Over the last year, we have had plenty of opportunities to lament. There has been no shortage of moments when we have looked at what’s happening around us and have fervently offered prayers of intercession for someone’s safety or health or healing. We may have even shaken our heads and asked, “What good can possibly come of this?”
Yet, as Christians, we know that God can create good in the direst and most unexpected of places. There are many accounts of this throughout the Bible, including the simple exchange between Jesus and his followers, Philip and Nathanael, in this Sunday’s lectionary text, John 1:43-51. In this week’s activity, your children will explore God’s ability to bring good out of anything
Begin your time with your children by talking about definitions of the word good. Ask your children what good means to them. Likely they will identify several different definitions. Share that we can think of good as a word we use to describe God. We often say, “God is good.” Ask them what they think good means when we use it to talk about God. If they struggle to come up with ideas, you can encourage them to first think of all the words they would use to describe God. Then, share with them that all of these traits are good because they are connected to God. All of God’s qualities are good.
Prepare to read the lectionary passage. Share with your children that it tells the story of Jesus calling two men from the town of Cana to follow him. Ask them to pay attention to the way that the men react to Jesus.
Read aloud John 1:43-51. Take a close look at verse 46. Remind your children that Jesus is from the town of Nazareth. Ask them what they think Nathanael might mean when he asks Philip, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Explain that Nazareth was not an important town in Jesus’ time. It wasn’t necessarily a bad place, but it wasn’t considered a good place either. Nazareth was just an ordinary, unremarkable small town. No one expected anything big to happen in Nazareth. In fact, it would seem ridiculous to people in this time to think that the Messiah, the one that the Israelites were waiting for God to send to save them, to come from such an unexceptional place. The fact that Jesus, God’s son, grew up and lived there was shocking.
Next, ask your children how Nathanael reacts when he meets Jesus. Note that he is amazed by him and realizes that he is the Son of God almost immediately. Also, highlight Jesus’ reaction to Nathanael’s amazement (verse 50). Jesus basically tells him that not only is he from an unexpected place, he will also show Nathanael extraordinary things if he follows. He will show him God.
Gather art supplies for your children to continue their exploration of the story. You’ll need paper and markers or crayons. Place one sheet of paper in front of each of your children. Ask them to turn it lengthwise and to fold it in half. Then have them fold it into thirds, pressing down on the folds to create solid creases. Have them open the paper back up and trace the folds with a marker or crayon. This should create six rectangular boxes on the page.
Remind your children of Jesus’ statement to Nathanael: “You will see greater things than these.” Ask your children to brainstorm a list of “greater things” that Jesus did during his lifetime (both pre- and post-resurrection.) Then, have them select six of these events to draw in the boxes. Encourage them to illustrate them to look like a comic book. When they are finished, discuss why these events were “great.” What did they show others about God?
Finish your time together by talking about ways they have been surprised by something good coming out of an unexpected place. Encourage them to not only think of physical places but also of times when they would not expect to experience something good. Then, ask them to think about how God might have been at work helping to bring goodness out of unusual circumstances. God did not stop surprising human beings in this way when Jesus ascended into heaven! The Holy Spirit continues to do so in our lives.
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.