If you are still stuck with the unfortunate practice of children’s sermons you might consider the following suggestions for topics until the time comes when you can remove this intrusion into the Holy Liturgy (See Volume II: 2’s “Twenty Reasons to Ditch Your Children’s Sermon”.) In the meantime you will have appropriately catechized the children who have come forward, and you have also given a reason for the Zwinglians in your parish, who lobbied for this intrusion, to beg you to stop. For your consideration we offer the following which you may adjust to your liturgical circumstances (i. e. you may have to purchase a light weight censer, see #6). We trust our mature readers can filter the sophomoric tongue-in-cheek comments from the serious suggestions offered here. To the sensitive, we apologize in advance.
One – The Holy Cross
Take several Sundays to teach the sign of the Holy Cross. Dr. Luther’s direction to sign oneself upon rising and reclining makes this a part of our confessional subscription, and it ought to be as natural to our children as their daily breath. Obviously, one will make the connection to the children’s baptism. The Liturgy itself offers many times when it is appropriate to make the sign of the cross and these occasions should be noted. Urge the children to teach the sign of the cross to their parents, siblings, and grandparents and to direct them to their Catechism to see Dr. Luther’s encouragement for this laudable custom (or in the case of the new blue WELS’ catechism to ask why this rubric, our baptismal reminder, was exorcised from the text.) Warning! This may mean the end of children’s sermons from the outset.
(See the letter appended to this article for verification of this. As we promised, half credit for this idea goes to the Reverend Fr. Michael Brockman, who in teaching the proprium of making the sign of the Holy Cross, discovered this alienum!)
Two – The Lutheran Exorcist
Some time should be reserved to explain why the baptismal rite has the exorcism. This would afford a good opportunity to explode any notions which the children might have about their inherent goodness. One can hardly drub the children’s self-esteem too much.
Three – “Is” is “Is”
In view of the mobility of our people it might be wise to prepare the children to ask important questions of their prospective shepherds. For example: “Pastor, after you chant the Verba what does the text say you hold in your hand?” Have the children memorize FC VII 78-81 so that they are able to recite it in case of an ambiguous answer or blank stare.
Four – Liturgy Du Jour
On the following Sunday review the Service of the Word, if you are WELS, (Christian Worship, p 38) or any other of the homemade, hymn sandwich services that plague Lutheranism. Teach the children to politely ask any presider of such the rhetorical question, “Pastor, you call this Gottesdienst!?!”
Five – It’s not a robe!
Review for the children the priest’s vesting prayer while vesting as you explain the Christological significance of your vestments. This could coincide with the start of a fund for the purchase of brocade silk chasubles. Dressing yourself in front of the children would also be a refreshing change of pace, since a disturbing number of ministers are undressing themselves in front of children.
Six – Holy Smoke!
While your church’s censer is not a toy, you might have one of the older boys practice his swing technique as you scold those who derisively label the heavenly Eucharistic scene, redolent with incense, with the pejorative “smells and bells.” One cannot start too early when preparing the lads for the Office of the Deaconate. (As an object lesson it sure beats what a pastor from a self consciously conservative, low church Lutheran synod used in a pastor’s conference sermon, a giant squirt gun - along with about ten other props - thus demeaning the Gospel with his Kinderspiel. Of course, in the case of our children’s sermon, one might have one at the ready just in case things get out of hand.)
Seven – “Oh, Come let us Adore Him!”
Demonstrate the elevation of the consecrated elements for the children (and how it works to drive away all Zwinglians and crypto-Calvinists.) Take special care to note that this is done so that little people can also see the Savior over the heads of those seated in front of them and adore the Blessed body and blood of Christ, if they wish. Here is another opportunity to make the sign of the cross.
Eight – “Holy, Holy, Holy “
Most church buildings have a least several symbols denoting the Holy Trinity. This would be a better illustration of this great mysterion than the tricycle which an innovative Lutheran pastor in a forward thinking synod rode into his chancel several years ago. (Like we said, you can’t make this stuff up.)
Nine – “Whatever things are lovely”
Although literacy rates have gone up since the Middle Ages, stained glass still teaches the faithful. An explanation of your stained glass windows would be very appropriate. If you don’t have stained glass in your church, have the children sit for five minutes in the front of church staring at the blank chancel wall.
Ten – Let us Vigil
Take time to light and explain the Christological significance of the Paschal candle, its five wax nails, the Α and Ω, the current year inscribed on it, and its role in the Great Vigil of Easter, Baptisms and funerals. However, remember the squirt gun.
Eleven – Leave the Crayons at Home
Explain the liturgical colors. This could also involve the ladies of the altar guild, and it would serve as a good recruitment pitch for the guild. (And it’s great fun to explain that blue is the Marian color.)
Twelve – “Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise”
Teach the children one of the longer canticles (e.g. the Gloria in Excelsis or the Te Deum). Have the congregation join in. Sing-a-longs are fun! (Then force the boomers in the congregation to sing a little ditty like Pharaoh, Pharaoh, a youth retreat favorite which is sung to the tune of Louie, Louie, or maybe Shine, Jesus, Shine and enjoy the looks of incredulity on the faces of the children as they stride back to their pews.)
Thirteen – “Whatever things are just”
Have one of your musicians attempt to play the Agnus Dei from Bach’s B Minor Mass on an electric guitar, and then do your best Pete Townshend and smash the guitar into the amplifier. While pyro-techniques can be overused, this might be an instance when they can be appropriately employed with the added bonus of instilling a proper fear into the children.
Fourteen – (Warning: Soccer Moms May Object)
This suggestion for a children’s sermon can only be used on Holy Innocents (December 28). Two options are afforded, both the actual practice of some parts of Medieval Europe: a) Some of the boys are permitted to be vested and sit in the chancel chairs in honor of the Innocents, or b) all the children who come forward are lightly caned so that they are reminded of the Innocents’ sacrifice.
Fifteen – “Let us worship and Bow Down”?
One children’s sermon can be a demonstration of proper genuflection, for at the name of Jesus every knee will bow. But then again, maybe Paul was speaking proleptically and not of a real physical bowing in time, or so we are told.
Sixteen – The tray of the Lord?
Tape a saloon scene from an old western showing the cowboys throwing back shots of whisky. Then, with your back to the congregation, look at the kids and go wink, wink.
Seventeen – Mea Culpa
Go through the Rite of Private Confession and Absolution. Tell the children that no one in the congregation does this, and if they did you couldn’t tell them anyway. Also, use this time to privately hear their confession.
Eighteen – Solus Christus
Demonstrate to the children that Christ is the hermeneutical key to opening the scriptures. For example, show them how Jesus is the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, Jacob’s ladder, the Tree of Life, the abomination of desolation, ….
Nineteen – “This is a Great Mystery”
Give a brief historical account of how modern feminism and the ordination of women is nothing but regurgitated Gnosticism and not to be tolerated in the Church Catholic. This will make your female lector feel a tad uncomfortable, and that will be good. If possible you should grow a beard for the occasion to show you are not a Gnostic priestess masquerading as a man.
Finally – Isn’t this the Goal?
Insert the children’s sermon between the Words of Institution and the Angus Dei. Ask the children if they believe that Jesus is the Redeemer and if his true Body and Blood are on the altar to be given them for the forgiveness of sins. If they give their “Amen,” commune them all at the first table.
Thus, the children’s fast and your children’s sermons will come to a merciful and blessed end. §
The contributors in question here wish to say that, despite what you may conclude from the above, they were loved and so apporpriately beaten as children.
Reverend Fr. Michael Brockman writes
Thanks for spending time and delivering up 20 strikes as to why the catholic church needs to ditch children's sermons! (Vol. II:2) Number twenty-one might be "They are discriminatory." Why do only little children "get to come forward." Why not teenagers? College kids? Married couples? Retired folk? Couldn't we fill a felt-need and provide a "singles' mixer" at the steps to the altar? Fine, I must confess they are just god-awful and I must also confess that in 20 years of ordained ministry, I did one, one Sunday. My elders at my third parish were getting their ears tugged as to why the new pastor didn't do children's sermons. I battled and went through 101 reasons. Finally, I agreed. I told the Board of Elders I would start on Sunday. I said nothing else. The liturgical event called the "Children's Sermon" was listed in the bulletin that Sunday. It was listed before the first hymn. I called all the children to sit in the front pew, backs to their parents and grandparents.
I said this (or something similar):
"We all use our hands for many purposes. We use our hands and fingers to make signs. If I make a fist and shake it at you, you know what that means. If I move my fingers back and forth from you to me, you know I am asking you to come here. Some people make indecent signs with the fingers.
Luther has urged Christians to make signs with the hands. I want to teach you that sign this morning. It's the sign of the holy cross..."
Then after easily teaching the children how to make this sign, I told them to teach it to their mothers and fathers that night before going to bed and saying their prayers.
That was the last time I did a "children's sermon."
8MM Egad, you stole our thunder, or should I say, great minds think alike. Perhaps you noted on the cover of our most recent MM the article which is to appear in "An Upcoming Issue" entitled "Twenty Ideas for Children's Sermons (If you Still Preach Them)." Guess what the number one idea was we were going to offer?
Thanks for the great comments and we will give you (half) credit (although I don't know about the wisdom of bringing up the issue of the indecent signs, you know, running the risk of some kid saying "Like this one my dad gives to you behind your back!?" (JWB) §