Year A: February 16, 2014
First Reading: Deuteronomy 30:15-20
That Is NOT a Good Idea! By Mo Willems
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: Moses concludes his speech to the Israelites with a choice between “life and prosperity”, or “death and adversity”. He then wisely exhorts them to “choose life”. Sometimes choices exist in grey areas, but for the Israelites there is clearly a good choice and a bad choice before them. With the choice of life will come blessings and prosperity and God’s continued favor. It seems easy, but the Israelites still seem to need encouragement to make the better choice of life. In Mo Willems’ book That is NOT a Good Idea!, several chicks watch as a fox tries to entice an unsuspecting goose into coming back to his house, while really intending to eat the goose for dinner! With every decision, the chicks cry out “That is not a good idea!”—although it turns out they were crying it out to the fox! But, in any case, the chicks’ warning echoes Moses’ exhortation to the Israelites. It is clear which path they should choose. The other way, the way of death and adversity, is not a good idea, Moses says—so choose life.
Second Reading: I Corinthians 3:1-9
Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
(Written for ages 6-12)
Comment: The Corinthians need to grow up, because their purpose is to grow. They are God’s field, ready to grow, but they worry about who planted them in the field, who waters them. Paul says they should stop fighting and think about the truly important part of being God’s field: growing and bearing fruit. The apostles are there to plant and water and the Corinthians are to be a fruitful field, but God has the most important job of all: the growth. The Corinthians should cease fighting over who plants and waters and focus instead on God and the growth God gives them. Will Allen, in Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table, has the same dream as Paul: to do the work of planting and watering and to watch a garden grow. Will Allen looked on an empty lot in Milwaukee and saw the potential for growth, and through innovation and help from other people, he planted a garden in the midst of the city. Will Allen certainly valued the dirt he prepared and the seeds he sowed and watered, but knew that what was most important was for those seeds to grow into vegetables, fruit, and flowers for everyone to enjoy. Whether real gardens, or the figurative fields of disciples, they both certainly require planting and watering, nurturing and care, but the growth is most important.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:21-37
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
(Written for ages 6-9)
Comment: Jesus’ teachings here are challenging, in general, but particularly for children. Jesus’ words on divorce may alarm children who come from families of divorce, and Jesus’ words on anger may seem an impossible standard for young children who are just learning to recognize and control emotions. Perhaps the best portion of this passage to explore with children is Jesus’ exhortation to reconcile with our brothers and sisters. Sometimes we hurt one another, and when we do that, we need to do our best to repair that relationship. In The Invisible Boy, Brian is ignored by everyone in his class. While they don’t ignore out of malice, he still feels the sting of being left out and overlooked. When Justin joins the class, the other children make fun of him, so Brian decides to befriend him. Eventually, Justin also becomes friends with the other children and he also returns Brian’s kindness, inviting Brian to join a class project where he’s noticed at last. Even though Brian knows what it is to be hurt by others, he acts out of kindness toward Justin. Justin acts out of kindness in return but also helps repair the relationship between Brian and the other children. Our relationships are not perfect, but when we are hurtful, we can always change our behavior and reconcile.
The Lectionary Links this week are written by Sara Anne Berger, Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna and pastor of the Whitmire Presbyterian Church, Whitmire, SC.