Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus is fascinating, but what is the best way to introduce it in a children’s sermon?
My first inclination with a Gospel text is to tell the story. But this scene has very little narrative action: Nicodemus and Jesus just sit there and talk.
A conversation can have its own flow and drama. But this conversation is actually kind of confusing, with the two men seeming to miss each other’s meaning.
I think the too-easy route is to talk about John 3:16. In our culture that verse has so much gravity that we tend to think it is the biggest and best thing going on here. In my observation, we tend to assume a whole lot of theological concepts when we bring up that text. (That’s one of the things I wrote about in my Monday Meditation on this passage.)
If I try and focus my conversation with the children on John 3:16, there is potential for trouble, with me talking right over their heads. Kids are not steeped in this culture’s version of the faith. They don’t have the concepts of atonement or being “born again” in their heads.
So I settled on telling the kids what Jesus said about God’s Spirit.
But even having made that decision, the hardest part of writing a children’s sermon is keeping to it. I wrote this three times, because I kept bogging down in other aspects of the text.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Of course you can feel free to use it if you want to — just let me know how it goes!
A Children’s Sermon on John 3:1-17
I wonder if you’ve ever thought about how strange it is that we can’t see God.
We believe in God.
We come to church to worship God.
But sometimes it seems like loving God would be so much easier if we lived back in Jesus’ time. I love the stories of the Bible about Jesus. As Christians we believe that Jesus is God in the flesh. So when Jesus was there, walking around, helping people, we really do see God in action.
If we lived in Jesus’ time, we could always know exactly how God thinks and feels. If we had big questions for God, we could just find Jesus and ask him.
Well let me tell you a story from the Bible. It’s about a time when Jesus showed us that he understand our problem exactly.
One night, Jesus had a visitor. It was a man named Nicodemus, and he was struggling with some big questions. Nicodemus said
Jesus, I know you came from God. Maybe you have some wisdom from God on my big questions.
So, late into the night, Jesus and Nicodemus talked.
The Bible tells us only a little bit about their conversation. But one thing they talked about was how hard it is to know God when we can’t see God.
Jesus told Nicodemus that God’s Holy Spirit is kind of like the wind that blows all around us.
I wonder if you’ve ever looked out the window and seen the trees waving back and forth. You know by looking at the trees that the wind is blowing. But you can’t see the wind.
I wonder if you’ve ever been out walking on a really stormy day. Maybe the wind was pushing you right over and you had to lean over while you walked just to stay on your feet. You can feel the wind. It’s powerful. But you can’t see the wind.
Here’s how Jesus said it when he was talking to Nicodemus:
The wind blows where it chooses,
and you hear the sound of it,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.
So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 NRSV)
I think Jesus was telling us that God is around us all the time, moving like the wind. And just like the wind, we can’t see God. But just as we see the trees move and know the wind is blowing, sometimes we can see how God moves things in the world.
I’d say, whenever we see things happen that are the same kinds of things Jesus did, we can know that God’s Spirit has been blowing through.
- I wonder if when you’ve been sick and got better, if maybe God’s Spirit was blowing through to heal you.
- I wonder if when you were hurt or sad, and your favorite grown-up gave you a big hug, if maybe God’s Spirit was blowing through to comfort you.
- I wonder if when you saw someone at school who was lonely and you talked to them, and were kind to them, if maybe God’s Spirit was blowing in you, and through you, to help them know they are okay.
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