Each time we recite the Apostles’ Creed we proclaim belief in the “holy catholic (or universal) church.” But what exactly does that mean? Looking around at other denominations and congregations, we may wonder how there can possibly be so many different permutations of discipleship. One person’s definition of a Christian can even be the opposite of someone else’s definition. Even within our own communities and congregations we sometimes find ourselves questioning how such a diverse group of people can possibly be united. Yet Jesus reminds his disciples that they are, in fact, connected to one another through and in the Triune God. In this lesson, children will explore John 14:15-21 noticing how they are joined to God and to one another through Jesus.
You will need:
- A Bible
- A ball of yarn
- 1-2-inch wide long strips of white paper (roll paper or sheets of construction paper glued or taped together), several 1-2-inch wide strips of colored construction paper, crayons or markers, and a stapler (optional)
- Printouts of a paper person template and crayons or markers (optional)
- A computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector, “Orphan Trains Rescued New York’s Homeless Children”(optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Ask the children to stand or sit in a circle. Hold the ball of yarn in your hand. Unravel part of it and hold on to the end of the string. Toss the ball of yarn to one of the children, asking them to unravel more of the yarn. Then ask that child to hold on to the unraveled yarn and to toss the ball to someone else. Continue this until each person has received the ball of yarn. Notice the pattern made by the yarn and notice how it joins all of us together.
Ask the children to drop the yarn and wind the loose string back onto the larger ball of yarn.
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (John 14:15-21):
- This reading comes from the New Testament Gospel of John.
- The reading is part of a longer section of John’s Gospel in which Jesus explains (or foretells) his death. After telling the disciples that he will not be with them forever, he gives them instructions for living. This reading is part of those instructions.
- At the start of the reading, Jesus tells the disciples that they can show their love for him by “keeping the commandments.” Remind the children that Jesus is speaking about the 10 commandments God gives Moses to share with the Israelites, but he is primarily focusing on the “greatest commandment” he has shared with them: love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself.
- Jesus describes the interconnectedness of the Triune God. If you have not discussed the three equal, interrelated aspects of the Triune God with the children, introduce them to this concept.
Read aloud John 14:15-21.
After reading, ask the children:
- What does Jesus say he will ask the Father (Creator) to send? Why do you think this is important?
- Jesus says that he is in us and we are in him. What does this mean to you? How is Jesus like you? How are you like Jesus?
- How do you think we grow to be more like Jesus or to “tap into” the image of Jesus in us?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children connect the scripture reading to their own lives through one or more of these activities.
- Rings of belonging: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: long strips of white paper that are 1-2-inches wide (roll paper or sheets of construction paper glued or taped together), several 1-2-inch-wide strips of colored construction paper, crayons or markers, and a stapler. Review the three aspects of the Triune God. Use the words for each part that children are most likely to hear in worship. Write the name of each part of the Trinity on a separate strip of white paper. Then, make each strip into a loop, linking the three loops together. Staple the ends of the loops. Hand out strips of colored construction paper. Ask each child to write their name on one of the strips and then the names of people they love on the other strips. Turn the strips into a paper chain by looping and stapling each strip together, linking it with another. Connect this paper chain to the Triune God loops so that the string of people is connected to God. Note that the parts of God are connected to one another, we are connected to one another, and we are connected to God.
- Image of Christ in me: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: printouts of a paper person template and crayons or markers. Re-read this verse: “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:20). Ask the children what they think Jesus means when he says that he is in each of the disciples and we are in him. Hand out copies of the person template. Ask each child to write their name at the top of the page. Then, ask them to draw pictures or write words in the person’s body that they associate with Jesus. Encourage them to think about Jesus’ words as well as his actions. After finishing their drawings, have the group reflect on how they show the image of Jesus within them through their own words and actions.
- “I will not leave you orphaned”: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: A computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector, “Orphan Trains Rescued New York’s Homeless Children.” Ask the children to share their definitions of the word orphan. If they are unfamiliar with the word, define it for them. Show the video. Then, ask the children to share their reflections. What did the orphaned children in the video need? How were their needs met? Re-read verse 18 of the Scripture reading (“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.”) Discuss why the disciples might have felt like they were orphans after Jesus died. Then, ask them to share the ways that Jesus brought them back into community with himself and with one another. How did this help them feel loved? How can bringing people who feel disconnected into a community or a family help them feel loved and cared for?
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