My children’s sermon on John 6:24-35 is the second in a series. The lectionary spends five weeks in John chapter 6, where Jesus does things and says things about bread. Some of it is material bread. Some of it is metaphorical bread. But it’s all bread, all the time.
(I have a regular meditation on this text. You can see it here.)
Last week, a kid brought some bread that ended up feeding an enormous crowd.
This week bread is a metaphor — a “word picture” as I put it with my kids. That’s something seductive for most preachers of children’s sermons.
So many children’s sermons are built on elaborate metaphors, often about random objects.
It’s fun for the preacher. However it is really a dangerous temptation when it comes to children’s sermons.
Here’s the deal: kids at the ages most likely to come up for a children’s sermons have almost no capacity to grasp metaphors. Elaborate metaphors shoot over their heads to their parents. They smile and nod, but they don’t get it.
One pastor I really love once did a children’s sermon which included some peppercorns. She showed them around, and told about how someone in her family once bit on a peppercorn. You know: hot, unpleasant stuff.
I don’t actually remember what the intended message was. Something metaphorical.
Anyway, after church we asked our kids what they thought the message of the children’s sermon was.
“Don’t eat pepper?”
So if that’s what can happen with a random object metaphor, I at least pause before emphasizing a genuine biblical metaphor like Jesus saying “I am the bread of life.”
This week my children’s sermon on John 6:24-35 will focus instead on the questions asked by the crowd and Jesus’ funky answers.
Hey, I’ve got three more weeks in John 6 to talk to the kids about Jesus as bread.
A Children’s Sermon on John 6:24-35
Good morning kids! I’m so glad you are here. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
This morning, the story about Jesus we read in the service picks up just after what we read last week.
Last week Jesus took some bread that a little kid had brought along, and used it to feed 5000 people.
Then he sent his disciples across the lake in their boat, while he went off, alone, to pray.
Well, when Jesus finished praying, he walked across the water and got in the boat when they were halfway across.
But the people on the shore didn’t know Jesus had walked across and jumped into the boat.
Those people on the shore wanted to find Jesus’ disciples. So they got in other boats and went across the lake to where the disciples had gone.
Our story is about what happened when the crowd got out of their boats and found Jesus there with his friends. They were very confused, and so they asked Jesus some questions. Jesus gave them some surprising answers.
“Hey, Jesus!” someone cried out. “How’d you get here? You were on the shore when your disciples all sailed away!”
Well, then a funny thing happened. Jesus didn’t answer their question.
“I’m not going to tell you. You are asking for the wrong reasons. You just filled your tummies with the miracle bread I gave you, and so you want some more.”
I think they probably weren’t very happy that Jesus wouldn’t tell them how he got there.
But that didn’t stop them from asking another question.
“Hey, Jesus!” someone else said. “I want to do what you do. I want to work for God! How can I do the kind of work God wants done in the world?”
Well, then another funny thing happened. Jesus gave them a very unexpected answer.
“Here’s the most important kind of work God wants people to do in the world: Put your faith in the person God sent into the world — ME!”
I suspect that the person who asked the question was a little frustrated by Jesus funny answer. That person wanted to heal people like Jesus, or teach wise things like Jesus. But now Jesus said just to believe in him — because God sent Jesus into the world.
But that didn’t stop the crowd from asking still another question.
“What have you ever done to show us we should believe in you?” they asked. “If you want us to believe in you, Jesus, then you better do something really impressive. Like remember how a long time ago Moses gave the people bread from heaven?”
Well, then another really funny thing happened. Maybe two funny things.
First, Jesus didn’t point out that they just saw him do the most amazing thing ever. He could have said “What, didn’t you notice when I took 5 loaves and fed 5000 people? Didn’t you notice when there were twelve whole baskets full of leftovers? That’s more than when we started!”
But he didn’t mention that at all.
The second funny thing was he told them they didn’t even understand what they were asking for.
“You don’t remember it right,” he said. “It wasn’t Moses who gave bread way back then. It was God, my Father. And God is giving you something even better than bread right now: God is giving you ME.”
I wonder how the people felt when Jesus wouldn’t really answer their questions.
I wonder if you’ve ever tried to ask God a question and had trouble hearing the answer.
I wonder if Jesus ever hears our questions and wants to tell us that we should have asked something a little different.
I wonder what it meant that believing in Jesus was God’s work, and that having Jesus was better than bread.
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