Sowing seeds — Christian ed at home

Saturday marks the start of spring.  The days are getting longer.  Buds are beginning to emerge on bare trees.  Birds are singing.  But there are also dead leaves and the remnants of last summer’s plants.  What a perfect combination to talk about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection!  Using the natural world along with this week’s Gospel lectionary reading, your family will explore the gift of eternal life offered in Jesus.

Begin the time with your children by watching a time-lapse video of a seed germinating.  There are many to choose from on YouTube. (Here’s one.  Here’s another.) After watching the video, ask your children to share what they noticed about the changes the seed goes through.  Then, ask them what they think will happen to the plant in the future.  Will it live forever?  What will happen to the plant when it dies?

Prepare to read aloud John 12:20-33.  Set the scene for your children.  Explain that Jesus knew he would die, but his death would not be the end of his life.  He would return several days after his death to show his followers that death cannot separate them from God.  In God, they have eternal life.  Jesus wanted to prepare his disciples for this, in order to help them believe in God when they saw the events Jesus predicted happen.  To do so, he told them several stories predicting these events.  We’ll be reading one of these today.  Encourage your children to focus in on the part of the story when Jesus talks about the grain of wheat.

Read aloud the passage.  After reading, ask your children to summarize what Jesus says about the grain of wheat.  Explain that the grain he is referring to is a seed.  Like many other plants, wheat stalks contain seeds.  The wheat plant knows that it will die someday, so it produces seeds to grow new plants.  When the wheat stalk dries out and dies, it drops its seeds on the ground near it.  When the conditions are right, the seed germinates like we saw in the videos.  It then grows into a new stalk of wheat that repeats this process.  By doing this, the plant makes sure it can continue on and on.  Ask your children how the wheat plant’s life cycle is like Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  If your children are younger or are unfamiliar with the Easter story, you may need to explain the connection to them.

After exploring the image of the wheat, encourage your children to wonder about this verse: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  What does Jesus mean by this?  How does his death and resurrection help draw us closer to God?  You may want to share your own interpretation with your children.  Be sure to note that like the plant continuing its life through its seeds, Jesus’ death and resurrection show us that we will always be connected to and loved by God.

This garlic chive plant dropped its seeds before dying. Now new plants are emerging next to it.

Continue to explore the ideas in the lectionary reading by connecting to the natural world.  If you live in an area where plants are beginning to or have emerged from the ground, go on a scavenger hunt looking for places where a plant has died but then has dropped seeds that are popping up as new plants.  If it is still too cold for plants to grow outdoors, you can plant a few seeds in soil in a pot inside your house.  Simply purchase a pack of seeds, some starter soil and a pot. Lettuce, radish, chive and marigold seeds germinate fairly quickly.   Follow the directions on the seed packet for planting and watering.  Have your children monitor the plant over the next few weeks looking for growth.  As the plant grows, talk about the cycle it will go through.  Note that the plant they see right now will die but within it will be seeds.  We can harvest those seeds to plant ourselves or we could allow them to drop next to the dead plant so they can grow on their own.

As you look for plants outdoors or sow seeds indoors, reflect with your children on the seed’s life cycle as a way to think about Jesus.  You may even want to offer prayers of gratitude for Jesus and for the plants.

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.