Proper 9A 2014: Good to bear, a children’s sermon

Today I am sharing a children’s sermon.  Like a good children’s book or even a children’s movie, the message is one for all of us.  I am leaving my parenthetical notes in it; you will see some of my process and reminders to myself.  Imagine that you are sitting on the floor in front of the altar, having just heard the following:

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 Isaac gets Rebekah
Psalm 45:10-17 the giving of a daughter to a king (bleh)
Romans 7:15-25a struggle with physical body and sin; body slave to law of sin; soul slave to law of God
Matthew 11:16-30 “woe to you”s left out!

What is the message that the Holy Spirit would have this people of God hear on this day and on this occasion?

Good to bear.

What do you remember:
About the readings that we just heard?
What might help us hear them better?
Well, let’s remember where we are. Where are we?
For “when,” use church calendar cards

Why? Why are we here?
Why are you here?
Why am I here?
I took a vow to be pastor, priest, and teacher; today I get to do/ to be some of each.

Let’s go over those readings …
Abraham’s son is going to be married, so Abraham sends a slave to go pick out a bride. This is called an arranged marriage. Who gets chosen? Rebekah. We don’t like that idea, do we? That our parents could choose who we marry. But that is how it was done then, and is still done in some places today. Then the man and the woman (not totally unlike those who choose each other) must decide to love one another. And that’s not always easy.

Psalm. What is a psalm? The word comes from “song,” and for us saying a psalm is a response to the reading we just heard.

Then, reading from New Testament, and “Epistle,” which means letter. Today we heard a letter that Paul wrote to some people in ___? Rome. We call the book “Romans” because Paul wrote these words to people in Rome.

What is Paul saying? For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.
What do all of those words mean?
Many things, and: it’s hard to do the right thing.

What is the hardest word you can think of?
… others? …
How about the word “no.” That might just be the hardest word ever in our language, and I think that even Paul was struggling with it.
You probably have to say “NO” to watching TV, and instead study before you take a test.
You might have to say “NO” to a bunch of desserts if you want to have a healthy body.
You might have to say “NO” to … what else?

People who lived a very long time ago found it hard to do the right thing …

And then: what does Jesus say about all – or any – of this?
Jesus has sent his disciples out into the world to heal people and to teach them about God. It’s hard work. Jesus has told them that following him (Jesus) is not easy, and we are going to run into lots of problems.
Jesus, says, it’s okay. Follow me:
My burden is easy and my yoke is light.
Jesus says this in the context of talking to people who are following him, and they are exhausted. Like Paul (in his letter to the Romans), they are finding that following the very many rules that we make – all those “no” things – is hard.

The yoke here might mean the laws of Moses, and there were lots of them. Some people in the world worked to follow those laws exactly; “to the letter,” we would say in order to be “religious.” To this group, called Pharisees, the rules led to legalism, following minute details and maybe missing the point of what the rules are about. Legalism goes further and says that if you don’t do everything right, then you are not good in God’s eyes.

This is the God who created everything and said: it is good. Jesus is trying to teach his followers that there is another way, that God who creates everything wants to know us; remember, we were created for God.

Jesus says, “follow me.” My yoke, my rule, is easy. I want to be in relationship with you.
“That yoke, the yoke of seeking God by keeping the rules, by doing what somebody or anybody or everybody else says is the thing to do, by trying to get it right all the time and so living constantly in fear of getting it wrong, that yoke leads those who wear it to “labor and be heavy laden.” It leads to living in what Paul just called ‘this body of death.’”

What does Jesus mean when he says that his yoke is easy …
Is it easy to follow Jesus?
Not always.
What did you have to say “no” to in order to be here today? I say “no” to sleeping late; I say “no” to going out most Saturday nights so that I can get up early on Sundays … how about you? What did you say “no” to?

Think about this: the word “easy” is interpreted in this way: it means “good to bear.”

That means that Jesus says “my yoke is good to bear,” which is a very different thing from “easy.” What yokes do you have that are good to bear?

Being pastor, priest, and teacher is something “good to bear.” I’ll bet that singing in the choir is good to bear. Raising a family is good to bear. Playing soccer? Making meals for someone you love?

None of these things is “easy,” but they are definitely things that we might say are “good to bear.” Being a Christian is in the same category. It is not always easy to be in a relationship (with anyone, but especially) with Jesus. The rewards might be long in coming; we might be laughed at, turned away, even hated. There is no better relationship than to be a child of God.

What in your life is good to bear?

(At some point, show them the stole at talk about how it represents my yoke of being a priest.)


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