Friday, July 4, 2014

Year A - Proper 13, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 8th Sunday after Pentecost (August 3, 2014)

Genesis 32:22-31

> Most children, especially most boys, are delighted by this story in which God appears as a wrestler.  The idea that God is willing to get down and tussle with Jacob is appealing.  The fact that the fight was a friendly one rather than a vicious one leads them to think God was on Jacob’s side (and our side) all along.  They are also pleased that God is strong enough and gentle enough to leave Jacob lame (with a reminder of God’s strength), but not horribly damaged.  They however will not tumble to all this simply hearing the text read, it will have to be pointed out to them and savored with them. 

> If you have a teenage wrestler in the congregation, ask him to read this story after noting that this text is appropriately read by a wrestler.  Or, simply ask a teenage or young adult boy to read the story.

> Remind young worshipers of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis.  Aslan the Lion who represents Jesus in these books is strong and a little scary, rather like God wrestling all night with Jacob.  In The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe  (the first book in the series) Susan and Lucy ask Mr. and Mrs. Beaver to describe Aslan. They ask if Aslan is a man. Mr. Beaver replies.
"Aslan a man? Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion-- the Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh!" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he--quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and make no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver, "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver. "Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about being safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."
Jacob's all night wrestling match with God reminds us that like Alsan, God is very good, but not always safe.

> Celebrate God’s power by singing “I Sing the Mighty Power of God.”  Before singing point out a few of the examples of God’s power and encourage worshipers to listen for others as they sing.

Psalm 17:1-7

> If you explore God’s willingness to wrestle with Jacob (and us), use verse 6 as the congregational response in a series of prayers about the ways we wrestle with God over big important questions and problems.  Before digging into adult questions and problems, start with one or two that children will recognize.  For example,

Leader:  God, I love my family.  But, sometimes it is really hard to get along with them.  They get in the way of what I want to do.  They ask me to do things I don’t want to do.  It is hard to figure out how to get along with them.  Show me how to live with them every day.
People: I pray to you, O God, because you answer me;
        so turn to me and listen to my words. (TEV)

Leader:  My friends make my life much more fun.  But, sometimes they want to do things I know are wrong or mean.  It is hard to know what to do and say.  Help me find ways to stand up for what is right.
People: I pray to you, O God, because you answer me;
        so turn to me and listen to my words. (TEV)

Isaiah 55:1-5

> Bring a piece of “how could I ever have gone out in public in this” clothing and if possible a picture of yourself wearing it, back when it was high style.  (If you were in college in the 60’s as I was, there are probably several excellent candidates for this deep in your closet.  I wore the one in the picture with bright yellow tights!)  Recall how important it was to you to have that item then and assure them it will be thrown away immediately when you get home today.  Then reread verse   2. 

“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy? “

Put it into your own words discussing our tendency to go after things we think we have to have, things that we think will make us happy, things that years later look so very foolish.

NOTE:  I am leaving in the above suggestion about the things we want at one time in our lives but which we later realize were silly – or worse.  But, reading it today I am also aware that there are some things we want desperately – maybe that art or chemistry set – which we quickly outgrow but which really do feed us at that time.  So, it is not as simple as we might wish.

> Create a responsive prayer about the things we want that “do not satisfy” using “Give us this day our daily bread” as the congregation’s response.

Leader: God help us recognize what we just want and what we really need.
All:        Give us this day our daily bread.

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

> Use the adapted version of this psalm (from TEV) as a responsive reading with the congregation reading “The Lord” in each verse and the liturgist or choir reading the remainder of each verse.  (And, yes, there are lots of male pronouns referring to God in this psalm.  I tried to make it more inclusive, but failed.  If someone else creates or knows of a better one, please share.)

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21

8     The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9     The Lord is good to all,
and God’s compassion is over all he has made.
14     The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15     The eyes of all look to The Lord,
and The Lord gives them their food in due season.
16     The Lord opens his hand,
satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17     The Lord is just in all his ways,
and kind in all his doings.
18     The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19     The Lord He fulfills the desire of all who fear him;
he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20     The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21     My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.
                                                                 Based on TEV

Romans 9:1-5 

> The summer of 2015 is an especially hard time to dig into this passage.  The ongoing tensions between Israel and Palestine have flared up dangerously.  Children cannot begin to understand the complex political questions being debated.  If you tackle those questions with the adults, work on a more basic level with the children (with the adults listening in).  Focus on Paul’s point that Jews and Christians are faith cousins.  Point out what we share.  Using the Table of Contents in a Bible or flipping through the pictures in a sequential Bible story book, name some of the familiar stories we share.  Insist that we were one family until Jesus came.  Then the family divided into two families – rather like brothers and sisters growing up together then moving to different places as adults.  If there is a nearby Temple or Synagogue, display a picture of it and of your building.  Note that these buildings are where the faith cousins live in your community.  Tell about anything the two groups do together, e.g. shared community ministries, community worship at Thanksgiving, etc. 

> The Roman Catholic lectionary suggests Romans 8: 35, 37-39 - last week’s list of all the things that cannot come between us and God’s powerful love for this week.  It could be an interesting match with God the wrestler in the Genesis story.

Matthew 14:13-21

> The story of the loaves and fishes meal appears in all four gospels.  In only John’s is the food offered by a child.  Still, most people will add the child as they hear the other three accounts read.  So, ask an older child to read this text in worship.

> If you focus on Jesus’ insistence that the disciples feed the crowd, put the congregation on the spot by inviting them to read the words of the disciples in this short story.  The liturgist reads everything else noting that he or she is Jesus in this conversation and the congregation is the disciples.  Print the whole passage in the bulletin with the disciples’ words in bold.

JESUS MAFA. Jesus multiplies the loaves and fish,
from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved July 4, 2014].
> The Jesus MAFA painting of this scene is very busy.  Help children see what is there by asking them first to find Jesus who is wearing a red robe, then the disciples who are wearing white robes.  Note that everyone else is “the crowd”.  Then, ask what all the white robed disciples are doing.  This could get you started into a sermon exploring the characters (see below) or could be sandwiched between two readings of the story so that worshipers hear the second reading with sharper attention. 

> Consider creating the whole sermon around imagining yourselves as different people in this story.  Ponder what they might have been thinking, feeling, and learning as the meal came together. A large picture of the scene provides ready reference to the characters.  Children may lose you when you explore a more adult possibility for a character, but will be drawn back in when you move to the next character/s.  For starters…

* Wanting a little quiet to mourn John the Baptist’s death, he is confronted by a large crowd who want his attention.  What was he thinking and feeling as he responded to their needs instead of his own? 
* Some see this as a turning point.  Jesus has been letting the disciples witness him in action.  Learning of John’s murder makes him realize more fully what is ahead for him and leads him to begin preparing his disciples for leadership.  How does that influence his relationships with his disciples?

-        The disciples
* How did they feel when Jesus told them to feed the crowd?
* What did they think when they realized that there was going to be enough? 
* What do you think they did with the leftover food? 
* How did this event change them?

-        The crowd
* How did it feel to be offered free food with no questions asked in a remote place in a time when food was not abundant?
* In that day who you ate with was important.  Jesus often got in trouble over the people with whom he ate.  How did it feel to sit down with huge numbers of strangers to share food?

-        Us
* What do we in OUR TOWN at OUR CHURCH like about this story?
* With which character/s do we most identify?
* What does this story suggest we need to work on a bit more?

> With preschoolers read Picnic, by John Burningham.  It tells the story of two children packing a picnic basket, meeting three friends whom they include in a day of adventures and returning home to bed.  It is a simple story that captures the feel of the gospel picnic.  People share what they have and have a great day together.  Read the book with young children, then encourage them to listen to the story of a day Jesus went on a picnic.

> This story will lead many to speak about scarcity thinking in today’s world.   (Scarcity thinking assumes that there is only so much of anything in the world and that if you want some, you better get it before it is gone.)  Children engage in scarcity thinking when they ask,
Ø Will I get my fair share of the fries, the goldfish, the candies….?
Ø When is MY turn?  And, will my turn be as long as theirs?
Ø Do they (especially parents, but also other loved adults and peers) love me as much as they love them?  (If there is a finite amount of love, I want to be sure to get some of it.)

> Tie this story to a summer food drive.  Most emergency food banks need food during the summer months when there are fewer food drives, but people still need to eat.  So, after reading and exploring the story, give worshipers a shopping list (most food banks provide one) or a paper plate to remind them to bring food the following Sunday or during the week.  Encourage families to shop for the list together. 

This could be launched during the sermon.  Or, the lists or plates could be handed out just before the benediction with Jesus’ charge to the disciples “YOU give them something to eat” and followed with a benediction sending them out to do this in God’s presence.

> Do a little worship education about the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” from the Lord’s Prayer.  Point out that the pronouns are plural.  We can’t pray just for our own needs.  Identify things in addition to food that are physical needs for all people.  Then, pray a responsive prayer of intercession for the hungry of the world.  The congregation’s response to each petition is “Give us this day our daily bread.” 

This could be addressed to the whole congregation just before the prayer or it could be a children’s time just before and during this prayer of intercession.

> Discuss the practice of saying a blessing or grace before meals.  Offer samples.  If you sense that many in the congregation have let this practice go, challenge individuals and households to try it at least one meal each day this week.  Suggest that they agree on a meal and the prayer they will say in the car on the way home from church.  Call it "worship homework."

My favorite book of mealtime blessings for families which include young children is Thank You for This Food: Action Prayers, Songs, and Blessings for Mealtime, by Debbie Trafton O’Neal.  Since it costs about $3.00 it would be possible to give a copy to each family with young children to encourage them to adopt this spiritual discipline.

> Because in many congregations this will be a Communion Sunday and because most people will associate this story with the little boy who shared his lunch with the crowd in other gospel versions, it is a good day to include children in leading sacrament.  Possibilities include:

-        Children carry in the elements (or the central loaf and cup) and place them on the Table

-        Children partnering with adults distribute the elements.  If Communion is served by intinction, a child can hold the bread tray beside an adult who holds the chalice.  If Communion is served in pews, children could pass the bread trays with adult partners at the other end of the pew.  Adults probably need to pass all the cup trays to avoid disasters.

-        Allison in Pennsylvania talked through the words of invitation with the children gathered around her.  She then had them give the Invitation to the congregation by echoing her as she spoke each phrase.  They then returned to their seats to share in Communion.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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