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ROAD TO DAMASCUS

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The Four Apostles, by Albrecht Durer. 1526.
4apostles2.jpg
Paul (far right).

-- July 2007

Click here for: Overview * Background Notes * Questions for Discussion * Workshops

Workshops include: Arts, Drama, Kitchen, Games, Music, Computer * Writing

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OVERVIEW

STORY:

Apostle Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.


WORKSHOPS & ACTIVITIES:

• Arts – silhouette portraits

• Drama – object theatre play, “Saul, the confused pepper grinder.”

• Kitchen – rocky road pizzas

• Games – obstacle course, follow the leader

• Music – Amazing Grace, This Little Light of Mine, Garage Band composition

• Writing – compose Paul’s own letter of what happened en route to Damascus

• Computer – Life of Christ, Pathways thru Jerusalem, Life of Paul


SOURCE TEXT:

Acts 9. 1 – 21.


KEY VERSE:

Acts 1. 3.

“Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.” (New Revised Standard Version)


AFTER STORYTIME IN CHURCH, ALL CHILDREN MEET IN THE CHURCH HALL FOR GATHERING TIME, BRIEF REVIEW, THEN GO TO SCHEDULED WORKSHOPS.


BACKGROUND NOTES & OTHER NEAT INFO

WHERE DO WE FIND The ROAD TO DAMASCUS STORY?
In the book of Acts of the Apostles.


WHERE IS DAMASCUS?
The following link takes you to a site with some great maps of Paul’s world and his journeys. To see Damascus on map, scroll about way down the page and find Map 15. Read a few lines further down for good descriptions of Damascus and Tarsus, Paul’s home according to Luke: Map


WHO WROTE THE BOOK OF ACTS?
According to tradition, Acts was written by the same writer as the Gospel of Luke.


WHO IS THE APOSTLE PAUL?
That’s a big question. In a nutshell, Paul was a dedicated disciple of the teachings of Christ. His letters to the fledgling Christian churches in Asia Minor are found in the New Testament. At least one letter pre-dates the gospel of Mark (NOAB, 3rd ed.). Paul worked hard to spread the good news of Christ among sympathizers with non-Jewish roots. Acts was written several decades after Paul’s time.

PAUL ACCORDING TO PAUL
I like this thumbnail from John Dominic Crossan’s In Search of Paul (NEW YORK: Harper Collins, 2004):

“Paul was Jewish born and bred, understood Hebrew, was a Pharisee, and was proud of all that lineage. He identified himself as a Jew within Judaism.(p.4)”


DO WE FIND THE SAME STORY IN PAUL’S OWN WORDS IN HIS OWN LETTERS?
At 1 Cor. 9.1, Paul writes, “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord.” And at 1 Cor 15.8, he writes, “Christ…appeared also to me.” In Paul’s letters, we don’t find the same kind of colourful detail of the conversion story that fleshes out Luke’s account in Acts.


WHAT DOES LUKE EMPHASIZE IN ACTS?
The introduction to ACTS in the New Oxford Annotated Bible puts it this way: “Luke sought to clarify both how the church was faithful to the God of the Bible and how Christianity was not incompatible with citizenship in the Roman Empire.”

Crossan gives this detail in In Search of Paul:

“Luke’s Acts was written in the 80s or 90s, several decades after Paul’s time, and Luke gives him an overall interpretation from within his own geographical situation, historical understanding, and theological vision (p. 28).”


WHAT DOES PAUL EMPHASIZE IN HIS LETTERS?
According to Crossan, Paul and Luke’s different emphases result in different accounts. It is important to keep in mind that the story of the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus contains much Lukan embellishment. Here’s Crossan on what made Paul tick:

“Paul opposed Rome with Christ against Caesar, not because the empire was particularly unjust or oppressive, but because he questioned the normalcy of civilization itself, since civilization has always been imperial, that is, unjust and oppressive….

“Paul’s essential challenge is how to embody communally that radical vision of a new creation in a way far beyond even our present best hopes for freedom, democracy, and human rights. The Roman Empire was based on the common principle of peace through victory or, more fully, on a faith in the sequence of piety, war, victory and peace. Paul was a Jewish visionary following in Jesus’ footsteps, and they both claimed that the Kingdom of God was always present and operative in this world. He opposed the mantras of Roman normalcy with a vision of peace through justice or, more fully, with a faith in the sequence of covenant, nonviolence, justice and peace (xi).



IN THE ARTS


Fine art
Four Holy Men, by Albrecht Durer, 1526.

There’s a glorious colour-plate of these panels in the definitive Time-Life Library of Art book, The world of Durer (New York: Time Life, 1967). Durer’s double-panel, larger than life representations of John, Peter, Paul and Mark stick in the mind’s eye.

Here’s a link to the piece, with good explanatory notes, on the web:

Durer's Four Apostles.

The majority of notes in the Time-Life book points to Paul as the final figure on the far right, with book, leaning on sword. Given the amount of fun Durer clearly had with icons and visual puzzles, this seems likely.

However you can eyeball the inscription under the paintings in the colour plate on page 156. And for the second panel it reads, “ALBRECHT DURER PAULUS UND MARCUS.”

Why would Durer break the convention of reading and labeling from left to right?

Here’s a fun exercise. After studying this story, ask your students to debate whether the figure on the left or right is Paul!

The introduction to the Time-Life book has some overview notes on the 2-panel artwork, or diptych, that Durer painted as a gift to his native city of Nuremberg, Germany, and presented to the city fathers in the heady early days of the Protestant Reformation. I leave you with some of these notes as food for thought:

“In The Four Apostles Durer broke with artistic custom by providing a religious picture for a secular setting – in this case the Treasurer’s Chamber of the Town Hall. The secular quality was emphasized by the omission of a central panel – customarily a depiction of the Madonna and Child or of the Crucifixion – for which the panels of the apostles might have been expected to serve as wings. Just so had Durer’s contemporary, Martin Luther, tried to eliminate the central authority of the Universal Church and establish the direct authority of the Bible….

“One can see The Four Apostles in historical perspective as a final resolution of Durer’s own feelings, of the inner commitment he made to the cause of Martin Luther even though he remained in the Catholic Church. His contemporaries may well have seen the painting as a Lutheran manifesto. Looked at through our nonsectarian eyes, the Reformation dims. What emerges is the religious affirmation of life that each Apostle in his disparate and individual way displays….

“To the modern mind [graphic Gothic crucifixion painting by Durer contemporary Matthias Grunewald] is more immediately impressive than Durer’s optimistic masterpiece, more akin to the starkness of the existential thought-patterns of today. Yet the two pictures are really the two sides of human nature. For if man’s tragedy is in the Isenheim Crucifixion, man’s hope is in The Four Apostles (pp. 14 – 15).

MUSIC

Look no further than ‘Amazing Grace:’

“I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

There’s very good book on the writer of this hymn, former slaver turned cleric John Newton, by Linda Granfield (Toronto: Tundra, 1997). Features illustrations by Janet Wilson of nearby Eden Mills, Ontario.


POETRY
Paul’s story of becoming blind to the false values of his old way of life and seeing the merits of the better way of the life of a servant of Christ is a variation on a very old theme.

See if you can identify that theme in this poem, “In Hardwood Groves,” by US poet Robert Frost:

The same leaves over and over again!
They fall from giving shade above
To make one texture of faded brown
And fit the earth like a leather glove.

Before the leaves can mount again
To fill the trees with another shade,
They must go down past things coming up.
They must go down into the dark decayed.

They must be pierced by flowers and put
Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
However it is in some other world
I know that this is the way in ours.

[found in Poetry for Young People, Robert Frost (New York: Scholastic, 1994), p. 22.]


QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION (mainly for older children and youth)

1. Have you ever had a “Paul moment” where you suddenly realized the things you were doing might be hurtful to someone? Can you give an example of that former behaviour? What did you do to change it?

2. Did you experience a “flash of light in the darkness?” In what way do you feel Jesus spoke to you and showed you the better way to treat your fellow human beings.

3. Did you feel stunned like Paul, or a time period of temporary blindness that allowed you get your new bearings?

4. Did you have a guide like Ananias from Straight Street who helped you get your bearings? Who was your guide?

5. Ananias had doubts about helping Paul, since he had previously been cruel to Christians. Do you think it took extraordinary trust, courage or faith for your guide to believe in you and come to your rescue? Can think of a hypothetical situation in which this might be true.

6. How might coming through a “Paul experience” like this affect someone’s faith?


WORKSHOPS

Please find below suggested workshops for this unit. For each one, when you are in real time with the children:

1. Quickly review or recap the story with them before starting activity. Each week, see how much more detail each group of kids can supply on the story they've been studying.

2. Link or explain your activity to the current story.


ARTS WORKSHOP – SILHOUETTE PORTRAITS

ACTIVITY: CHILDREN WILL CREATE AND EMBELLISH THESE PORTRAITS TO SHOW PAUL’S BLINDNESS LED TO A NEWER, KINDER WAY OF SEEING THE WORLD.

MATERIALS: * dim room * lg sheet white paper * masking tape * table * lamp * pencils * scissors * black and white construction paper * glue * gold and silver pens, glow in dark markers

INSTRUCTIONS:
- Tape large sheet of white paper in darkened room

- Put lamp on table about 3 ft away from paper, illuminating the paper

- Have your model (child) sit between light and paper so that you can see child’s shadow on paper

- Trace silhouette with pencil, then cut it out.

- Place white cutout on black construction paper, and trace outline again.

- Cut out black silhouette and mount with glue on white paper.

- Using gold and silver pens and glow in dark markers have the kids draw “what was going on in Paul’s mind.” They could show swirls from world turned upside down, peacenik flower power daisies, scenes of stick people helping one another….


ARTS 2 -- Triptych

This is a neat idea for older kids. Have them create 3 square popsicle stick frames. Create a marker or pen and ink drawing to fit the square to represent the 3 major scenes in this story.(Paul harrassing people, Paul hearing Christ, Paul preaching -- to give an idea). Create simple hinges by trimming duct tape to tape each set of sides together without showing through on the front. Frames can be decorated as well. Our own little twist on Durer's diptych -- putting Christ back in the centre!



KITCHEN – ROCKY ROAD PIZZAS

ACTIVITY: Making these pizzas will remind the kids of the rocky road Paul traveled before he heard Jesus tell him to turn his life around.

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 pkg brownie mix * a 7 oz container of marshmallow cream * chocolate chips (You could also add things to make the road rockier – rice krispies, coconut, broken pretzel pieces)

DIRECTIONS:
- preheat oven to 350.
- Spray 14 inch pizza pan with cooking spray
- Prep brownie mix according to instructions, and spread evenly over bottom of pizza pan and bake for 25 mins.
- With wet table knife, spread marshmallow cream evenly over brownie layer. Sprinkle rest of ingredients over top.

KITCHEN 2 – ROCKY ROAD FUDGE.
This looks nice and quick to make but requires peanut butter, so it’s not for everyone. If you know there are no peanut allegies among your kids, or if you can find a soy butter to substitute, try this recipe. It looks fun.

INGREDIENTS:
*1 pkg choc chips * 1 cup peanut butter * 2 cups mini marshmallows

DIRECTIONS:
- Melt choc chips and pb together until blended.
- Stir in marshmallows
- Spread into greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan
- Cover and chill until candy firms up (approx 10 – 15 mins)
- Cut into small blocks. Should make 4 dozen pieces


MUSIC

Teach and sing one of following songs:

• Amazing Grace

• This little light of mine

For older children:

Use popular music compositon program Garage Band to compose a piece of instrumental music that expresses events during 3 major scenes in this story – Paul persecuting followers of the way, Paul’s encounter with Jesus, Paul regaining his sight.


GAMES.

Play follow the leader or develop a simple obstacle course.

For older children, try these in a slightly darkened hall to emphasize Paul’s blindness.


WRITING

This story about Paul was told years later by Luke. Do you think Paul would have told it differently mere days after it happened. Paul was an inveterate letter writer. Write the letter as you think Paul might have done, to a friend. Jazz this up by writing on a long-ish piece of paper like a scroll (old fax paper rolls?). Perhaps have fun writing with ink cartridge pens. Or try cutting down some ubiquitous seagull feathers and dipping into ink. For neat instructions on trimming your own quill pen, click here: Cut your own quill pens .


COMPUTER

A number of computer programs come to mind for this unit:

• Life of Christ has a good segment on the Road to Damascus

• Pathways through Jerusalem gives a good picture of the Near East during the Roman Empire. Select Herod’s tour.

• Life of Paul can be goofy, but it has lots of interactive side trips for kids as it reinforces Paul’s story.


DRAMA – Object theatre play, “Saul, the Confused Pepper Grinder.”

ACTIVITY: ACT OUT THE FOLLOWING PLAY TO REINFORCE THE STORY OF PAUL’S CONVERSION.

Click here for the script.

MATERIALS: various kitchen tools from recycling depot.

Note: You can use the objects just as they are. Or you can take time for the children to anthropomorphise using googly eyes, pipe cleaners, yarn for hair, feathers, etc. Just make sure you allow enough time after decorating to act out the play!

Click here for pictures.

Here for a video clip.

All original text 2004 - 2014, LD McKenzie

For a brief site ed's bio, click here:

BIO

Components of these lesson sets may be used for non-profit educational purposes, citing this author and site.

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