Saturday, October 4, 2014

Year A - Proper 25, 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 20th Sunday after Pentecost (October 26, 2014)

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

If you have been using the Moses Display (see Year A - Moses Display), before reading this text place a big, but still moveable rock on the lectern.  Then read the text.  Afterwards, place the rock on the edge of the display to recall Moses’ burial in an unmarked grave at the edge of the wilderness.

Pray for all kinds of leaders – elected government officials, lay and ordained church leaders, class officers, team captains, patrol leaders, etc.  Remember to include leaders in children’s groups.

Go to 1Thesslonians below for a suggestion for connecting Moses, Paul, pastors of your church and the children.

If you have been working with the Moses display, sing “Our God Our Help in Ages Past” (based on Psalm 90:1-5) as the closing hymn.  As it is sung have each item on the display carried out down the central aisle. Follow the order in which the items appeared in the story.  In rehearsal assign who carries what and seat them in the correct order.  Instruct them to pick up their item and to walk slowly out holding it with great dignity in both hands at shoulder level.  The burning bush candle carrier, picks up the candle and steps to the side as the others leave.  When all are gone, that candle is placed alone in the center of the display again.  The benediction then refers to God’s presence with Moses through all the years in the wilderness and God’s continued presence with each of us during the coming week.  (The recessional of the items is one way an older children’s class can become worship leaders together.)

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

There are several ways to read this psalm that will draw the attention of the children. 

1.    Note that this psalm is credited to Moses and invite worshipers to imagine Moses praying it as he looks out over the Promised Land before he dies.  Then invite an elderly man forward to read the psalm.

2.   Since this a psalm that speaks to God who is Lord of all generations, have it read by readers of at least two generations.  A white haired reader could be paired with an older elementary school reader with each reading alternate verses.  The older reader goes first and reads verses 5 and 6 as one reading.

3.    Or, to involve more readers of a variety of ages and sexes, use the five reader script below.  Include an older child, a teenager, a young adult, a middle aged adult, and an older adult.  It doesn’t matter in what order they stand and read, but I would mix them up rather than go youngest to oldest or the reverse.  They could stand around a central microphone each stepping to the mike to read from a script they hold or each could wear a lapel mike.  A rehearsal before the service is essential for all to feel comfortable and thus project the faith of all generations that underlies the psalm.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17

Reader 1:      Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.

Reader 2:      Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Reader 3:      You turn us back to dust,
    and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”

Reader 4:      For a thousand years in your sight
    are like yesterday when it is past,
    or like a watch in the night.

Reader 5:      You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

Reader 1:      Turn, O Lord! How long?
    Have compassion on your servants!

Reader 2:      Satisfy us in the morning with your 
                               steadfast love,
    so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Reader 3:      Make us glad as many days as you have 
                               afflicted us,
    and as many years as we have seen evil.

Reader 4:      Let your work be manifest to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.

Reader 5:      Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands—
    O prosper the work of our hands!


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

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

Either the TEV or CEV translations of this passage are more easily understood by children (and many adults) as they are read.

Stop just after you read the last verse.  Reread “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (TEV). Point out that this is the summary of the rest of verses.  Not holding grudges, not favoring the rich over the poor, etc. are ways we love our neighbors.  Also ask who knows what this is called or point out that it is called the Golden Rule.  Tell people to listen for it in the gospel reading today.  If possible read the gospel immediately following this.  When you come to the phrase in the gospel, pause, look up, then read it.  This proves to worshipers that Jesus was not making up the Golden Rule, but quoting a rule they all had known for hundreds of years.

If you did not feature the word HOLY last week, feature it today. 

Before the Call to Worship introduce the word HOLY by reading Leviticus 19:1-2.  Define what it means to be HOLY by reading verses 15-18 or just 18.  Challenge worshipers to write HOLY on their bulletin every time they sing, pray or hear it during worship today.  As they leave ask children how many times they heard the word.

Point out all the places the word HOLY appears in wood, glass, on banners, on the Holy Bible, and elsewhere in your sanctuary.  Insist that these are reminders to us that God is holy and that we are called to be holy.

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 call to be HOLY to Paul’s call to the Thessalonians to live holy lives.  “Take Time to Be Holy” is a good follow up hymn for this discussion.

Psalm 1

Scornful, scoffers, and chaff are unfamiliar words to most children, so choose your translation carefully and point out strange words before reading if needed.  (There is no translation that includes none of these words.  So, choose the one that fits you congregation and introduce its “hard words.”)

Psalm 1 is an almost over-simplistic comparison of “the good” and “the wicked.”  To make the comparison visual, have it read by two readers (perhaps both wearing dark shirts and pants or skirts).  One reads the verses about the good.  The other reads the verses about the wicked.  They begin standing back to back in the center of the sanctuary.  Each one turns to recite their verses facing the congregation then returns to the starting position.  This is most effective if the readers actually recite their verses from memory. 

Psalm 1

Reader 1:      Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
    but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
    They are like trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
    In all that they do, they prosper.

Reader 2:      The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
    Therefore the wicked will not stand 
                in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of 
      the righteous;

Reader 1:      For the Lord watches over the way of 
                               the righteous,

Reader 2:      but the way of the wicked will perish.
NOTE: I used the NRSV in the script because this psalm is well known in this version.  For a translation with an easier vocabulary for children look at Today’s English Version.

Reread “They are like a tree planted by the river of waters.”  Laughingly note that we are not plants.  Plants don’t have any say in where they are planted.  But, people do.  We can plant ourselves in front of a video game screen or on a soccer field or in lots of other places.  We can also plant ourselves at church.  Note that spending some time planted in front of video screen or planted on a soccer field is fun and fine.  But, this psalm insists that we also need to plant ourselves at church.  We need to spend time reading and talking about what God has said in the Bible.  We need to spend time with people who think God’s ways are important.  We need to sing and pray and laugh with God’s people.  When we do we slurp up God’s love just as a tree slurps up water and we grow big and strong, and bear lots of really good fruit.

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

I doubt that it was intentional, but I think there is a connection between this reading and the story from Deuteronomy.  In Deuteronomy leadership was passing from Moses to Joshua.  In his letter to the folks at Thessalonica, Paul is recalling his ministry with them.  It would be possible to add to the mix stories of previous pastors in your congregation to explore the relationships between people and their leaders.  If you have photographs or paintings of past pastors that are usually hung in public spots, bring them to the sanctuary.  Tell stories.  Ask who knew, was baptized by or married by … the more recent ones.  Then move onto points about pastoral relationships.  Children may miss some of your later points, but they will be more connected to pictures they hardly noticed before – and those pictures will connect them more fully to the church.

Display pictures of the current church staff.  Name and describe the work of each one.  Note what problems the church would have if they did not do what they do.  With the children, or to continue the discussion with the adults, explore ways staff and members work together to do God’s work.  Pray for each staff member by name. 

The Stewardship Connection here is the way leaders use their talents and time to help the whole community.  Deuteronomy reminds us that it is not about Moses, fine as he was.  It is about God and God’s people in all times and places.  Similarly, it was not about Paul nor about any past pastors nor is it about us.  We are called to live for God where we are.   That is all.  This is a different invitation to leadership than is often offered to children.  Children are encouraged to become leaders because leaders are respected, well paid, etc.  Today’s texts insist that leaders are simply people during their part just as Moses, Paul, and past pastors did their parts. 

Matthew 22:34-46

Since most children and many adults do not know that the Golden Rule is in the Old as well as the New Testament, follow the reading plan suggested under Leviticus 19 above.

If you did not do it several weeks ago when the 10 commandments appeared in the Wilderness saga, prove to the children (an all worshipers) that Jesus’ 2 great commandments really do encompass the Ten Commandments.  Print each of 10 in large letters on separate pieces of paper.  Then sort them with help from the congregation into to two piles, one for “love God” and the other for “love neighbors.“  If the children are up front with you, you can do this on the floor.  Do it with the whole congregation using a tackboard or metallic white board or a flannel board.

To take it another step, turn the sets of rules into a congregational litany with one side of the room reading the Ten Commandments and the other responding with the correct one of Jesus’ Two Commandments.

To explore the trap the authorities were setting for Jesus, identify some of the people who would have favorites among the ten commandments and would be upset if Jesus did not choose “their law” as most important.  For example, store owners might want to be sure “Do not steal” was most important.  Parents would definitely want “Honor your father and mother” near the top of the list.  And so on.

Another Stewardship Connection:  Connect the two great commandments to specific items in the church’s budget.  If you sorted cards of the 10 Commandments into two stacks, return with cards bearing one budget item each and add them to the two piles.  The point with the children (and the reminder to the adults, maybe especially the budget committee) is that we use the church’s money to follow the 2 great commands.

I used glitter glue because it was handy.
Using a metalic gold pen would be better.
Give out cardboard or felt hearts printed with “God” on one side and “people” on the other side.  Urge worshipers to keep theirs with them as a reminder.  They might stick it in a shoe or carry it in a pocket or purse.  (Ask older children’s or youth class to make and distribute the hearts as you talk about them in worship.)

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