Writing this children’s sermon on Mark 10:17-31 was really interesting. Unlike so many lectionary selections, it hangs together as an exploration of a single theme. The challenge is that the theme is pretty grown up.
(You can see what I wrote about it for grown-ups in my Monday Meditation on this text here.)
I don’t mean it touches on anything that, as the Victorians might say “would cause the youth to blush.” Not at all.
It just seems to me that the “rich young ruler” (or simply, as here in Mark, “the man”) is dealing with issues that are pretty foreign to a kid’s world.
It has three discreet sub-scenes, so one can choose which to include and which to leave out.
- First is the rich man seeking eternal life, but unwilling to let go of his stuff.
- Second we have Jesus’ words about how hard it is to enter the Kingdom.
- Third comes Jesus’ explanation to Peter that everything he gave up to follow Jesus will be more than paid back even here in this life.
While it’s all on the topic of wealth and following Jesus, the last section sort of reverses course. I could either deal with the first part, or with the last part, but I’m not going to discuss both.
How do I write these children’s sermons, you may ask? Here’s how it worked this time.
I turned to God and ask what children most need to hear.
I meditated and studied the text, listening for hints as to how to communicate it to them.
Then I wrote with pen and paper, retelling the story, and retelling some parts over again. I listened for ways these brief exchanges could happen in a natural conversation, making one of the text’s points in an engaging way.
Then I started from scratch and wrote the children’s sermon on Mark 10:17-31 you see below
It’s a journey from what Barth famously called the “strange new world of the Bible” to what I’ll call “the “strange new world of a child’s consciousness.”
A Children’s Sermon on Mark 10:17-31
Good morning, kids! I’m so glad you are here today. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
This morning’s Gospel reading had a story about a rich man who wanted to—
Well, just listen to the story. We’ll find out what that man wanted, and what he didn’t want.
A Man with a Question
One day Jesus and his friends were walking down the road. All of a sudden a man came running up to them.
“Jesus!” the man called “Jesus! I’ve been looking all over for you!”
The man was totally out of breath. He was bent over with his hands on his knees, huffing and puffing.
“Well,” said Jesus, “the good news is now you found me. What’s up?”
“I’m hoping… you can answer… my question,” the man panted. “Nobody else… could help me!”
“Okay,” said Jesus, “what’s your question?”
By now the man had caught his breath. As soon as he could stand up straight he got all the way down on the ground, right on his knees, in front of Jesus. He put his hands together are locked up to Jesus and said, “Please, please tell me how I can get eternal life!”
“Eternal life?” said Jesus. “You want to live forever? Just like God?”
“Yes!” said the man.
“Well, now,” said Jesus, stroking his beard, “why don’t you come along with me and I’ll show you?”
“Come with you?” he asked. “Where are you going?”
“Here and there,” said Jesus. “But who you’ll be with is way more important than where you’re going.”
“What, you mean these guys?” the man asked. “Who are they?”
“These are my disciples,” said Jesus. “They all decided to come with me too. That’s the important thing. You’ll be with me.”
“Um, I wasn’t really planing on going anywhere,” said the man. “I was hoping you could just tell me the rules – so I can live forever.”
“Ah, the rules,” said Jesus, sort of shaking his head. “Haven’t you read them in the Bible? Like don’t kill anyone, don’t steal, don’t say things that aren’t true—”
“Oh yeah,” said the man, “I know all the commandments. I’ve done that stuff my whole life. I just figured, maybe, there was something more.”
The Kingdom of Heaven
“Ah,” said Jesus, “Something more. Well there is. ‘Eternal life’ is what everyone has in the Kingdom of God. It’s more than living forever. It’s being more alive than you’ve ever been before. If you want eternal life, you’ll need to come into the Kingdom of God. Are you ready?”
“Um, I don’t know.” said the man. “How do I, do that? How do I get into the kingdom of God?”
“Come along with me,” said Jesus. “You’ll be there for sure.”
“But—” said the man, “I can’t do that! What about my house? What about my business? I can’t just walk away from all my stuff!”
“Oh, we’ve got time,” said Jesus. “We’ll wait. You go back, and sell your stuff. Maybe you could give it all to the poor people in your village. Then come back and you can come along with me.”
“But that’s impossible!” said the man. “How can I possibly sell my stuff?”
A Camel and a Needle
“Sure, it’s hard,” said Jesus. “It’s kind of like trying to get a camel through the eye of a needle:”
“Well of course!” said the man. “That’s completely impossible. No one can get a camel through the eye of a needle!”
“Sure,” said Jesus. “You can’t do it. But God can do it. God can do anything.”
“How can God get a camel through the eye of a needle?” he asked.
“Maybe he’ll start with a really big needle,” said Jesus. “Or maybe he’ll take all the baggage off the camel. Or maybe—”
“What?” asked the man.
“Well,” said Jesus, “to tell you the truth, sometimes God just likes to do impossible things.”
“Let me think about it,” said the man as he walked away.
“Good idea,” said Jesus.
Then he turned to his friends and said, “I hope he comes back. I really like that guy.”
- I wonder how that man felt when Jesus invited him to come along on his travels?
- I wonder how he felt when Jesus said he needed to leave his belongings behind?
- I wonder if the man ever decided come along with Jesus?
- I wonder if you would like to travel with Jesus and be with him?
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.
- You can let me know that you are using it, either in the comments below, or using the contact form above.
- You can put a little notice in your church bulletin that your children’s sermon is adapted from one published on GaryNealHansen.com.
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