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Reflections | Activities
Learning to Live by God's Truth
Intergenerational Activities for Lent and Easter (Cycle B)
- ASH WEDNESDAY
- First Sunday of Lent
- Second Sunday of Lent
- Third Sunday of Lent
- Fourth Sunday of Lent
- Fifth Sunday of Lent
- Sixth Sunday of Lent/ Palm/Passion Sunday
- HOLY WEEK AND EASTER SUNDAY
- About the author
These sessions are designed to help families and other intergenerational groups experience Lent and Easter as a time of self-examination and recommitment. They are suitable for use in both small and large groups, either at home or church. Each session begins with an idea for preparing a simple table decoration, followed by an opening Scripture lesson and various activities. Use your imagination as you read through the suggestions. You may be surprised that it takes little effort to adapt some of these ideas to your own group or situation.
Piety and Truth
Place some money (real or play) on a plate in the middle of the table. In the center of the plate, place a bowl of ashes (either burned from scrap paper and wood or taken from the fireplace).
Ask two volunteers to read aloud the Scripture passage. Reader 1, read verses 1-2; reader 2, vss. 3-4; back to reader 1, vs. 5; reader 2, vs. 6; back to reader 1, vs. 16; reader 2, vss. 17-18. Discuss what it means to "show off"? How does God reward you if you act "in secret"? Close with prayer to be sincere in your faith.
1. Encourage one person to act out verses 1-2. He or she can put some money in an offering plate, pretending to be proud of how much s/he gave. To act out verses 3-4, let one person discreetly put an offering in the plate. For verse 5, someone can pray loudly while standing with arms outstretched. For verse 6, someone else can pray silently while kneeling in a corner. For verse 16, someone can smear some soot or ashes on his or her face (mourning and fasting were often done in sackcloth and ashes), and talk to others about how fasting has caused him/her to suffer. For verses 17-18, let someone wash her/his face and look cheerful while talking to others.
2. Fast for a day. Drink only water, milk or fruit juices and eat a little bread. Or, you could skip one meal, giving the money that you save to the poor. Be sure that you do not endanger your health. Also, if you have used real money for your table decoration, consider donating it to a community or church program that assists the disadvantaged.
3. According to Georgia's State Department of Statistics, a family of three on welfare assistance receives about $300 a month in food stamps. Plan a week's grocery shopping for a family of three for no more than $75. This challenge is a good way to learn what poor people have to go through every week.
Truth and the Kingdom of God
Using construction paper or scrap paper, cut out a dove. Place it on the table and set a bowl of water on top of it.
Ask one volunteer to read the lesson out loud. Note that Jesus' baptism begins his ministry. Encourage each person to talk about beginnings - early memories of important people, church or school memories, special vacations, etc. Close with a prayer for new beginnings.
1. Demonstrate various methods of baptism: sprinkling a few drops on the head; pouring water from a pitcher over the head; total immersion. In which of these ways were you baptized? What does baptism mean to you?
2. Draw a picture of a dove descending. Do you think the Spirit was in the shape of a dove, or did it light upon Jesus gently, "like a dove"?
3. Using old magazines, cut out pictures of trees, flowers, shrubs, birds, other animals, etc. Paste them at random on a large sheet of paper or poster board. Does your collage resemble what you think a restored Eden would look like? In your opinion, how should the Kingdom of God look?
Commitment to God's Truth
Place a cross on the table where the group meets.
Ask a volunteer to read verses 31-33a of the Scripture passage for this week. Then a second volunteer can read vs. 33b. The first reader can then read 34a, followed by the second person reading vss. 34b-38. Like Peter, we often do not want to hear these sayings of Jesus. Discuss within your group both the sacrifices and the rewards that are inherent in answering the call of Christ to "come after me." Close with prayer to do God's will.
1. Select someone to play the part of Jesus and another to play the part of Peter. The rest of the group can play the other disciples. The person playing Jesus should say, "I must suffer many things and be rejected..." (vs. 31).Then the person playing Peter should pull Jesus aside and try to talk him out of sacrificing himself (vs. 32). Jesus should then address the group, rebuking Peter (vs. 33). Allow time for the other disciples to discuss among themselves what it means to take up a cross. After three minutes are up, Jesus should read vss. 34-35. For three more minutes, discuss what it means to lose your life, or save it. Let Jesus finish reading the
2. Gather your group and divide into two groups. One member of group one should try to persuade a member of group two to laugh. If the person laughs, group one scores a point. If not, group two scores the point. Set a time limit for each attempt. Allow each member of both groups a chance to try to make someone laugh. Were you persuaded to laugh or not? Was it difficult to keep from laughing? Was Peter able to persuade Jesus to turn from God's will?
3. Draw different crosses. Make them as simple or as decorative as you want. Here are some examples:
Then draw what you think the "old rugged cross" might have looked like. While the crosses that decorate our churches and paraments are lovely, originally the cross was an instrument of death. What does it mean to "take up your cross"?
Learning the Truth Through Signs
Place money in a plate, as you did in the first week of Lent. Also include in the plate some pictures of animals that have been cut out of magazines.
Assign each person in your group one or two verses of the lesson to read aloud. Discuss the following saying: "My father requires mercy, not sacrifice." In what ways did Jesus change the way people thought of sacrifice? Close with prayer to make of yourselves a true offering.
1. Draw some road signs on paper, like "Stop" and "Yield." Were Jesus' actions in the passage we just read somehow a sign to us? If yes, what do you think this sign means?
2. In the accompanying Reflections for Lent and Easter, Earl Smith writes, "A sign is a symbolic action which demonstrates a greater reality of which the sign itself is a part." A flag is one such sign. Can you think of others? Have a round table discussion on flag burning. Should there be a constitutional amendment against burning the flag? Where do you stand on this issue?
3. Make a collage of the different animals used for sacrifice in the temple by cutting out pictures from magazines and pasting them on paper or posterboard. Read Leviticus chapters 1-7 and 22 for hints. Do we use animal sacrifice anymore? Whatsorts of things would God find acceptable as our offering today?
Finding Truth Through God's Love
Place a candle, flashlight or light bulb in the center of the table.
After turning off all the lights in the room, ask one person to read the first verse of today's lesson by the light of a single candle or flashlight. When that person is done, s/he should pass the Bible and candle or flashlight on to the person reading the next verse. Continue this way until the entire passage is read. Once verse 21 has been read, extinguish all light and experience the darkness. Try to remain as quiet as possible. After five minutes have elapsed, turn on one light or light one candle. Discuss what the darkness was like. Then, slowly, one at a time, light more candles or turn on more lamps until all the room is filled with light. Talk about the nature of light. How is "light" a metaphor for God's truth? Close with prayer for more light to come into the world.
1. Designate one person to blindfold the other participants and to assign each person a number. In other words, if you have eight participants, seven will be blindfolded and randomly assigned a number from one through seven. (If you have a large group, you may wish to break down into smaller groups of 6-10 before assigning numbers.) Once blindfolded and numbered, the group(s) tries to line up in order without talking. To do this, people must invent ways to communicate. Discuss the difficulties you encountered. Where would we be without Jesus, the light of the world?
2. Turn out all the lights in one room. Walk down a hall or darkened room toward some light. What was it like to be in the dark? How did you feel to enter into the light?
3. Try to live with as little electricity as possible for one day. Use only essential electrical appliances, such as refrigerators and freezers. While wake-up alarms are all right to use, do not listen to the radio or watch television. Use candles at night to see. Cook with gas, an outside grill or fire where feasible. Enter into the spirit of the challenge. At the end of the day, gather your group or family for a time of reflection. If we had to live without electricity on a regular basis, what would life be like? What would it be like to live without Christ, the light of the world.
Obedience to God's Truth
Fill a bowl with some earth and another with some grain, such as wheat, barley or corn.
Divide the Scripture lesson into two parts. One person can read verses 20-22, 28-29, and 33. Another person can read verses 23-27, and 30-32. Or, you could divide the lesson so that each person in the group can read one verse. Discuss the nature of obedience. To what person or things do we give our loyalty today? What are the claims of Christ? How are Jesus' claims different from those of our materialistic world? Close with a prayer for faithful obedience.
1. Set up a path with obstacles. Divide the group into twos. One person should blindfold her/his partner. The person not blindfolded should act as a guide. The guide must verbally instruct the "blind" person where to walk, duck, etc., to avoid getting hurt. This teaches both obedience and the necessity of clear instruction.
2. Draw a picture of the cross and another picture of an empty tomb. How are we dead to God? What brings us alive to God's will?
3. Plant a vegetable or flower garden. Plant some seeds in an empty egg carton or plant some bulbs in a pot filled with pebbles.
Rejection by This World
Display a palm tree or leaf, a bamboo plant or sugar cane on the table. For additional suggestions for decorations throughout Holy Week, see "To Celebrate: Reshaping Holidays and Rites of Passage," available from Alternatives for Simple Living.
Since this is a lengthy Scripture lesson, you may want to divide it up and read it over the course of Holy Week, the week between Passion/Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. You could divide it as follows:
- Events of the Last Supper - Mark 14:1-26
- The Garden of Gethsemane and the arrest - 14:27-52
- Jesus before the High Priest - 14:53-72
- Jesus before Pilate - 15:1-14
- The Crucifixion - 15:15-38
- The burial of Jesus - 15:39-47
Begin the readings of the Last Supper with all the lights on. As you approach the verses on the Crucifixion and burial, use only enough light to read. At the close of the reading, extinguish all light. Take a minute to experience the dark and then turn on only enough light to facilitate discussion. Jesus obviously suffered a great deal in his last hours. Talk about the times you have suffered, whether due to illness, death of a loved one, or some problem you went through. Do your sufferings put you in touch with Jesus' sufferings? Do you think he is able to understand your pain? Close with a prayer to better understand the suffering of Jesus.
1. Read a book about someone who was discriminated against, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. How is the abuse of discrimination like the injustice Jesus suffered?
2. Have a "dress down" day at home, church or school. Wear your worst, most ragged clothes. Are your clothes still better than those that some people wear everyday? Donate some clothes to a church or community clothes closet.
3. On a piece of paper, list ways in which you have been discriminated against. Have you been denied employment because of your religion or your sex? Do you come from a different culture? Do you hold views different from the majority of your friends? Also think of ways that you might have discriminated against others. How does Jesus' suffering relate to suffering today?
4. Maundy Thursday is a good time to celebrate Holy Communion. You might wish to use the Passover Seder, a guide to help you plan a meal similar to the Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples (available from Alternatives).
Following Christ into the World
Place an Easter Lily or other flower in a vase on the table. Also draw a picture of the empty tomb or make one out of paper mache.
Since this lesson concerns three of Jesus' women followers, it would be ideal for a woman or girl to read the passage aloud. Discuss the emotions and feelings that you might have experienced if you were one of the women - sadness, fear, joy, skepticism, etc. When sharing, try to use a personal pronoun. (Example: "When we came to the tomb, I was frightened.") What does the resurrection mean to you? (You may also wish to use Alternatives' Easter Seder as a worship guide.) Close with prayer that you will rise to new life in Christ.
1. Sing a hymn such as "Low in the Grave He Lay" or "Christ the Lord is Risen Today."
2. Make some hot cross buns for Easter morning breakfast. Also, bake some homemade bread for your church's Easter communion.
3. Cover an old wooden cross with chicken wire. Place it on the table or on your lawn and decorate it with freshly cut flowers.
Terrill F. DeLand is the pastor of Philadelphia United Methodist Church, Conyers, Georgia.
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