Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Bubbling Up Soul Bread
Flickr photo by treehouse1977, creative commons
Just in case you're wondering what to buy your favorite ten year old boy, may I suggest a package of Fleischmann's?
Bubbling yeast is DISGUSTING, which makes it a fantastic gross out gift.
Kids love to watch it come alive, eat sugar, and poop out gas.
Yeast also comes in handy at church, if you don't mind your Sunday School smelling like a brewery.
I came armed Sunday morning with pockets full of packets, figuring I'd need all the help I could get. Susan and I trade teaching every week, and I drew the straw for the shortest lesson of the year. The parable of the leaven is one sentence long.
We've got fifty minutes each Sunday and at least a dozen 4th and 5th graders. We need a meaty story or the kids go nuts with the quick dry clay. Then they do rude things with pipe cleaners.
Normally, I love the lessons on the parables. We use a Montessori style curriculum called Godly Play, and each week of the summer we pick a new parable box, unpack it's contents, and study the story. I'm not being metaphorical here. It's a real box, painted gold, since parables are treasures.
But a one sentence lesson? I was nervous.
So I did what most Sunday School teachers do when they're nervous.
Step One: Read parable. In many translations.
He told them still another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." Matthew 13:33
Step Two: Research
There were two interpretations on the parable: Many scholars view the yeast negatively, warning followers of the corrupting influence of evil in the church. Others view the parable as a celebration of the church's influence spreading throughout the world.
Step Three: Pray. And hide the quick dry clay.
After a few deep breaths and meditation, I decided once again to close my eyes and hold tight to the philosophy of Godly Play: to simply present the story, gently guide their discussion, and trust the Holy Spirit to help the kids discover the wisdom and meaning.
And then I hid the pipe cleaners.
Once everyone was seated criss-cross applesauce on the carpet, we began.
I admit that I started out a little hesitantly.
I showed them that the box had a lid, reminding us that sometimes parables are hard to enter into. Sometimes they're confusing, and we have to come back later and unpack them again to work out what they mean.
Then I told them the short, one sentence story, and I got ready to guide their discussion.
But first I opened the vial of yeast.
The kids peered in, sniffed it, and decided it was stinky. I let them tell me about the times they've baked bread and what exactly yeast does.
Just when I was about to take the reins again and dive back into the story, something beautiful happened.
The children took over.
"It's like a riddle!" one girl said. "I think I know what it means. Maybe it's that when we all work together we can get a lot done for God."
"Yeah, I think the woman is Jesus."
"Or maybe she's God's spirit. That when God gets mixed up through all the people, it helps the people do good things for God."
"But wait," another girl said, "it says the kingdom of heaven is like the yeast."
"Maybe it's us, the people of God. Maybe it's saying that we can pass on God's love, until the whole world sort of rises with it."
The kids kept going, scratching their heads and biting their lips and working hard at their thinking!
"Sorry to stop you," I finally said, "but we've got to go make our bread sticks if they're going to have time to bake."
Everyone cheered. (They always go crazy for food.)
But as they moved from the floor to the table, one boy got up in a dramatic huff. "This is crazy!" he said. "Why couldn't Jesus just TELL us what he meant?"
"Why do you think He didn't?"
"Maybe because He wanted us to figure it out ourselves," another boy added.
"Or maybe because it's kind of fun," said a girl. "And maybe because it means different things to different people."
At that very moment, the parable itself became bubbling yeast to me. We had opened the box and as we warmed it in our hands, the Holy Spirit breathed life into it. The story was now a living organism, and as we ate the bread sticks, shaped into crosses and snowmen and unintelligible lumps, it fed our souls as well.
Aren't kids the best teachers of all? They were so busy interpreting the story that I forgot all about the packets of yeast!
Have any more ideas about the parable? Thoughts on Sunday School and pipe cleaner madness? I love to hear what you're thinking!
Have a wonder-full Wednesday, y'all!
PS. I wish I could hand you some bread, warm from the oven!
Flickr photo by treehouse1977, creative commons