Two weeks ago we had our first lesson on the practice of baptism. Our children heard the story of Jesus’ baptism and responded in different ways. One of the ways you were invited to help your students respond was by teaching them to remember their baptism by dipping their fingers in a basin of water and making the sign of the cross on their foreheads.
As your classes were letting out, I was waiting near our candle and baptismal basin to greet children as they left. One child boldly approached the basin, dipped his fingers (okay, his whole hand) in, and smeared water across his forehead. Once. twice. three times. Our children are learning that even if they do not recall the day of their baptism, they can remember that in their baptism, they were claimed as God’s own. As the children in our parish grow, they will continue to uncover the richness of the gift that is their baptism. Layer upon layer will be added until they come to see the entire life of discipleship as an attempt to live faithfully into our baptismal vows. In seminary we called this “learning to swim in baptismal waters.”
The baptism of Jesus shows, like all of our Gospel stories show, who Jesus is. This story must be told time and time again because Jesus’ identity and ours are found in it. In the waters of baptism, we are claimed as Christ’s own, and invited to participate as full members of the ministry of his body in the world.
(1.) For children to hear the story of Jesus baptism and have space to reflect on it’s significance.
(2.) For children to name one reason that our baptismal practices are important.
(3.) For children to learn resources that may help them learn to “swim in baptismal waters.”
This week, I emailed parents and asked them to show their children photos of their baptism and send them along for their students to share with their classes. As you gather, take stock of who brought photos. If you have several, begin your class by giving each child and opportunity to share what they have been told (or, if they were older, what they remember) about their baptism. Ask you students to share what they remember most about the last baptism they saw.
Hear the Word
You can read the story of Jesus’ baptism in Luke 3:21-22 or Matthew 3:13-17. Alternatively, you can share the story from The Jesus Storybook Bible which has details about John’s ministry and the baptism of Jesus in the story “Heaven Breaks Through” (200-7). The Children of God Storybook Bible shares the story under the title “God Blesses Jesus: Jesus is Baptized” (68).
Responding to the Word
(1.) Noticing Sacred Space: Tour the Baptismal font in the Nave. Ask your students to take note of the shape of the font, the words engraved in the stone, the font’s location in the in the Nave, the location of the bowl, Paschal candle, and cross (perhaps even the cross that is used for the children’s liturgy). If you would like, you can use the first part of A Walk Through our Church, a children’s book about the Church’s holy things, to share some of the parts of the baptismal font with your class (pages 1-11 talk about baptism).
Return to your class and make an artistic depiction of the Holy Family font. Use crayons, colored pencils, lead pencils, or our new watercolors to depict the font (You can see my watercolor example to the left). Leave the papers in one rectangular sheet or cut them in the shape of the font. Older children should be able to cut their own fonts, but teachers will want to cut the shape out for younger kids. With your attendance sheets, I will attach a copy of the baptismal font which you can cut out and use as a template should you choose to do this activity.
(2.) Mini Baptismal Basins: Use the sculpey clay in the supply closets to make small blue bowls (large enough to fit a finger or two). Carve a cross or other symbol on the side. Talk about how we can remember Jesus’ baptism and our own every time we walk past the font and basin the Nave. These smaller bowls will help remind us of our baptism at home. These projects will need to dry before they are taken home. If you do this activity, please leave your bowls (labelled with your student’s names) on my desk in my office. I will bring them for your class to take home next week.
(3.) Comparing accounts (for older students): All four Gospel writers share the story of Jesus’ baptism. Divide your class into four equal groups. Assign each of them one of the Gospel accounts to read together (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:29-34). Have each group make a list of what they notice and what happens in each of the texts. Then, come back together in the larger group and talk about things that are similar and different. What does each Gospel writer highlight? What is your favorite of the accounts? Do you think each writer is making a different point? Or, the same point in different ways? Are there any details in the story that are surprising? unexpected? confusing? Do any of the stories challenge or shape the way that we tell the story in the future? What do you think is the most important detail? What could be left out and the story would still be the same?
(4.) Finger painting in Blue: I know there is a lot of painting the past couple of weeks, but I once saw finger painting art in differing shades of blue and it looked so much like water that I had to include it. Water is such a mundane and ordinary substance, and yet it plays such a significant role in sustaining our lives and in the story of salvation. Ask your students to reflect on why water is so important? Why does God keep using it in God’s work in the world? Think together of all of the stories where water plays a significant role (Noah’s ark, Jonah and the whale, the Israelites crossing the Jordan). Is this a coincidence? Could God have used something different? Is there something interesting about God’s work that could not be communicated without water?
(5.) Water songs: Think about kids worship songs that might have water themes. “I’ve Got a River of Life” with motions is a great option for our young kids (and it will get them moving!). “Wade in the Water” is a song we did last week. Our kids love it! Focus on just the chorus. Or, if your students are older and familiar with the song, focus on the chorus and one verse. Sign the song in rounds, divide your class into groups to sing different lines (like in “Praise ye the Lord” “hallelujah”), or play memory games with the song (sing a part and have your class fill in the missing word). As a class or in small groups, make up dance moves or hand motions to go with the song.
Since we also did this story two weeks ago, feel free to use that lesson as an additional resource. Perhaps there was an activity that you wanted to do but didn’t have time, or a response that speaks to you in a new way.
Close in Prayer