27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7
Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano
(Written for 3 & up)
Comment: Planting a garden requires a lot of foresight and careful planning. A gardener is invested in their work. Isaiah’s verses speak to the commitment God has to the divine covenant, even when the people will not be as committed. The vineyard imagery is a cautionary word to any faith community (like the Israelites) who wishes to reject the divine covenant, or become isolationist and exclusionary. Garden-clearing imagery “removing hedge” and “laying waste” are eye-opening warnings. Tokyo’s home used to be surrounded by hills and trees, but it’s now surrounded by buildings. With a desire to plant for his grandfather, Tokyo plants seeds that result in a garden growing and taking over the city. He must then make a choice and come up with a solution to fix the “problem,” and he does so thinking of what’s best for everyone, not just himself or his family. Tokyo’s garden story can bring to life both the vineyard imagery of Isaiah, and the words we must heed about staying true to God’s divine covenant and being inclusive communities of faith.
How to Write a Biography by Cecilia Roth Minden
(Written for ages 6 & up)
Comment: Paul is sharing his conversion and life story with the Philippian church in this text. While his story speaks of his righteousness, Paul carefully makes known to the letter readers that he is only this way because of Jesus Christ, saying: “because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (v13). Paul is telling his story about how his life changed because he desires for others to be persuaded by his expressions of his beliefs in Christ. Minden’s book is a workbook for young children to learn, following prompts and examples, how to write their own story. This workbook encourages students to pose questions, interview others, and organize their information/answers before writing the story. This book could become a wonderful resource for children and youth to interview older generations about their faith stories. Ideally, though, with extra encouragement from church leaders, the children will desire to write an autobiography about God’s involvement in their lives (to date).
Gospel Reading: Matthew 21:33-46
Thomas the Toadally Terrible Bully by Janice Levy
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: John Calvin notes that people, especially religious leaders, will try to hinder the reign of Christ. This we see in the parable of the Wicked Tenants. Another of Christ’s metaphors for the Messiah’s life, death, and resurrection encourages us to see the evil that we possess when we reject that which God gives. The parable highlights rejection of the Kingdom as well as Christ who emerges victorious, despite our efforts to stifle. On a children’s level the evocative parable alludes to bullying, much like in the story of new-to-town Thomas. After facing rejection and being ignored, Thomas decides to gain attention by bullying others. He realizes however that he’s horrible at it, and then becomes aware of an even bigger bully. Faced with the new bully, Thomas makes friends and uses teamwork to outwit the bigger menace. Thomas learns what Jesus shares, that hurting others to gain attention (etc.) is never the right choice.
Thanks to Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Katie Barrett Todd for writing the Revised Common Lectionary links this week.