I am a sucker for object lessons. I love connecting the visual elements to a story. I think it helps the listener understand the story, it keeps the listener engaged, and it gives me something to do with my hands when I am talking. The last reason for love is key because otherwise I would probably knock a kindergartener out with my wide sweeping arm expressions.
Whenever I give a children's message, I like to use objects whenever possible. Like the time I used colored club soda with red food coloring and then bleached it "clean" again. Or the time I filled a glass so full it spilled all over the place (into a bucket). Or put mud all over my face. Or made a clay creation. Or made the dry bones (sponges) soft again. Let's not forget the time I came to chapel in my (one piece) swimming suit (plus shorts, towels, and a lot of other covering clothing items).
With all of these ridiculous object lessons, I have not yet achieved the gasping awe that resounded through chapel last week.
The object: helium balloons.
The lesson: ascension.
I tied six large helium balloons together on one string. One balloon had a crosses drawn on it and was at the longest end of the string (about five feet more than the rest). It was the Jesus balloon. You guessed that ahead, right? That's because you are so flipping smart.
So I told the story of Christ's life on earth, death and resurrection using the balloons. It was simple. Kids shouted out answers to the world's easiest (at least for Lutheran day school students) and yet most important question: What did Jesus do while he was on earth? (he loved us! healed us! forgave us!)
Then I talked about Jesus' ascension while letting the Jesus balloon rise above the rest.
We talked about what we are supposed to do while Jesus is in heaven. We talked about how we are still tied to him. I read a bit of Romans 8 (NOTHING!!! shall separate us from the love of Christ Jesus!). We talked about how he is going to return to us. And then we talked about what happens next... we rise with Jesus to heaven.
I untied the long string and slowly let the balloons rise up. And up. And up. Forty feet. To the top of our sanctuary ceiling.
The yelps of glee were wholly unpredictable. Who could imagine that balloons could be so entertaining?
Talk about Jesus so that they can soar up with us! Share his love so that we can rise together! Jesus will take us farther than these balloons could ever rise!
The balloons floated at the ceiling for the rest of chapel as a reminder of where we are going when we are tied to Jesus.
(And then I pulled them down using that really long string.)