We are smack dab in the middle of Lent and my family has been reading John’s gospel faithfully. In my last post at the start of the season, I described how we would read from John’s gospel every Monday/Wednesday/Friday night before bed. Here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Accept there are good days and bad days. Sometimes we would read a passage (usually half a chapter) and I’d look up to see everyone dozing, even my husband. At this point, I learned, avoid lecturing. It’s time for bed.
2. Kids and Teens love the Bible. I never heard a complaint about doing this (!!) Instead, we all gathered on Mom and Dad’s bed to read and discuss. It felt like a treat. Like the old days before they could read and we had stories every night from some favorite children’s books.
3. Children love the unexpected. John’s gospel is full of quirky, unexpected things, and our boys (ages 11 and 13) couldn’t get enough of this. For example, when Philip calls Nathaniel and the latter remarks of Jesus, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (hilarious) Next Jesus sees Nathaniel coming towards him and says, “There is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit (an honest Joe, a guy who’s true blue, a dude, a mensch). Then Nat asks, “how do you know me?” and Jesus says because he saw Nat under the fig three and suddently Nat jumps into an unequivocal confession:”You are the Son of God and the King of Israel!” My boys react: “What? Wait! How did we get from I just met you to You’re the Messiah?” We pondered this for awhile. It seemed funny and strange but then one of us suggested, Maybe something special happened to Nat under that fig tree and maybe the fact that Jesus brought that up and knew what was going on in Nat’s heart… maybe that is why. I don’t know about you, but I thought getting from funny story to Jesus knows what is going on deep in my heart and why is a pretty nice progression.
We also found the unexpected in John 3:22 where it says Jesus baptized, then later read in John 3:22, oh wait, his disciples baptized not Jesus. And it was strange how Jesus decided to change water into wine, and did he really talk back to his mother when she asked for help? And what about that poor confused Pharisee Jesus told he had to be “born again”? Also, Jesus spoke with and joked around with the women from the other side of the tracks. All of this was news to my children and I also saw these passages in a new light reading it with them.
4. No formal format is needed. I thought of doing a “study” but this was never going to work if I wanted to pass it off as a bedtime story. Instead we begin with a prayer to the Holy Spirit, then read a section and ask, “Any questions or comments?” or if everyone gave me a blank stare I’d ask about something obvious (Why did Nicodemus come at night to talk to Jesus? And why on earth did the Samaritan lady come to draw water in the glaring noonday sun?
I am more excited about continuing this reading through the remainder of Lent than I’ve been about anything I’ve ever agreed to do as a Lenten practice. I am learning as I go, but one thing I believe quite firmly, a Christian does not have to be an exegete to read the Bible with his or her kids. Just jump in! The water of the Spirit is warm, and if you have any questions, you can study and ask questions on your own time. Our kids need to have their own relationship with God and this is impossible without reading Scripture. Besides, as you can see, it’s fun.
Copyright 2015 Julie L. Paavola
Photo: BibleRead-2 by CBCS, 2014, via Morguefile.