I want directions!

a weather vane points NW

Some days don’t you just want definitive directions?

Why is it so hard to understand the words and workings of Jesus?

And just how are we to explain the mysterious nature of God to our literal-thinking, want-a-definitive-answer, continually questioning kids? This sort of frustration happened in Jesus’ time as well.

Nicodemus came to Jesus with questions. He had high expectations but he left his visit even more puzzled. Jesus had told him: One needs to be born from above (often translated as “born again”) in order to see, or experience, the kingdom of God (from John 3:3). How can an adult be born a second time? Nicodemus didn’t get it. Do you?

So what are we to say when our kids ask a tough question?

Use this phrase: “Sometimes we have to live in the mystery.”

Go ahead; practice saying it:

“Sometimes we have to live in the mystery.”

Ambiguity is a fundamental part of our faith journey. If we knew with absolute certainty all of the answers, we wouldn’t bother to experience anything new! It is important to cherish the questions and the wondering.

Jesus rarely gave a straight answer when questioned. It is said that he only directly answered three of the 183 questions asked of him! So when your kids ask you a tough question, explain as best as you can and when you don’t know anymore say, “Sometimes questions about God and Jesus don’t have clear answers. Sometimes we have to live in the mystery.”

Then, of course, your kids will want to know what you mean by “live in the mystery.” Explain this concept by using a technique that Jesus often employed: storytelling. Try telling a story that has a bit of frustration in it; something where the ending leaves you with more questions. Something like this:

You are visiting a far-away country where the language is different from your own. Conversation with the locals is downright impossible. Thankfully you find a place to stay by looking for that international symbol for lodging – a picture of a bed. Because you are somewhat adventurous in your eating habits, you order food in a restaurant by pointing at what someone else is having. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. There are daily frustrations. You try to buy cheese at the local market, but nothing looks like the cheese you want! You don’t know how to describe cheddar. You leave the store empty-handed. Later, back in your home country you think of your time in that foreign place and you wonder what you were to have learned from your adventure. You don’t know. Sometimes we have to live in the mystery.

I’m struggling to live in the mystery. How about you?


Photo credits:
Weather vane by 23am.com, who licensed this photo on Flickr under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).

Nic at night

This month our Rotation includes the well-known verse from the Bible, John 3:16. Definitely point it out the next time you see it lofted high at a game.

Fans holding up a religious sign

Did you know that this famous verse was spoken by Jesus in the context of a mysterious nighttime meeting? A man named Nicodemus, who had a lot to lose if his visit were noticed, came to see Jesus in the cover of shadows. It was an investigative sort of a trip, as Nicodemus had questions. Not only was it dark outside, but Nicodemus himself appeared to be “in the dark.”

To add to the intrigue, tell your kids this story is called “Nic at night.”

Who was this Nicodemus? Our story is found in John 3:1-17. We learn that Nicodemus was:

  • a Pharisee (recall that the Pharisees argued with Jesus and ultimately saw to his arrest)
  • a teacher of Israel
  • a part of the Sanhedrin – the Jewish ruling council during the time of Jesus.
  • These descriptions tell us that Nicodemus was a prominent, respected, religious leader; a real Bible-scholar.

    So, what was the reason for Nic’s nighttime trip to see Jesus?

    Nicodemus could easily have been labeled an opponent of Jesus, yet it seems that Nicodemus was perhaps a covert follower. We only learn later (in John 7:45-52) that when the Sanhedrin had suggested early on, the arrest of Jesus, Nicodemus asked for just-treatment, and that after Jesus’ death, Nic helped with his burial (John 19:38-42). Since Nicodemus is knowledgeable about Scripture and specifically what the prophets of the Old Testament foretold, maybe Nicodemus has an inkling about who Jesus might be.

    Could he be the Messiah?

    At a minimum, Nicodemus seems to be looking for something more in his life; something that is missing; something he saw, or heard about, in Jesus. It sounds like a situation that would bring anyone to want to know more about Jesus. And herein lies one of the beauties of this story…

    It’s okay to ask questions.

    Whew! That’s a relief to know! I sure have questions. It is okay to ask tough questions, and it is okay if there aren’t always straight answers. (We’ll see that Nicodemus likely left his visit with Jesus even more confused.) Pondering and questioning are good!

    What questions do you have for Jesus?

Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
A frequent sign held up at games by WELS.net, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Cool Disciples Schedule: April 2012

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On Saturday nights and on Sunday mornings at FUMC our Cool Disciples experience Rotation Model Christian education, as they learn about Bible stories and concepts through kid-friendly multimedia workshops.

In April, we are studying Nicodemus. “Nic at night” might be a way to subtitle this one, for Nicodemus visited Jesus in the dark of night. Or was it that Nicodemus himself was “in the dark”? Nicodemus had questions for Jesus.

A painting of Nicodemus visiting Jesus at night

Read about our story in John 3:1-17.

For Saturdays at the Green Wood location, here is the schedule for April…

Date Workshop Activity
4/7 A special workshop Children will sing during the worship service and then will head downstairs for a special lesson on Easter.
4/14 Science Workshop Do experiments to discover the difference between changing on the inside vs. changing on the outside.
4/21 Art Workshop Create an individual banner to help remember “the Gospel in miniature” – John 3:16.
4/28 Games Workshop Play a life-sized board game to review story details.

For Sundays at the downtown location, here is the schedule of workshops…

4/1 No workshops. Enjoy Palm Sunday worship & Communion as a family.
4/8 No workshops. Enjoy Easter worship as a family.
  Games Newsroom Science Art 2 Puppets/Creative Writing Art 1
Room 211 Room 215 Social Hall Pine Room Room 204 Room 212
4/15 2nd grade 5th grade 3rd grade 6th grade 4th grade 1st grade
4/22 1st grade 4th grade 2nd grade 5th grade 6th grade 3rd grade
4/29 3rd grade 6th grade 1st grade 4th grade 5th grade 2nd grade

What’s happening in each workshop?

  • In the Art Workshop students will create individual banners to remember “the Gospel in miniature” – John 3:16. Two Art workshops will run concurrently.
  • In the Pupptets/Creative Writing Workshop students will explore the mystery behind Nicodemus’ visit. They will discuss questions they might like to ask God and create question books.
  • In the Games Workshop students will play a life-sized board game to learn story details.
  • In the Newsroom Workshop students will create and videotape commercials that sell the desirable qualities of a “New Life.” Watch for videos!
  • In the Science Workshop students will do experiments to discover the difference between changing on the inside vs. changing on the outside.

If you are in the area please join us for the fun learning at First United Methodist Church in Ann Arbor, MI

Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
A painting by Crijn Hendricksz, Christ talking with Nicodemus at night, is in the Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons).