By Brandon Beck, reprinted from Living God’s Mission.
My four-year-old friend and I, along with his mother who is the Director of Children and Family Ministries here, went to the local Christian bookstore yesterday to look for craft supplies for the upcoming Palm Sunday children’s formation lesson.
The mother and I were chatting as we walked from the parking lot to the store when the child cried out, “I don’t want to walk all the way to Jerusalem!”
She and I stopped and laughed and hugged him. We reassured him that we were walking to the store in plain-sight in front of us, the one he’d been to with us many times before. I asked, “What do you know about Jerusalem from stories we tell?”
He said, “It’s too far away to go because Jesus was there, and we don’t have a time machine,” with big tears in his eyes.
“Is Jesus far away now?” I asked.
“No,” he said, perking up a little bit.
“How do you know?” (This is a question I’ve started asking him because he asks me most of the time when I say something, especially if it’s an answer to a question he asked me.)
He made the Sign of the Cross and said, “God loves me, so I can love everybody.”
“So where’s Jesus?”
With his rediscovered joy, he assisted his mother and me in selecting craft objects for the church busy bags with an Easter theme – scratch art crosses and eggs, sticker craft scenes of the tomb, little coloring books of Jesus’ last week – and while we gathered supplies for the art response to the Palm Sunday teaching, he got more and more excited about walking to Jerusalem. His understanding of metaphor grows more each day. As we gathered different colors of felt to make “cloaks” to lay along a cardboard “road” and told him the story of Jesus coming into Jerusalem, he found a donkey craft to contribute. He found some pieces of fur and asked if there were other animals on the way to Jerusalem. He wanted to know if there were rocks and how we would put rocks on the road with the cloaks.
When we left the store with our supplies, he asked me to tell the story about Jesus and the apple. “The one that the owl tells,” he said.
It took me a minute, but then I caught up with him.
He has a Cuddle Barn (™) Bible Story Talking Owl. One of the Stories the mama owl tells her baby is from Genesis. After our “walk to Jerusalem,” my little four-year-old friend wanted to hear me tell the story of Genesis, and he so aptly aligned the Christ with the Father and the Spirit.
My telling of Genesis differed a little from the Owl’s, included some liberation and feminist and queer interpretation, and had a sillier serpent than that to which most people are probably accustomed. I also included a little lesson especially for him about why we keep our clothes on at school linked to the nakedness Adam and Eve learned when they ate the apple and how it wasn’t so much about being naked as it was about listening, trusting, and loving God.
As the disciples walked with Jesus to Jerusalem, in support of his subtle-yet-not-so-subtle protest of corruption and injustice, they listened to and retold his stories/parables. They talked with each other about the metaphor and meaning of all that he said and did. May our Passover remembrance this year, our reenactment of his Palm Sunday journey, our celebration of his Empty Tomb, be signs of Justice moreso now than ever before.