Anna's Hosannas!
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Lesson for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 3, 2011)

July's Theme Song: "Sowing, Sowing"

Scripture Reference: Matthew 11: 28-30

First Thoughts: This passage is one of the most beloved in the bible.  The assurance that Jesus will give us rest reminds us of the care of a shepherd making us lie down in green pastures.  But lest we go too far with this image, we bring our attention to Jesus' use of "yoke" - which is not an instrument of rest, but of hard work.  Jesus calls to those heavy-burdened and weary, not so they might be rescued from work altogether, but so that they might be given the RIGHT work to do.  The problem of heavy burdens isn't with work itself, but with the wrong kind of work.  When our work puts us in hostile, competitive, soul-killing, community-decimating environments, our souls suffer.  But when we join together under the yoke of Christ - which is specially fitted to match perfectly with our own gifts and talents - we discover the work not only not burdensome, but even joyous.  Since the kids are unlikely to be familiar with the image of a yoke, we're going to use another image to help them understand this lesson - an ill-fitting shoe.

Props You Will Need: Some shoes of the wrong size - the more outrageously wrong they are the better.  They can either be way too small (like a toddler's shoes) or way too small (like clown shoes.)  The kids need to be able to see immediately that the shoes won't fit your feet!

Teaching as a Team
(Leader 2 comes hobbling over to the kids - should have shoes in his hand, and - if he's game - be barefoot.)
Leader 1: My goodness, (name) - you seem to be having a hard time walking.  What's wrong?
Leader 2: My feet are so sore.  I took a little walk this morning around the block.
Leader 1: But that shouldn't hurt your feet.
Leader 2: I know.  I think there may be something wrong with these shoes. (holds them up)
Leader 1: Well, I'll say there's something wrong with them.  They're too small/large!  Didn't you notice that the shoes didn't seem to be the same size as your feet?
Leader 2: I noticed, but I didn't think it was that big of a deal.
Leader 1: Now you know better, right?  If you wear shoes that are too big, you get blisters, or they can even fall off!  If you wear shoes too small, your bones get all cramped up inside them.  Either way it hurts you.
Leader 2: I guess that's true.  Having the right size shoe really is important.
Leader 1: Which brings us to something Jesus said this morning to his disciples.  Jesus promised his disciples that if they would serve him, he would give them an easy yoke.
Leader 2: A yoke?  What's that?
Leader 1: It's what you put on an ox when you want it to pull something.  A yoke that didn't fit well would hurt the ox...
Leader 2: Just like my shoes!
Leader 1: Right.  Jesus knew that there are a lot of people in this world who are living lives which hurt them, which make them sad and sore.  So he said that he would change that.  He would lead people to have lives which fit them perfectly.
Leader 2: Just like the right pair of shoes!
Leader 1: Jesus told them that God would use their lives to do work which matched their gifts, work they could do easily.  When your work fits you perfectly, then it's no longer a burden.  In fact, it can even be a joy!
Leader 2: Like running in a good pair of sneakers!

Teaching On Your Own:  (hobbling around, shoes in hand) Oooh, ahhhh.  Boy are my feet sore!  I took a walk this morning, around the block and it really hurt me.  Does it hurt you when you walk around the block?  No?  Hmmm.  Well, maybe there's something wrong with my shoes.  What do you think?  They're too small/big?  Well, what difference does that make?  I guess you're right.  It is pretty important.  If your shoes are too big, they might give you blisters or fall off.  If they're too small, your toes get all cramped up and that hurts too.  How does it feel when you   have shoes on that are just the right size?  Hey, that reminds me about something Jesus said.  Jesus promised his disciples that if they would serve him, he would give them an easy yoke.  Do you know what a yoke is?  It's what you put on an ox when you want it to pull something.  A yoke that didn't fit well would hurt the ox, just like having on the wrong size shoe.  You see, Jesus knew that there are a lot of people in this world who are living lives which hurt them, which make them sad and sore.  So he said that he would change that.  He would lead people to have lives which fit them perfectly.  He would give them work to do which matched their gifts, work that would make them happy.  When your work fits you perfectly, then it's no longer a burden.  In fact, it can even be a joy!

Closing Prayer:  Thank you, God, for giving us gifts and talents, and for calling us into life-work that is made just for us. Help us in our lives to listen to your call, and to take your yoke upon us - knowing that you will always match us up perfectly with what we need, and what the world needs from us.  In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

Follow-Up Lesson: One way to follow up this lesson is to discuss what it means to be burdened.  You might use a chalkboard or a large piece of paper to make two lists, "Burdens" and "Joys."  Then list some things, to see what the kids would find burdensome and what they'd find fun.  Some "lighter" ideas: snow, heat, reading a book, going to school, swimming, playing baseball, etc.  Encourage the kids when they agree and disagree, pointing out that, because we have different gifts and likes, God calls us into different kinds of life.  Then get into more serious life conditions: bullying, sharing, mean names, kind words, hitting, hugging, etc.  Point out to the kids that, while people experience some conditions differently, others are held in common by all people.  (That is, it is burdensome and hurtful for ANYONE to be called stupid.)