A Children’s Gospel?

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”.


About Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel

As a young senior whose life could easily have ended in a nasty car crash in 2012 I live with an extra dose of gratitude to God, humanity, and the wonders of our human bodies. I am a passionate advocate for ministry WITH children and seniors in the life and ministry of the church. I started working in Faith Formation with Mennonite Church Canada in 2002. Thinking and writing about faith helps me see God at work in all kinds of surprising places. I'd like to be remembered as one who encourages others to live into God's good dream for our world. My book, Please Pass the Faith: The Spiritual Art of Grandparenting, is one big way I'm trying to share that encouragement with my peers. This blog is another way I'd like to engage people who care about growing in faith across the generations.
This entry was posted in Child Faith, Child Theology, Church season, Family life, Intergenerational worship, Pastoral Psychology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to A Children’s Gospel?

  1. Wow Elsie. I so appreciate your taking a child’s perspective and stance – something I would not immediately think to do, but which is rich in insight. I would love to read a children’s version of the gospel of John!

  2. Cindy Snider says:

    Elsie, I would love to read a children’s version of the gospel of John too! Really appreciated the wonderful insights that you shared in your blog.

  3. Elsie Hannah Ruth Rempel says:

    Thanks, so much Cindy! You made my day. Will I see you at Faith Forward in May?

  4. Cindy Snider says:

    : )

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