Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On the lookout for a good story book to read in worship?

Jesus the Word by Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones, is a poetically worded, beautifully illustrated restatement of John’s Prologue (specifically John 1:1-4, 14).  It begins describing the Word creating the world and telling us “I will set you free.  I won’t let you be anything but holy, good and free.”  Then it says the Word “became a child born of a woman named Mary.  The Word was Jesus!”  The following pages recount what Jesus did repeating the Word’s promise “I will set you free.  I won’t let you be anything but holy, good and free.”  In three pages it says “But some people turned their backs on Jesus, the Word.  They did not listen.  They did not believe in him.  They judged him.  They nailed him to a tree.  Jesus, the Word, died and was buried.  But on the third day, Jesus, the Word, rose from the dead.”  Finally, it insists that the Word is still with us and closes with the Word’s promise, “I will set you free.  I won’t let you be anything by holy, good and free.”  

I almost didn’t tell you the story in the detail above because it looks rather bland in black and white prose.  In the book it is presented in poetry spread across lavishly illustrated pages.  It can be read meditatively in just under five minutes.  If you use projection in worship, you might follow the lead of a seminary professor friend who scans beautiful children’s books to project in worship having (1) purchased a copy of the book herself and (2) disciplining herself not to loan the scanned version to ANYONE, not even her desperate best teaching friend.  She feels this honors the copyright and makes the book easier to share in the sanctuary.

Read this book in worship to answer the questions “who is Jesus?” and “why was the baby Jesus so special?”  Because it uses poetic images, it is more easily caught by elementary school children than by preschoolers.  I would probably introduce it as one beautiful attempt to answer the two questions, read it thoughtfully, close and hug the book, and discipline myself not to “explain it.”   It could be read in place of John’s prologue, as a children’s sermon, or within the “real” sermon. 

BTW, many of the preachers in my lectionary study group have been trained that Christmas Eve/Day is a chance to present the whole gospel in a kernel to people who will not hear it again until Easter.  Reading this book might be a good way to do that for worshipers for all ages.

Finally, go to Christmas Storybooks to Read in Worship for a LONG list of children’s books to read in worship during Advent and Christmas.

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