It is easy to think we are blessed based on what we do. Though we know God loves us regardless of our actions, we can fall into the trap of believing that God only rewards good works. Through his Beatitudes, Jesus reminds us that God blesses us throughout our lives, especially in our most vulnerable moments. In this lesson, children will explore the Beatitudes (as told in the Gospel of Matthew) noticing unexpected moments when God’s grace and love shine upon us.
You will need
- A Bible
- A whiteboard or chart paper
- Hearts cut from 8 ½”x 11” sheets of paper, markers or crayons, Band-Aids (optional)
- A computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and access to the video “School Resolves Conflict By Getting Kids to Talk Things Out”
Greet the children as they arrive.
Have sit together on the floor or around a table. Write the words blessed and blessing on a whiteboard or a sheet of chart paper.
Ask the children:
- What do these words mean to you?
- Share some examples of blessings in your life or that you have observed in the larger world.
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (Matthew 5:1-12).
- This passage comes from the New Testament Gospel of Matthew.
- The story recounts an event early in Jesus’ public ministry. After gathering his disciples, Jesus offers his first sermon to a large group of followers.
- The words that Jesus shares are often called “the beatitudes.” Beatitude is a Latin word meaning blessing.
- Each line in the beatitudes begins with the word blessed. The Greek word that was used in the original text is makarios and it means “happy, fortunate; when God’s grace/abundance is extended).
Read aloud Matthew 5:1-12.
After reading, ask:
- Jesus says that the people are blessed. What do you think he means?
- What are some of the life situations that Jesus calls out in his sermon?
- Jesus tells the people they are already blessed because of what they experience in their lives. Why do you think Jesus chooses each of these life situations?
- Which of the beatitudes do you connect with the most?
- Which do you find confusing?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children explore the message of this passage through one or more of these activities.
- Blessed are those who mourn: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: paper hearts, markers or crayons and Band-Aids. Begin by asking the children what mourn Share what it means to feel sad about the loss of or damage to something or someone. Give each child a paper heart. Ask them to use crayons or markers to write or draw pictures of things they mourn. Encourage them to not only think about those who have passed away, but also changes that have occurred that they have struggled with. After they have finished writing/drawing, ask the children to rip the paper hearts in half. Tell them when we mourn, it can feel like our hearts are breaking. Refer the children back to verse 4 of the Scripture reading. Ask them what God promises those who mourn. Then ask them how we receive the comfort of God when we are sad. Hand each child 2-3 Band-Aids. Have them put their paper hearts back together using the Band-Aids. As they do so, encourage them to think about the ways they have experienced God’s comfort.
- Blessed are those who are merciful and who are peacemakers: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and the video “School Resolves Conflict By Getting Kids to Talk Things Out” [insert link: https://youtu.be/1N2tvpW0eoI]. Ask the children what the word mercy Then ask them to share what they think a peacemaker is. If they are not familiar with these words, define them. Then, ask the children what usually happens at school when two people get into a fight or hurt one another. Explain that there are some schools that use restorative justice circles to help kids work through conflicts when they act out. Show the video. After watching the video, ask the children where they saw mercy and peacemaking. Then, ask them how they might bring mercy and peace to conflicts in their lives.
- The Beatitudes for today: Explain to the children that the sermon we read about Jesus offering was given to a specific group of people at a specific time. The people who heard it would have known exactly what Jesus was talking about. When we read the story in Matthew’s gospel, we may have questions about who or what Jesus is blessing. Imagine that we can rewrite this sermon to share with others all of the times in our lives when Jesus offers us grace. Together, write a new set of beatitudes. Encourage the children to think about situations where people are most in need of God’s blessing. Record their words on a piece of chart paper.