Though Matthew 5:13-20 is one Gospel reading in the lectionary, the passage is actually three distinct units. For a children’s sermon I think it is wisest to just pick one.
When telling a Bible story to children, I like to imagine the conversations that might have led to the little scene included in the Bible, or that might have grown from it.
And in a children’s sermon I try to mention that I’m doing this, since if the kids look up the story on their own they won’t find my imagined conversation.
One day, when Jesus was talking to his friends, he said something quite surprising.
You are the light of the world!” he said.
Sometimes when I think about what Jesus said, I sort of imagine what the rest of the conversation might have sounded like. I wonder if that day it might have gone something like this…
“Hey you guys,” said Jesus, “I want to tell you something really important. You are the light of the world!”
Nathaniel, who was always a bit critical, rolled his eyes and said “Um, Jesus, I don’t think so. The sun in the sky is the light of the the world. I mean, duh.”
“O sure,” said Jesus. “The sun helps you see where you are going. But you, Nathaniel, show people what the kingdom of heaven is about. That’s the kind of light the world really needs.”
“How come Nathaniel gets to be the light of the world,” asked John. “I thought you loved me most. Why can’t I be the light of the world?”
Jesus looked at him and said “Oh John, don’t worry. You are the light of the world too.”
His friend Mary was there, sitting and listening. Jesus saw she was looking sad, and asked, “What’s wrong Mary?”
She said “How come only the boys get to be the light of the world? I want to be the light of the world too!”
Jesus turned to her and said, “Mary, of course girls can be the light of the world too. You are totally the light of the world.”
Thomas, who always asked the hard questions, said, “I don’t get it. None of us is so special. We don’t know much about the kingdom of heaven. How are we supposed to be the light of the world?”
Jesus said, “Good question Tom. When you do the kinds of things I do, then you show people what the kingdom of heaven is like.”
Thomas asked, “Like when you heal sick people?”
Jesus said, “Yep. Or when I welcome lonely people. Or when I feed hungry people. All that good stuff — every bit of kindness and love.”
There was a pause for a minute while everybody thought about that.
Then Peter got a gleam in his eye. “This sounds pretty great. I’ll do some good things in the world and everyone will like me. They’ll all say ‘Wow! That Peter is awesome! He’s like the light of the world!”
Some of Jesus’ friends thought that sounded good. But some of the others grumbled — Peter was always trying to sound important.
“No, Peter,” said Jesus. “If you are shining the light on yourself, you aren’t being the light of the world.”
“Why not?” asked Peter.
Jesus said “On a dark night, if you bring out a bright flaming torch people don’t stare at the torch. They use the torch’s light to see what’s around them. You are the light of the world when the good things you do help people see more clearly how wonderful God is.”
There was silence for a minute again.
Then Peter said, “That sounds harder.”
And Jesus said, “Yeah, but you can do it. You are the light of the world.”
- I wonder what helps you see what the kingdom of heaven is like?
- I wonder what kinds of things you and I do that shine like light?
- I wonder if people think about God when you and I do things?
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