Become like a child – resources for a service of worship

Call to worship

Listen! There is an invitation for you to open this morning,

The one who loves us is seeking our heart.

The breezes are whispering it;

The sunrise announces it;

The earth trembles with the energy of it:

Let us be still and quiet so we may hear,

and hearing, let delight overcome our caution;

let our hearts resonate with the joy of God’s call.

The call to receive love,

the call to offer love,

the call to know grace,

the call to show grace.

There is an invitation for us to open this morning – 

We are here, we are listening.

Reflective prayer

We give thanks for those things
which keep our hearts light
and our minds excited and stimulated by life.
Not that we may be heedless of the brokenness of our world -
but that we may also be truly thankful
for all that is good and hopeful in our lives.

We give thanks for those things 
which keep our curiosity alight 
and foster openness to new discoveries.
Give us grace and wisdom
for the right use of power and imagination.

We give thanks for the people who inspire us
by their actions and creativity.
O God of community and connection,
We are your children.
In every season of our lives, 
may we stay alert to the patterns of growth -
and those things which the young can teach us
about the world because of the wonder
which they feel in seeing things for the first time.

O God
We praise you
For the blessing of new relationships and enduring partnerships;
Which teach us that our knowledge of each other,
And our knowledge of you,
Grows and moves and changes over the course of our lives.
Amen.

 Rev Karen Watson Church of Scotland - adapted

Scripture reading

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Matthew 18: 1-5

Turning the tables on status and power

Jesus turned many of the norms upside down in his teaching stories and also in his choices about who to talk to, who to eat with, who to touch, who to forgive, who to call and who to call out.

But perhaps this turning of the tables is most surprising. Greatness is almost always associated with power over resources, strength to subdue rivals and the capacity to prevail against challenges. Children and greatness did not seem a natural pairing then and they do not now.

Here’s why: children are vulnerable and dependent. A child does not have the physical strength to subdue rivals and secure resources. Children are inexperienced, their view of the world is limited so there is naivety of judgement and their reactions are immature – of course!

And yet, the child is the model of discipleship we are offered by Jesus – what might he pointing us to?

Conversation starters

  • in small groups, brainstorm together the childlike qualities that you think might help to make us good disciples – Jesus mentions humility in this scripture, but what other qualities do you associate with childlikeness? You might like to feed these qualities back into the large group before moving on to the next piece.
  • then consider together: how might these qualities help us follow Jesus and be participants in the work of the Kingdom of Heaven? What difference might it make if we were more willing and able to embrace humility, for example? Another opportunity for large group feedback here if you want.
  • take turns telling a story from your childhood where you remember living out any one of the qualities you have come up with in your brainstorm – what was that like and why do you remember that story, do you think?

Wake up to Wonder

One of the remarkable things about children is that they have the capacity to go at a million miles an hour AND they can go so slowly it’s like they are almost in rewind. As we get older, we tend to pick a pace and more or less stick to it, and for many of us that pace is almost always about moving forwards, advancing toward the next goal, looking for short cuts if possible. That’s what a results based economy is interested in – maximum output and maximum gain. That’s what our culture seems to value and that’s often what we are judged against if our lives don’t reflect a busy, success driven attitude.

The freshness of a childlike approach means that there is no jaded ‘been there, done that, seen it before’ when life offers us opportunities to wonder, to slow down and really look, really focus and sink in to the beauty of a butterfly, to the reassuring comfort of a hug, to the fascinating retractable stalk eyes of a snail.

Play dough all age activity

You can make your own play dough – it’s super easy! There’s a recipe for you here:

MATERIALS LIST: Play-dough (enough for a small fist-full for each person), prepare baggies of play-dough for each worshipper, set in baskets at the end of rows if sitting in pews or easily accessible for helpers to hand out to each person. You can do this as part of your response to the scripture reading or as an activity while the above conversations are happening.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Before directing people to make a snail with their playdough, consider giving some space for folks to play a little first. You could offer prompts suggesting that perhaps they might like to use the play dough to form a prayerful response to the scriptures and/or the conversations around childlikeness….perhaps sculpting a childlike value they would like to explore more….perhaps shaping something that expresses their relationship with God… giving time for simple, prayerful creative play, for noticing what thoughts, feelings or associations arise, what fears or enjoyment may be present can be a meaningful re-connection with childlikeness. It might be helpful to play some quiet music as an audio frame for this segment.

  • Invite everyone to respond to the Word by making a play-dough snail. This snail will be a companion and guide as we begin the week in wonder and explore child-like characteristics throughout this ‘Praying for Children’ week.
  • It may be helpful to project a picture of a Play-dough snail for all to see an example. Consider inviting a child/youth who you have prepped beforehand to share an example they have made prior to worship. Children/youth could pair up with adults.
  • Place step-by-step instructions onto the screen for those who would like them and talk them through but also leave it open for those who want to create their snail in their own way. Some will want instructions and others will not.
  • Step-by-Step instructions: (if you prefer a video, there are many on YouTube, one suggested link is here.
  • Once you have your play-dough in hand, roll it within your hands to make a long rope
    • Take your long rope shape and roll it up to form the spiral shell of the snail, leaving a little bit of the rope shape at the end
    • Form the last part of the rope shape into the snail’s head
    • Have fun making it your own! You could mold part of the head into antennae or use a pencil or pen to etch some eyes (for fun!) or some designs into the shell.
    • Take your snail with you, placing it somewhere in your house where you will see it.
    • Blessing: May God guide us through this week slowly as a snail, remembering to open up to wonder, giving attention, innocence, curiosity, playfulness, ongoing questions, and trust through the eyes of a child!  

The most beautiful experience we can have is of the mysterious. The person to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.

Albert einstein

Prayers of the People

ONE: thank you, God, for our families. For the people we live with and for the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who belong in our family too. Thank you for our church family, where we have people of all ages who care about us and who help us live life full on. Thank you, God for each one.

May we all know the blessing of belonging and being loved.

TWO: We are sorry, God, for when we cause hurt to each other or to your beautiful world. Help us to notice when we are in the wrong and to be courageous in admitting it. Show us ways to work for good and to act out of love alone.

THREE: please, God, we pray for families where there is fighting and where people don’t feel safe. We pray for all the people where countries are at war, we pray for peace – for the peace of listening and forgiveness, for the peace of love and comfort, for the peace of courage and generosity.

FOUR: One last thing, God, help us to know you are with us always. Help us to remember we can talk to you anytime we need to, and say whatever we need to. Help us to notice the good things we have in our lives, and to open more to joy, to give ourselves to wonder and to let love and forgiveness flow in our lives.

We ask all these things in Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Blessing

Now is the time to free your heart,

to free the joy inside,

and to awaken to the wonder of your life.

Now is the time to let go of busy-ness as a measure of success,

to free yourself of rush and hurry

and to know steadfast kindness

and the long, slow gaze of love are your heart’s true home.

So may the grace of God direct you along the road of life;

May the peace of Christ embrace you;

and the breath of Spirit bless you, restore you and keep you, always.

Amen

Take it home – Practicing wonder

Take your play dough snail home and put it somewhere that will catch your eye at least once or twice during the day – perhaps find a spot that will give you a bit of a surprise…in the fridge? Where you normally keep the car keys? On the tv remote?

Let your snail remind you of the intention to slow down this week, to wonder and give attention to the challenge of childlike discipleship.

Here are a couple of books you might enjoy – with the young, the young at heart and the young ‘un in all of us: The snail and the whale ; Escargot

Awaken to awe

Take some time over the next few weeks to go out in the evening when it is good and dark. Wrap yourself in a blanket and stand outside for 10 minutes.

Get as far away from lights as you safely can. Look up at the sky and see what you can see. Just stand quietly and take it all in. Read the version of Psalm 8 below when you get back inside.

Alternatively, get up just before dawn and take in the sunrise as a fresh new day dawns.

A version of Psalm 8

Wonderful Creator, the universe demonstrates your greatness.

The scale of creation is beyond our comprehension,

     yet babies and children wonder at its detail.

Creation is ordered by you;

     there is no power beyond your control.

When we look at the stars set in the night sky,

     even the moon, where humans have set foot,

     we know we are insignificant,

    and wonder that you care for us individually.

Yet, you have given us the power to investigate our surroundings,

     and learn a little of how matter is formed.

You have offered us shared responsibility

    for other living creatures, for plants,

    for preserving the beauty of landscape,

    and to work with us to complete your creation here on earth.

Wonderful Creator, the universe demonstrates your greatness.

From A Heart for Creation:worship resources and reflections on the environment Chris Polhill (2010) Wild Goose Publications. Administered in Australia and NZ by Willow Publishing Pty Ltd. www.willowpublishing.com.au. Used with permission. All rights reserved. 

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