Bible Focus: God does not always promise comfort or fun, but life with Him is an adventure! This lesson provides a twist on traditional St. Patrick’s Day emphasis by looking at the event’s founder relative to Biblical patriarchs. Patrick followed God’s lead and spread the word of the Gospel, just like Old (and New) Testament heroes followed God’s direction.
Target Age Group: Pre-K-Sixth Grade (adaptable)
Student application: We celebrate people in the Bible who have done great things at God’s leading…when we pray and follow what the Bible says, we can do great things, too! We need to have faith that God has our best in mind, and we need to be ready to share His love with others.
Scripture: Genesis 12:1-9, Exodus 4, Matthew 28:16-20
Materials: Green paper, markers, small treat/sticker
Lesson Opener: How far would you go for what you want? Start with a challenge…offer to students something enticing, like a special treat or trinket. Have students get out of their seats, and then go through a series of tasks that become increasingly difficult. Have them stand on one foot, stretch out, or pick up something heavy. See how far they will go before giving up (eventually allow them to enjoy the treat, if appropriate). Explain that in this lesson we will talk about people who did some amazing things in order to follow God.
Lesson and Verses: Who was Abraham, and what did he do? Begin by visiting the story of Abraham, “Father of nations”, but first see if students know or recall what he did. You might even sing the song and dance, if time allows…reminds kids this is not Abraham Lincoln…Abraham of Biblical fame was a man who lived a pretty decent life. He was originally called “Abram” and was married to a woman named Sarai. They had never had any children, which in those days was a pretty big deal. One day, God called him:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.[a]
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.” -Genesis 12:1-3
This is a wonderful promise, but it might seem strange at first…why? Remember that Abram and his wife did not have any children. How will the name pass on and be great with no descendants? Abram was willing to TRUST God, though, and he obeyed the command:
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring[c] I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
8 From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
9 Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. -Genesis 12:4-9
Ask if any students have ever had to move…how does it feel to pack up everything and go to a different place? Is it challenging? Scary? Explain that Abram here is asked to leave the comfort of what he knows and set out for an entirely new land. He brings only his wife and his nephew, and they all have to live in tent camps as they travel. How would you like to live in a camping tent every day? It might be fun at first, but would probably wane quickly. But again, Abram is faithful. When God promises to give the land to his offspring, he doesn’t question the fact that he is 75 and has no children…he simply has gratitude and builds a special altar to remember God’s great work. Because of this, God promises to give him a family that will last forever. He changes Abram’s name to Abraham, and eventually (Spark Notes version) gives him a son, Isaac, who gives birth to Jacob (and Esau), who is followed by the 12 tribes of Israel, and…….
So note the key thing: Abraham was willing to do what God said, just because God said it. He is by no means the only one in the Bible to do so. Explain that this is a pattern classic to many important characters in Scripture. Take a peek at another one, Moses. Moses was a bit more reluctant, but he also followed God when asked to go with some rather strange instructions. First, he was greeted by a burning (and talking!) bush. That may seem strange to begin with…God tells Moses that he has been chosen to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses shies with doubt at first, and asks God a lot of “what if” questions. Being Ruler of the universe, God is more than prepared with answers:
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[d] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.
16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’ -Exodus 3:14-17
God then gives Moses signs to share with the people…but still he worries, and tries to tell God that he is not a good speaker. Are there things that we think will stop us from sharing God’s word with others? What are we afraid of or reluctant to do? Sometime we try to ignore what we know we are supposed to do. Here’s a lesson from Moses, though: don’t try to argue with God…
Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” –Exodus 4:10-12
Eventually, Moses obeys and goes to Pharaoh. (Another speed version story…) This leads to the plagues, the exodus out of Egypt, wandering in the desert, receiving the Ten Commandments, and finally entering the Promised Land. Again, this involved years of camping, uncertainty, and trusting that God would fulfill what He promised.
God does not promise that life will be easy when we follow Him. But He does command us to listen and obey. How do we listen? Well, God does not always appear in a burning bush…but we do have the words of the Bible and of Jesus Christ Himself, who commanded what we are to do. We know that our job is to love God and to love others. Before ascending into Heaven, Jesus told His disciples
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20
This is an instruction and a comforting promise. We are directed to “make disciples of all nations.” This means we should tell people about God’s love and SHOW God’s love in our actions. This can be challenging and uncomfortable, but we see also here that Christ promises to be with us always.
Now, there is another (slightly more modern) figure we need to visit this week, who also did amazing things when God asked him to. We are getting ready to celebrate a fun March holiday we know as…St. Patrick’s Day! Now just who was St. Patrick? Invite students to share what they think they know about him….surprise them with the news that actually, Patrick was not officially a canonized saint (but the Irish sort of “adopted” him as saint). Nor was he even from Ireland originally!
Explain a bit of real facts about Patrick…He was actually born in Great Britain, and was quite rebellious as a child/teen. When he was sixteen, he was kidnapped and taken to be a slave in Ireland. There, tending to sheep (hmmm, a shepherd? What a familiar job…), he prayed and began to develop a close relationship with God. Eventually, he escaped back to England. However, a dream inspired him to return to Ireland. He felt that God was calling him to go tell the Irish about Christianity. In those days, people in Ireland were of the “Celtic” faith, and followed mystic pagan practices and cultic trends. So while he was in his forties, Patrick made it back to the Emerald Isle and served as a missionary to the people there. His goal was to first convert the chiefs in charge of clans, who could then share the Gospel with the rest of the people. Patrick’s work helped the lost souls of Ireland find new hope in the message of Jesus.
Discuss how amazing it is that Patrick followed God’s instructions and took the leap of faith to share the Bible with Ireland. What do you think God might ask us to do? We may not travel or adventure, but we can still demonstrate Christ’s love to those around us. Brainstorm some ways to do that this week.
Read the poem “I Rise Today” by Patrick himself (or at least a portion of it). It is a beautiful blend of admiring and appreciating creation while worshiping and praising the Creator. Offer a special shamrock stamp or sticker.
Craft/Activity: Three parts…we cannot be sure if it is historically accurate that Patrick used the shamrock (three leaf clover) to explain the Trinity…but even if it isn’t, we can still demonstrate the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with it. Celebrate that by helping students cut and decorate the shamrock on green cardstock. Encourage them to write on each “leaf” a way that they will serve or show devotion to God.
Sample excerpt from poem “I Rise Today”:
I rise today
in the power’s strength, invoking the Trinity
believing in threeness,
confessing the oneness,
of creation’s Creator. -Patrick