Saturday, 7 January 2017


What Would Jesus Craft?

My friend told me she saw this book title on the shelf at our library. “What were they thinking?” she asked me, befuddled by the thought of Jesus surrounded by bottles of glue and glitter, popsicle sticks, and scrapbooking supplies.

I was intrigued. What would Jesus craft? Not ashtrays or beer steins, was my immediate thought. After I quit giggling,  I began noodling about it.

Using the words Jesus and Crafts in the same sentence doesn’t feel all that incongruous to me. If you have any kind of background in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and Bible Camp, the two words probably go together quite well for you, too. In fact, Sunday School and VBS without crafts, in my childhood eyes, was boring.

And I’ve had experience with boring. In a previous blog I wrote about the church that I grew up in having very little in the way of sensory stimulation for children. My only memory of Sunday School is of sitting around the edge of a room  with about 20 other kids, trying not to wiggle or whisper while a gentleman with no concept of child development principles read verbatim from the lesson book – a mini-sermon for us children who had already sat through a long church service. This felt like punishment for wiggling and whispering in the church service, while our fortunate parents, who knew how to sit still and keep their mouths shut, got let out early for good behaviour and  stood outside gossiping and catching up with the news. Every now and then our teacher, a parent probably pressed into service by the pastor,  looked up and told us to stop wiggling or whispering. Sometimes his face got red and he was mad. Sometimes he even threw kids out because they were misbehaving. (This was not a good thing; the poor kids so ejected probably got a double dose of punishment from their parents.) Mercifully, after about 20 minutes we were released. The room emptied faster than you can say Boring. Everyone meant well, but...

But what an eye-opener when we attended Vacation Bible School at a different church. These people didn't seem to mind whispering, wiggling and noisy kids. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, the stories exciting and taught with drama, and there was singing and contests. Best of all, they did crafts! I made a hot pad and embroidered on it an airplane. What the airplane had to do with Jesus remains a mystery to this day (was it an illustration for the lesson about the “flight to Egypt” which Jesus and his parents had to make to escape danger  in his infancy?) At another Bible Club, we made a little pioneer wagon out of a block of wood, some wheels, and a covering stitched together out of birch bark. A light inserted under the covering turned this into a lamp. Wow! I believe the Scripture passage this craft illustrated was from the Psalms: “Your Word is a light unto my path.” When news got out to other kids about the cool craft you could do at this club, the attendance more than doubled.

This is a fancier version of my Wagon lamp, but it sure makes me nostalgic to view it. 

In one of her columns,  writer Erma Bombeck wrote about the legend which says when a gift of love is put on the altar, the Christmas chimes ring. She writes,  “I heard them the year one of my sons gave me a tattered piece of construction paper on which he had crayoned two hands folded in prayer and a moving message, OH COME HOLY SPIT!” She celebrates the years of the lace doilies fashioned into snowflakes,  the hands traced in plaster of paris, the Christmas trees of pipe cleaners, the thread spools that held small candles,  crafted by little hands as the ultimate gifts of love.

Hokey? Well, maybe. Some people frown on crafts in church – after all, what lesson is the child learning except how to make the craft? Isn’t Sunday School about more than that? Isn’t it about learning eternal lessons of good and evil, sin and salvation, about God’s love for his children? Well, yep. Of course.

But the lessons I took away with me from so long ago were these: church could be fun; men and women were concrete examples of loving servants who gave time and energy and patience to us without any certainty of a reward. (And that includes the teachers in the church of my childhood.) I learned that faith formation wasn’t all about head knowledge, it could involve all your senses. You could sing, create, whisper, wiggle, chat with your friends, think outside the box. You could make crafts. You could switch on your Pioneer Wagon night light and remember to read a few verses from the Bible before you went to sleep, and you grew to love that time of quietness, where you took responsibility for your own spiritual growth.

So what would Jesus craft? I have no idea. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he filled in some of his downtime skipping stones on the Sea of Galilee, or building inukshuks on the shore to say that he’d been there. Maybe he strung together beads to wear around his neck as a sort of rosary that helped him say his prayers. Perhaps he turned a hanky into a puppet and played with the children who came to visit him even though his stern disciples frowned on such foolishness.

I’m going out on a limb and saying Jesus never did lose touch with his inner child. Because after all, wasn’t it Jesus who said that if we want to be part of the kingdom of heaven, we should become as children?

What Would Jesus Craft? is a real book written by Ross MacDonald. It's a tongue-in-cheek look at crafts based on Bible themes and verses for the irreverantly devout. They're real crafts complete with instructions. So if you are hankering for Keep the Faith Flip Flops or Time-to-Obey-the-Lord Clock, check to see if your library is carrying it.

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