Preface for Pastors and Parents
This children’s sermon on Matthew 25:14-30 is the second in a sort of a series. The lectionary spends three weeks on Matthew 25, with three successive portraits of the Last Judgment. That’s what these sections are about, after all. Jesus gives two parables and then a sort of parabolic description of the Last Judgment.
Last week it was a big party: a wedding banquet. Next week is the parabolic description that we’re most familiar: the sheep and the goats, judged by their treatment of their suffering neighbors.
I think it is very useful that Jesus gave us more pictures of “the end” than just that one. It ought to keep us from setting up that one as if it were a divine decree, or systematic theology, or like a documentary film of actual events.
Here’s an analogy: It’s like the four different Gospels. They help us to see Jesus more clearly, both by being different and by referring to the same true story. We hold the distinctives of each Gospel in our minds separately, and also subconsciously blend them together.
Similarly, we should look at these three views of the last Judgment and hold onto them separately. At the same time, our Christ-loving mind should quietly harmonize them. That should keep us from being dogmatic about something inherently mysterious.
I have to say, though, that while I deeply love this particular parable, it’s a bit challenging to make a really kid-friendly children’s sermon on Matthew 25:14-30. I fear that even if I’m able to make the basic story understandable, helping kids make the leap from the parable to the meaning could be a tougher go.
As usual, when in doubt, I’ll start with a simple retelling of the story, and see where it goes. For fun I’m portraying all the characters as women in a modern corporation. That matches much of my experience of work, and freshens up the retelling. You can let me know what you think!
This honestly goes a bit long. You could shorten it up by skipping the conversations with Peter and Jesus at the beginning and the end.
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 25:14-30
Good Morning, kids! I am so glad to see you here today in worship. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
Last week I was telling you how Jesus always knew three things: He knew he would die on the cross. He knew he would rise again on Easter. And he knew he would come back at the end of the age.
And I reminded you that every Sunday when we say the Apostles’ Creed we remember these same things. We say
- Jesus was “crucified, died, and was buried.”
- And “On the third day he rose again.”
- Then “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
Well, Jesus’ friends were able to see the first two of those things with their own eyes. But the third thing, Jesus coming back at the end of the age, was more mysterious. Jesus’ friends had lots of questions about that. So Jesus told them several different stories to help them imagine what it would be like. Here’s how I imagine them talking about it.
The End of the Age
“Um, Jesus?” said Peter one night as Jesus and his friends sat around the campfire.
“Yes Peter?” said Jesus.
“I’m wondering about ‘the end of the age.’” Peter said. “I know you said I shouldn’t call it ‘Judgment Day.’”
“Right,” said Jesus, “Too scary.”
“Okay,” said Peter. “But I was thinking about that story you told. You said it was going to be like a big party.”
“That’s right” said Jesus.
“But isn’t there may be more to it than that?” Peter asked. “I mean there must be some reason people call it ‘Judgment Day.’”
“Peter,” said Jesus quietly, “I wish you’d stop calling it that. But yes, there are other ways to think about the end of the age. Let me tell you a story.”
A Boss and Some Workers
Once upon a time there was a Boss of a big company. One day she was sitting in her big corner office looking out the window.
“I’ve worked hard to get to the top,” she said to assistant. “Now I have lots of money saved up. I think I’ll take some time off and travel around the world.”
“But Boss,” said her assistant, “What will happen to everything here? Won’t your company fall apart if you just leave like that?”
“Good point,” said the Boss. “I have a great idea! I’ll leave things in the hands of some trustworthy employees. Call a meeting for tomorrow morning. I want you there. And get Sandy, the Chief of Operations—she’s been with me from the start. And bring Val, that new mail room clerk.”
“Are you sure you wont Val, Boss?” asked the assistant. “She’s kind of new. And you remember what happened last week, right?”
“Never mind that,” said the Boss. “I know she has some issues. But I think she has real potential. Now call that meeting. And get our banker on the phone for me.”
The next morning, the Chief of Operations, the Boss’s Assistant, and the mail room clerk all gathered in the Boss’s office.
On the boss’s desk were eight Big Bank Bags full of money.
“Thank you for coming on such short notice,” said the Boss. “I’m about to take a trip around the world. I’m going to be gone for quite a while. While I’m gone I’m putting you in charge of the company’s money.”
And he pointed to the eight Big Bank Bags full of money sitting on his desk.
“Um, Boss?” asked Val, the mail room clerk. “I don’t think you called the right person. I’m just the mail room clerk.”
“Nonsense, Val!” the Boss said. “You have great potential. That’s what I think. And I’m the Boss.”
The Boss put five big money bags on a cart and rolled it to Sandy. “Sandy,” she said, “You’re my most trusted employee. You are in charge of these five Big Bank Bags full of money.”
“Wow!” said Sandy. “Thanks!”
Then the Boss picked up two Big Bank Bags full of money, and handed them to her Assistant. “You always work so hard to keep this business working well,” said the Boss. “I’m putting you in charge of two Big Bank Bags full of money.”
“Wow!” said the Assistant. “Thanks!”
Then the Boss picked up the last Big Bank Bag full of money.
“Val,” she said, “you have great potential. I’m putting you in charge of this Big Bank Bag full of money.”
“Wow!” said Val. “I’m so scared!”
Then the boss left for her big trip.
While The Boss Traveled…
Sandy, the Chief of operations, was full of ideas about new business ventures. So she invested her five bags of money in new projects.
The Boss’s Assistant knew the kinds of projects the Boss would like. So she invested her two bags of money in those projects.
But Val, the Mail Room Clerk, was terribly afraid she would do something wrong and get in trouble. So she buried her bag of money under a rock to keep it safe.
The Boss Comes Back
After a long time, the Boss got back from her trip.
She called a meeting of those three employees.
Sandy came in pushing a cart full of money bags, and pulling another cart of bags behind her.
“Welcome back, Boss!” she said. “Hey look: I invested all that money. Now we have TEN big bags of money.”
“That’s so great!” said the Boss. “I’m giving you a promotion! You will be the new Chair of the Board of Directors.”
Then the Boss’s Assistant came in, rolling another cart carrying money bags.
“Welcome home, Boss,” she said. “I knew the kinds of projects you like, so I invested your two bags of money. Now look: We have FOUR bags of money!”
“That’s so great!” said the Boss. “I’m giving you a promotion! You will now be a member of the Board of Directors!”
Then Val, the Mail Room Clerk, came in with a money bag covered with dirt. As she set down the bag of money, dirt scattered all over the Boss’s desk.
“I was afraid I’d get in trouble,” Val said, ”so I buried your money bag under a rock. Sorry it got all dirty.”
“Oh, Val!” said the Boss. “This is so disappointing. Why didn’t you at least put it in the bank? The money would have been safe, and it could at least have earned some interest.”
“Sorry,” Val said. “I didn’t think of that.”
”Looks like you’ll still be working in the mail room,” said the Boss.
“Forever?” asked Val.
“Probably so.” said the Boss. “Sandy, how about you take this bag from Val and put it with your ten bags.”
Val went back to the mail room. She cried. People noticed she was so upset she was grinding her teeth together.
Peter and Jesus.
“So,” said Jesus, “that’s another way to look at the End of the Age when I come back.”
Peter thought for a second. “You mean we’ll all show you what we did with the stuff you gave us? And you’ll either like it or you won’t?”
“That’s right,” said Jesus.
“But how will we know what you want us to do with all the blessings you give us?” Peter asked.
“You’ll figure it out,” said Jesus. “Do things that you think would be helpful to the kingdom. Do things you think I might like to do. But do something.”
I wonder what kinds of riches Jesus has entrusted to you and me?
I wonder what we might do with our gifts to be helpful to his Kingdom?
I wonder if you’ve noticed the kinds of things Jesus likes to do in the world?
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