Monday, January 14, 2019

Year C - Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany (February 24, 2019)

“Dear God, let my love be stronger than my anger” 

*Three of today’s four texts deal with forgiving, even forgiving enemies.  Desmond Tutu’s prayer at the end of his story of Joseph forgiving his brothers offers a good discussion starter with children.  Begin by asking children to name some things that make them really angry.  If it feels right, ask them to show with their faces how they feel when they get angry.  Note that we all get angry sometimes.  We just do.  Insist that as angry as they can get, you know they are also very kind, loving people.  Ask a series of questions such as “who has ever helped your mom or dad do something,” “who has taken care of a brother or sister so your mom or dad could do something they needed to do,” “who has ever sat down to talk with the new kid in the class or on the team,” etc.  Then introduce Tutu’s prayer.  Briefly tell why it is a good prayer for people who can be both angry and loving.  Help the children repeat it after you, then invite the whole congregation to join you in praying it together.

* Highlight “Forgive us our debts/transgressions/sins, as we forgive…” in the Lord’s Prayer.  Before the congregation prays it, point to the phrase.  Talk about all the things people do to each other that need forgiving.  Include everything from saying mean things, hitting, taking what isn’t ours, and playing mean tricks on people to really hurting someone, even going to war with them.  Insist that the only difference between friends and enemies is that the friends forgive each other.  Challenge worshipers to think of friends they need to forgive so they don’t become enemies.  Then, pray the whole prayer together.

The Texts for the Day

Genesis 45:3-11,15

*Younger children will need to be told that this is not the Joseph who married Mary and was in the stable when Jesus was born.  This Joseph lived hundreds of years earlier.

*This is one small scene in the much larger story of Joseph.  Many children with a small reminder will recall the story of Joseph and his brothers.  Once you have remembered that together, simply tell them Joseph worked for long tiring years as a slave, then he landed in prison where he spent two long boring years.  Then read “Joseph Feeds and Forgives” from Children of God Storybook Bible, a very concise version of the story by Desmond Tutu.

*After reading and perhaps preaching on Joseph, connect him to Psalm 37:39-40.  Present it as a prayer poem Joseph might have recited while he was a slave and a prisoner.

Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40

*This is one of the alphabet psalms with paragraphs beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  Each paragraph says something about how to cope with the fact that sometimes bad people seem to be doing better than good ones.  Savor that by asking a different reader to read one paragraph each.  Readers could be a random selection of good readers of all ages or could be from an older children’s class. 


Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40

Aleph                   Do not get heated about the wicked
or envy those who do wrong.
Quick as the grass they wither,
fading like the green of the fields.
Bet                        3 Put your trust in Yahweh and do right,
make your home in the land and live secure.
4 Make Yahweh your joy
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Gimel                   5 Commit your destiny to Yahweh,
be confident in him, and he will act,
6 making your uprightness clear as daylight,
and the justice of your cause as the noon.
Dalet                    7 Stay quiet before Yahweh, wait longingly for him,
do not get heated over someone who is making a fortune,
succeeding by devious means.
He                         8 Refrain from anger, leave rage aside,
do not get heated—it can do no good;
9 for evil-doers will be annihilated,
while those who hope in Yahweh shall have the land for their own.
Waw                    10 A little while and the wicked will be no more,
however well you search for the place, the wicked will not be there;
11 but the poor will have the land for their own,
to enjoy untroubled peace.
Taw                      39 The upright have Yahweh for their Saviour,
their refuge in times of trouble;
40 Yahweh helps them and rescues them,
he will rescue them from the wicked,
and save them because they take refuge in him.

                                       The New Jerusalem Bible


*Rather than read this entire selection, read only verses 7-8.  After reading them, note that there are lots of verbs in those two verses.  Read out all the verb phrases, e.g. “be patient” or “don’t’ let it bother you”.  Note that there are some days when each of us needs to hear each of those phrases, then reread the verses.

Be patient and trust the Lord.
Don’t let it bother you
when all goes well for those
who do sinful things.
8 Don’t be angry or furious.
Anger can lead to sin

1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50

*This is the outlier among today’s texts, but it asks a question that children ask, mostly in a detached, curious way unless they have experienced the death of someone close to them.  Paul’s answer with its reference to the first and last Adam makes no sense to children.  But, they can hear Paul’s message that we really do not know what we will be like after we die.  God has kept that as a secret surprise for us.  But we do know that we will be with God and that things will be good.  It is best to share this with children in your own words or perhaps using one of these books.  None of them are specifically Christian, but they are based on Paul's ideas.  (They are also good to have on hand to pass to families that are dealing with death.)

The idea behind Waterbugs and Dragonflies, by Doris Stickney, is that we don’t know what happens when we die because people can’t come back.  They have changed into something wonderful and new, just as we will when we die.

Lifetimes: the beautiful way to explain death to children, by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen, is meant to be read and pondered with a few children and the luxury of time.  In worship it would be possible to shorten it by omitting the descriptions of some of the kinds of living things simply noting as you flipped past them “NAME OF LIVING THING has a lifetime.”  The point is that every living thing lives and dies.  That is the plan.

The Next Place, by Warren Hanson, seems most nearly Christian of these books.  It is a poem filled with images and spread across artful pages.  It takes a full 5 minutes to read aloud and cannot be shortened.  One good way to read it would be at the conclusion of a sermon unpacking Paul’s message for the adults.  Worshipers of all ages appreciate it.

Luke 6:27-38

*This is a long text.  Children will quickly get lost in all the details.  Help them catch Jesus’ message by inviting them forward to help you present the gospel for the day.  Note as they gather that this is a long text and that you have made some posters of Jesus’ main points for everyone to listen for.  Read each point and give the poster to a child or group of children.  Briefly comment on each one as you work through them, perhaps noting how hard they are to do.  Tell them to raise their poster when they hear their point.  Then read the text pointing to the poster bearers as their phrase comes up.  Points could be some or all of the following

Love your enemies
Do good to those who hate you
Pray for those who are mean to you
Do to others as you would have them do to you
Love and do good to all without expecting anything in return

Thank the children and send them back to their seats.

*If you read this sermon after reading the story of Joseph forgiving his brothers, begin by saying that you think Jesus knew the story of Joseph forgiving his brothers and was thinking about him when he said this. 

*Jesus goes into a lot of detail here, but has two points both that make sense to children.  The first is “do unto others as you would have them do to you”(6:31).  The second is closely related but often passed by, “the way you treat others is the way you will be treated”(6:38c).  You have to read verse 37 to get the full impact of the second one.     Jesus said: Don’t judge others, and God won’t judge you. Don’t be hard on others, and God won’t be hard on you. Forgive others, and God will forgive you…..The way you treat others is the way you will be treated(by God). (6:37-38c)

Humorous Warning:  When I first connected these verses I thought it would be easy to ask children how they want others to treat them, then ponder what that says about how we treat others.  Next I was thinking of asking the children how they wanted God to treat them….   After a moment or two I realized that some child would probably say “ I want God to give me a…” at which point all the children would go into God as Santa Claus mode and you would never get back to Jesus” point.  So, don’t go there. 😉

*  Enemy Pie, by Derek Munson, tells the story of a boy who saw his new neighbor as an enemy.  His dad volunteers to help get rid of the enemy by baking enemy pie.  One ingredient was that the boys had to spend one afternoon together before the pie could be served.  You can guess what happened.  The enemy became a friend.  Our challenge is to turn enemies into friends.  (It is important to note that it is often harder to do than it is in this book, but that the book gives us a good goal.) 

Sing child friendly hymns about loving people, even those who are hard to love.

*Before singing “The Servant Song” ask worshipers to silently think about the people it is hardest for them to love and forgive.  Then invite them to sing the song for those people.
This wordsheet may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes citing this blog.

*Sing “Jesu, Jesu Fill Us with Your Love” especially if it is a song the children know from church school, camp etc.

*Invite worshipers to sing “Gather Us In” using the word sheet below.  Alert them to all the different people in colored print and the grand last chorus.

This wordsheet may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes citing this blog.

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