On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?" 18 He said, "Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, 'The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.'" 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal. 20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21 and while they were eating, he said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me." 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, "Surely not I, Lord?" 23 He answered, "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born." 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, "Surely not I, Rabbi?" He replied, "You have said so." 26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
We gave the 5th and 6th graders of the Virginia Synod more than they bargained two weekends ago at our Seventh Day retreat - our overnight faith formation event for youth of that age. Our theme involved the story of the Last Supper, which has as its centerpiece the Jewish Passover meal, which in turn looks back to the escape of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery (The Exodus), and which also looks forward to the Christian meal of Holy Communion. For an age group that functions best with strong, tangible, unified, real-time images and stories, this multiple overlay of symbolic and abstract reference points was undoubtedly a little much to take in. But - as with all of our youth events - it was the youth on the planning group themselves who told us it would work, so we went with it! These gifted kids acted out a very convincing version of an imaginary conversation at the Last Supper, where Jesus has to explain the meaning of the various Passover foods to the disciples. (It was all set, incidentally, against a backdrop of DaVinci's "Last Supper" with Jesus and three disciples missing, which you should have seen - it was pretty impressive!)
I liked that the Planning Group's skit had Jesus needing to explain everything to the disciples, because it reminds us that they really did not understand what was going on, and we shouldn't expect ourselves to fully "understand" it either. Seventh Day is set up so that the youth encounter these biblical stories more through experience than through learning, so we have them sing songs about the passages, construct crafts about the passages, play games inspired by the passage themes, and join in live stories about the passages. It doesn't always happen, but our goal is for our youth to leave Seventh Day having had a full-body experience of one piece of scripture.
Lent is like that too, and we who resist or dismiss the physical aspects of the Lenten discipline - fasting and other sacrifice, extra experiences of worship, extra engagement with the poor, and so on - can find ourselves missing out on one of the great opportunities in the church year to come to a new understanding of the call to discipleship and the God who calls us.
Seventh Day is barely 24-hours long (Saturday 1:00 to Sunday 1:00), and yet it is still plenty of time for our youth to internalize some pretty powerful messages about the great heritage of our faith. There are still three weeks left in Lent, so if you have delayed your Lenten discipline this year, it is by no means too late to start! Blessings on your journey!