Tag Archives: beatitudes

How Play-Doh inspired the Beatitudes

A few weeks ago I opened the play-doh pot with my son for the first time. There were four distinct colours: blue, red, yellow and orange.

Skip to two weeks later and there are now just three colours: yellow, orange and purple.

My son didn’t seem to realize that you shouldn’t squish blue and red together. But no matter how much I tried those two colours soon merged into purple. Didn’t he realize how you’re meant to play with play-doh? Couldn’t he see the method in my madness?

Clearly not. He just wanted to play.

The other Youth Fellowship leaders and myself decided that up until Christmas, we would look at the beatitudes with the young people. We felt this fitted well with the new ethos that was being created of an alternative, subversive and worshipping community we were trying to create.

I was leading the first week: ‘blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.

As all good youth workers do, I searched google high and low for those who may have already attempted the beatitudes with their young people. But what I found was the same old talk and group discussion methods that I had done before. Surely there was something different that could be done? Rather than trying to keep things pretty, was there a way I could make purple?

We had been shown a video when I was at college about experiential learning. Was there away of getting the young people to experience the beatitudes rather than simply hear about them?

I came up with a plan and discussed it with the other leaders to make sure they felt it would be ok. And with God’s grace we went ahead.

Here’s what we did.

At the start of the night we took the young people into another room and split them up according to their eye colour. We had two groups. Brown eyes and everyone else. The brown eyes were the smaller group. They would be the ‘blessed’ group. The others would be the oppressed group.

We brought them all back through and made the oppressed group sit up the back on the floor. we pushed them, shouted at them and were generally mean to them. To the ‘brown eyed’ group we were the opposite. they came in and sat at the front, got juice and sweets and sat on chairs. We had a small worship time with them at the front that the oppressed group at the back couldn’t hear. they were simply told to shut up.

Next was ‘game time’. We took them all through the back but only let the brown eyed group play the game. The oppressed group had to keep quiet and watch. If any of them talked we split them up and took their phones. When  people needed to pee, we made them hold it in.

We then brought them all back together and had a short time of feedback.

I then spoke about the context of the beatitudes. In jesus’ day there were the elite and the oppressed. The blessed were those who had status, wealth and power (just like today) but Jesus came to speak to the oppressed. To tell them, “You are blessed”.

Rather than simply tell them about the context, they experienced it (albeit breifly). But it seemed to work.

Now by putting this up I’m not trying to say, “oh look at how good and great we are”. I’m really not.

But what it has caused me to do is think about how we share the good news. Do we simply tell our young people about faith or do we help them experience it?

Blessed Are The Truly F**ked Up!

Next week, our Sunday night youth fellowship (for want of a better term) will start looking at the beatitudes. The beatitudes were eight statements or announcements that Jesus chose to make at the start of ‘the sermon on the mount’ and ultimately his ministry. They are not something I hear preached on very much and that is precisely why I wanted our group to look at them. Maybe it’s because we don’t like what they proclaim or we just don’t understand them. But that’s no excuse not to look at them. For me, they summarise everything that Jesus had came to announce. I’m going to focus just on the first one for now but you can see all of them below

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Thanks to Tom Wright, William Barclay, Dave Andrews and Rob Bell for their insights on this subject.

First off, contrary to some opinions, the beatitudes are not a list of things to do in order to be blessed or to have God on your side. They are not eight steps to know God more. They are statements. They are announcements. They are just how things are. But who are the poor in spirit?

To some this has been translated as, ‘those that realize their need for God’ and in some sense this is true but that again is something you have to do. Something you have to work at. That doesn’t seem to be what Jesus is on about (to me anyway).

The poor in spirit then are those that are just that, ‘poor in spirit’. Those that don’t have all the answers. Those that mess up time and time again. Those that are addicted to things they know they shouldn’t be. In other words…

“blessed are the adulterers, the prostitutes, the drug addicts, the paedophiles, the murderers, the liars, the time wasters, the dirty minded, the porn stars, the dictators. Blessed are those who get it wrong time and time again, those that continually do what they shouldn’t do, those that society calls scum, useless, irrelevant, passed it, unnecessary. Blessed are the tax cheats, the rapists, the space cadets, the abused. Blessed are all of those who society or religion or communities have deemed sub human.”

Does that sound wrong? Offensive even? Surely God doesn’t love everyone like that? Why would he?

Let me ask you a question then. Why did Jesus have to have dinner at a tax collectors house who had cheated hundreds, if not thousands, of people out of their money? Why did a man throw a banquet in which he invited the low lives and the degenerates to? Why did Jesus walk around healing people?

He just did. Why does God love these people? Why is God on their side? He just is.

“…theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”. That’s the gospel. That’s (one of) the message(s) that Jesus came to proclaim. It may not be fair. You might think it’s not right but it just is.

When Philippe Petit illegally walked across the twin towers on a tightrope in 1974 everyone wanted to know why. He couldn’t understand why people would ask him this. He said, “i’ve just performed something miraculous and all they want to know is why. There is no why”.

It’s the same with God. There is now why. It just is. There is a place for all those people at the banquet. Jesus didn’t come to announce his message to the rich in spirit or those that had it all together. He said, “he came for the ill”.

The Kingdom of Heaven is for everyone and when we start becoming the gatekeepers, saying who is and who isn’t in, then we deface what God had in mind. What Jesus had in mind with the first beatitude. Let’s live our lives with this proclamation stamped on our minds and on our hearts.

“Blessed are the truly f**ked up for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs”.