Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

Gleanings from a Book: “The Suitcase” by Jane G. Meyer

Orthodox Christian author Jane G. Meyer has written a new picture book called “The Suitcase: a Story about Giving.” The book was illustrated by Chiara Pasqualotto. It is the story of Thomas, a boy who may be autistic but does not let his challenges keep him from being an active participant – even a leader – in entering the Kingdom of God while bringing others with him. Any reader, regardless of age, will be challenged to find ways to make God’s Kingdom happen in the world around them after meeting Thomas through this book.

Here is a brief summary and review of the book:

Thomas is like clockwork. He is so precise with his preferred activities that you can almost predict what he will do each day. So, when he randomly shows up at the family supper table one night with a suitcase, declaring that he intends to leave for the Kingdom of Heaven, it catches everyone’s attention, for this is far from his routine! With his family’s love and support, Thomas shares his plan, showing his family (and the reader) each item that he has packed and explaining why he has packed it. As he does so, Thomas unknowingly reveals how carefully he has been paying attention to teachings about the Faith, and unveils his commitment to following Christ, even though it means stepping away from his beloved routines.

The colorful watercolor illustrations in this picture book are gently realistic. They invite the reader to feel comfortable in Thomas’ home and with his family. There is just enough detail to illustrate the story in an orderly manner, just as Thomas likes his world to be organized. (There is also just enough missing in each illustration to leave room for the reader’s imagination, inciting curiosity.)

“The Suitcase” is full of scriptural references. The reader can’t help but try to make connections: What was Thomas thinking about when he packed this item? Where did he hear about that one? Where can I learn more about it?!? Parents and teachers will find in “The Suitcase” more than just a lovely story. They will find in it an opportunity to delve into the scriptures with their children, to ensure that they know the source of each of the contents in Thomas’ wonderful suitcase.

Readers of all ages will be challenged to think beyond their own routines, consider what they should be “packing” in their own suitcase, and then reach out into the Kingdom of Heaven by finding ways to love and serve all those around them. The resource page at the end offers an excellent place to begin!

“The Suitcase” will be a welcome addition to any Orthodox Christian library, and can easily be incorporated into a Sunday Church School class lesson or even a series of lessons. It could be the starting place for a series of lessons about the Kingdom of God and how we can make it happen right where we are! The book also provides an opportunity for Sunday Church School students to see through the eyes of a person living with autism, so it could be included in a series of lessons about different challenges that people face and how we need to embrace our own challenges while loving others with different challenges as we journey together towards God’s Kingdom.

Note: the author of this review was given a reading copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. Visit http://www.paracletepress.com/Products/7763/the-suitcase.aspx to order your own copy of the book.

Here are some other ways that you can help your Sunday Church School students to learn through the book “The Suitcase:”

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Read author Jane G. Meyer’s take on “The Suitcase,” including why she wrote the book, here: http://www.janegmeyer.com/books/the-suitcase/

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Take time to investigate the scripture passages that are alluded to in “The Suitcase.” You could incorporate them all into the same lesson, or have a series of lessons introduced after reading the book. Scriptural allusions include:

Feeding the hungry (Matthew 25:35)

Clothing the naked (Matthew 25:36)

Giving to those in need (Deuteronomy 15:11)

Being a good servant (Matthew 25:21)

Praying for the world (James 5:16)

Having Faith like a mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32; 17:20)

Talking less and listening more (James 1:19)

Entertaining angels (Hebrews 13:2)

Keeping ourselves pure (James 1:27)

Building things if God tells us to do so (Genesis 6:14-22)

The pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45-46)

The hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44)

Submitting to others (for example, allowing children to lead us) (Ephesians 5:17-21)

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Spend some time focusing on the Kingdom of Heaven as revealed in Christ’s parables. Read the parables with your students. Talk about them together. Here are two printable activity pages you could include in your study if your students enjoy such challenges:

Invite your students to seek and find words related to Christ’s parables about the Kingdom of Heaven in this printable word search: http://www.biblewise.com/kids/fun/hidden-word-kingdom-heaven

They can decipher this related verse, as well: http://www.biblewise.com/kids/fun/break-code-kingdom.php

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Find ideas of ways to teach younger students about Christ’s parables about the Kingdom of Heaven, as well as craft suggestions, here: http://adventuresinmommydom.org/parables-of-heaven-activities/

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“[The Suitcase] is the book I wanted…  when we were doing our HUGS-based lessons. The goal was to teach the children Christ’s words, ‘Do it to the least of these my brethren and you do it to Me’ (Matthew 25:40).” Read more of this mother/teacher’s review of “The Suitcase” in her blog post here: http://orthodoxmothersdigest.blogspot.com/2017/03/book-review-suitcase-by-jane-g-meyer.html

And find more about the HUGS program (including links to lesson ideas for each age level), which is a natural step to take with your students after reading “The Suitcase” here: https://orthodoxchurchschoolteachers.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/hugs-hands-used-for-gods-service/

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This TED talk by Roger Antonsen (https://www.ted.com/talks/roger_antonsen_math_is_the_hidden_secret_to_understanding_the_world) explores the relationships in math and science, and what they teach us about perspective. When we shift our perspective, we learn more about the world around us. What we learn from math and science can be applied to our life as we interact with others. Consider this: “When I view the world from your perspective, I have empathy with you. If I really truly understand what the world looks like from your perspective, I am empathetic. That requires imagination and that is how we obtain understanding… Understanding something really deeply has to do with the ability to change your perspective. So my advice to you is, ‘try to change your perspective!’”

The talk could be an excellent way to extend the concept of stepping outside of your comfort zone (as demonstrated by Thomas in “The Suitcase”) in a discussion with teens. (Yes, it is possible to share a picture book with teens! Especially if they have a reason for listening to it!) Consider showing them the TED talk, then inviting them to think of how it relates to “The Suitcase” and share the book with them. THEN launch into a discussion of how the two relate, and how to apply the concept of changing our perspective, empathizing with others, and finding ways to serve them!

 

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On the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom Come”

What are we really saying when we pray, “Thy kingdom come?”

It will help us to begin thinking about this question by remembering what a kingdom is. A kingdom is a realm where a king is the ruler. So, God’s kingdom is where He is ruling; where He is in charge.

But, what is God’s kingdom? There are several ways we can look at it. We can certainly think of God’s kingdom as the place where He is already ruling perfectly: Heaven. We could also think of His kingdom as the age to come, when He returns to earth with power and glory, to rule and reign. Both of those focus on a time and place beyond us, where God rules. However, there is a third place where God’s kingdom can exist that is much more personal, and should be coming right now. This third place is in our very lives. When we are living as we should, God is ruling our life, and His kingdom comes in our life and impacts everyone around us!

So, when we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we are not just looking forward to experiencing His kingdom in heaven, where He rules perfectly, or referencing His return to rule the earth. Both of those aspects of God’s kingdom are real and important. Besides those, however, we are also asking that He enable us to live our life in such a way that He rules over it, changing us and blessing those around us through His kingdom, come, in our life..

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On the phrase “Thy kingdom come:” “This line is not merely an observation that Christ will return, but is another call to action:  when we say Thy Kingdom come, we are inviting the Kingdom in!  Our native Greek speakers recognize this immediately, and had to explain to the English speakers that this is an invitation, like ‘Come, dear Kingdom!’  We are inviting the Lord to reign over us, asking to be made His servants.  We invite servitude, that we might carry the Kingdom in our hearts.  More than recognizing that the Kingdom will be here eventually, we are asking to become a part of the Kingdom today.” ~ https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/raisingsaints/teaching-lords-prayer/

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“To pray that this kingdom [God’s kingdom] comes continually and eternally into being is no small matter… as we know from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, our entry into this kingdom is dearly purchased and radically achieved… Citizenship in this kingdom supercedes all others.” Fr. Apostolos, http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/rain/the_lords_prayer_part_two

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“We want to be part of that kingdom of God’s friends on earth. When we receive Holy Communion and participate in the other sacraments, it shows that we love and accept God as our king. It shows we want to try to live according to His law.” ~ “The Lord’s Prayer,” “Little Falcons,” issue #39, available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf

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“Indeed, what are we praying for when we pronounce these absolutely unique words, ‘Thy kingdom come?’ Above all, of course, we pray that this encounter may take place now, here, and today, in the present circumstances… Furthermore, we desire that the whole world, which so evidently lies in evil and longing, in fear and in striving, would see and receive this light… We pray also that God would help us not to betray this kingdom… and that finally, this kingdom of God would come in power, as Christ says.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” pp. 40-41

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“In a sense it isn’t even a prayer, rather it is the heartbeat of anyone who has at least once in his life seen, felt, loved the light and joy of God’s kingdom and who knows that it is the beginning, the content, and the fulfillment of everything which lives.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” pp. 41-42

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Idea: Read this parable about God’s kingdom (http://www.kidssundayschool.com/478/gradeschool/at-the-carnival.php) with elementary-aged children. Together discuss the parable, and how it compares to God’s kingdom. In what ways does the parable explain the Kingdom well? How does it fall short?

Older children can look up the following parables that Jesus told. Each parable talks about God’s kingdom. As you read each one, discuss what Jesus was teaching about God’s kingdom, through the parable. Here are the parables, with a somewhat descriptive name and where they are found in the Gospels: The Hidden Treasure (Matt. 13:44); The Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13: 45-46); Household Treasures (Matt. 13:52); Leaven/Yeast (Matt. 13:33 and Luke 13:18-19); Scattered Seed That Grows (Mark 4:26-29); The Fishing Net (Matthew 13:47-50).

The Creed: And He Shall Come Again with Glory to Judge the Living and the Dead, Whose Kingdom Shall Have No End

Jesus came into the world not to condemn it, but rather to restore it. He came to reunite us with God. By living on Earth as a man, He showed us the path to God; and by His death and Resurrection, He opened the gates of heaven for us. the path to salvation is clear: we are to imitate Christ, having compassion, especially for the lowly, with whom Jesus chose to be numbered. “…Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

“The very presence of Christ as the Truth and the Light is itself the judgement of the world. In this sense all men and the whole world are already judged, or more accurately, already live in the full presence of that reality — Christ and His works — by which they will be ultimately judged. With Christ now revealed, there is no longer any excuse for ignorance and sin.” (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 111)

What will happen at the end of the world? All will be raised from the dead and placed in the presence of God. If our lives were lived in union with God, the presence of God will be paradise. If we opposed God and lived for our own selfish desires, the presence of God will be hell.

“The Kingdom of God as a spiritual, divine reality is given to men by Christ in the Church. It is celebrated and participated in the sacramental mysteries of the Faith. It is witnessed to in the scriptures, the councils, the canons and the saints. It will become the universal, final cosmic reality for the whole of creation at the end of the ages when Christ comes in glory to fill all things with Himself by the Holy Spirit, that God might be ‘all and in all.’ “ (Hopko, “Doctrine,” p. 117)

Try this:
Think together about death and about how to be prepared for Christ’s judgement “of the living and the dead” when that judgement happens. Begin by remembering. Look at photos of family members and/or friends who have departed this life. Talk about these people, how they impacted your life, and how/why you miss them. Then discuss the following questions: “ What happens when we die?” (We believe that when we die we await the general resurrection and receive a foretaste of heaven or hell, as our life has determined.) During this discussion, remind each other that these beloved people who have preceded us in death are already waiting for the general resurrection. Then ask, “Have you ever thought about your eventual death?”

Then talk about this: The Church Fathers taught there are two paths through life: the way of darkness and the way of light. We choose our path. Whatever circumstances and decisions we encounter on our journey, we know that we are not alone. The saints who we see on icons are already in the presence of God. As we travel the path to eternity, they are good company for us on the way. Also, Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would give us wisdom and understanding. As our Savior traveled with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, He Himself travels with us now, on our journey into eternity. Talk about ways to choose the way of light. “What can we do today, right now, that will show that we are choosing the way of light? Who can we ask to help us?” Pray together, asking the Holy Spirit to guide you and the saints to pray for your salvation.