Friday, May 29, 2009

Sunday School - the law and sacrifices (5) sacrifice

It all came together this week.

The endless laws. The fiddly rules about what's clean or unclean. The holy God living in his royal tent among his people, an ever-present blessing and ever-present threat. A tabernacle you can't even set foot in if you're unclean. A holy God you can't approach, sinful creature that you are, without being burnt to a fritter.

Then suddenly, there is sacrifice. Sin paid for. Death removed. Anger turned aside. Uncleanness cleansed. Forgiveness granted. Suddenly, the two halves come together - the holy, sinless God and unclean, sinful humans - and there is peace.

The kids and I have learned a huge amount this term. My view of God feels stretched and deepened and challenged. But it was lovely to reach the safe harbour of God's atoning, forgiving love.

I wasn't sure how graphic to be in my description of sacrifices. With a bunch of tough-minded 8 year old boys, you'd probably lay it on thick: the spurting blood, the lowing of frightened cows, the dismembered carcases, the smell of smoke and cooked meat and blood.

You see, the tabernacle was no cathedral, all stillness and echoing silences. It was an abattoir, a charnel house, a constant, unforgettable reminder of the cost of sin.

I took along one of my 8 year old son's beloved stuffed toys, a woolly lamb. I talked about the process of sacrifice (Lev 1-7):

  • you brought one of your own precious animals from your flock to the tabernacle (sacrifice had to be personal, to cost something)
  • you chose a perfect animal, without defects (or it would be dying for its own faults, not yours)
  • you put your hands on the animal's head (to show that your sins were taken off you and put on the animal)
  • you killed and cut up the animal with your own hands (a vivid reminder of the punishment you deserved)
  • the priest laid the pieces on the altar (like a giant BBQ!) and burned them (giving off a "soothing aroma" to quell God's anger against sin)

The eyes of the 6 year old girl on my right got bigger and rounder as she listened to me. My son asked to hold his woolly lamb, I think to reassure himself that it was okay.

Although I did lay my hands on the lamb's head, I decided that now was not the time to demonstrate throat-cutting (with a butter knife) or to go into graphic details (although this would make a wonderful drama or re-enactment if you were so inclined)! Perhaps with another audience I might have done so, but not with this one.

Still, I think they understood:

  • when we disobey God, we deserve death
  • God is fair, so someone has to die
  • the perfect lamb dies instead of us

We talked about big words like "atonement", which means "propitiation" (turning away anger*) and "ransom" (paying the price for a life**), and "substitution" (dying in someone's place). With an older audience, I would have spent more time on this, perhaps with some worksheets (matching words with their definitions?) to drive the point home.

In the end, all I needed to say was this: the lamb dies instead of us.

It's only a short step from here to Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God who takes our sins on himself and dies in our place so that we can be forgiven and can be friends with God (Jn 1:29, 36, 1 Pet 1:19, Rev 5:6-13).

Here's how our tabernacle model is coming along. You can see the inner curtain, in royal colours, the outer curtain, and the bronze altar for the sacrifices:

And here's the page we made for our books this week (red for blood, of course! - and as we all know, blood represents life; and when it's poured out, it represents death; and when it's poured out for us, it gives atonement - Lev 17:11, Jn 1:29, Eph 1:7, 1 Jn 2:2, 1 Pet 1:18-19).

Next time, we'll be talking about priests. There's a huge amount to cover - consecration, clothes, chores - so it should be interesting!

*Ps 78:38, Prov 16:14, Jer 18:23; 2 Sam 24:18-24, 2 Chr 29:7-8; Rom 3:25, 1 Jn 2:2, 4:10
** Ex 30:11-16, Nu 31:50, Gen 32:20, Ex 32:30-33, 2 Sam 21:1-14

If you'd like to see or use my Sunday School lessons, either these or my lessons on the fruit of the Spirit or Romans, please contact me.


janaliel said...

Hi Jean,
Colin Buchanan has a song on his Super Saviour album called (from memory) "Big words that end in shun" that covers some words like propitiation, sanctification, justification... I appreciate that he is also doing some songs for older kids too.


janaliel said...
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