The day before the election, I ended up driving through the country for about four hours. On long drives, I like to imagine what each community is like by observing the landscape and the houses. This time, I also had campaign signs to look at. In many places, it was easy to discern the political leanings of the towns because of the confluence of signs calling for the election of a particular candidate. But there was one town that included a different sign. Several yards featured the typical national and local candidates’ signs, but they also had Jesus 2020 signs next to them. Prior to this drive, I had spent time reading the Beatitudes, so they were fresh in my mind. What would it mean if we “elected” the one who offered these powerful words to the world?
Even though our children cannot yet vote, the outcome of every election affects their lives. This is especially true during a particularly divisive election cycle held during a pandemic. It can be hard to see the image of Christ in the midst of everything. In this activity, your children and you will consider people in today’s world who would be identified as the blessed.
Begin the time with your children by asking them to share times they have heard someone use the words bless or blessing. They likely will offer examples like someone saying “bless you” after a sneeze or a pastor offering a blessing during a worship service, such as the blessing of students starting a new school year. Note that we often think about blessings being offered as an unexpected gift to us. We also think about blessings as a prayer when we are about to do something that is new or challenging.
Prepare to read Matthew 5:1-12 aloud. Since this text includes some challenging vocabulary, you may want to read from a children’s Bible. Share with your children that this reading comes from a larger sermon or teaching that Jesus offered to a large group of people that we call the Sermon on the Mount. This section is the first part of that sermon and it is often referred to as the Beatitudes or Blessings because Jesus shares blessings for a number of different groups of people. Encourage your children to notice who Jesus blesses.
After you have read the text together, make a list of the people who Jesus blesses using on a piece of paper or a whiteboard. Go through each of these and talk about what the traits Jesus mentions mean to your children. For example, what does it mean to be meek? What does it mean to be poor in spirit? If your children struggle with any of the concepts, you can offer your interpretations of them. Be sure to note that these are not mutually exclusive or permanent categories. Some may be blessed because they are in multiple categories or a person my experience one trait at one time and then another at another time.
Once you have talked about each of these categories, look at what they have in common. Note that they all are challenging and are often ongoing. Some also describe times when people may not feel particularly blessed. However, they are all very important to God.
Because the Beatitudes were offered to a particular group of people at a particular point in time, it may be difficult for children to see how Jesus’ blessings apply to the world they live in. Help them identify people they know or have heard about who receive the blessings offered in this text. Ask your children to choose one of the groups that Jesus blesses in Matthew 5:3-11 that resonates with them. Then ask them who they know who would be part of this group. For instance, who “hungers and thirsts for righteousness”? They may list people who are part of their everyday lives or public figures. The people may be living or dead. You may also want to offer a few examples of your own. If your children are unfamiliar with these individuals, take the opportunity to share stories of that person’s life or research them online.
As your children offer each person’s name, ask them to share how they think this person shows this trait. Then have them consider how this person shares God’s love and builds God’s kingdom on earth through his or her actions. Depending on your children’s ages, you may want repeat this process for only a few of the categories or you may choose to examine each one.
Once you have created a list of contemporary people included in the blessed of the Beatitudes, offer a prayer for their continued blessing. You can create your own prayer or you can use this format:
Jesus tells us: (Repeat the verse from Matthew 5 that you are focusing on. For example, if you are offering a prayer for someone who is a peacemaker, say, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”)
God, please continue to bless (insert name of person).
JOELLE BRUMMIT-YALE is the director of children’s and youth ministries at Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When not at the church, she can usually be found at home with her son and husband caring for their many animals and developing their family homestead.