We all have sick days — days when we don’t feel well enough to do all the things we normally do. Sometimes we can rest and take some medicine and we’re back to our regular selves. Other times, what ails us lasts much longer. Each time we are sick, we spend time away from our regular lives and the people in them. While we do this because we want to heal while also protecting others from getting sick, illness creates a sense of isolation. People experiencing long-term illnesses or coping with the effects of disabilities can feel quite isolated. They may need to be away from their daily lives for treatment or they may be pushed away because of their differences.
Jesus recognizes this and seeks to draw those who are isolated because of illness and injury back into their communities. He calls on us to do the same. In this lesson, children will explore John 9:1-41 noticing how Jesus heals a blind man and helps him reintegrate into his community. Then, they will consider how they might extend the same care and welcome to those in their communities experiencing isolation or rejection because of disabilities or differences.
You will need:
- A Bible
- A bag of 10-20 crayons that includes whole and broken crayons
- Printouts of paper people templates (two people per child), scissors, crayons, glue sticks, and a sheet of chart paper or butcher paper (optional)
- A collection of art materials that are often discarded because they aren’t seen as “good” art materials, such as broken crayons, torn paper, paper scraps, and recycled materials (optional)
- A computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector and the animated video, “The Present” (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Ask the children to sit in a circle on the floor or around a table. Place the bag of crayons in front of them. Ask them to sort the crayons into three piles. The first pile should contain “the best” crayons. The second pile should include “okay” crayons. The third pile is for crayons that they consider “not good enough.” If they ask you for clarification on what each category means, tell them that they have to determine what constitutes “the best,” “okay,” and “not good enough.”
After they have sorted the crayons, ask:
- How did you decide where each crayon should be placed?
- What do the crayons in the same pile have in common?
- If you had to pick one pile of crayons to use to draw a picture, which one would you choose? Why?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (John 9:1-41):
- This story comes from the New Testament Gospel of John.
- The story features an unnamed man who has been blind since birth.
- In Jesus’ time, people believed if a child was born with a disability such as blindness that either that person or their parents did something that God did not want them to do. They saw the disability as a reminder that God was unhappy with them.
- People who were disabled were also seen as outsiders. They were often rejected from their communities. The man in this story has been begging for outside of the city because the community has pushed him out and does not take care of him.
Read aloud John 4:5-42. This is a long story, so you may want to have the children act out parts of it as it is being read to help them stay engaged.
After reading the story, ask:
- How did the people in the community (and the disciples) view the man when he was blind?
- How does Jesus react to the blind man?
- How does Jesus’ healing change the man’s life?
- What do you think the man will do now that he can see? What will be different for him?
- How do you think the community will treat the man in the future?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children explore the message of this passage through one or more of these activities.
- All together now: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: printouts of paper people, scissors, crayons, glue sticks, and a sheet of chart paper or butcher paper. Give each child a paper person and ask them to use crayons to decorate the person so it looks like them. Then, give each child another paper person. Ask them to think of someone who hasn’t been able to be part of their community because of extended illness, disability or even because they have been rejected because they are different than others. Invite the children to use crayons to make the second person look like this person. Provide the children with scissors to cut out their paper people. Then ask them to glue their people on to the chart/butcher paper so that all are close together. Discuss what it would be like for all these people to be together in the same space. What would they do? What would they talk about?
- The beauty of difference: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a collection of materials that are often discarded because they aren’t seen as “good” art materials. You may want to include broken crayons, torn paper, paper scraps, and recycled materials. Place the materials on the table in front of the children. Remind them that the blind man in today’s scripture reading wasn’t able to be part of his community because of his disability. People believed his blindness was the result of his family doing something wrong. However, Jesus sees that he is important. He heals him so that the community can see that he is important. Ask the children to work together to create a piece of art out of these “rejected” materials. When they have finished, notice how they were able to make something beautiful out of materials that are often seen as trash.
- The present: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector and the animated video, “The Present.” Watch “The Present” with the children. Discuss how the boy’s reaction to the disabled puppy changes over time.