NRSV texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service are available at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé
The color from now until Advent is green, with two exceptions: All Saints Day or Sunday (November 1 or 5) and Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday (November 26).
Children’s Sabbath is a U.S.-based interfaith observance sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund. Sunday worship is intended to be only one small part of this annual, nationwide observance, October 20-22. Our General Conference moved the observance of Children’s Sabbath for our congregations in the United States to the second Sunday in October because of our prior programmatic commitment to Laity Sunday, always the third Sunday in October.
The purpose of the Children’s Sabbath observance is social advocacy for the needs of children throughout this nation. This year’s theme is “Moving Forward with Hope: Love and Justice for Every Child.” Children’s Sabbath–a weekend-long observance, primarily in the community–should not be confused with Children’s Sunday, a Sunday worship observance that focuses primarily on drawing attention to the children in our own congregations. For this reason, it is not recommended that today’s worship service be given over to “children’s programming” as such, although it is always recommended that children be given as many opportunities to lead and participate in worship as possible.
In this Service
As noted in the overview for these two Sundays, Children’s Sabbath is not the same thing as Children’s Sunday. It is typical practice on Children’s Sunday for worship to be led almost entirely by children, or for worship to become, in a way, an extended Sunday School class or children’s choir concert or program.
Children’s Sabbath has a different focus and goal. It primarily focuses on the responsibility of adults to advocate for and with children for justice and compassionate responses to the needs of children everywhere. While we always commend inviting children to lead and participate in worship in every way they are able to do so, today’s service should not become a “children’s service” per se. It should, instead, be a regular service built on the fourfold basic pattern (Entrance, Word and Response, Thanksgiving and Communion, Sending Forth), grounded in the Scripture for this day (particularly the Ten Commandments), and connected to the larger theme of the whole church’s ministry of advocacy for children as grounded in the church’s baptismal promises:
to “nurture one another in the Christian faith and life and include these persons now before you in your care…. [to] proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ… surround these persons with a community of love and forgiveness that they may grow in their service to others… [and] pray for them that they may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.”.
Music: Songs children know and can participate in are important today. This does not mean simplistic songs. Children can learn and enjoy singing all sorts of songs, including songs of considerable musical and textual complexity, quite early (by age 2!). If you sing songs you sing regularly with children present, whatever their age, they can probably sing them, too.
With that in mind, focus on songs that speak to the themes of the Scripture reading and sermon for today, but also engage and address children. Examples from The Faith We Sing include “Where Children Belong” (2233), “Gather Us In” (2236), and “Within the Day to Day” (2245). From The United Methodist Hymnal, consider “Jesus’ Hands Were Kind Hands” (273), “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (UMH 519), “Sois la Semilla” (583), and “This Little Light of Mine” (585). “Sois La Semilla” would also work well as a song during Communion.
Visuals: Consider including pictures of children interacting with adults and other children at school, at church, and at play. It is in these interactions that children most frequently learn and practice the basics of the Ten Commandments-- not to steal but to share, not to covet but to enjoy the things of others, not to hit or hurt but to befriend others, how to honor parents and the elderly, and how to rest with others in peace (Sabbath). It is also in these interactions that children most commonly embody what justice and love can look like.
Thanksgiving and Communion: If you do not celebrate Communion today, consider using BOW (United Methodist Book of Worship) 558, an interactive prayer of thanksgiving that speaks of living harmoniously with the physical world around us and our neighbors. If you celebrate Communion, use The Great Thanksgiving for the Season after Pentecost because of its particular focus on justice rolling down like rivers.
For the Upcoming Series
This is the second of two weeks of non-series or one-off services. We resume our series resourcing next week with Laity Sunday. Be sure to promote the launch of the next series as part of today’s service.
Here’s a brief series overview for our next series.
Week One: (Laity Sunday) Luke 10:1-9 Offering Peace
Week Two: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 Welcoming All the People
Week Three: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8 Sharing Our Authentic Selves
In this three-week series, the theme of each service builds on the theme of the one before. First, before anything else, and even before we actually meet others, we make it clear we come in peace and offer peace. Second, before we seek to share anything of our own gifts or agenda with others, we seek to welcome others and the gifts they bring into our lives. Finally, having welcomed others into our lives, we share ourselves.
This whole process involves perhaps a sense of dislocation and relocation for us in our congregations. As church leaders, lay or clergy, we may think of ourselves primarily as the hosts for newcomers. We think of others as wanting or needing to come to us, as if we have all the answers. And so, we may have things backward of what Jesus is actually doing and calling us to do. Jesus sends us as he sent his first disciples– to be guests, not hosts. And we miss the important dynamic of Paul’s letters, where he writes to others of whom he has first been (or anticipates being) a guest. We, like the disciples and Paul, are those who are SENT to others. WE are the outsiders. Those we meet are the hosts.
As an alternative series title, you may wish to consider something like “Flipping the Church,” in the sense of “flipping the curriculum,” an educational practice where what is normally done as homework is instead done in class, and what is done in class is instead done as homework. Ask an educator familiar with this practice in your congregation or community about how this works, and consider how their insights may help you design worship and preaching, and perhaps redesign your emphases as pastors and leaders and your activities as a congregation.
Additional Resources for this Service
Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama