Prodigal Part 1, Skit
Golden Rule Game

Peter's Dream of animals in a sheet
Woodcut, 1695, by Johann Christoph Weigel

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

Workshops include: Arts * Game * Kitchen * Rhythm * Computer * Drama.



One story of how different kinds of people came together.

January, Lectionary Year C


ARTS – make cloth story mural from scrap material on old sheet or on mural paper

RHYTHM – create a rhythm routine based on key elements of the story

DRAMA – straight-up play based on Peter 1 object theatre script, Peter's Dream script

KITCHEN – Zucchini in blankets

GAME – Peter's Dream Animals parachute games

COMPUTER – Let's Talk


Acts 10.1 - 43

Acts 10. 11 – 12 (Peter’s vision):
“He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air.” (New Revised Standard Version)

After story time in church, all will meet in central Sunday school area for gathering time, brief review, then to scheduled workshops.


The Acts of the Apostles is generally thought to have been written by the same writer as the gospel of Luke. This writer was most likely a Gentile Christian (see intro to Acts in the New Annotated Oxford Bible, NRSV). This writer works very hard to show how the fledgling church was “ faithful to the God of the Bible and how Christianity was not incompatible with citizenship in the Roman Empire.” (Also from intro above.) Cornelius, a centurion, was an officer in the Roman Army.

Go to Biblemap.org , and type in Acts 10. The further north orange city on the coast is Caesarea.


Unclean foods. The revelatory nature of Peter’s dream of the animals in the sheet turns on dietary practices that hindered people from coming together. There are details on certain foods that shouldn’t be eaten by Jews at Leviticus 11, for example. (See footnotes for Acts 10, NOAB.)

At Mark 7. 14 – 18, Jesus gives a wonderful dissertation on why all foods are clean. But some messages take a while to break through.

At Acts 10.28, Peter explains to Cornelius and his guests how the penny has finally dropped for him about dinner. “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean” (NOAB).


Not just about dinner. So does the above mean the sheet full of animals represents mainly expanded menu options? For purposes of teaching children, it’s important to understand why this story doesn’t hinge on the passage, “Kill and eat.” Some pointers on this have become ‘lost in translation,’ as it were.

Review our key verse in the NRSV on the overview page. A sheet let down to earth by its four corners will sound to the Disney’s Aladdin generation like a flying carpet.

In the New International Version as well, Peter sees “something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.” (The NIV is commonly found in our kids’ collections in the ‘funky’ Bibles they may have, like the Adventure Bible or the Young Women of Faith Bible from Zondervan.)

In the New Jerusalem Bible, Peter sees “heaven thrown open and something like a big sheet being let down to earth...”

In the New King James Version, it’s “an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to earth.” Okay, now the Aladdin generation can picture more of an upside-down hot air balloon.

The King James or Authorized Version gives us this:

“he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to earth...”

It may take a shipbuilder’s daughter from the pre-Disney’s Aladdin generation to see a ship full of animals at the word ‘vessel.’ The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines vessel as “1. a hollow receptacle esp. for liquid, e.g. a cask, cup, pot, bottle or dish. 2. a ship or boat, esp. a large one...” Now Peter’s sheet full of animals starts to look a lot like Noah’s ark.

When compared with a few newer translations, ‘vessel’ might seem like poetic licence on the part of the committee of translators of the King James Bible from 1611. The chief translator for that committee was the remarkable, talented and twisted Lancelot Andrewes. A ‘prose writer of genius,’ Andrewes would certainly have influenced the translators to settle on word choices with the breadth of resonance of ‘vessel.’ For more on Andrewes and the work of the translators of the King James Bible, read Adam Nicolson’s very readable book, God’s Secretaries: The making of the King James Bible.

Why should we care about a word choice? In his book The Great Code, Canadian writer and scholar Northrop Frye makes a tremendous connection for us:

“Noah’s ark, floating on a drowned world and coming to rest on top of a mountain, a giant seed of a new world with all future human and animal life on it, completes the first great cycle of human existence (GC, p. 177).”

Noah’s ark also gives us a symbolic link to the life of Christ. Frye adds: “The manger, with its fertility overtones, contains a vestige of Noah’s ark in the animals inhabiting it.”

In other words, Peter’s vision allows him to see his mission in terms of the metaphorical and mythological language and tradition at the heart of the Bible that his mission comes from and remains part of. This story, through its linguistic history, keeps English language speakers firmly connected with that tradition as well.

When viewed from a number of angles then, this story isn’t about food. It’s about sharing God’s love and not letting the small stuff get in the way of all God’s people making connections.


1. Do you have a friend from another religion or church tradition? Do you ever get the chance to talk with this friend about the things that are different about what going to church is like in your families? Do you ever get a chance to compare how your different practices make you feel about God?

2. Do you have any friends or acquaintances whose family habits are different than yours to the degree that you feel slightly uncomfortable? Can you give an example? How do deal with it so you can still enjoy your friend’s company?

3. Have you ever had a dream that stuck with you when you woke up and made you feel strongly about, or changed the way you thought about, something that was happening in your everyday, wide-awake life?


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 -- Cloth mural

Why: Depicting the story will help reinforce plot points; using cloth will remind them of the cloth sheet in the story.

Materials: old bed sheet (one colour or very faded); cloth scraps (some big ones); white glue, scissors

- Discuss with the kids the scenes or figures how you will show in your mural (could be man asleep with big dream bubble over his head, animals in sheet in the bubble). Maybe sketch this out as a group first. Assign 1 child or small groups to handle 1 set of characters. Glue all together for 1 collective picture.

Game -- Parachute games with animals in them.

Why: To reinforce the idea of the variety of animals in the sheet in Peter's dream.

Materials: parachute, fairly big room. (I see these can be ordered from Scholar's Choice, $21.99 CDN for a 6-foot parachute, if you can't borrow one.)

Google search 'parachute games.' Some have animal names. Some could be adapted to represent animals. (Like Mexican wave could be 'dolphin,' or Popcorn could be "Hopping bunnies.')

Kitchen - Zucchini in blankets.

Why: That blanket theme again. Reminds the kids of the sheet in the story.

Ingredients: Pilsbury crescent dough (or any Pilsbury dough. Have you noticed how they all taste the same...?!), zucchini, cheese, knife, cookie sheets.

Directions: Bake as for 'pigs in blankets.' We're just trying to avoid causing the demise of animals here. You could try cutting zucchini into fingers. Or you could cut cheese into small fingers. Or you could rate the cheese and put a bed of it down on the crescent triangle, then put the zucchini on top. Bake at 375 for 10 - 12 mins.

RHYTHM -- rhythm routine.

Treehouse TV has a show called '4 Square,' and the show has a segment called 'Beat Team.' The Beat Team puts together sounds and rhythm to create rhythm songs about everything from train rides to apple picking to kitchen chores. Beat Team incorporates arm movement, foot stomps, and voice to create these pieces. Try one based on scenes from the story. Beat team uses 4 sounds. We could use more. Here's an example:

Sheet and animals. 1. Hold arms out, spread fingers, wave fingers as if fluttering, say, 'Coming down, coming down, coming down, coming down. 2. Birds -- (pick one) Make large arm flapping motions, and say, Caw caw caw. Caw caw caw. Caw caw caw. 3. 4-footed animals (pick one like Dog), Group of kids could do various dog postures, like sit up, all fours, snarl, all say, Ruff Ruff. Ruff Ruff. Ruff Ruff. 4. Sheet lands -- on knees on ground, spread hands in front, say, On the ground, all around, All together, Love abounds...or some such thing.

Beat Team usually introduces the rhythm with new sounds jumping in as in a round. They are together for few reps in middle, then last ones finish last.

Practice this a few times till your class gets it how they want it. They share your 'song' with others!

COMPUTER -- Let's Talk

Use this program from Sunday software to have teams create conversations between various characters in the story. Like between Cornelius and the angel, Peter and the angel (or voice), Peter and Cornelius, Cornelius and family. Share your conversations with other teams.

DRAMA -- Tradition play for actors in costume.

I've adapted the object theatre script, Peter's Dream script from Peter 1, to be use with a few actors in costume, mainly narrator, few lines for other characters.


Vision sculpture

Object (puppet) theatre

‘Friends around the world’ pizza

Computer activity.

All original text 2004 - 2014, LD McKenzie

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


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

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