Ordinary Time (Proper 24) — Children’s Sabbath
Do Not Lose Heart
Genesis 32:22–31, Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:14—4:5
This worship setting is meant to be like a campfire. The worship setting could include a small pup tent, pine boughs, camping equipment, and blankets to sit on for those able (with chairs around the outside for differently abled folks). Prepare an artificial campfire or ring of candles in the middle of the room. Add a Bible and an old pan or pot that might look like it was used for camping (to be used during the Disciples’ Generous Response). Also include the image of a heart; for example, a heart-shaped rock, origami heart, or picture of a heart.
Play recorded music that welcomes people to worship. Some vocal recording possibilities from Community of Christ Sings Audio Recordings include: “El amor nunca pasará” CCS 6, “Jesu, Tawa Pano (Jesus, We Are Here)” CCS 71, Uyai Mose (Come All You People)” CCS 84, “Amen, Siakudumisa! (Amen, Sing Praises to the Lord!)” CCS 109, “Alleluia,” CCS 120, and “Jubilate Deo,” CCS 123.
If suitable, invite those who can to come and sit around the “campfire.” Ask all others to sit close to the circle.
We Gather to Praise
“Kum ba yah, Seigneur” CCS 75
“Fanana” CCS 596
“Kanisa Litajengwa (Oh, Who Will Build the Church Now?)” CCS 338
Welcome to this service of hope! Today is the Children’s Sabbath. Whether you are 4, 40, or 94, you are a beloved child of God. Your presence here is important. Let us take a moment to greet our neighbors and welcome one another in the name of the one who welcomes all, Jesus, our Lord. Congregants greets one another.
Sharing of Good News and Concerns
What “good news” has happened in your lives this past week? Allow time for people to share.
What concerns do you want to share with your church community? Allow time for people to share.
Offer a prayer for the congregation with gratitude for the blessings. Ask for care and comfort for the concerns shared and for all to be mindful of those concerns not shared aloud, but held within our hearts. Let the prayer end as an invocation, that our hearts and minds might be open to the Spirit’s leading during the worship.
Sharing of the Sacred Text: The Parable of the Widow and the Unjust Judge
For thousands of years, sacred stories about God were shared around campfires and tables lit by candlelight. Parents and grandparents told them to their children and grandchildren.
Hold up a Bible. We now have the Bible—that is like a library of sacred stories and writings. But, back then, most people learned about God and Jesus through stories. Today’s scripture reading is Luke 18:1–8, about a widow and an unjust judge.
Read the scripture passage aloud or, preferably, tell it as a story. Highlight our “need to pray always and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). The widow got what she wanted and needed because she stuck to it, continued to raise her voice, and did not give up.
Widows in the time of Jesus were usually poor and had little power. Sometimes we feel like the widow, don’t we? As if we have little power, that someone else is always in charge, and what we feel is important gets pushed aside? …Important matters like ending bullying at school; teaching people to stop judging or being unkind to others because of the color of their skin, or their religion, beliefs, or thoughts. …Matters like cruelty to animals or the abuse of our planet and resources. …That some people have power and money while others go hungry and have to live without necessities, like housing.
So many acts of injustice happen to the poor and powerless. It makes us feel like we want to help. But, we are only one person, we are too young…too old…too busy…too broken, to make a difference. We have no power. Or do we?
When we start to feel like this, we need to remember the lowly mosquito. The mosquito you might ask? How does the mosquito have any power? It is small, frail, easily smacked or shooed away! Think about it: if you have ever been camping and spent a sleepless night in a tent with one of those annoying, buzzing, biting mosquitoes, you understand just how much power they really have.
So remember, we may be small or old, or not have much money, but what we do have, like the widow, is our presence, our voice, and our persistence. We can show up and speak up, believing that God wants us to succeed in caring for creation and for one another. We may be only one person, but if something as small as a mosquito can ruin a night’s sleep, then we, as children of God, can use our intelligence and energy, our hands and feet, and our voices to make a difference. We can nibble away at injustice. And we can stand back up when we get smacked down. If we don’t lose heart, we can help transform God’s world.
The storyteller leads the congregation in a confession prayer by directing the congregation to repeat each phrase.
Lord, forgive us (congregation repeats)
for the times we fall short (congregation repeats)
for the times we forget to be like the widow (congregation repeats)
strong and persistent (congregation repeats)
taking the time and energy to show up and speak out! (congregation repeats)
Prepare us Lord (congregation repeats)
for what you would have us do. (congregation repeats)
Amen. (all together)
Sharing in Song
“Lord, Prepare Me” CCS 280
OR “Lead Me, Lord” CCS 450
Make hearts out of paper or light card stock, with a message of hope written on each one (for example, “God loves YOU!” “Shalom is possible!” “Everyone has worth!”). Attach a candy treat to each heart, if you want. Hide the hearts throughout the worship space. Today you might not know it, but there are some hearts lost in this room. Our theme today is, “Do Not Lose Heart,” so there must be some hearts missing. Let’s take a moment to find them. They look like this. Hold up a sample. All worship participants are free to go looking for the “lost” hearts making sure there are plenty hidden so everyone has a chance to find one. When the group gathers back, ask each person to read aloud what is written on his or her heart.
Let us find hope in our hearts this day!
“Santo, santo, santo (Holy, Holy, Holy)” CCS 159
“Alleluia” CCS 117
“Praise the Lord Together Singing” (sing as a four-part round) CCS 642
Ask several people to be prepared to share a testimony of a time when they felt powerless in the face of injustice but like the widow, moved outside their comfort zones to make a difference or help bring justice into the life of another person or group of people. Intersperse the testimonies with singing “Bring Forth the Kingdom” (refrain only) CCS 387.
OR Talk based on Luke 18:1–8
Prayer for Peace and Justice
Let us pray that our efforts will create a more peace- and justice-filled world!
Light the peace candle.
We Sing for Peace
“Circle Round for Freedom” (if possible, sing with a guitar accompaniment) CCS 383
OR “Shalom chaverim” (may be sung as a round) CCS 653
OR “Dona Nobis Pacem” (sing in three parts) CCS 155
Additional ideas: The Daily Prayer for Peace services offered at the
Temple in Independence, Missouri, are on the church’s website as
Calendar Events at www.CofChrist.org/daily-prayer-for-peace.
Disciples’ Generous Response
On Fire with Generosity
Participants: Adult and a youth or child who has been baptized
Prop: Pot or pan from the worship setting
Practice ahead of time so the reading is conversational, energetic, and fun!
Adult: (looking over the congregation) Where’s the fire?
Youth or Child: Our campfire?
Adult: No, where’s the fire?
Youth or Child: (looking at the campfire) Well, if it’s not up here…where is it? I don’t see any fire out there!
Adult: Did the fire die out?
Youth or Child: (relieved) I hope it’s out. (frustrated) What are you talking about? A fire can destroy everything!
Adult: (spoken hopefully) Perhaps there is a spark left…
Youth or Child: I don’t understand you at all. Do you want the fire to start up again?
Adult: A tiny spark can sometimes kindle a flame.
Youth or Child: We are not on the same wavelength here! First you say the fire is out, then you want to start it again. Are you a firebug?
Adult: (dreamily) …and the flame can spread and grow and envelop the whole world.
Youth or Child: (angrily) Now we are talking real arson here!
Adult: (calmly, turning to the Youth or Child) There is a spark within you.
Youth or Child: Oh, no!—Now you want me to start a fire? It’s not too smart to play with fire!
Adult: (to the Youth or Child, with conviction) …The spark in you is your God-given life. The flame is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If you let it, the Holy Spirit can grow and burn within you so your love for God will become a flame of joy…that will spread to everyone around you. You can become an instrument of God’s hands, a disciple, to bring hope to others, to bring the real meaning of life—of everlasting life.
(turning to the congregation) Where is your fire?
Youth or Child: (to the congregation with feeling) Yes! Where is your fire?
Adult: God has been generous with us! We have the Earth and its plenty; we have one another, and the love and fellowship of this church. We have so much to be thankful for…
Youth or Child: We do have so much, I know how I can start to share God’s love and investment in me. (Goes to the worship center, gets the pot and throws offering of change into the pot…which will make a NOISE.)
What a joyful noise!
Youth or Child then passes through the congregation with the pot, receiving the offering.
Adult: As the offering pot comes around, share generously, your gifts of gratitude, if you don’t have offering to share please touch the pot to bless the offerings to keep the flame of mission alive, in this congregation and in God’s world.
—Naomi Alexander, “Where Is the Fire?” in Prayers and Readings for Worship, vol. 2,
Peter Judd, ed., (Herald Publishing House, 1996, ISBN 9780830907199), 82, adapted.
For additional ideas and resources, see Disciples’ Generous Response Tools at www.CofChrist.org/disciples-generous-response-tools.
Blessing of Mission Tithes
Songs of Commitment
As the campfire comes to a conclusion, use these songs to set a spirit of unity and community. Consider having people join hands for the last song.
“I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me” CCS 581
OR “In My Life, Lord” CCS 602
“Jesus Loves Me” CCS 251
OR “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” CCS 499
“We Are One in the Spirit” CCS 359
OR “Blest Be the Tie that Binds” CCS 325
Go in Peace
Ordinary Time (Proper 24)
Exploring the Scripture
Most parables have one central idea from which we draw our main theme and conclusion. However, the parable of the unjust judge and the widow has several themes.
Will you choose to contrast the differences between the unjust judge and a just God? In this theme we first see that God and God’s son, Jesus Christ, have compassionate hearts for the widow, orphan, and stranger. In contrast is a society represented by an unjust judge who finds dealing with the needs of the widow to be a nuisance to the court and to his role of authority as judge. However, to the surprise of all, even the judge at the end, whether because he simply wanted to stop the widow’s endless complaining or because it was the right action to take, decides in her favor.
Will you focus on the faith of the widow who shows that through persistent prayer a compassionate God and even an unjust judge will hear you? The scriptures tell us in many different ways that faith is the assurance of things hoped for and faith as small as a mustard seed will place you in the direct path of God’s compassionate love.
Widows in Jewish society in ancient times had no standing or power. The widow shows great courage and strong faith. She consistently shows up in the judge’s court to tell her story of unjust acts against her. She also shows great faith by persistently praying for God’s intervention. Surprisingly, in the end, her courage and faith are both rewarded. The judge rules in her favor.
Finally, your sermon focus could be on society’s and the church’s need to pay attention to those who are treated unjustly or those in need. In Jesus’ day widows, orphans, and those who were poor were the outcasts. Today who would you identify as outcast? Would it still be those who are poor? Would it be those not able to receive the healing care they need for whatever reasons? Would it be the unjust disparity between the wealthy and everyone else?
We know Jesus had a keen focus on those who were treated unjustly, those who were downtrodden, and those enmeshed in sin. What is the role of the church when it comes to addressing the needs of these people? Focusing on this theme in the parable will challenge us to be honest about our own congregation’s missional focus. For in the end, even the unjust judge ruled in the woman’s favor. God’s compassion in these circumstances is clear, unwavering, and always emanates from unconditional love.
- God hears our prayers.
- Society and the church have a sacred responsibility to address injustices.
- God is compassionate. Even the unjust in authority can be transformed.
- The church and disciples of Jesus must be in the forefront of those movements bringing about justice.
Questions to Consider
- When have you experienced the transforming power of prayer?
- Who is unjustly treated in your community?
- How might your congregation identify and address acts of injustice?
- What is your response to God’s plea for compassion toward those who are lonely, despised, fearful, neglected, and unloved?
- What do a church, neighborhood, place of work, community, and nation look, feel, sound, and act like when courageously addressing injustices?