Saturday, April 25, 2015

Year B - Proper 5, 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Second Sunday after Pentecost (June 7, 2015)

To begin Ordinary Time bring out paraments from Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Trinity.  Briefly recall their meaning and the number of Sundays each was used.  Then, bring out (or point to) the green paraments.  Explain their meaning and how many Sundays you will be seeing them (lots more than any of the others!).  If you do this at the beginning of worship, put the green paraments in place (or add those that are easy to add at the last minute to those that required a more involved hanging process).

>  In many areas this may also be the Sunday nearest the end of the school term.  Go to School is Out!!! for ideas on how to recognize this important time for children and their parents in the congregation’s worship.

>  As you move into summer, consider the possibility of trying some Summer Worship Experiments with the aim of inviting children and their parents to participate more fully in worship.  Summer can be a great time to playfully try something new “just for the summer” - unless it sticks. 

The Texts

I Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20 (11:14-15)

I suspect this passage is understood differently by children in countries with kings or queens than in those with other kinds of leaders.  Children in countries without royal leaders know of kings mainly from fairy tales and other stories.  They have trouble jumping from talk about kings to talking about all governmental leaders.  And all children have trouble understanding the prophet vs king debate going on here.  That may lead me to choose the Genesis reading for the day.  If you do explore the Samuel text, read it dramatically so that at least the older children catch the basics of debate and explore two ideas that underlie the debate and are very interesting to children.

Invite all worshipers to take part in reading this scriptural conversation.  You will need a Samuel reader and a God reader reading from the front, and a narrator (probably the liturgist) reading from the lectern.  The entire congregation reads the part of the people.  Everyone will need printed scripts.

I Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20 (11:14-15)

Narrator:   Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him,

The People:   You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations. 

Narrator:  But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, (Samuel faces the Lord reader) and the Lord said to Samuel,

The Lord:  (The Lord reader faces Samuel)  Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.  Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you.  Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.

Narrator:  So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king.  He said, (Samuel turns to face the congregation)

Samuel:  These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; (and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.  He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers.)  He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers.  He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work.  He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.  And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.

Narrator:  But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said,

The People:  No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.

Narrator:  Samuel said to the people,

Samuel:  Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship. 

Narrator:  So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the Lord, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.)

            NRSV (the verses in parentheses
are the optional verses in the RCL reading)


Two picture books explore 2 ideas in this passage that speak especially to children.  Both depend on seeing the pictures.  Buy either one and turn it into a projectable Powerpoint slide show.  (Note for those who use projection:  A seminary professor said in a workshop I attended that she often scans the art from picture books to use in reading the story to groups.  She always buys a copy of the book and never ever lends her scanned pictures to anyone, no matter how they beg.  The reasoning is that just as one can read a story to others and show the pictures without infringing on copyrights, one can show the pictures to a larger group by projecting the art.  Sharing the scanned art with others to use in other situations would however be infringing on copyrights. 

No, by Claudia Reuda:  “In this reading, Samuel shares many good reasons why the people should not want a king. He does this as a warning from God, to let the people know what life would be like if they were subject to an earthly king. “But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, ‘No!’” No is a familiar phrase for children and adults. Often we want to make our own choices, even when someone we trust advises us against it. This is also the case with little bear and his mother. Much like Samuel, mother bear shares many good reasons why little bear should not stay outside for the winter; but little bear does not want to listen to his mother’s reasoning. Sometimes we have to experience things for ourselves to really understand a situation.” (This suggestion is from Noell Rathbun-Cook on Storypath.)  The very few words in this book can be read in 2 or 3 minutes.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon, by Eric Carle, tells the story of a chameleon who, like the people of Israel, wanted to be like the other folk.  For the majority of the book the chameleon wishes for and gets the attributes of other animals until he is a whimsical collection of different heads, wings, trunks, etc.  When a fly passes, the hungry chameleon is too weighed down by this to catch the fly – until he wishes himself back to being a chameleon.  As summer arrives children often get caught up in wishing they were like people they visit or live in other places or have different skills.  This story is a good reminder that who they are is maybe what they most want to be.

Pray for all kinds of leaders.  Invite worshipers to name kinds of leaders.  Remember to include team captains, scout troop leaders, etc.  Also remember that summer activities offer children a variety of unique leadership opportunities.  Then, offer prayers for all of these leaders.  Name people currently serving in government and pray for them.  If your congregation regularly hears prayer concerns from worshipers during worship, make this list at that time.  You might even invite the children forward then to have the discussion about leaders and identify prayers for them.  If you do, begin the congregation’s prayers with the prayers about leaders.

If you don’t want to dig into the politics of leadership, create a two week series on Samuel as a precursor to the summer long series on King David.  Start it by reading the call of Samuel today (Go to Year B - Second Sunday after Epiphany for ideas about reading and exploring this story.)  That sets you up next week to explore the anointing of David as a story about Samuel’s courage in risking Saul’s wrath and his willingness to see things God’s new way. 

Psalm 138

Before reading this psalm together, point out that it is identified as a psalm prayed by King David.  Invite worshipers to imagine themselves praying this prayer as a king, queen or other leader.  The TEV version is by far the easiest for children to follow.

You may give worshiping children
copies of this to sing this hymn.
If Great Is Thy Faithfulness is sung frequently in your worship, take time today to identify some of the not-very-familiar-to-children vocabulary.  Start by pointing out the repeated title at the beginning of the first verse and every chorus.  Translate it “God, we can depend on you always!”  Then define some or all of the following words possibly giving a poster bearing each word to one child as you define it.  The children might raise their poster when the word comes up in the hymn.  (Have a director handy to cue them as the congregation sings.)

Compassions – God cares about what happens to us
Mercies – God loves us – even when we don’t deserve it
Love – God made us, knows everything about us, and keeps an eye on us
Pardon for sin – God forgives us when we mess up
Peace – The sense that things are as they should be and are good.
Blessings – All the things we enjoy most about being alive.  They come from God.

Genesis 3:8-15

The first half of the story of the Fall - with the apple - appears on the first Sunday of Lent in Year A of the RCL.  The second half - with all the consequences - appears only here.  Adults may know and be able to explore the whole story with only these half readings, but children need to hear the whole story each time.  It is short enough to read from the Bible, but Desmond Tutu offers a more child friendly account in The Children of God Storybook Bible.  According to him Adam and Eve hid…

…because they had disobeyed God. 
“Why are you hiding from me?”   God said, “Did you eat from the tree in the middle of the garden?”
“Eve made me do it, “ said Adam.
“The serpent made me do it,” said Eve.
God let out a deep, disappointed sigh like the wind in the trees at night.  Not only had they disobeyed him, they did not even say they were sorry.

The short two page text is accompanied by beautiful art.  And, this storybook is available in many local bookstores.  This is a good one to add to your collection.

by Margaret Kyle from  The Family Story Bible,
by Ralph Milton. 
Used with permission.
Most Adam and Eve art understandably emphasizes their nakedness.  Unfortunately that leads to giggles.  To get past the giggles and talk about how Adam and Eve felt, show this picture after reading the story.  Identify the pair’s feelings knowing what they had done.  They felt – guilty, scared, ashamed, embarrassed.  They felt like hiding from God.

Cain and Abel: Finding the Fruits of Peace, by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, is a wonderful retelling of the story of the problems between the first brothers that led to murder.  It raises the same issues of bad choices and the divisions between God and people that result from them that the apple story does.  But, the main characters are brothers and everyone keeps their clothes on.  This makes it a good addition to worship built around the Fall.  (FYI this story does not appear at all in the RCL.  Who knows why!)  It takes a full 10 minutes to read this insight filled book.  At the beginning of summer it might be a good sermon followed by comments about forgiveness from the New Testament.  (See the note for the picture books above about scanning this wonderful art to project during worship.) 

Psalm 130

The Contemporary English Version of the Bible (CEV) offers the easiest translation for children to follow while preserving a sense of the majestic poetry.  Verses 1 -4 read….

From a sea of troubles
I call out to you, Lord.
Won’t you please listen
as I beg for mercy?
If you kept record of our sins,
no one could last long.
But you forgive us,
and so we will worship you.

Before reading this psalm (perhaps as the prayer of confession for the day), make a communal list of all kinds of sin – both personal and corporate.  You might even have someone write them on a big sheet of poster paper in black marker.  Note that we all have experience with most of them.  Then, invite worshipers to read the psalm with sinners everywhere. 

Rather than ask children on the steps to make this list, call on worshipers of all ages.  If a child launches into a potentially embarrassing story about “something bad someone did,” be ready to interrupt and help the child turn it into a statement about what was wrong about the deed rather than telling the details and naming the names. 

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

Most children have very little sense of their own mortality.  They may say that they understand that everyone eventually dies, but for most of them that day is somewhere off in a hazy future.  In the short term they see themselves not wasting away, but growing and getting stronger.  About all they can take from these verses is the promise that God loves us and cares for us even after we die.  We don’t have to worry.

This book comes is several different covers. 
This is the one on my shelf at the moment.
If you are going to talk about life beyond death, the classic Water Bugs & Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children, by Doris Stickney, describes how water bugs live happily under the water, until they climb the stalk of the lily pad and disappear.  Once above the water they become dragonflies.  We follow one of the bugs up the stalk and watch as he tries to go back, but cannot.  He realizes there is no way the bugs could recognize him.  It is a way to ponder the good mystery that waits us when we die.  The story in the book takes a little over 4 minutes to read aloud, but I believe could be told more simply and quickly in your own words. 

Mark 3:20-35

From Wikimedia Commons
I collect “used to thinks,” things I and other people used to think about all sorts of things, but now think differently.  The demons discussed in this story are an example.  People used to think that diseases and mental illnesses were caused by demons, evil critters that took over bodies or minds.  Today we think germs cause diseases and are just beginning to figure out some of what causes mental illnesses.  People used to think these demons could make you do evil deeds.  (“The Devil made me do it.”)  Today we think that we make our own choices.  We have no one but ourselves to blame when we do mean, selfish, terrible deeds.

Children, who are so dependent on the adults in their families, can be frightened by Jesus’ rejection of his mother and brothers.  They need to hear that Jesus wasn’t so much rejecting his biological family as he was including all God’s people in his family.  When they follow Jesus’ example, children find themselves in a large family of faith. 

If there is a baptism, read and comment on the questions in which the congregation takes on responsibility of raising the child to know Jesus with the hope that the child will grow into a disciple.  Emphasize the ways baptism makes us part of Jesus’ one big family.

Some congregations have crafted a question to ask the children of the church at each infant baptism.  For example, “Will you love NAME as your little brother/little sister?  Will you tell him/her about Jesus and show him/her how to be Jesus’ disciples?”

One church has a baptism song which the children sing following each baptism to welcome the baby to the family.  They sit on the floor near the font where they can see easily and sing from there with adult help.  The children practice the song occasionally in church school and talk about what it means to sing it to a newly baptized baby.  They take this as a sacred responsibility.

Invite worshipers of all ages to create scribble prayers for the church family.  They start by making a large loopy scribble.  In each space, write the name of a person or group who is part of your church family.  With crayons or pens, decorate each section as you talk to God about that person or group.  Pray for the church family.  

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