Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Following "Jesus" Through Lent - Year B

As I enjoyed following The Wandering Wisemen (click here) during Advent, I began wondering if we might follow Jesus through Lent and even Easter.  What if a congregation found a doll/statue/picture of Jesus to move around the sanctuary during Lent?  On each Sunday the place it is located and maybe the props around it would relate to the gospel text or to gospel stories that connect to the gospel when the text is more abstract.  It could be done any year of the lectionary cycle.  Year A may have the best gospel stories for it.  Year C may be the most challenging.  But, Year B also has good possibilities.  So, I will include suggestions for this as I rework the Sundays of Lent for 2015.  I expect things will morph some as I/we work through the texts, but for now here is an overview of some of the possibilities:

Lent 1: Jesus is baptized and calls the fishing disciples
Lean “Jesus” on or around the baptismal font noting that this is where we all start out.  Then read or tell the brief stories of Jesus’ baptism and the calling of the first disciples.  Invite worshipers to dip fingers in the water of the font to remind themselves that they are baptized and called too.  (A good beginning to Lent for those who missed Ash Wednesday.)

Lent 2: Jesus predicts that he will suffer and calls others to take up a cross too
Place “Jesus” near a visible cross in your sanctuary.  With worshipers identify all the other crosses you can find in the room.  Then talk about what Jesus meant when he said, “take up your cross and follow me.” 
To tie onto the covenant with Abraham and Sarah, place Jesus near a globe and talk about all the places your congregation is being a blessing to people and/or pray for people all around the world.
Or, if you will be celebrating communion place “Jesus” on or around the Communion table.  Explain the way you remember Jesus in Communion.
If you read the Transfiguration story today, place Jesus in a high spot covered with the shiny translucent fabric that will cover him on Easter.  This gives us just a distant glimpse of who Jesus really is.

Lent 3: Jesus drives out the moneychangers
The obvious prop for “Jesus” on this day is the offering plate, but I’m not sure what to do with it.  To explore the significance of where those money changer’s tables were, put “Jesus” in a back corner of the sanctuary and read the scripture from there.  If your sanctuary ever had a slave balcony or other “second class worshiper area,” put “Jesus” there.  Tell its story and read the gospel from there.  

Lent 4: Jesus is lifted up for the healing of the world
Place “Jesus” with medical props (band-aids, a first aid kit, a stethoscope around his neck?).  Read the gospel comparing Jesus to the snake on the pole in Exodus for the adults, but illustrate it with stories in which Jesus healed people for the children AND tell stories about healing ministries today.

Lent 5: Jesus speaks of his coming death and Jeremiah promises a covenant written on our hearts
Sit “Jesus” on or near an open Bible. 
Or, if you have the freedom to swap texts, you could swap the texts for today with those for the second Sunday of Lent.  In this case, you place “Jesus” on the Communion Table and connect the meaning of Communion with “for this I came into the world.”

Palm/Passion Sunday
Surround “Jesus” with appropriate props for the day that you are celebrating or maybe add props as the stories for the day are told.  Lean him against a rough wooden cross to tell the children the Holy Week stories they will miss if they do not come back until Easter. 

Cover “Jesus” with shiny translucent fabric and place him near the most Easterish cross in the sanctuary or wrap him in the Alleluia that has been hidden during Lent.

                                Finding or making a "Jesus" figure

There are several possibilities I can see from here AND I know there are more out there.  Creativity is the key.  (If you send me a photo of your "Jesus," I'll post them all for our mutual benefit.)

Get an artistic person to create a free-standing figure (think really big paper doll) using plywood or foam core.  The figure here is from a creche, but I think it could be a Lenten “Jesus” if the staff were omitted and the facial hair were dark.  The figure is composed of a single piece head and body with each arm added on top of it.  This one is about four feet tall, but could easily be used as a pattern for either a larger or smaller "Jesus."

Put a puppet that could be Jesus over a pillar candle or some other stand that will keep it up right.  this one stands over a detergent bottle.  He could be a figure that is refered to or could tell his own stories each week.

If you have an appropriate Jesus doll or statue, use it.  There may a male crèche figure that could become Jesus, e.g. this Joseph. 

These figures for this block creche were made by gluing felt on 2x4s.  A similar figure of Jesus could be made on a bigger piece of wood.

A picture of Jesus displayed on an easel.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Instead of following “Jesus” around the sanctuary, send him home for Lent.
Give each household a Jesus figure to move around their home during Lent and at least one story and location suggestion for each week.  The figure could be rather like a Jesus paper doll with a simple stand (maybe floral oasis with a slit in it?).  It would be about 12 inchs tall.  At a Fat Tuesday Pancake Supper, Ash Wednesday service, or the first Sunday of Lent, households could work together to cut out the figure and color it or paste fabric clothes on it.  Readings and directions for simple home locations and props could be printed in a small booklet to go home or posted on the church website. 

*If anyone tries this, the rest of us would sure like to hear about it.  Post a comment with a link to your material. 

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

An After-Easter addition to save for another Lent: Janelle Hooper sent these pictures of the flat Jesus she and the children of her congregation followed.  Check in the Comments below for details about what she did each Sunday. 
For Transfiguration Sunday
For Ash Wednesday



  1. I love all of this, and especially the idea of sending Jesus home for Lent with story suggestions. It takes the hands-on-ness of the Advent wreath and moves it into Lent. No kiddos at home but I may do this myself.

  2. I'm thinking for Lent 1, since we're not focusing as much on the baptism, that our Jesus will be in an empty, barren spot representing the wilderness, and will be surrounded by "wild" stuffed animals and an angel or two to keep him safe.

  3. Carolyn Brown thank you for your fantastic idea for “Flat Jesus.” I started using "Flat Jesus" on Transfiguration Sunday temporarily sticking Jesus to the organ pipes. Talking about Jesus hanging out with his teachers Elijah and Moses and how our teachers guide us in life. Jesus was going to guide us through these next several Sundays in Lent.
    For Ash Wednesday, I put a sticky note with a black cross on his forehead. Explaining the ashes on our foreheads as a sign of needing help, tied to last years palm branches burned for ashes. Wearing ashes are like raising our hands asking for help. Even Jesus needed help on this difficult Lenten journey. Also that we can be that help in the world. I gave them small money collection boxes to take home to raise money for our sister synod in Peru.
    Lenten Week 1 Year B is Jesus’ baptism so had “Flat Jesus” leaning against the font. We talked about God calling Jesus “Beloved,” and that’s a special name Jesus has for us too. Each kid put their finger in the font and traced the cross on their own forehead as we said out loud “I’m a beloved child of God.”
    Lenten Week 2 Year B is about the prediction of Jesus’ suffering which I didn’t deal with directly. Instead I kept “Flat Jesus” by the font and we talked about Lenten disciplines. I gave them a handout of the 5 Finger Prayer and we practiced it together.
    Lenten Week 3 Year B is the cleansing of the temple. I gave one kid a $1 bill and another kid a $10 bill. Then we role played. I said to the $1 kid that they needed to make an offering, but $1 wasn’t enough, they needed two. Then same to the $10 kid/$20. Said it wasn’t fair to ask for more than we have, but it is fair of God to ask us to give of ourselves; sometimes money, canned goods etc. and that we are enough for God.
    Lenten Week 4 Year B is about Jesus as our salvation. I talked about salvation in terms of healing and brought out a medical kit, reviewing what was in the kit to help with our physical healing. I mentioned anointing oil as sign of Jesus spiritual healing of our hearts. I put oil on each kid’s forehead, blessing them by saying “NAME you are healed and loved in Jesus’ name.” Then they all get a little oil on their fingers and anointed my head repeating my prompts.
    Lenten Week 5 Year B is about our baptismal calling us to follow Jesus. So I carried Jesus in front of me we followed Jesus up and down the aisle: walking forwards, then sideways... then followed Jesus as if we were mowing the lawn. I talked about how one way we can follow Jesus is by taking care of our ground and mowing the lawn. Then the kids circled the font. And our lawn team came up and circled the kids and the font and we prayed over their ministry.
    Palm Sunday Year B I held Jesus high in front in our processional while the kids sang “Hosanna” as we processed in. Then “Flat Jesus” was placed in front of the altar. We talked about how Hosanna means “help us.” So we laid our palm branches before Jesus as a way of asking for help. We asked Jesus to help us help others. I handed out more collection boxes for our sister synod in Peru asking them to put them in the offering plate for Easter. And shouted Hosanna a few more times.
    Easter Year B When Mary Magdalene saw Jesus in the garden alive and Jesus knew her name and she knew him-- it changed her life. She went on to tell everyone about Jesus’ life changing love. Even bravely went to the Roman Emperor Ceasar. She talked about her experience of Jesus alive in the garden. The Emperor didn’t believe her, even made fun of her saying that wasn’t any more possible than if a white egg turned red. Then the egg turned red in Mary’s hand! (I have a red plastic egg, hard to come by!) WIll hand them one filled easter egg (not red) inviting them to Easter Egg hunt after service. And encouraging them to be brave like Mary and tell people of Jesus’ love. *by Pastor Janelle Rozek Hooper, Program Director for Ministry with Children for the ELCA and Pastor St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Texas.

  4. I used this through Lent this year, using a framed picture of Jesus. I followed your ideas for the most part. The children and the adults enjoyed trying to spot Jesus. One Sunday I was away and the supply preacher forgot to use the picture for the Learning Together time - and the adults were looking for it! One of the ushers came across the picture stashed behind the pulpit and announced to the congregation "I Found Jesus!" On Palm Sunday the children did a play about the Gospel story, and the child speaking Jesus' part carried the picture in the procession. On Good Friday I draped his picture in a back lace shawl and placed it by the cross with a crown of thorns, some silver coins, a length of chain and the tenebrae candles we use each Lent. Unforunately, I was so busy Easter Sunday I forgot to put Jesus at the front (oh, there's a metaphor!) with the white and silver cloth I had found at a thrift store. Thank-you for all your wonderful ideas.


Click on Comments below to leave a message or share an idea