Hooligans for Jesus
Exploring the Beatitudes with young boys.
I “taught” (using the word loosely) Joy Jam at Jubilee Fellowship church recently to a roomful of third and fourth graders bumpily becoming fuller images of God, a.k.a, naughty boys. “Roomful” in this case is four, plus one imported first grader, for the longest 43 minutes of my life.
Our theme was the Beatitudes, with Jesus beginning the Sermon on the Mount. With deep exegetical intent I inquired if the boys remembered any other people on mountains in the Bible. “Moses.” Cool.
What’d he do there? “Got the Ten Commandments.” Looking good, even if only three students had any idea what the question was, because two were throwing shoes.
Why was Jesus on a mountain? “To freeze his butt off. I was in the mountains once and froze my butt off.” Oh. Try again.
What did Jesus do on that mountain? “Preached.” Not bad.
What did he preach? “I don’t know, but I’m sure it was long and boring.” Shoulda seen that coming.
Abstract question: Do you see any connection between Jesus and Moses? (Hint: Who spoke the Ten Commandments? “GOD.” OK, circling in for a landing.)
Who is Jesus? “God’s Son.”
So, is he preaching God’s Word, like Moses on that other mountain? “I guess so. . .”
Jesus started preaching by giving the disciples and others the Beatitudes. What’s a beatitude? “Something to beat other dudes with.” (I’m hemorrhaging internally, but must not show it.)
Well, it means blessing. “Oh. What’s a blessing?”
Some fine thing that God gives to people. What has God given you? “Nothing lately.”
OK. New tactic: Let’s read the Beatitudes. “I don’t want to read.” This from three of them. But one did, thus challenging two others to follow suit. Nothing like biblical blood sport to wrestle kids into the spirit of the Beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. “I don’t believe it.” “What’s ‘poor in spirit’?” “I know some poor people and they’re not blessed.” Not surprisingly, “meek” and “mourn” got even fewer votes. After what seemed like four unblessed days, we eventually came to “persecuted.” Game changer:
“I know people in this church who were persecuted. One dad was in jail for two years for being a Christian and he never saw his family.” ABSOLUTE QUIET, which conquered all sin for at least four beatituded minutes as two one-time miscreants, turned witnesses to Jesus, breathlessly related what they knew of that family’s five-day and -night walk to escape their country to a safe country.
Were they scared? “I don’t know.”
They had to be quiet, but they thought it was a fun adventure. They’d never been allowed out at night before. “My mom won’t let me out at night except on Halloween.” Wise, daring mom. I’d never let him out of his room.
Enough blessing with the open Bible for now. I whipped out my secret weapon, a Beatitudes crossword puzzle. Two-and-a-half Covenant children actually took pencil in hand and began, with hints, to fill in the blanks. One started poking holes in the paper, stabbing through it into the carpet. The one-half Covenant child, frustrated with words, soon started playing pencil poker. Quiet, again. I thought I was winning.
Then two lesser angels started making paper airplanes. “I don’t like puzzles, but I can make good paper airplanes.” Indeed; these future combat pilots knew how to fold one wing so the craft would spin. Then came the loop-the-loop competition, which was quite impressive.
The two hole-punchers, bored with pencil punching, jumped up to join the air cadets.
Hey, those papers look like Braille. Do you know what Braille is? “Sure, it’s those bumps on the sidewalks at corners so people who can’t see very good know they’re at a street and can be careful.” Finally, the Hall Monitor came in with the blessed five-minute warning.
Beatitudes: high-flying crossword puzzles and a two Braille-like pieces of paper. Blessings come in mighty peculiar ways at Joy Jam. I can hardly wait till I’m asked to teach again. Maybe I’ll look for a preaching assignment instead. Maybe not.