How NOT to Tell The Story
(CW: child abuse)
One day, there was a Dad who made some kids. Dad wanted power and control over all else. So, he put a jar of cookies on the counter, and told the kids not to eat them. Then he left them for an entire day, and the kids got hungry. So, they ate the cookies.
Dad comes home, yells at the kids, makes them move from their bedrooms into a closet. Makes them do chores. Alternates between loving them (kind of) and punishing them by making them sick or get hurt in fights. Finally, Dad decides that he'd rather have kids totally dependent on him in a sort of happier way. So, he provides a final solution. He's set his kids up to fail, and now needs a way to make at least two of the kids totally dependent on him. He tells the three kids that if they choose one to die, the others are forgiven for the cookie thing, and all the other things, like the fights. Even though Dad started the fights and made the kids have them.
So Dad kills one kid, then everything is fine with the other kids. They get forgiven any time they do something wrong. They are completely dependent on Dad, but also fear him punishing them. They are grateful they are saved, but also sad about missing their sibling. They tell stories and sing songs about this sibling, being grateful to them for saving the others. This makes Dad very happy. It keeps the kids dependent on Dad for all forgiveness. Even though the forgiveness was born from Dad setting the kids up to fail, providing violence as an answer, and then creating dependence.
How I Tell the Story
As I am often in a position to tell small children this story, here's the way I tell it.
In the beginning was God and a mess (chaos). God wanted to help bring order out of the mess, and so created the whole Earth. Then, God wanted to create humans, and so created all kinds of them. They had all kinds of genders and colors of skin and languages and personalities. Although life could be hard for people, they loved God for always trying to help them out of their messes. Life was messy, and people were glad God was there with them. People told stories about how amazing God was and developed a relationship with a God who loved them deeply, and often forgave them when they made ever bigger messes.
Then came a time when Caesar, a bully who was selfish and mean wanted power and control, sent his soldiers into a land to be in charge of it. The people there did not like this very much, because Caesar's soldiers took a lot from the people. The soldiers wanted all the money, gold, clothes, and food for themselves. People were very poor and struggling. God knew that the only way to save the people was to come in the mess with them. So Jesus was born. When Jesus was born his parents were not married, and he was homeless. His Mom was probably a teenager. There was another King who worked for Caesar. He tried to kill baby Jesus, but Jesus and his parents went to another country. This is a big word, but they were refugees. This means it was too dangerous for them to stay in the country they were from, and had to live in another one. After awhile, they came back to Judea.
Jesus was God being on earth with us, in all the mess. Jesus healed people and taught them to share. He said that everyone should have clean water, enough food to eat, and be healed. He healed a lot of people, and didn't want people to be sick. Do you think the soldiers and the King who worked for Cesar liked Jesus saying that? No! The greedy bullies wanted all the things for themselves, and would not share AT ALL. The more Jesus talked about sharing, the more people loved him. The more Jesus said that everyone could be equal, the more the poor people loved him. And, the more the government wanted to kill him.
Eventually, Jesus knew that he couldn't keep telling everyone to share and spreading joy, love, and healing without getting in trouble. In the time Jesus lived, it was illegal to say that anyone but Caesar was God. Because Jesus was God on earth, and because people loved him, they called Jesus a God. They called him Lord and King. This was illegal. The government was scared Jesus was going to take over and make them share more.
Jesus organized a protest. He rode through the streets of the capital on a donkey while people shouted about Jesus being a King. Remember, this is against the law. Jesus knew that he would get in trouble. He was protesting Caesar being so greedy and taking all the things people needed to live for himself. So, Caesar, and the Kings who worked for Caesar, they killed Jesus. They hoped that by killing him, people would forget all about sharing, healing, and love. They hoped that by killing Jesus, people would go back to not shouting about how Caesar was hurting them.
Did It Work?
Of course not! God is bigger than all of that! While people killed Jesus for saying everyone should share and having healing, God said, nope, that's NOT the end of the story. Although Jesus knew he would have to die for challenging the government and having a protest, he did it anyway. Because he loves us. After Jesus died on the cross, they put him into a cave, called a tomb. He was in there for three days. I imagine that while he was in there he took all my bad and messy stuff, too. All the times I didn't share. All the times I said something or someone else was God. Jesus buried those things with him. And then, three days later, Jesus came back to life! He got to live on Earth as a human for about six more weeks. He let everyone know that he had forgiven them. That death doesn't win, ever. Life wins. Sharing wins. Love wins. When Jesus came back to life, he made so many promises to us. That's what's so great about Easter. We are given New Life, and the chance to try again. At the end of those weeks, Jesus had to go back into heaven with God, but he sent his Spirit to be with us always. He's still there for us, but in a new way. Because lived here, he knows our mess. He knows how hard it is. He knows that we'll make mistakes. And he forgives us. And gives us life. And the chance to try again, proclaiming that God is God and we can live.
A WOrksheet on Ways to View Jesus
Pastor Jess, Author
Loves Jesus, Loves and Hates the Church at the Same Time, Calling Us to Honestly, ELCA Pastor
This work is licensed by Rev. Jessica A. Harren under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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