The Beatitudes: link back to summary
The Second Beatitude:
Matthew 5:4 - Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. (NKJV)
Article four of eleven part series:
by: Anna L. Liechty & Phyllis Vos Wezeman
Twelve methods, with two suggestions for each, offer a variety of useful and practical ideas for exploring and developing activities and for tailoring experiences related to the lesson’s focus.
This article continues an eleven-part series on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11), including an overview of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), an overview of the eight statements, an in-depth look at each Beatitude, and a concluding summary. Christian Educators, as well as pastors, will find helpful materials for teaching children, youth, and adult classes.
Invite someone from a neighborhood association or historical society involved in a restoration project to visit the group and learn about the plan. If possible, take a tour of a restored area or building. Discuss the connection to God’s promise to comfort and restore the joy of those who mourn.
Learn about the work of Habitat for Humanity and its founder, Millard Fuller. Consider volunteering to help construct or raise funds for a Habitat house. Explain that God’s people mourn for those who need life’s most basic necessities, a place to call “home,” but that mourning leads to action.
Create an artistic expression of joy using black construction paper, tempera paint, and eyedroppers. Fill an eyedropper with bright paint and let the splotches of color fall in random designs onto the black background. Point out that the drops of paint are like tears of mourning, yet the resulting design is a beautiful pattern. Share that God can bring something beautiful to our lives even in the midst of sorrow.
Offer a rock to each participant and instruct everyone to paint the word "Jesus" on it as a reminder of the source of the strong foundation of faith.
Design and create a quilt or invite a quilting group in to demonstrate the technique. Explain that quilts are like memories because families used to save scraps of cloth from clothing to piece together to make the quilt. Each patchwork piece, then, was a reminder of a former time or of a person. Like God comforts us when we mourn, a quilt is a “comforter” stitched from life and memory.
Make mourning cloths from strips of black cloth to drape over windows, crosses, or tables as an expression of sadness on Good Friday or at other appropriate times of the year. Teach about the Victorian tradition of draping doors and windows in black cloth to communicate that the family was grieving.
Collect quotes that help people make sense of difficult and sad times. Make posters, bookmarks, or decorate journal pages with phrases like the Arabian proverb, “All sunshine makes a desert.”
Make sympathy cards containing comforting scriptures, lines of poetry, or heartfelt words of compassion. Decorate the cards with stickers, pictures cut from magazines, or original artwork. Send a card to someone who needs encouragement and hope.
Gather recipes for casseroles that can be frozen. Then get together to prepare the ingredients – in “assembly line” fashion – and to place the casseroles in a freezer to be used in times of emergencies or great need. Be sure to attach the recipe and any baking instructions to the covered dish.
Set a date to hold a fast, either collectively or as a vigil with each participant abstaining from a different meal for a given period of time. Remind the participants to “fill” themselves with things other than food -- like prayer for those in need or the reading of scripture. Encourage everyone to write down their thoughts about the experience and share what it was like to feel a deep longing for something. Connect the idea of “hunger” to the emptiness felt by those who mourn.
Emphasize the importance of reaching out to one another in times of mourning and loss. Find music with lyrics containing the word “hands,” for example: “Put Your Hand in the Hand” or “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Create hand movements to portray the meaning of the song and of the Beatitude.
Volunteer to get moving for those in need in the community. Join or organize a Community Walk for the needs of others. Explain that those who truly mourn for God’s people will “put legs on their prayers.” Point out that God uses us to comfort those who mourn.
Design a clown skit to mime the concept of being transformed from a person who is mourning to a person finding comfort. One idea to enact the transformation could be to gather a group of clowns who were obviously in mourning. Another clown would enter who might have the secret ingredient to cure the others’ misery. He or she could try a number of “cures” -- charts, graphs, lectures, scoldings, pills, fairy dust, and so forth. But, finally, in desperation the clown compassionately touches someone in mourning and the “transformation” occurs. Then the “transformed” clown offers a hug or act of caring to another -- and so the transformation passes from one to another.
Read and enact the story of the death of Lazarus in John 11:1-44. Emphasize the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” found in John 11:35. Discuss the reality that Jesus expressed mourning for the loss of friends when he was on earth.
Play a version of the game Pictionary. First have a group brainstorm words related to commonly used expressions of concern; for example, “God bless you,” “You’re in my prayers,” “Take care of yourself,” “Call me if you need anything,” and so forth. Write the expressions on separate cards or slips of paper. Then divide the group into teams. Each team takes turns using Pictionary rules to try to guess the phrase being drawn.
Print a variety of situations related to the theme of the Beatitude, "Blessed are those who mourn." Suggestions to include might be a person who experiences a death in the family, someone whose house is totaled due to a fire, or a person who loses a job. Have one player at a time select a card and read the situation. In response have everyone else in the group suggest one way to show God's love in this circumstance. Assure the group that there are no right or wrong answers since God's people should respond in a variety of ways.
Learn the story behind the hymn “Abide With Me” and sing the words with new meaning.
Listen to the selection “Comfort Ye My People” from a performance of Handel’s Messiah. Look up Isaiah 40:1-3 and compare the command of God with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:4.
Create a collage of pictures, either original photographs or clippings from magazines, that would answer the question, “What would God mourn?” Provide time for discussion or for searching through magazines for pictures that represent failures of human beings to care for or comfort one another.
Watch a film about mourning and restoration like Old Yeller, A Walk to Remember, or Where the Red Fern Grows.
Design a puppet with both a happy and a sad face. Have the puppet explain how being sad can help us find new ways to experience joy.
Write a puppet script based on the theme of “Good Grief!” One puppet can be in pursuit of discovering how grief could possibly be good. Many puppet friends can try to explain away the idea as being impossible or as meaning that grief is good when it belongs to someone else. Finally, a wise teacher can suggest the three meanings of “Good Grief!” by explaining the meaning of the Beatitude: mourning a loss leads us to discover God’s comfort; mourning for others’ losses leads us to discover compassion; and mourning for our own sin leads us to finding God’s redemption.
Read the children’s book, “Something from Nothing” by Phoebe Gilman (New York: Scholastic, 1992.) In this story, Joseph’s baby blanket is transformed into ever smaller items until there is nothing left. Yet Joseph still has an idea. Discuss the message of the book and relate the idea that the Beatitude challenges us to learn not to look at what we have lost, but to look at what we have left.
Tell a story to convey the meaning of the Beatitude. Use a minus sign as a visual aid and explain the negative meaning that it represents. Use the minus sign to represent the things in life that cause us to feel less, to experience loss, to mourn. Then introduce a plus sign by adding the upright line to the negative. Explain that changing a minus to a plus adds instead of subtracts. Connect that symbol to the things in life that make us feel positive, that add meaning and joy to life, that bring us comfort. Point out that the plus sign is also another symbol – the sign of the cross. Portray the coming of Jesus as God’s offer to turn the negatives of life into positives. Make the connection to Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitude that when we mourn for our sin (symbolized by the minus sign), God offers us salvation (symbolized by the plus sign, or cross) and we are comforted.