Sunday, April 5, 2015

Children's Sermon: Holy Week & Emotions

As I explained in an earlier post, this year for Lent, instead of reading the week's scripture from the lectern, the RuacH creative worship committee has commissioned unique "Ignatian Contemplations" to be read in a combination of drama and prayer. The idea is to help congregants place themselves in the Biblical stories. Each one ended, "Look inside yourself, the onlooker, and consider what your emotions might have been. ... Whatever you are feeling, share it with God in prayer this week, and be open to hear God’s words as they come back to you."

I was assigned the Children's Sermon for Palm Sunday and wanted to continue on this theme of emotions. After all, we tell the kids they should be happy on Palm Sunday to recreate a parade for an absent Jesus--and then on Easter Sunday they're "happy" because they're hepped up on enough sugar that they don't notice the uncomfortable clothes they're wearing. I wanted to explore the variety of emotions aroused by the Holy Week events that happen in between these two "happy" holidays.

So I spent an inordinate amount of time, while eating lunch in a coffee shop, looking for simple, black and white drawings of Jesus teaching in the temple or washing the disciples' feet. I quickly discovered that Protestant sites offered many variations on the theme of "happy, smiling Jesus," but I had to go to Catholic websites to find images of the more disturbing parts of the Passion/Stages of the Cross, such as a frontal view of Jesus on the cross. There are hundreds of images of the open tomb, but far fewer showing Jesus' burial or the closed tomb. There are also some disturbingly cartoonish ones.

Because of the multitude of images--I eventually settled on 6 pictures for 6 days in Holy Week--I decided to affix them to a larger sheet of paper for ease of display and clean up. For someone with a smaller group of children or more time--such as a whole Sunday School (half)hour, this sermon could be easily adapted into a whole lesson. See below for more details.

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Children's Sermon Text:

[Because there was some chaos in the transition between the children singing and starting the children's sermon, I went ahead and unrolled the paper scroll.]

Good morning! I am so happy to see all of you here today. So wait...why is today special? What are you celebrating? [It's Palm Sunday!]

Oh right! That's a pretty special day. And can you remind me, what is next Sunday? [Easter!]

Yes, Easter is another exciting day. Okay. But what happens in between? [Blank looks.] I'll give you a hint, it's right here at the top. [Holy Week!]

Yes, Holy Week. Here you can see Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem. The people around him a waving palm branches. How do you think they were feeling? [Happy, excited, emotional.] Yes, it was a very emotional time for them!

In this picture Jesus is turning over the money changers' tables and driving the animal sellers out of the Temple. How do you think he was feeling? [Angry, upset, frustrated.]

Then Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. This is Peter. See the question mark over his head? [I added the question mark in marker after printing, because of course everyone looks so *&#$^ happy in the picture.]  How do you think he was feeling? [Happy, confused.] That's right: when Jesus offered to wash his disciples' feet, Peter said, "Wash all of me!" But Jesus said, "No, just your feet will be enough."

Look: soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. How do you think the disciples felt? [Scared, angry.]

Then Jesus was crucified. What do you think that made them feel? [Sad, crying, disappointed.]

After Jesus died, they buried him. How do you think they felt then? [Sad, lonely, forgotten. During the service one kid piped up, "happy!" and I reminded him that the people who knew Jesus didn't know that Easter was coming yet--an excellent teaching point.]

You see, just because we're Christian doesn't mean we only have to be happy all the time. The stories in the Bible show us a wide range of emotions, as you can see from the events during Holy Week between Palm Sunday and Easter. It's okay to feel those things. You can always pray about them.

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Suggestions for a Sunday School lesson: space the pictures out side by side so that you can reveal one at a time. Describe the stories for them in more detail than I did above. Particularly for younger children, have them practice imitating the various emotions. Older children might like to each have a different color marker to write on the paper the emotion the scene evokes for them.

Easter Sunday ending: review the events/emotions from Holy Week. Then unroll the scroll to find the happy ending: an angel telling the women that the tomb is empty! (For more dramatic effect, leave more space between the two than I did here.)

Editor's Note: Some of my other children's sermons have addressed the Transfiguration and Pentecost/the Tower of Babel.

1 comment:

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