Interfaith Sunday School for May 13, 2018

by Vicki Garlock on May 9, 2018

Yesterday, in our Multifaith Mashup for adults, we focused on the Psalm passage (Psalm 1:1-6) from this Sunday’s Revised Common Lectionary readings. We’ll use this excerpt again today, as we offer suggestions for kids in Sunday School classes. But instead of focusing on the path of the sinners vs. the path of the righteous, we’ll highlight the fruit tree mentioned in verse 3.

Psalm 1
1:1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;

1:2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night.

1:3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.

This is a wonderful passage from the first Psalm that offers a metaphor even young kids can understand. The idea is that those who are connected to the Divine are like lovely fruit trees — receiving all the sunlight, water, and nourishment they need in order to burst forth and offer beauty and sustenance to all creatures in the vicinity.

Start by getting the kids to think about what fruit trees are like — what they need to grow and what they are like when they are in bloom, share images of burgeoning fruit trees ready for harvest, and let kids talk about their favorite fruits. Then, simply connect all that to how some people feel when they are close to God, the One, Jesus’ message of love, or the Great Mystery.

There are also LOTS of crafts and activities for trees and fruit, which makes lesson-planning super easy!

Crafts and Activities

  1. Have the kids crouch down on the ground and curl up into a ball like they are a seed. Then, have them slowly unfold, becoming saplings, then slightly larger trees, and then stretching and stretching to become gigantic trees. Next, ask the kids what it would be like to blossom/offer fruit, and let them come up with body motions for that.
  2. Take them outside and let them “adopt” a tree. This can be their tree for a full year. Every month, take them outside to visit their adopted tree, taking note of how the tree transforms (or not) as the seasons change. You can also ask them about trees in their yards and let them share their favorite tree stories.
  3. Put some seeds on a plate and ask the kids to guess what kind of fruit the seeds came from. Easy fruits to use include apples, oranges, cantaloupes, and peaches.
  4. If pomegranates are in season, teach them how to eat the pomegranate seeds. If you’re unsure about cutting open a pomegranate, check out this video.

And here’s an easy craft we do with our Lower Elementary group. We use it for Day 3 of the Genesis 1 creation story, but it would certainly work with this passage from Psalms, as well.

Supplies = background paper, brown grocery bags, crayons, scissors, glue sticks, liquid glue, and pom-poms in various sizes/colors. Cotton balls are optional.

Give the kids brown grocery bags and have them trace around their hand and forearm. When they cut out the shape, it will look like a tree trunk with 5 branches. Glue that onto a background sheet and glue on little pom-poms of various sizes and colors as fruit. (Glue sticks work fine for the tree trunk, but liquid glue works best for the pom-poms.) If they want, the kids can add grass, a sun, a stream, cotton clouds, etc.

Other Faith Traditions
Similar metaphors linking “connection with the Divine Presence” and “being a tree in bloom” can be found in several other belief systems. Here are a couple of examples.

Buddhism
The Buddhist texts are voluminous. This particular teaching comes from the Sutta Pitaka, which contains over 10,000 suttas/teachings from the Buddha (or his close companions). This sutta is specifically found in the “Book of Fives.” In this excerpt (you can read the entire sutta here), being a “person of conviction” is compared with a “tree of abundance.”

Have the kids sit in meditative postures and close their eyes (or look at the ground in front of them) as they try to imagine the tree being described. For kids in elementary school, consider providing an object (like a rock) for them to focus on while you read.

 “Saddha Sutta: Conviction” (AN 5.38), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013.

“Just as a large banyan tree, on level ground where four roads meet, is a haven for the birds all around, even so a lay person of conviction is a haven for many people: monks, nuns, male lay followers, and female lay followers.”

A massive tree
whose branches carry fruits and leaves,
with trunks and roots and an abundance of fruits:
There the birds find rest.

In that delightful sphere
they make their home.
Those seeking shade come to the shade,
those seeking fruit find fruit to eat.

Rumi
The great 13th century Sufi poet, Rumi, also offered a similar metphor.

(from Light Upon Light: Inspirations from Rumi by Andrew Harvey, North Atlantic Books, 1996, p. 47)

Hurry and get out of this wind, for the weather is bad.

And when you’ve left this storm, you will come to a fountain;

You’ll find a Friend there who will always nourish your soul.

And with your soul always green, you’ll grow into a tall tree

Flowering always with sweet light-fruit, whose growth is interior.

Metaphors involving nature provide great teaching moments. They help connect the Sacred to Mother Earth, and they highlight commonalities found across history, culture, and religious tradition. So enjoy the opportunity to share them with kids!

Interfaith Sunday School is a weekly blog offering tips for sharing information about the world’s faith traditions to kids. Posts are published on Wednesdays and focus on one of the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday. Questions? Contact us at vicki@faithseekerkids.com. 

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