Always God’s beloved — Christian ed at home

Sometimes, out of nowhere, life seems to thrust difficulties upon us.  An injury.  A snowstorm. A pandemic.  The seemingly randomness of such things can be confusing to children.  They may wonder why something tragic happens and they may even wonder where God is in the midst of such a challenge.  While we cannot always give a clear reason why these things happen, we can remind them that they are always God’s beloved.   This week, you’ll explore the paired stories of Jesus’ baptism and his 40 days in the wilderness with your children.

Begin the time with your children by asking them to share what wilderness means to them.  What do they associate with the wilderness?  What might they encounter in this space?  What are the joys and challenges of being in the wilderness?  Once they have shared their thoughts, ask them to consider what it would be like to spend 40 days in the wilderness.  They likely will note that it would be quite difficult.  It would be hard to find food and shelter and there may be animals or weather that could be dangerous.

Prepare to read the lectionary Gospel passage from Mark.  Share that your children will be hearing two stories in the reading.  Both tell of important events in Jesus’ life that happen before he begins his ministry of teaching and healing.

Read aloud Mark 1:9-15.  After reading, ask your children to describe Jesus’ baptism.  How does hearing this story make them feel?  How did Jesus likely feel when he heard God’s voice say, “You are my Son, my beloved; with you I am well pleased”?  Share that this is a happy occasion where Jesus is reminded of God’s overwhelming love for his child, just as they may have experienced during their own baptisms.  Next, ask your children to describe the short passage telling of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness.  How did this part of the story make them feel?  How did Jesus likely feel during that period of time?  Note that this experience is very different from Jesus’ baptism.  Now he is alone and in a difficult setting going through a challenging experience.

Continue exploring the text by encouraging your children to look at the way these two stories are paired. The Spirit first offers a message of love and care to Jesus and then ushers him into the wilderness for over a month.  Ask your children to do some wondering about the “timeline” of the events.  Why does Jesus go through this hard time right after such a love-filled time?  Why might God remind Jesus of God’s pure love before Jesus experiences such challenges?  Share with your children that we are always God’s beloved, just like Jesus.  As such, God’s love is always with us, even when unexpected challenges happen.  In addition, when Jesus leaves the wilderness, he begins his ministry.  He shares God’s good news and heals and feeds people.  He continues sharing the message that all are God’s beloved.

After discussing the Scripture, share with your children that we can be messengers for God also.  We can let those experiencing “wilderness times” know that they are God’s beloved.  Talk with your children about friends, community members or members of your church family who are in the midst of difficult times right now.  Explain that these people may feel like they are in the wilderness.

Discuss ways that your children might show them they are God’s beloved.  They may want to make and send cards to them or your family could make meals to deliver to their homes.  You could even just call them to check in or to pray with them.  Choose one or more actions that your family can do together and carve out some time in the coming weeks to offer messages of love and care.

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.