Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bee-attitudes and Beatitude

We launched Cornerstone (our middle school/high school Sunday school class, kids from 6th grade to 12th) this morning. What with the transition in youth ministry, we hadn't expected a very large crowd; so Jill didn't make a lot of breakfast and we had the dividers up so that everyone would fit in the one room with sofas. But by 9:45 there were 32 of us crowded in, so many that we had to open things up. God is good!

Reed (our interim youth pastor) wants us to study the Sermon on the Mount this fall. This NT study will make a nice counterpoint to the OT character survey we did all last year. To kick it off, we looked at Matthew 5:1-12, and contrasted the beatitude that Christ offers with "Bee-attitudes." We used this as a way of referring to the Seven Deadly Sins; vices that characterize us when we are turned away from Christ. They come with a deadly sting (1 Corinthians 15: 56-57, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.")

We had seven Bees portraying each of these sinful spiritual conditions:

Pride (Rob R.)
Envy (Kelsey W.)
Anger (Reed W.)
Sloth (Susan B.)
Greed (Mary N.)
Lust (Judy E.)
Gluttony (Emma J.)

Judy went to three different Targets (in Eugene, Springfield and Albany) and got some fantastic adult Halloween bee costumes. They were made of soft yellow and black velour with a definite pooched-pear shape, and hood with antennae.
Shades of SNL! Then she cut out the name of each Deadly Sin and ironed it on in black on the back yoke of the costume, similar to an athlete's shirt. Finally, each bee got a black artificial cattail to hold as their "stinger." ("I tried to figure out how to attach the cattails to their rears," Judy confessed,"but they kept looking like the bees were eliminating sharp objects.")

Judy had a special challenge as she was the one who portrayed Lust. How to do this without being vulgar? She found a brilliant solution: use a Mae West voice, wear black fishnet stockings, carry a bottle of toilet water (her pheremones) and spray it liberally, while waving a floral lei and trying to snag people with it. Bravo, Judy!

Each Bee took a turn describing himself/herself, after which I referred to the scriptures, describing the new, better way we can be, once we turn toward, follow and allow Jesus to begin to his work of deliverance and transformation in us. We used Peter Kreeft's taxonomy, from his book, Back to Virtue

Pride can be overcome by Poverty of Spirit (Matt. 5:3)
Envy can be was overcome by mourning (Matt. 5:4)
Anger can be overcome by meekness/peacemaking (Matt. 5:5; 5:9)
Sloth can be overcome by hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6)
Greed can be overcome by mercy (Matt. 5:7)
Lust can be overcome by purity of heart (Matt. 5:8)
Gluttony can be overcome by bearing persecution (Matt. 5:10)

I deliberately underscored Kreeft's distinction
between attitude but beatitude. That is, this new life Christ is working out in us is not about happiness (a subjective feeling, temporary and dependent on fortune) but about blessedness (an objective , permanent state dependent on God's grace and our choice). Makarios is properly translated as "blessed," not as "happy." Proof of this is that we can be blessed even when we are unhappy.

As each bee was confronted with their respective beatitude from Jesus' sermon, their stinger was plucked. They then slouched out the door, removed their costume, and rejoined the class. (Thanks, Rob, for that fine idea!) We sought in this way to visually underscore the inner transformation that Christ is working in us.

All in all, I think it worked beautifully for our kids (though in all honesty we had several visitors who, not being used to our highjinks, may have concluded we are absolutely crazy). I hope it didn't scare anyone away, and that it has whetted our kids' appetite for studying the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.

For more fun, see the Sept. 16, 2007 "Riddle" on The Happening.

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