An Open Letter to My Sunday School Students

I miss you.

I miss meeting with you on Sunday mornings and finding out what’s happening in your life. About your new puppy. About how many kittens your cat had. About the sprained ankles and your aunt’s friend’s birthday. I miss stopping to pray right then and there for your grandma who’s been sick.

I’ve missed you for weeks.

But this past Sunday, it was especially hard. Because it was Easter.

You would have come into the room and stopped with a “Whhaatt?”

I know—That’s not unusual. But this time you would have thought I’d really lost it. Because other students in past years have said it.

“Mrs. Daghfal, it’s Easter!”

And I would have just smiled and let you stare at the manger in the front of the room with the swaddled baby in it and, next to it, the bottles of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Plus the large present. And the giant sign that said,

“Merry Christmas!”

And we would have talked about why I would have all that on Easter morning.

And then I’d carefully grab the present and tell you we’re going across the hall. So we’d silently walk to another room. But the door would be shut. And outside of it, a large bin of water. So I’d make each of you wash your hands before you could go in.

Inside this room? It would be dark, the only light coming from a candelabra. And you’d find yourself silent, not even whispering… because something about the room felt special.

Then, as your eyes adjusted, you’d realize there’s more in the room. Yes, on a table on one side are the candles, but on the other side, on another table, there’s bread. And something smells good. Like sweet perfume. Coming from the center of the room on a small table, where a candle warmer burns.

And then you’d look behind the perfume and notice there’s a curtain. A large one. That goes from wall to wall and ceiling to floor.

And because you’re human, you’d wonder. What’s behind the curtain?

So I’d ask if you want to go see, and you’d all say, “Yes!”

And I’d say, “Too bad. You can’t. Only ONE person can go back there. That would be the high priest from the tribe of Levi.

“Is that anyone here?”

And most of you would raise your hands and claim you are. (*wink*) Yes, I know you well.

We’d all laugh and then talk about who was really the high priest from the tribe of Levi. And then we’d stop laughing because of what happened if you went back there and you weren’t the high priest! (Leviticus 16:2 “Don’t, lest you die” [paraphrased].)

But you’d still want to know what’s on the other side.

So I’d explain that this room represents the Jewish tabernacle and temple, that the part we’re in would be the Holy Place, and the space behind the curtain, the Holy of Holies.

And who does Holiness come from? “God”

And where does He live? “In Heaven”

But God wanted to dwell with us. So where did we learn He made His dwelling place? “In the tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies.”

Represented in a cloud by day and a fire by night.

And then, a red light would shine behind the curtain.

Some of you would wonder how that happened. Some of you would guess I had a special switch.

But you would all notice that you can now see a shadow of something behind the curtain.

“It’s the ark!”

The Ark of the Covenant--at least the Sunday School rendition
The Ark of the Covenant–at least the Sunday School rendition

Yes! You remembered! The Ark of the Covenant—the one we saw in past lessons. Covered in gold, with cherubim—angels—on top, their wings spread over the lid making a sort of seat.  

And under that seat, in the box, the Ten Commandments—the laws that show us how hard it is for us to love people other than ourselves. Because we’re sinful.

No, we may not have murdered anyone.

But we’ve lied. We’ve cheated. We’re jealous when our friend or brother gets something that we don’t get.

Like the time I brought muffins for class but told you, this time, they weren’t for you. That you needed to give them to someone else—and not someone in the class.

Boy, that was hard, wasn’t it? (Yes, I heard the stories—the tricks you tried. “Be sure your sins will find you out,” right? [Numbers 32:23])

Basically, we want to be our own god and decide what’s best for us. On our own, that’s about as good as we get. Not very good.

So when God came down to the Holy of Holies to dwell with His people and sat on that Ark of the Covenant seat, He would look down and see all those broken ten commandments.

But what did we learn in that other lesson? You know, the one with the red sauce that you thought smelled like tomatoes…or maybe pizza sauce.

Once a year, the high priest would dress in special linen. And then sacrifice a special animal. He’d take its blood (the red stuff) and sprinkle it on the top of the ark. On the mercy seat.

So now what would God see when He looked down?

Not the commandments that the Jews messed up, but the blood. The sacrifice. For our sins.

Finally, I’d agree to take you back there—behind the curtain—just to show you. But I’d remind you, look with your eyes, not with your hands. Remember what happened when Uzzah touched the ark in the Old Testament? When he reached out to support it?

Yep, he died. Immediately.

No, obviously we don’t have the real ark. This is just a representation.

But the High Priest was dealing with the real one. And the real Holy of Holies. And not only was he the only one who could go back there, he could only go once a year. On one certain day.

Or he would die.

And I’d usher you back around the curtain—to be safe—out to the Holy Place, asking what all of this has to do with Easter: the golden lampstand, the showbread, the perfume, the Holy of Holies. The ark. The mercy seat. And the curtain.

And we’d talk about John 1:9: “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” And John 8:12, where Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”

Then for the bread, John 6:33-35: Jesus said, “The bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world… I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger.”

And the perfume—the burning incense, with its fragrant scent rising up to the ceiling and around the room. Like the sweet-smelling prayers Christ continually offers up. For us. To His Father. Prayers like John 17:24. “Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me…” (NIV).

But some of you would be staring at something else. The large present. And remembering the “Merry Christmas” sign in the other room.

So I’d ask you why we celebrate Christmas anyway? Why was Jesus born?

Then we’d go back to the very first lessons of our year.

  • How God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—has always existed.
  • How He created us in His image to glorify Him
  • How we chose instead to follow our own wants and desires
  • And how that brought sickness and death into the world, separating us from Him

But like Jesus prayed, He wanted us with Him. Someone had to conquer that sin and death.

So He left heaven to be born on earth.

That’s Christmas.

But that’s only the beginning of the gift. He didn’t come to be a cute baby.

And then, I’d open the big gift. And I’d pull out…

Remembering Christ as our Sacrificial Lamb on Easter
The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

A lamb.

No, not a real one. It would be made of cake. But again, it’s a representation. Like Christ. Because He came as a human. But He became like our lamb.

Or maybe better said, all those lambs were a picture of Christ.

See, the priests had to constantly sacrifice lambs and goats and bulls for all their own sins and the sins of the people. Day after day, week after week, month after month. And every year, once a year, the high priest had to get himself ready to go into the Holy of Holies. And sprinkle more blood on the ark. Because sin brought death.

But on one special Friday, Christ took care of the problem once for all. He sacrificed Himself. He, as our perfect lamb, let them kill Him, spilling His blood.

And do you know what happened then? The moment He died?

That curtain hiding the Holy of Holies—The real one was as thick as a man’s hand.

But suddenly, it ripped right down the center.

And this is where I wish I could really be there with you in that room for Sunday School. Because at that moment, the curtain in front of you would rip.

From top to bottom!

Just like it happened on that Good Friday.

And some of you would wonder how I did that. And some of you would guess I had a trick up my sleeve.

But all of you would see what the priests in the temple saw. Anyone could now come to the Holy of Holies because it wasn’t hidden anymore.

Christ, as our High Priest, placed His own blood on that mercy seat, covering all our broken sins.

And, now, all we need to do to approach God in His Holiness is accept Jesus as our sacrifice. Allow Him to enter our lives. And make us new.

Then I’d cut the lamb cake and give you each a slice to eat.

Jesus wants you to taste and see that He is good. That He gave everything to be with you. And that He made it possible for you to live with Him.

For, as you know, it’s Easter. And we aren’t just celebrating His birth. Or just His death.

We are celebrating His life.

Because while He died on Friday, ripping that curtain in two, He rose on Sunday… Defeating death all together.

Now that’s a pretty cool truth to learn, huh?

My dear students, I’m sad that I can’t show you that lesson myself right now. Maybe someday soon I can. But I hope and pray that while we’re apart, Christ has been touching your heart, pulling you to Him.

You can’t be good on your own. Neither can I.

But He opened the door for you to Holiness. And He made a way for you to walk in.

Take a hold of that altar. Accept His blood sprinkled for you.

And really celebrate a Good Friday! A Happy Easter! (And, of course, a Merry Christmas. *wink*)

Love you.

Unless otherwise noted, all Bible references are taken from the NASB translation.

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15 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Sunday School Students”

  1. Diane Richards Weber

    That was one of the best Sunday School lessons I have ever read. I pictured every event in my mind and couldn’t wait for the next scene. That truly needs to be published but also played out. Maybe on your 50th birthday (wink).
    Would love to taste lamb cake!!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Diane. It’s one of my favorite lessons, and I love seeing the kids’ responses. (And, yes, lamb cake is yummy 😉 )

  2. Bless you Elizabeth for making Sunday School so understandable for kids. Kudos for right-on theological teaching that our kids will get nowhere else. I trust they read it, understand it, and share it.

    1. I hope they do understand it. I was really sad not to be able to do it live this year. But maybe with it in writing, they can think through it even more, right?

  3. What a wonderful, clear, and visual way to tell the Easter story for children! And for anybody, really. The visual of the curtain and its tearing is powerful and will stick with them, along with its meaning. I love how you packed big, solid theology into a child-size Sunday School lesson.

    1. Thank you, Laura. “Packed” is probably a good word–The lesson would have gone overtime a little bit 😉 but I pray the picture WOULD come back to them every time they hear about the Holy of Holies and Easter.

  4. Shirley Dever

    Dear Elizabeth,

    Thanks, what a beautiful gift God has given you, and you use it so beautifully. . I loved reading the Easter story.
    I am not a little kid, but I would love being in your Sunday School class! Shirley💜💜💜💜💜💜 you

    1. Oh, Shirley, I would love to have you! And isn’t it cool how clear God made that picture in His word? All those generations of laying out those images, all coming together in Christ! It just makes the joy bubble over 🙂

  5. Hala Daghfal

    Elizabeth, I knew that you are a good writer, but this one is superb. The sequence of events, the clarity of ideas and the culmination of purpose are amazing.
    May the Lord continue to bless you and use you.

  6. David Weber

    I can tell you’re a great Sunday School teacher, Elizabeth. You really go all out, and you really care. That must be a very memorable lesson. But I think any of your students who read this would remember it almost as well as being in the classroom . . . s. Well done!

  7. Definitely one of the things I miss the most during this pandemic is going to church and participating in all the events, we have found ways to make it happen but we were created to be social and we need that 🙂

  8. You brought tears to my eyes, the past 4 months I’ve missed many things, but I can cope with all but going to church and singing in our choir
    Yes, online participation in Sunday Mass is good, but not the same. And now we can worship but not sing, that for me is trying to go for a walk with no shoes on. I’d rather stay back till I can participate fully. I write poetry and that is like a stuttery old car, revving away and sometimes a poem will come, but honestly, most of the time, it doesn’t. At least when it does God excels Himself and pours the right words into my pen

  9. Well now I want to be in your Sunday School class. What a creative way to teach some hard truths to the children. I hope you get to do all of it and more soon.

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