Thursday, September 5, 2013

Year C - Proper 22, 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 20th Sunday after Pentecost (October 6, 2013)

World Communion Sunday

Children are fascinated by the idea of a day on which Christians all around the world celebrate Communion.  So exploring that reality might be the best entry to worship for the children on this World Communion Sunday.  There are many different ways to do this.

UInclude people of different racial, ethnic backgrounds as worship leaders.  If possible, include youth and children as well as adults.  When appropriate, invite them to say something about their church in that place or culture.  Some may want to wear what people in that church wear.

UTake time for worshipers to tell brief stories about their worship experiences in churches in other countries.  

UFeature breads from around the world during Communion.

Have children process in carrying loaves of sourdough, pumpernickel, pitas, Asian nan, Native American fry bread, cornbread, tortillas, etc.  They put their loaves in a big basket in front of the central table where they remain for the service.

If you use bread cubes or if people tear chunks of bread off loaves to share in the sacrament, use a variety of breads.  Older children can cut the cubes during church school the week before.  If the cubes are stored in plastic bags in a freezer until Sunday morning, they will be fresh for worship.

Bread, Bread, Bread, by Ann Morris, is a book of pictures of bread from all around the world.  It would be possible to read the whole book.  But, you could also just look at the pictures on the first pages.  Use the index to learn where each pictured bread is made.  Ponder with the children the fact that people everywhere eat bread and marvel at bread as a good symbol for God’s love for all of us at communion.

U Display chalices or crosses (Central American painted cross, Celtic cross, palm cross, orthodox cross, crucifix, etc.) from around the world OR cover the communion table with cloth from different continents.  Identify the source of each one and tell a brief story about Christians gathering for communion in that place.

UPray your way around the world using a map or globe.  Pray for groups of Christians with which you congregation has contact, groups who have been in the news recently, etc.

If space allows, spread a large world map on the floor or draw a world map on a huge mat of newsprint paper.  Invite worshipers to light a votive candle/tea light from a central candle and to place it on a country.  They then offer their prayer for the people who worship there this morning either silently or aloud.

In a more formal setting, the worship leader can pray his or her way from continent to continent with the congregation replying to each prayer, “Hear our prayers for Christians worshiping in NAME OF PLACE.”  If a world map is displayed or projected on a wall, an acolyte can point to each spot with a stick pointer or a pinpoint light.  (Rehearse this so the focus is on the praying rather than the logistics.)

U Select Communion hymns that sing of the whole world in ways that grab the attention of children.

Sing “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” inviting each worshiper to put a hand on the shoulder of or hold hands with the next person.  Encourage stretching across the aisles.

Before singing “I Come With Joy” read verses 2 and 3 with the congregation following along in their hymnals.  Note the appropriateness of singing those verses on World Communion Sunday.

As you sing “In Christ There is No East or West” project pictures of people from around the world.

Point to the Jamaican source of the music for “Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ.”  If possible add Jamaican drums or simple rhythm instruments to the accompaniment.

USelect prayers, readings, and music from around the world for today’s liturgy.  Gifts of Many Cultures: Worship Resources for the Global Community, edited by Maren C Tirabassi and Kathy Wonson Eddy, is an excellent source.  Many of the prayers and liturgies are filled with every day references, but will still need introducing to the children .  There is also a follow up book titled Gifts in Open Hands: More Worship Resources for the Global Community.

UIf you can locate a set of paper flags in a school supply store, string them together to drape over doorways or in the worship center.  A children’s class can be enlisted to color the flags in advance if needed.

UGo to Jan Richardson Images  for a collage picture of people of all ages and ethnicities gathered around a table.  ($15.)  While you are there, take time to explore Jan’s other work.   I am a regular visitor at her lectionary based website at The Painted Prayerbook.

U Last year on World Communion Sunday Anita Lynn-Stuart in Pennsylvania used a clock with the children to talk about Christians all around the world celebrating at different times so that there is always someone praising God and celebrating communion on this day.

Saint Francis Day

Go to The Texts This Week - Saint Francis Day for lots of resources for Saint Francis Day.  It includes many plans for blessing the animals.  Some year (soon I hope) I will produce a post on it, but it will not be this year.

The Texts

Faith is doing God’s will or trusting God’s plan and rules – even when you are not sure how it is going to work out.  Many of the texts for the day explore FAITH in different situations.  So, make FAITH the word of the day.  Display it on a banner at the beginning of worship and challenge children to draw a star in their printed order of worship every time they hear, sing or say the word today.  Explore FAITH as it appears in the very different texts for the day. 

Lamentations 1:1-6, 3:19-26; Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; Psalm 37:1-9 even Psalm 137

L Together the Old Testament texts are a sampler of people talking back to God.  These are deeply hurt, terribly sad, and totally angry people, and they are willing to tell God so.  We talk to children often about telling God the happy things, confessing our sins to God, and asking God for help.  But, we also need to give them permission, even encourage them to tell God when they are angry, when life seems unfair, when it looks to them as if God isn’t doing God’s job the way it should be done.  These texts and other stories teach us that God can take such straight talk and even wants it.  Indeed, all these writers seem to work through their outburst to a kind of peace or patience or hope in the middle of their mess.

L One way to explore this in either a children’s time or the day’s sermon is to present photos of people in horrible situations, e.g. portraits of children with harelips, pictures of people living in deep poverty, someone in a hospital bed, etc.  Add situations such as “your parents are getting a divorce.”  Explore the feelings of the people in these situations.  Say aloud some of the things they make you want to say to God and some of the questions you’d like to ask God about these situations.  Note that just as it sometimes helps to talk our feelings out with another person, it can also help to talk them out with God.  Sometimes, in the process of explaining just how horrible it is, we find something we could do to make it better, e.g. telling God how unfair it is for the children to be born with harelips may make you realize that there are ways you could help those children.  Other times, in the process of telling God how bad it is, we remember some of the good things we have too and that makes us feel better.  Or, we remember someone else who has a similar problem and begin to think of ways we can work on the problem together.  And sometimes, it just feels like we’re yelling and God is not listening.  That is the hardest time.  But even then lots of people tell us that if you keep talking to God about it, eventually, sometimes after a very long time, it helps.  No one can say exactly how or why.  But it helps.  So, we need to tell children that, when they are really, really angry and hurt and sad, they can tell God all about it. 

Lamentations 1:1-6 or 3:19-26

L The first Lamentations verses loudly complain about everything that is wrong .  The second set of verses (3: 20-26) manage to find hope in the bleak situation.  Ask six good readers of several different ages (maybe one or two families) to read the verses using the script below.  To make the difference in the two sets of verses clearer, give each reader a two sided round “face” poster on a short pole.  As they read the first set of verses, they each turn the sad face toward the congregation.  As they read the second set of verses, they turn the straight face with eyes looking up and a gold border toward the congregation.


Lamentations 1:1-6 and 3:21-26

 Readers hold sad face poster toward the congregation.

Reader 1:      How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal.

Reader 2:      She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies.

Reader 3:      Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.

Reader 4:      The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter.

Reader 5:      Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the LORD has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe.

Reader 6:      From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer.

As readers finish reading their second verse, they turn their face posters to the hopeful side.

Reader 1:      But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

Reader 2       The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,

Reader 3:      His mercies never come to an end;
                       they are new every morning;
                       great is your faithfulness.

Reader 4:      "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."

Reader 5:      The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.

Reader 6:      It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.



Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

L The CEV jumps many of the historical details to provide a message that makes immediate sense to adults and some older children.

Our Lord, how long must I beg for your help
before you listen?
How long before you save us from all this violence?
3                Why do you make me watch such terrible injustice?
Why do you allow violence, lawlessness, crime, and cruelty
to spread everywhere?

L This passage offers a model for lamenting.  Read verses 1:2-4 dramatically, letting your anger show.  Pause to note that it IS possible to talk to God this way.  Read 2:1 with arms folded across your chest waiting to hear from God.  Then, read 2:2b-4 stopping as you go to be sure everyone gets the message.  Ponder how it felt to get that message.  Finally, retrace the process and suggest that we can do the same thing today. 

L Put the lament form into a worksheet with fill in the blanks as below.  Challenge worshipers to fill in the blanks from their last week or for the world today.  Collect all the laments in prayer baskets passed through the congregation or located on the Table.

God I can’t take it much more….

It makes me want to….

Still I remember that You….

So, I …..

L Read Alexander Who’s Not (Do you Hear Me? I Mean It!) Not Moving, by Judith Viorst, as an example of a lament from a boy who did not want to move but had no choice.

Psalm 137

L Introduce the angriest, meanest, maddest verse in the Bible – Psalm 137:8b-9.  Explain that invaders had conquered the psalmist’s city, burned all the buildings in it, killed most of the people, and taken the rest (including the poet) back to their country as prisoners.  Note that the psalmist had every right to be very angry and sad.  Then read the verses.  React with your face and voice to show how offensive this wish is.  State that it is rather surprising it is in the Bible.  Then, with a change of face and tone, note that you are actually rather glad this verse is there because it reminds us of something that we don’t like to talk about.  That something is that when we are mad and feel mean, no matter how bad it gets, we can tell God all about it.  God can take it.  God can even help us deal with it. 

2 Timothy 1:1-14

J Tell the back story about Timothy with the focus on his faith family.  Timothy’s mother and grandmother told him stories and led him to the Christian community.  There he met Paul who claims to love him like a son and who ordained him to be a minister.  Identify some of the people in your faith family and encourage worshipers of all ages to identify the members of their faith families.  This is great chance to explore the importance families and friends have in shaping each other’s faith. Encourage households to continue this discussion at home.

Challenge especially young worshipers (but also willing older ones) to draw pictures and/or write thank you notes to people who have helped them grow as disciples.  This can be sermon art to be displayed or cards to be delivered in person or mailed after worship.

J Explore Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to have more self-discipline.  Children long to be more and more “my own boss.”  Usually they mean that they want to be able to do what they want to do.  For Paul however, being your own boss means being able to control your actions and emotions, being able to not go along with the crowd, and being able to keep your own rules.  Paul encourages Timothy to have more self-discipline, he says that Timothy knows what he believes about God and Jesus and he knows what rules he wants to live by.  What he needs to work on is not letting other people lead him astray.  He, not other people, is to be his own boss.  He is to discipline himself. 

J As the Charge at the end of the service, address Paul’s words to Timothy to the congregation urging them to be brave disciples this week standing up for Jesus’ ways no matter what.

Luke 17: 5-10

J Children feel little and "not enough."  Jesus says to them that they are “enough” just as the tiny mustard seed is enough.  Remember that this is not the mustard seed parable in which the tiny seed grows into the big bush.  This is the mustard seed that even though it is tiny,  is “enough.”  So show the children a tiny mustard seed (spice section of the grocery store), note how much bigger (physically) they are than that seed, and tell them to get to work as God’s people.   Urge them to live as Jesus’ disciple where ever they are and whatever they are doing.  They can do it.  They are big enough.

J The other point in these verses that speaks to children is that doing what God wants is just our job.  We shouldn’t expect lots of praise and awards for being kind and forgiving and generous.  We just do it.  Illustrate this conversation with prize ribbons labeled MOST FORGIVING or THIRD PLACE FOR KINDNESS.  Laugh at them pointing out that such ribbons will never be awarded.  Those are things we just do because we are Jesus’ disciples and that is what disciples do.

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