One of the great wonders and joys of Godly Play classes is that they never go as planned. They all have a certain energy to them that is enriched by all of the children’s personalities and their reflections on the lessons. Although the stories give us a framework, they are designed to invite the Holy Spirit into our midst to see what may be revealed in our hearts and small classroom community. In a recent lesson called The Great Banquet, our small community of first and second-graders grew in more ways than one.
The lesson began with several rebuffed invitations. Although a great feast was to be served, those invited kept coming up with excuses. One person had new oxen he needed to attend to, another a new field, and another had recently been married and could not come. Since no one was accepting the invitations, the master sent his servant back out saying, “Go quickly to the streets and alleys of the city and bring in the poor…the crippled…the blind…and the lame.” There was still room at the table, so the Master said, “Go out to the highways and roads and get people to come, so my house will be filled.”
The story ended and we began to wonder together asking questions such as how it would feel to be invited to this great feast? Why didn’t the people come? How many could really be at this table, and where might this table really be? Had we ever seen a table like this before?
As an activity, we had been provided an expanded snack to help celebrate our own great banquet, but with only a handful of us, it did seem like a lot. We had a loaf of sliced bread, carrots, grapes, snickerdoodle cookies, and juice. What would we do with all of this food?
Suddenly the classroom was a whirl! There were children running in all directions. “I’ll make the invitations,” they yelled. “I’ve got the paper.” “How many names can we put on these invitations?” “I’m putting my name on one and yours, too.” “Let’s put Mom and Dad down.” “Let’s leave some blank.”
There was a lot happening at once, but it looked like our feast was about to get bigger. While some children set the table and a welcome sign was hung, other students went out into the hallways and invited adults and children alike to the feast in our classroom. There was a family making their first visit to Calvary that joined us. Another couple answered yes while awaiting their planned stay at Room at the Inn later that evening.
We gathered at the table and broke bread together. There was plenty for all and leftovers for those that needed them. We shared our favorite parables and one of our guests made the suggestion that this must be what Jesus is like.
As soon as our meal was finished, our class went back to work. Green construction paper, tape, and markers were coming together quickly as the children created a mailbox for the door to our classroom. In it could be found invitations for everyone so that they would always know they were welcome to the party, the great banquet.