Year A: February 16, 2020
First Reading: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
The Magic Word by Mac Barnett
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: We know what it means to make choices. We choose ice cream rather than cake; a red hat rather than a blue one, a vacation at the beach or in the mountains. Some choices are more important than this, of course, and the scripture today tells us about the most important choice that the Israelites must make. They are at the very edge of the land God is giving them, preparing to enter it. Moses is making his last speech to the people. He will not go into the promised land with them; Joshua will be their new leader. The choice he gives them is this: choose life and prosperity or choose death and adversity. It sounds to us like an easy choice but in some ways it is hard. Choosing life means choosing to obey God, choosing to follow God’s ways and following God’s way is not always easy. The Israelites had to make this choice again and again throughout their history and most of the time they failed. It’s a choice we still have to make.
Paxton reacts badly to his babysitting responding “What’s the magic word?” when he asks for a cookie. So he responds with ‘alakazoomba’ rather than ‘please’. He discovers that saying alakazoomba gets him anything he wants – so he says it over and over, with his requests getting more and more outlandish. He calls forth a walrus to chase away his babysitter, asks for a house with a huge swimming pool in the living room, and when his parents come home and ground him, he just goes to his room and with his magic word, creates more and more elaborate playthings for himself. When his friend Rosie comes over and he explains how alakazomba works, she wonders aloud, “You mean..you could have anything in the world and this is what you asked for?” She has no interest in playing with Paxton in his self absorbed state and eventually Paxton realizes he can have lots of things that look fun and exciting, but without the people he loves around him, it’s not much fun at all. Paxton’s choices, and our choices, should be ones that lead to life.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9
City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: Paul writes to a divided church in Corinth. When you are jealous and think you’re better than another church member you are acting like a baby, says Paul. It is foolish to claim one leader or teacher as better than another because it is God who has claimed you, not one of them. Then Paul compares leaders like himself or Peter or Apollos (or your minister) to gardeners. One planted, one watered, but it was God who gave the growth. Any minister is only God’s servant. And you, Paul says, meaning both Corinthians and us, are God’s field, God’s building.
If you want to focus on the servanthood of all leaders and the idea of growth in our lives, City Green would be a good choice. Marcy lives in a city neighborhood where a boarded up building has been condemned and demolished. The hole in the neighborhood view makes Marcy feel sad every day. In the spring, Marcy and her neighbor Miss Rosa get an idea to plant their seeds in the hole left b the building. Marcy and Miss Rosa go from an idea, to getting a petition to rent a lot from the city, to clearing the rubble, to planting. So many neighbors come together to offer gifts – a rake here, some strong arms to carry away rubble there. Different people all work to make something good happen where decay had been. Old Man Hammer, who used to live in the condemned building, has watched everything from afar, sure that nothing good will happen from all of this but his crankiness doesn’t stop the other neighbors from their contributions. So Marcy is surprised when one evening, she sees Old Man Hammer come into the garden and sprinkle something in the back. As his own planted sunflowers grow, his gruffness diminishes and he and Marcy sit and eat lunch together by their shade, knowing when no one else does, whose flowers they are. What is growing in your life? Who gets the credit?
Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:21-37
Max and Marla Are Having a Picnic by Alexandra Boiger
(Written for ages 3-5)
Comment: In Jesus’ first sermon in Matthew, the disciples have gotten a glimpse of how the Kingdom of God is going to be something different than they were expecting. And in today’s passage, Jesus starts describing more specifically the way that disciples in this new kingdom are to live. The Law says you shall not kill, but Jesus says that anger that kills relationships is also subject to judgement. Jesus recognizes that many relationships suffer estrangement and hurt caused by anger, but says that forgiveness and reconciliation with our brothers and sisters are essential to our relationship with God and central to living in God’s kingdom. Our offering of our gifts to God have little meaning in God’s kingdom without this offering of forgiveness to and restoration with others even if they have hurt us. This is not a simple thing to do – for adults as well as children – but it is a call to a way of life that can bring life.
Max and his friend Marla the owl are best friends and they always celebrate the first day of spring with an elaborate picnic. On a beautiful spring day, they head to their favorite spot and lay everything out. Then Max realizes he has forgotten something and he leaves Marla to wait for him Marla is good at waiting – and napping. And after she falls asleep, a group of squirrels come and eat the picnic that has been so carefully prepared. When Max returns with flowers for Marla and sees what has happened, the perfect picnic is over. Max and Marla don’t feel like being with each other anymore or even looking at each other! But Max worries about Marla, thinking of what she is doing and what she (and he) are missing by not being together. The story ends with Max taking flowers to Marla’s house and creating a cozy nighttime picnic they share together.
The Revised Common Lectionary Links this week are written by Union Presbyterian Seminary graduates Virginia C. Thomas and Ann Thomas Knox.