Since we won’t be able to see one another in person for quite some time, we want you to know that we are thinking about you and praying for your families every day. We are here for you (just behind our computer screens) and want to support you during this time. We have fingertip access to a world of rich learning materials for all ages, and at least a century of combined experience in faith formation and teaching (not to mention more than a few years of “perfectly imperfect” parenting at the best of times!). Know that we walk in solidarity with you as co-novices in this unprecedented and uncharted “wilderness.” Please feel free to reach out to share creative ideas about how we can be present to one another and to God’s love—in all of it.
Priest for Youth and Families
Fr. Matt Welsch
- This Week
- Discussion and Reflection Questions
- Children and Families Lectionary Exercises
- Adult Lectionary Exercises
- Whole Community Learning
- Tough Times Resources
Collect for the Fourth Sunday in Lent
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen (BCP, p. 219).
Discussion and Reflection Questions
Read the story from Samuel (1 Samuel 6–13).
- How do you think David felt being the last person? Have you ever been last for something? How did that feel?
- David was the smallest and the youngest of Jesse’s sons, but he was the one God wanted to be king! Have you ever been told you were too young or too small to do something big and important? How did that feel? Who are the people that listen to you and support you?
Read the story from the Gospel of John (John 9:1–41).
- How do you think the man who had been born blind felt after his encounter with Jesus? How do you think he felt when the Pharisees didn’t believe him?
- Have you ever felt left out? Or like you were different? How did that feel?
- What are some ways we can make sure nobody else feels left out?
Children and Families Lectionary Exercises
Double standards, “sin,” blaming and shaming, and metaphors about seeing are very difficult for young children to understand, much less accept, although they probably experience them frequently. These are concepts in the long Gospel reading, John 9:1–41, in which Jesus broke Jewish law by healing on the Sabbath. The parent’s exercise is to try to paraphrase the Gospel reading for their young children.
Now watch the Godly Play story of The Ten Best Ways.
- Listen for the commandment about the Sabbath. Did Jesus break it? What if he had ignored the blind man or shamed him like others did?
- Pause the video to share your Wondering Questions.
- After it’s over, go back to the part where the storyteller is setting each of the commandment tablets. Pause after each one and try to rephrase the ones that tell you what not to do with words that say what you can do, however difficult (e.g., “Don’t lie” becomes “Be truthful.”)
- In conversation, journaling, or drawing, share examples in your lives of loving God, loving people, and God loving us. Which of The 10 Best Ways would those reflect? Which of your family’s rules are examples of loving God, loving people, and God loving us? What might be an exception to one of those rules that could still be one of those three things?
Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
For older children: In Jesus’ time, people did not understand illness and presumed sin must be the cause. The Pharisees didn’t approve of Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath, and less so, of the blind man himself. Jesus called the Pharisees blind for only seeing God’s rules as an instrument of judgement rather than grace.
- On whom should we blame the COVID-19 virus?
- What is a compassionate response? The English noun compassion means to suffer together with and comes from Latin.
- What do you think a miracle is?
One of the world’s favorite hymns is Amazing Grace. Few know the story of author John Newton’s horrible “blindness.” The Pharisees believed that their faith practice was determined by the Ten Commandments, which could be called the original rules of life for Jews and Christians. But, by technically breaking a commandment, Jesus demonstrates his love for God and his neighbor, shares God’s love for him, and asks the Pharisees who is really blind.
Adult Lectionary Reflection
Many of you will remember Pádraig Ó Tuama, who has visited, preached, and taught at Trinity. He’s the former leader of Ireland’s Corrymeela Community, for more than fifty years a place of peace and reconciliation. Here are his reflections on the Gospel reading:
“At the heart of the whole text is a man whose story is not believed. People deny that he is who he is. People deny that he has experienced what he has experienced. People deny that he is telling the truth. He is, in his body and self, the site of controversy. He is responding to the full truth that he knows, and in turn he is treated in a way that becomes the shibboleth of true orthodoxy. It is a recipe for scapegoating. It is a recipe for exclusion. It is also a recipe for the abdication of responsibility and self-reflection. Such dynamics can be at the heart of every human gathering—especially among creative, dynamic, well intentioned gatherings of people. How a group respond to an individual whose life or circumstances or narrative challenges the group’s belonging or viewpoint is a test of the integrity of the group’s belonging.”
A Practice in a Time of Social Distancing
Pay attention to articles in various news sites that make use of the plural pronouns: us, we, they, them, their. What theology is being presented here? How can we increase scrutiny of our own usage of such terms, especially where they build suspicion rather than open curiosity?
God of groups, You are within and beyond all of our borders: our names for you; our words about you; our gatherings and stories. We seek to praise but sometimes we imprison. May we always be curious about what is beyond our borders, going there gently, knowing you have always been there. We ask this because we know that You are within and beyond all of our stories. Amen.
- Spirituality of Conflict, Pádraig Ó Tuama’s commentary and reflections
- Poetry Unbound, Pádraig Ó Tuama’s podcast
- Social (In)Justice Retreat — Join Pádraig at Trinity Retreat Center this fall
Whole Community Learning
- The Way of Love: Spiritual Practices for a Jesus-Focused Life podcast
- The Rule of Family Faith: Practicing the Presence of God in Our Outward Lives by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore — Drawn from her book In the Midst of Chaos: Care of Children as Spiritual Practice, in which she explores how parents might use seven daily practices, such as play, reading, chores, and saying goodbye or goodnight, as rich opportunities to shape both parent and child morally and spiritually
- Developing a Personal Rule of Life workbook from Practicing The Way
- DIY children’s prayer beads — Young children can slide a bead to count, for multistep tasks, or as they pray for people. Older children can slide a bead for each part of the five-finger prayer, for phrases in The Lord’s Prayer, for people by name, or for each deep breath.
Tough Times Resources
- Faithful parenting in a pandemic blog post by Wendy Claire Barrie
- Current Realities and the New College Experience — A professor addresses COVID-19 for parents and students
- Coping with Corona: Mental health supports in a pandemic