Write Your Own Beatitudes! Idea by Anne Camp
Background Notes on Matthew 5:1-12:
Here is Matthew’s understanding of the central points in Jesus’ teaching. Just as Moses went up the mountain to bring a new law to the people, so Jesus from the mountain describes the way God wants us to live now. Jesus commends the meek, the merciful, those with undefiled hearts, and those who work for peace. These are virtues we have come to know throughout our whole history with God. Others in the list are more surprising. Jesus blesses the poor, the hungry, and the weeping as well as the virtuous, recognizing the injustice of their situation and assuring them of God’s care.
We cannot allow our familiarity with these words to rob them of their continuing shock value. Jesus’ wise words are as surprising as anything Paul or Micah were saying in the Old Testament and Epistle Lectionary readings for these weeks.
5 min Welcome & introductions; Attendance
15 min The Bible story: Enough CEV Bibles for all; one different translation for each
5 min Present day people who represent Beatitudes; Newsprint
15 min Write your own Beatitudes (5 categories); paper, pencils
5 min Closing: candle, snuffer, script
Opening-Welcome and introductions:
The Bible Story
Set the stage for the Bible story. Where does it come? (Matthew 5:1-20)
Give every student a Contemporary English Version of the Bible. Turn to the intro to Matthew. Ask for volunteers to read these 5 paragraphs.
Ask a volunteer to read the section headings from Matthew 1-5:
The ancestors of Jesus; The birth of Jesus; The wise men; The escape to Egypt; The killing of the children; The return from Egypt; The preaching of John the Baptist; The baptism of Jesus; Jesus and the devil; Jesus begins his work; Jesus chooses four fishermen; The sermon on the mount
Make sure that every student has a DIFFERENT translation of the Bible.
Read verses 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 , 8 , 9, 10 and 11 (the Beatitudes), one verse at a time.
List the different ways these are translated on newsprint. (Note, just FYI, you don’t need to talk about it unless it comes up: Matthew uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven” rather than the “kingdom of God” because he’s a good Jew and doesn’t want to say the name “God” - “Yahweh.” It doesn’t mean he was thinking about “heaven” or life after death.)
Talk about how the different translations help you think about Jesus’ teaching in new ways:
- Why do we have different translations?
- Why do we have books like The Message?
- What is valuable about studying exactly the Greek words that have come down to us? (An answer might be that what Jesus had to say was so important, and so surprising, we need to be very careful to get it right.)
- What is valuable about restating the ideas in a way we would talk today?
- Do you think God WANTS us to be poor in spirit, mournful, meek, persecuted?
Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, says. “This version of the New Testatment in a contemporary idiom keeps the language of the Message current and fresh and understandable in the same language in which we do our shopping, talk with our friends, worry about world affairs, and teach our children their table manners. The goal is not to render a word-for-word conversion of Greek into English, but rather to convert the tone, the rhythm, the events, the ideas, into the way we actually think and speak.”
Present Day People Who Represent the Beatitudes
Come up with a list of who these people are in the present day...
- the poor in spirit (for example, people who are depressed)
- those who mourn (for example, someone whose best friend has moved)
- the meek (for example, people who are very shy or frightened)
- those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (for example, civil rights’ workers)
- the merciful
- the pure in heart
- the peacemakers
- those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake
Write Your Own Beatitudes
There will be 5 bags labeled: place, person, weather, mood, activity. Each group will draw a slip of paper for each of the 5 categories. The possibilities are:
Place - Person - Weather - Mood - Activity:
jungle - old man or woman - rainy - happy - selling ice cream
desert - little girl or boy - sunny - sad - flying a kite
mountains - school teacher - windy - grumpy - catching butterflies
Disneyland - dog catcher - hot - sleepy - eating watermelon
circus - sailor - snowy - angry - dancing a jig
These of course can be silly, but encourage them to communicate the idea of blessing and being blesssed! Be sure to save time to share your creations.
It is really a silly exercise, but the whimsy can be great fun.
Take the words you are given and create a "blessing saying," "a beatitude." FOR EXAMPLE:
Blessed is the old man in the rainy jungle who makes his neighbors happy by selling ice cream. ("Giving away ice cream" would certainly be better!)
Blessed is the grumpy school teacher in the windy mountains who loses her grumpiness by catching butterflies. ("Chasing butterflies" would also be better.)
It's not a very deep activity, but the notion is to turn these disconnected words into a blessing -- and enjoy some smiles together.