Anna's Hosannas!
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Lesson for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time A (September 25, 2011)

Scripture Reference: Matthew 21: 22-32

First Thoughts: In this passage we find one of those rare parables from Jesus which seems pretty straightforward.  There isn't an unexpected twist in this story.  The lesson is clear: It isn't important what we SAY we'll do.  It's important that we DO what we're called to do.  Perhaps, then, we can spend some time thinking about the two sons themselves - doing a character study, if you will.  What would cause the first son to agree to something, and then not follow through?  What about the second son, obstinately refusing to move forward, but then changing his mind and doing his father's will?  Can you determine times in your life when you were each of these sons?  Have you ever said "yes" when you meant "no"?  Or refused to do something, only to have your niggling conscience be persistent enough that - later - you changed your mind?  Perhaps this story can bring to our consciousness our own tendency to "play up" our righteousness without backing it with commitment - and help us to honor that persistent small voice in our hearts which just won't let us off the hook when it comes to God's call!

Props You Will Need: None.

Team Approach
Leader 1: Hey there (name.)
Leader 2: (smiling brightly) Well, hello!
Leader 1: You certainly seem to be in a good mood today.  Has something really good happened to you?
Leader 2: As a matter of fact, it did.  My friend Sally told me I was the best Christian she had ever met.
Leader 1: Wow.  That's quite a compliment.  What led her to say that?
Leader 2: Well, Sally's mom is sick, and yesterday Sally asked me if I would pray for her.  I said sure - that I would stay up all night praying for her.  That's when Sally told me how great I was.
Leader 1: So you were up all last night praying?  You don't look that tired.
Leader 2: Not exactly.
Leader 1: What do you mean, not exactly?
Leader 2: I didn't stay up all night.  I meant to pray, but I had to do my homework, and then I started watching TV.  By the time I brushed my teeth and got into bed, I was so tired I just fell asleep.
Leader 1: So you didn't pray for Sally's mother at all?
Leader 2: Not really.  But I said I would, and that seemed to make Sally happy.
Leader 1: But it's not enough just to say you're going to do something.  When you make a promise you need to keep it.  You know, Jesus told a story about this.  There was once a father who asked both his sons to go work for him.  The first one said he would, but then he didn't.
Leader 2: Kinda like me, huh?
Leader 1: Yep.  And the second one said no way - but then later on he realized he was wrong and went and worked for him after all.  Which one did the right thing?
Leader 2: The second one.
Leader 1:  Yep.  It's more important to really do good things than just to promise them.
Leader 2: I see that.  I guess I better rest up then - got a long night of praying ahead of me tonight!

On Your Own: (smiling big, proudly) I have some great news!  You know what my friend Sally said to me?  She said I was the best Christian she had ever met.  You know why?  Her mother is sick and yesterday Sally asked me to pray for her.  I told her sure I'd pray for her mom - I'd even stay up all night to pray for her.  That made Sally so happy!  (smile fading, considering) But, you know, I never really got around to praying for her last night, like I promised.  I had homework to do, and then started watching TV.  By the time I finally brushed my teeth and got into bed I was so tired I just fell asleep.  When I told Sally I would pray for her mom, it made her really happy.  What do you think - is it okay to promise somebody something but then not do it?  No, I think you're probably right.  When you make a promise you need to keep it.  You know, Jesus told a story about this.  There was once a father who asked both his sons to go work for him.  The first one said he would, but then he didn't.  Kinda like what I did, huh?  And the second one said no way - but then later on he realized he was wrong and went and worked for him after all.  Which one did the right thing? The second one, right?  It's more important to really do good things than just to promise them. I guess that means I better rest up then - got a long night of praying ahead of me tonight!

Closing Prayer: Thank you, God, for calling us to work for you, and to help spread the good news of your love to everyone.  Help us always to do what we promise, and to be faithful workers to you.  May our lives shine with your light.  In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

Follow-Up Activity: A great way to follow up on this lesson is to introduce kids to the idea of random acts of kindness.  Help the kids to understand that what Jesus is teaching is that God doesn't want us to just talk about doing good things.  Why would someone do that?  Because they want other people to admire them, to think they're really good people.  That means that what they want most of all is to look good, not to do what God wants them to do.  But what about people who do good things and no one ever knows that it's them?  We know that those folks aren't doing it so that others will admire them, but just because they want to make the world a better place.  That's what a random act of kindness is - just offering something good into the world, maybe for someone you don't even know!  Help the kids to come up with three random acts of kindness they can do this week - like making their bed in the morning without being asked, cleaning up a mess made by a younger sibling, picking up trash on the sidewalk and throwing it away, etc.  Get them to write their ideas down, and be ready next week to share their experiences with the group.