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[PYCL: Share examples of heaven right here! Make room to value spiritual sense. (2, 3)]

Possible Younger Class Lesson ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

“Probation after Death”
for October 28, 2018

by Kerry Jenkins, CS of House Springs, MO
Kerry.helen.jenkins@gmail.com (314) 406-0041

Pycl #1: We are entering a series of Bible lessons that address theological or doctrinal beliefs that many Christian people commonly accept as true. If you are teaching children that are old enough to process this, it is helpful to understand a little of the reasoning behind why we address these beliefs, especially if your class has no other background in Christianity than Christian Science. The reason, as I see it, is that it is really wonderful to feel connected with greater Christianity and it helps to keep us from growing up in a "culty" feeling atmosphere. We know that we are not a cult, but understanding some of the ways in which we fit into Christianity more broadly is a help in keeping that clear.

What does probation mean? How do we use it today? It's like a testing period, in which we are being watched to see how we are doing, how our behavior is measuring up. In Christian Science we don't have a set of beliefs about a process that man goes through after death. Why not? This is the crux of the lesson this week! What happens when we don't buy into the idea of death as a process that takes us "somewhere"? What happens if we believe the true man, the man of God's creating, is spiritual, and not subject to death at all? This conversation needs to be tempered so that children understand that there is a spiritual sense to be engaged… The lesson this week is beautifully illustrative of this fact! Starting with the Golden Text, we see that while man is challenged with the suggestions of darkness (sin, sickness, death itself, depression etc.), we can go through these challenges with a sense of God's tender presence, and without fear—and come out on the "other side", that is recognizing the presence of divine joy and Life.

Pycl #2: With the very young, I would approach this subject more along the lines of God's tender love and presence in our lives no matter what things sometimes look like. Then pick some generally obvious illusions…the sun coming up/going down—railroad tracks meeting in the distance—water mirages on a hot summer road. These can illustrate the way it looks like people are gone forever when they pass on. (You don't have to bring up death at all, may not be appropriate, depending on the kids in your class.) These illusions are illustrative of the way our senses fool us into thinking a lot of things that are not true.

Would God ever put us through a test to see if we are worthy of heaven? When something bad happens, is that God testing us? Is heaven somewhere we go after we die? Can we experience heaven here? What does Jesus say about this? What is life? Is it material existence? Can you come up with examples of heaven right here? I often point out times when we are experiencing "heaven" on a regular day with my boys. It is really good to be aware of heaven as it appears!! Then we aren't waiting around for it!! Make a list together of all the ways we see heaven daily. How can we see it more?

Pycl #3: There is a lot of beautiful symbolism in the lesson this week. Find several examples and ask the students if they know what is meant by some of these statements. The Golden Text is a Good News Translation of part of the 23rd Psalm. What does the Psalmist mean by "deepest darkness". (This seems obvious to us, but not to children necessarily.) What about passing through "waters" (Responsive Reading), fire and not being burned, and so on?

Think about the "vestibule" in the Section 1, in the definition of wilderness. What about the symbol of the woman setting up a room for the prophet Elisha? Is this like today, making room in our thought to recognize and value prophetic thought or spiritual good, when it comes, the kingdom of heaven…? Do we want to prepare such a place in our day, our lives, to entertain spiritual thinking—give such thinking a place to grow, prosper, be fed?

What about the symbolism of "vesture" in Section 4? Mary Baker Eddy shares her thoughts on this in citation S19. Since we are talking about what real life is in this week's lesson, we see here that it includes a wholeness that matter cannot represent or be. Jesus showed us how to live in a complete, perfect, way. His example was not a series of creeds or rituals, but an outpouring of healing love. Theology sometimes seeks to break Jesus' mission into rituals, or acts that we have to do to show our Christianity.

The entirety of Jesus’ mission is best expressed in action. We might share this with children like this: "If you love your mom/dad, how might they best feel that love? Is it by telling them fervently? Is it by once a week writing them a note? Probably not." Maybe, after considering this question, they can make a list of ways that they can best show that they love Jesus? This might sound too "Jesusy" for some, but our love of Jesus shouldn't be shied away from because of language! (Incidentally, this is a major complaint about Christian Scientists from other mainstream Christians; we are uncomfortable "stating" our love for Jesus. It appears to others that we think of him as just a really wonderful guy, and not the savior that the Bible speaks of. While we understand that our love is best expressed in deeds, it also doesn't hurt to speak of it in ways that others understand.)

And one more symbol (there are others of course!)—how about the "grave"? Where is a grave? Generally, below ground—not so much in Jesus' time—but buried right? Mary Baker Eddy says in citation S27 that we can bury the false, corporeal sense of life. But burial can also symbolize "submergence in Spirit"! Let's go ahead and put the false sense of man "out of sight and hearing"… and bury or submerge ourselves better in a right sense of life eternal/spiritual life! (This can be done in a very young class by bringing a tub with something like feed corn and having the children "bury" bad or mortal thoughts that you represent on paper or as small stones.)

Pycl #4: In citation S28 Mary Baker Eddy talks about the "higher view". Can the students think about how a higher view reveals more of the landscape? They might stand on a chair and see if more of the room is visible to them, if your Sunday School is designed this way and big enough. When we "rise above the testimony of the material senses" we are seeing this higher spiritual view that is accurate.

If you live near mountains, or your students have climbed in a mountain range, you can think about the view when you get all the way to the top. You might get some partial views, and false peaks, but not until you reach the highest point do you get the clearest sense of the land around you. This is how it is when we really recognize the goodness of God's presence no matter what things look like to us. In the same way, we can struggle to make sense out of bad things that happen, or we can put the effort into lifting our thought (climbing to the real peak), and finding the truest view of reality. This view always reveals a good God, and a good man.

Pycl #5: Real living is living now. Sounds silly to say that, but look at citation B16. Here we see that we are not waiting for some future time, maybe after death, to "walk with the Lord." Jesus showed us (so did prophets), how to walk with God each day. This is our "testing", if there is such a thing at all. It is our daily walking with God. Maybe you could share some ideas about how we "walk with God" in our day. How can we do this more regularly? Does God ever walk somewhere else? Why might it seem like that sometimes?

Have a great week in Sunday School!!

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