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BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 5:1-12
BACKGROUND: The Beatitudes appear in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels but more fully in Matthew, where we’ll be working from for this session. In both cases they appear fairly early on in Jesus’ ministry. We have just seen Jesus being tempted in Matthew 4 and then come back to civilisation, where he begins to preach. The first disciples are called, Jesus heals the sick and the buzz about him begins. At the beginning of Matthew 5 we see Jesus escaping the crowds for the mountainside. His disciples come to him and he teaches them, beginning with what we now refer to as the Beatitudes.
As you begin the session, invite the children to sit together in a circle and pass around a simple object. When a child has the object they can share their response to the question. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a sand timer so you have time for each person to share if they want to. If anyone doesn’t want to say anything they can just pass the object on. Ask the children to share something they were told that didn’t make sense at the time.
You will need: paper cups; a stopwatch Spread paper cups all over the floor, with half facing down and half facing up. Divide the group into two teams and have one team try to get all the cups facing up and the other try to get all the cups facing down. Find out which team has been most successful after one minute.
You will need: A3 card; a marker pen; a glue stick
Before the session, make some cards to accompany the storytelling. Write ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ on one piece of card and ‘Be as rich and successful as possible’ on another (both landscape). Take the ‘Blessed be’ card and fold it in half, long edge to long edge, with the words inside. Glue the top half to a blank piece of card, matching up the top corners of the long edge. Turn the blank card around 180 degrees so that the ‘blessed be’ card is now at the bottom, and keep it folded so that the words are inside.
Now take the ‘be as rich’ card and glue it on top, so that the top part is glued to the top of the blank card and the bottom part is glued to the back of the ‘blessed be’ card. Now fold the ‘blessed be’ card open so that the ‘be as rich’ card is hidden. Do the same with the other Beatitudes (as detailed below).
Start the activity by talking about where we have got to in the account of Jesus’ life. He has been tempted, started to preach, chosen disciples, attracted the crowds and now he’s on a mountainside talking to his disciples. Talk about what ‘blessed’ means. It’s the idea of being alongside God and experiencing his goodness.
Talk about the world’s message focusing on being as rich and successful as possible, then discuss how Jesus is being counter- cultural. Say that recognising we are poor in spirit – that we don’t have all the answers
– is the better way. As you talk about Jesus’ words (and extend into the second half of the verse), turn the card 180 degrees and fold the flaps down to show his words. This gives the impression of Jesus turning the world’s ideas upside down.
Talk about as many of the beatitude ideas listed below as you have time for:
Blessed are those who mourn / You’re good just as you are
Exploring how Jesus talks about mourning our loss of perfection
Blessed are the meek / Do everything you can to succeed
Exploring how we use the power we have
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness / Do whatever feels good Exploring the right way to live
Blessed are the merciful / Make sure you’ve got your own back
Exploring how focused we are on revenge and justice
Blessed are the pure in heart / Do whatever seems fun
Exploring the things we do
Blessed are the peacemakers / Pick a side Exploring our confrontational culture (especially the media)
Blessed are those who are persecuted / Do everything you can to stay under the radar Exploring whether we are willing to live differently
Ask the children these questions, encourag- ing everyone to take turns to contribute:
- Why do you think Jesus’ ideas are so different from the ideas of the world we live in?
- Which of the world’s ideas are hardest to walk away from?
- What do you reckon people think about Jesus’ ideas if they don’t follow him?
- Can you think of any examples from your life this week that tie into any of the ideas we’ve talked about today?
You will need: card cut into A6-sized pieces, glue sticks, felt-tip pens
Show the children how to make upside- down cards just like the ones you used in the story part, although a bit smaller. They can think about which idea struck them most and then reproduce it on their own card and decorate it however they wish. The card can be used as a daily reminder of the upside-down nature of Jesus’ teaching.
Ask the group to find a comfortable position and close their eyes. Go back to the ideas from this week’s session and start by making one of the world’s statements. Ask the group to imagine how this idea plays out in everyday life.
Now read out Jesus’ words on the same subject. Ask the group to imagine how Jesus would say those words to them
personally. Leave a gap for them to imagine what else Jesus would say about this to them personally. Repeat with the other statements you used.
JENNY CHEUNG is a mum, church planter and choir nut! She pioneers The Voice Project Scotland: a missional expression inviting children and their families to find their voices
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