Descending and Ascending Jesus

This Sunday is the final Sunday of the season of Easter, which is Ascension Sunday!

The ascension is a very important part of the incarnation of Christ!  It took me until seminary to really start to explore the ascension.  Growing up, if I thought about it, I just figured it happened on Easter Day (or Resurrection Day).  I was really surprised to learn that the Easter season is 7 weeks long!  Concluding with Ascension Sunday and then heading into Pentecost.  (Lectionary for this week)

What a remarkable change – Jesus ascending and the Holy Spirit descending on the believers in Jerusalem…. I can’t imagine how this felt to the early followers of Jesus!

To help children begin to explore what the amazing miracle and mystery of the Incarnation of Christ, from Christmas to the Ascension this fun science experiment might be a great conversation starter!  Dancing Raisin Experiment raisin ex

*** Object Lesson Caveat*** Object lessons are often used to help children have a concrete visual or metaphor for a abstract concept.  It is important to remember however that children struggle with metaphors and abstract concepts because their development phases.  It’s not just a simple matter of learning.  When using object lessons, it’s important then to talk with children about how this is “like” something else and not like it too.  For example – God is “like” a father to us in how God wants to have a close relationship with us and cares for us like parents do.  God is not like a father (or parent) in many ways too – God is not human like parents are, and sometimes parents are not able to be the parents they want to be.

  • Wondering:
  • I wonder what kinds of things you know that ascend? descend?
  • I wonder what it was like for God to come to earth, to descend, and be born a baby?
  • I wonder what it was like for God to leave the disciples?
  • I wonder how it feels for you to know that God loves us so much, that God came to live with us?
  • I wonder how it feels to know that after God in Christ ascended, the Holy Spirit descended to be with us forever?

Vine Craft

This week’s lectionary texts fit well together – a great take away image for children is the vine from the gospel reading.

John 15:1-8            15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 15:2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 15:3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 15:4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

There are SO many creative ways to explore this verse with children of all ages.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Have a “vine run” where your family grabs hands to make a chain and sets a goal of how far they can run together (across the park, to the basketball hoop, etc).  I always recommend goals that are achievable while being somewhat of a challenge.  If it’s too easy the first time, set a farther goal, or see how fast you can do it!  Once you’ve caught your breath from running and laughing – talk about vines, the branches need to stay connected to stay alive and produce fruit.  If God is the vine, and we are the branches, I wonder what the fruit is?
  • Since it is spring, take a trip to a local garden center.  While shopping for some cool plants or seeds for your home, see if you can find some vines growing in the shop.  Great photo op!  The same questions can help unpack this passage, but might be done best on the walk or car ride home.
  • Do some vine art!  So many possibilities here – but pictured below is one of mvine crafty favorites for young and old.  On some paper (any size will do, but the bigger the better!) draw a vine with some branches.  Grab a clean soda bottle from the recycling and prepare a small dish of paint (if you don’t have paper plates, lids from the recycling work great here too).  Just dip the bottom of the bottle into the paint, and stamp along your vine to create some awesome “fruit” or “flowers”.

In this gospel lesson, Jesus says I am the vine and we are the branches.  I wonder in what ways we can stay connected to Jesus?

Healthy vines need to be pruned to produce more fruit.  I wonder what in our lives could be “pruned” to help us be healthier?

In the lectionary lesson from Acts this week, Philip is guided by the Holy Spirit to a Ethiopian man who is reading Isaiah in his chariot.  Philip asks if the man understands what he is reading and has a great conversation with him.  It is through this conversation and relationship that the man learns more about the love of God and asks Philip if he can be baptized.

We can see how in this story, Philip – who is a branch, connects another person to the vine growing the church.  By Philip being guided by the Holy Spirit, he blesses others through his fruit.

I wonder how your fruit helps the world have a taste of God’s love?

God’s peace to you and yours ~ Deacon Erin

Rainbow Family Fun

Here’s a couple fun snacks to make and a science experiment to help your kids explore what the symbol of a rainbow could mean to them.  In our text today (Genesis 9:8-17) God places a bow in the sky as a reminder of the covenant God makes with all living things.  (This is important to bring up! ALL living things – not just Noah and his decedents.)  God will never again bring destruction of the world through water.

Rainbow Snack 1. Taste the Rainbow Snack!

Strawberries, an orange, apples (1 -red & 1 -green), blueberries, purple grapes, bananas and or marshmallows!

Rainbow Toast 2.  Rainbow Toast – using Milk Paint!

Needs – white bread, milk, food coloring, paint brushes, toaster

Pour a small amount of milk into small bowls and add a drop or two of food coloring to make the colors you would like.  Give out pieces of bread and have everyone use a paintbrush to design their bread.  When they are satisfied – put the bread in the toaster.  Enjoy!

Rainbow Science 3. Rainbow Liquid Density Experiment

Need:  food coloring, 1/2 c. corn syrup, 1/2 c. blue dish soap (Dawn), 1/2 c. water, 1/2 c. olive oil, 1/2 c. rubbing alcohol, spoon, measuring cup, and jar/bottle that will hold at least 2 1/2 c. of liquid.

Purple – Mix 1/2. c corn syrup with 1 drop of red coloring and 1 drop of blue coloring.  Pour into the jar.

Blue – slowly pour 1/2 cup of blue dish soap down the side of your jar.
Green – mix 1/2 cup water with 2 drops green food coloring.  Tip your jar and slowly pour the water down the side of the jar.
Yellow – slowly pour 1/2 cup olive oil down the side of the jar.
Red – mix 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol with 2 drops red food coloring.  Tip your jar and slowly pour the alcohol down the side of the jar.
While enjoying the final products you may spend some time wondering:  I wonder what your favorite part of the rainbow is?  I wonder how a rainbow makes you feel?  I wonder how a rainbow makes God feel?  I wonder how a rainbow reminds us of God’s promises to us and all of creation?

Whole Body Listening

Listening is a skill that people of all ages could improve on.  In the lectionary text for this week – The Transfiguration story  – we hear the voice of God saying to the disciples present “This is my son, the Beloved, listen to him.”

Listening is hard!  Really listening to others takes a lot of work.  I often tell the wonderful youngsters I work with  – “we listen with both our ears and our eyes!”  This imagewhole-body-listening-poster might be helpful for your youngsters:

  • Eyes – looking at the person who is talking  
  • Head/Brain – Thinking carefully about what you are hearing 
  • Mouth – Sharing ideas and responses once the person is finished
  • Ears – Listening for the key words the person is sharing
  • Heart – Caring about what the other person is saying        
  • Body – facing the person 
  • Feet – Still and quiet on the floor 
  • Hands – still & quiet on your lap or by your sides

Handy chart or not – I can often get frustrated repeating these things over and over again.  However it’s worth it when I overhear one of my students ask another one – can you please listen to me with your whole self?!?  Or one of my older students patiently working to get the attention of some little ones who would rather play.  On the other side of listening, I try to remind them that “No one likes to be told what to do” and “No one likes to be yelled at”.  My friends and staff giggle at these constants from my mouth – however as we all get caught in the moment, these are excellent reminders to help all of us learn to respect one another and communicate just a little better.

Childhood 101 – has a great post on listening games here

For this weeks Family Activity I suggest adapting one for your family!

They call this “Sound Tennis”: It’s like the board game “Encore” – although doesn’t require you to sing!  Works well with teams – or each person can be their own team (depending on the size and makeup of your family or group).  Take turns giving out the categories (or have a parent/older child do it) – with younger children you could start with a letter (Things that start with S) or a sound cluster (Things that have a CH sound).  Older children can do more specific categories – cartoon characters, songs, desserts, vacation spots – etc.

Rules:  Once a category is given, individuals or teams have to name something in the category.  This bounces back and forth between people (or teams) until the ideas run out – OR – someone repeats something already said.  The person/team that ended with the last idea gets a point.  Play until 10 points, or the car ride ends, or when everyone is really loving it.  (Tip:  ending at game when it’s at a climax of fun and excitement gives you the chance to keep it in your pocket and bring it out again and again.  If you play too long, they’ll get tired of any game.)

Take a break in the game to talk about how important it is to listen in this game, and in life.  Ask some wondering questions:

I wonder what are some ways that you find help you listen to others?  I wonder what things can distract you from listening?   I wonder how you feel when others don’t listen to you?  I wonder if listening always means doing?

Read the text from this week – Mark 9:2-8.  Go back to the game.  Category: Things Jesus talked about, or Ways to listen to Jesus – and have fun with what comes!

Peace~ Deacon Erin