Hear the word: Revelation 21:1-4
Background: The next two weeks of Sunday School are dedicated to introducing letters that make up so much of our New Testament, so much of the way the gospel has been passed on to us. We begin with the end of the Bible, with a story about the Revelation. Sonja Stewart’s Following Jesus offers a helpful introduction to John’s teaching. Find below the text of her “storytelling script” for Rev. 21, which may help inform your reflections on the story.
After Jesus went away so he could be with us always, in every time and every place, Jesus’ followers received the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were filled with so much love that they went through the world telling the good news of Jesus the Christ and showing the way of the kingdom of God. Some went to Jerusalem. Some went to Judea. Some went to Samaria. And some went to all the nations.
John went far away to the city of Ephesus. As John traveled to Ephesus, he helped many people believe that Jesus was the Christ, and he showed them the way of the kingdom of God.
The people began to love God and each other so much that they met together in groups, called churches, to worship God. But while John was teaching about Jesus and the kingdom of God in Ephesus, some people didn’t like what he was saying. They arrested him. (Bind John with tape.)
They took John by boat to the island of Patmos. He couldn’t go home. John was in exile.
It wasn’t safe for John to write to his friends. So he used a secret code that only the churches of the followers of Jesus could understand. John wrote to them his special vision of the kingdom of God.
This is part of John’s vision of the kingdom of God that he wrote to the churches in a secret code. He wrote:
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem…And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is God. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light. By its light shall the nations walk; and the rules of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates shall never be shut by day — and there shall be no night there; they need no light of lamp or sun, for God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever.”
(1.) Children will reflect on why John was compelled to write letters from exile. What so moved him to write to the churches?
(2.) Children will reflect on John’s vision of the kingdom of God. What surprises you about John’s vision? What part of John’s vision do you like best? Is there a part of John’s vision you dislike or don’t understand?
Respond to the word:
(1.) Play hangman, or decode a secret message another way (here’s an idea). Discuss how those secret message are similar and different from John’s. What do you imagine that the churches John wrote to think his secret message means?
(2.) Make scrolls with John’s message on it. Illustrate the scrolls.
(3.) Draw an image of John’s message. Or, use modeling clay to sculpt an image of the new heaven and the new earth.
(4.) Ordering the jumble: The boys gather in a group and each takes a card with a letter on it. (Pass out letters to a word in the story, like “new earth.”). Have boys form a line (shoulder to shoulder) and hold letter facing the girls who are in a similar line. (Players should NOT stand in order.) Get girls to order the boys (and their letters) so that they spell the word.
(5.) Stained glass: John writes that, “God will be their light” in the new Jerusalem. I wonder how the people feel about God being their light in the new Jerusalem? Use clear contact paper and tissue paper (in supply closet) or flower petals (outside) to make sun catchers. Write verse around edges. Find instructions here. Psalm 27 is an appropriate psalm to read as part of this discussion.
Conclude in prayer.