Guest blogger, Kathy Bozzuti-Jones, began teaching Godly Play to children in 2002. She is a member of the Lifelong Formation Council, Assoc. Director of Faith Formation and Education at Trinity Wall Street in New York City, and a spiritual director.
Knowing Jesus in a New Way
My religious imagination has been captivated by the new Godly Play stories called, “Knowing Jesus in a New Way.” After sharing them with young children on just one occasion this season, the words and images have returned to my mind and heart a hundred times, since.
One line, in particular, about the women at the tomb: “They could feel his presence in the absence, but Jesus was gone, gone, truly gone.” What beautiful scripting throughout — every word chosen to convey a simple truth of human experience, culled from the narratives of the post-resurrection sightings of Jesus. Each re-telling captures brilliantly, with few words and little interpretation, the complexity of anticipation, thrill, hope, sense of home, sense of loss and disappointment, as well as an abiding comfort that make the scriptures so compelling.
This is play at its best, a graceful expression of the rhythm of the spiritual life along the entire lifespan. By framing the Biblical narratives from the perspective of what it called forth from the disciples — of how they were called to grow into a new reality of Jesus’ presence — the lessons move us away from an understanding of the disciples as a bit dim and from the appearances of Jesus as something fantastical.
Instead, in the new frame, we become the disciples having an ordinary-extraordinary, everyday experience of the Spirit: We go along, we feel a lack of connection, we seek connection, God reaches out to us and we don’t notice, then we do notice, and so we reach out for more… and just at the moment we try to cling on, God seems to retreat.
“Knowing Jesus in a New Way” lays out the post-resurrection stories all in a row, to be taken in “whole.” It is calling me to see, in a new way, that walking in the dark and waiting in expectant trust for God’s hand is a good and necessary aspect of the spiritual journey, drawing me to deeper and deeper truth about Presence. A gift, really, and not a darkness that frightens at all.
The children asked me, “But why didn’t they recognize Jesus? How could they not have known it was him?!” God bless the young hearers of these lessons for beginning to ask the questions of a lifetime. And God bless my friends who have spent these many years developing the Godly Play stories to companion us all.