Year A: September 24th, 2017
First Reading: Exodus 16:2-15
Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach by Melanie Watt
(Written for ages 5-8)
Comment: In Exodus, the Israelites have been miraculously rescued from Egypt— a place of oppression and brutality—and are on their way to the Promised Land through the wilderness. But instead of being happy, they start to complain to Moses and Aaron. They complain that it would have been better to die in the brutality of Egypt than be where they are now. In their memories, Egypt is a place of abundance and fullness, good food and provision, and they don’t want to go forward. They want to go back. But God shows them the goodness even here in the wilderness—quail to eat and bread every morning. Moses tells them that God has provided for them here in the wilderness. Only by moving forward will they get to enjoy this bounty that God provides. In Scaredy Squirrel At the Beach, Scaredy Squirrel wants to go to the beach, but he is scared. There are so many things that could go wrong at the beach. It would be better and easier to stay where he is and create his own little beach here. It will be exactly the same, right? He creates a beach out of kitty litter, paper and an inflatable pool. But then he discovers he’s missing seashells and ends up having to go to the real beach to get them. Going there, he, unhappily at first, runs into a crowd of people. But then he starts to build sandcastles, swim in the ocean, and play with the people. He realizes the real beach is a lot of fun. Scaredy Squirrel was scared to leave where he was and go somewhere new. hHe thought the new place could never be as good as where he was, but it turned out to be very good and it had just what he needed. Both the Israelites and Scaredy Squirrel were scared to go somewhere new. They sought the protection of where they had been and what was familiar, even if it wasn’t exactly right. But they both discovered that the place they were afraid to go had exactly what they needed! Sometimes we are scared to go somewhere new and we complain about the differences from what we knew before. But God is always providing, and will provide, exactly what we need, wherever we are.
Second Reading: Philippians 1:21-30
When I Get Bigger by Mercer Mayer
(Written for ages 3-7)
Comment: Little Critter is stuck between the future and now. He is stuck between the time when he will get bigger and all the things he imagines will happen, and now, when he is still little. He describes all the things he will do on that elusive day that he “gets bigger”, but then laments that, now, he has to go to bed because he is not big yet. Paul writes in Philippians that he is similarly stuck between two places, between the future and now. He longs to be with the Lord Jesus, but also to be here with the congregations he helped found, to help build them up in faith. But he knows he is here now and what is his purpose is at this moment, even as he continues to dream about the future. As Christians we are stuck between the same two places, between our desire to be with the Lord Jesus and have all things be made new, and the reality of where we are now. In that, we can find contentment in living lives worthy of the gospel and standing firm in our faith, here and now.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 20:1-16
A Baby Sister for Frances by Russell Hoban
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: Jesus’ parable in Matthew can have many interpretations. Within the parable, the earliest workers in the vineyard feel slighted because they have seen other workers come along later in the day, working less, and yet, when the time for payment comes, they are all paid the same. The later workers are pleased and delighted, but the earliest workers feel, as their boss says, envious because he is generous. They don’t want the other workers to get as much payment as they do. In A Baby Sister for Frances, Frances does not like all the changes around her house since the new baby arrived. However, those changes mostly take the form of Frances not being the sole focus of attention anymore and the baby getting some of the attention she feels she deserves. She tries to “run away” under the kitchen table to express her displeasure, but her parents convince her to return and she grows accustomed to the baby. Sometimes we are like the earliest workers, frustrated at what doesn’t seem fair, or like Frances, wanting the focus all on ourselves. But the kingdom of heaven is broad, and we don’t want to be envious because our Lord is generous. We want to celebrate each other’s presence and share.
Thanks to Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Sara Anne Berger for writing the Lectionary Links this week.