Psalm 1: Happy are Those Who Delight in the Law of the Lord!

Welcome to Church School 2015-2016! We are going to have such a wonderful year. I have been praying for all of you as you prepare and begin to teach your classes. Let us continue to pray together all year:

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

Objectives
1. Students will begin to get to know one another and their teachers. Teachers will learn students names.
2. Students will learn the general rhythms for their classroom and their time together.
3. Students will hear the words of Psalm 1: 1-3 and create a piece of work that reflects what they hear in the passage.

Gather: Since this is our first week gathering for the year, take a bit of time at the start of your class to get to know one another. Younger children may enjoy sharing their names by sitting in a circle and passing a ball to one another (whoever is holding the ball says their name and something about her or himself). Older children may like to get to know one another by playing a simple game such as repeating everyone’s name in the order they are given (the first person says their own name, the second person says the first persons and their own, etc.). Whatever you do, spend time getting to know one another. Building community, sharing friendship and fellowship as we hear God’s story is an important reason we have Church School. If you are blanking, here are some more ice breaker ideas.

Once you have learned a bit about one another, introduce your class in whatever way your teaching team sees fit. This would be the time you might want to establish guidelines for your time together (this was a topic we addressed at our teacher workshop). Let the students run this conversation. It’s important for them to feel ownership of the space and responsibility to the rules.

Introduce this years theme to your class–Prophets, Poets, and Preachers. The stories we will work with this year about about those people who were called by God to speak to God’s people.

We begin this week with a reflection on Psalm 1 and a communal art project–a large, illumination-inspired mosaic–for the Commons.

Hear the Word
With your students hear the words of Psalm 1: 1-3 (if you are so inclined, older children may enjoy reading the entire Psalm. It’s only 6 verses long). Along with reading directly from one of our Bible translations (remember that older children beginning in about 2nd grade can participate in reading). For our younger groups, a second reading of Psalm 1 from Psalms for Young Children by Marie Helene-Duval (Christian Education Library) would be a great companion. She puts it this way:

When I listen to you, God,
When I do what you ask me to,
I am like a tree
Planted by a river,
A tree full of fruit
with leaves that are always green.

You may have noticed that our Church School calendar begins the year with Psalm 1 and ends with 150. Walter Brueggemann argues that the Psalter (the whole book of Psalms) follows a pattern of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. And, so, we begin this year will orientation to God and Scripture. What does it mean for us, who gather and share the words of Scripture, to meditate on the law of the Lord and on the words of the Lord?

The Psalmist writes that those who meditate on the law of the Lord are like trees planted by streams of water. For whatever reason, this image of tree by water–nourished and flourishing, receiving sun and providing shade, growing deep and thick roots in rich soil–is one of my favorites. What does this metaphor suggest? Stability? Security? Constant and unwavering devotion? How does this image help orient us to God? Wonder together about the images in the Psalm. Ask the students what the Psalm means to them? What is their favorite part? What part sounds weird? Wonder together about God’s law. What is it? How do we hear or know it? Even our youngest children will know about God’s law in the 10 Commandments.

Respond to the Word

Communal Illumination of Psalm 1:
After your discussion, give each child one of the 8×8 canvases in your room and ask them to create an image of the Psalm using the paint colors that are available. Please cover church clothes with old t-shirts which are available in a container in the supply closet.

Each class will have a range of a particular paint color (one will have yellow/orange/reds, another blue/green/teals, etc.) All of the classes will have gold. The images made on this occasion will be hung in the Christian Education Commons later in the week as a communal illumination of Psalm 1.

Reminders:
Write each student’s name on their canvas before they begin painting (permanent markers are in the supply closet nearest the bathrooms).
Remember to begin setting the standards in your class for how to care for the space and treat materials. Young children may need gentle guidance on rinsing paint brushes or carefully drying them off when they are finished with them.

Large plastic yogurt cups are in the supply closet and may be used for water and brushes. You can get extra paper towels for painting in the bathrooms. If possible, have the students help you clean up at the end. They may leave their art on the table to dry at their place setting, and I will work to put them up on a wall in the commons before the next week.

If you have time, share a snack.

Pray before you part. Perhaps pray the words of Psalm 1 above (from Marie Helene Deval) before students are dismissed.

When you are finished, prop your door open to signal to parents that your class is finished.

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