I run into the packed, Easter-morning church, dressed in a tunic with a shawl wrapped around my head, interrupting the senior pastor. I scare everyone with my shouts, “He is risen!” He is risen! I can hardly believe it but I have seen him myself…. Oh, but let me start at the beginning. My name is Mary and I come from the town of Magdala. Early this morning I was so sad—surely you know by now about our master Jesus who was put to death by the Romans? I was walking to his tomb when suddenly the earth shook and there was a flash of blinding light.” I go on to retell Matthew 28 in vivid, sensory terms and end with, “And so I ran, RAN, to tell everyone the Good News! He is risen!”
Then I turn to the children, “That is why on this day of days we greet other Christians by saying, ‘He is risen!’ And they respond with ‘He is risen indeed!’” The kids and I lead the church in this greeting, call and response style. I love doing it and I love that I have this passage memorized after 15 years of joyful repetition. It’s the highpoint of my year in children’s ministry. I love Easter. It makes me excited, joyful, teary all at once. I can’t wait to disrupt everything each year, just as Mary did, just as Jesus did that Sunday when he rose up from the dead.
How do you go deeper into explaining to a child the joy of the resurrection and the hope it brings to us today? How?
Later in Sunday school, I tied in a lesson on sharing our faith, too, with the excitement of that first Easter. This week, since I was teaching older kids (4th to 6th grade) I was talking about hope. We had already learned 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” So we talked about it again, “What is the hope we have? How do we share it?”
As we talked, we tried to fold origami doves. Operative word: “tried.” Just because the worship lesson website claims it is a medium-difficulty task and the kids claim to be origami experts, does NOT mean it is so. Despite my careful trial runs with other kids, none of us could master folding that dove that night, so my attempt to give them a hands-on experience and form a symbol to share with others was a complete bust. How can I as a teacher do better at passing on the hope of the resurrection?
We read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, which most had never heard before: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him…. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
I asked, ”Why is this encouraging?” After a few stammers about heaven and blank stares, I added, “God raised Jesus first on that Easter morning. God can be trusted to raise those who love and follow Jesus, raise us up to heaven on that Judgment Day, to be with the Lord forever. God can be trusted and that gives us hope when we believe and are saved.”
So I asked them, “What does it take to be saved? To know for certain we will be raised with Jesus?” They answered and we looked up Romans 10:9 to read in unison, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The hope of the resurrection, the hope and joy of Easter, beautifully laid out for us.
By this time, we were so exhausted from thinking so hard, what I call “idea-normous thinking,” we had to run around in the gym for 15 minutes and play sharks and minnows.
None of the crumpled, foldy, half-bird, half-boat, rejected doves-turned-into-paper-airplanes made it out of the classroom. But I hope the echoing joy of Mary’s shouting the good news did, “He is risen!”
He is risen indeed.