Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Year C - Proper 5, 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost (June 5, 2016)

>  Often during Ordinary Time one reading echoes another.  But today’s stories of the raising of the sons of two widows are so alike that even the children will catch the similarities.  It is possible to choose one story to read or to read them both.  If you read both stories, open a Bible to both stories pointing out that these very similar stories come from near the beginning and near the end of the Bible and hence tell us something very important about God that is always the same – God IS compassionate.


>  Compassion is a big word that may be new to children and is an attitude that can be hard for children to adopt.  Display the word on a big poster and savor saying it together.  Divide it into “com” and “passion.”  Define passion as caring a lot.  Note that “com” comes from the Latin word for “with.”  So compassion means “caring a whole lot WITH another person.”  To have compassion is to stand with a person, to see the world through their eyes, to know how they are feeling AND to care so much about them that you will do whatever you can to help them.  Cite easy examples of compassion such as going for help when you see someone get hurt and harder examples such as inviting a person who looks lonely to sit with you.

>  Some children seem to be naturally compassionate from an early age.  But, many children have to work hard to develop compassion.  Often, they are accused of being unkind, but the real problem is that they do not easily see things from another person’s point of view.  It is a skill they have to work over years to develop.  Hearing stories in which people display compassion alerts them to the possibility and encourages them to work at paying attention to the needs and feelings of others.  Today’s stories help further by insisting that God is very compassionate and calls us to be compassionate too.

>  After exploring God’s compassion for people in tough situations, invite worshipers to pray for those in tough situations today.  Children can draw pictures of these people and drop them into an offering or prayer basket.  In smaller congregations, worshipers can light tea candles to place on a floor map of the world remembering people around the world who need help and concern.  (Younger children will need help locating the place to put their candle on the map.)

J  At the end of the school year, children often get so excited about their own awards or report cards or summer plans that it is even harder than usual to pay attention to others and their needs and joys.  Today’s emphasis on compassion is a chance to alert them to this tendency and encourage them to be a compassionate friend to those around them as school ends.

>  Identify one or more ministries of your congregation as ministries of compassion.  Compare them to the compassion of Elijah and Jesus.  Choose at least one in which children are involved, e.g. food drives.

>  Tell stories about people hiding Jews during World War II or about people operating the Underground Railroad to get slaves to freedom.  There are lots of these stories and most can be told in terms of people who could feel how other people were hurting and who risked their own safety to help those people.

Image of new $20 circulated on line.
>  The United States recently announced that Harriet Tubman’s picture will begin appearing on all twenty dollar bills in 2017.  Ms. Tubman is an example of a person who had deep compassion.  After she escaped slavery to freedom, she returned to lead many other groups of slaves to freedom at great risk to herself.  Find her story in Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, by Carole Boston Weatherford.

>  You may not want to read My Heart Will Not Sit Down, by Mara Rockliff, straight through during worship.  But, it is a story about compassion with a key phrase worth telling in your words in worship, maybe reading a few pages from the middle of the book.  Kedi, a little girl in Cameroon, hears from her teacher that many people were starving in New York during the Great Depression.  Kedi’s “heart stands up” for those people.  Her questions lead villagers to bring what little money they have to send to New York.  They say “our hearts would not sit down until we helped.”  This is a true story.  Their gift was $3.77.  Wonderful art adds to it.  

>  Before singing The Servant Song brainstorm a list of people who need our loving care.  Challenge each worshiper to choose one of those people to sing the song for this time remembering that they are our brother or sister. 

The Texts for the Day

1 Kings 17:8-16, (17-24)

>  Before this story is read, everyone needs to hear some background.  It takes place during a long drought that left everyone hungry and thirsty.  Children may also need to hear that a widow is a woman whose husband has died and hear briefly about how hard it was for a widow without a son to get food, clothes and a place to live at the time of this story.

>  Since most of this rather long story is conversation, bring it to life by having it read by three readers: a narrator (probably the usual reader), Elijah, and the widow.  The text below is mostly straight NRSV with the “he said”s and “she said”s omitted.  If the Luke story is introduced immediately after this reading as another very similar story about Jesus, children can follow that reading easily and grasp the similarities.

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Reading Script for 1 Kings 17: 8-24

Narrator:  Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”  So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said,

Elijah:  Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.

Narrator:  As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said,

Elijah:  Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.

Widow:  As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.

Elijah:  Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son.  For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.

Narrator:  She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days.  The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. (Brief pause)  After this the son of the woman, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.  She then said to Elijah,

Widow:  What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!

Elijah:  Give me your son.

Narrator:  He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed.  He cried out to the Lord,

Elijah:  O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?

Narrator:  Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord,

Elijah:  O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.

Narrator:  The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.  Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother;

Elijah:  See, your son is alive.

Widow:  Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.


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>  This and the gospel story are about widows who are living on the edge.  God reaches out to care for them through Elijah and Jesus.  If you will be exploring compassion, display an almost empty bag of flour and jar of cooking oil.  If you have an Elijah Chair display going, place the oil and flour on the seat today.   Before reading the story, note that this was all the widow had left – no meat, no eggs, no peanut butter, and no hope of getting anything else.  After reading the lessons, point again to the flour and oil noting that the world is full of people in the situation of the widow.

>  This story is more about what Elijah did than what he said.  So wait for another week to add a quote to a “Prophets Said” display.

>  This would be a good day to read one of the many versions of the Stone Soup story.  In the story a village full of people intent on not sharing any of their food contribute to a communal pot of “stone soup” and the share it in a grand feast. 

Psalm 146

>  Of the two psalms listed for today, this is the one for the children.  It is a happy list of what God does to help people in need.  The activities listed are concrete and everyday, so children understand them as they are read.  The script below makes the list clearer by replacing all the hes with “The Lord.”  Include the congregation in reading the psalm either by having different halves of the congregation read alternating statements saying “the Lord” with great emphasis or by having the congregation say “The Lord” with a leader completing each phrase.

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Psalm 146

LEADER:  Praise the Lord!
                       Praise the Lord, my soul!

ALL:           I will praise him as long as I live;
                         I will sing to my God all my life.
LEADER:     Don’t put your trust in human leaders;
                         no human being can save you.
                         When they die, they return to the dust;
on that day all their plans come to an end.

The Lord created heaven, earth, and sea, and all that is in them.

The Lord keeps every promise;

The Lord judges in favor of the oppressed
The Lord gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets prisoners free

The Lord gives sight to the blind.

The Lord lifts those who have fallen;

The Lord loves righteous people.

The Lord protects the strangers who live in our land;

The Lord helps widows and orphans, but takes the wicked to their ruin.

LEADER: The Lord is king forever.  Your God, O Zion, will reign for all time.
ALL:    Praise the Lord!

                                                   Based on TEV

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Psalm 30

>  This psalm is filled with unfamiliar vocabulary (e.g. Sheol, the Pit) and ideas that make it hard for children.  If you do read it, introduce it as a song that might have been sung by either widow and by the funeral crowd who were with the widow of Nain after the sons were raised.  With this introduction, the children catch a phrase here and there, but it might be best to choose one or two verses to pray today – maybe verses 11-12.

You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance;
you have taken away my sorrow
and surrounded me with joy.
So I will not be silent;
I will sing praise to you.
I will give you thanks for ever.

                                      Today’s English Version

>  The psalmist tells his story twice.  To help worshipers follow the story both times, point this out before the reading.  A reader then reads the first telling of the story in verses 1-5.  Children or all worshipers then do the motions below as the story is retold in verses 6-12.  A children’s class could prepare this as their leadership in worship.  Or, the children could be invited forward to help with the psalm with the reader sitting among them facing the congregation and the children following the motions as the leader does them in verses 6-12
Motions for the verses 6 – 12.

As for me, I said in my prosperity, "I shall never be moved."
Stand straight and tall.

By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain;
spread your feet and put hands on your hips in show of force

You hid your face; I was dismayed.
Go down you your knees with face bowed in your hands.

To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication:
Look up.

"What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?  Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!"
Raise hands to make your request
You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
Stand straight with hands up to God in praise.

                                               NRSV Translation

Galatians 1:11-24

This book comes in a variety of covers.
>  Paul’s explanation here of how he came to be a faithful Christian makes less sense to children than the story of the Damascus road does.  If you are going to focus on this text in worship, I’d tell or read some of the Damascus road story for the children (and maybe to remind the adults of the details that are assumed in Galatians).  “Saul Learns About Jesus” from The Family Story Bible, by Ralph Milton, is a good choice but you might want to omit the sentence “And please, Ananias. While I’m eating, tell me more about Jesus.” to match the Galatians argument.

The story of Paul’s Damascus Road experience is the gospel text for the Third Sunday of Easter this year.  Go to HERE for ideas about exploring it further.

Luke 7:11-17

>  For children this story is all about compassion.  There are lots of suggestions for exploring it at the beginning of this post.

>  Square Cat, by Elizabeth Schoonmaker, is a rather silly story that everyone will enjoy when it is read in with a light heart and interruptions.  Stop after Eula loses her purr to commiserate with her situation.  Then introduce her round friends Patsy and Maude and challenge listeners to stop you every time they hear a way the two try to help Eula feel better about herself.  Laugh at some of the silly attempts AND savor the last page noting that compassionate friends often see wonderful things (like the blue sky) that others miss.

J J J J J J J J J J J J J J J  

>  Yet another reminder for those whose children are still in school: the end of the school year is hugely important to your children.  So, go HERE for ideas for recognizing it in the congregation’s worship on the appropriate Sunday.

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