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January 2012

Hiding from God

For the Third Sunday after Epiphany

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Scripture Reference: Jonah 1:1-17

Preparation: Bring a large blanket or dark-colored sheet.

Have any of you heard about a man named Jonah? (Let children respond.) Jonah was a prophet of God; he would listen to God and tell the people what God said. One day, God told Jonah to go to a big city and tell the people who lived there that they were being very wicked and that they needed to change their ways. Jonah did not want to do this. He didn’t like the people in that city, and maybe he was afraid of them. Jonah decided to run away and hide from God, so he caught the first ship out of town and away he went.

Do you think Jonah was able to hide from God? What if Jonah hid way down deep inside a ship? Could he hide from God there? (Let children answer.) Well, Jonah did hide in a ship. But God sent a big storm and tossed that boat around so much that the other sailors thought they were going to drown. They found out that it was Jonah’s fault that their ship was being blown about, so do you know what they did? (Let children respond.) They tossed him overboard, and the storm stopped.

Did God let Jonah drown? No! What did he send to save Jonah? (Children may answer.) A great big fish. And what did the fish do? It swallowed Jonah, and Jonah sat in the belly of the fish. Was it a good hiding place from God? No. God can always see us.

(Here you may offer your own story about hiding. My example follows.) I know a little girl who would tiptoe past me with her hands over her eyes. She figured that if she couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see her. Does that work? No. I could still see her. There are people today—even grownups—who think that if they can’t see God, that God doesn’t exist. Is that true? No. That’s like tiptoeing around with your hands over your eyes.

Should we try hiding this morning? Let’s all close our eyes and try to hide from the congregation. Everyone close your eyes. (Now speak to the congregation.) Can you still see us? That didn’t work too well. But I brought a big blanket with me today. I bet if we all get under it, we’ll be able to hide. Let’s try it! (All get under blanket.)

Now the congregation can’t see us, can they? But can God still see us? Yes. We can’t hide from God. He is always watching over us because he loves us and wants to protect us.

Do you know what finally happened to Jonah? The big fish brought Jonah to shore, and Jonah did finally go to that big city. The people listened to Jonah and stopped doing the bad things. Their lives changed because Jonah finally brought to them the message from God.

Lord God in heaven, we can’t hide from you. You know what we do and what we think. Give us the strength and courage to do all the things that you want us to do.

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