I spent many hours over the last two weeks pondering the good news for 4-8-year-olds in the Lectionary Readings for this year’s Easter Season. The reason? There was a gap in our holdings, and it was discovered too late to recruit another writer. In retrospect, I’m glad for this gap, because I found both joy and inspiration in the writing.
Most of the readings were from John’s Gospel, a gospel rich in sign and symbol. Would the readings chosen for congregational worship contain themes that relate to the realities of these precious, pre-rational, kinesthetic members of the family of God?
To prepare myself, I imagined myself in the presence of the 3-5 year old children with whom I spend my Thursday mornings at a Mom’s program. With that done, I read, and re-read and pondered the scripture texts. Slowly, my attention was drawn to themes or portions of the texts that felt right and that I hoped would connect with their realities. Here is what happened:
The disciples disbelief that Jesus could really be raised from the dead in John 20:19-30, made me think about what a fuzzy caterpillar might feel as they discovered themselves morphed into a butterfly. It would just seem to good to be true until you realized it really was. So I called that story, “Too Good to be True.”
As I sat with the story of sad disciples on the Emmaus Road, my thoughts were led to think of a child’s trauma when moving away from friends. The young child I imagined didn’t even recognize the faces of her old friends at the party her parents planned for her until she took a grilled cheese sandwich from the hands of her friend’s mother. It was fun playing with the symbolic acts in the Emmaus Road story so that children would connect with it.
This was followed by the John 10: 1-10, the famous Good Shepherd passage. While our story service generally offers a story based on the theme of the passage, this passage demanded an imagination exercise in which the children could pretend to be the sheep, hear Jesus call them by name, and care for all their sheepy needs. I tried that one out in the mom’s group and was delighted with the children’s response to “I just Wanna be a Sheep.”
The last three Gospel selections in this series focus on Jesus and the disciples preparing to be physically separated by his death and ascension. Reading about the childhood trauma of Karl Lehman (see last week’s post) in which he had to stay with his grandparents while his mother was sick helped me imagine Karly and her family surviving a similar event in ways that kept Karly from being traumatized. Their adventures easily reflected the heart stories of Jesus and the disciples, and affirmed Lehman’s description of Jesus as master therapist.
As I worked on this series of stories around Karly and her family, another seed was planted in my soul, that of writing a children’s Gospel of John. I wonder if that seed will fall on good soil, and when the growing conditions for it will be right. For now it is a happy thought to ponder. In the meantime, I hope and pray that my Easter season stories will be a blessing for the young in our congregations.
Ad, even more immediately, if any of you are looking for family based resources for lent and Easter, feel free to download and use my “Meeting God: Lent at Home 2014”.