1 As children come in, let them watch some children from your class who are, in pairs, guiding each other carefully round an obstacle course of benches, chairs and similar bits of furniture. One member of each pair is blindfolded. Their partner walks close beside them, holding their hand if they want, and talking them through the obstacle ahead and how to get round it.
2 Ask everyone what the blindfolded person had to do to get round the course. They had to trust the person leading them, even when they couldn't see where they were going.
Thank your class and let them sit down.
3 So trust means believing someone enough to act on what they tell you. Here is a story about three people who trusted God enough to do something really brave for him.
Have children take the parts of the three friends, Nebuchadnezzar, the musicians (armed with party squeakers or percussion instruments), two astrologers, two strong soldiers and the stranger, and act the story out as you tell it. You could have a chair for the king's throne, a netball post for the statue and a gym mat for the furnace.
There were once three friends with very unusual names: Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego. They lived far away from their real home. They lived in the land of Babylon long before Jesus was born. And the king of Babylon was called Nebuchadnezzar. Now Nebuchadnezzar ordered a huge golden statue to be built and set up where everyone could see it. He ordered that every time the musicians played, everyone in Babylon had to fall down and worship the statue. If they didn't they would be thrown into a fiery furnace.
So every time the instruments played, everyone fell down and worshipped the golden statue. Everyone that is, except the three friends, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego. They stayed standing up, even when everyone around them was flat on the ground, because they worshipped God.
Well, the astrologers came to the king and told him that the three friends weren't obeying him. And the king was furious! He sent for the three friends.
He shouted at them. 'You've got one last chance! Fall down and worship my statue or you will be thrown into the fiery furnace! Then what god will rescue you?'
Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego replied calmly, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we trust God. If you throw us into the fiery furnace, we trust he can rescue us from it and from you. But even if he doesn't, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods or worship your statue.'
Then Nebuchadnezzar went purple with rage. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual, then he ordered the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up the three friends and throw them into the furnace, fully clothed. The furnace was so hot that the soldiers were killed by the flames. And the three friends fell into the furnace.
BUT then the king leapt to his feet in amazement. He asked his astrologers, 'Didn't we throw three men into the furnace? Look! I can see four men walking around in the fire! They're not tied up and they're not hurt and the fourth one looks like a son of the gods!' He called the three friends out of the furnace, and they weren't even singed. They didn't even smell of smoke.
And Nebuchadnezzar was so flabbergasted that he shouted, 'Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, who sent his angel to rescue his servants. They trusted in him and refused to obey me and were ready to give up their lives rather than worship any other god. So now I decree that everyone should worship this God!' And he gave Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego special jobs to do ruling the country.
4 Here are some questions to think about.
- I wonder how the three friends felt when they were the only ones standing up in front of the statue?
- I wonder whether they thought they were going to live or die?
- I wonder who the fourth person in the furnace was?
- I wonder where you are in this story?
Dear God, help us to trust you, even when you ask us to do difficult things. Help us to do the right thing, not the easy thing, trusting that you see everything we do.