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January 2012

Turn Around

John the Baptist (right) with child Jesus, painting by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo

For the First Sunday after Epiphany

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Scripture Reference: Mark 1:4-11 and Acts 19:1-7

Can anyone tell me what the word repent means? (Child may offer a definition.) If you are doing something bad and you repent, what do you do? You stop doing the wrong thing and begin doing the right thing. The word repent means “to turn around and go the other way.” Could I have a volunteer to help demonstrate the word repent? (Pick a volunteer.)

I would like our helpful volunteer to walk down the center aisle toward the back of the church until you hear me say, “Repent!” That word is almost the same as “About face!” When you hear “Repent!,” you turn around and come back. Let’s try it. (Let the volunteer get partway down the aisle and then call them back with the word repent.) Did this person repent? Yes, they turned around and came back. If only we all could repent as quickly as that!

Before Jesus began preaching, a man named John the Baptist told people to repent. He told them they were going the wrong way; they weren’t thinking about God at all. He wanted them to stop walking away from God, to turn around and walk toward God. And when someone had repented, John the Baptist would baptize him or her in the river.

Was this the same kind of baptism that happens here in church on some Sundays? Was this the same kind of baptism that you had when you were a baby? No, not quite. John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism were different. John was sent by God to get people ready for Jesus. He turned them around and got them to face the right direction. John baptized with water to show that the people had repented and were now living good, clean lives. When you are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, your sin is washed away and something else happens: you are brought into God’s family. In baptism, you become a child of God.

But even though we belong to God and have been baptized into God’s family, we sometimes go in the wrong direction. We sometimes turn away from God and do bad things. That’s when we need to remember the word repent. Then we can turn around and face the right direction. And God will help us repent and turn around.

(After the prayer, you may have all the children practice “doing” the word repent by having them face forward and then turn around to face their parents before returning to their seats. You may say something like the following.) Let’s have everyone face me. Now I’m going to ask all of you to repent and turn to face the other direction. You can all turn around and face your families, and go join them once again.

 Prayer: Forgive us, Lord Jesus, when we go the wrong way. Help us to repent, to turn around and walk with you down the right path. Thank you for forgiving us and walking with us.



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