During Lent, our children spend the season following Jesus closer and closer to Jerusalem. Each step helps us know Jesus in a new way. The words he speaks, the actions he takes, the lives that are changed, the crowds who react, the disciples who follow: All these facets work together to give us a better understanding of Jesus’ ministry.
We follow a two-year cycle. One year we focus on Jesus’ ministry leading to Jerusalem. The following year we focus on the events of Holy Week. This cycle is repeated every two years beginning with our two-year-old Sunday school class and continuing through fifth grade.
Here’s what has been covered this year: Jesus calls and teaches; Jesus heals; Jesus feeds; Jesus welcomes; Jesus forgives; and Jesus went to Jerusalem. As you can imagine, each of these basic lessons have a wealth of different stories to draw on and to explore.
Why do we repeat this pattern? At each age, children experience the stories of Jesus in new ways. Three year olds hear the story of Jesus healing at a visceral level — they know what it is to be hurt, and they understand what it is to have someone help. Jesus is a helper and a caregiver and in those stories they find connection. Fourth graders read healing stories in a different way. They begin noticing how the man born blind is treated by his community; they notice that Jesus touches the man with leprosy. Because they know the basic movement, we have the opportunity to introduce new stories that challenge or nuance a familiar one. This gives space for the story of Jesus to become deeper and more complex; all the while students find more and more connection with the promise of the Gospels.
I wonder as you prepare for Holy Week, which part of Jesus’ story would bring you comfort? Which part of Jesus’ story would you most like to see or experience firsthand? Which parts of Jesus’ ministry do we as a church still participate in? Which part would you like to share with a third grader?
In class we share these words as part of our weekly liturgy:
Even when we cannot see the light, we remember that God sent Jesus to be the light for us even in dark places. We remember that the light grew when Jesus said, “Come follow me,” “Be healed,” “Give them something to eat,” “Let them come to me!” and “You are forgiven.” So the light was shared. How will you share the light today?