Monday, May 9, 2016

Year C - Proper 6, 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 4th Sunday after Pentecost (June 12,2016)

Today’s texts are a rich stew of related ideas.  The unifying one for children is that we are all forgiven sinners.  David is forgiven for murdering a man to steal his wife.  The woman in the gospel is forgiven and responds with a beautiful thankful gift.  Simon is invited to see her as forgiven and worthy of his company.  Only Jezebel and Ahab refuse to admit sin and meet an awful end.  Paul reminds the Galatians that they are all forgiven sinners and that there is nothing else they need to do to earn that forgiveness – except treat each other as forgiven sinners.  Together all the texts are related but overwhelming.  Choices are definitely required.

Gold crosses would be better, but
white is what I could find locally today.
>  If children are involved in Ash Wednesday observances in your congregation, this is a good opportunity to revisit those ashes on a non- Lenten day.  On Ash Wednesday a black cross is drawn on heads to remind worshipers that they are sinners.  Today recall that, but put a golden cross on the forehead or the back of a hand of each child or each worshiper to remind them that they are FORGIVEN sinners.  God loves them.  They are OK.  They can be friends with other imperfect sinners who God also loves and forgives. 

>  It is a good day to feature “(I believe in) the forgiveness of sins” in the Apostles’ Creed.  Usually that phrase is lost in all the others near the end of the creed.  Highlight and explore it today.

* Point it out in the middle of the creed or interrupt the reading of the creed to say, “Wait a minute.  What did you just say?  What did you mean?”  Explore it in the sermon.  Then call on worshipers to read the entire creed after the sermon.

* Compare and contrast all the forgiven sinners in today’s texts and insist that we are just like them.

* Insist that when we say this line we are saying both that God forgives us and that we can forgive each other.

* Create a responsive reading by summarizing each of today’s stories about forgiven people.  Worshipers reply to each summary, “We believe in the forgiveness of sin.”

J  At the end of the school year there is lots to forgive and be forgiven for.  Some children are more aware of this than others.  Writing an end of the school year – beginning of summer psalm as suggested in HERE SCHOOLS OUT! Is one way to tie this reality to today’s texts.

>  It is also Juneteenth, the celebration of the ending of slavery in the USA.  The theme of God’s justice and forgiveness have clear connections to this day.  Since I have never participated in a Juneteeth celebration, I’ll not presume to give suggestions.  But, I’d love to read some ideas from those of you who are more experienced AND now find myself wanting to add this to my calendar of holy days.

The Texts for the Day

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a and 
2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:10, 13-15

>  We have here the stores of two greedy kings.  One wants a vineyard the owner will not sell.  The other wants the wife of another man for his own.  Both operated on the Toddlers Law of Possession – I see it, I want it, it is mine!”  Though even children can laugh at that law, they have a very hard time learning that they cannot have everything they want.  These adult kings obviously have not quite got it yet.  Older children appreciate the fact that both Ahab (who was bad most of the time) and David (who was good most of the time) tried to grab what was not theirs.  Greed is something with which we all struggle.  So make it the theme of the day.  Present it with a big green GREED poster.  Illustrate greed with stories about greedy people of all ages.  Explore children’s greed using the greed monster poster.  Pray prayer of confession and intercession about greed. 

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Responsive Prayer of Confession about Greed

One:   We see ads on TV about cars and clothes and 
           yummy looking food and
  great toys and cool electronic equipment.  
  We know we do not need it all. But…

All:     We want it!

One:   We see all the cool stuff our friends have.  
           They look so good in their clothes and 
           seem so happy using all their toys.  
           We want to be like them.  So...

All:     We want it!

One:   When we are sad we think that we’d feel happy if 
           we just had something special to eat or 
           some new toy to play with.  
           Even though we know it will not really fix anything …

All:     We want it!

One:   When we feel that we are not good enough or 
            smart enough or pretty enough, 
            we think we would we be better, smarter or prettier 
            if we just had that one special thing.  
            Even though we know that is probably not true…

All:     We want it!

One:   God, the world is filled with so many wonderful things.  
           Forgive us when we get greedy, wanting every fine 
           thing we see for ourselves.  Forgive us when we hurt 
           others as we grab what we want. Teach us to see and 
           enjoy without grabbing for ourselves.  Help us know 
           the difference between what we want and what we 
           need.  We pray in the name of Jesus who never 
           grabbed anything for himself.


>  Prayer of Confession with hand motions:  Invite worshipers to pray with their hands to confess their grabby greed following the lead of the worship leader who prays aloud and shows the motions for worshipers to follow.  Yes, this is an “eyes open, hands closed prayer.”

(With grabby hands held near chests)  God, the world is filled with so many wonderful things.  It is easy to want them all for ourselves.  Forgive us when we get grabby.  Forgive us when we take what is not ours.  Forgive us when use and hurt other people as we try to get what we want. 

(With open hands lying in laps)  Teach us to see things others have without grabbing for them.  Help us see the difference between what we want and what we need.  Most of all remind us that people are more important than any stuff.  We pray in Jesus name.  Amen.

(Reaching out to one another with open hands)  The good news is that God knows we all struggle with greed and that God is with us in those struggles and forgives us when we fail.  So we can relax and reach out to one another with open hands to say “Peace of God be with you.”

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a

>  Before reading this story explain to children who do not live in vineyard country what a vineyard is – a grape vine garden.

>  The biblical account of Naboth stealing the vineyard next door includes repeated conversations in which children get lost.  For an easier-to-follow account turn to one of these Bible story book accounts.

“Naboth’s Vineyard” in Children of God Storybook Bible by Desmond Tutu is very simple and concise.  It reads aloud in about 2 minutes.

The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories by Mary Batchelor offers a much fuller account with lots of details children appreciate in two sequential stories #167 “Ahab’s Kitchen Garden” and #168 “The King Gets His Way.”  Read both stories aloud in about 5 minutes.

>  If you are growing an Elijah display this month, today add a bunch of artificial grapes to the burlap display or to the seat of the Elijah Chair.  

>  There is no particular Elijah quote to add to the Prophet’s Said banner.

Psalm 5:1-8

>  To summarize this psalm for children read only the verses below from The Good News Bible (TEV) as a prayer that David, the gospel woman, Simon, and even we ourselves might pray.
You are not a God who is pleased with wrongdoing;
you allow no evil in your presence.
But because of your great love
I can come into your house;
Lord, lead me to do your will;
make your way plain for me to follow.

From TEV Psalm 5:4,7a, 8

2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:10, 13-15

The story of David and Bathsheba appears in parts on two consecutive Sundays during the summer of Year B in the lectionary.  Psalm 51 which is attributed to David in response to what happened in the story is the psalm that goes with the story there.  Go HERE for ideas and resources for worship built around this story and psalm.

>  Prayer of Confession:

God when we want to do something we know is wrong, we find lots of excuses.  We tell ourselves that we are special, so it OK.  We tell ourselves that it is not so very wrong and does not really matter.  We even tell ourselves no one will found out what we did.  But wrong is wrong.  Forgive us when we try to forget that.  Help us know what is right and what is wrong and to act in good ways.  Amen.

Assurance:  Jesus promises that God always forgives us.  Our job is to admit what we have done, to say we are sorry, and to try to heal people we hurt by what we did.  When God forgives us, we can do that.

Psalm 32

>  This may be the key unifying text for the day.  It expresses the joy of living as a forgiven person.  David and the gospel women know this, Ahab does not.  Read verses 1-5 and trace the sequence of events from sin to hiding to confessing to be forgiven just before the prayers of confession and assurance of pardon.  Point out the connections to this sequence in your usual liturgy.  Walk through the prayers you will share today.  Then invite the worshipers to join you in confessing and being forgiven.  Selected verses from the TEV are perhaps the best translation for this task.

When I did not confess my sins,
I was worn out from crying all day long.
Day and night you punished me, Lord;
my strength was completely drained,
as moisture is dried up by the summer heat.
Then I confessed my sins to you;
I did not conceal my wrongdoings.
I decided to confess them to you,
and you forgave all my sins. ….

I sing aloud of your salvation,
because you protect me.

>  Children love the humor (“Don’t be stupid like a horse or a mule”) in verses 8 and 9.  Display a picture of horse in reins and discuss how the rider gets the horse to go where it should.  OR, ask a rider to bring the equipment and talk through the process with you.  OR, translate the whole illustration to a dog on a leash.  After explaining the illustration, make the point that God expects us to know what is right and wrong and to do it on our own – without a leash or reins.

Galatians 2:15-21 (RC = 16, 19-21)

>  Paul may know that none of us can keep all the rules perfectly all the time, but many children (especially older elementary girls like Hermoine in the Harry Potter saga) do not believe that about themselves.  They have great faith in the power of good rules and KNOW that they can keep all the rules perfectly.  It will be several years before they admit to themselves that even they mess up in important ways in spite of their best efforts.  Given that, I’d work with other texts today or introduce this briefly to children to plant seeds for later growth.

Luke 7:36 – 8:3

>  This is a rather long story that includes a parable and a conversation.  Children are easily lost.  To help them follow it, have it read by three readers standing in place.  This script is based on the Contemporary English Version omitting only most of the “he saids” in the conversation and the chapter 8 verses about women who traveled with Jesus and supported the disciples. 

Luke 7:36 - 50

Simon Reader (taking a place in the center of the chancel)A Pharisee invited Jesus to have dinner with him.

Jesus Reader (standing in the lectern):  So Jesus went to the Pharisee’s home and got ready to eat. 

Woman Reader (coming in to sit on a child size chair beside the lectern):  When a sinful woman in that town found out that Jesus was there, she bought an expensive bottle of perfume.  Then she came and stood behind Jesus. She cried and started washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. The woman kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them.

Simon Reader:(turning to face Jesus and the woman):  The Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw this and said to himself, “If this man really were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him! He would know that she is a sinner.”

Jesus Reader: Jesus said to the Pharisee, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

Simon Reader: Teacher, what is it?

Jesus Reader: Two people were in debt to a moneylender. One of them owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other owed him fifty.   Since neither of them could pay him back, the moneylender said that they didn’t have to pay him anything. Which one of them will like him more?

Simon Reader:  I suppose it would be the one who had owed more and didn’t have to pay it back.”

Jesus Reader: You are right.  (turning toward the woman then looking at Simon Reader)  “Have you noticed this woman? When I came into your home, you didn’t give me any water so I could wash my feet. But she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.  You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet.  You didn’t even pour olive oil on my head, but she has poured expensive perfume on my feet.  So I tell you that all her sins are forgiven, and that is why she has shown great love. But anyone who has been forgiven for only a little will show only a little love.” (Turning toward the woman) “Your sins are forgiven.”

Simon Reader (facing the congregation):  Some other guests started saying to one another, “Who is this who dares to forgive sins?”

Jesus Reader (facing the congregation):  But Jesus told the woman, “Because of your faith, you are now saved. May God give you peace!”

                                                                   From the CEV

>  This story is paired with one or both of the Old Testament stories to balance to God’s judgment with God’s forgiveness.  It is an important discussion, but one that is challenging for children.  They do better focusing on either judgment or forgiveness and being reminded of the other reality.  The bottom line is that God is very clear about what is right and what is wrong and expects us to live according to those ideas.  There are consequences when we choose to do wrong.  BUT, God also loves and forgives us when we admit to the ways we choose wrong.  When we apologize, God forgives us and treats us as if it had never happened. 

>  Another theme to explore in this story is the call to forget as well as forgive.  The woman had been forgiven.  Simon still remembered what she had done and who she had been and treated her accordingly.  Jesus on the other hand forgot what she had done and welcomed her as a loving person who was giving him a wonderful gift.  Children need to hear this distinction and can use the story as a challenge to help themselves forget old hurts that have been technically forgiven.  They appreciate hearing that adults have trouble doing this too.

>  A case can be made for reading and exploring Luke 8:1-3 on its own.  Many older elementary girls are bothered by the lack of women in the stories about Jesus.  The women are there, but often do not get the attention they need to become role models for girls.  The loving gift of the forgiven woman and the care the group of women provided for Jesus and the other disciples are an opportunity to gather and celebrate stories about women in the gospels.  Tell stories about them or have a series of girls and women read home grown monologues or bits of their stories from the Bible.  In addition to the women in today’s gospel consider Jesus’ Aunt Elizabeth and mother Mary, the gentile mother who argued with Jesus to get him to heal her daughter, the woman who trusted Jesus to heal her if she could just touch his garment, his friends Mary and Martha, the women at the cross and tomb, and more. 

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