Year A: May 3, 2020
First Reading: Acts 2:42-47
Kindness Makes Us Strong by Sophie Beer
(Written for ages 2-6)
Comment: In the Scripture that we read last week, Acts contained a small snapshot of what the early church looked like. They were spending time together, eating together, praying, and learning from the Apostles. Today’s scripture has a more detailed picture of what the church looked like. They shared what they had so that no one was in need; they spent time in the Temple; they ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God. The apostles did many wonders like healing a lame man. People were added to the church each day but it wasn’t just because they were doing such good things. The church attracted people because of the way they were living but it was, and is, God who adds people to the church.
The early church was practicing more than kindness, but acts of kindness can be a way to introduce a particular way of life that enhances a community. This simple board book shows children actively strengthening their community by doing such things as sharing with each other, taking turns, offering comfort to others who are hurting, visiting the sick.
People liked these new followers of Christ we read about in Acts today. Why do you think this was so? What was there about the first church that created good will? What kinds of things can we do that show that we a community that loves and follows Jesus?
Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:19-25
Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery by David Gordon
(Written for ages 6-9)
Comment: The people to whom these words were written were slaves. There were many slaves in the Roman Empire; most had been captured in war. Some worked in the fields, cared for animals, built buildings or bridges. Some taught or acted as scribes but none counted as a person. Slaves knew what it was like to be treated unjustly. Peter says that if you are suffering unjustly, think about Christ. He, too, suffered unjustly for you, leaving you an example. By his life and death Jesus has returned us to God, our shepherd and the guardian of our lives. Most of us have not suffered as these people suffered but when someone treats us unfairly or makes fun of us, rather than getting angry or getting even we are to think of the example of Christ.
The extremely cute animals in this book are suffering at the hands of playground bullies that keep knocking their sand creations down. After several times of this, they get angry and they decide to get even! They build the biggest, grandest sand amusement park ever, and shut the door so that none of the bullies can come in. That doesn’t last long. They open the door to the bullies sitting sadly outside and invite them in. Turns out that in addition to being extremely cute, the forgiving animals are also extremely good at including others. The extremely cute animals could have wanted revenge (and did, at one point). But they saw a better way. 1 Peter reminds us to think of the ways that Jesus lived as we consider how to respond to those causing us pain.
Gospel Reading: John 10:1-10
A Young Shepherd by Cat Urbigkit
(Written for ages 6-12)
Comment: Most of us are as unfamiliar with the work of a shepherd as Jesus’ audience would have been familiar with the imagery he was using in describing himself. How can we help people connect with the image of shepherd/gatekeeper? One way is to focus on what the shepherd and the gatekeeper do. The shepherd/gatekeeper knows their sheep, the sheep know their shepherd. The shepherd protects sheep from danger and in his care, they live safely and have what they need.
If you want to deal with this literally, sharing exactly what a modern day shepherd does, I recommend this title which is out of print. It follows a 12 year old boy who takes care of sheep on his family’s farm and some of the themes in this passage are depicted in words and pictures. It is out of print but I have looked and there seem to be many copies available if you can’t get to a Library these days. It is worth having in a church library to make the work of a shepherd more accessible to those who don’t spend much time on a farm.
The Revised Common Lectionary Links this week are co-written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumnae Virginia C. Thomas and Ann Thomas Knox.