Thursday, October 2, 2014

Year A - Proper 24, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 19th Sunday after Pentecost (October 19, 2014)

Exodus 33:12-23

Children, who would like to see or at least hear God “really”, “like in the Bible,” are fascinated by this story of Moses asking to see God.  Since it is hard for them to catch the story as read from most translations, either tell it in your own words or read it from a children’s Bible.  My choice would be “Moses Sees God” from Lectionary Story Bible: Year A, by Ralph Milton, p. 222.

The Good News Bible (TEV) presents this text clearly as a conversation using the most understandable and gender inclusive vocabulary.  It could be read by two readers (God and Moses) if you introduce the God reader noting that like Moses we don’t know what God really looks or sounds like.  (NOTE: In verse 14 of the TEV God promises “victory.”  In all the other English translations God promises “rest” or “peace.”  I’d substitute one of those words.)

Note that what Moses saw, “the back of God trailing glory” was mainly light and reminds you of the burning bush where Moses first met God.  Lift the candle from the Moses display while you talk about God’s glory that guides us and lights up the world, then return it to its place.

Make a big word poster bearing the word glory printed in bright gold metallic marking pen or gold glitter pen.  You might even ask an artist (young or old) to write the word with flourishes or decorative touches.  Display the poster and introduce the idea of God’s glory. 

To further explore the idea of God’s glory and do some worship education about a line in the Lord’s Prayer, create a litany naming attributes of the glorious God.  To each one the congregation responds, “Thine is the Kingdom and power and the glory forever.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

God, you are the Alpha and Omega.  You were here before anything else existed and you will be here when everything and everyone has come to an end.

Creating God, you spoke and the entire universe came into existence.  You know the secrets of stars and dark holes and far flung galaxies. 

Lord of the Whole Creation, you are aware of each tiny creature on each planet.  You pay attention to insects and birds and even us.

God of History, you call us to be your people.  You appointed us to take care of this planet Earth.  You gave us rules for living well together.  You call us to great things.

Loving God you created each one of us.  You know us by name and watch over us.  You are with us when everything is wonderful.  And, you walk with us through our worst days.

God of Mercy,  You know everything we do, the good and the bad.  And, still you do not give up on us.  When we mess up, you call us back to yourself and you forgive us when we don’t deserve it.

You are greater than we can understand, vaster than we can imagine, more amazing than we can put into words.  So with awe and deep gratitude we pray…

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Exodus speaks of God’s Glory.  One of the words we use in worship to respond to that glory is HOLY.  So instead of featuring the word GLORY today, feature HOLY.

Define it as a word Moses might have said after his little glimpse of God’s glory on the mountain and one we use when we catch glimpses of God’s glory all around us and in the Bible.

Point out all the places the word HOLY appears in wood, glass, on banners, and elsewhere in your sanctuary.

After defining HOLY, sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” pointing out all the times the word appears and challenging non-readers to sing at least those words and all worshipers to look for reasons to call God Holy.

If you celebrate Communion today, before the liturgy point out the “Holy, Holy, Holy” song (the Sanctus).  Explain what it means to sing it in this context.  Encourage worshipers to pay attention to it and sing it because they mean it.

Tie this HOLY to Paul’s call to the Thessalonians to live holy lives so that when people saw them going about their daily lives they got a little glimpse of God’s glory.  “Take Time to Be Holy” is a good follow up hymn for this discussion.

*** LOOK AHEAD.  Next Sunday one of the Old Testament texts is the Holiness Code from Leviticus.  You may want to save all these HOLY worship activities for that service.

Before the Call to Worship tell worshipers that you will be thinking about God today.  Urge them to listen to songs, readings and prayers for words about God.  Give everyone (or the children) worksheets with which to create their own poems about God.  Suggest that they might want to write words about God and/or draw pictures about God around the edges of the paper.  Provide a place where worshipers may post their poems and/or print them on the website.  Or, encourage worshipers to post them at home where they can see them and encourage them to add to and rewrite their poems in the days ahead.  Remind them that we our most important words about God may change from time to time.

Knowing God is dangerous.  God told Moses that the people would be consumed if God went with them into the Promised Land.  They couldn’t take it.  When Moses came back down the mountain, his face shone so brightly that he wore a veil over his face so he wouldn’t frighten people too much.  He was changed, forever different after his little glimpse of God’s glory.  Children as well as adults can be told that knowing God is dangerous for them, too.  God can lead us to do things that are hard – making friends with the outcasts, standing up for what is right, loving even our enemies, forgiving those who wrong us.  Only the truly brave want to get involved with this glorious God. 

Isaiah 45:1-7

The Roman Catholic lectionary calls for Isaiah 45:1, 4-6 thus omitting the long list of ways God would pave the way for Cyrus.  If children are introduced to Cyrus before the reading, they can follow either lection, but the shorter one is easier for them.

Before reading either lection, introduce Cyrus as the king of Persia where the Jews had been taken as exiles after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Persians.  Point out how very unpopular this king was with the Jews who first read this.  Then invite worshipers to listen for the surprising thing God had to say about this foreign king who did not even know God’s name.  Be sure to go back to Cyrus putting God’s message clearly into your own words in the sermon.  I predict that when you say, “Remember Cyrus the hated king of the Persians” little heads will pop up all over the room as children tune in to hear what the deal was with Cyrus.

The point is that God who is Lord of the whole Universe uses people who don’t even admit that God exists.  God is that powerful.  God also does things that we may not like.  The Jews in that day did not like being taken away to live in Babylon.  In children’s words – God is not like a fairy godmother who waves a magic wand to give you a dress for the ball or like Tinker Bell who can make you fly by scattering fairy dust on you.  God is the Great God of the Universe.  God is doing big important things, some of which we may not particularly like.  It’s our job to recognize where God is working and join God there.  It is not God’s job to figure out what we want and to join us there.

Psalm 99 or Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)

Both of these psalms praise God’s greatness and power meant to fill the whole universe.  Both need to be read loudly by the whole congregation.  They are not meant for “inside voices” but for “loud, happy outside voices.”  For a shorter reading, use Psalm 99 omitting verses 6-8.  For a longer reading that really gets into the praise spirit of the psalmist and uses everyday vocabulary, turn Psalm 96 into a choral reading for leader, choir, and congregation.  Before reading, practice the first line together reading it loudly to fill the heavens with your praise.  (If the leader and choir set their volume up, the congregation will follow.  A brief rehearsal or conversation with the choir before the service might help.)

! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * !

Psalm 96: 1-9, 10-13

Leader:          O sing to the Lord a new song;

Choir:             Sing to the Lord, all the earth.

People:          Sing to the Lord, bless the Lord’s name;
     tell of God’s salvation from day to day.

Leader:          Declare the glory of the Lord among the nations,
     and God’s marvelous works 
          among all the peoples.

Choir:             For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
     The Lord is to be revered above all gods.

People:          For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
     but the Lord made the heavens.

Leader:          Oh, the honor and majesty of the Lord’s 
     Oh, the strength and beauty of God’s sanctuary!

Choir:             Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
     Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

People:          Ascribe to the Lord the glory due God’s name;
           bring an offering, and 
           come into the courts of the Lord.

Leader:          Worship the Lord in holy splendor;
     tremble before God, all the earth.

Choir:             Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!

People:          The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
     The Lord will judge the peoples with equity.”

Leader:          Let the heavens be glad,

Choir:             Let the earth rejoice;

People:          Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

Leader:          Let the field exult, and everything in it.

Choir:             Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
           before the Lord
     for the Lord is coming,
     for God is coming to judge the earth.

All:                  The Lord will judge the world with 
     and the peoples with truth.

                  Based on the New Revised Standard Version

! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * !

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Since this begins a series of readings from the first letter to the Thessalonians, take a moment to introduce the letter, the senders, and the receivers.

Show the book’s location in the big pulpit Bible or help worshipers find it in their pew Bibles. 

Using the table of contents, point out all the letters in the New Testament and note that as we read over the shoulders of those who first read them we find that we have lots of the same problems today that they had and that we can learn from them.

Point out the modern city of Thessaloniki in Greece on a map or globe and show a picture or two of that city.  This photo has the advantage of including both historic ruins in the middle of the modern city.

Altar area in the Church of the Rotunda of St. George
in Thessaloniki, Greece,
from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
[retrieved October 2, 2014]. Original source: 
To prove that Thessaloniki is a real place, project or display photographs of the city as it exists today and/or point to it on a map.  Or, display this photo of the Rotunda of St George which was built in Thessaloniki in 306.  The people to whom Paul wrote did not worship here, but it is one of the earliest still standing buildings used for Christian worship.  Go to Arch of Galerius and the Rotunda of St George for its complicated history, but don’t share much of it with the children.  For them it is simply proof that Christians have been worshiping in Thessaloniki, Greece for thousands of years now.

Explain that Paul had started this church years before this letter was written and that he was really good friends with lots of people there.

Paul compliments the Thessalonians saying they are making a big difference in their town by living like Jesus every day.  To explore what it means for children today to make a difference by living like Jesus, check out The Recess Queen, by Alexis O’Neill, (see the review at Storypath).  This book would have to be read with the children up close to see at least some of the pictures.  (Read aloud time: 5 minutes – and you better practice the whacky, rhyming words.)  After reading it, I’d ask “Who in this story was most like Jesus?” then “What makes you say that?” and finally “Could anyone do that?”  and “How would you describe a kid who did something like that?”  Then very briefly note that Paul says the Christians in Thessalonica were a lot like Katie Sue and suggests that we can be too.

John Stevens at Dollar Store Children’s Sermons suggests looking with the children at a blank thank you note and discussing the importance of saying thank you – just as Paul said thank you to the Thessalonians.  I’d take it another step giving children blank cards with the challenge to write a draw what they are thankful for at their church.  Invite them to drop their cards in the offering plates.  Later post some or all on the church website or a bulletin board.

Matthew 22:15-22

The problem of taxes is not of great interest to children – even in today’s loud political debates about taxes.  Older children begin to catch and enjoy the way Jesus trapped his questioners in their own trap.  They like thinking of Jesus as that clever and smart.  But, they need step by step explanations to do so.

Mainly what this text reminded me is that it is Stewardship Season in many congregations.  That led me to pondering the opposing facts that this season is a great opportunity to train up young as well as adult stewards and that most congregations focus almost entirely on adult stewards (after all they are the ones with the moneyJ).  That pondering led me to pop off Children, Money, and the Sanctuary.

With all the talk about money, this week would be a good week to steal the offertory from the choir.  Invite the children forward as the offering plates are passed.  Let them watch from the front what is happening.  Talk about why the church collects money each week.  Name 2 or 3 ways the church uses the money.  If appropriate, put the prayer of dedication into your own words showing them where it is in the bulletin.  Then send them back to their seats as the intro to the Doxology is played.  Urge them to sing and read the prayer with the congregation.

1 comment:

  1. 'Thankfulness is a holy act' - very helpful, thank you!

    I always use this website when planning all age worship - so very thoughtful and creative. Bless you.


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