If I write just one children’s sermon on Matthew 6:24-34 it has to be able cover a few different occasions.
In Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary that text is called “Proper 3 (8)” meaning it comes up, in two different seasons. It can be on the Eighth Sunday after Epiphany, or shortly after Pentecost.
But most of this text also comes up in Year B on Thanksgiving (both the Canadian and American versions). On those occasions it would actually be “A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 6:25-33.”
But I don’t think the kids are going to sweat these fine points of the seasons. I’ll just try to hit the relevant points for each use.
Personally I think it’s odd that the lectionary removes two verses for Thanksgiving. It makes little difference to the sense of the text. But nobody wants to hear me rant about the oddities of the Revised Common Lectionary.
It’s a beautiful, poetic, encouraging passage — Jesus at his most winsome. The only challenge for someone who does children’s sermons the way I do is that there is no story here. Strings of Jesus’ sayings always force me to imagine a story within which to fit the teaching.
But that’s a fun challenge. Let’s see how it goes in a children’s sermon on Matthew 6:24-34 (or 6:25-33).
(As I write, there is already a children’s sermon on my site for this coming Sunday. You can find the Monday Meditation on that same text here.)
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 6:24-34
Good morning kids! I’m so happy to see you here in worship today. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon.
Sometimes I like to imagine what it was like to be one of Jesus’ first disciples. I think it must have been pretty fun a lot of the time. It was probably really exciting. Can you imagine seeing Jesus heal someone who was blind, or who couldn’t walk? And it must have been wonderful to just hang around with Jesus.
But I also imagine it was hard sometimes.Those first disciples must have gotten anxious and worried, wandering around with no home to call their own.
This morning, our reading from the Gospel shows us what Jesus said to his friends about being worried. Here’s how I imagine it happening.
Jesus and his friends had been traveling from town to town. During the day Jesus would teach about the Kingdom of heaven, and he would heal sick people. But at night, before everybody went to sleep they would sit around the campfire and talk.
Usually Peter was very talkative. But on this particular night Peter was very, very quiet.
“Hey Peter?” said Jesus gently. “Is something wrong?”
“Wrong?” asked Peter, kind of flustered. “No, of course not. What could possibly be wrong?”
“Well,” said Jesus, “It’s not like you to be so quiet. Why don’t you tell me what made you upset?”
Peter let out a big sigh, almost like he’d been holding his breath a while, without even knowing it. “Okay, Jesus. It’s just — well, I’m sort of worried.”
“Ah,” Jesus said, “you’re worried. What are you worried about?”
“It’s just — well, you know — I mean — what about my boat?”
“Your boat?” asked Jesus, “What about your boat?”
“I had to leave it behind,” said Peter, “when I started following you.”
“I remember,” said Jesus. “Sounds like that’s bothering you now.”
“Well, yeah,” said Peter. “I’ve been a fisherman all my life. That boat is my job. If something happens to my boat, how will I earn a living? How will my family buy food? How will we buy new clothes? What if we can’t pay for our house? Oh Jesus, I’m just so worried!”
And then Peter put his face in his hands and started rocking back and forth, moaning softly.
Jesus got up and sat down beside Peter. He put his arm around Peter’s shoulders, and just sat quietly for a bit.
“Hey Peter,” asked Jesus gently, “did you see the birds today?”
“What birds?” said Peter, his face still in his hands.
“When I was teaching,” Jesus said. “There was a little flock of birds over by a house. First they were all sitting in a tree. Then all at once they swooped up onto the sky, and flew off.”
“I guess I missed that,” said Peter, slowly putting his hands down.
“Well it was pretty cool,” said Jesus. “Hey: Where do you suppose those birds flew off to?”
“How should I know?” said Peter grumpily. “I told you, I didn’t even see them.”
“Take a guess,” Jesus said.
“Looking for food maybe?” said Peter.
“Probably so,” said Jesus. “Hey Peter?”
“Do you think those birds were worried? I mean, about finding food to eat?”
“Jesus!” said Peter. “Whoever heard of a worried bird? They just fly around and pick up seeds or worms or whatever. Or they sit on a tree and sing songs. They don’t worry about anything.”
“Exactly my point,” said Jesus.
“Your point?” asked Peter.
“Yeah,” said Jesus. “Who do you suppose makes sure the birds have enough to eat?”
“The birds do, Jesus!” said Peter. “They have to go look for their own food.”
“Well, of course they have to look for it,” said Jesus. “But who puts it there so they can find it?”
“Um, God?” asked Peter.
“Right on the very first guess,” said Jesus. “God grows the plants and trees to make the seeds for them to eat. And God grows the bugs and worms for them to eat too. The birds can just eat it up — and sing about being thankful.”
“Oh, and Peter?” Jesus went on. “Do you remember that field of flowers we saw?”
“Yesterday?” said Peter, brightening up and smiling a bit. “Yeah, they were gorgeous!”
“How do you suppose the flowers found those fancy clothes to wear?” asked Jesus, smiling.
“Clothes?” asked Peter. “They weren’t wearing clothes. They were flowers.”
And Peter rolled his eyes.
“But have you ever seen anyone with clothes more beautiful than those flowers?” asked Jesus.
“Well, no,” said Peter, “I guess.” But he didn’t sound quite sure.
Jesus said, “No one has ever had more beautiful clothes — and those flowers don’t go shopping, or make cloth, or sew or anything. Who makes their beautiful clothes, Peter?”
“God, I guess,” said Peter.
“Right again, my friend,” said Jesus. “The flowers can just wear their beautiful clothes — and be thankful.
“Peter,” Jesus went on, “You are more important to God than a few birds, or a bunch of flowers. You don’t need to worry about what you’ll eat or what you’ll wear. And you don’t need to worry about your boat.”
I wonder if it helped Peter to hear about God taking care of birds and flowers?
I wonder if it’s hard to work on your problems and not worry, like the birds that seem happy gathering food?
I wonder if you’ve ever found yourself worrying about things in your life?
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.
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