Anna's Hosannas!
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Lesson for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 10, 2011)

Scripture Reference: Matthew 13: 1-9

July's Theme Song: "Sowing, Sowing"

First Thoughts: When reading a parable we are sometimes tempted to focus too much on a literal interpretation.  We forget that the parable is a story, a fable, and can teach a variety of lessons.  It is helpful to be playful with a parable, something kids have no problem with!  Our work with the kids this week won't be on explaining the failure of the seeds to become plants (who are the thorns and the birds...???), but rather on the character of the sower - who sows faithfully and abundantly.  And whose faithful actions result in a tremendous harvest.

Props  You Will Need: A bag of seeds (popcorn will do).  One seed needs to be out, held in your hand.

Teaching as a Team:
(Leader 2 talks over holding a single seed in his hand, seed bag in other, looking at it closely at single seed and fawning over it a little)
Leader 1: Hey, what do you have there?
Leader 2: It's a seed.
Leader 1: So it is.  And  what are you going to do with it?
Leader 2: I'm going to plant it.  
Leader 1: By itself?
Leader 2: Yes.  I'm going to plant just this one seed and watch over it very carefully.  Then if it grows well, I'll think about planting another one.
Leader 1: You know, I'm not much of a farmer, but I don't think that's exactly how you do it.
Leader 2: What do you mean?
Leader 1: I think you're supposed to plant a lot of seeds at once - you know, plant a garden.  You have a lot of other seeds there.  Why don't you plant those too?
Leader 2: But I want to take good care of these seeds, I don't want to waste any.
Leader 1: That reminds me of a story Jesus told once.  He told his disciples that a farmer went into the field and threw out his seeds on the ground.  Some were eaten by birds, some fell on bad soil, and some landed in thorns...
Leader 2: See?  It's dangerous throwing seeds around willy-nilly.
Leader 1: Yes, but some of the seeds fell on good soil, and they produced a huge harvest.
Leader 2:  Hey, that's a parable, right?  Which means Jesus was trying to teach a lesson.  So do you think that story is about real seeds like mine?
Leader 1:  Probably not.  I think Jesus was talking about how we should live our lives.  Christ teaches us we should share God's love with everyone we meet.  If we share God's love with just a few people, we're not really doing the job.    
Leader 2: Kinda like planting only one or two seeds.
Leader 1: But if we share God's love with everyone we meet, then we're like that farmer, scattering God's love all over the place.
Leader 2: So if we love the way God tells us to....
Leader 1: Then we can expect a really big harvest!

Teaching On You Own:  (holding single seed in hand) See what I have here?  What is it?  It's a seed.  You know, I'm thinking about planting this seed in my back yard and see what happens. What do you think will happen?  Hopefully it will grow into a plant, right?  Hey, but wait a minute - have you ever seen a garden that had just one plant in it?  No?  What are most gardens like?  They have lots of plants in them.  So if I wanted to have a real garden, I'd have to plant all of these too, right? (show bag)  But I'm afraid to waste the seeds.  I don't want to some in the ground and have them not grow into a plant.  That reminds me of a story Jesus told one time, about a farmer who was planting a field.  The farmer went out and just threw his seeds all over the field.  Some of the seeds were eaten by birds, and some of the others just fell in the wrong spots and didn't grow into plants.  But other seeds fell just perfectly in the soil, and they grew up to be huge plants that made a lot of food! That story Jesus told is a parable, which means it's a story to teach a lesson.  So Jesus probably wasn't talking about real seeds like I have here.  He was talking about how we live our lives.  How does  Christ teach us to live our lives?  To share God's love everywhere we go.  If we just share God's love with a few people, that's kinda like me only planting one or two seeds.  But if I share God's love with lots of people, then I'm like that farmer, scattering seed all over the place.  And God promises if we will love like that, God will bring a great harvest in our lives! 

Closing Prayer: God, we thank you for filling our lives with so much love, and giving us love to share with others.  Help us to be courageous, like the farmer in the parable, scattering our love everywhere we go, and trusting you to bring a harvest in the world through us.  In Christ's name we pray, Amen.

Follow-Up Lesson: A way to follow up with this lesson is to invite the kids to think of ways they can share God's love in the world.  Be prepared to offer suggestions (gather food for a pantry, write a kind note to someone who's sad, give a hug to someone who's angry).  After they've got a good list, help them to think about what might stop them from doing these things.  Are they afraid of something?  Someone rejecting them, feeling foolish, being laughed at? Remind them that, in the story, some of the farmer's seeds didn't do much - they failed to grow into a plant.  But the farmer went ahead and sowed the seeds anyway.  We can't know what's going on in another person's heart, and we don't know how God is working in their lives.  All we can do is to be loving ourselves, and leave the rest to God.  (You might reassure them that this is a tough lesson for adults too.)