Many of our children were away for Easter Sunday, and I was away for Low Sunday, so we celebrated Easter in Sunday School today. We started in darkness, in the stairwell, and, there and in the garden, acted out three of the readings from the Great Vigil of Easter - Creation, the Red Sea, and the Dry Bones. Then we went up the stairs and paused outside the Sunday School room for the Easter Sermon of St. John Chrysostom, before I flung open the door, pressed "play" on the CD player that was pre-set with the Hallelujah Chorus, and let them into a Sunday School room full of flowers, Alleluia banners, and a cake.
We ate cake, talked, and then I told the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb and the Noli me tangere. I included the fact that some of the disciples didn't believe her story. Then the kids decorated scratch art crosses (see Palm Sunday post) - not to take home, this time, but to hang on our Sunday School tree. (This tree started in September as the Tree of Knowledge, with apple ornaments - then we decorated it with figures of Old Testament characters to make it the family tree of Abraham - then it was covered in paper chains to be a Christmas tree, and finally stripped bare in Lent. Now it's hung with brightly coloured crosses, which will remain until Pentecost, when we will make dove and flame ornaments.)
Things I learned: when you have just read out "the table is rich laden - let NO ONE go forth hungry! Feast royally, ALL of you!", you need to be able to back it up. I had egg-free cookies on hand for the child I know has egg allergies, but I had nothing for the very rare attendee who arrived with a gluten and dairy allergy. I knew we had some gluten-free biscuits downstairs, but I couldn't get to them - so I gave her some crisps and promised her biscuits later. I'll do better next year, but at least I managed to make it so she wasn't sitting there with an empty plate while everyone around her was feasting.
Mistakes that turned into blessings: I'd forgotten to replace the "Order of Service for Lent" on the wall with the "Order of Service for Easter." So I tore down the Order of Service for Lent, ripped it into a dozen pieces, and threw it in the corner of the room before turning to the kids and saying, "your words are, 'He is risen indeed! Alleluia!'", which was really all they needed to know.
Thing I already knew, but which was reinforced during this session: The best way to tell how your children are doing at being Christians is not what they know, but what questions they ask. Here's a sample of today's questions (which were often thrown at me, three at a time, rapid-fire - the kids were very excited to begin with, through the build-up and release of tension inherent in the re-enactment of the Easter Vigil, and then I gave them sugar. So they were pretty hyped up, but not distractingly so. They were excited by what was happening.)
Some of these questions were serious, some were "I bet I can make the other kids laugh" questions, and some were the latter and then became the former.
"How did God make himself?" (I said I had no idea but I thought he'd always been there, before everything. That he didn't make himself - he was just always there. To which the kid replied, "that doesn't make sense." So I said, "well, it's a hard question. Lots of people have different ideas. It's something you can think about.")
"How can we know how God made the world?" (I talked about how scientists are working to find out how the world was made, and mentioned the Big Bang.)
"Is Jesus still alive?" (yes) "Then where is he?" (he ascended - went back up to heaven so he could be everywhere at once, like God is) "So why doesn't it hurt him when I go like this - " (poke) "in the air?"
"How can you see God when you're dead? Your eyes are closed." (I talked about how the soul, the part of you that makes you you, lives forever. Your body stays behind on earth, but your soul goes to heaven. I may have, briefly and confusingly, mentioned the idea of the resurrection of the body, but when I saw the confusion on the kid's face, skirted away from it and back to the main topic.)
"If God is everywhere, does that mean he's really fat?"
"Did the Big Bang happen when God exploded?" (this was presented as a silly question, but I said, "you know, maybe it WAS something like that" in response.)
"If God is in everything, is he in donkeys and Christmas trees?" (I said, "he's in everything that he made, like a part of your heart is in a picture you've drawn. So yes, he's in everything.")
"Is Jesus God's ex-boyfriend?" (I let that one go.)
"Does God make babies?"
"Who is God married to? If he isn't married, how did he have a son?" (My response, once I got everyone to stop laughing at the idea of God being married, was, "well, in one way, God isn't married to anyone because he loves everyone equally - he doesn't love one person more than others. But the Bible says that all of us, all of God's people, are like his beautiful bride, and heaven is like a wonderful wedding celebration. That when we die, we become God's beautiful bride, like how Cinderella marries the prince at the end of the story. So in a way, God is married to all of us. When God made Jesus his son with Mary, Mary became pregnant through the Holy Spirit, not through the normal way of making a baby." Thank GOD they didn't follow up with, "what's the normal way?")
"Does Jesus come to birthday parties?" (My response was, "Jesus is everywhere - God is big enough to be everywhere, at all times - so yes, he's there at birthday parties. He's here right now, not in the way you are - not in a way you can touch or feel - but he's here. Sometimes it feels like he isn't, and sometimes it feels like he is, but he's always there.")