After the worship service today there is going to be a congregational meeting. That happens around here only twice a year. At congregational meetings we do things like set the financial budget for the coming year, and choose the members of the church council, who manage the church year round. There is a lot of work, and a lot of decision making that goes in to keeping our congregation thriving. It is important work, and we are very lucky to have the people we have, who work very hard, on behalf of everybody here.
At the last two meetings of the Church Council, as well as at meetings of the Worship Committee, and the Christian Development committee, we have been talking a lot about Sunday School.
Lynda, who has been such an important part of the Sunday School, is no longer able to teach Sunday School. We still have Margaret, and Mary, who do so much with our kids. But we have been talking about getting more people involved.
We love that there are people of all ages that come to this church. We want everyone who comes here to feel loved and cared for. We want this to be a place for learning, and growing, for everyone. That begins in two places- with our worship service, and with our Sunday School.
We have figured out that we need to get some of the people who come here on Sundays for the worship service, to take turns going to Sunday School. We have people in our congregation who can sing, and play music, who do different arts and crafts, who can cook, who can tell stories, who know how to work with wood to make things, who know how to use cameras to make pictures, and computers to make powerpoints. We have so many talented, interesting people in our church. It is actually quite amazing!
My job today is to help everybody who came to church today, to discover that helping in Sunday School is something they can do.
My way to do that is to teach today’s Sunday School lesson:
Here are some symbols, or pictures that may help you know what the lesson is about. Do you recognize them?
Around 700 years before the time of Jesus, the people of the country of Israel were having a very hard time. They were in a war with nearby countries. Many people were getting hurt and killed.
There was a man called Isaiah, who hoped and prayed for better times for his people. He was a kind of a preacher and teacher who tried to bring God’s way of seeing things to the people.
Isaiah had a vision, which is a lot like a dream, in which God showed him that there could be another way to live. The dream was about the country of Israel getting a new king, who would lead the country in a new way, a peaceful way, rather than the way of fighting and killing.
The new ruler would come from the family of King David, one of the first, and most famous kings of Israel. When the new king comes, things will be different for Israel.
God showed me this vision for the world. The wolf and the lamb will live in the same field. The leopard and the young goat will live together too. Even calves and lions will lie down together. But there’s more. A little child will be able to walk among these animals and lead them around like a shepherd leads sheep from place to place.
The cow and the bear will eat from the same field of grass. Yes, imagine that, and the lion will eat straw like an ox. But there is still more. Babies will play on the ground and snakes will not bite them.
Here is a very old, and very famous painting that is based on Isaiah’s dream. It is called the Peaceable Kingdom.
What can we see in it? A lot of the animals that Isaiah mentioned in his dream. Lions and leopards, and cattle, and a bear, and a lamb, and a wolf, and even little children all together.
Can you imagine this happening? What if we had a lion and a lamb together in this room? Would the lamb feel safe and happy?
Isaiah’s dream is a way of using the imagination to teach the idea of peace. Sometimes we need to create a picture in someone’s head to help them understand what we mean. The person we are talking to knows we don’t actually mean what we are saying, but they get the idea.
Ever hear someone say “I am so hungry I could eat a horse! “ The probably don’t mean it, but we get what they mean, that they are really, really hungry. They are using humour, and exaggeration, and a picture gets created in our minds, that helps us know what they mean. “Hyperbole is just the best thing ever!”
The picture of the lion and the lamb laying down together is a way of helping people understand the idea of peace. Animals that would normally be afraid of each other all look happy, and safe, and peaceful.
Someone else did a painting of what the Peaceable Kingdom might look like using animals we find in North America.
What animals do you see in this one? Wouldn’t it be amazing to see all those creatures together like this in real life?
If we were actually in the Sunday School class today, it might be time to make something. Since we are getting ready for Christmas, and this is the Sunday for Peace, we could make Peace ornaments.
I would give each person in class a paper like this. We could colour the pictures of the lion and lamb, and in the other circle we could draw other animals that we could imagine laying down safely with each other, in a vision of peace.
I would probably have pictures from magazines of different animals, and if you did not want to draw, you could cut out your animals and put them in the second circle.
Then we would cut out the two animal circles, and glue them together, leaving a hole at the top so we could stuff tissue paper in, to make help the ornament expand to become more like something you might hang on your tree.
Everyone would be able to take their Peace Ornament home, to remind them of Isaiah’s dream of Peace.
Dreams and Visions of Peace are important. God gives us the dreams, so that we know what needs to be done to make the world a better place.
This weekend people around the world are sad, because a man with a big dream of Peace has died. His name is Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela was born in South Africa. In the time he was born and growing up, South Africa was a pretty terrible place to live if your skin was a dark colour. People with lighter coloured skin, like mine, owned all the property, controlled the government, the army, the police, the hospitals, and all the places where people worked, and shopped, and lived.
People with darker colour skin were treated very poorly.
Nelson Mandela was involved with a group that was trying to change things. He was considered a criminal by the people who ran the country, and he was put in a jail in a place called Robben Island. He spent 27 years living in this jail cell.
He could have come out of jail very angry, and trying to get revenge on the people who put him in jail. But he had inside him a dream of peace. He wanted to help make a world in which people could be like the animals in the Peaceable Kingdom, and get along with each other.
He once said, “Great anger and violence can never build a nation. We are striving to proceed in a manner and towards a result, which will ensure that all our people, both black and white, emerge as victors.”
This man who spent 27 years in jail went on to become the President of South Africa. His efforts to bring about Peace, and reconciliation in his country have been an example to people all over the world.
We can end our Sunday School Lesson this morning by thinking of situations, places in the world where there is need to keep working on the dream of peace.
Can you think of some places that are in need of peace?
Let’s pray for them now.
Let’s also pray that we can find ways to help make peace in the places where we live. Amen