‘Seeing Jesus’ includes many practical activities backed by Scripture
April 18, 2020
Could an elderly neighbor who can no longer drive to the grocery store be hungry? Could the family who lost everything in a fire be poor? Could the adolescent yearning to make sense of his life be thirsty for God?
Phyllis Vos Wezeman, a lifelong Christian educator who served 12 years as director of education and nurture at First Presbyterian Church in South Bend, Indiana, has completed an activity-based major rewrite of one of her out-of-print resources originally published under another title, in 1994, for grades four through eight.
The new, expanded resource “Seeing Jesus: Social Justice Activities for Today Based on Matthew 25,” is for students in elementary, middle and high school, as well as adults. Wezeman sees women’s groups or mixed groups or adult Sunday school classes tackling the six categories of Matthew 25 — hungry, thirsty, stranger, poor, sick or imprisoned — together.
The “Seeing Jesus” book includes 60 social justice activities, 10 per category. The activities use a variety of methods, including architecture, art, creative writing, culinary, dance, drama, games, music, photography, puppetry and storytelling. Each activity focuses on ways to “learn,” “locate” and “lead” in doing good deeds as the hands and feet of Jesus. Supporting Scriptures are included throughout the lessons and activities.
“Sharing God’s love with the least of these is the responsibility of every Christian at any age,” Wezeman said. “I wanted to present a variety of options, first of all to make people aware that there are many ways to look at each of these categories. The imprisoned chapter, for example, is my favorite because ‘imprisoned’ doesn’t just mean people behind bars.”
Instead of focusing on people who are incarcerated, Wezeman broadened the scope to include the families of prisoners behind bars, people who have been imprisoned because of their faith, like pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and people entrapped in many other ways, such as materialism, eating disorders, addictions, abuse and illiteracy.
“That’s the approach, and it just scratches the surface,” Wezeman said of the 224-page book. “My goal is that people will at least take a small step. They don’t have to take a giant leap, but everybody can do something.”
The lesson on illiteracy leads to discussion about all the ways people who cannot read or who read at a lesser level as an adult are imprisoned when they fill out a job application or go to the bank or try to make sense of a prescription.
Wezeman and the publisher included feeling trapped by abuse in the chapter on imprisonment. “You don’t shove it under the rug,” Wezeman said. “That’s why it has gotten to the point it has, because people have swept it under the rug and said, ‘Oh, we can’t talk about that.’”
Wezeman writes in the book’s introduction, “Everyone comes into daily contact with someone in one or more of these categories.” Her own congregation, First Presbyterian in South Bend, has the largest number of people from Malawi in the denomination, which is one reason she travels to Malawi for months at a time to direct HIV and AIDS education programs with the help of volunteers in nearly 200 villages.
“Through recognizing the least of these, meeting their needs, and sharing God’s love, the young people [and adults] will find out what it is like to come face to face with Jesus Christ,” Wezeman said, adding that from time to time, we each find ourselves fitting into “least of these” categories.
“Seeing Jesus: Social Justice Activities for Today Based on Matthew 25” is available through The Pastoral Center at pastoral.center/seeing-jesus-paperback or 844-727-8672. Each purchase includes both the paperback and the downloadable, reproducible eResource with lifetime license.
Tammy Warren, Communications Associate, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Morning Psalms 92; 149
First Reading Exodus 13:17-14:4
Second Reading 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10
Gospel Reading Mark 12:18-27
Evening Psalms 23; 114
Today’s Focus: Matthew 25
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Daniel Braden, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation
Kendra Bright, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation
Let us pray:
Loving God, we thank you for the opportunity to share your love with people who are hungry, thirsty, stranger, poor, sick or imprisoned. Amen.