Sunday, January 23, 2005

The parable of the mustard seed

Another mom and I co-lead our Sunday school or church school Godly Play class. Our kids are prekindergarten and kindergarten age, so they turn 5 and 6 sometime during this school year. Godly Play is a Montessori-based approach to faith formation that I could go on and on about, but I just want to mention our current topic, which is parables.

This Sunday we don't meet because of the annual parish (business) meeting, but last Sunday I presented the parable of the mustard seed. The parable of the mustard seed is one of Jesus's answers to the question, "what is the kingdom of heaven?" He said the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that, when planted, grows and grows until it's big like a tree, and the birds of the air come and make their nests in it.

In Godly Play, parables are told with flat materials because parables are a different sort of thing from most of the other stories. So, the underlay is a big mustard yellow oval of felt, the seed sower is an ink drawing mounted on foam core (I think), the mustard bush is a many-branched green felt cutout that I unroll as it grows, and the birds of the air and their nests in the tree are little ink drawings mounted on foam core. The mustard seed is "so tiny that even looking very closely you wouldn't be able to see it," so we simply imagine it.

I love the parables presented Godly Play-style. There are so many aspects to be open to. This time the kids were really interested in placing the birds and the nests. One child wanted every bird to be in a nest. Another child wanted each nest to be in a certain place. Another child said one bird was dead. One aspect of Godly Play is to provide faith language so we (kids and all) can work with things that concern us, in the context of faith. I think the birds could be us, and that's my own thought. Who knows what the kids were each thinking. We ask wondering questions, but at this age sometimes they keep their thoughts to themselves.

After working with this parable for a few years, I wrote an article for my Web site about Sundays and family life, and found it really helpful to begin with this parable. Those are the kinds of wonderful, sideways, nonlinear connections that Godly Play nurtures, in my opinion.

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