Here’s a children’s sermon on Matthew 18:15-20 for Proper 18(23) of lectionary Year A. I’m glad to be back writing for you, though it was also lovely to take August off. Taking that break means I have a few gaps in the series of children’s sermons on the Gospel readings of Year A. I’ll catch up in due time.
(I wrote a regular Monday Meditation on this text a while back. You can see it here.)
Writing children’s sermon on Matthew 18:15-20 brings one of the usual challenges: it’s kind of a text for grown ups. I mean, it’s been used throughout history as a guide to church discipline. If you stop by my site regularly you know that I aim to find one child-friendly thing to focus on in each text. Sometimes that’s a topic. Sometimes that’s a character in the story. This week neither of those options works terribly well.
My solution is an approach I stumbled on long age without really noticing: I create a conversation between Jesus and the disciples and have the disciples act childishly. That’s pretty believable, since the disciples do some pretty childish stuff in the Gospels. Let me know what you think.
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 18:15-20
Good morning kids! I’m so glad to see you here in worship today. thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon. I wonder if you’ve ever had conflicts with other kids — like, maybe your brother or your sister, or a friend. I suppose everybody has conflicts at one time or another. In today’s reading from the Gospel, Jesus has some ideas for what to do when we get into conflicts.
About My Brother…
One day Peter was feeling very grumpy. His grumpy feelings showed on his face, too.
Jesus saw him and said, “Hey, Peter, what’s wrong? You look really grumpy.”
“I am grumpy!” said Peter. “I’m really mad at my brother! When I see him, I’m going to smack him a good one.”
“Wow!” said Jesus. “You do sound mad. But honestly, I’m kind of surprised.”
“Why’s that?” grumbled Peter. “Everybody gets angry sometimes.”
“True,” said Jesus. “But I’m surprised you’re so mad at Andrew. I mean, you’re brothers and all. And he always seems so nice, to me.”
“Well sure,” said Peter, “he’s nice to you. But he was really mean to me. I’m gonna pop him, but good.”
While he talked Peter kept punching one fist into the palm of his other hand. *Smack*. *Smack*. *Smack*.
Another Point of View
“You know, Peter,” Jesus said, “I’m wondering what you think will happen if you hit Andrew.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” said Peter. “Maybe he’ll take off and leave! Maybe he’ll be gone for good!”
“But won’t that make you kind of sad?” Jesus asked.
“Sad? No!” said Peter. “I’ll be glad to be rid of him!”
“Hmm…” said Jesus. “But isn’t Andrew also your business partner? Doesn’t he own half of your boat?”
“Yeah…” said Peter.
“And didn’t you guys used to have fun when you were kids?” Asked Jesus.
“And weren’t your families planning to celebrate the holidays together?”
“Well yeah, but—” said Peter.
“So if you punch Andrew, and he goes away for good…”
“Okay, okay, Jesus,” said Peter. “I get your point. But what else can I do? He makes me so mad!”
“Here’s an idea,” said Jesus. “Go talk to your brother, in private. Just the two of you. Tell him what happened. Give him your side of the story. Tell him how it made you feel.”
“What good will that do?” asked Peter.
“Well,” said Jesus, “if he listens to you, and says he’s sorry, and promises to change, then you get your brother back. Your business stays together, and you still have holiday plans.”
“And if he doesn’t listen,” said Peter, “then I’ll slug him. Right?”
“Not exactly,” said Jesus. “If he won’t listen to you, go back again, but this time bring a friend. Pick someone both of you like a lot. Maybe John, or James. Tell him your story, and how what he did made you feel. Maybe having someone along to watch and talk with you both can help you win your brother back.”
“But if he still doesn’t listen, then I can pop him one, right?” Asked Peter.
“No, Peter,” said Jesus. “You need to keep trying. If he won’t listen to you and a friend, we’ll have a meeting with all the disciples. The two of you can both tell your stories, and I’ll try to help you work it out. Surely he’ll listen when all of us meet together. But if not…”
“Then I’ll slug him,” said Peter.
If He Really Won’t Listen
“No!” said Jesus. “You do not get to slug your brother. If he won’t listen to all of us, then we’ll all just treat him like a tax collector or someone from another country.”
“Great!” said Peter. “I get it. We’ll shove him out of the meeting and never speak to him again! Whenever we see him we’ll turn our backs on him and walk the other way!”
“Wait a minute, Peter,” said Jesus. “Have you noticed how I treat tax collectors?”
“Oh, what? Right,” said Peter. “Let me think… There’s Matthew, he was a tax collector, and you made him an Apostle, just like me. And there was that other tax collector, Zacchaeus, up in that tree. You were friendly to him when nobody else was.”
“Right,” said Jesus. “And how about foreigners and immigrants? Have you noticed how I treat them?”
“Hmm…” said Peter. “There was that Samaritan woman by the well. You were really nice to her. And there was that Roman Centurion. You healed his servant. And there was that woman from Syrophoenicia. You healed her little boy—or was it a little girl?”
“Doesn’t matter,” said Jesus. “You see the point. I try to be especially kind and generous to immigrants and tax collectors. If Andrew just won’t listen, what should you do?”
“What?!” asked Peter. “You mean if he won’t listen to all of us I still have to be nice to him?”
“That’s right, my friend,” said Jesus. “That’s how it works in the Kingdom of God. But first you have to work hard to help bring him to his senses.”
I wonder if Peter was able to work things out with his brother Andrew?
I wonder how it would feel to talk to someone who did a bad thing and ask them to change?
I wonder what it would feel like if someone came to talk to you about a bad thing you did?
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