Here’s my children’s sermon on Luke 6:27-38 for the Seventh Sunday after Epiphany. (You can see my regular “Monday Meditation” on this text here.)
It’s a chunk of “the Sermon on the Plain,” more famously known in Matthew’s version as “the Sermon on the Mount.”
The challenge of this text for me is that my eye goes immediately to the very hardest bits. Jesus says “turn the other cheek” and “give your shirt if someone takes your coat,” and we have a hard time with it. That’s reasonable: these are hard teachings, intended to give grown-up disciples a serious challenge.
So we usually look for exceptions, or we try to take it metaphorically somehow—anything other than a clear and literal statement of what Jesus wants us to do.
And then, obsessed with the very hardest bits, we try to write a children’s sermon. Or we resist the idea of passing Jesus’ words on to children.
Children are, after all, more likely to be physically bullied and abused than grown ups. And children lack an adult’s ability to analyze when Jesus’ words apply and when they don’t.
I really don’t want to spend my children’s sermon on Luke 6:27-38 explaining the exceptions and backpedaling from Jesus’ words.
(On the other hand, my cautionary note to preachers of children’s sermons is this: don’t tell children who are being abused that they should be silent, or be passive, or forgive in a way that lets the abuse continue. And it is all too possible that someone in the group that comes up on Sunday is a victim of abuse.)
Better to look around those troubling bits, and find the winsome, age-appropriate core of Jesus’ words.
And when I do that, it turns out I have three or four different potential approaches. There’s a ton of fantastic material in here!
You are, of course, free to use this children’s sermon, or adapt it as you find most useful. But, if you use it, please do one (or more!) of the following.
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A Children’s Sermon on Luke 6:27-38
Good morning kids! Hey, I’m so glad to see you here this morning. Welcome. We’ve all come to worship God. You are always welcome here, and especially for the children’s sermon. This part of the service is just for you.
The Sermon on the Plane
One day, Jesus was teaching a big crowd of people. Some, like Peter and Mary Magdalene, were his disciples already. Some were sick, and they hoped Jesus would heal them. Others were just curious. They had heard about Jesus, and they wanted to hear what he had to say.
Let’s imagine that Jesus and one of his friends started to talk about what he’d been teaching.
After Jesus had talked for a while, Mary Magdalene raised her hand.
“Jesus?” she said. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, Mary,” he said.
“I’m thinking about what to do with my life,” she answered. “Now that I’m following you it’s like I’m a little kid again, wondering what I should be when I grow up. Do you have any ideas?”
“Well, yeah,” Jesus said. “But the secret is this: It’s more important to figure out who you’re going to BE than to figure out what you’re going to DO.”
“What do you mean?” Mary said. “How do I figure out who I’m going to be?”
“One way,” said Jesus, “is to think of people you admire and start learning from them.”
“Oh,” she said. “Like role models? I’ve always admired my mom and dad. And I had this teacher once who was really important to me. Like that?”
“That’s a great start,” said Jesus. “But don’t forget the Most Important Person.”
“Um,” Mary said, “who’s that?”
“God,” said Jesus. “I think you should make God one of your role models—the most important one.”
“I can’t do that!” said Mary. “I can’t create a world, or make plants grow or anything like God does. How can I make God my role model?”
“Okay, sure,” said Jesus. “But you can do some very important things God does.”
“Like what?” she asked.
“Like showing mercy to people,” said Jesus. “God is really kind and generous to people, no matter what.”
“What do you mean by ‘no matter what’?” she asked.
“I mean,” said Jesus, “God is kind and generous to people who love God. But God is also kind and generous to people who don’t even believe in God. God is even kind and generous to people who hate God! And to people who follow other gods! God is always full of mercy.”
“So I should be merciful to people who follow other gods?” she asked.
“Oh, sure,” said Jesus, “but I was thinking more about you. If God is your role model, you should be merciful and love your enemies.”
“But Jesus!” said Mary, “I can’t love them! they are my enemies! they did really mean things to me! Honestly they really hate me.”
“Oh, Mary,” Jesus said, “I know it’s hard. But I’m not saying you should feel really good about your enemies. The kind of love I’m talking about is how you treat people.”
Do Good to Them?
“What does that mean?” she asked.
“So imagine someone who really does hate you,” Jesus said. “Do you think you could maybe do something good for that person anyway?”
“I don’t know,” said Mary, thinking. “Like, make them a cake or something?”
“That’s good,” said Jesus. “That would sure surprise them.”
“I think that would still be too hard!” Mary said, “It would be scary, trying to give them a cake. They said terrible things about me. They used curse words!”
“Okay,” said Jesus, “what about this? If they said curse words and other mean things to you, do you think you could maybe say some kind things to them?”
“Like what?” asked Mary.
“Like, give them a blessing,” said Jesus. “Tell them you hope things go really well for them.”
“Hm…” said Mary, “that still sounds hard. Could I maybe start with something easier?”
Pray for Them?
“How about this,” said Jesus. “Could you start by saying a prayer for them? You could ask God to be merciful to them—even if it’s too hard for you to feel merciful. Could you do that?”
- I wonder if Mary was able to pray for the people who were so mean to her?
- I wonder if praying and blessing her enemies might have helped Mary feel less hurt inside?
- I wonder what might happen if you prayed for people who don’t treat you well?
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