Matthew 5:3–11, Luke 6:20–22.
In addition to these public Beatitude lessons and ideas below, be sure to visit our 
Writing Team's Beatitudes lesson set whose lesson summaries and Bible background are open to all. Our extra creative and detailed Writing Team lesson sets are written by and for supporting members. 

Creative Movement Lessons, Ideas, Activities, and Resources for the Beatitudes

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Beatitudes - Matthew 5:3–11, Luke 6:20–22. Blessed are the... Happy are the... 


The Sermon on the Mount & The Lord's Prayer

Creative Movement Workshop

 

Summary of Lesson Activities:
The Beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer, and other portions of the Sermon on the Mount are explored using creative movement. (BodySox™ and scarves are optional.) This lesson is most appropriate for younger elementary children (first through third grades), but older students may surprise you and enjoy it, too. 

Scripture Reference:
Matthew 5-7 

Lesson Objectives:

At the end of the session, the students will

  • be able to identify Matthew as one of the four Gospels and be able to find it in the New Testament.
  • know that Jesus traveled from place to place and taught all who would listen, and that the Sermon on the Mount is a collection of his teachings.
  • be familiar with the Beatitudes and the concept of blessedness.
  • know that the Lord's Prayer is how Jesus taught his followers to pray and that it can be found in the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Background comments on the story:

  • The Sermon on the Mount is believed to be a collection of teachings and sayings of Jesus that have been grouped together here by Matthew. (Luke collects some of these same teachings in his Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6: 17-49.
  • The setting of these teachings on a mountain reminds us of God giving Moses the Law on Sinai.
  • While only the disciples are mentioned in Matthew 5:1, that does not exclude others.
  • Beatitudes: the word Matthew uses ("makarioi") is difficult to translate into English. Words that may be used are blessed, happy, fortunate, and congratulations. All imply special attention from God. According to Random House Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, one definition of blessed is "divinely or supremely favored." (See also the notes on the Beatitudes following the script.)
  • The Sermon includes a section of teachings on traditional Jewish practices relating to piety and how to properly practice them: charitable donations, prayer, and fasting. The structure is repeated for each practice; Jesus gives an example of how a hypocrite displays his faith and tells of his reward and then describes the proper practice and describes the heavenly reward. The prayer directions are for private prayer, not corporate worship.
  • The Sermon concludes with a parable that calls for listeners to make a decision.

Leader Preparation:

  • Read through these notes about leading a Creative Movement workshop.
  • Note: a carpeted, open space will allow for the best movement.
  • Gather the materials

Supplies List:

  • A large wall mirror is helpful
  • Bibles
  • Optional: Body Sox and/or colorful, flowing scarves (use chiffon if you want to make your own) 


Lesson Plan 

Early arrival activities: 

Encourage the students to experiment with the Body Sox and scarves. Ask them to make "shapes" with their bodies, pretend to be objects, and work with others to see what sorts of "effects" they can achieve. 

Some movement and imagination starters: "can you feel yourself moving like:" a butterfly, a bird, a tree with a bird family living in a nest in your branches, a mother holding a [crying/sleeping/smiling] baby. Walk sadly, jump thoughtfully, tiptoe angrily. You may want to write these and other ideas on slips of paper and have students take turns drawing one and experimenting with it. There are no right or wrong ways to do these things; each person's response will be as different as the person himself/herself. 

Explain that the only rules are

  • move safely so you and others don't get hurt and
  • no talking (use your face and body to show the object/feeling/experience).


Books for sharing before and after class: there are illustrated versions of the Lord's Prayer (although many have unattractive illustrations). Also look for picture book collections of New Testament stories and collections of prayers. 

Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction: 

Bringing the story to life: Creative movement (with optional Body Sox or scarves)


Group time:
Open with prayer
Talk about creative movement (see notes). Explain that today's scripture is really not a story; therefore, we will be exploring the Bible passages kinesthetically (with our bodies).


Read Matthew 5:1-12, 6:9-13, 7:24-27, 7:28-29. 

Discuss what it means to be "blessed."


Warm-up exercises:


Say, "Practice moving your whole body to interpret some things using all three levels: low (kneeling, crouching, crawling), middle (standing, walking), and high (arms up, jumping). Try moving fast and slow, smoothly and jerkily, straight and roundabout to achieve different effects." Have them divide into pairs and use their imaginations and move their bodies to interpret (select key words from the reading):

  • blessed
  • grace
  • mourn
  • comfort
  • pure
  • Heaven
  • earth
  • love
  • peace
  • bread
  • forgiveness
  • evil
  • glory
  • rain .....

 

Dig-Main Content and Reflection: 

Creative Movement to a script:
Read through the Creative Movement script (see below) and allow the students to experiment with movements that express the thoughts and feelings in the passages. Read slowly and thoughtfully and with meaning. Stop frequently to allow students to further explore and try different ways to express the passage. If you have a large class (more than eight people), you may want to divide into two groups and let them take turns interpreting the passages. Those in the group not moving can make suggestions to those who are. Allow individual students to decide if they want to enhance their movements with scarves or Body Sox (if available). See the script and these notes about leading Creative Movement, for additional hints and guidelines.

Pulling it all together (closing discussion):

  • What was Jesus like? (From: Belonging to God: a First Catechism (PCUSA), question # 25)

When Jesus spoke, he spoke with God's authority. When he acted, he acted with God's power. The people were amazed. He was also gentle and loving. He cared for us in all our needs as a shepherd cares for the sheep.

  • What did Jesus do during his life on earth? (Belonging to God: a First Catechism (PCUSA) question # 26)

He called disciples to follow him. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, blessed children, befriended outcasts, required people to repent, and forgave their sins. He taught people not to fear, but to trust always in God. He preached the good news of God's love and gave everyone hope for new life.

  • Relate this teaching of Jesus on a mountain to the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.
  • I wonder what it means to be blessed?
  • How have you been blessed?
  • Why do we pray to God? (Belonging to God: a First Catechism (PCUSA)question #46)

Because we were created to live with God, who desires the prayers of our hearts. Our hearts long for God, for we need God's help and guidance every day.

  • When are some times that you talk to God in prayer? What are some ways that you talk to God in prayer? Is there a right way and a right time to pray?
  • Do you feel like a man with a house built on stone or a man with a house built on sand?


Closing: 

Say: "The Sermon on the Mount is three chapters of teachings that are rich in meaning. We have had time today to look at only a small part. I encourage you to take a look at Matthew 5 - 7 later and reflect on the meaning of those instructions to you and your life. Think about how through these teachings, Jesus calls us to obedience."

Dear God, thank you for giving us the gifts of imagination and creativity. Thank you for the stories which Jesus told and the pictures he painted with words. Help us to hold his words close in our hearts and to understand how they call us to obey You. Amen.


Resources:

  • de Dietrich, Suzanne. The Layman's Bible Commentary: Matthew. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.
  • Hare, Douglas R. A. Interpretation: A Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: Matthew. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1993. 


The Sermon on the Mount: Leader's Script for Creative Movement
Matthew 5 - 7

(Adapted by Amy Crane from Today's English Version and New Revised Standard Version, and Interpretation: Matthew by Douglas R. A. Hare)

When Jesus saw the crowds,
he went up the mountain;
and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.
Then he began to speak,
and he taught them,
saying:

[The Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-12)]

Blessed are those
who humbly depend on God's grace,
for the Kingdom of God
belongs to them.

Blessed are those
who mourn,
for God will comfort them.

Blessed are those
who are humble,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those
who hunger and thirst to for God to set things right;
for God will satisfy them fully.

Blessed are those
who show mercy to others,
for God will show mercy to them.

Blessed are those
who are pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are those
who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.

Blessed are those
who are persecuted because they do what God requires,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you
when people insult you and persecute you because you are my followers
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward is great in heaven.


[Teaching about prayer/ The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13)]

This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven:
May your holy name be honored;
may your kingdom come;
may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need.
Forgive us the wrongs we have done,
as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.
Do not bring us to hard testing,
but keep us safe from the Evil One.
Amen.

[The Two Houses (Matthew 7: 24-27)]

Everyone who hears these words of mine
and puts them into practice
is like the wise man who built his house on rock.

The rain came down
and the floods came up,
and the winds blew and beat on that house;
yet it did not fall,
because it had its foundation on rock.

But everyone who hears these words of mine
and does not put them into practice
is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

The rain came down
and the floods came up,
and the winds blew and beat on that house;
and it fell with a great crash.



Notes for leading Creative Movement:

Read the script several times slowly and thoughtfully, section by section, line by line, with expression. During the first reading of each section, allow the listeners to think about and experiment with movements. After they have a feeling for and understanding of that section, move on to the next. Finally, read the entire script from beginning to end, allowing selected students to "perform" their movements for the rest of the group.

The script is written so that each line is a movement/image/thought. Discourage attempts to interpret every word.

Some sections are more appropriately dramatized by several students working as a team, others call for solos.

If there are two leaders, take turns reading sections to provide a clear demarcation from one idea/concept/movement to the next.

For the Beatitudes: Read one at a time and analyze the meaning before attempting an interpretation. The following are some notes to get you started. (Note that not all commentaries are in 100% agreement on the meaning and interpretation of the Beatitudes. Trust your students' insight.)


1 - The "poor in spirit" does not refer to monetary poverty, but to those who have a spirit of humble love for God.
2 - "Those who mourn" may be mourning the sinful nature of people and the injustices of this world.
3 - "The meek" "are nonviolent people, who are humble and gentle in their dealings with others because they have humbled themselves before the greatness of God." (Hare, page 39)
4 - This statement may refer to people who hunger for God to do right for them as individuals and/or for all who suffer.
5 - We are called to be merciful in the same way which God is: patient, gracious, steadfast.
6 - No one is truly pure (clean and without sin) except for Jesus. Here, he is speaking about a love for God that is 100% pure: total and undistracted by other desires.
7 - "It is clear that ‘peacemakers' designates not those who live in peace, enjoying its fruits, but those who devote themselves to the hard work of reconciling hostile individuals, families, groups, and nations." (Hare, page 42)
8 - This refers to those who are persecuted for their beliefs and/or their behavior as a result of those beliefs.
9 - Note the different format, and therefore emphasis, for this Beatitude ("Blessed are you"). Serious Christians must take a stand on moral issues that are sometimes controversial or unpopular, just as the prophets spoke the truth in spite of its unpopularity.


A lesson written by Amy Crane for Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church
Tampa, Florida. 

Copyright 2001 Amy Crane. Permission granted to freely distribute and use, provided this copyright message is included.
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