Anna's Hosannas!
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Lesson for the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 4, 2011)

Scripture Reference: Matthew 18: 15-20

First Thoughts: This passage from Matthew is one of those "common sense" passages that seem almost impossible to follow.  Of course it makes sense that, if someone does something wrong to us, we should speak to that person first about it.  This is particularly important in the church since the purpose of the church is to share God's love with the world.  The best way to do this is to work together as one harmonious body, dedicating most of our energy to those outside our church body.  If, when we are offended, we don't immediately work toward healing and reconciliation our mission is hurt in two ways: 1) our energy is diverted into carrying grudges; and 2) our harmony is disrupted, making room for dissension.  In your own life, do you recognize times when you confronted someone lovingly, and achieved reconciliation?  How about a time when you resisted that confrontation?  What happened to your available energy in each case?  Perhaps this is something to share with your kids during class time.

Props You Will Need: None.

Teaching as a Team
Leader 1: Hey, (name), you look a little sad today.  Is anything wrong?

Leader 2:  I have a problem.  The other day I was playing basketball with some of my friends, when my friend Bob stepped on my foot and got my sneaker all dirty. That made me mad.

Leader 1: Oh.  What did you do?

Leader 2: I told Jim.  That made Jim mad and he told Greg.  Before long everybody knew about it, and everybody got mad.  Then they kicked Bob off the team.

Leader 1: So what's the problem?

Leader 2: I really like Bob!

Leader 1: Hmm.  Maybe you didn't handle that quite right.  In the bible Jesus tells his disciples that if someone does something bad to them they need to go talk to that person first.

Leader 2: You mean I should have talked to Bob?

Leader 1: Yeah. Maybe it was just an accident.  Or maybe Bob needs to be more careful when he plays.  But the point is, you could have solved the problem right away, instead of getting everyone else involved.  That's important in church too.  Because our job as church is to spend most of our time showing others God's love.  That times a lot of energy and focus - which is hard to do if everybody's too busy talking about a squabble between two folks.

Leader 2: Just like I'd rather play basketball than spend more time complaining about my sneaker.

Leader 1: Right.  So what are you going to do now?

Leader 2: I think I'll talk to Bob.

Leader 1: Good idea!

Teaching On Your Own:  I have a little bit of a problem.  You want to hear about it?  The other day I was playing basketball with some of my friends, and my friend Bob stepped on my foot.  Not only did it hurt, but it made my sneaker dirty!  That made me mad, so I told my other friend Jim about it.  Then Jim got mad and he told Greg.  Before long everybody got mad, and they threw Bob off the team.  But I really like Bob!  So now I'm thinking that I probably didn't go about things the right way.  You know, in the bible Jesus told his disciples that if someone did something to hurt them then they should go and talk to that person right away - to get the problem solved.  It's better to try to take care of things with just the two of you instead of getting everyone else involved.  If I had done that with Bob, then we all could have spent less time talking about the problem  and more time doing what we love best - playing basketball!  It's even more important in church, because we're supposed to be sharing God's love with the world.  If we're spending all our time talking about problems between different members we're not getting our real job done. We need to be honest with each other, and get problems taken care of quickly.  So we can all have good relationships together and get busy spreading God's word.   I think I'll do that now - and talk to Bob.  What do you think?

Closing Prayer:  Thank you, God, for loving us and for helping us to love each other.  We pray we can learn how to handle our problems with each other quickly and lovingly, so we can be a harmonious family of faith, and so we can do your good work in the world around us.  In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

Follow-Up Lesson:  A great way to follow up this children's sermon, in a classroom or in a home setting, is to help the kids understand the difference between harmony and disharmony.  Depending on the number of kids, divide them into two or three groups.  Give them a chance to consult together, to come up with a song they want to sing together.  When each group has a song, bring them all back together.  Then invite them to all join in singing at the same time.  What does it sound like?    Then have the whole group talk about what song they want to sing together.  How does that sound?  Now let's think about what it's like in church when two people are having a disagreement, but instead of talking about it one on one they talk about it with everybody.  Now we have two "teams" of people, each picking sides.  It's like singing two songs at once.  How can the world understand what we're saying?  And do we even WANT them to hear what we're saying?!  What's the song we want to sing to the world?