Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Year C - Proper 8, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 6th Sunday after Pentecost (June 26, 2016)

Today’s readings are all about committed discipleship.  Elisha takes up Elijah’s mantle or leaves his oxen behind, Paul calls the Galatians to live all of their lives for Jesus, and Jesus refuses to accept the excuses of several would-be disciples. 

>  For children message is to be a disciple everywhere they go.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  Particularly younger children tend to see each place they go as a separate world with separate expectations, rules and possibilities.  This is especially true during the summer when their time is divided among more venues that are rather different – say the sports team, grandma’s house, a series of camps and child car groups, and so forth.  In this situation the challenge for them is to be God’s loving, caring person in all of those places.  They can’t be God’s person at home and church but think only about winning and being a star on the sports field.  The two big rules for disciples (Two Great Commandments) apply in all venues all the time.  Early summer is a good time to revisit that reality.

>  There are lots of discipleship songs that capture the interest of children.

If “Be Thou My Vision” is sung regularly in your worship point out “high king of heaven” and tell the Scottish story about St. Patrick and High King Logaire.  Find the story HERE

Go to Natalie Sim's Singing from the Lectionary and scroll down to the Galatians songs for a sound sample of the Cameroon chorus “Stand, O Stand Firm.”  Use the sound sample pattern of praying for places where standing firm is needed to create your own responsive prayers of intercession.  The congregation sings the chorus in response to spoken or sung prayers about standing firm at the pool, in Syria, and other places where it is needed at the moment. 

“Lord I Want to be a Christian,” “Take My Life and Let It Be,” and “Will You Come and Follow Me” are also good choices for children.

Texts for the Day

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

>  Last week God spoke to Elijah only in a still small voice.  This week God comes to Elijah with a fiery chariot ride into the sky.  For many children all that is required is enjoying the different ways God comes to us.

Mackin Bible Black and white of Elijah going to heaven attribution:
Loutherbourg, Philippe-Jacques de, 1740-1812 ;
 Byrne, William, 1743-1805. The Macklin Bible --
The Ascent of Elijah, from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.
[retrieved June 17, 2013]. Original source: A gift to
Vanderbilt University from John J. and Anne Czura
>  To enjoy all the details of this story, present at least two great artist’s renderings of Elijah heading off in his fiery chariot.  These two come from the Vanderbilt collection.  I chose one for its literal portrayal and the second for its inclusion of all the parts of the story all jumbled up together.  Compare and contrast them with worshipers.  If you have kept an Elijah display, select one to place at the end of the display.  If you have not kept an Elijah display, simply display one or both prints at the front of the sanctuary. 

He, Qi. Elijah is taken up to Heaven,
from Art in the Christian Tradition,
a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library,
Nashville, TN. 
 [retrieved June 17, 2013].
Original source: 
>  Give out crayons being sure to include lots of fire colors and black and challenge worshipers of all ages to create their own pictures of this story.  Help them get started by asking:
What are the most important items in the story? 
Who is there? 
Either inspect artists’ work as they leave the sanctuary or invite them to add their work to a gallery by taping it to the altar rail or other designated spot. 

>  f you are not using the great art, just before reading this story drape a cape or jacket on the back of the Elijah chair or on a side of the burlap display area.  Introduce the word mantle as a sort of cape that people wore like we wear jackets and challenge worshipers to listen for a mantle/jacket that is passed around and used in a rather unusual way in this story. 

This is my grandfather’s prayer book.  He was a Russian Orthodox priest.
>  With some help, children also appreciate Elisha’s taking up Elijah’s mantle.  First they need to hear that a mantle is a jacket or coat.  Elijah had been Elisha’s hero and the person he most wanted to be like.  So, as Elijah dies he leaves Elijah his jacket to wear as he becomes a prophet.  It is like a younger player being left an older player’s team number or team shirt or like a musician leaving her student her instrument.  If you have some similar gift from a mentor, show it and talk about what it means to you.  Encourage children to think about their heroes and heroines and what they are learning from them.

>  Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson, offers a parallel story about several children.  Twelve year-old Jesse introduces his little sister May Belle to the secret kingdom he had shared with his best friend Leslie, who had died.  In so doing he finds the courage to move forward.  This is a novel, so could not be read in worship, but this part of the story could be told.  (This award winner is available in most public libraries.)

>  “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is a song all children used to learn in school.  That is no longer true.  So, introduce it explaining the connection to this story before it is sung by a choir or the congregation.

Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20

>  “I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord, I will remember your wonders of old.”  In the children’s book Wilfrid Gordon MacDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox, a little boy helps an elderly woman who has “lost her memory” by filling a box with items that recall his memories – a seashell from the beach, a bird feather, etc.  As she handles each of these items they indeed do bring her back to her own memories of the beach, a bird, etc.  So what if a preacher collected a box of items that recall wonders of God.  Some could recall personal experiences.  Others could point to communal even historic memories – maybe a baby in the manger from a crèche, a cross necklace, a picture of a place you felt very close to God, etc.   The sermon becomes a sharing of these items and a challenge to worshipers to collect their own memories of the wonders of God they recognize.  Paper and pencils or crayons might encourage worshipers to draw or write a list of these items as they listen to the sermon.  (Mem Fox’s book is not readily available in stores, but can often be found in public libraries.  You may want to read it in worship, or it might simply be good preacher preparation reading.)

1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21

>  I suspect this story is included as a balance to the stories of the would-be disciples.  Unlike them Elisha breaks up his farm equipment and eats the oxen that are essential to his doing his old work.  For children it would be like selling all your baseball equipment in order to buy soccer gear.  If you discover that you don’t like or do well at soccer, your baseball stuff is still gone.

Psalm 16

>  This psalm is the prayer of the committed disciple.  To help children catch the prayers with it, turn it into a responsive praise reading or an affirmation of faith with the congregation responding to each prayer, “I am your disciple.”

! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * !

Psalm 16

Leader:          Protect me, O God; I trust in you for safety.
                      I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
all the good things I have come from you.”

All:                I am your disciple.
Leader:         How excellent are the Lord’s faithful people!
   My greatest pleasure is to be with them.

All:                I am your disciple.
Leader:         Those who rush to other gods
    bring many troubles on themselves.
I will not take part in their sacrifices;
I will not worship their gods.

All:                I am your disciple.
Leader:         You, Lord, are all I have,
and you give me all I need;
my future is in your hands.
                       How wonderful are your gifts to me;
how good they are!

All:                I am your disciple.
Leader:         I praise the Lord, because he guides me,
and in the night my conscience warns me.
                     I am always aware of the Lord’s presence;
he is near, and nothing can shake me.

All:                I am your disciple.
Leader:         And so I am thankful and glad,
and I feel completely secure,
                               because you protect me from the 
                                     power of death.
   I have served you faithfully,
and you will not abandon me to
the world of the dead.
                     You will show me the path that leads to life;
your presence fills me with joy
and brings me pleasure for ever. 

All:                I am your disciple.

                                                       From the TEV

! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * ! * !

Galatians 5:1, 13-25

>  Children will not follow this rather long, complex reading but will depend on worship leaders to lift up one or two parts of it for them.

>  “Fruits of the spirit” and “works of the flesh” are not easy images for children to grasp.  Most of today’s children have little appreciation of fruit as the end product of a rather long and carefully tended agricultural process.  For them it is simply one kind of food bought at the store.  “Works of the flesh” are really the result of human nature left to whims.  That too makes little sense to children.  So, instead of using the images, simply compare the lists of words that apply to God’s people and activities that God’s people avoid.  Write each one on a separate mini-poster.  Work through all of them with children talking about what each one is and sorting them into the two piles – those for God’s people and not for God’s people.  After making your piles, read the verses from Paul and marvel at how well they match.

Kid’s version of “works of the flesh”: Dirty thoughts and deeds (maybe, depending on the age of the children), hatred, fighting, jealousy, anger, selfish, quarrels, “you can’t be in my group!”

Kids’ version of “fruits of the Spirit:” loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, loyal, gentle, and self-controlled.

>  Make a verse for each of the fruits of the Spirit for the song “I’ve Got a Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart.”  Maybe some of the following:
I’ve got a joy…
I’ve got love of Jesus…
I’ve got peace that passes understanding..
I’ve got patient gentle kindness…
I’ve got faith and loyalty…
For the final verse sing “And if the devil doesn’t like he can sit on a tack…and stay” just for fun.

>  For those of us in the United States the week before July 4th it will be impossible to explore Paul’s thoughts about freedom without dealing with our national priority on freedom.  Those are often very different kinds of freedom.  Talking about them with adults requires subtle nuances that are way beyond the understanding of children.  Paul’s bottom line is that freedom from slavery to your own wants and wishes lets you love others freely and results in a happier life.  That is not only a counter-cultural mystery, it is also very abstract thinking for children. 

Luke 9:51-62

>  Verses 51–56 and 57-62 are rather separate stories.  If your focus is on commitment, read only verses 57 -62.  Use four readers, one for each would-be disciple, one for Jesus, and one (probably the usual liturgist) as the narrator.  If possible encourage each would-be disciple to memorize his or her line and plan how he will stand and how she will say it to bring it to life.  The script below is from the CEV because its inclusive language for the would be disciples encourages us to use readers of a variety of genders and ages.  Older youth and adults however make better readers for this than children.  The Narrator reads from the lectern while the would be disciples stand to one side of the chancel and Jesus stands on the other side facing them.

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Luke 9:57-62

Narrator:  Along the way someone said to Jesus,

Reader 1 (stepping forward one step):  I’ll go anywhere with you!

Narrator:  Jesus said,

Jesus:  Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn’t have a place to call his own.

Reader one steps back.

Narrator:  Jesus told someone else to come with him.  (Jesus points at Reader 2 who steps forward) But the man said,

Reader 2:  Lord, let me wait until I bury my father.

Narrator:  Jesus answered,

Jesus:  Let the dead take care of the dead, while you go and tell about God’s kingdom.

Reader 2 steps back.

Narrator:  Then someone said to Jesus, (Reader 3 steps forward hailing Jesus)

Reader 3:  I want to go with you, Lord, but first let me go back and take care of things at home.

Narrator:  Jesus answered,

Jesus:  Anyone who starts plowing and keeps looking back isn’t worth a thing to God’s kingdom!

Reader 3 steps back.

Narrator:  This is the Word of the Lord!

                                     Contemporary English Version

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

>  Imagine a fourth would-be disciple who is a child.  When Jesus calls the child to follow him, the child responds “I’m just a kid.  All I can do is learn about you now.  I’ll be a disciple when I grow up.”  To this Jesus replies, “But, I need you now.  I need you to stand up for me at the swimming pool, in the locker rooms, on the camp busses, and all those other places where the grown-ups are not really there.  I need you to be my disciple now.”

>  When the story in verses 51-56 is unpacked for children it has a powerful message for them.  The Samaritans told Jesus and the disciples that they were not welcome in their town.  Children have lots of experience with being shut out of secret clubs, tight groups of friends, teams, etc.  So they understand James’ and John’s desire to “let them have it.”  What they need to hear is Jesus’ refusal to strike back at those who had cut him out and to ponder the fact that as Jesus’ disciples we are to do likewise. 

>  The commentators all make a big deal about Jesus “setting his face toward Jerusalem” here.  The rest of the readings from Luke take us closer and closer to Jerusalem and Jesus’ death and resurrection.  One way to build on that would be to create a labyrinth or prayer path.  It might be in the sanctuary if there is space or in a classroom that is not being used during the summer.  At the entry point place/draw a face of Jesus with a determined look on it.  At the end of the prayer path or the center of the labyrinth place/draw a golden cross.  As the summer progresses add words or pictures to the path related to stories “from the road.”  Invite worshipers of all ages to walk this path before or after worship occasionally during the coming months as a way of remembering Jesus’ journey toward Jerusalem and thinking about their own lives as Jesus’ disciples.  (Yes, the readings from this journey continue through November.  That is a lot of readings!  So, this might be a summer labyrinth/prayer path.)

from WIkipedia

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