this as a child.  I did not love quarters or even paper bills.  It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I caught that the problem wasn’t the cash, it was what you could buy with the cash.  Talk about a preacher who had left off preaching and gone to meddling!  The text took on a whole new meaning for me.  To help children get the real meaning of the text, talk about “stuff” rather than “wealth.”  Cite examples like smart phones, “in” shoes, double stuffed Oreos, computer games, even the money to register to be on a sports team or see a show…  It is not that any of this stuff is bad, lots of it is really cool.  What Jesus tells us is that how we use our stuff is important.  We can be selfish with our stuff, not sharing with others.  We can spend all our time thinking about and messing with our stuff, never taking time to see what people around us may want and need from us.  We can forget that who we are is more important than what we wear and what we have.  The child’s version of Jesus saying is “who you are and what you do are more important than what you have.”

Straight conversations like this can be worked into the main sermon mixing examples from adulthood and childhood.  When they hear such conversations, children (1) conclude that the sermon is for them too and (2) they begin to realize that the adults around them struggle with some of the same problems they do.

_ Bring a cool electronic gadget (maybe a fancy smart phone) to the gathering of children.  Show them what it will do and let them know how much you enjoy having it.  Then, tell them you think Jesus cares about how you use your whatever-it-is.  Point out that you could say “It’s mine!  Don’t touch it!”  Or, you could say, “Look how it works?  You want to try it?”  You could spend so much time seeing what you can make it do, that you ignore everything and everyone else.  Note that you know you’ve done this when people say, “Earth to NAME – are you there?”   Or, you could enjoy it some, but not all the time.  Etc.   Conclude that Jesus said we are to learn to use are stuff well.  We are to enjoy stuff, but not make it the only thing we think about.  Jesus made it very clear that people are always more important than things.  

_ Especially if you are thinking about this text in preparation for stewardship season, remember that children have money too.  They do not have as much as their parents but they do money from allowances, gifts, and wages from small jobs they do.  They can learn to contribute from these sources early in life.  When parents provide all the money children give to the church, they deny them the joy and practice of giving their very own money to buy a heifer animal or support the church.  Go to  Children, Money and the Sanctuary for more ideas about this.

_ Being faithful in small things:  Read verse 10 aloud from the big Bible.  Then, admit that we would all like to do “big” things - important things, things that get reported on TV and make people admire us.  But most of the time most of us don’t.  Instead we do regular every day, “little” things that don’t get much attention or seem to make much difference at all.  Jesus has two things to tell us about these “little” things.  First, being faithful in little things does make a difference.  Being kind to the kid no one else talks to, forgiving the person who called you a mean name, saying “thank you” and really meaning it, all those little things often make a bigger difference to people than we ever know.  The second thing about being faithful in little things is that it is important practice.  Shooting hoops over and over again is practice for making the important shot in the big game.  In the same way being kind, forgiving, loving people on the normal days is practice for being God’s loving, forgiving people when it is REALLY, REALLY hard to do.  In both basketball and being disciples, practice on the small things is very important.


  1. I appreciate your reflections, Carolyn. I am pastor in a small congregation in which we have the children and teenager stay with us for the whole worship service and when preaching I try to include them in my sharing and ask for their responses to some of the questions I raise. Even though this week I'm preaching and leading in my own home congregation (where I'm a lay preacher) I'll still be sharing a message with the kids. I've found your material very helpful so thanks :) Kim (from Australia, found you via

  2. These are great! Doable, realistic and good theology. Thank you!


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