Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Year B - Proper 10, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 7th Sunday after Pentecost (July 12, 2015)

As I read commentaries and worship planning helps for these texts, I was impressed with how many people were calling on worship planners to think beyond surface interpretations and to dig deeper to more significant messages that challenge us.  They tended to point out the “surface interpretations” and instruct “don’t go there.”  But, most of those “surface interpretations” are the ones that make sense to children.  I wonder if rather than skipping those interpretations of the texts, we can explore them in ways that can both satisfy the needs of children and provide a base for more complex explorations with adults.  For example, when we start with the story of David dancing before the ark and a glorious processional and praise songs, both children and adults get the story AND the scene is set for the exploration of the political complexities of the story that adults will grasp more fully than children do. 

The Texts

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19

Public Domain re Wikipedia
To most children an ark is Noah’s ark.  So before reading this story, redefine ark as box.  Point out that Noah’s ark was huge, big enough for all the animals.  In today’s story David takes care of an ark that is small enough for four men to carry it.  If possible show a picture of it.  Explain that inside this ark were the stones on which the Ten Commandments had been carved.  Simply insist that this was the most holy object God’s people had.  They had carried it as they walked through the wilderness and kept it in a special tent in the center of their town.  Image how they felt when the Philistines captured it and carried it off to their country AND how they felt when they felt when they got it back.  Then read the story.

Worship built around this story requires a grand processional.  But, the processional won’t make sense to worshipers until they have heard the story.  So…

…begin by telling the story before worship begins, perhaps inviting children forward to hear it on the steps as preparation for worship and then urging them to join singing the processional song with the same vigor with which David danced before God. 

Or, have your usual processional at the beginning of worship.  Then after the sermon do a children’s time comparing the processional at the beginning of worship each week with David’s procession with the ark.  Then restage a processional with the whole congregation singing. 

Whenever you do this, make it a grand processional.  Include praise banners and even streamers on poles that are waved as they enter.  The congregation may stay in their seats or may join the processional walking around the perimeter of the sanctuary and returning to their seats.  Remind them to take their song books with them so they can sing as they walk.

David felt God’s presence when he danced (among other times).  Olympic runner Eric Liddell (“Chariots of Fire” movie) said “God made me fast” and claimed that he could feel God’s pleasure when he ran well.  Tell stories of other people who sense God with them while they do certain activities, e.g. I know a woman who says she “knits before God.”

Teri posted on when this text came up in 2009 the possibility of a children’s time using the “Hokey Pokey” to explore the truth that we have to put more than just our left hand or our right foot in.  We must put our whole selves into worship, life, prayer, everything.

Choose hymns of praise in which children can join and explore rather than just sing at least one.  Sing with all of creation using “All Creatures of Our God and King” or go scientific with “Earth and Stars.”  Capture the attention of older children for the latter by inviting them to listen for the modern science and technology references as they sing.  Add a “we are dancing in the light of God” verse to “We are Marching in the Light of God.” 

ALL CREATURES OF OUR GOD AND KING is one way to invite all of creation to join David praising God and to seeing ourselves joined in that praising.  So, I was totally into creating an illustrated word sheet for this hymn, then discovered that three hymnals had three different sets of words.  Even the refrains differ!  That makes it hard to create one sheet we could all use.  Given that, you either have to make your own illustrated word sheet OR get a child to create an illustrated page of your version to copy and distribute (Could it be a bulletin cover?) OR give children the words down the middle of a page with lots of margin in which to draw pictures of all who are called to praise God.  If they work on the latter during worship, plan to sing the hymn (again)  near the end so they can sing from the illustrated sheet AND invite them to post their work on a prepared bulletin board.

Invite children to illustrate their own songbook from which to sing Lord of the Dance.  Hand out the starter books and markers at the beginning of the service, flipping through the verses to identify the stories about Jesus featured in each verse.  Plan to sing the song closer to the end of the service so the artists have plenty of time to work.  The starter is two legal sized sheets folded in half and nested.  Arrange the verses as follows

Outer Page
Side 1:            Blank (left side of page)
                                 Title (right side of page)
          Side 2:            Verse 1, lines 1 & 2 re creation (left)
                                 Verse 5 and refrain (right)
Inner Page
          Side 1:            Verse 2 and refrain (left)
                                 Verse 3 and refrain (right)
          Side 2:            Verse 4 and refrain (left)
                                 Verse 1, last 2 lines re birth and
                                      refrain      (right)

After presenting the story of David dancing before the ark, add either a “Praise God always!” speech balloon or sandals (dancing shoes) to your David image.

Psalm 24

Eugene Peterson in The Message makes “Lift up your heads, O gates!” “Wake up you sleepy headed people!  The king is coming!”  That begs to be further edited for children to “Wake up you sleepy heads!  It is time to worship.  God is here!”  Turn the sequence of three of the phrases into a Call to Worship.

Leader:          Lift up your heads, O gates!
Group 1:        Wake up you sleepy headed people!  
                       The king is coming!
Group 2:        Wake up you sleepy heads!  
                        It is time to worship.  God is here!
All:                  Let us worship God together!

“Lift Up the Gates Eternal” sets Psalm 24 to a familiar Israeli folk tune.  Capture the feel of David dancing before the ark by singing each verse a little faster than the one before.  If a soloist or choir sings the refrains, he/she/they can set the pace for the congregation.  For added energy, bring in streamer twirlers on the last verse.

To bring the psalm to life as the call to worship it probably was have it read by two groups.  “One” could be a worship leader or a choir in place at the front of the sanctuary.  “Two” could be a class/choir/group standing at the rear of the sanctuary or could be the entire congregation.


Psalm 24

All:      The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
         the world, and those who live in it;
    for he has founded it on the seas,
            and established it on the rivers.

One:   Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
        And who shall stand in his holy place?

Two:   Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
        who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
             and do not swear deceitfully.

One:   They will receive blessing from the Lord,
        and vindication from the God of their salvation.

Two:   Such is the company of those who seek him,
        who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Organ chord, trumpet ta-ta, or other music

Two:   Lift up your heads, O gates!
         and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
         that the King of glory may come in.

One:   Who is the King of glory?

Two:   The Lord, strong and mighty,
        the Lord, mighty in battle.

Organ chord, trumpet ta-ta, or other music

Two:   Lift up your heads, O gates!
        and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
        that the King of glory may come in.

One:   Who is this King of glory?

Two:   The Lord of hosts,
        he is the King of glory.

Based on NRSV


Amos 7:7-15

Wikipedia GNU
Free Documentation License
Before reading the text introduce plumb lines to the children:  Demonstrate plumb line against side of pulpit or building OR against both a straight, sturdy tower of blocks and a crooked, easily toppled one.  Then, note that Amos says God has used a plumb line to measure the goodness of the people of Israel.  God wanted to judge whether they were straight or crooked people.  Then, read the passage from the Bible.

Present this scripture scene with 3 readers: a narrator (probably a worship leader), Amaziah (wearing a worship leader’s robe with the fanciest available stole), and Amos (wearing jeans and a tee shirt)

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Amos 7:7-15

Narrator:  Amaziah was the king’s prophet.  He was the main leader at the main worship spot in the kingdom.  The king paid him well.  One day Amos, stood up in the worship center to speak God’s message.  Hear the Word of the Lord.

Amos:   I had another vision from the Lord. In it I saw him standing beside a wall that had been built with the help of a plumb line, and there was a plumb line in his hand.  He asked me, “Amos, what do you see?”
“A plumb line,” I answered.
Then the Lord said, “I am using it to show that my people are like a wall that is out of line. I will not change my mind again about punishing them.  The places where Isaac’s descendants worship will be destroyed. The holy places of Israel will be left in ruins. I will bring the dynasty of King Jeroboam to an end.”

Narrator:  Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, then sent a report to King Jeroboam of Israel:

Amaziah:  Amos is plotting against you among the people. His speeches will destroy the country.  This is what he says: ‘Jeroboam will die in battle, and the people of Israel will be taken away from their land into exile.’

Narrator:  Amaziah then said to Amos,

Amaziah:  That’s enough, prophet! Go on back to Judah and do your preaching there. Let them pay you for it.  Don’t prophesy here at Bethel any more. This is the king’s place of worship, the national temple.”

Amos: I am not the kind of prophet who prophesies for pay. I am a herdsman, and I take care of fig trees. But the Lord took me from my work as a shepherd and ordered me to come and prophesy to his people Israel.

Narrator: This is the Word of the Lord.

Based on the TEV

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Psalm 85:8-13

This psalm in which steadfast love and faithfulness meet and righteousness and peace kiss generally leads to giggles among literal-minded children.  So, on a Sunday with so much else that speaks straight to them, I’d omit it or address it mainly with the abstract thinking adults.

Ephesians 1:3-14

>  The Roman Catholic lectionary ends this reading after verse 10.  With such a long complicated reading, this might be a good idea.  It leaves us with a less repetitive reading.  Shorter is often better.

First Baptist  Wesley UMC  St John Catholic
Introduce Ephesians as a letter that was written not to one church but to many churches in one area. As he greets everyone, Paul outlines the most important thing they all share – Jesus.  With the children or all worshipers, identify other churches in your area.  Children might name people they know in some of the churches or tell about going to scouts or playing on a sports team at another church in the area.  Point out that all of these churches worship differently and have different ideas about many things, but all of them agree on one thing – Jesus is Lord.  That makes us all brothers and sisters in God’s big family.  Mention some of the things you do together as God’s family – maybe a community soup kitchen or food pantry.  Conclude with prayers for all the churches in your area.  (This is one way to help build recognition and appreciation of other churches among the children.  It is too easy for them to see others as different from us and therefore “less” than we are.)

What all the churches have in common is all proclaim that Jesus is Lord.  Paul spells out this lordship in rather complex theological language.  Behind that language is the story of Jesus’ birth, teaching, crucifixion, resurrection, and reign.  In the middle of the summer one way to rehearse this story is to enjoy a hymn sing singing your way through Jesus story – possibly with some brief reflections on the way.  To encourage children to join the singing, include some of the songs below.

“When Morning Gilds the Sky”
Briefly walk through the verses before singing it and point out the repeated chorus “may Jesus Christ be praised.”  Encourage the youngest to sing that phrase if nothing else.
 “O Sing a Song of Bethlehem”
Point out Jesus the baby, child, teacher and savior in this hymn.
“Jesus Christ Is Risen Today”
Tie this to the Easter story and enjoy all the alleluias.
“Jesus Loves Me”
This says simply what Paul says complexly.  Instead of asking children to sing it alone (older children view this as a baby song and generally resent being asked to perform it), ask the entire congregation to sing it together.

Mark 6:14-29

This story of the abuse of power and being trapped by power is hard to preach to adults and even harder to preach to kids.  Children are extremely interested in power and its use, but other biblical stories help them explore it more easily.  If you do explore this story in their presence remember that children are as horrified by this messed up family as adults are.  They are appalled that Herod’s wife used her husband’s offer of a special gift to his daughter to have an old enemy murdered, disappointed that the daughter went along with her mother, horrified that Herod was so afraid of what his guests thought about him that he would do the awful thing his daughter asked, and sad that a good person could be killed in the crossfire of this evil family. 

Mark wants us to know that when you stand up against the powerful people, they are going to come down on you hard.  John the Baptist is like Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, and others who were killed because people did not want to hear their message.  Even for children being a follower of God is dangerous, people won’t like what you do sometimes.  At those times we need to remember John the Baptist and others.

Go to The Painted Prayerbook to see how Jan Richardson used this story as an opportunity to trace the whole of John’s life without the Advent/Christmas emphases.  She offers a very adult version of his life, but her idea is a good one for use with children.  She insists that even when his life ended weirdly being beheaded at someone else’s party, he was still being the person God created him to be and his life still counted. 

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