Year A: February 6, 2011
Old Testament Reading: Genesis 12:1-4a
Grandfather’s Journey by Alan Say (for preschool to 3rd grade)
The opening verse of Genesis 12 is so simple and direct that it’s easy to miss the enormity of God’s request: to leave his country, his home, everybody he knows, in other words his whole life up to that moment and go somewhere he’s never seen. Alan Say’s grandfather did the same thing, and his picture book portrays this journey in the style of his Japanese tradition. Like Abraham, he was lead to a great nation, America, met people who he blessed and was blessed by, and raised a family. At this point Grandfather’s Journey diverges from Abraham’s, as the old man eventually returns to Japan and his grandson decides to visit him there, which is the inspiration for the book. But both stories explore the archetype of the journey to places unknown, to a future of unlimited and unimaginable possibilities. Abraham never saw this future but had complete faith in God’s promises; such is the optimism of immigrants who come from everything that is familiar to them to the promise of American freedom and opportunity.
The Butterfly House by Eve Bunting (for preschool to 4th grade)
Nicodemus just doesn’t get this born-again thing. Jesus tries again to explain: There is something mysterious about being born again, but don’t let it confuse you because everything that comes from God is somewhat mysterious. This was as tough to explain to a temple priest as it would be to a child. But consider the life of a butterfly depicted in free verse and vibrant paintings in The Butterfly House. Not only is this a beautiful story of a girl and her grandfather but a guide to creating your own butterfly house in which to watch the miracle of larvae to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Nicodemus just can’t get past the literal meaning of “born again” as the same person being “born twice.” Perhaps if he could have seen a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly, the same creature reborn into a new life of freedom, he would have understood. A child certainly would.
Holes by Louis Sachar (Written for 6th grade to adult)
Holes is loaded with biblical allusions from Job, Ecclesiastes, the passion narratives and Revelations. A contemporary realistic fiction, it starts in a miscarriage of justice that literally falls from the sky and lands an innocent teenager in a hard-labor detention camp that could pass for hell itself. Boys are sentenced to dig holes in a burning desert populated by tarantulas and poisonous lizards, but from the beginning, Stanley senses something peculiar about the warden and the entire detail. He also faces the intersection of two kinds of law, institutional law and the law of the streets where most of his fellow inmates came. Both are immersed in the cruelty of domination systems and both are structured to protect the powerful at the expense of the weak. But Stanley is transformed by this experience through a relationship with one of the inmates who he teaches to read and later risks his life to save from exposure to the merciless elements of the desert. In the process he discovers the camp director’s real agenda to unearth a buried treasure. In so doing, Stanley defeats the corrupt law of the camp and in a brilliant twist of fate, inherits the treasure. The story embodies Paul’s discussion of faith and the law with reference to Abraham, whose inheritance was earned through faith and not through his obedience to laws. Faith is, in fact, the opposite of law, which trusts neither God nor the human spirit to be righteous, but instead imposes wrath and violence which can be appeased only through work demanded by those who wield its power. But this kind of power is no match for the power of faith which disarms violence with compassion and truth, and with no direct mention of God in this story there is no doubt that Stanley is a child (becoming a man) of faith.
This week’s Lectionary Links were written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Susan Wills.