Fourth Sunday of Epiphany
First Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-10
#justachicken by Preston Thorne and Langston Moore
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: In preparing for his “Best in Show” competition, Cocky wakes up all of his friends in the petting zoo. Upon seeing how they’ve prepared for the competition, he becomes intimidated and worries that he’s not cut out for the competition. His fears get the best of him until his fellow Gamecocks remind him of the importance of their work. Once Cocky remembers all of the wonderful things that Gamecocks have to offer, his confidence increases and he participates in the competition after all. Similarly, Jeremiah’s confidence shakes when he realizes that God has called him into service. Jeremiah fears that he’s not up to the challenge and he’s not equipped. God interrupts the prophet to remind him that it is God who has placed the call on Jeremiah and that God would properly equip him for service and ministry. God chooses us for the Lord’s work on earth, regardless of our feelings of adequacy or inadequacy. If God has appointed us for a particular work, we will be filled, equipped, and prepared accordingly.
Second Reading: I Corinthians 13:1-13
Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess by Lisa Marsoli and Disney
(Written for ages 2-6)
Comment: When Sofia becomes a Princess, she learns that she’ll have to dance at the Royal Ball being thrown in her honor. Sofia works hard to learn how to dance the waltz for the ball, but her new siblings and other classmates at Royal Prep are not so excited about her being a new princess. They decide to play tricks on Sofia to make sure she realizes who’s more important and that she doesn’t belong in the palace. Eventually, Sofia’s kind hearted spirit, and a little help from Cinderella, help the others to see that their behavior isn’t nice, helpful, or even loving toward their new sister and friend. At this point in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he’s taking a stance on the behavior of the church’s inability to offer a love that looks anything remotely like Christ. Paul reminds the church that love is the way in which God intends us to practice all of our spiritual gifts, and that the action of love can help the church to realize that there are far more important things than being right, or powerful, or the honored one. Love seeks not it’s own good, but the good of the one who is loved. Sofia’s friends were seeking to hurt her and in doing so they were not showing her a love that seeks to care for her. Paul reminds us that love lasts forever, when all else – palaces, royal balls, gowns, and even titles – fades away.
Gospel Reading: Luke 4:21-30
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
(Written for ages 1-5)
Comment: This text is difficult to interpret as a free-standing text, other that to realize that Christ is the protagonist who is potentially poking the congregation into realizing their exclusive behavior. When Christ points out their lack of inclusivity, the congregation gets mad – very angry, in fact. In their fits of rage, they seek to drive Jesus out of town, but Christ calmly goes about his business and leaves of his own accord. (This passage does well when tied to the 1 Corinthians passage about love, and the message then becomes inclusivity.) Looking at the reactions and behaviors of the congregation, however, we see similar behavior in the Pigeon when he’s told he can’t do something he wants to do. Anger and frustration that lead to rage can be common reactions to anyone, particularly children, when they hear something they don’t want to hear – much like both the pigeon and the congregation. This book is an excellent one for teaching a lesson on behavior, because it allows the children (and adults) to recognize themselves in the actions of the pigeon, and potentially the congregation hearing Christ’s message, too.
Thank you to Katie Barrett Todd, Associate University Pastor at Nebraska Wesleyan University, for writing the Lectionary Links for us for the next four weeks.