Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Year B - Proper 24, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 21st Sunday after Pentecost (October 18, 2015)

This is the official Children’s Sabbath Weekend.  Children’s Sabbath is a program of the Children’s Defense Fund that raises up concerns about the needs of children all around the world.  Go to Children's Sabbath for specific suggestions and resources for celebrating this event in worship in 2015.  This week’s RCL texts offer fine connections to Children’s Sabbath for adults, but are a little harder to use as connections with children.  Two possibilities:

1.    Invite children to illustrate Psalm 104 or one of the creation hymns.  Use their illustrations on the cover and/or in the margins of the printed order of worship.

2.    Describe ministries in which your congregation acts as servants to children in need, e.g. one local church packs small bags of food to send home on Fridays with children who depend on school meals for food and would probably go hungry on the weekend without these stashes.

Texts for This Week

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)

Before reading today’s text from Job, review the story to date.  Read verses 1-3 pausing to restate the situation and point out that the rest of the reading is a list of questions God asks Job.  As you read emphasize the question words - who, where, how, etc. and pause briefly between each question to separate them. 

Focus on each of the questions.  Pause after reading each one to put it into your own words.  Ponder together what God wants Job to think about.  Point out that sometimes we think we are smart and have everything figured out, but we don’t.  God is bigger than anything we can even imagine.

“Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” is packed with impossibly long words used to describe God who is more than anything we can imagine.  So before singing the hymn together ask worshipers to open their hymnals.  Point out and put into your own words some of those impossible words in the first two lines of the first verse.  For example, “Immortal – that means God was never born and never dies.  God always was and always will be.  Invisible – we can’t see God.  God only wise.  Only God knows and understands everything completely….”  Then read through the third verse.  Don’t get bogged down in any one phrase or idea.  The point is to paint a picture of God as more than we can imagine.  Once you have read through these two verses, invite worshipers to sing together to this amazing God.  

Look below in the resources for Psalm 104 for more child-friendly hymns praising God the creator who spoke to Job.

Give children this illustrated word sheet to help them catch the meaning of this hymn.  Use it free for non-commercial purposes.

Highlight the opening of the Lord’s Prayer – “Our Father … hallowed be thy name.”  Define the word “Hallowed” with reference to the questions God asked Job.  God is different from any other being in the universe.  God made everything and understands everything and loves everything.  If the word Holy is carved or stitched into the front of your sanctuary, point it out and connect it to the word “hallowed.”  If you will sing “Holy Holy, Holy” today connect those “holy”s to this “hallowed”.  Pray the Lord’s Prayer together immediately after this discussion.

Alternate God’s questions to Job with the Lord’s Prayer “Hallowed be thy name” to get list some of the ways God is holy or more than we are.


Leader:     From out of a storm, the Lord said to Job:
                  Why do you talk so much when you know so little?
                  Now get ready to face me! 
                  Can you answer the questions I ask?
                  How did I lay the foundation for the earth?  
                  Were you there?

People:            Hallowed by thy name.

Leader:      Doubtless you know who decided its length and width.

People:            Hallowed by thy name.

Leader:      What supports the foundation?

People:            Hallowed by thy name.

Leader:      Who placed the cornerstone, while morning stars sang
                    and angels rejoiced?

People:            Hallowed by thy name.

Leader:    Can you order the clouds to send a downpour,
                  or will lightning flash at your command?

People:            Hallowed by thy name.

Leader:    Did you teach birds to know that rain or floods
                 are on their way? 

People:            Hallowed by thy name.

Leader:    Can you count the clouds or pour out their water
                 on the dry, lumpy soil?

People:            Hallowed by thy name.

Leader:    When lions are hungry, do you help them hunt? 
                 Do you send an animal into their den?

People:            Hallowed by thy name.

Leader:    And when starving young ravens cry out to me for food,
                 do you satisfy their hunger?

All:            Our Father who art in heaven hallowed by thy name.

                                             Based on the CEV


Possibility:  Add Job’s response to God in Job 48:1-6 to today’s reading to complete the conversation.  When we do that we (and children who don’t remember much from one week to the next) hear immediately that Job understood God’s questions and got God’s point.  Job admits that he is human and not God.  He also appreciates that God heard his questions and accepted them.  Going forward God and Job can talk honestly about whatever is important to them AND Job knows that God is always God and will always be more than Job can fully understand. 

This is the third Job reading in a lectionary series.  If you have not read the earlier posts go to Year B - Proper 22 and Year B - Proper 23 for more ideas related to exploring Job in congregations that include children.

Psalm 104:1-9, 24,35c

In the NRSV almost every line begins with the word YOU.  Before reading the psalm, point this out and note that the YOU is God.  The psalm writer is talking to God.  Encourage children to listen for all the YOUs to hear what the psalmist was saying to God. 

Creation, by Gerald McDermott, is a beautiful picture book based on the first chapters of Genesis.  It can be read aloud in about 3 minutes.  With a smaller group of children seated together, I would read the book aloud and expect to be interrupted as children point out some of the creations they see.  The last page of the book says “I am all this.  ALL THIS I AM.” which is a good connection to what God said to Job.

Child friendly hymns praising the God of creation and connecting to Job include:
This may be used for non-commercial purposes.
“I Sing the Almighty Power of God”
Offer children word sheets with illustrations.
“All Things Bright and Beautiful”
A repeated chorus and concrete vocabulary naming everyday things make this easy for even early readers.

Isaiah 53:4-12

This is a very complex passage for adults to read and understand.  It is filled with vocabulary and ideas that are unfamiliar to most children.  If you read it hoping the children will understand at all, try the Good News Bible translation which at least uses words children recognize.  Or read it from another translation mainly for the adults.

Psalm 91:9-16

This is a tough psalm for adults who are aware of Job-like suffering all around them to understand and almost impossible for literal thinking children to grasp.  I’d skip it today given the other texts.

If you do read it, know that all the unfamiliar words (snare, fowler, pestilence, pinions, buckler, refuge) also make this a hard psalm for children.  Several familiar hymns communicate the message better.

May be used for non-commercial use.

“Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” is based on Psalm 90 instead of 91, but carries the same message.  Before singing it, point out that we sing the first and last verses to God naming all the ways we depend on God.  Read all the bolded “our” phrases from the wordsheet.  Then explain that in the middle three verses we think about what God does.  Suggest that the pictures illustrate what we think about in each of those verses.  Then sing the song together.

The dark and bright words in this song trace the fight that is going on.  Challenge children to watch for the fight and see which side wins.
“A Mighty Fortress is Our God” is also based on another psalm (Psalm 46), but carries the message of this one too.  The words are difficult for young readers, but the music communicates brave confidence and most congregations sing it with that feeling.  Before singing it, tell the story of its writing.  Powerful people wanted Martin Luther dead.  So, his friends were hiding him in a castle.  He and his friends were very scared.  While he was there he wrote this song to help his friends and himself remember that God was with them.

“God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again” sung at the conclusion of this service is an opportunity for a little worship education about benedictions.  Explain to worshipers that the benediction (the very last words in every worship service) is a reminder that we can trust God to be with us no matter what comes our way.  Put the words of the verses into your own words, something like:

May God guide you.
Trust God to care for you like a shepherd.
May God protect you.
May God provide you physical and spiritual food.
When life gets tough may God’s arms be wrapped around you.
May God’s love be your motto and may God be with you at your death.

Encourage children to at least sing the repeated beginnings and endings of each verse.  Even older elementary readers will be able to read the short words of the verses.

Hebrews 5:1-10

This is a letter written to the Hebrews, people who knew exactly what a priest was and did.  They understood the writer’s message immediately.  It made deep sense to them.  But, High Priest is not the best name with which to describe Jesus to today’s children.  For them a priest is what you call a minister in some Christian denominations.  Still, some older elementary school children are interested in what the ancient priest did and can hear how Jesus is like that priest.  But, they need a detailed explanation of those priests and the sacrificial worship they led.  Even then, they have trouble.  The practice of killing an animal to tell God you are sorry does not make sense to them.  They can’t imagine that God would be pleased by that or that God would require that in order to forgive us.  The only way to present it is as something people used to think that we now think differently.  Compare it to the fact that people used to think the earth was a flat pancake, but we now think it is as round as a ball. 

After exploring what a high priest is and does, add the title High Priest to your Hebrews poster of words about Jesus.  Draw a cross at the beginning and end of the word.

In Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer, by Tonya Bolden, a little boy saying his bedtime prayers becomes the high priest praying for people all around his city.  Read this book today to connect prayers of intercession with being a priest like Jesus.  Before reading note that the moon is what everyone in the story sees, but urge worshipers to listen more to the little boy’s prayers than to the moon.  Reads aloud in 2 minutes.

Mark 10:35-45

This is a good story for a children’s class to pantomime as it is read or to present as a play.  Jesus sits in the middle of the front.  James and John approach from one side.  The liturgist acts as the narrator.  The “other disciples” could be imaginary or could provide roles for a bunch of children so that there is a role for all in the class.

>  Where you sit at the table is important to children.  They want desperately to sit near Grandma when she visits, to not be the one who has to sit on the piano bench or at a kid’s table when company comes, and to not have to sit with “them” at lunch at school.  They know that the other disciples were not so much shocked at James’ and John’s request as they were upset that those two got their request in first.

This story asks us to explore what it means to be a leader.  Children want to be the line leader, the class president, the team captain, etc.  Leadership is presented to them from an early age as being desirable.  It brings honor, titles, and special privileges.  Jesus has a different definition.  Jesus agrees that it is good to be a leader but says that a leader is a person who puts the needs and wants of others before his or her own.  Children struggle with this difference in definition.

Much time is spent by coaches of children’s sports teams teaching them to play as a team.  It is hard for children to learn the value of passing the ball so another player can score rather than holding on to the ball desperately trying to make the score on their own.  Leaders are people who give up their own glory for the good of the team.

God Said Amen, by Rabbi Sandy Sasso, tells of two kingdoms one with water but no oil and the other with oil but no water.  Unfortunately, the rulers of the two are so intent on being the first to be approached by the other that nothing happens.  They finally turn into stone mountains while they wait for the other to make the first move toward sharing.  Two children looking for the missing rulers find each other and work out a sharing deal that benefits all.

Tell stories about leaders who have risked or suffered for others.  Tell about Martin Luther King who was killed by a person who did not like what he was saying, Nelson Mandela who spent 25 years in prison because he stood up to oppressive leaders in South Africa, Aung San Suu Kyi who spent 15 years in house arrest for standing up to oppressive leaders in Myanmar, etc. 

I heard this supposedly true story about leadership attributed to Kenneth Bailey:  When King Hussein of Jordan was told that a group of young officers were at that moment meeting in their barracks to put final touches on a coup and was asked whether they should all be arrested and/or killed, his response was to order a small helicopter, fly to the roof of the barracks, tell the pilot to leave immediately if he heard gunfire, and then to go down the stairs and walk into the room where the officers were gathered.  He told them that if they did what they were planning, there would be civil war, chaos, and that hundreds maybe thousands would be killed.  Rather than risk that, he suggested that they shoot him now.  That way only one person would die.  The officers all knelt, kissed his robe, and re-swore loyalty to him.

Songs about being a servant leader that children can sing:

This may be used for non-commercial puruposes.

The Servant Song uses simple familiar words to sing in poetic images.  Help children get its message by
-        Read the first verse.  Ponder how we can be “as Christ” to each other, i.e. Jesus knows everything about us and still loves us and Jesus forgives us when we mess up.
-        Put one of the other verses into your own words.  My choice would be verse 3.
-        Point to all the yous in the song and insist that the song means most when we sing it thinking about yous we know.  Challenge them to write names of people they want to sing the song for today at the top of the wordsheet. 

Jesu, Fill Me with Your Love

1 comment:

  1. Hi Carolyn. For the opening of worship this Sunday (Oct. 18) I am using the theme of creation-uncreation-recreation. In the opening prayer, I am asking the young people to use blocks to create a building to represent creation. In the confession,we knock down the building. In the words of assurance, we build it up again, hopefully better than before. This then leads into the final part of my telling the story of Job. Mark Satterly


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