The Children’s Sermon

They wouldn't really bite off your head, would they?I had the worst nightmare of my life last night, I dreamt I was in church, giving the children’s sermon.

Have you ever watched a children’s sermon carefully? There is a sort of Christians fed to the Lions atmosphere. A lone adult walks up to the podium, and she sits rigidly in a straight backed chair. A mass of children rush up, covering the podium with their squiring wiggling bodies. A few look expectantly at the speaker. Some make faces at the congregation. Others stare around the ceiling. One child always walks randomly around the podium, while another boy carefully traces the cross on the cloth covering the communion table. One very small girl clearly experiences a revelation there on the podium. Her eyes light up, she moves her arms upward, and repeatedly leaps up and down the three stairs that lead to the alter, her parent carefully reaching up to catch her, trying to be discrete, and hoping no-one notices.

When a children’s sermon is announced, the congregation perks up, and stirs expectantly. They watch in fascination to see if this time the lone adult will prevail or be devoured.

The technique for a good children’s sermon reminds me of the movie “Chain Reaction”. In it, scientists have discovered a new process to create unlimited free energy. But, it is dangerous. The reaction must be carefully controlled, and they stand intently watching multiple graphs on computer screens. Too little chaos, and the process will fail. Too much and it will explode out of control, causing death and destruction.

In the children’s sermon, you need a certain amount of chaos to hold your audience. You need the children’s participation. You have to ask questions, and actually let them answer.

“Do any of you know the ten commandments?” Can you recite any?”

“Don’t throw things.” someone answers. “Don’t play with matches” another chimes in.

The congregation smiles, and wonders if the little boy tracing the cross will pull it down, sending the wine and bread spewing all over the altar.

“The ten commandments are a set of rules. Do you think adults have to follow rules?”

“No!” the children answer in unison.

When I was a child, I always thought of God as sort of a happy cloud. That fit with all the facts I was told about him/her. She/he was everywhere and knew everything. She/he was as large as the universe and inside all of us. God was all forgiving, and loved the little children.

The old testament has a different God. In the first commandment God declares. “…for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me….”

This God of these patriarchal desert nomads is a fierce warrior king. The father that is trusted and feared. A general who sends troops into battle to face painful death. The troops follow though trust and the knowledge that the consequences of disobedience are worse. They console themselves with their faith in God, and put one foot in front of the other.

It must be that God that inspires people to volunteer for the children’s sermon.

When the children’s sermon is over, the children race off, either to Sunday school or to the pews. The lone adult stands, like Daniel emerging unscathed from the lion’s den. Her trial is over, and the chaos has been kept under control…this week. Her relatives sigh in relief, and move aside for her, touching her gently in silent awe. The congregation settles back, concentrating their attention on finding the hymnal or riding herd on the returning juveniles.

And the deacons are left to ponder the age-old question. Who will volunteer NEXT WEEK?

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