The Beatitudes: link back to summary
A Summary of the Sermon on the Mount:
Article eleven of eleven part series:
by Anna L. Liechty & Phyllis Vos Wezeman
Twelve methods, with two suggestions for each, offer a variety of practical ideas for exploring and developing activities and for tailoring experiences related to the lesson’s focus.
This article concludes 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 a builder or brick mason to demonstrate how to lay a foundation. If appropriate, examine the foundation of the church building and discuss its condition. Relate the importance of a building’s foundation to the importance of the Beatitudes as the foundation for the Christian’s faith.
Visit the sanctuary to view the pulpit. Discuss the design and placement of the pulpit in relation to its purpose in the church. Contrast the outdoor setting for the Sermon on the Mount with the interior setting for today’s preachers, and point out the difference in the ancient tradition of the rabbi’s sitting down to teach in comparison to the formal stance the pulpit requires.
Create a mural that portrays each of the Beatitudes in sequence. Assign small groups with the challenge to design a visual representation of one of the Beatitudes. Have them draw and/or paint their scenes on paper, cardboard, or sheets of foam core. Display the artwork in a hallway or on a large wall in the church building.
Sculpt symbols from Wikki Stix, a type of wax covered yarn, in response to each of the Beatitudes. For example, shape a heart to represent the “pure in heart,” or a figure bowing to suggest the meek. Allow the participants to design and explain their sculptures. Point out that the Beatitudes should shape our lives as Christians.
Cut bookmark-sized strips from burlap or other sturdy cloth. If desired, pull a few threads to fray the edges. With paint pens or indelible ink add words or phrases taken from the Beatitudes, indicate the Biblical passage Matthew 5:1-11, or calligraphy “Sermon on the Mount” on the bookmark. Remind the participants to mark Jesus’ sermon in their Bibles to re-read and review the lessons learned.
Design “Be-attitude T-shirts” with messages and/or symbols to represent the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Use fabric paint to add words and designs inspired by the Beatitudes to the T-shirt. Consider turning the T-shirts inside out before decorating in order to make the statement that listening to Jesus’ message turns our lives around.
Make a list of questions that stem from the study of the Beatitudes and send them to the pastor. Invite the leader to come to the class for a time of conversation inspired by the questions.
Turn each lesson of the Beatitudes into a prayer, for example the challenge to be pure in heart could become, “Lord, I depend on you.”
Boil chicken pieces to create stock for soup. Discuss the meaning of the word "distill." Explain that the Sermon on the Mount distills the teachings of Jesus for his disciples. Brainstorm all the dishes that could be made from the chicken stock. Challenge modern disciples to discover ways to build happy lives using the essence of Jesus’ message in the Beatitudes.
Celebrate the study of the Beatitudes with a “haystacks” recipe for creating an edible mountain. Begin with a layer of rice; next, add a layer of creamed chicken. To build the “mount,” provide ingredients such as chopped tomato, green onions, green olives, pineapple chunks, chow mein noodles, slivered almonds, green pepper pieces, and coconut. Let the participants mound the ingredients of their choice and enjoy the mountain they create. Remember to connect their celebration to the culmination of the study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Determine gestures to portray each message of the Beatitudes. Practice the motions until they can be performed fluidly. Have someone read the Beatitudes while the group supports the reading with the choreographed movements.
Walk in place to remember the dual message of the Beatitudes: to combine prayer with action. Explain to the participants that Jesus taught his disciples that they must depend completely on God as they act to change the world. As the marchers raise their right knees to walk in place, instruct them to say “prayer.” As they raise their left knees, have them say “action.” After some marching in place or marching in follow-the-leader fashion, take time to discuss how to build time for prayer in daily life and brainstorm what kind of actions should be the result of depending on God each day.
Assign each of the eight Beatitudes to a different group, if possible, or give four groups two Beatitudes each. Instruct the groups that they are to create a “tableau,” a three-dimensional still-life picture or scene, to portray the emotion or message in the Beatitude(s) they were assigned. After time to rehearse, have the groups assemble their tableaus and hold their position in a “freeze frame” while someone reads the Beatitude depicted.
Create a “reader’s theater” of the Beatitudes using different translations and paraphrases of Matthew 5:1-11. Focus on one Beatitude at a time, reading dramatically from several texts. If enough voices are available, assign a different voice to each translation.
Build a human pyramid while reciting the eight Beatitudes. While someone reads, add one person for each part of Jesus’ teaching until there are four on the first row, three on the second row, and one on the top. The person on top could hold up a sign that says, “Be happy!”
Create a memory game by writing each Beatitude twice, once on each of two 3x5 cards or on two squares of construction paper, creating two sets of cards for a matching game. Shuffle the cards and place them face down. Contestants must remember where the cards are as they take turns trying to create “matches.” When a player turns up one card, he or she may turn up one other card trying to find the same Beatitude. If the cards match, the player takes those two cards from the board. If they do not match, the player must return the cards to the face down position. The player with the most matches, is the winner.
Challenge the participants to create a rhythm for reciting the message of the Beatitudes. Choose a phrase to repeat, such as “Blessed are you if you ...” and then complete the line by paraphrasing the words from the Sermon on the Mount. Use rhythm sticks, bongos, clapping hands, or finger snaps to keep the rhythm going.
Teach the terms “prelude” and “postlude” to the participants and ask them to become aware of the use of music at the opening and closing of a service of worship. Discuss the importance of music to set the tone and inspire listeners, even listen to samples and discuss which might fit better as an opening or closing and why. Connect the idea to the Beatitudes by explaining that some see the sermon as the prelude in Matthew to the story of Jesus’ life. Discuss also that the Beatitudes can also be seen as a postlude, a stirring message for disciples as they go back into the world to live out Christ’s teachings.
Explain that a photographer tries to communicate an attitude when he or she captures a person or event in a picture. Discuss what kinds of attitudes Christians should portray if they live by Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Suggestions might include: an attitude of prayer, an attitude of service, or an attitude of joy. Challenge the photographers to take pictures of the kinds of attitudes they discuss. If possible, use a digital camera to take photographs in and around the church to convey the Beatitudes in action.
Show the participants photographs from an art photography book in which the photographer has worked with shadow and light to capture patterns found in the world around us: a fence, a tile floor, a bridge, or a ripple in the water. Discuss that patterns can be found everywhere, but that we might miss them or ignore them unless someone draws our attention to them or creates a focus for us. Explain that the same is true in our spiritual life as well. In the Beatitudes, Jesus creates a pattern for us to recognize and understand what a happy life contains, so that we can follow that pattern in our own lives.
Cut from poster board shapes to represent Jesus, the disciples, and the crowd. Tape a straw to each shape in order to hold the figure to create a shadow puppet. Create a screen by suspending a sheet; then shine a light from behind so that in the front the audience sees only the shadow puppet as it moves between the screen and the light source. A screen can also be designed by covering an opening in a large box with white paper and shining the light from behind the box as described. As someone reads the story of the Sermon on the Mount, dramatize the words using the shadow puppets.
Make a “bee” puppet from felt to help review the Bee-attitudes. Challenge everyone to "Bee Buzz-y" learning how to "Bee" happy just as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
Emphasize the stories of modern-day people whose lives demonstrate that heavenly rewards are more important than earthly prizes. Consider contemporary stories like that of Corrie Ten Boom whose family sought to help their Jewish neighbors despite the dangers that they faced by doing what was right.
Find examples of people from both the Old and New Testament whose lives exemplified each of the Beatitudes. For example, the story of Ruth in the Old Testament gives an excellent representation of living out Jesus’ challenge to be happy by being meek. The story of Esther could be used to exemplify hungering and thirsting after righteousness, as she sought to do the right thing for her people.