Every biblical text presents its own challenges, but writing a children’s sermon on Matthew 10:24-39 brings some of the ones I find hardest. But that’s the Gospel for lectionary Year A, “Proper 7(12)”.
- There’s no story of things that Jesus did. Nothing is included to give context for Jesus’ teachings.
- And there are no parables, so there is no story hidden inside the teachings.
- It’s a series of sayings by Jesus.
- And they are mostly tough sayings — like predictions of being flogged in synagogues, and that you can’t love your parents, or your kids, as much as you love Jesus.
In Matthew this is part of Jesus’ instructions to the Apostles before they head out on a mission trip. Actually it is more relevant to the suffering they would face in their work after is death and resurrection.
Altogether this adds up to material that is hard to present at a kid level. I often need to pick one salient bit our kid friendly bit. All the more so in a children’s sermon on Matthew 10:24-39.
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 10:24-39
Good morning, kids! I’m so glad to see you. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
We always read from the Gospels in our worship service. Usually, the Gospels tell us stories of things Jesus did. But today’s reading is some things that Jesus said to his friends. This is one part of what he told his friends before he sent them out on a mission trip. He’s trying to help them be ready for all kinds of things that might happen.
Maybe you’ve heard about mission trips before. Lots of churches send groups of people out on mission trips. They travel to another town, or even to another country, where they can do things to show people that Jesus loves them. Sometimes youth groups go on mission trips.
Let’s imagine that Jesus wasn’t talking to just his grown-up apostle friends.
Let’s imagine that it was a group of kids who were going on this mission trip — like in a church today.
“Okay, kids!” said Jesus. “I think that’s about it. Ready to go on the mission trip?”
“Well…” said Emily. She was wearing a bright yellow turban.
“Um…” said DeShawn.
“Do I have to go?” asked Juanita.
“Ah,” said Jesus. “Sounds like maybe you aren’t all so ready. How about you all tell me what’s up?”
“I’m worried,” said Juanita. “Some of the things you said about the trip made it sound scary.”
“Yeah,” said Emily. “I only want to go if it’s gonna be safe.”
“I see,” said Jesus. “Don’t worry. You don’t need to be afraid.”
“But what if I get lost?” asked De Shawn. “I might never find my way home!”
“What if people are mean to me?” asked Emily,
“What if I get in trouble?” asked Juanita.
“Hmm…” said Jesus. “Those are some scary possibilities. But what I said is true. You don’t have to be afraid. I hope you won’t worry.”
“Can you promise that nothing bad is gonna happen?” asked DeShawn.
Jesus said “I only make promises that I plan to keep. So I won’t promise nothing bad will ever happen. You know, my friend, bad stuff does happen.”
“Humpf,” said all the kids.
“But I can promise you something better,” said Jesus.
“Like what?” asked Juanita.
“Like this,” said Jesus. “I promise you that my Father will always be watching over you. God will always be with you.”
“What good is that?” asked DeShawn. He was kind of blunt.
“It’s a lot of good, actually,” said Jesus. “When really bad things happen, it can feel really lonely. Feeling all alone is sometimes the worst part. But because you belong to God, God is always with you. You’ll never face bad stuff alone.”
“But what does God do?” asked Juanita. “Won’t God do something to stop the bad stuff?”
“Sometimes, sure,” said Jesus. “But not always. What God always does is stay with you, and understand. And love you. God is always loving you.”
A Bird, and Hair
“I don’t know,” said DeShawn. “When I was walking over here I walked past a tree. Under the tree was this dead bird. I guess it fell down and died. What was God doing about that?”
“God was there,” said Jesus. “God made every single bird you’ll ever see. God loves them all. Not one bird ever falls to the ground without my Father knowing it.”
“But that bird still died,” said DeShawn. “That’s pretty sad.”
“You’re right,” said Jesus. “Death is the saddest thing — even when it’s a little bird. But I’ll tell you something important: you belong to God, both in life and in death. God thinks you are really important — more valuable than many little birds.”
“Yeah,” said Emily. “Death is really sad. And really scary.”
Did I mention that Emily’s head was wrapped up in a turban? It was bright yellow.
“True,” said Jesus. “But God is watching over you. He pays really close attention. God actually knows exactly how many hairs you have on your head.”
“Oh yeah?” said Emily. And she unwrapped her yellow turban. She was completely bald!
“I guess you’re making God’s job pretty easy,” said De Shawn.
“Ha, Ha,” said Emily, not laughing. “I was really sick. The medicine made my hair all fall out.”
Then she got a sad expression on her face, and looked at the ground.
“Emily?” said Jesus. “God saw every hair when it fell out. And he kept every tear you cried in a very special bottle.”*
*That’s in Psalm 56, by the way.
They were all quiet for a bit.
Then Jesus said gently, “You belong to God. In life and in death. Now and forever.”
I wonder if it was less scary to go on that mission trip after Jesus talked to them?
I wonder if you have ever felt scared and all alone?
I wonder if it helps to know that God is always there paying such close attention?
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