Sunday, November 02, 2008

November 2, 2008 - Talking to Children About Death

Today – the Sunday closest to All Saints Day – is our annual Service of Remembrance at the church. In our worship bulletin, we list the names of all the members and friends of our congregation who have died in the past 12 months, and pray for those who are mourning them.

This year, I do something I’ve never done before. I preach an entire sermon directed to the children of the church. There are plenty of adults here, as well, but I explain to them that their role today is to sit back and listen in to what I’m saying to the children.

My sermon is about death. Now, that subject may not top most people’s list of things to discuss with children, but in my experience it’s something kids do worry about sometimes – and parents, too, as they try to figure out what to say to their kids when there’s been a death in the family. With our Service of Remembrance theme today, the topic does seem to fit.

I’m used to doing brief two- or three-minute Children’s Sermons in the worship service, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull off an extended version. Somehow it all does seem to come together.

Here’s an excerpt:

“You’ve probably noticed, when someone you know has died, that other people around you feel sad. Maybe even your mother or father felt that way. Maybe you even saw them cry – something you don’t see very often.

That can be one of the hardest things about somebody dying – how sad everybody around us feels. When somebody who’s close to us dies – someone in our family, or even an animal that’s a pet – we do feel sad.

Nobody wants to feel sad, but sometimes it’s a good thing to feel that way. Sad isn’t bad when someone we love has died. Sad is just the way we feel at a time like that. It feels good, then, to be around other people who are feeling the same thing. It’s good to get some extra hugs, or to give them. It’s good to crawl up into the lap of our mother or father – if you’re small enough to do that – and just feel safe and warm and loved....

The Bible tells us that, if we love Jesus, you and I go to live with God when we die. The place where God lives is called heaven. We have no idea what heaven looks like, or feels like, or sounds like, but we know it’s a very wonderful place. This world of ours is a wonderful place, too, and God wants us to stay here, with our families, as long as our lives last – but we know our lives don’t last forever. When we die and go to be with God, it’s something like climbing up into the lap of our mother or father, and feeling all warm and welcome and safe.”


There’s more to it than that, of course. You can check out the full version HERE, if you’d like.

I refer to a couple of Bible passages. One is the story of Elijah’s restoring to life the son of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17-24).

I also draw upon a passage from 1 John:

“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2, Contemporary English Version)

What I do, this morning, is speak from the heart. There’s nothing sophisticated about today’s message: it’s just basic Christianity.

I don’t think this is a sermon I could have preached before I had cancer. Somehow, the experience of having had a life-threatening illness has freed me to speak with a certain degree of personal authority. Not that I mention my own health situation, of course. The effect is more subtle, and interior to me.

I get a lot of favorable comments from people at the church door afterwards. Some of the adults respond with emotion: there’s nothing like trying to see death through a child’s eyes to bring out strong feelings.

No matter how old we get, on some level we never stop being children.

3 comments:

wow power leveling said...
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janet son said...

Yes, it touched me so deeply. kids sometimes ask about death but most of those times I didnt take it seriously, with only short mention to move this topic to other things. Thank you for showing me how answer to my kids. 😊

janet son said...

Yes, it touched me so deeply. kids sometimes ask about death but most of those times I didnt take it seriously, with only short mention to move this topic to other things. Thank you for showing me how answer to my kids. 😊