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!

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