This particular sermon is written with two particular bits of cultural context in the background. It is for Easter, so you might think a children’s sermon on Matthew 28:1-10 would be easy picking. However…
1. Our culture, both the Protestant and Catholic sides of Western Christianity, doesn’t really have a good grasp on the importance of Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus. Sure, we celebrate it. But we let bunnies and eggs predominate, because our theology of sin, guilt, sacrifice, and forgiveness mesh much better with Good Friday.
The Christian leaders don’t have a grasp of why the Resurrection is the very best bit of Good News amongst all the Gospel possibilities. (If you don’t believe me, notice how many Easter songs and sermons are actually about the Cross.)
If the leaders can’t make sense of the Resurrection, the parents probably can’t be expected to do much better.
And if the parents don’t get it, you can bet the kids don’t.
2. This is the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of us are under orders to stay in our homes as much as possible. Most places churches are not able to gather. (That may make a children’t sermon moot, though I know one church that is using these in their Zoom services.) Millions have already lost their jobs. Schools have been out for weeks and for many or most they will not resume until Fall.
So with all that going on, no matter how much or how little the kids consciously know about the pandemic, they’ve certainly absorbed their parents’ anxiety.
Of course #1 above makes the Good News actually news.
And of course #2 above is the kind of emotional landscape that the Easter stories speak to quite well.
So… whether for your Zoom church, or for your kids’ bedtime story, or for family devotions in lieu of church, or just for your own reflection, here we go.
Use it if you want to. Let me know how it goes.
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 28:1-10
If you’ve been following along with the stories of Holy Week, you know that today is a big day. It is a VERY big day. Easter is the biggest, most ancient, most important holy day in the whole Christian year.
- Last Sunday was when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and everybody sang and waved palm branches.
- Last Thursday was when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and told them to love each other the same way he loved them. He also gave them the Lord’s Supper. He said the bread was his body. He said the wine was his blood.
- Last Friday was the very sad day when Jesus was hung on a cross until he died.
But today is Sunday. Here’s what happened on Easter Sunday.
Early in the morning, two of Jesus’ friends were talking. They were both named Mary. They were so sad that their friend Jesus had died that they couldn’t sleep.
The two Marys decided to walk to tomb where Jesus’ body was buried. Sometimes when someone you love has died, it helps to go to the graveyard, even if it is just to cry.
When they got there, nothing was what they expected.
- First there was a big earthquake. The ground was shaking like crazy!
- Second, because of the earthquake, the big stone door of the tomb fell right open!
- Third, there was someone sitting on that big stone door — it was an angel, a messenger of God, and their clothes were glowing with light!
I suspect that the two Marys were pretty frightened by all of this. The messenger understood how they felt and said, “Don’t be afraid. You are looking for Jesus. He isn’t dead any more! He’s alive!”
“No way!” they said.
“Yes way!” said the messenger. “Come and look in the tomb. He isn’t in here any more!”
“Where is he?” they asked.
“He’s on his way to Galilee,” said the messenger.
“What should we do?” asked the Marys.
“You have a very important job,” said the angel. “Go to find the rest of the disciples. Tell them Jesus is alive! Tell them to go to Galilee to meet him.”
So off they went. But along the way, Jesus met them.
They ran up to him. They fell to the ground and held onto his legs, crying for joy. They were so happy!
But Jesus said the same thing as the angel had said: “Don’t be afraid!”
The women said, “We aren’t afraid any more! We were afraid we’d never see you again. But now you are back!”
Jesus said, “I know you aren’t afraid of not seeing me. I’m saying you don’t need to be afraid of the other things — the big things.”
“What big things?” asked the Marys.
“Most people are afraid of dying,” he said. “But I fought a battle with death and I WON! Death is conquered. Now go tell my other friends to meet me in Galilee.”
So those two women went and told the Apostles and the rest. They were the first to hear the Good News that Jesus was alive — that he had conquered death. They were the first to be told to share that Good News with others — so that they wouldn’t have to be afraid any more.
And I’ll tell you something: For a very long time, Christians had a very hard time. For hundreds of years, many Christians were killed for following Jesus. But one of the things that people noticed was that the Christians were not afraid to die. They knew that Jesus had conquered death. Jesus had showed them that they didn’t need to be afraid any more.
- I wonder what the Marys felt inside when they say the earthquake and the angel.
- I wonder what they thought and felt when the angel and Jesus told them they didn’t have to be afraid.
- I wonder if sometimes they were afraid anyway.
- I wonder if you’ve ever been so afraid that you couldn’t sleep at night.
- I wonder, in these crazy days when there is no school and our families are all cooped up at home, if you ever feel worried or afraid.
- I wonder what would happen if you remembered that Jesus is alive, and that he’s right there with you when you are afraid.
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