Introduction to Lent

Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Beginning next week, the image of the Good Shepherd will be our dominant image for Lent.

Introduction

As this Sunday is the first Sunday in the season of Lent we will take a bit of a break from the stories about Jesus life so that we may look to the cross, just as Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem” where he would ultimately die. Lent is a season marked by remembrance of the cross and in our remembrance we recall that the life and teachings of Jesus led to his death. We also remember the gracious covenant of God with us in Jesus’ death and in our baptisms. In response to this work of God, we are invited during Lent to practice joyful obedience (often in the form of discipline, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving), a response to the transforming grace of the cross. Living into the season of Lent, and joining Jesus on this journey to the cross, helps us receive the joyful message of Easter more fully.

Sometimes it is difficult to talk about these things with children–death, the cross, and sin–but many of our children are already beginning to encounter and grapple with their existential limits. We want Sunday School to be a safe place for this encounter. This Sunday we focus on the cross and Ashes, but over the next several weeks, our Lenten stories will focus on  the story of the Good Shepherd. For our children, this story (just like the story of the cross) is about the lengths to which the Good Shepherd goes in order to show his love for the sheep. This Sunday, in exploring some of the darker themes of Lent, we are asking: see where we are? This is how far Jesus/the Good Shepherd will go to meet us.

Objectives

(1.) Children will practice and inhabit the season of Lent in our Sunday School Classes.

(2.) Children will be able to share one or two themes from the season of Lent.

Gather

This week, when we gather in the Christian Education Commons we will put away the alleluia banner we made last week (when you come in on Sunday it will be hanging at the front of the room). This year we will put it in a box, with grand plans to bury it somewhere on the church grounds next year. Here is an interesting account of the history of burying the alleluias in case you are interested. During music, we will learn at least one new song. Once you have arrived in your class, you may like sing this song one more time.

Note: There are a lot of different directions that you can take this lesson on Lent. You may choose any of the activities below. All of these are intended to help set the stage for our lessons in Sunday School, children’s liturgy, and the Wednesday night Lenten programming for children. They all work together.  Regardless of the other response activities you choose, please do #4, Lenten Journals as all of our classes will be using these journals to make a book of their Lenten journey.

Response Time

(1.) Practice your Lenten Discipline: If your class has selected a discipline for Lent, spend a few minutes talking about what it means in relation to the season of Lent. One of our classes has decided to take time at the beginning of each lesson to learn the books of the Bible, and another is thinking about collecting tithes for a ministry. Feel free to take time to make the items you will need for this discipline (a poster for the books of the Bible, a decorated mite box, or something else).

If you need help thinking of a discipline, feel free to email me. It is okay if your class decides not to adopt an additional discipline. You may want to select a prayer to use as your closing prayer at the end of each week of Lent instead. One of the activities below may also suggest itself to you as a fitting discipline for your class.

(2.) Gathered crosses: The Lenten journey is all about Jesus’ journey to the cross. Take your class outside and ask them to gather sticks of all different lengths. You can gather as many as you would like, because we can use extras for some of our other activities this season. Using hemp twine (in the supply closet) or purple ribbon, tie a larger stick to a smaller one int he shape of a cross. Attach a longer piece of ribbon or hemp twine to the cross so that it may be used as a book mark in Lenten journals (below). Your class may enjoy making a lot of these crosses (if you have extra, we can share the finished crosses with our younger classes who may find this activity a bit challenging).

(3.) Lent Calendar: After talking about the season of Lent, make a Lenten Calender. You can download and print off the block calendar that is provided here (to fit an 11×17 you will want to blow it up to 129% on your computer) or make your own on one of the 11×17 sheets of copy paper we have in the supply closet. Make sure you leave your group’s calender with your attendance sheet and I will make sure that it gets into your class every week. When you gather on Sunday mornings in Lent, you can count the total number of days in Lent that have passed and mark each day with a cross. This counting exercise may help our youngest children experience the length of Lent and have continuity from week to week.

Bonus activity: Remind your students that Lent started this past week on Ash Wednesday. Mark the Ash Wednesday box on your calendar with a dark cross. Remind or share with your class what happens at the Ash Wednesday service.  We go to church and our foreheads are marked with Ashes in the shape of the cross. The priest said, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This helps us think about Jesus’ death on the cross and even our own. This might be a hard concept for some of our children, but they may understand the significance better by experiencing the movement. Invite your students to find a partner and take turns making the sign of the cross on each other’s foreheads. Some of your students may remember that this is the same gesture we make with water when we remember our baptism.

(4.) Lenten Prayer Journals: During Lent, all of our classes will use journals during response time for Sunday School and Godly Play lessons. Each week, our students will write, draw, color, or paint responses to the story. The goal is for each student to take the journal home on Easter morning and have a book that helps them see their Lenten journey. This week, once you have done your other activities, wrap up your classroom time by having your students decorate the covers of their journals (I will put 10 journals in each of your classes and will bring you extra journals if you have more than 10 students).

Younger children may like to color the covers of the journals with markers or crayons and teachers may like to cut crosses from colored cardstock (in brown, blue, or purple). Older children may like to make water color covers (we have watercolor paper in the size of our journals in the supply closet) or cut burlap crosses and paste them on their covers. Please remember to put your students names on the journals. I will make sure the journals get to the right classroom each week. This a bit experimental, but we are going to try it and see how well it works.

Remember to Close in Prayer

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