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Will My Hamster Go To Heaven?

Children's Liturgy and Story
Call to Worship:
Jesus responded to a trick question by telling people the good news that after death we live on forever in a new kind of life. In our worship today, let us explore the theme of life after death.

Invitation to Confession:

Jesus, sometimes I find it hard to believe in life after death. Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, sometimes I'm afraid of Judgement Day. Christ, have mercy.

Jesus, sometimes I try to hide myself from you so that you won't know what I'm really like. Lord, have mercy.

Luke 20:27-38 (NRSV)

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him [28] and asked him a question, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. [29] Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; [30] then the second [31] and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. [32] Finally the woman also died. [33] In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her."

[34] Jesus said to them, "Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; [35] but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. [36] Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. [37] And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. [38] Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."

Life after death is a difficult subject, but one which fascinates most people. Adults may be a little reticent about discussing it, but children are more forthright.

Today's story is a conversation between Nigel and his mother, after Nigel's hamster dies.

Will My Hamster Go To Heaven?

"Mummy," asked Nigel, "will my hamster go to heaven?"

"Of course he will, dear," said Nigel's mother reassuringly, turning the pages of the newspaper.

"Will my cat go to heaven?"

Nigel's mother sighed and laid down the paper. "Of course! You wouldn't like heaven if there weren't any animals, would you?"

"Does everybody go to heaven, even bad people?"

Nigel's mother paused and said cautiously, "Why do you ask?"

Nigel replied with impeccable logic, "Well, my hamster died because the cat got him. That means the cat's bad, so why should the cat go to heaven? Anyway, isn't heaven a place where everyone's happy all the time? My hamster won't be very happy if he's being chased by the cat all over again. That sounds more like hell."

"Ah, but it's different for animals. They don't have any choice. Cats are programmed to chase small rodents like mice and hamsters, so the cat wasn't evil. He was just doing what comes naturally and you can't be punished for that."

Nigel thought about that for a moment. But he still wasn't satisfied. "When Mr Jones down the road touched Milly Oliver in the wrong way, he said he was doing what comes naturally. But he got punished for it. He was sent to prison."

Nigel's mother shuddered. "That awful man! I don't want you thinking about him, Nigel."

"But will he go to heaven?"

Nigel's mother considered. Finally she asked, "What do you think?"

Nigel said, "I think people who do what God wants them to do go to heaven. But sometimes people think they're doing what God wants them to do, but they're not. Then maybe they have to learn more about God."

"You mean, if they suddenly realise where they've gone wrong, they still go to heaven?"

Nigel nodded. "'Cos I know God loves us all, whatever we've done. So how could God give up on us? Anyway, Jesus died for all of us, didn't he, even Mr Jones?"

Nigel's mother was still uncomfortable. "I'm not sure I want to share heaven with awful people like Mr Jones."

"Oh Mum!" said Nigel. "He isn't all awful, just parts of him. Maybe parts of all of us are awful. I 'spect God makes us right before we get to go into heaven, don't you?"

Nigel's mum smiled. "So God gets to make the cat and the hamster friends?" A couple of verses from the Bible flew into her mind and she murmured softly, "The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

"That's just what I said!" remarked Nigel.


You need:
Some pictures of heaven (a search on the internet will produce both Old Masters and modern ideas of heaven)

Paper for each child
Coloured pens or crayons
A roll of plain white paper

Lay out the pictures and ask the children to choose which ones they like best. Ask them the reasons for their choice, and use this as the starter to a discussion about what heaven might be like.

Tell them you're going to make a mural of heaven, with each one of them contributing. First, get an idea of how they want heaven to look. Then decide with them who is going to draw which part (someone might want to draw a gate, someone might want to draw a throne, someone might want to draw people, someone might want to draw God or angels, etc.)

Give out the paper and pens and get the children to draw and colour their own parts. Finally, unroll the plain white paper and glue the children's pictures onto it. Write "Picture of Heaven" across the top and cut it to size, then hang in church.

God of heaven, help us in the church not to make judgements about people who are outside the church. Help us to understand that you see into people's inner being and know what everyone is like inside. And remind us that you are inclusive, not exclusive.

God of heaven, when the world was formed it was a place of beauty with sufficient resources to support all human needs. May we all work together to maintain our world as a place of beauty, to share what we have and to make sure that we continue to have sufficient resources for all human needs.

God of heaven, give us the confidence to believe in your promise that we will share in your kingdom after we die, and go on living there with you forever.

God of heaven, we pray for all who are dying and all who mourn the loss of someone they love. May they all know your love and power and strength surrounding them and may they know that the next phase of life is good.

May you live your life with God,
Go through your death with God
And be in God's presence forever.
And may the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you now, be in your homes and in your families and with all those whom you love and for whom you pray, now and always. Amen.

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