Interfaith Sunday School for May 20, 2018

by Vicki Garlock on May 16, 2018

What could be better for kids than a zombie story that comes straight from the Bible?! Ezekiel’s vision of dried-up bones coming back to life is a great story for kids of all ages, especially since they can readily grasp the metaphor, even when they are young. So, take a different approach to Pentecost this year, and use the Ezekiel passage included in this week’s Revised Common Lectionary readings. (The entire passage can be found at the end of this post, but click here or here for storybook versions if you don’t already have one on your bookshelf.)

Even kids in preschool and the lower elementary grades can understand what it’s like to feel like a pile of dead, dried-up bones. Add muscles and skin, and you’re one step closer to zombification. Add breath, and those dry bones are soon running around dancing and shouting. It’s a great set-up for pretend play, so be sure to give them the opportunity to “resurrect their own bones.”

You can also talk to them about the breath of God (including the Genesis 2 creation story if they are familiar with that). Be sure to ask them if they’ve ever felt the “breath of God” in their own lives. (For more on this aspect, see our posts for adults and kids about “ruach,” the Hebrew word for spirit, breath, and wind.)

Older kids (age 9/10 and up) will even be able to grasp the specific metaphor presented in the text — that the bones represent the people of Israel. When their kingdom was conquered (by King Nebuchadnezzar II and the Chaldeans), and thousands of Jews were forced to move away from their homes, they fell into complete despair. Some kids in middle school will even be able to make comparisons to other oppressed groups, like African Americans brought to the U.S. as slaves.

Against the odds, the Jews were eventually able to regroup and re-establish their covenant with God — just like the old, dried-up bones that came back to life. Ezekiel’s vision was both uplifting and promising at a time when the Jews needed something to sustain them. The last sentence of this passage is pretty clear on that point.

37:14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

Ask if they’ve ever felt such despair. Ask what “put life into their bones” during that time. Ask if they’ve ever felt God’s spirit (or any spirit, for that matter) within them. Kids often have lots to say about these things. And, it’s the perfect segue into our interfaith connection — Day of the Dead.

Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos)
Many kids will already be familiar with the idea of bones coming back to life, especially since schools often talk about Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday that honors dead ancestors. The 2017 film Coco (which won the Oscar for Best Animated Film) has also helped bring dancing skeletons to the forefront of American kid consciousness.

In fact, nearly every craft associated with Day of the Dead has something to do with skeletons. Here are a few of our favorites.

As crafts go, they’re all pretty straight-forward, but click on these links for instructions/templates.

Skull Lanterns
Skull Masks
Skull Balloons

Another favorite is the Q-tip skeleton. Click on the image for step-by-step instructions.

Of course, Day of the Dead is about more than peppy skeletons and colorful skulls. It’s also about remembering the people who came before us — feeling their presence, welcoming their wisdom, and honoring the contributions they made while they were alive. In many ways, kids understand this even better than grown-ups, and kids are often quite comfortable sharing stories about dead friends/relatives/pets.

Day of the Dead is also interesting because it treats death as an integral part of life. And that can take you back, full circle, to the Ezekiel story, because sometimes, despair and sadness are part of life, too. And during those times, it’s good to remember that the breath will come from somewhere — renewing the spirit and putting life into our dried-up bones.

“Tongues of fire” is obviously a great topic for Pentecost. (Click here for our multifaith ideas about the Acts 2 passage), but this year, consider taking the road less traveled and exploring Ezekiel’s vision. It’s a story/dream/metaphor that reflects on profound aspects of the human condition, regardless of age, culture, or faith tradition.

And here, as promised, is the Ezekiel passage from the lectionary, in its entirety.

Ezekiel 37:1-14
37:1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.

37:2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.

37:3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.”

37:4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.

37:5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.

37:6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

37:7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.

37:8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.

37:9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”

37:10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

37:11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’

37:12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.

37:13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.

37:14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

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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