Saturday, September 5, 2015

Year B - Proper 22, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 19th Sunday after Pentecost (October 4, 2015)

A lot piles up this week.  It is World Communion Sunday which I love and wish we could celebrate more than once a year because it offers such wonderful opportunities for including children in the sacrament.  And, we start two scripture series – one on Job and one on Hebrews.  That makes this post rather long.  So, scroll down to the part that fits what you will be doing.  … but do take a look at the ideas for World Communion Sunday!

World Communion Sunday

This week is World Communion Sunday in most congregations.  For children that means raising awareness that Christians all around the world are one big family.  We may have skin of different colors, wear different clothes, speak different languages, and do all sorts of different things, but we are all baptized and we all share communion.  Children enjoy imagining people in tropical jungles, way up in the mountains, on the beach, etc. all eating bread and drinking the cup to remember and honor Jesus.  So exploring that reality might be more productive than exploring any of the texts for today.  There are many different ways to do this.

Include people of different racial, ethnic backgrounds as worship leaders.  If possible, include youth and children as well as adults.  When appropriate, invite them to say something about their church in that place or culture.  Some may want to wear what people in that church wear.

Take time for worshipers to tell brief stories about their worship experiences in churches in other countries.  

Feature breads from around the world during Communion.

Have children process in carrying loaves of sourdough, pumpernickel, pitas, Asian naan, Native American fry bread, cornbread, tortillas, etc.  They put their loaves in a big basket in front of the central table where they remain for the service.

If you use bread cubes or if people tear chunks of bread off loaves to share in the sacrament, use a variety of breads.  Older children can cut the cubes during church school the week before.  If the cubes are stored in plastic bags in a freezer until Sunday morning, they will be fresh for worship.

Bread, Bread, Bread, by Ann Morris, is a book of pictures of bread from all around the world.  It would be possible to read the whole book.  But, you could also just look at the pictures on the first pages.  Use the index to learn where each pictured bread is made.  Ponder with the children the fact that people everywhere eat bread and marvel at bread as a good symbol for God’s love for all of us at communion.

Display chalices or crosses (Central American painted cross, Celtic cross, palm cross, orthodox cross, crucifix, etc.) from around the world OR cover the communion table with cloth from different continents.  Identify the source of each one and tell a brief story about Christians gathering for communion in that place.

Print downloadable world flags to string together and drape over doorways or in the worship center.  Colored flags and flags that must be colored in are available.  A children’s class can be enlisted to color the flags in advance if needed.  Go to Coloring Book of Flags for free coloring sheets in three sizes.  Click on country name to get information and color scheme.  Click on flag size to get coloring pattern.

One World Communion Sunday Anita Lynn-Stuart in Pennsylvania used a clock with the children to talk about Christians all around the world celebrating at different times so that there is always someone praising God and celebrating communion on this day.

Pray your way around the world using a map or globe.  Pray for groups of Christians with which your congregation has contact.  Or, given the many problems around the world this year, pray for people living and celebrating communion this day in the trouble spots.

If space allows, spread a large world map on the floor or draw a world map on a huge mat of newsprint paper.  Invite worshipers to light or turn on a votive candle/tea light from a central candle and to place it on a country.  They then offer their prayer for the people who worship there this morning either silently or aloud.

In a more formal setting, the worship leader can pray his or her way from continent to continent with the congregation replying to each prayer, “Hear our prayers for Christians worshiping in NAME OF PLACE.”  If a world map is displayed or projected on a wall, an acolyte can point to each spot with a stick pointer or a pinpoint light.  (Rehearse this so the focus is on the praying rather than the logistics.)

Or, order globe stress balls for everyone from Oriental Trading.  They are 2 ½ inches in diameter and cost $1.00 each.  Invite worshipers to use them as finger labyrinths praying for the countries as they move their finger around the world.  Or, suggest that they hold the world in their hands and even squeeze it to pray for some of the stressed out places in the world today.  Send the balls home with instructions to keep praying for the world this week.

Select Communion hymns that sing of the whole world in ways that grab the attention of children.

Sing “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” inviting each worshiper to put a hand on the shoulder of or hold hands with the next person.  Encourage stretching across the aisles.

Before singing “I Come With Joy” note that different verses make special sense on different days.  Insist that verses 2 and 3 make extra sense on World Communion Sunday.  Then read those verses with the congregation following along in their hymnals.  Put the verses into your own words noting what it means to sing them on World Communion Sunday.  Only then, sing the song together.

As you sing “In Christ There is No East or West” or project pictures of people from around the world.

Sing a Communion song from another culture.

          Add Jamaican drums or simple rhythm instruments to 
          the accompaniment of  “Let Us Talents and Tongues 
          Employ,” which is a Jamaican hymn.  

          “Come to the Table” is a Korean hymn Communion 
          hymn.  Have the congregation sing verses 1 and 3 with 
          a male soloist singing verse 2 (Jesus’ verse).

          “Sheaves of Summer” is a Spanish culture song that 
          appears in many hymnals. 

Select prayers and readings from around the world for today’s liturgy.  Gifts of Many Cultures: Worship Resources for the Global Community, edited by Maren C Tirabassi and Kathy Wonson Eddy, is an excellent source.  Many of the prayers and liturgies are very filled with every day references, but will still need to be introduced to the children.  There is also a follow up book titled Gifts in Open Hands: More Worship Resources for the Global Community.

More Books for World Communion Sunday

The Moon Shines Down, by Margaret Wise Brown, is a rhymed night time prayer circling the globe.  Several different countries/areas are described each concluding “I see the moon and the moon sees me, and the moon sees the kids in COUNTRY.  God bless the Moon and God bless me, and God bless the kids….”  Rather than read the entire book, select a few countries to read and enjoy.  Even brainstorm other countries to name and follow with “I see the moon and the Moon sees me, and the Moon sees the children all around the world.  God bless the moon and God bless me, and God bless every child everywhere.”

Bread is For Eating, by David and Phillis Gershator, tells the story of bread starting with the seeds sleeping in the ground through its harvesting, milling, and baking.  A short song which could be sung or said in Spanish is repeated throughout the story.  Either teach the song before the story so all can sing along each time it appears or omit the song throughout thus simplifying the storytelling (but also losing some of the cultural richness.)  The pictures have a Hispanic feel and include people from all around the world.  Read the book today to highlight the role bread plays in everyone’s lives.  Add a “page” about the bread that is prepared for your Communion Table today:  Take bread to church.  Put it on the Table.  Dip it in the cup.  Share it with your neighbors.  Remember other neighbors far away who are also eating this bread today.   Thank you God for the seed, earth, sun….

Used by permission.  Look for permission directions on the web site below.
Go to Jan Richardson Images for a collage picture of people of all ages and ethnicities gathered around a table.  ($15.)  With the children identify what is different and the same about each of the people around the table.  Then, talk about what they are sharing as they eat together.

The Texts for the Day

Job 1:1; 2:1-10

The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories, by Mary Batchelor, provides a children’s version of the story of Job in three sections that match the first, third and fourth readings in the RCL series.  (RCL has no account of the friends’ bogus comfort.)  These stories also fill in many of the details omitted by the lectionary readings.  I actually prefer this division of the story and would use it rather than the RCL divisions.  It would be possible to read them as the scripture lesson for each week.  It would also be possible to turn them into readers’ theater.  Create the script by assigning the paragraphs of it to the appropriate readers and omitting all the “he saids” and the one “she said”.  Staging could be as simple as readers standing in different spots in the chancel or include planned movements and a few simple props or costumes.  Presenting it is a good worship leadership assignment for a youth or adult class or a team of five thespians.  The Narrator, Job, God could be read by the same person each week.

“Troubles for Job” tells the story of all Job’s woes.  It can be read in 3 minutes and would need a Narrator, God, Satan, Job and Job’s wife. 

“Cheering Job Up?” summarizes the arguments of Job’s friends.  It can be read in 3 minutes and calls for a Narrator, Friend 1, Friend 2, Friend
3(the fourth person) and Job.

“God Talks to Job” recounts Job’s conversation with God.  It can also be read in 3 minutes and would need only 3 readers – a Narrator, God, and Job.

If you plan to worship around Job’s story only once, “The Story of Job” in The Family Story Bible, by Ralph Milton, condenses the entire story into two pages that can be read in 5 minutes.  If I were reading it, I would edit it here and there to reflect my understanding of the story.  But, the basic format is solid.

Especially if you are going to make this into a worship series, children need to know a few things about the book of Job.

First, and most importantly, they need to be told straight out that this is not a story about real things that happened to real people.  It is a made-up story that people have told for thousands of years to think about why people suffer.  God would never kill children to test their father or make a person sick just to see what the person would do.  God is not like that.

One way to introduce this literary form is to point out that the Bible is a library of many kinds of literature.  There are letters, poems, court records, and important made up stories that people have told each as they try to understand the world. This is one of the latter.  Older children might understand the comparison to “The Tortoise and the Hare” or some other fable designed to make a point.

Satan needs an introduction.  To most children Satan is the same as the Devil and is evil.  Satan tries to lead people to do bad things.  Satan is also the “president of Hell.”  In Job Satan is not trying to lead people to do bad things.  Instead Satan is the tester, the evaluator.  He is like a sparring partner who boxes with an athlete to push him to do better.  His question in Job is whether Job will only love God so long as he has an easy life. 

Related point: Children see t shirts that say “the Devil made me do it” and recognize its claim that the wearer is not responsible for what he or she does.  The book of Job insists that the Devil can’t make us do anything.  We, like Job, are our own bosses and can decide what we do and say in any situation.

Job knows what the writer of Hebrews also knows.  God/Jesus is awesome, bigger than anything we can imagine, and would be dangerous if God was not so loving.  Older children can be directed to this truth.  God is not like an over the top grandparent who will give whatever we want.  We don’t love God just when things are going great for us.  We can pray, “God I need…” and “God, thank you for…”, but must also pray “God, I don’t understand…” and “God, help me get through…”

Children’s books that parallel Job’s story include:

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst, begins “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”  And, he was correct.  The book recounts all the awful things that happened to this little kid in a single day.  In the end his mother reassures him that some days are just like that.  Most children know this book and love it.  Though Alexander’s woes are not as serious as Job’s, they can be a good introduction to Job’s woes and to the question about why there are days like that.  It is too long to read in its entirety in owrship.  But, citing one or two pages, and listing in your own words all the other things that went wrong gets the point across and piques children’s curiosity to listen to what happened to Job on his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.  This book is almost surely available in your public library – if it is in.

A Series of Unfortunate Events: A Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket, bears a letter to the reader on the back cover of the first of 13 books in the series.  It is a good introduction to the series and parallels the situation of Job for children.

Dear Reader,
I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant.  It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children.  Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe.  From the very first page of this book, when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels.   One might say they are magnets for misfortune. 
In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast. 
It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.
With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

For a more lighthearted introduction to the fact that we all face lots of problems in life, read Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack.  There are only two phrases in the entire book, “Aahh!” and “ah ha!”  These are used by the animals a frog encounters during a day at the lake.  Each encounter involves a frightening “ah ha” in response to a Job-like problem and “aahh” when the frog thinks the problem is resolved not knowing that there is another problem about to erupt.  The pictures are large and easy to see at a distance. 

Ask a group of readers (even a younger children’s class) to read the lines as you turn the pages.  You will need a frog, a dog, a turtle, a crocodile, a pink flamingo, and a boy.  The frog has most lines.  All will need a rehearsal to practice how to say each line.

You may use this wordsheet for non-commercial purposes.

Sing A Mighty Fortress Is Our God with Job.  Before singing point to the song sheet insisting that there is a fight going on in this song.  Point out the dark side words and the golden “glory words.  Admit that since this song was written 400 years ago some of the words are hard, but insist that if they watch for the gold and dark words they can follow the fight and see which side wins

Psalm 26

If this is introduced as a prayer Job might have prayed while sitting miserably scratching his sores, children will catch an occasional phrase.

Genesis 2:18-24

This passage could be tied to the gospel discussion about divorce or to Psalm 8 and the Hebrews comments on human responsibility to the world. 

If you focus on human responsibility for the world, try one of two stories from Does God Have a Big Toe, by Marc Gellman. 

“Partners” describes how God got the world “almost finished” then told people to take over has partners.  Adam asked for and got a definition of partner that fits with the picture in psalm 8. 

“Adam’s Animals” is a somewhat longer story and explores Adam’s difficulties naming the animals with lots of comical missteps before he decides to let the animals tell him what they are.  Introduce this story with comments about how knowing a pet’s name gives you the power to call the pet and tell the pet what to do.  It also gives us the responsibility to care for the pet you named.  This story connects us to all the animals in the world in the same way.

Ask young artists in advance to draw pictures of animals.  Make a collage of their pictures for the cover of the printed worship order.  You can even fill the margins of other pages with animals.

If you read this with Mark’s gospel, be careful.  Explain that this story tells what God’s plan for marriage is.  AND, note that we often fail to make that plan happen.  When we fail God still loves us.  More on this in the section on Mark below.

Psalm 8

Invite the whole congregation to echo the worship leader in reading this psalm with interspersed comments, song snippets, and hand motions. 

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

Psalm 8 Echo Reading

O Lord, our Lord,
your greatness is seen in all the world!

“This is my father’s world” (sing this )

Your praise reaches up to the heavens;

Praise the Lord!  (LOUD)

It is sung by children and babies.

Praise the Lord! (LOUDER)

You are safe and secure from all your enemies;

You stop anyone who opposes you.

When I look at the sky (sweep the sky with arm),
which you (look up) have made,

at the moon (form circle around your head with arms) and the stars which you set in their places 
     (sprinkle the sky with stars with your fingers)
What are human beings, that you think of them; 
     (make a questioning gesture)
What are men that you think of them? (point to boys)
What are women that you think of them? (point to girls)
mere mortals, that you care for them? 
     (hands out to include all)
Yet you made them inferior only to yourself;

You crowned them with glory and honor.  
     (make yourself a crown with your hands) 

You appointed them rulers over everything you made;

In charge of everything you made

Responsible for everything you made,

You placed them over all creation:

sheep and cattle,

and the wild animals too;

the birds and the fish and the creatures in the seas.

Air we breathe and pollute (take a deep breath)

Food for many or a few (lip your lips with satisfaction)

Energy to keep us warm and moving 
     (hug self to keep warm)
O Lord, our Lord, (throw hands up toward the sky)
your greatness is seen in all the world!


Based on the TEV translation

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

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

This is the first of seven readings from Hebrews.  If you plan worship around all of them, one way to connect them for children is to create a poster/banner to which you add key words about Jesus each week.  These are difficult texts filled with words that are unfamiliar to children and toward the end the messages get repetitive.  So, plan the whole series before you embark on it.  The basic word series goes something like:
Omniscient or All Knowing
High Priest
Once and for All
Forgiving (or Eternal/Forever even Once for all)

Lou Pennebaker worked it out to spell HEBREWS.  She described her plan as follows:

…We began with Hebrews 5:1-10 with High Priest. The following week (Heb. 7:23-28) we added Eternal. The third week was Communion Sunday (Heb. 9:11-14) so I used Broken (I had considered Blood but decided Broken was better for children and tied it into the words spoken at communion). After that I had to get creative. The 4th week (Heb. 9:24-28) was foR Everyone. And this Sunday (Heb. 10:19-25) we will add Worship JeSus as our response to Jesus who is our Eternal High Priest who was Broken foR Everyone.

The final Poster looks like this:
    High Priest (Heb. 5:1-10)
    Eternal (Heb. 7:23-28)
    Broken (Heb. 9:11-14)

If you start the poster series, today’s word is GLORY!  This text summarizes Jesus’ glory.  Children often see Jesus mainly as their powerful friend and supporter.  This text insists that Jesus is also much bigger than just that.  Jesus was there at the beginning and will be there at the end, Jesus judges the whole world.  Print GLORY! in large letters somewhere on a banner or big poster in gold metallic pen.  Leave the center open to add “LORD!” in the center in glitter pen on the last day of your series. 

The text is about Jesus the Christ and needs a little organizing and restating for the children.  Basically it is saying that…

Jesus was one with God at the beginning of everything and will be one with God after everything ends.

Jesus worked with God on creating the whole world and keeps taking care of it.

In Jesus of Nazareth God lived among us as a person and allowed himself to be crucified.

Jesus is God in human skin.  Everything we know about Jesus tells us what God is like. 

Jesus Christ forgives us.

Do a little worship education.  Instead of just reading the Apostles’ Creed in unison, read the phrases about Jesus commenting very briefly on each one.  Then reread the phrases pausing after each one for the congregation to respond, “Jesus is Lord!”

World Communion Sunday makes this a good day to point out that Christ is the host at the Table.  In the Presbyterian rite we say “this table is not my table, it is not your table, it is not the table of NAME OF CHURCH, it is not the Table of the Presbyterian Church.  It is the Table of Jesus Christ and…”  Perhaps have the children or the whole congregation echo each phrase with you.  Briefly expound on the privilege of the host to decide who to invite.  Name places and people around the world who are joining you at Jesus’ Table today.  If you use projectors in worship, project photos of people all around the world as communion is served.

“Come Christians Join to Sing” and “When Morning Gilds the Sky” are good ways to sing of Christ’s glory today.  Point out the repeated phrases and urge even non-readers to sing them.

If you are worshiping around theme of the environment perhaps celebrating St. Francis, take time to point out and enjoy the connection between Hebrews and Psalm 8.  Read Hebrews 2:6 -8a emphasizing “as someone once said.”  Have worshipers hold one finger in their pew Bible and turn to Psalm 8  (I’d give them page numbers.)  Read verses 4-6 saying, guess who is the someone who said that!  Then invite the congregation to read all of Psalm 8 – possibly using the script above.

Mark 10:2-16

This text includes two rather separate stories.  To emphasize that and to be sure both stories get heard, have them read by two separate readers.  A child might be asked to read verses 13-16 about Jesus blessing the children.

To add a visual element have several readers move through 3 scenes in the chancel.  Start at one side of the chancel with Jesus, a disciple or two, and a Pharisee or two for verses 2-9.  Jesus and the disciples then step to the center for verses 10-12.  A woman and some young children approach from the other side as the disciples step between them and Jesus.  Jesus steps through the disciples for verses 14-15.  A narrator speaking from the lectern can knit it all together.

If you are going to speak at length about this hard teaching about divorce remember that children who have experienced divorce are listening too.  They are as hurt by divorce as the adults are – maybe more hurt.  And, they are even more likely than the hurting adults to hear Jesus’ statement as proof that they are no good.  So, it is critical to make two points to them.

1.    God intends for marriage to be permanent.  Refer to the marriage vows.  Help children aspire to permanent marriages for themselves. 

2.    Divorce is a failure.  Children need to be constantly told that their parents’ divorce is their parents’ fault not theirs.  (Many children at some point feel they are to blame.)  Once they are clear that divorce is their parents’ failure, they then get defensive for them.  So, the church needs to help them understand and live with what their parents have done.  We can tell them that divorce is just one more sin – like greed and lying.  One way we know divorce is wrong is that it causes so much hurt for everyone involved.  But, we are humans and we all sin in lots of ways.  We know it is wrong to be greedy, but we all have greedy, grabby moments.  We know it is wrong to lie, but we all do.  All marriages start with high hopes of lasting forever, but some just do not make it.  That is sad, but true.  The good news is that God forgives us for being greedy and for lying and for our divorces. 

COMMENT: I am certain I’ve not got this last paragraph right for all people.  It’s my best stab at it.  I trust you to gather from it what looks right to you and go from there.  This is hard stuff in today’s world!

Children hear in verses 13-16 that Jesus likes children.  They enjoy the fact that while adults tell them to grow up every day, Jesus tells the adults to be like children.  There is a lot more going on in the story for the adults, but for children it is that simple.

This is a good day to pray for the children of the church – and to do so in a way that the children will hear.  A general prayer the precious children of the congregation stuck in the middle of lots of other petitions will be missed entirely.  So, in smaller congregations name all the children.  In larger congregations offer a prayer for each way or group in which the children participate in the church, e.g. “Lord, be with the children as they read the Bible with their teachers.  Help them listen and understand the important stories in it.”

And of course, it is a great day to sing “Jesus Loves Me.”  If you do, remember that older children consider it a baby song and resent being asked to sing it with just children.  So, invite the whole congregation to sing the song together from the hymnal.  Doing so helps them begin to reclaim the song as worthy of keeping as they continue to grow up.


  1. Carolyn,
    I wanted to highlight another good children's book. Almost every year on World Communion Sunday I read The Greatest Table to our children. I just think it's the perfect for talking about this day. I wrote about it on storypath several years ago ( It's out of print, but a number of copies show up on
    Noell Rathbun-Cook

    1. Thank you for this recommendation. I was able to borrow the book through our library system. It is beautiful. Together with the other ideas from this blog, we are ready for Sunday with children in worship for the second time this year. Thank you!!

  2. Why does the good stuff go out of print while the junk is forever available?!?!?!


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