This week I wanted to share a piece of my work at St Andrew’s School – in particular, a glimpse at chapel, which we have every Tuesday. I had the opportunity to lead the lesson this week, which focused on the Beatitudes. Here is some of what happened:
Mr. Nixon: “Before I begin, I want to see who was listening last week and what we can remember of what Mr. Kamran (Celal) talked about.”
Various Students: “… Mr. Kamran didn’t want to go to chapel when he was in school, but his mom made him … You and Mr. Kamran called out the words during the reading … Noah was Mr. Kamran’s favorite Bible character when he was growing up … “
Mr. Nixon: “Excellent. Today we are going to talk more about the Beatitudes, but first I want to tell you a story. This story has two main characters. The first character has just about everything they could ever need or want. They have several houses, lots of family and friends, toys and games, a great job. The second character, on the other hand, has almost nothing. They have barely enough food to eat, struggle to find housing, have lost friends and family.”
The two 5th grade acolytes get up to model these two characters.
Mr. Nixon: “The end.”
Student Body: “Wait…what…that’s it?…”
Mr. Nixon: “It’s definitely a short story, don’t you think. I know if you tried to turn in a story like this to one of your teachers they would send you right back saying, ‘This story isn’t complete. You don’t have a problem. You don’t have a solution.’ This story does have a problem though. What do you think the problem is here in this story?”
Student: “One of the people has so much and the other person has so little.”
Mr. Nixon: “Great! Now I also claim that there is a solution here in this story. Can you find it?”
Students: “The person who has everything could give some of what they have to the person who doesn’t have anything … The person who has everything could share …”
Mr. Nixon: “That is definitely what we would normally expect the solution to be in a story like this. In this story, though, nothing ever changes. These two characters never meet. The person who has so much doesn’t have any less and the person who has so little never has any more. And yet, I still say that there is a solution in this story.”
Various Students: “The person who has so little could get a good job? … The person who has so much could drop some money that the other person could pick up …”
Mr. Nixon: “Let me give you a hint. The answer has something to do with the Beatitudes. Let me read them to you again:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Various Students offer even more creative ideas for the character with everything to somehow share what they have with the character who has nothing without the two ever meeting, or even living in the same country.
Mr. Nixon: “All right, hands down. I know that you aren’t going to be able to guess it. The solution to this problem is the Beatitudes. Now let me clarify, the Beatitudes are not a promise. This person who has nothing is not going to get everything. They are going to live out their life and die with nothing more than they have right now. This person who has so much is also not going to lose anything that they have. The Beatitudes also don’t change anything here and now. This person does not suddenly have more than they had. Their life is still the same – and yet, everything has changed.”
Mr. Nixon: “The Beatitudes do something that is ‘radically cool.’ In this world we live in we are trained to believe that this person who has everything is the person who has been blessed. Blessed with things. Blessed with friends and family. Blessed with health and confidence and faith. But the Beatitudes totally flip this on its head. They say that no, it is this person over here, the person who has so little and lost so much that is blessed. Not that person over there. This person who is hungry or hurt or persecuted. This person who has nothing, and so we often think is nothing, but this person is valuable and precious. They may not have much, but they are still blessed and worth so much.”
Mr. Nixon: “… chew on that for a week.”
– Timothy Nixon