This week’s story, Sunday, September 25, 2016
- Luke 17:11-19
Just One Thank You, elementary
Just One Thank You, preschool — Ten horribly ill people stand before Jesus. “Have mercy. Heal us. Please.” And so, he does. And he sends them to the priest for confirmation and clearance so that they can rejoin society. Yet, only one returns to give thanks. Only one stops to count blessings, smell the roses, notice that life has forevermore changed for the better. As we teach this lesson to our children, it is a good opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of all of this. When good things come our way, no matter our theology and how we believe the “blessings” come, we need to give thanks. And we need to teach our children to do the same. We are so quick to blame God for the ills which befall us, let’s give God some praise for the beauty in life, instead.
- Luke 1:39-56 – My Soul Magnifies the Lord – This lovely story of two expectant mothers visiting and talking of their impending deliveries doesn’t seem like a story for kids. And, yet, kids today know so much more about where babies come from. This is a great opportunity to talk about what it was like when they were in their mommies’ tummies. What do they think it was like? Did they sleep? Did they wiggle? Were they hungry? What do they think it was like for Baby John and Baby Jesus? Do they know that Baby John jumped for joy when his cousin Jesus came to call? Basic, real life stuff like this brings these stories, these people to life for the kids. And when we get to “The Magnificat,” the poem which touches our hearts, let’s start teaching the strength and beauty of this Mother Mary. Let’s teach her faith, her love, even to the tiniest children. A loving mama? They can understand that. And some of them so desperately need that image in their lives.
- Luke 2:41-52 – What Was Jesus Like When He Was Little? – Children love to think about Jesus as a child. Jesus as a grown-up isn’t quite as relatable or fun. But Jesus as a kid is full of possibilities and helps them explore the many ways Jesus may have played or learned, what he was like in his home with his parents or out and about with his friends. And this story addresses young Jesus as knowing things even the grown-ups didn’t know. How often might that happen to other children? And what do they do? And, of course, there is the obvious. What happens when kids take off without telling their parents? Safety first!
- Luke 3:1-6 – Prepare the Way – This is a wonderful passage for all ages to challenge themselves with. How can each of us prepare the way of the Lord? Each of us, in our own way, in our own lives, each and every day. From the oldest to the youngest – we can each take responsibility to share the hope, peace, joy, and love of God. We can make the path of Jesus just a wee bit straighter and less perilous.
- Luke 3:7-18 – What Kind of Snake are You? – Let’s face it, kids love nature. So have a little fun with this one and play to their natural curiosity about all the creepy crawly things in this world. And, if you’re afraid of snakes, STOP IT! This is a good opportunity to throw in a little lesson on the different types and how they operate. And just why John used them as an analogy for us. Yes, we act like vipers. And no, it’s not always enough to just say we’re sorry. We need to change our ways. This scripture is jam packed with good messages. For all ages. Are you a good snake or a bad one? Yeah, really, there are no bad ones. So, be careful with your science lesson! 😉 But, you get the point.
- Luke 4:1-13 – The Story of Jesus and the Devil – Oh, how hard it is to want something, need something, to have it at our fingertips, but know, deep down inside, that it’s wrong. This is the story of Jesus in the wilderness. For 40 days and nights, he separates himself from all that is known, all that is comfortable. He sets out to pray and meditate and to learn more about his God, himself, and his relationship with God. And along comes one who is so alluring; one who tells him, “Just say this, Jesus, and the world is at your feet. Just do this, and all you want is yours. Food. Riches. Power.” Our choices may be different. As are the choices of the little ones we teach. But we all face temptation. We all must struggle with making good and sound choices. We all must determine: Am I choosing the right way? Am I choosing God’s way?
- Luke 4:14-21 – Jesus Reads an Old, Old Scripture – The passages from Isaiah, which Jesus read in the temple, could keep us busy for the rest of our lives. Why did he choose these verses? What do they teach us, even today? As we discuss the possibilities with children, we must be cautious. Their knowledge of the BIG issues of life may be limited. Work with what they know. And remember, we are helping them learn to balance empathy and responsibility in life. Just as we are for ourselves. All that while sharing God’s love!
- Luke 4:21-30 – Nothing But the Truth – It’s not always easy to tell the truth. Sometimes we don’t want to tell the truth when we know it will get us in trouble. Sometimes we don’t want to tell the truth when we know it will hurt someone. Yet, we teach our children that truth telling is important. This gospel lesson shows Jesus doing a bit of truth telling and the ramifications – his hearers grow angry and want to toss him off a cliff. This is a good opportunity to explore how and why we tell the truth, when it is helpful, when it is hurtful, and how it can be presented in the best ways to do the most good. It may not be easy, but let’s learn how truth be used to share God’s messages of God’s love for God’s people.
- Luke 7:1-10 – A Faithful Man, elementary and A Faithful Man, preschool — This is a complicated story and we’ll attack it a bit differently for the two age groups. The elementary aged kids will be able to wonder why people own slaves and why a slave owner might care so much about one of his slaves that he would seek health care for him. Was it purely financial or was there compassion involved? The centurion’s expression of lack of worthiness to have Jesus in his home suggests some self-reflection and integrity. Dig into this with your kids. They may be interested in the actions everyone took. Who did what and why! But, for our littlest ones, let’s just stick with a man who had a sick helper. Plain and simple. So, he asked Jesus for help, knowing that Jesus could heal his friend. The rest will come later!
- Luke 7:11-17 – I Say to You, Rise!, elementary & I Say to You, Rise!, preschool — We often remember the story of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, but there are other stories of Jesus raising people from the dead. This is one of those stories. Older youth and adults may begin to question whether or not these events actually took place and wonderful, deep discussions will ensue. But, for our little ones, who are still concrete thinkers, we tell the stories. We live in these moments. And we celebrate the wondrous power of God to bring life, to bring healing, to bring comfort to grieving, fearful, hopeless people. Rejoice in the telling of this story with both the preschool and elementary kids. It is a beautiful story of a mom who lost her only son, her comfort and joy in life. And a mom whose every hope in life is restored by a loving Son of a loving Mother/Father/God.
- Luke 7:36 – 8:3 – Washing Feet at the Dinner Table, elementary & Washing Feet at the Dinner Table, preschool — It’s an uncomfortable situation to have a gathering of friends interrupted by a stranger. Especially a stranger who bursts in, unannounced, someone who is, by all accounts, somewhat undesirable company, who then proceeds to do something that makes everyone squirm. We know little about the woman who washes the feet of Jesus, in Luke’s story. She’s oft been confused with Mary of Bethany (who, John tells us, washed the feet of Jesus with pure nard) and Mary of Magdalene (who has been horribly maligned and misunderstood). This is a good opportunity to get our stories (and our women) straight. And a good opportunity to talk to our kids about what it is like to welcome the stranger, learn from them, and just how we might spread a little love and kindness. (Big kids may even want to discuss when rules are good and when rules are bad. When does love matter more than rules and things people tell us to do?)
- Luke 8:36-39 – The Wild Man in the Tombs, elementary & The Wild Man in the Tombs, preschool — For a brilliant analysis of this text, take a look at Walter Wink’s second chapter in Unmasking the Powers. But, for our kids, it might be enough just to try to help them understand the complexities of the human mind. (That’s not too hard, is it?!) Here, we see a man who has been cast out of society because he is confused and wild and socially unacceptable. Kids see folks on street corners we might deem to be the same way. Yet, Jesus helps this confused, wild, socially unacceptable man. God’s love is for all. God’s grace is for all. Conversations might revolve around how we might (safely) reach out to the unacceptable people in our communities. How can we be God’s loving hands in a hurting, confused world? Once again, WWJD? Even our littlest ones can hand someone a Blessing Bag.
Luke 9:28-36 & Exodus 34:29-35 – Shiny Happy People – What does transfiguration mean to a child? Very little, unless they happen to be Harry Potter fans. So, let’s focus on change, both inner and outer. What happens when we pray? Moses and Jesus went out to pray and were so changed by the experience that their appearance was changed. We’ve all seen frowns turned upside down, but this seemed to be more than that. Whether or not they actually glowed, we don’t know. You can debate that on your own time. But we know there was enough about them that was different that their own family and friends noticed. We, too, should be so changed by prayer. By our encounters with the divine. And we should teach our children that they can share that powerful connection. They, too, can speak to the One who touches our lives with such grace and love that we are changed from inside out. The One who then leads us forward to share that good news with the world. If that doesn’t make us shiny, happy people, what will?
- Luke 9:51-62 – An Important Job, elementary & An Important Job, preschool — Wow! This is yet another scripture in which Jesus looks mean! His face is set towards Jerusalem and onward he goes. People greet him along the way, some even attempt to join him, but he will not tarry, even for awhile, as they close out their business. He must be on his way. Kids may not always understand abrupt behavior, so this is a good time to discuss focus and intensity. When a job must be done, especially important work for God’s people, we get right to it! We don’t stop to chatter or to wait for friends to do whatever it is they think they must do. We stay on task. Jesus did it. We can do it, too. Our little ones are just learning about chores and doing God’s chores. But, even they can learn about getting the job done. For their moms and dads, for their pets, for Jesus.
- Luke 10:1-20 – Hard Workers for Jesus, elementary & Hard Workers for Jesus, preschool — Did God expect too much of Jesus? All that teaching and preaching and non-stop traveling? It was the epitome of a thankless, stressful, demanding job. But Jesus was a wise man and this story is but one example. These verses show how Jesus not only delegates, but equips others to do God’s good work. This story holds many messages for us, as his followers. And, as we teach our children the good ways of Jesus, this is a good week to help them understand that it’s important not to try to do everything ourselves and that big jobs (such as sharing God’s love with the world) are done better when we do them together. And, as we tell our little ones about the 70 Jesus sent forth, they can think about ways in which they can be Jesus’s helpers.
- Luke 10:25-37 – The Story of a Good Neighbor, elementary and The Story of a Good Neighbor, preschool — It seems like such a simple concept. Be a good neighbor. And, yet, Jesus tells a story of some of God’s best workers (a priest and a Levite) ignoring someone in need, while someone who is generally ignored and/or despised by the good Jewish listeners comes to the aid of the victim. (Samaritans. Boo! Hiss!) As we walk our children through these difficult days of growing prejudice and seemingly endless violence, maybe this story gives us an opportunity to look at one another with fresh eyes. Who is my neighbor? Anyone in need. Who is God’s good helper? Anyone who answers the call. Big or small, we can all be good helpers and neighbors.
- Luke 10:38-42 – When Good Choices Seem Bad, elementary and Preschool — It’s really the pits when you are working hard and really think you’re doing the right thing and all of a sudden, BAM! Reality hits and you realize you’re on the wrong track. Kids know this scenario so well. This story will be encouraging to them, as they realize that even grown-ups have those moments. And, it’s a nice reminder to all of us to sit down and experience the grace and wisdom and beauty that God brings into our lives, instead of always fussing over those endless to do lists. (It’s a good reminder not to judge the choices of others, as well!)
Luke 11:1-13 – Saving Up for Nothing, elementary and Saving Up for Nothing, preschool — How to pray? How often to pray? When do we give up? When do we ask the impossible? The ridiculous? Why do we bother? In these verses, is Jesus suggesting that we should just ask for anything? That’s probably not the point of his message. The point is more likely that we communicate with our creator. God already knows our wants and needs. God also knows our ability to meet those needs. But building that divine-human relationship is essential and discussing things like daily bread and asking for help dealing with trials/difficulties is truly relationship building. And helping our little ones work on this connection is an important step in their faith formation.
Luke 12:32-40 – What are Your Treasures?, elementary and Preschool — Oh, that Jesus. Always challenging us and how we use our lives and our assets. Never letting us just be the way we want to be. And here we have that age old lesson of how to use our stuff. What is a treasure? Anything that we value a bit too highly. (If the house is burning down, what would you grab first? Yeah, we know the things that are breathing, but we’re talking the OTHER things.) So, what do we teaching our kids about what to value and how to use those items? How do we teach priorities and how to get them straight? Let’s start with the values of Jesus. And his lessons tell us that helping God’s people comes first. And using our treasures for God’s world is a priority. “Where your treasure is…”
Luke 13:1-9 – The No Good Tree – Oh, this is a good story. Here is an opportunity for helping children to see the value in others and to teach them to nurture that value, even when it might be well hidden. But, we must remember remember to teach a balance. As we’re teaching them to find the value in others, we’re also teaching our children to find their own value (and to stand up to or walk away from bullies and always be safe). So, explore boundaries when teaching this story. Yes. We all want to see beneath the surface when dealing with others. We all need to be nurtured to our full potential. But the gardener should never be in peril!
Luke 13:31-35 – Jesus and the Good Bad Guys – There always seem to be people we hear bad things about. And the Pharisees tend to be at the top of the list. Those Pharisees – the mean people who made everyone keep hard rules and worked so hard to trap Jesus into saying or doing the wrong thing. But, how many of us know that the Pharisees were there for the good of the faith, the good of the people? This story is a good opportunity to help children examine expectations of people; to see good where we might tend to only look for bad; and to realize that sometimes people we might not ordinarily like can be very good friends.
- Luke 15:1-10 I Found You!, preschool and I Found You!, elementary — It’s so frustrating to lose something that’s important to you. Whether you’re 5 or 95, whether you just know you’ve put it in a “safe place,” or it’s wandered off, it’s aggravating and it’s worrisome. Jesus knew this. (If he didn’t know it earlier in life, he certainly learned it when his folks had to look for him and finally found him in the temple, when he was 12. How much trouble did he get in, having wandered off, without telling them?) And Jesus knew that when we MUST find something that is important to us, we will NEVER give up looking until we find it. As we teach these stories to our children, we can easily help them understand precious belongings and loved ones and how WE would never give up looking for one another. How much more so are we all precious to God, our creator?
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 – Are You Lost? – This story is rife with possibilities and unexplored territory. What happens to the prodigal son afterwards? Does he stay on the straight and narrow or return to his wayward ways? Do the brothers maintain a decent relationship? What happens with papa and his loving heart? And how much do we explore with kids? This will, of course, depend upon the age of the child. But, they will know about making choices, both good and bad. And they will know about the consequences to those choices. As we discuss this story, have them explore consequences, forgiveness, redemption, grace, and mucking it all up again. Because they will. And they need to know we all do. Even the grown ups. And we all need grace and forgiveness. Because no one is perfect. Not even the grown ups. Hence, the grace.
- Luke 16:1-13 — The Bad/Good Manager, preschool and The Bad/Good, elementary We often think that we can sneak and do just a little something bad, but still be good people. We start, as children, thinking we can do something behind our parents’ backs and, as long as we get away with it, everything is hunky dory. And our integrity is compromised. This week’s story is a good one to help children learn about integrity. Jesus talks about a man who loses his job because he doesn’t live up to his responsibilities. His integrity is compromised. But, he learns his lesson and makes good. Jesus tells his disciples that those who are faithful, even in small ways, are truly faithful. But those who are dishonest, even in small ways, are dishonest. It’s all about integrity. Yes, there is grace. There is redemption. But, at the core, who are we? And who are we teaching our children to be?
Luke 16:19-31 –The Rich Man and the Poor Man, preschool and The Rich Man and the Poor Man, elementary — This is a story of consequences. When we make choices, there are consequences to our actions — for better or worse. And Jesus’s story of the rich man and Lazarus is a prime example of the worse! This man had everything he needed, and then some, but ignored the basic needs of those around him. He also ignored the mandates of God, as taught in the most ancient of scriptures, to care for the poor, to be hospitable, to show justice, kindness, and mercy to one another. Thus, when the two men died, Lazarus is carried away to a place of peace and plenty, while the rich man is taken to Hades, the place of darkness and separation from God. He cannot save himself. He cannot warn his family of the dire consequences, should they follow his patterns. His choices have been made and the consequences have landed him in this position. Will his loved ones make the same choices? Will we? Ah, what will we teach our children about consequences, when we so often don’t want to consider them in our own lives?
- Luke 17:5-10 – Give Me More Faith! preschool and Give Me More Faith! elementary — “Faith Formation” It’s a phrase that’s been used in lieu of “Christian Education” and “Religious Education” for decades. And yet, we’re still having difficulty grasping just what it means to form our faith and how to “grow” it in our youngsters. Even the disciples came to Jesus, asking him to “give” them greater faith. As if it could just be handed to them. Or bestowed from above. But, as Jesus taught, it has to be grown through personal experiences. And that is how we will teach our children. As Proverbs 22:6 tells us, we will bring them up in the way they should go so that when they are old, they will not depart from it. We will teach them through word and deed. Our deeds. Their deeds. Because actions speak volumes.
Luke 17:11-19 – Just One Thank You, elementary and Just One Thank You, preschool — Ten horribly ill people stand before Jesus. “Have mercy. Heal us. Please.” And so, he does. And he sends them to the priest for confirmation and clearance so that they can rejoin society. Yet, only one returns to give thanks. Only one stops to count blessings, smell the roses, notice that life has forevermore changed for the better. As we teach this lesson to our children, it is a good opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of all of this. When good things come our way, no matter our theology and how we believe the “blessings” come, we need to give thanks. And we need to teach our children to do the same. We are so quick to blame God for the ills which befall us, let’s give God some praise for the beauty in life, instead.
Luke 19:28-40 – Throw Your Coat in the Road! – This story seems to be one of chivalry and celebration, but plumb the depths and in seethes with lovely political tension and meaning. Younger children will love to create palm branches and welcome Jesus with pomp and circumstance. Older children will be interested in exploring the undercurrents of what was happening in that society; of the fact that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, road into town on the same day, on a warhorse, with greater pomp and circumstance, whilst Jesus came in with great humility on a colt; how Jesus came representing God’s realm of peace and Pilate came representing Rome’s empire of power and violence. As we look at the world around us, as day to day existence becomes more confusing, we must ask ourselves, which would we welcome? And which path are we teaching to our children? May our hearts sing with the answer.
Luke 21:25-36 – Guard Your Hearts – How, on earth, do we teach children about the end of the world? How do we talk to them about foreboding signs and the threat to all we know? Well, first of all, let’s learn what Jesus and his followers believed when they were discussing these issues. Let’s figure out what Jesus was telling them. Did they believe the world was ending? Sure. Some of them probably did. But most of them were looking for an end to Roman occupation. And God’s kingdom/God’s realm was not some far away place, after death promise. It is the here and now that we are ushering in by living out God’s love and being the people Jesus has called us to be. Now, that we can teach our kids!
- Luke 24:36b-48 – Jesus Does a Magic Trick
What would you do if you were in a room with some of your friends, you knew all the doors and windows were locked and all of a sudden someone else appeared in the room with you? Would you say, “Hey, how did you do that?” Or, “Who let you in here?”
What if you knew that person had died? Would you scream? Would you try to hide? Would you run from the room?
After Jesus died on the cross, his friends were afraid that someone would try to hurt them, so they hid in a room and locked all the doors and windows. All of a sudden, Jesus was standing in the room with them. Can you guess what happened next?
They thought he was a ghost, so he told them to touch his hands and feet so they would know that he was real. But they were still so surprised and confused that he asked them for something to eat. Because, well, have you ever seen a ghost eat anything?
How long do you think it took for his friends to decide it really was Jesus?
How do you think they felt when they realized it was really him?
What do you think they said to him?
What would you say to him, if you were in that room?