I am teaching Sunday School this month. The way it works at our church is that parents sign up for a one month stint either being a teacher or a helper, and that way we have enough teachers and nobody has to miss church for more than a few weeks a year. It’s a pretty good arrangement, and so January is my month. I was e-mailed schedules and lesson plans, and two weeks ago (we had New Year’s Day off) began my limited engagement as John the Baptist.
I don’t know if they did this to me because they knew I had acting and stage training, or if it was just serendipity, but my lesson plan calls for me to dress up as John the Baptist and then, in character, describe my birth, life, and death to the children, with an emphasis on baptism and the baptism of Jesus. No problem, right?
The way the schedule is set up, we “elders” rotate around the different classes all month, while the “shepherds” stay with one individual class. My first week was with the 4th and 5th graders, followed yesterday by the 1st through 3rd graders, and culminating with the Pre-K and kindergarteners at the end of the month. I walked into my first week ready to go, and having no idea anymore what 4th and 5th graders were like.
It turns out that the youth of the day are not at all interested in the life of John the Baptist. Everything I said was met with boredom at best, and resistance at worst. If I said something like, “My clothes are made out of camel hair,” they would respond with “No they’re not, you are quite obviously wearing a brown Obi Wan Kenobi costume robe that you got in college like 15 years ago.” Dang! Am I that obvious?
Well, we struggled a bit together, but I think by the end I finally got their attention. They certainly perked up when I said, “Don’t any of you want to hear about how I was brutally murdered?” I also got them with the superheroic qualities of the baptism liturgy. Swearing to resist the forces of evil, darkness and wickedness in whatever forms they present themselves? It’s like we’re all in The Avengers, and Jesus is our Captain America, killed in battle, but three days later thawed out from the ice and back in action with his vibranium shield of faith, great for quenching fiery darts!
Ok, that’s a bit of a mixed metaphor, but the point is, they were all paying attention and actually thinking about the words of their baptisms and what they meant, so I counted it as a win. Yesterday, as they all met in the chapel before Sunday School, I was setting up my room for the 1st through 3rd graders and eavesdropping on the kids as they discussed what they had learned the previous week. Quite curious to hear what my 4th and 5th graders had to say, I stood against the door and listened closely.
The leader asked what John the Baptist ate in the wilderness, and everyone knew the answer immediately. Locusts and wild honey! Good job kids! And then one of my wonderful little pupils raised her hand and asked “If he was only eating bugs and honey, then why is John the Baptist so fat?” She then explained to the confused teacher that she had met him the week before, and the teacher tried to tell her something about how God will provide for us, and even if we are only eating bugs and honey, God makes it a bounty for us. But whatever. At least they remembered me.