Saturday, March 19, 2016

Holy Week in Kindergarten

How do you go about explaining the story of Easter to littles? What do I say? How can I explain the horrific atrocities of the cross without scarring their little minds with nightmares? How do I explain in words the greatest miracle that ever took place, the resurrection, when I can’t truly understand it either? Welcome to holy week in kindergarten. 

The Bible is a deeply treasured book in our kindergarten class. I never really plan out what I’m going to say when I tell them Bible stories. I pray that God will speak through me and He does! Oh does He! It has gotten to the point that when I just reach for where the Bible is kept, by my big teacher chair, I can hear excited whispers of, “Oh! The Bible!” or “Bible stories are the best!” or “I love it when you read the Bible to us!” That is not me, folks! That’s all God.

Anyway, as we enter Holy week in kindergarten, we have already talked through the triumphal entry and waved our construction paper palm branches as we shout (high-pitched screams would be more accurate), “Hosanna!” in chapel.

The kiddos have wrinkled their noses in disgust at the thought of Jesus washing the caked mud off of His disciples feet at the last supper and nodded their heads in understanding that we need to serve others because if Jesus can do it, we should to (although they’re still not sure about washing someone’s feet…they have however agreed to put pencils out for me and help their friends up when they fall down).

We’ve listened to the sound of 30 pieces of silver (or 3 dimes as it were) jingling and wondered how Judas could betray His dearest friend for those clinking coins.

I’ve gotten down on my knees in front of the class and recounted in kindergarten words what Jesus’ prayer in the garden might have sounded like: “Daddy! Daddy, I don’t want to do this anymore. It’s going to hurt too much. Mean people are going to hurt me. They’re going to say mean things to me. They’re going to spit in my face. Isn’t there some other way we can save all these people that won’t hurt so much? But Daddy, if there’s no other way, then I will do it!”

We’ve looked at the nails…I skip over the flogging, the crown of thorns, the cat-of-nine-tails, a lot of the agony because there will be time enough to read about that later when they can read themselves (their eyes are getting big enough as it is what with the spitting and hitting and name-calling because those are things that a kindergartener understands)…but I cannot skip over those nails. Of course I’m showing them the little inch long nails that I might hang a picture with, but it doesn’t matter. Nails are nails and my littles know that nails are not supposed to go into hands and feet no matter what length. I once asked the kids why we point to our hands when we say “Jesus” in sign language and a kindergartner said in all sincerity, “because that’s where Jesus got poked by the nails.” Yes…where Jesus got poked.

I explain about the two men crucified on either side of Jesus, bad men who had done bad things and deserved to be there, unlike our Jesus. The kindergartners nod in understanding after I explain that one of those men realized right there on his cross who Jesus really was and got to go live in Heaven with Jesus forever that day; and I pray that they won’t forget, as so many adults do, that Jesus will forgive us no matter what we’ve done and no matter how late we are in asking forgiveness.

I turn the lights off in our classroom to show the darkness that fell over the sun while Jesus was on the cross and I pull out a little square of cloth to represent the thick curtain in the temple that separated the people from the holy of holies. They always gasp when I rip the cloth in half (they never see that one coming) just as the curtain ripped from top to bottom when Jesus took His last breath.

We actually talked through all these snippets of the story last week as we prepared for Holy Week and that part about Jesus taking his last breath was where we ended the story last week because the weekend came. I told my littles that it hurts my heart to leave the story there, with Jesus taking his last breath before dying, but then I leaned in closer and whispered, “but you know how it’s going to end, right?” They all vigorously nodded their heads and smiled as they were snapped out of the sad story we had seemingly been a part of for the last ten minutes. “It has a happy ending,” I continue to whisper, and they whisper back, “We know, Miss Kirchner, He comes back to life!” What relief there is in knowing the ending.

So as we begin Holy week, I am so relieved that I know how the story ends. My littles and I can endure the ugliness of the story because we know how it’s going to end. How terrible would it have been to be one of the disciples on that Friday and Saturday who didn’t know that joy was just on the horizon. There are still so many people today who don’t know the ending…and they need to. I know we don’t normally encourage telling how a story ends, but in this case, I think it’s ok. I can’t wait to get to the part with my kindergartners about the stone being rolled away and the angels and Jesus eating with His disciples again, but I can’t get to that part until we wade though the ugliness of the slaps, the mean words, the spit, the blood, the nails…and I just can’t make it though that part without knowing that the happy ending is on it’s way. And thankfully in kindergarten, we do know. So as we embark on the hard, ugly, painful next couple of days as we remember what Jesus went through for us, know that victory is on its way. Jesus is alive!

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