Thursday, December 20, 2018

Year C - Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany (February 10, 2019)

This is one Sunday with a very clear shared theme in all the texts.  AND, that theme speaks clearly to worshipers of all ages.  Isaiah feels he is not good enough because he has unclean lips.  Peter tells Jesus he is not good enough because he sinful and just a fisherman.  Paul feels he is not good enough because he once tried to imprison and kill as many Christians as he could.  But, God calls each of them.  God’s spirit works through each of them – and as Paul says they, to their credit, work really hard at answering God’s call to them.  This gives children 3 good role models as we move toward the end of “telling all the world” in Epiphany and as we move into becoming better disciples during Lent.   There are of course other ideas in these texts well worth pursuing with children.

*To highlight the connection between these texts, read Isaiah, Luke and 1 Corinthians one after the other.  Perhaps three readers could come forward at the same time then step to a microphone saying “Listen to what happened when God called …..”  At the conclusion of the reading all three say, “The Word of the Lord” in unison.

*Read On the Night You Were Born, by Nancy Tillman, especially with younger children (but also with the older children too).  It is a very simple picture book celebrating each child’s uniqueness. “there had never been anyone like you… ever in the world.”  Pause as you read the page on which the wind and rain whisper the child’s name to invite the whole congregation to say the names of some of the children they see on the steps.  If time is a concern, skip from the polar bear page to the page that begins, “For never before in story or rhyme…”  Note that just like Isaiah and Peter and Paul were unique, special people, each of us is also.

*There are several child-friendly disciple songs to sing today:

          Children and others with limited biblical knowledge will 
          miss many of the symbols in the verses of "Here I Am, 
          Lord".  But even non readers can pick up on the 
          chorus.  In congregations that sing it frequently, 
          they start picking up the verses too.

Sing “Will You Come and Follow Me” more for the youth than for elementary children.  Point out the “will you” questions in the first 4 verses and our response to Jesus in verse 5 before singing it.

“I Want to walk as a Child of Light” and “This Little Light of Mine” are also good choices.

The Texts for Day

Isaiah 6:1-6 (9-13)

*  The seraphs call out “Holy, Holy, Holy.”   So point out places the word Holy is stitched, carved or painted into your sanctuary.   

* To sing your way into Isaiah’s vision of God:

Sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” as a way of joining Isaiah and the seraphs in praising God.  Have the musicians pull out all the stops between verses or on the last verse.  Non-readers with the urging of people around them can sing the three holys at the beginning of each verse.  


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Before singing “Holy, Holy, Holy,” define the word holy (most special and important, awesome) and briefly walk through the verses.  This helps children learn the hymn and makes all worshipers pay better attention to what they are singing.  The message in the verses is simply presented below.

1. We praise God

2. Everyone in heaven praises God

3. Even though we do not fully understand God, we praise God

4. Everyone and everything on earth praises God

“Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” is filled with long complicated words that describe God who is more than we can fully understand.  If this is pointed out, children enjoy all the impossible words praising God who is impossible for us to understand.  Before singing, point out and define the first few words of verse one – immortal means God lives forever, invisible means we can’t see God.  Then ponder the meaning of the first phrase of verse 2 (“Unresting, unhasting and silent as light”).  Finally, challenge worshipers to pay attention as they sing to what it is trying to say about God. 

Sing “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”  to capture Isaiah’s feelings in the presence of God.  Since tough vocabulary make this a hard song for young readers to sing, consider having it sung by the choir or a soloist in response to the reading of the scripture or after a conversation about the mysterious, awesome presence of God. 

*Define holy and translate “Hallowed be thy name” in the Lord’s Prayer to “holy be your name”.  Use the phrase as a congregational response in a prayer or praise litany about God (unless you are focusing on the Lord’s Prayer phrase by phrase in Lent).

*  If you use the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving in celebrating Communion, just before moving into that liturgy, point out the phrase “Therefore, with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven, we worship and adore your glorious name, praising you forevermore:”  Explain how it fits into the prayer.  Practice the sung or spoken response your congregation uses.  Then, suggest that when we pray and sing this every time we celebrate communion, we are putting ourselves smack dab in the middle of Isaiah’s vision with Peter and Paul and all others. 

*  If you use incense in worship, this is a good Sunday to use it before reading this vision and to talk about its meaning.  If you do this, what about sharing what you do and say to educate us non-incense using worshipers.

*  Invite children (or all worshipers) to write a poem about God during worship using a simple format.  You might offer it on a worship worksheet and then invite folks to post theirs in a set spot with or without their name or to take it home to post where they can read it and talk with God about in the coming week.

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


2 words that describe God                                   __________, __________

3 ing words that God does                                   _______, ______, ______

What you want to say to God today                    _____________________

A name for God                                                                      ____________

By YOUR NAME                                                 by__________________

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

Psalm 138
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*  On the Sunday before Valentine’s Day (in 2019) Psalm 138 is a valentine for God.  The first verse, “I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart,” is the summary of this psalm.  Give children a paper with the phrase printed on the top.  Show them how to draw a scribble with large holes in it and to draw or write in each hole about one thing for which they thank God.  Or, give them the heart shaped scribble here.  They can decorate each hole as they wish.  Ask to see their thanks-filled hearts as the children leave the sanctuary or provide a place where they can be displayed.

*  If Great Is Thy Faithfulness is sung frequently in your worship, take time today to identify some of the not-very-familiar-to-children vocabulary.  Start by pointing out the repeated title at the beginning of the first verse and every chorus.  Translate it “God, we can depend on you always.

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

This Sunday is half way between Christmas and Easter so this text can be read and explored as a reminder from Paul that it is always all about Jesus.  So….

*  Rather than unpacking Paul’s list of resurrection appearances which are unfamiliar to children (and lots of other worshipers), focus on the phrases about Jesus in the Apostles’ Creed.  Print the entire creed for worshipers.  Before calling the congregation to read it together, point out the phrases about Jesus.  Take time to recall details of each story possibly illustrating each phrase with a picture, e.g. a nativity for “born of the virgin Mary.”  Then, invite worshipers to say the creed together.

*Celebrate the whole life of Jesus singing “I Danced in the Morning.”

*  If you celebrate Communion this morning, combine this text with the Great Prayer response “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”  After walking through the summary of Jesus life using pictures as above, say or sing the response with motions.  Point out where it comes in the communion liturgy and encourage them and their parents to sing/say it at the right time today (and every Sunday) remembering the whole story of Jesus.

Christ has died (draw a big cross in front of you with one hand)
Christ has risen (raise both hands above your head and look up)
Christ will come again (turn hand to your sides as if reaching for your neighbors)


*Focus on Paul’s account of his own life in verses 8-11.  Before reading it, briefly recall the main movements in Paul’s life.  Then, invite worshipers to listen not to what Paul did but how he felt about what he did. 

It would be possible to invite the children forward to help you with the reading of the scripture.  Sitting on the steps with them, recall Paul’s life, read the text, hear their ideas about how Paul felt, and briefly discuss whether we ever feel “not good enough.”  Thank them for their help, send them back to their seats with an invitation to listen for more about …. in the sermon.

*Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3 “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received.”  I would not have seen the connection between this and the picture book Sweetest Kulu , by Celina Kalluk, without Storypath ( ).  But it might be perfect in some worship settings.  In the book all the artic animals come to bring personality gifts to baby Kulu when she is born.  Paul had learned about Jesus through other disciples and became the great apostle he was with their help.  So, it would be possible to read the book, then point to all the people sitting in the congregation.  Note that they are not animals, but that just like the animals brought Kulu gifts, each of the people in the congregation has at least one gift to give them that will help them grow into the person God created them to be.  Encourage the children and the adults to get to know each other and share their gifts.

Luke 5:1-11

Yes, that is a boat.  Not perfect, but close enough for the children
who made it and sat in it.

*Invite the children to come forward to help you read today’s gospel.  With their help lay down a masking tape or painters’ tape outline of a fishing boat big enough for all of you to sit in together.  Once everyone is seated in it, bring the big Bible with you and sit among them.  Noting that today’s gospel reading begins with a few people sitting in a boat, read the story.  Make the reading the official gospel reading for the day by coaching the children to say with you, “This is the Word of the Lord” and gesturing for the congregation to reply with the usual, “Thanks be to God.”

*Many worshipers of all ages know scattered stories about Peter.  Knit them together today to explore Peter’s life as a disciple.  Have the stories read in sequence by different readers.  The texts could be read without interruption preceded and followed by brief preacher’s commentary.  Or, the preacher might offer brief words after each reading.  In either case this would take the majority of the service.  You might also choose to omit some of the readings.
           Called from his boat to fish for people (Luke 5:1-11)
                     Reader comes from place in the congregation 
                     to read.

Peter proclaims, “You are the messiah!”  Jesus replies, 
“You are a rock”  (Matthew 16:13-18)
            Reader stands by baptismal font to read.

            Peter denies 3 times that he even knows Jesus 
            (Luke 22:54-62)
Reader rather angrily huffs his way to other side of 
the baptismal font to read.  Both readers then 
sadly move to the side after the reading.

            Peter is among the first at the empty tomb 
             (John 20:1-10)
Reader runs up the aisle to read.

            Breakfast on the beach – “Do you love me?”  
            “Yes, I love you, Lord.”  (John 21:12-17)
Two readers stand behind communion table 
to read this conversation between Peter and 

             Peter becomes a preacher on Pentecost 
             (Acts 2:1-4, 12-14, 36)
Reader comes from a place in the congregation 
and stands in the pulpit to read.

  Peter heals a man who cannot walk (Acts 3:1-8)
Reader carries a crutch to the front and leans it 
against some handy upright before reading.

            Vision of a table cloth leads Peter to include gentiles
             as Christians too (Acts 10:9-22, 23b, 28)
Choose a reader of different race or ethnic 
background than most in the congregation.

            John’s epilog – Peter will die a martyr (John 21:18-19)
At the end of this reading all readers leave 
down the center aisle.  

*In addition to the discipleship songs at the beginning of this post sing “Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore.”   Point out that it retells the gospel story.  Note its Spanish roots.  Most hymnals include the words in English and Spanish.  Celebrate it further by adding guitars and maracas or other rhythm instruments to your singing.

*To honor Peter’s feelings when he left his home to follow Jesus, read Little Home Bird, by Jo Empson.  At first Little Bird does not want to migrate to a new home in the south, but then he decides he can carry all his favorite things with him.  That of course slows him down and he must discard items one at the time.  When he gets south with his friends, he find new favorite things and comes to enjoy migrating and all the adventures that comes with his new life.   As Little Bird travels with his brothers and find new friends, Peter follows Jesus with his brothers and also finds new friends and has amazing adventures with Jesus.  Especially with younger children leave it as a comparison between Little Bird and Peter.  Older worshipers, even some older children, will compare Peter’s and Little Bird’s moving out experiences with their own.

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