Year A: March 16 2014
First Reading: Genesis 12:1-4a
The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco
(Written for ages 4-8- this text is long, and may not hold the attention of most pre-readers. It seems to be more appropriate for 7 and up)
Comment: “…I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” In Genesis 12:2, God promises to bless Abram and to make him a blessing. These are the only details Abram receives in the command to go. We do not know how this will look in Abram’s life, but we can expect that with any journey there will be difficulties alongside the blessings. Patricia Polacco tells the story of her great-grandmother Anna’s life in Russia. One night, her family, along with all the Jews in her community, are told to leave. They receive no instructions. As they travel the long journey out of Russia, the family clings to a tea set that represents the blessings they receive from God. Donald Olsen describes three understandings of blessing that include a “sense of well being,” participation in the created world, and the “gifts, talents and abilities” given to us by God (Feasting on the World. A. Vol 2 pg 54). Each of these aspects of blessing are expressed in the life of the family. The Polacco family does not stop here; they become a blessing others as they share their tea set with others along their journey. With one image of being blessed and being a blessing to others, we can read the rest of Abram’s story with a different set of eyes.
Second Reading: Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane and Hoda Hadadi
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: This passage from Romans has many words that are difficult and complex in their meanings. One of these words is faith. “Classically [faith] is described as having three dimensions: trust in God, beliefs about God, and the way of life we are led into by faith” (Feasting on the Word. Year A. Vol 2 pg 66). It seems most people go to one of the first two dimensions when thinking about faith. The third dimension, an embodiment of faith is more difficult. Deep in the Sahara ends “‘I know what a malafa is for.’ You tell Mama. ‘A malafa is for faith.’” Deep in the Sahara is a story of learning to embody faith. Lalla longs to wear a malafa with every ounce of her being and throughout the story we hear her reasons. Each time she is told the malafa is more than that. It is through each of these conversations that she is able to articulate a fuller meaning of the malafa. We will each embody our faith in different ways, and take different journeys. For Lalla, what she wore was one aspect that allowed faith to lead her life.
Gospel Reading: John 3:1-17
Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker
(Written for ages 5-9)
Comment: Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel, travels in the night to ask questions of Jesus. Nicodemus is a well respected and trusted leader who, on the outside, has it all together. Anna Carter Florence writes, “Nicodemus reminds us that even the best educated and most authoritative among us are still searching” (Feasting on the Word. Year A Vol 2 pg 73). It is not necessary to dwell on the questions and answers with children. What they and the adults need to hear is that a well-educated leader still has questions. Sara Pennypacker writes of leaders who begin to have questions and receive an answer from the most unlikely source in Sparrow Girl. In an attempt to protect crops, the leaders of China declared war on the sparrows, but one young girl, Ming-Li, and her brother worked to save as many they could. As the time for harvest came closer, the leaders began to question their decision to kill the sparrows. Ming-Li interrupts the leaders meeting to help them understand the interconnectedness of creation. Both the Gospel reading and Sparrow Girl illustrate that it is okay to question things. If the leaders of the community can have doubts and questions, so can we.
The Lectionary Links this week are written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Elizabeth Boulware Landes, Director of Children’s Ministry at Faith Presbyterian Church, Aledo, Texas.