This week I’m writing a children’s sermon on Mark 9:30-37. That’s the Gospel assigned for “Proper 20 (25)” in “Year B” of the Revised Common Lectionary. (You can find my regular meditation on the same text here.)
It’s a pretty straightforward story to work with.
Yeah, you’ve never heard me start out that way before.
Each week I start by pointing out what I see as most challenging about presenting the assigned Gospel text.
Maybe you’ve wondered “Why is he complaining about this? Nobody asked him to write these things!”
Well, true enough. But there is a reason: I really would like people to take this process more seriously. I suspect that a great many children’s sermons are presented with precisely zero preparation.
Faithfulness to our calling requires more. I want people to take children’s sermons seriously as preaching—just as seriously as when they will be preaching to grown ups.
I’d argue that preaching to kids is in some ways more challenging than preaching to grown-ups. I mean you, the preacher, are a grown-up. You are not a child (even if you can be childish).
So preaching to children requires cross-cultural communication. It is quite explicitly a missional enterprise.
So, shame on us if we step out there for the children’s sermon with no preparation.
And shame on the churches who delegate the children’s sermon to someone without any of the confidence and perspective that comes from theological training.
But you, dear reader, are not like that. You want to show Christ’s love to small people, and to invite them into a life of faith, drawing them deeply into the stories the Bible tells about Jesus. Good for you.
You are the kind of person who wants a a solid children’s sermon on Mark 9:30-37.
Let’s do this. It’s straightforward, like I said. If there’s a challenge, it’s making all three parts of the story feel like one coherent message. But here we go with a children’s sermon on Mark 9:30-37.
A Children’s Sermon on Mark 9:30-37
Hello kids! I’m so glad you are here today. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
One time, Jesus and his friends were walking along the road. They had been teaching, and healing people, and helping people all through the towns of Galilee.
“Oh man!” said Peter, “I’m so glad we’re finally heading home! I can’t wait to get back to Capernaum.”
“Me too,” said Jesus. “It’s been a good trip though.”
“Hey Jesus!” said John, “I think there’s another village coming up. Do you want me to run ahead and tell them that we’re coming?”
“Thanks, John,” said Jesus, “but no. We’re going to skip that one for today. I really don’t want anybody to know I’m here.”
“How come?” John asked.
“I have something very important to talk with you all about. Come on!” he called out, “everybody come closer so you can here.”
Well, it took a couple minutes to get everybody organized. Then they started walking again, and Jesus started talking.
“I want to make sure all of you understand what’s going to be happening,” he said. “We’re going to head up to Jerusalem soon. And then it’s going to get kind of scary. They are going to arrest me. A bunch of people are going to start accusing me of doing bad things.”
“What did you do?” asked Nathaniel. “Was it something really bad?”
“I didn’t do anything wrong, Nathaniel,” Jesus said. “But they are going to make accusations. Then soldiers are going to beat me and hurt me. And eventually they are going to kill me. But that won’t be the end. I’m going to come back alive again.”
A Really Dumb Argument
Well, by this time the disciples were sort of drifting away down the road.
“Didn’t Jesus already tell us this?” asked John.
“Yeah,” said Mary. “A couple times actually.”
“I told him to stop it the other day,” said Peter.
“Yeah, I heard that,” said Nathaniel. “I’m thinking that didn’t go so well for you.” And he started laughing at Peter.
“Hey!” said Peter. “What gives you the right to laugh at me? Everybody knows I’m the Most Important Disciple! Jesus likes me best.”
“Biggest Mouthed Disciple is more like it,” Nathaniel said.
“Well, Jesus said I’m the rock,” Peter said. “He said he’s gonna build the whole church on the base of my faith.”
Peter looked pretty smug when he said that.
“Oh yeah?” said Nathaniel, kind of sneering. “Well Jesus said I’m an Israelite with no guile!”
“What’s that mean?” John asked Mary.
“It means he says whatever comes into his head,” said Mary, “even of it’s kind of dumb.”
“No,” said Nathaniel, “It means I’m the Most Important Disciple. Jesus likes me best.”
“Um, no,” said John, “I don’t think so. Everybody says I’m the disciple Jesus really loves. That makes me the Most Important Disciple.”
“Hey you guys,” said Mary, “Don’t forget how Jesus said I was the one who made the very best choice. Remember? It was that night when we had dinner at my house and I sat at his feet to listen and learn. I’d say that makes me the Most Important Disciple. Plus, he always comes over to my house!”
“More important than your sister Martha maybe,” said Peter, “but not most important of all.”
Caught in the Act
Well, I’ll spare you the rest of the argument. They bickered about it all the way back to Jesus’ house in Capernaum.
Once they were finally inside, Jesus said, “So what were you all talking about back there?”
Peter, John, Nathaniel, and Mary all sort of looked down at their feet, or up to the ceiling. Not at Jesus.
“Oh, nothing,” somebody mumbled.
“Okay, well that’s good.” Jesus said. “Hey, I wanted to tell you all something really important.”
“We know, we know,” moaned Nathaniel. “You’re gong to get arrested, and hurt, and killed—”
“No, not that,” said Jesus. “I already told you about that. No, I wanted to tell you who I think is the Most Important Disciple.”
They all sort of looked up.
John smiled. “You mean the one you like best?”
“Well,” said Jesus, “I wasn’t going to put it quite like that. But here’s the deal: If you want to be the Very Most Important Disciple, you have to be more helpful than everybody else. Like, take the jobs a servant would do. Clean up after the others. Wash people’s feet when they need it. And other stuff.”
“Yuck,” said Nathaniel.
“I was right about you, Nathaniel,” said Jesus. “No guile.”
The Neighbor Kid
Just then a little girl came running in. She lived next door and she just loved playing with Jesus.
“Jesus!” she cried, “You’re back!” And she threw herself into his arms and gave him a big hug. “I missed you so much!” she said. “Don’t ever go away again.”
Peter said, “Um, little girl? We’re talking about grown up things here, and I think maybe you should head back home.”
But Jesus just hugged the girl and then turned her around so everyone could see her.
“Listen up everybody. Here’s an example of doing what’s really helpful. Say you welcome one little kid because you know that kid belongs to me. Well, then really you’ll be welcoming me. And if you welcome me, then really you’re welcoming my father—God.”
Then he said to the little girl, “Let’s go play.”
And they did.
- I wonder why Jesus kept telling his friends about the hard things that were coming?
- I wonder if you’ve ever argued with someone about who is the best, or who is most important?
- I wonder what kinds of things you might do to help people, or serve others?
- I wonder if someone ever welcomed you in a way that made Jesus feel welcome too?
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.
- You can support my work over on Patreon. (Just $1 per month brings my children’s sermons straight to your inbox about two minutes after they go live. And every little bit keeps me going…)