Let Everything Praise the Lord: Psalm 150

This year, we began our time in Church School with Psalm 1 imagining our lives of faith and our pursuit of and delight in God’s word as a tree. A tree planted and nourished by water with deep roots. Alive. Vibrant. Strong.

It’s always difficult to know how to end the year. This year we do so with thanksgiving and praise, acknowledging all that God has done for us as we have journeyed through the stories of Scriptures as companions in life and faith.

Gathering: As you gather begin with a prayerful, communal activity focusing on Thanksgiving. Ask the students to remember what they have learned this year using the questions below (feel free to add other questions and prompts). Write each thanksgiving down on your whiteboard or on a sheet of poster paper.

  • What story did you most enjoy or do you most remember?
  • What did you learn this year that you never knew before?
  • Who became a friend this year?
  • What did you learn about a teacher that you did not previously know?
  • How did you grow?
  • In the future, what do you most want to learn about God, the Bible, the Church, and yourself?

Read Psalm 150. In classes with younger children, divide the reading between all of the teachers with each person reading a few verses. Read as though you love it! In classes with older children of reading age, read the passage in unison. When you finish, Praise God for all of your written Thanksgivings “Praise God for John who became my friend” or “Praise God for the story of your faithful prophet Nathan” or “Praise God for all of the fun we had.” God around the room, inviting each child to Praise God for something that is written, their own thanksgiving or someones in the class.

Respond with Art (if you do not have time, this is the piece you can remove): Older children can create word art with the Psalm (like this) and younger children may want to illustrate something for which they can give thanks to God. Use any medium that you prefer–collage, watercolors, acrylics.

Parting Ways: Some extra snacks will be in your class for the day. Pass out the snacks and wrap everything up. Remind the students that this is the last day of Sunday School. We will begin again in the Fall. Invite them to Vacation Church School on June 12-16 and encourage them to bring a friend (Pass out the VCS info half-sheets that I will put in your class). Then, pray for them. Keep your prayer simple and short, but make sure to name each student in your class and ask that God go with them this Summer. Dismiss them with a short blessing and Christ’s peace.

Christ is Risen!

Indeed, Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

See my short Lent and Easter recap post here. Since it has been so long, and so very much has happened in the liturgical story

Gather: Go around and share names (younger classes can open with name games, like passing a ball between people with each successive person naming all of the people who have passed before) and do some opening stretches and movement. Reestablish your class and do so intentionally.

 

Holy Week and Easter Conversation starter suggestions:

  • Holy Week: There were a lot of services at the church during Holy Week. Why do you think so many people came to the church so many times? What did you do when you came to the church? Did you wash someone’s feet or did you take the Eucharist? Did the church look different or change a lot? What did you think about those changes? Some of the changes were very dark and some of them were beautiful. What was your favorite time coming to the church? Do you remember how many new people were baptized? Was there anything new or different in the church that you had never seen before?
  • Easter: The first day of Easter was last Sunday. That’s the first day out of 50 days and it seems to be one that people really like. If you came I bet you met a lot of people who you have never met before, and it was fun to have new friends on such a festive and celebratory occasion. Did you come to church on Easter morning? Did anything special happen? What happened to the alleluias that we buried a long time ago? What story did you hear? Why do you think we were having such a good time after all of the time we spent with the sad/rough stories?

Respond to the Story

  1. Christ is Risen in Greek (Older classes) may be interested in learning how to say and write Christ is Risen in Greek: Christos Anesti (“Χριστός ἀνέστη!”). Orthodox Christians greet one another at Easter with this greeting and by cracking two red eggs against one another. Students might like to paint large red eggs on paper and then write Christ is Risen (in English or Greek) on the eggs.
  2. Search for the alleluias in the garden (younger children): Our Lenten group made a set of wooden letters that spell out Alleluia. One teacher can hide the wooden letters in an area outside of the church (maybe the memorial garden) and students can look for them together. Want to make it more challenging? Tie children together in teams for two or three. Learn an alleluia song together (allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluia. Praise ye the Lord!).
  3. Create an Easter garden together: Collect items from around the church, sticks, tiny stones, blades of grass, small vines. In a shallow bowl or pot plate, create an Easter garden together. Use an empty carton as the tomb and build around it. Some examples what your garden might look like are here,here, and here. Afterwards, use the garden to re-enact the Easter story from Jesus burial to his resurrection (you might use peg dolls and strips of cloth from the supply closet). If you would like to do this, please let me know and I can gather a few extra materials or help you find materials we have.
  4. Resurrection eggs: Adapt the concept of resurrection eggs (a carton of plastic eggs in which each egg contains a symbol of the Holy Week story). Together brainstorm a list of symbols from all of the Lent and Easter stories your class knows so far (you may even want to read one or two extra stories from the #2 above). Some ideas for symbols are: a feather (for the rooster in the story of Peter’s denials of Christ), a stone, a piece of linen, a sponge (for the vinegar Jesus is given when he asks for a drink), a butterfly (symbol of the resurrection), a coin (Judas’ betrayal), a nail, etc. Have one teacher gather symbols from the supply closet. Put the symbols in colorful plastic eggs (in the supply closet). Put the symbols in the middle of the table. Older students can write a response to the question: What is the most important symbol? Younger children can illustrate the most important symbol.
  5. Acting out and Holy Play: Our youngest children may want to focus just on the resurrection story. Use play dough (free-form, 3-d, or with these play dough mats), cardboard bricks, or found stones to build a tomb and talk about how Mary found the tomb empty before she saw Jesus. If using the cardboard bricks, have the children act out the scene for each other.
  6. Word Art: As a class create a list of words that describe the experience of Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, respectively. The create word art of the cross, the empty tomb, Eucharist, or any of the other symbols and motifs we have talked about. Here is an example of what your art might look like. If you do this, please take pictures to send me.
  7. Community Cross: Before your class comes in, cut a large cross out of paper, then cut it into squares of different sizes (remember to number the backs so you know in what order the pieces go. Ask each student to color one of the squares. When all are finished, put the pieces of the cross back together (together) to create a cross mosaic. You can find an example from of friend of mine, here.

Close in Prayer and with a snack

Ending the Year Right

I will post our lesson soon. In the meantime, please take just a moment to read the short account below. Since we are doing a lesson this week that brings all of the pieces together, I have listed out what our students have been working on throughout Lent and Easter and you may want to know what they have been up to.

When you tell the same stories year after year to the same children, it can sometimes be difficult to “keep them interested.” Some age groups are more challenging than others because once they “know the story” and have the facts, it can be difficult to return to the story again–especially the stories of Advent, Christmas, and Easter (and to some extent, Lent).

Many times I begin our children’s liturgy with a bit of a challenge for the students. A symbol–sometimes a rock, a bowl of water, an icon, a loaf of bread, a plate of ash or dust, a candle, a piece of linen, or a cross–is placed in the middle of the room. Inevitably, one of the students will sigh loudly: “I already know this story.” I have kind of come to count on that response. “Do you?” I will say. “Might you share this story with us.” The student will begin to tell the story. Sometimes it is the story I have in mind. Sometimes it isn’t. I don’t bother to tell them if they have guessed correctly or not because that isn’t the point. I am not fishing for the correct answer. “Well that’s a wonderful story. I wonder what other story we might hear or see today.” Others will jump in until we have a long list of all of the possible stories in Scripture having to do with rocks–Jacob places a rock altar in the desert to remember his dream, 12 rocks are placed in the bed of the River Jordan as the people of Israel cross into the Promised Land, Stephen is stoned in the Church’s first martyrdom, a stone is rolled over Jesus’ tomb, “the stone that has been rolled away has become the chief cornerstone”–I am always surprised by all of the stories the children can generate, how well they know Scripture, sometimes even obscure stories.

This exercise can be helpful for making connections that would otherwise be difficult to make all at once. The symbol is a starting place for recounting all of the amazing things God has done, for opening up our imaginations, starting our conversation, and offering a new and exciting reminder of the old stories. They aren’t just stories with facts that we can memorize and be done with. We have to hear them, know them in our bones, tell them, share them, and put them in juxtaposition to other stories in Scripture or seasons of the Church year, or events in our own lives. The stories begin to take on a life of their own and we begin to make different meaning of them and of our own lives in relation to them. This is our task in Church School. We open up our imagination and hearts. Together we investigate, explore, and wonder inside the world of Christian Worship, symbol, and Scripture–the world as we believe God has made it. This is always our task, but can be especially important to remember at the end of the year when we are tired of our schedule and the constant preparations. Hang in there. It’s so worth it!

Even though we have not been meeting for Church School, the children have been hearing the stories of Holy Week and Easter. Many of them read children’s storybook Bibles with their families or hear the stories from their parents. Others attended our interactive Stations of the Cross (we had several families represented this year which was wonderful!) and even some Holy Week services. Sunday liturgies cover many of the stories leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection. On Palm Sunday we had a set of Holy Week stations, Easter morning a short liturgy as we witnessed the raising of the Alleluias, painted stones with gold paint, and flowered the cross. On the second Sunday of Easter, children and families explored symbols of baptism and resurrection by making paschal  candles.

In our children’s liturgy we covered the stories of Jesus’ last supper with his disciplines, praying in the Garden, and his encounter with Mary Magdalene after the resurrections. In our Wednesday night Lenten programming, we learned all about the church’s liturgical dressings–purple, rough linen/burlap/sackcloth, ash, abstaining from the Alleluias. We also learned about Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, Peter’s denial, and Jesus’ trial.

Though not all children attended all of these offerings, many did. Many know the stories from Lent and Easter well. Our lesson this week will bring it all together by focusing once again on the Church’s claim that Christ is risen Indeed!

Luke 4: Jesus the Prophet and Hometown Boy

Overview

This story has always been so fascinating to me. Following his baptism, Jesus spends 40 days in the wilderness, and then afterwards arrives at the synagogue in his hometown (attending was his custom). I’ll let you discover the details of the story in your own reading, but I wanted to highlight the strange way the passage ends: “and Jesus passed through the midst of them.” I don’t know why I find this detail so interesting. How strange that one moment Jesus being chased by an angry mob, and the next moment he “passes through the midst of them.”

In Luke, Jesus sometimes seems to inhabit a sort of liminal space. I don’t mean to suggest that Jesus didn’t have a body. He certainly did! and Luke certainly emphasizes that reality. This detail catches my attention because it’s a kind of motif in the Gospel of Luke.

  • In 24:36-43, Jesus appears in the midst of the disciples as they are discussing their encounter with him on the road to Emmaus: “While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them [. . .]” (v. 36).
  • Right before his appearance in Jerusalem, Jesus vanishes from the sight of the two who walked with him to Emmaus (v. 31).
  • What is the link between Jesus’ post-resurrection body and his first appearance as a prophet in his hometown? Are the stories related? Is there a common tradition or source from which this theme is derived?

Both other times something similar happens, it is post-resurrection. I wonder if these stories are linked to one another. Does this story have something to say about Jesus identity? About the right time for his life and death?  What do you make of this?

Objectives

(1.) Students will be able to explain one of the ways that people began to receive Jesus as his identity emerged and became increasingly public.

(2.) Older children may begin to see that Jesus was not loved by many. For much of his life he was abandoned by those who knew him best. His identity put him at odds with the world, the Roman Empire, and even his family. They may be able to see that Jesus was increasingly rejected and this rejection ultimately led to the cross.

 

Hear the Word

Jesus the Prophet and Hometown boy, a starting place: See if you can learn a few things about Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth. Jesus is rejected here, not unlike the rejection of prophets before him (Jesus mentions Elijah in this passage. Our children may remember this from our lesson about him earlier in the year). Here are a few places you might learn things about Nazareth:

Tell the story from Luke 4: 16-30  to the children in your class. You may want to begin with a dramatic retelling from your own knowledge of the story. After telling the story this way, you can check the cabinet for a children’s storybook Bible retelling or an arch book on the story (I am not at the church to check our collection).

Respond to the Word

 

  1. Interactive story: The people respond in multiple ways to Jesus through the whole story. At first they are amazed at the wonderful things he says. Later they are upset and then so mad they want to throw him off a cliff. As you tell the story a second time, invite your class to respond to the story as though they are the listening congregation. When the crowd responds positively, they might want to clap and cheer. When they are upset, your class can boo. You might even make two signs to help prompt their responses–“Yay!” and “Boo!” Wonder together what accounts for the different responses in the story.
  2. The Scroll of Isaiah: Share with your students the difference between a codex (book) and scroll. When we read in church, we read most Scripture from the Bible located at the Lectern. We read our Gospel stories from the Gospel book right in the middle of the congregation. Show photos of scrolls and talk about how it might be different to read from a scroll. Your class might like to create scrolls. Here is a possibility for older children who may like to draw their own scroll and write in the words from Isaiah. Here is an idea for younger children. For the youngest children, you might want to print out a copy of Isaiah’s words, clue them in and illustrate around the words before creating the scroll. Children might also enjoy practicing reading from the scroll as though they are lectors.
  3. Wonder: Wonder together what it would be like to see friends and family after being away for a while, and what the response of his community was to his reading, then to his subsequent proclamation? Wonder with your class about the circumstances around the uprising against Jesus in Nazareth. I wonder why the people were so upset. I wonder what Jesus said that changed their mind after they were so happy to hear him read. I wonder how Jesus got away.
  4. Spring up, O Well: In our story we learn that Jesus has come to fulfill the prophesies of Isaiah. The blind can see. Good news is proclaimed to the poor. Talk about how this is another opportunity for us to praise Jesus for who he is. The popular children’s song, “I’ve Got a River of Life” will be fun for our kids to learn (if they don’t know it already). By changing only a couple of words, this song can help remind us  of who Jesus is: “I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me. Jesus makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. He opens prison doors and sets the captives free. So, I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me!”
  5. Good News in Art: What is the good news that Jesus is proclaiming in the synagogue and who is it good for? How is Jesus message good for all people? Talk about what the good news of Jesus is for us. How does Jesus challenge us to be a different kind of people (remember his reading from Isaiah is about the poor, blind, and captive)? Who should we be in light of Jesus identity? Once you have talked about who Jesus is and how that is good news, invite your students to make artistic depictions of what they think is Jesus’ good news.

Close with Prayer and a Snack

Jesus in the Wilderness

Overview

Alright, this week we move into the New Testament. I know that it seems like a big jump to move not just to the New Testament, but to Jesus’ ministry. Remember that Church School is not the only place that the children are hearing stories from Scripture, so even though it seems like we are skipping some things, we hear the story of Christ’s birth in a stable, the visitation of the Magi, and Christ’s Baptism every year.

That said, you may want to do some brief framing before you move on to our story for today. Here’s some ideas on how to get to the New Testament and the ministry of Jesus.

  1. The youngest groups can hear the transition this way: “God’s people waited for a very long time for God to do something amazing. Something that would change their lives and the future. Ultimately, that amazing, life-changing thing was sending Jesus, God’s only Son, to be the Savior of the world, as a tiny baby.” This gets your class to Jesus–his birth, the magi, and his baptism–the stories that even these classes probably know well from Church this year.
  2. Middle classes (perhaps as young as the K/1st grade class, but certainly by the 2nd and third grade):  brainstorm all of the things you know about the time between the exile and the ministry of Jesus. Big things to cover: Babylonian captivity comes to an end. Cyrus of Persia allows the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. This is a complicated time because the exile has been so long (___ years). The people who were left behind have made things work in one way, and those who were in exile have learned to worship God in different ways. There’s some conflict between these two groups. Ultimately, the Jews come under Roman rule. Jesus is born. The Magi visit the Christ child and return home a different route to avoid sharing what they know of Jesus with Herod. Jesus grows up. He teaches in the temple. He is baptized. Your class may come up with some other things from the story. Great! But there are the ones that need to be covered.
  3. Our oldest group might like to do the brainstorming above and then read the account of Cyrus’ decree from Ezra 1 together:

Years ago the Lord sent Jeremiah with a message about a promise[a]for the people of Israel. Then in the first year that Cyrus was king of Persia,[b] the Lord kept his promise by having Cyrus send this official message to all parts of his kingdom: 2-3 I am King Cyrus of Persia. The Lord God of heaven, who is also the God of Israel, has made me the ruler of all nations on earth. And he has chosen me to build a temple for him in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. The Lord God will watch over and encourage any of his people who want to go back to Jerusalem and help build the temple. Everyone else must provide what is needed. They must give money, supplies, and animals, as well as gifts for rebuilding God’s temple. Many people felt that the Lord God wanted them to help rebuild his temple, and they made plans to go to Jerusalem. Among them were priests, Levites, and leaders of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The others helped by giving silver articles, gold, personal possessions, cattle, and other valuable gifts, as well as offerings for the temple. King Cyrus gave back the things that Nebuchadnezzar[c] had taken from the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem and had put in the temple of his own gods. Cyrus placed Mithredath, his chief treasurer, in charge of these things. Mithredath counted them and gave a list to Sheshbazzar, the governor of Judah. 9-10 Included among them were: 30 large gold dishes; 1,000 large silver dishes; 29 other dishes;[d] 30 gold bowls; 410 silver bowls; and 1,000 other articles. 11 Altogether, there were 5,400 gold and silver dishes, bowls, and other articles. Sheshbazzar took them with him when he and the others returned to Jerusalem from Babylonia.

Introduction

Once we arrive in the New Testament, we are ready to begin the stories of Jesus ministry. Jesus’ public ministry begins with his baptism. Immediately after his baptism, Jesus spends 40 days in the desert and satan’s temptations happen right at the end of this long fast. You can see why we are starting here. This story puts us right in the middle of the Lenten season.

In The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder argues that the Jesus’ temptations were temptations insofar as they attempted to provoke Jesus to be Savior, Messiah, and King on his own terms.  Demonstrations of power and might might bring Jesus the kind of acclaim that would lead people to see him as a kind of superhero. Jesus seems to know that the Father has something else in mind. The character of the Messiah is different than is expected.

This story has a few challenges since it is often overly individualized. Our first tendency is to talk about sin, our temptations, our time in the wilderness, and following Scripture as Jesus does. While all of these things are important, this story is not about us in a primary sense, but about Jesus and his identity–in other words, who Jesus is for us and for the world.

 

Hear the Word

Read the story for today from Matthew or Luke (for older kids, you may want to read from both and ask them to compare accounts. You can also read the story from one of our children’s Bibles as it is a common one. I like the telling in the Jesus Storybook Bible. To encourage active listening, ask your kids to listen for each of the three temptations in the passage. When your students hear each one they can raise their hand.

Respond to the Word

(1.) Retell the story/Act it out: Divide up the roles from the passage. One student can be Jesus, three students can play one of the temptations (one student/temptation), another can be the narrator. Remaining students can act as an audience that helps Jesus make the decision after each temptation. Once your class has acted out the story, they may wish to switch roles and act it out again. Have a conversation about why Jesus might have been tempted by each of Satan’s offers. If Jesus had made a different decision (succumbed to the temptation), what might have happened? Do you think it was good that Jesus resisted temptation? Or, do you think all would have been fine either way? Which temptation do you think was most difficult for Jesus to refuse? Which was easiest?

(2.) Stones and Bread: Cut out three oval shaped pieces of paper for each student (older kids will be able to cut their own). On one side, ask them to draw loaves of bread and on the other rocks. Satan first tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread. Talk about how this might have been a difficult temptation because Jesus was very hungry after fasting for so long (make sure to define fasting for your students). Then, talk about how a lot of the people who knew Jesus were also hungry–not because they were fasting, but because food was limited. If Jesus had turned stones to bread, how might these people have responded? How do you think they would have treated Jesus? 

(3.) Superhero vs. Jesus Game: Provide your students with two Popsicle sticks or tongue depressors. Make a Jesus figure with one stick and a superhero stick with the other. Line your students up and ask them to respond to each question by raising Jesus or their superhero stick. Here are some suggestions for each question:

  • Leaps off tall buildings. but can’t get hurt (“Leaps tall buildings in a single bound”)
  • “More powerful than a locomotive”
  • “Faster than a speeding bullet”
  • Flies faster than a hawk
  • Shoots webs out of his wrists
  • Becomes rich and famous (even if only their superhero identities do)
  • Walks around in the desert for 40 days
  • Fasts and gets hungry and thirsty
  • Turns down food when he is hungry
  • Puts on a costume or uniform to rescue people
  • You may be able to think of more

Talk about how sometimes it seems that Jesus is our superhero, but that Jesus is actually something much more, our Savior. First, Jesus is fully human and experienced all of the same temptations that we do. In fact, Jesus experienced the temptation to save the world on his own terms, but God had a different plan. Jesus didn’t do the same things as some of our superheros because God wanted Jesus to be the right kind of savior for all of us. You might want to ask your students what kind of Savior Jesus is? Is it better than having a superhero? This could inspire some pretty intense debates!

(4.) Imagine: Narrate the story with your students sharing what it might have been like to be in the desert for 40 days and nights. You might start like this: “Close your eyes with me and imagine that you have been in the desert for a long time. You are hungry and thirsty and there is no water in sight. What do you see? Now imagine that someone offered you food. Not just enough food for you, but enough for everyone you know…..” Go through each of the temptations. Ask you students to share what they see at each stop along the way. How might they have responded?  You might look for photos of desert scenes to show  your students along with this activity.

(5.) Create a Desert Garden: Follow up by creating desert gardens to reflect on Jesus’ time in the wilderness. Small, shallow containers of sand (there is colored sand in the supply closets and regular sand in the sandbox outside. I am supposed to find out soon if our playground will be open again soon. I will let you know if it is.). Pour the sand into a small shallow container. Add rocks from the supply closet or items gathered from outside. Show students that they can pray by drawing pictures with their finger in the sand (oh! each of the rocks could have one of Jesus’ temptations from the story written on it!).

Close in Prayer

For a Time such as This: The Courageous Queen Esther

Up to this point in the year, we have been talking mostly about characters in Scripture who might be on an official list of prophets, poets, and preachers. Esther doesn’t quite fit this mold. A Jewish orphan whose family is in exile, Esther is a prophet in a very loose sense–she confronts the powers that be, at risk of her own life, and for the sake of her people, God’s people.

The prophets are typically sent by God to speak to the people or to those in power, but the name of God is used only one time in the whole book of Esther. It may be fruitful to wonder together with your class (especially older ones) in what way Esther might be considered a prophet, or at least prophetic. Is she? Isn’t she? After reading the story, what do your students think?

Okay. Let’s be honest. This story is a bit, ummm, dark. Lot’s of death, gallows, tricksters, and evil plots. Ironically, the word “joy” appears frequently. For those who are living in captivity in Babylon, under Persian rule (we’ve changed hands in exile… yet again), the death of captors might spark joy. Perhaps that is what is happening. It’s not an easy story for us, but there are some wonderful things about it–first, we have a female heroine (about time!) who shows tremendous courage at great risk to herself. Second, we see God’s people saved from certain death (important since without their being saved, we don’t have the line of people that ends in Jesus!).

esther_haram

By Zereshk at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Hear the Story

Esther is a story that is read aloud in assembly often. Every year at Purim, Jews read the story at least once. This story is often read or presented in engaging and interactive ways. Perhaps your class can read and hear the story in the same spirit.

Focus on Esther 3-5:3 You should be able to find some version of the Esther story in almost any children’s Bible in the Christian Education Cabinet (I checked almost all, if not all of them). One suggestion for an interactive story: when Esther’s or Mordecai’s names are read, invite your class to applaud. When Haman’s name is read, everyone should boo or hiss.

Respond to the Story

  1. Act it out: After presenting or reading the story,  act it out. There are many ways your class could do this–breaking into small groups of about 4 (a king, Haman, Mordecai, and Esther) or staying in your large group. Here are some printable Purim masks if your class would like to act out with character masks. You might also try these finger puppets.
  2. A portrait of courage: before and after. What is courage and what about the story causes us to identify Esther as courageous? Using art supplies, create a visual profile of Esther before and after her pleading with the king for her people. You could make this profile together or individually.
  3. The Law of the Land: In the story of Esther (and last week’s story of Daniel, for that matter), those in power make laws that affect their Jewish subjects. Daniel’s defiance of the law lands him in a den of lions. Queen Esther finds herself pleading on behalf of her people over an unjust law. Ask your students to imagine that they are a King or Queen. What king of law would they make? How would that law be enforced? How would their law be good for God’s people? Give each child paper and art supplies. Roll the paper into a scroll and create a “law of the land.”
  4. Feeling Ambitious? Make Hamantaschen, a German pastry with poppy seeds that is a popular Purim food. You can find lots of different variations here (some are very simple). If you are interested in this, please email me regarding allergies and we can look for a variation that is allergen free.
  5. “Xerxes, may I?”: In our story, Esther went before the king even though he had not called for her. This was a moment of profound courage on Esther’s part as she could have been punished or put to death for doing so. Play an adapted version of Mother, May I? One student should be appointed Xerxes and given something that may be used as a scepter (see activity below if you would like to make scepters and then play Xerxes, May I? with them). All other students should line up shoulder to shoulder and ask in turn “Xerxes, may I take (number) of steps?” Xerxes may say yes or no. The first child to reach and tag Xerxes becomes the king. The game starts over. Play as many times as you would like. If the weather is nice on Sunday, take this game outside (the kids have been inside too much!)
  6. Make a Scepter, King or Queen crown: Use popsicle sticks or pipe cleaners to make a King’s scepter. Once the students have finished, have them practice the part of the story in which Esther approaches the throne.
  7. Bible Verse Memorization: Check out this active Bible Verse memorization suggestion from Ministry for Children. In addition to their suggestions for Esther 2:17, I bet there are other verses that are equally well suited to this approach to memorization. Esther 4:16, Esther’s request to gather the community for prayer and fasting, may be particularly appropriate during this Lenten season. At the link above, there is also a game which is an adaptation of musical chairs (scroll all the way to the bottom).

 

Faithfulness to God Alone: Daniel

Introduction

The story of Daniel might be quite familiar to the children. Almost all of their children’s Bibles cover the story and there are many movies and songs about the story. When we know stories well, it can be tempting to think that we know everything there is to know about that story, but ask you students to look more closely. Remind them that important stories (like those they hear in church) are told over and over because they are so important and there is always something more to learn. Challenge them to learn something new about the story and find something out that they might never have imagined. If that is too difficult, remind them to enjoy the story for it’s own sake. This is the wonderful story of God!

Daniel is the story of a person who is faithful to God in spite of how dangerous it is to be so. Daniel challenges the King and the Kings advisors, all of those who do not yet know that God is the only one who ought to be worshipped.

hosios_loukas_28diakonikon29_-_daniel_in_the_lions27_den_01

By Anonymous (Chatzidakis. Byzantine Art in Greece) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hear the Story

You may want to spend a minute or two talking about Daniel’s prayer and fasting (these themes are similar to the Lenten prayer and fasting undertaken by some in the church).

Since we are doing something a bit different for our response time this Sunday, for the story, Let’s focus on the popular bit, Daniel 6, Commonly “Daniel in the Lion’s Den.”

Focus on telling the story well. Try presenting the story without an agenda for what you might want the kids to get out of it (we want to leave their responses as free as possible for the response section below).

Respond to the Story

Periodically, it is good to offer open-ended response opportunities to your students. As adults we often have in mind something that we would like students to get from a particular story, perhaps a moral lesson. While these objectives are often good (and we should definitely seek to work toward them), we can inadvertently assign meaning that we find meaningful, but that our students do not. In other words, open ended exploration helps us ask the question: What do you find meaningful in the story? More importantly, it helps the children recognize that this story belongs to them (though not only to them). If none of the ideas below stand out to you, use the resources on the Hearing and Responding to Stories page to generate ideas, you may also find some simple activities and crafts on the Old Testament story responses on our Pinterest page (You can use this link or click the pinterest logo in the left hand sidebar); I’ll continue to post Daniel crafts there over the next day or so.

Open-ended response: Choose one or two of the response types below, then set up your classroom space. After you share the story, tell your students that they can respond to the story at one of the stations. Allow students to work independently or in small groups with a teacher overseeing smaller groups to help them coordinate, and check in as their work progresses, asking them to share what they are working on with you. Encourage them and help them if they get stuck by asking questions. You may want to ask them about the content by saying something like, “tell me about your picture here.” Keep all of the art at the end of the class so that we can hang them up. The biggest prep for this is the way you tell the story and lay out materials, so think about items that you know are in the supply closet, and how they might encourage open-ended exploration.

1. Body Response: For this station, set out costumes, and objects that represent materials from the story and encourage your students to act out the story together. You might grab a lion costume (I think we still have two) from our Pageant photos. Yellow and red play silks from the nursery would make great lion manes. Cardboard bricks from the supply closet closest to the nursery might make a great pit/den and a pillow could be used to cover the top. A crown from the box of Epiphany materials would be a good crown for King Darius. Different children might be great at playing King Darius, Daniel, lions, or an angel of the Lord. It might be especially helpful to ask them about the different characters in the story and how they reacted–What did Daniel do in response to the decree from the King? What did the King and his advisors want? What about the lions–how did they feel when their mouths were shut?

2. Artistic Response:  Provide blank pieces of paper, a variety of materials, and something like paint or colored pencils. Ask them to think about the part of the story that is most important to them. Then, invite students to create an artistic depiction of that part of the story.

3. 3-D Artistic Response: Offer play-doh or modeling clay from the supply closet. Cover the tables with brown craft paper and allow them to work with an image or theme from the story that was important to them. Ask questions and offer a listening ear as they work. Sometimes this activity can invite some unexpected silence and focus from younger groups. You might want to play music from an ipod or laptop in the background while students work.

4. Written Response: For this response, provide writing materials and a couple of prompts to choose from. Encourage students to illustrate their writings. Here are some suggested prompts:

What part of the story is most important and why?

If you could change one or more things about the story, what would it be and why?

If you were asked to tell this story to someone, how would you tell it?

 

Ask your students to help you clean up the space before snack and closing in prayer.