The Beatitudes: link back to summary
The Fifth Beatitude:
Matthew 5:7 - Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. (NKJV)
Article seven of eleven part series:
by Phyllis Wezeman & Ann Liechty
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.
Look for pictures of inscriptions above doorways or tour public buildings whose edifices display important quotations or Latin phrases above their entryways. Discuss the significance of inscribing important words above a building’s entrance. Offer the words from Micah 6:8 as a possible declaration fitting for a church building, or Matthew 5:7 as appropriate for a clinic or a hospital.
Use the idea of the cooperation needed in building a bridge to discuss the importance of Christians working together toward a mission of mercy. Explain that individual acts of mercy make a difference, but point out that acting together Christians can accomplish much more – “span greater distances” – and reach more people with God’s message of love and forgiveness.
Purchase scratch-art paper and instruct the participants to scratch away the surface in order to create a design that represents their understanding of “mercy.” Make the connection that, no matter how merciful we are toward others, we are only “scratching the surface” in comparison to the depth of God’s mercy for us.
Use mirrors to aid the participants in drawing self-portraits. Explain that, as they try to draw their own images, they should remember that Christians are called to reflect God’s mercy to the world.
Find directions for making batik cloth and use the process of layering wax on fabric to discuss the change that God’s forgiveness brings to receptive human hearts. Make a banner from the batik cloth to celebrate the blessedness that comes to those who both receive and share God’s mercy.
Weave a group web of mercy by tossing a ball of yarn from one person to another. As each one receives the yarn, he or she should share the name of one person who has shown mercy; then, holding the strand of yarn, he or she should toss the ball on to the next person to share another name. By the time all have acknowledged the merciful in their lives, the group should have created a woven design. Point out that the connectedness of the strands in the web remind us that we are all connected through our need for mercy, both from God and from one another.
Brainstorm examples of opposites in regard to Christian mercy; for example, “hungry” versus “fed,” “lonely” versus “visited,” “persecuted” versus “welcomed.” Ask the participants to write examples from Scripture or from life experiences that illustrate the challenge Christians accept to offer “opposite” responses of mercy in life’s miseries. Collect the ideas in a “Book of Opposites” to read and display.
Instruct the participants to look up the definition of “empathy.” Ask them to write a story about a time when they identified strongly with another’s difficulty or pain. Share the stories and relate their moments of empathy to the Beatitudes and Jesus’ words about being merciful.
Collect ingredients to make a batch of soup. Prepare the soup and divide it into disposable containers. Distribute soup portions to those who need special mercy like those who are ill, shut in, or alone.
Make pretzels by twisting dough and sprinkling with it with kosher salt. Explain that pretzels were first made by monks to symbolize arms folded across the body in prayer. Teach the words to the Kyrie: “Christ, have mercy … ". Say the prayer before eating the warm pretzels.
Find a recording of the hymn “The Ninety and Nine” and choreograph movement to accompany the lyrics. Let the movements illustrate God’s mercy in seeking and celebrating the return of the lost.
Invite a sign-language interpreter to teach the participants how to sign the Lord’s Prayer. Discuss especially the sign for forgiveness, and relate the importance of receiving and extending forgiveness as a necessary component of mercy.
Recite and/or memorize Portia’s speech from The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1, about the “quality of mercy.” Discuss how Shakespeare’s poetry captures the message found in Matthew 5:7.
View a portrayal of Jesus’ words from the cross in a film like Jesus of Nazareth. Discuss the mercy Christ exhibits as he extends acceptance to the thief on the cross and offers forgiveness to those who crucify him. Point out that we must also extend mercy not only to those who ask for it, but also to those who do not even seem to deserve it.
Play a “Shoe Scramble” game to learn about empathy. Ask everyone to take off their shoes and to place them in a central location. Prior to beginning, jumble the shoes so that pairs are not together in the heap of footwear. Place the participants in groups and explain that each person must run to the pile, put on another pair of shoes -- lacing or buckling them as completely as possible -- and return to his or her team, releasing the next participant in the race. The first team to complete the process and “walk in another’s shoes” wins the game. Note that if the shoes are too small to wear on the feet, participants may place the shoes on their hands and return on all fours to their group.
Survey the congregation or Sunday school classes asking them to list five important acts of mercy that should be a part of the Christian life such as helping a stranger in need, providing healthcare for the poor, or giving to orphanages. Use the survey findings to play a game of “Family Feud,” forming two teams whose members take turns trying to guess what mercies best represent the Christian life.
Experiment with sounds that represent mercy. Compare the soothing sounds of the harp, the chimes, the flute, and even the rain stick with our understanding of mercy. Connect the qualities heard in the sounds with the gentle, soothing, harmonious qualities we find in God’s mercy.
Read Psalm 89:1 and sing “I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord Forever.” Ask the participants to share why thinking of God’s mercy would make us want to sing.
Choose one of the healing stories that exhibit Jesus’ mercy. Identify important moments in the story – at least one each from the beginning, middle, and end of the narrative. Assign individuals or groups to create an acetate transparency that represents one of the significant moments. Present the story in sequence by projecting the transparencies that the participants have created on an overhead projector.
Look in a concordance to find Bible verses that speak about the importance of mercy. Match photographs with the biblical words about God’s mercy to create a bulletin board or wall display and to teach others about this important Christian quality.
Create puppets to improvise the story of the “unforgiving servant” found in Matthew 18:21-35. Relate the story to Jesus’ statement in the Beatitudes about the blessedness of those who are merciful.
Use different kinds of gloves as puppets to represent the ways the merciful must act to bring God’s mercy to others. For example, a hand dressed in a surgical glove would “speak” for the mercy extended to those suffering and in need of healthcare. A work-glove puppet would speak for acts of mercy like repairing an elderly person’s roof or cleaning out their gutters. A boxing glove might speak of fighting for justice; a dressy glove might speak of taking a shut-in out to tea. The puppets emphasize the important idea that mercy is not only something we receive, but something we must do.
Adapt the story of the Good Samaritan to reflect modern prejudices and language. For example, the story could be termed “the Good Geek.” Let participants brainstorm and add details that would represent modern society’s parallel to the story. Then re-tell the parable to other groups and audiences.
Read the children’s book You Are Special by Max Lucado. Discuss the message of God’s mercy reflected in the Creator’s loving acceptance of Punchinello.