Monday, January 1, 2007

Lesson 14: One God, Three Persons

As I may have said last time, our students were a bit confused about Jesus' existance as a person, as opposed to his existance as a deity. A little further questioning showed that they had practically never heard of the Holy Spirit. I guess that's what you miss, not coming from a church with a strong liturgy--in a church where you say, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," at least once in each service, you'd eventually ask what that meant, wouldn't you? In the Churches of Christ, however, we talk mostly about God the Father and Jesus. The Holy Spirit gets short shrift.

First of all, teaching about "the Trinity" is complicated by the fact that it's a later concept, a later way of talking about something that appears throughout the Bible. The word "trinity" doesn't appear anywhere in the Bible.

But, of course, we tried. Fools that we are...And I think the kids kind of got it. We started by writing a wordmap on the whiteboard. We put "God" in the middle, and, as satellites, wrote "The Father," "Holy Spirit," and "The Son (Jesus)." Then we asked the kids to go up to the board and write things that we think of each aspect as doing. Under "The Father," they wrote, "Created the world. Created the Law. Sent punishment (plagues, floods)." Under "The Son," they wrote, "Was Crucified. Did miracles. Washes away our sins." JC added to their list, "was born," and I added, "human." We also talked to them about how the Apostles performed miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit. David said, "I wish I could do that." We had to explain that the Holy Spirit is still with us today, but does not act in the same kinds of ways. "The Holy Spirit is still our guide and our teacher," we told him. "He gives us inspiration. You know how sometimes you need to talk to someone and you suddenly know exactly what to say? That's the Holy Spirit at work in you."

Then we asked them if they could think of anything else that exists in three different states, but is still the same thing. They couldn't. I erased our white board and wrote a new wordmap. I put "H2O" in the center, and asked them to give me the forms of water, which I wrote as satellites. "Is liquid water ice?" I asked them. They shook their heads. "Is steam ice?" Again, no. "Ok, but they're still all forms of water, right?" They nodded. "The Trinity is like that. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all different, but they are made out of the same substance."

We had brought our new waffle iron into class, and it was heating up in a corner. We drew them over to it. I got some water from the sink and said, "What's in my hand?"
"Water," they said.
I sprinkled it on the waffle iron. "What is it now?"
"Steam," they said.
JC put an ice cube on the waffle iron. As it melted, we could see all three distinct forms of water present. We asked Lachlin to read Matthew 3:13-17, where Jesus is baptized. "How many forms, or persons, of God are present in that passage?"
Lachlin though for a minute. "Two."
"Ok, which ones?"
"Jesus, and the dove."
"Who's the voice?"
"Oh. God. The Father."

I think they got it, really. That's cool. It's a difficult thing for even adults to understand. Next week, we're getting back into our study of the Old Testament, starting with Joshua. I hope kids like learning about the people they're named after, as we have a Joshua and a David in our class.

I also hope that the end of the holidays will bring some normalcy to our class. The energy in there, since the Sunday before Thanksgiving, when everyone was suddenly talking about Santa Claus, has been just weird. They're all coming in tired, fidgety, and distracted. If they aren't better next week, JC and I have agreed that we're going to take them aside and tell them why we expect more of them. Example: "You're the oldest one in class, everyone looks to you." Or "You used to be the best student, what's up?" That latter could apply to any of them. They each have had times when they were definitely the best kid in there.

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