Thursday, January 16, 2014

Year A - Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 9, 2014)

Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12)

* Fasting is not a spiritual discipline with which children are familiar.  They may not even know the word.  If you work with the text in worship take time to introduce fasting.  Define it as the practice of going without food for a set time in order to remind yourself that food is not the most important thing in life.  If your congregation will practice “giving something up for Lent” in four weeks, lay the groundwork this week explaining why it is done and comparing it to fasting.  Describe the Muslim practice of fasting from sunrise to sunset every day for the month of Ramadan.  Then, describe the problems with fasting that Isaiah was warning against.  Imagine together how one might get crabby while one fasts.  Only then will children and other worshipers be ready to listen to this passage read.

* Several years ago a group of families in a church spent 24 hours in a global village at a nearby church camp.  Our task was to make bricks for the Haiti kitchen.  The adults dug and hauled sand and operated the “lots of muscle required” brickmaking machine.  The children carried water in gallon jugs up a long hill from a well to the work site.  We ate beans and rice cooked over a fire at the site.  One Sunday morning afterward a nine year old who had been on this trip was overheard dragging a friend over to a bulletin board saying, “This is me eating beans and rice.  We ate them at EVERY meal!  They are not bad, but the people in Haiti have to eat them at every meal every day. And, that just is NOT FAIR!”  Eating beans and rice at every meal was not fasting, but it was close to what Isaiah wanted people to do.

Mismatch this with a picture of children
fighting.  Match it with children happy together.
* Children enjoy matching things.  Isaiah insists that what we sing and say in worship should match what we do every day.  So, print a phrase you will say or sing in worship today on a speech bubble.  Display it pointing to where you will all use it in worship today.  Then, provide a picture (either a photos or a word picture) of an everyday activity that definitely does NOT match the phrase.  Identify what does not match.  Finally, display a picture that does match the phrase and identify the connections.  You might do this with only one phrase or might devote time to exploring one in detail, then look briefly at one or two more phrases.

Psalm 112:1-9 (10)

This is one of the alphabet psalms.  Each line begins with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet.  The poet is rhyming ideas rather than sounds.  Every line says something about “the righteous” or “good people.”  To highlight its format and help worshipers of all ages appreciate its message, briefly explain it and then read the psalm “artfully.”  Have a worship leader call out the Hebrew letter before each line is read.  The lines may be read by the entire congregation or by an older children’s class (think choir without music).  If a class reads the lines, they may read in unison or individuals may read the lines in turn.  The practice required for a class to prepare this reading is an opportunity for children to work with worship leaders and for children to become worship leaders.   This script below is free translation written with young readers in mind.  You could create a similar script using any Biblical translation


Psalm 112

ALL:                Praise the Lord!

Leader:          Aleph
ALL:                Happy are those who honor the Lord,

Leader:          Bet
ALL:                They take pleasure in obeying in God’s

Leader:          Gimel
ALL:                Their descendants shall be mighty on the earth,

Leader:          Dalet
ALL:                The honest shall be blessed:

Leader:          He
ALL:                Riches and wealth are theirs.;

Leader:          Waw
ALL:                and they will prosper forever.

Leader:          Zain
ALL:                They shine like a lamp in the dark,

Leader:          Het
ALL:                They are generous, kind, and fair.

Leader:          Tet
ALL:                All goes well for those who lend generously,

Leader:          Yod
ALL:                and for those who run their businesses honestly;

Leader:          Kaph
ALL:                Good people will never fail,

Leader:          Lamed
ALL:                They will be remembered forever.

Leader:          Mem
ALL:                God’s people are not afraid of bad news.

Leader:          Nun
ALL:                Their faith is strong and they trust in the Lord.

Leader:          Samek
ALL:                They are not worried or afraid.

Leader:          Ain
ALL:                They are certain to see their enemies defeated.

Leader:          Pe
ALL:                Good people give generously to the poor.

Leader:          Zade
ALL:                They are always, always kind.

Leader:          Qoph
ALL:                Other people will respect them.

Leader:          Resh
ALL:                The wicked see this and are angry.

Leader:          Shin
ALL:                They glare in hate and disappear.

Leader:          Taw
ALL:                The wicked will not get what they scheme to get.

                                 - My paraphrase based on several translations


1 Corinthians 2:1-12

* This is in many ways a continuation of last week’s reading from Paul’s letter.  The subject is the difference between God’s wisdom and the world’s wisdom.  Click on Fourth Sunday after Epiphany (Year A) for ideas. 

Matthew 5:13-20

* Since Matthew 5:17-20 is really the introduction to the next section of sayings, consider omitting it from today’s readings.  This keeps the focus on the light and salt images.  Furthermore, in his comments about fulfilling the Law in these verses, Jesus was speaking to adults who were concerned that he was challenging the Torah (their Bible).  He tells these folks to relax, that he doesn’t want to set aside any of it, he simply wants to take it to its intended depths.  This whole debate is of little interest to children at this point in their lives.  So, explore it with the adults and expect that the children will get to it later in their lives or omit this section in order to focus on the salt and light images.

* If you are doing a Sermon on the Mount series, the poster quotes for today are obvious.  You may want to produce just one of the chief images or several of them.

* To help children follow this three part text, have each part read by a separate reader.  Before each reader reads, the symbol from that section is placed on a central table.  For salt use a salt shaker or a bag of rock salt for the sidewalk (depending on what use of salt you plan to highlight).  For light add a candle or lantern.  For the Law (if you read those verses) add a large copy of the Bible.  The symbol may be put in place by the reader who then goes to the lectern to read.  Or, another person could carry the item up the central aisle and place it on the table while the reader reads. 

* Jesus says, “you are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the world.”  These may be the best known object lessons in the New Testament.  Listeners are asked to draw spiritual truths from descriptions of physical realities.  We know that children’s brains are not able to do this.  (For fuller description of this click on The Problem with Object Lessons).  Still, we can begin teaching them what is involved in these metaphors that are used frequently in the church’s life and worship.  We can delineate the qualities of salt and light and describe how we act as salt and light in the world.  At some point during their teen years they will be able to connect those lists more fully.

* Salt of the earth

Salt seasons or adds taste to food.  Imagine French fries or pretzels without salt.
God’s people act like salt when they make life better for people around them.  Kindness and friendly words are good seasoning for life.

Salt can be used to clean things.  Salt can be used to scour burned food out of a frying pan.  Bath salts are gentle cleaners poured into bathwater.
God’s people can help clean things up too.  Many churches pack hygiene kits or disaster clean up kits to send to people who need them.

Salt melts ice.  In North America in February most children have experience with using salt on sidewalks and roads to melt ice.
God’s people can melt hard hatred, by adding our loving care.  We can refuse to be part of anything that is hurting other people whether it is teasing and name-calling or prejudices that cut groups of people out.

* Light of the world

Some lights are bright and help us see what needs to be seen, e.g. lighthouse, search light.
God’s people often pay attention to people who are ignored and need help, e.g. churches often provide overnight shelter for homeless people.  Also, God’s people often point out unfair situations and work to get them changed. 

Some lights are soft and make us see the beauty of the world, e.g. candles.
God’s people do whatever they can to make the world more loving for everyone. 

Select from these possibilities one characteristic of either salt or light to explore with children.  Illustrate it with light and/or salt activities of your congregation, being sure to include some in which children participate.

* Natalie Sims in Melbourne Australia, on her wonderful blog  Singing the Lectionary suggests several songs for today’s texts.  Keep scrolling down her page to find:

“You are salt for the Earth O people.  Bring forth the kingdom of God” complete with sound sample

“Come Live in the Light// We Are Called” with song sample

“This Little Light of Mine” with a You Tube video from a Bruce Springsteen concert and a music sample for a children’s choir

* “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” which appears in many hymnals is another good choice.  I would not try to explain all the light images here, simply invite worshipers to listen for all the light as they sing.

* In a pictures book by the same name E.B. Lewis illustrates “This Little Light of Mine” with everyday scenes from the life of a boy who is lighting up his world in many simple, but important ways.  Flip through the pictures briefly identifying these light producing activities.  (BTW I found this in my public library.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

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