Writing a children’s sermon on Mark 7:24-37 present both ordinary challenges and unusual ones.
On the ordinary side, a children’s sermon on Mark 7:24-37 has to decide what to do with two separate stories. I’m a firm believer that a children’s sermon needs to focus on one thing from the passage. This is one of those lectionary readings that includes two distinct healings in two distinct settings.
The unusual challenges come with the contents of the stories.
Story#l is “The Syrophoenician Woman” who came to ask Jesus to heal her daughter.
You might think the challenge would be explaining the term “Syrophoenician,” but no! Instead I have to work around Jesus’ apparent rudeness to her. He basically called her a dog.
Story#2 is the healing of a man who is both deaf and unable to speak. This one may seem perfectly fine to you, if you have spent most of your life able to hear. However if you are Deaf (that is, not only severely hearing-impaired, but closely connected to the community of people who do not hear) you may well find this one problematic.
Today, people in the Deaf community find love, acceptance, and life by staying connected with each other. To some members of the Deaf community, an offer of fully-functional hearing doesn’t come across as an offer of healing. It’s more like a threat that you’ll lose your friends, family, and place in the world. (Or so I’ve been told. I’m not Deaf, so what do I know?)
And the winner is…
As I did in another text recently, I’m making the choice with a simple strategy: Choose the text with a kid in it–even if the kid is offstage the whole time. I’m talking to kids, so that should help them relate.
So… my children’s sermon on Mark 7:24-37 will be on the Syrophoenician Woman.
A children’s sermon on Mark 7:24-37
Good morning kids! I’m so glad you are here in worship today. Thanks for coming up for the children’s sermon.
I don’t know if you know this, but Jesus was Jewish. Maybe you know some Jewish people. Maybe you don’t.
The Jews are the people you meet in the Bible’s Old Testament. A long time before Jesus, they were enslaved in Egypt. God used Moses to set them free. God brought them to freedom in a different land. God gave them the Ten Commandments and other instructions on how to live as God’s beloved people.
So Jesus was born a Jew. And all twelve of his apostles were Jews. And most of the time he taught and healed and helped people in the region known as Judea where the Jewish people lived.
A trip to the country
But one day Jesus said, “Hey guys! Let’s go up north and visit Tyre and Sidon.”
Peter spoke up, of course. “Um, Jesus, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“What’s the problem, Peter?” asked Jesus.
“Well, its a long walk for one thing,” Peter said. “My feet get tired. Dusty roads… Hot sun… Blisters from my sandals…”
“Hm…” said Jesus. “Is that really what’s bothering you?”
“Not exactly,” said Peter, looking down at his feet. He looked a little embarrassed, actually.
“So why don’t you want to go to Tyre and Sidon?” Jesus asked.
“Well, I, um,” Peter sputtered, “I think we should maybe just stay right around here. Yeah, like, in Judea.”
“Why’s that?” Jesus asked gently.
“Because—” said Peter, “well, because you’re, like, the Messiah, right? For the Jews. I mean, you should stay here and take care of our kind of people.”
“Oh,” said Jesus, “I see.” He sounded kind of sad.
Then Simon the Zealot spoke up. “I don’t want to go to Tyre and Sidon either,” he said. “Those people in Tyre—those are bad people.”
“Bad people?” asked Jesus. “What do you mean?”
“They’re foreigners,” Simon Zealot said. “They don’t keep God’s laws like we do. My mom and dad said they’re like filthy dogs. But here in Judea you’re helping the children of God!”
“I see,” said Jesus. “You want me to feed and heal and help you and your neighbors, but you don’t want me to even visit foreign people.”
“That’s right!” said Peter and Simon Zealot at the same time.
“Well here’s the deal, my friends,” Jesus said. “I’m not just the Messiah for the Jews. I’m the Messiah for everybody.”
Then Jesus stood up. “Let’s take a walk,” he said. “Next stop: Tyre and Sidon.”
A long walk
Well, it was a really long walk. It took them a couple of days to get to Tyre.
One after another the disciples kept asking, in really whiny voices, “Are we there yet?”
Now and then someone would grumble “I don’t see why we have to go to Tyre and Sidon. Why do we have to go to Tyre and Sidon?“
Jesus would just glance at Simon Zealot and say “I think there’s a dog in Tyre that I’d like to play with.”
Finally they got to Tyre. They found a house to stay in—somebody had a cousin there or something—and they all flopped down on the couches in the living room.
“Whew!” someone said, “I’m so tired!”
A surprise visitor
Then there was a sound:
Before anyone could get up, the door swung open.
A woman’s voice said “Is Jesus here? I heard Jesus was staying here. Where’s Jesus?” She sounded really upset.
Then she saw him, looking at her with his big loving brown eyes.
She rushed across the room and knelt down at his feet. “Jesus, I need your help! My little girl—she’s gone crazy! She’s out of her mind! It’s like she became a different person all of a sudden! I think she has a demon!”
Jesus looked deep into her eyes and saw how desperate she was. Then he looked around at his disciples.
Then, in kind of a joking voice, he said, “Well, you know, I really only do nice things for the people of Judea—and you’re not from there. You’re not even Jewish. I need to feed God’s children. I can’t throw their food to the dogs, can I?”
Jesus noticed that none of his disciples would look him in the eye. Jesus was speaking their words, but now they were embarrassed.
“Oh Jesus,” the woman said, “please? Even the dogs get to eat the crumbs under the children’s table!”
Then Jesus broke out in a big grin. He said to the woman “That’s an awesome answer! That’s what I call faith. I promise you: your daughter is all well again.”
And when the woman went home, she found her daughter really was all well again.
- I wonder how the woman felt when Jesus compared her to a dog?
- I wonder how she felt when Jesus helped her daughter?
- I wonder if you’ve ever felt afraid of people who are different, or who come from other places?
- I wonder if you’ve ever worried other people might not like you, because you are different?
- I wonder how the disciples felt when they found out Jesus loved people they didn’t like?
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.
- You can let me know that you are using it, either in the comments below, or using the contact form above.
- You can put a little notice in your church bulletin that your children’s sermon is adapted from one published on GaryNealHansen.com.
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