reflections

Here are a handful of reflections meant to give you insight into our children’s offerings. Please write if you have questions, comments, or ideas of any kind about our program.

Sunday, April 17th (Fourth Sunday of Easter):

The Lesson: “Tabitha and Peter,” Acts of the Apostles 9:36-43

We had a thriving conversation this week about the difference between mysteries that need to be solved and God’s mysteries, which are all around us, and yet which require nothing from us (aside, perhaps, from wonder). Your kids have fascinating insights into miracles and mysteries! I would be curious what they might have to say at home about this.

Sunday, April 10th (Third Sunday of Easter):

The Lesson: “Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples,” John 21:1-19

Try reading this story with them, and then asking the following questions:

  1. The author of John tells us that this is the THIRD time that Jesus appeared to his disciples after his death. We heard about the other two times last week. Do you remember what they were? (A: When he first appeared in the locked room to the disciples, and when he came back a week later and showed Thomas his wounds.)

  2. Do you notice how often Jesus’s friends who knew him BEFORE his death don’t recognize him now? First Mary Magdalene when he appeared outside the tomb (which we learned about on Easter), and then the disciples when he first came and stood among them (which we talked about last week), and now they don’t recognize him until he fills their nets with fish and offers to feed them. Does anyone want to imagine why they struggle to understand that it’s him? (There’s no simple answer here; we’re looking for conversation and thought.)

  3. Once more, Jesus offers them bread (just as he did at the Last Supper), this time with fish. Why are our earthly experiences of Jesus so often of him feeding others? Is there a way he’s still doing so now?

Sunday, April 3rd (Second Sunday of Easter):

Songs: This week, we began to learn the songs we’ll sing throughout Eastertide: “Now the Green Blade Riseth” and “Alleluia, Alleluia! Give Thanks to the Risen Lord.” The children were led by a talented and joyful parishioner and choir member, and the energy they’re already bringing to these songs is sweet. In your Easter Bags you received the sheet music for “Now the Green Blade Riseth.” If you’re not already singing it at home, give us a couple of weeks and I’ll bet your kids will be able to teach it to you!

Reading: “Belief” (John 20:19-31) This conversation was more roundtable-exploration than led-discussion. It was fascinating to hear how they define “belief,” and what kinds of things they feel sure are there even if they can’t see them.

Prayer: We also finished our line-by-line consideration of The Lord’s Prayer, which we’ve been working on for over two months. Ask them what they know about the prayer: where it comes from, what each line means. And ask them too to recite it with you. Even our shy kiddos seem really to know it well.

Sunday, March 27th (Easter Sunday!):

Songs: Under the leadership of one of the older kids (and with no prompting from me), we started our Easter worship with a spontaneous rehearsal of the song they would go on to sing in church later that morning: “We Welcome Glad Easter.” To see them organize themselves and one another in the service of song and their parish was thrilling. They are a community.

Readings: We spent the rest of our time on Easter moving through our own version of the Triduum via four gospel stories: Jesus washing his disciples’ feet; his offering of bread as body and wine as blood at the Last Supper; his death on the cross; and the discovery and proclamation (by women) of his resurrection. Try showing them the photographs below and asking what they did or discovered with each story.

Prayers: We prayed an edited version of the Prayers of the People you were praying downstairs, likely at close to the same time.

Sunday, March 6th (Fourth Sunday in Lent):

Songs: This was our last week with “Oh, be Joyful!” and “The Lord is My Shepherd.” Dr. John Fink did a delightful job leading the children in song this season; we will miss his company greatly.

Reading: “A Man Had Two Sons” (Luke 15:11-32, adapted from Carol A. Wehrheim’s Feasting on the Word: Children’s Sermons for Year C)  

        • Tell me about this man’s two sons?
        • Sometimes this parable is called, “The Lost Son.” Which son do you think people mean when they say that?
        • How is the youngest son “lost” and then “found”?
        • How is the older son “lost” and then “found”?
        • Does the father wait to hear his son apologize before welcoming him back with open arms?
        • Is he angry with his older son for being unhappy?
        • What does he feel, then? How does he welcome his journeying son home? How does he comfort the son who never left?
Teaching Notes: I wanted the kiddos to understand that the father here doesn’t comfort his sons after they repent; he offers welcome and comfort immediately and unconditionally. I also wanted them to realize that the parable (which is often reductively referred to as “The Prodigal Son”) is about both the son who leaves and returns and the son who never leaves, but feels hurt. We didn’t get to this in Children’s Chapel, but here’s a passage you might find helpful in understanding or explaining the nuance of this parable. It comes from Amy-Jill Levine’s Short Stories by Jesus.
If we hold in abeyance, at least for the moment, the rush to read repenting and forgiving into the parable, then it does something more profound than repeat well-known messages. It provokes us with simply exhortations. Recognize that the one you have lost may be right in your own household. Do whatever it takes to find the lost and then celebrate with others, both so that you can share the joy and so that the others will help prevent the recovered from ever being lost again. Don’t wait until you receive an apology; you may never get one. Don’t wait until you can muster the ability to forgive; you may never find it. Don’t stew in your sense of being ignored, for there is nothing that can be done to retrieve the past. Instead, go to lunch. Go celebrate, and invite others to join you. If the repenting and the forgiving come later, so much the better. And if not, you still will have done what is necessary. You will have begun a process that might lead to reconciliation. You will have opened a second chance for wholeness. Take advantage of resurrection – it is unlikely to happen twice. (75)

Prayer for the Week: This was our last week working with this adaptation of Psalm 126. They’ll recite it in church this coming Sunday, so if you can, help them practice it at home (or even memorize it with them!).

When the Lord brought us home again
it was as if we awoke from a dream.
Then we laughed and we sang
and our tongues shouted for joy!

Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.

Restore us to wholeness, O Lord,**
like the watercourses of the Negev.
May all hurting people be returned to joy.
May the hungry be restored with food.

Here we are listening to the Gospel According to Luke. Notice the new beautiful center of our Children’s Chapel: the cross that Micheal built us (here draped for Lent)!

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Sunday, February 28th (Third Sunday in Lent):

Songs: “Oh, be Joyful!” and “The Lord is My Shepherd”

Reading: “A Call to Return” (Isaiah 55:1-9; adapted from Carol A. Wehrheim’s Feasting on the Word: Children’s Sermons for Year C)

The prophet of God named Isaiah, whose story is told in one of the books of the Major Prophets, is quoted many time in the Gospels, where the story of Jesus is told. When Jesus read in the synagogue, he read from the scroll of Isaiah. The part of Isaiah we heard is a message from God that Isaiah had for God’s people. Jerusalem had been attacked and defeated by the Babylonian soldiers. Many of the people of Jerusalem were captured and forced to live in Babylon. Isaiah was among them there, and he was a prophet of God. And Isaiah had a message of hope from God to give to the people. Isaiah gathered the people from Jerusalem together, and told them:

Listen! This is what God says to you.
If you are thirsty, come to the water.
If you are hungry, but you have no money, come and get food to eat.
Don’t spend money on food that doesn’t fill you up.
Listen carefully. Eat what is good.
God will make a covenant, a promise, with you that will last forever.
Seek God where God can still be found. Call for God.
Return to God because God is generous and will forgive you.
Like the heavens are high above the earth, God’s ways are high above the ways of humans.

Questions: 

        • What might Isaiah mean when he says: “Seek God where God can still be found. Call for God. Return to God because God is generous and will forgive you.”
        • Is it easy to admit when we’re wrong?
        • Isaiah says “return to God because God is generous and will forgive you.” Does he mean “if you’re good enough, God will forgive you?” Does he mean “if you beg for hours and hours and hours, God will forgive you?” (Of course not. He means just what he says: “return to God because God is generous and will forgive you.”)
        • In Children’s Chapel, did you draw a picture for or write a letter to God in which you “return[ed] to God” by admitting a mistake? What did you draw?
        • How did this feel? Did it feel like “returning” to God?
        • [Parents/guardians: Consider drawing a picture of this yourself, maybe with your child!]

Prayer for the week: Help them practice Psalm 126 (adapted from the Revised Standard Version, and from Ralph Milton’s Lectionary Story Bible: Year C), which we’ve been learning for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.

Try just giving them the first line of each stanza and see if they can recite it from there!

When the Lord brought us home again
it was as if we awoke from a dream.
Then we laughed and we sang
and our tongues shouted for joy!

Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.

Restore us to wholeness, O Lord,**
like the watercourses of the Negev.
May all hurting people be returned to joy.
May the hungry be restored with food.

** Ask them what the Psalmist’s plea of “Restore us to wholeness, O Lord” reminds them of from this week’s story. When I asked this in Children’s Chapel, they immediately saw the connection between this prayer and Isaiah telling us to “return to God.”

Here they are drawing their perceived mistake and their return to God (however they envision that). I love the morning light in this room, and their sweet focus on this task). 

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Sunday, February 21st (Second Sunday in Lent):

Songs: “Oh, be Joyful!” and “The Lord is My Shepherd”

Ask if they’re up for singing one or both of these songs for you! Here are the lyrics to “The Lord is my Shepherd” in case you want to sing along. They sounded amazing singing this in a round today!

The Lord is my shepherd,
I’ll walk with him each day.
He leads me by still waters,
I’ll walk with him each day.
Each day, each day, I’ll walk with him each day.
Each day, each day, I’ll walk with him each day.

Reading: “A Warning from the Pharisees” (Luke 13:31-35)

Questions:

        • Why did King Herod threaten and hurt people? Why did he threaten Jesus?
        • How does Jesus respond to Herod’s threats?
        • How did they (the kiddos) depict the concept of fear? What did they draw to represent that emotion? (Some used personified images like monsters and goblins. Others used abstractions like darkness, loneliness, and grief.)
        • What did they say fear felt like on the inside? What does fear stop them from feeling? (Love? Connection to others?)
        • What did they imagine when they erased their image of fear? (When I asked what takes fear away, I heard: laughter, God, love, family, and friends.)
        • How did they depict love, and why did we draw it where fear had been?

** We drew on white boards so we could erase them (an important part of the exercise), but you could have them redraw their representation of fear at home. You could even do it with them: draw how fear feels to you, and talk about it.  

Prayer for the week:

We’ve been working on the Lord’s Prayer for four weeks now, adding a phrase each Sunday and exploring what the new words mean, and why they’re important.

Try asking the following:

        • Where (in the Bible) the Lord’s Prayer comes from, and who taught it to the disciples.
        • To explain a little about the following phrases, broken up here as we’ve learned them together.

Our Father (Week 1) 
who art in heaven, (Week 2) 
hallowed be thy name. (Week 3) 
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Week 4) 

        • What “will” means. This week we spent the most time on “thy will be done,” working to understand the concept of free-will at large, our own will, and how we might see or grasp God’s will for us.
        • To pray the whole prayer for (or with) you! We’re not even halfway through learning this, but their ability to recite it is already really strong.

Here’s an image of our little Children’s Chapel this Lent. I love this small worship space in the round: watching the kiddos gather on the prayer mats for song, then move inward toward the altar to hear the Word of the Lord. It is a joyful space.

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Sunday, February 14th (First Sunday in Lent):

Reading: “Jesus in the Desert” (Luke 4:1-13)
Songs: “Oh, be Joyful!” and “The Lord is My Shepherd”

Questions:

        • Why did Jesus go away to the desert for forty days?
        • Have you ever been lonely and wished you felt closer to God? (Talk about this as a family, if possible.)
        • Was there a time you were tempted by a voice – either inside of yourself or around you – to do something that you didn’t believe was right?
        • When you said no to that voice, how did it feel? How did it feel to practice saying no to that voice in Children’s Chapel this week? (Have them explain what we did to practice this!)
        • Ask them about the Books of the Bible! We’ve now spent time with the books of the Torah, History, Poetry, and the Major Prophets.

Lenten Art & Music Series:

Ask them what color they used for the background of their icon, and who they plan to make their icon of (and why)! If you have time, show them some icons of that person or people. (Icons are easy to find using a Google Image search.)

Prayer for the week (taken from an adaptation of Psalm 126):

“Restore us to wholeness, O Lord,
like the watercourses of the Negev.**
May all hurting people be returned to joy.
May the hungry be restored with food.”

** Have them tell you about the Negev Desert and the River Zin!

Here are the blank blocks of wood, which our children will transform into icons over the next five weeks.

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