Alison Faison

Making Room for Lent and Easter

Walking with children through the dramatic stories of Holy Week can be exhausting, but also connective. The book, Make Room: A Child’s Guide to Lent and Easter written by Laura Alary and illustrated by Ann Boyajian, walks adults and young children through the first Sunday of Lent all the way through the tough events of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and ends in the glory of the Easter story. She frames each event in terms of making space: in the Kingdom of God, in our hearts, houses, tables, and more. She addressed the people who did not want to make space for Jesus or his welcoming and just ways. When reading the Lenten story with 2nd graders or older, jump directly into the gospels in the bible. If you don’t have access to a bible, check biblegateway.com and locate the CEV or Contemporary English Version for readability. It is good to navigate the chapters and verses with your child, so that they understand how to find passages in the bible. Start your reading journey on the first Sunday in Lent and explore until Easter Sunday.

We start Holy Week on joyous Palm Sunday when children wave palms and shout, “Hosanna! Save us now!” Adults know the dramatic irony that not all will welcome Jesus into Jerusalem during Holy Week. Children linger in the hope of the present moment. Jesus, riding on a donkey, is the one to be celebrated. Laura Alary asks, “I wonder who they thought Jesus was? I wonder what they hoped he would do for them?” Then we move into the trials that Jesus faces during the week. During Passover, Jesus invites his disciples to share a Last Supper as well as enjoy a loving gesture of washing the feet. Alary writes, “He [Jesus] pours himself out like water from a pitcher. He touches what is dirty and hurting and makes it clean and whole.” He reminds his beloved friends that he will always be with them in spirit. Then Jesus’ friends fall asleep and fail to protect him while in the garden. Jesus is taken away by soldiers. Good Friday scares us by its violence and saddens us by its sense of finality in Jesus’ death on the cross. Alary writes, “The cross is draped in black. The church is not dressed in purple anymore. It is bare and sad and full of shadows. Outside on the street I head people laughing and talking. It seems wrong. Don’t they know what has happened to Jesus?” On Holy Saturday we wait, make room, and wonder what it felt like on that early Easter morning for the women to find the stone rolled away from the tomb and Jesus raised from the dead. Alary exclaims, “Hallelujah! Jesus is risen! The colors of the sunrise spill over and splash into our church. Everywhere there are flowers and green leaves, beautiful banners and bright sunlight. The shadows are gone. Lent is over.”

Let us make room according to Matthew 25: feed the hungry, provide company to the lonely, and help those who are in unjust situations or have left prison. Calvary Presbyterian Church, along with a host of other interfaith houses of worship, is a Matthew 25 church as well as a Sanctuary church. We believe in connecting directly with people who want assistance, accompaniment, and acceptance. It is our calling to serve inside and outside of the walls of the church just like Jesus did in his walks through towns and cities. Let us make space in our lives by making it simpler if possible. Let us acknowledge things that we think are preventing us from connecting with God even though God is always present. Let us experience the joy of sharing with others and the peace of spending time alone in self-care.

More to Explore

100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation

The next time you are at childcare or Sunday Studio, please pick up a free copy of Rebecca Kirkpatrick’s book 100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation. This book focuses on the practice of planting the seed of faith, feeding the soil of each child’s soul, and watching children and youth grow. We want them to know the oral tradition roots that originate with the Israelite People, the Gospels that tell the life of Jesus, the acts of Jesus’ followers, and the liturgical seasons of the church starting with Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.

How to safely intervene when someone is targeted by violence.

How does supporting a targeted person relate to church and being in relationship with others in a Christ-like way? Wherever humans are, divisions can be created. Like Jesus, we need to know how to show up, de-escalate, be present, ask for help, ignore attackers, respect targeted people, and then have the courage to follow up with the situation until it is addressed and supported. People of all races, genders, religions, and economic status are targeted, but we know that black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQI+ people, as well as those experiencing poverty are most often targeted by attackers. How did Jesus show up for children, tax collectors, sex workers, widows, and everyday folks? Jesus took accountability by sitting and eating next to people, as well as walking with them. That seems easy enough, but our society's actions show us stories filled with the bystander effect or the phenomena of nobody acting even when they are watching violence in front of them.

How to talk with someone experiencing mental health challenges.

“‘How are you showing up today?’ That’s a language we use a lot,” Thomas-Bush said. “As a person of faith, how are we going to show up loving our neighbor, loving ourselves?” Thomas -Bush works with youth at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. This youth group was featured in Our kids and mental health, an April 20, 2022 article in Presbyterians Today. “In 2019, more than 1 in 3 students indicated they persistently felt sad or hopeless, an 11% increase over 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report, 2009–2019. The report also showed that 16% of students made a suicide plan.” We cannot ignore youth, this data or assume that youth will get help on their own. Most adults suffering with mental health challenges do not reach out for help. It is important that we notice behavior changes that go beyond typical age-appropriate developmental behaviors and check in with the person. Parents, adults, youth leaders, and teen peers are realizing that listening without judgment, as well as asking direct questions can be the needed openers for someone to safely share their mental health challenges and then get the resources that they want.