circlesThis past week at our children’s group SNICK, we were learning about Luke 14:16-24, in which Jesus tells a story:

‘Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, “Come; for everything is ready now.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my apologies.” Another said, “I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.” So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” And the slave said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” ’

To illustrate the parable, we first played musical chairs. Everyone loves musical chairs. Well, except the ones who get “out.” They have to sit and watch while everyone else has fun. I tried to help the “out kids” by letting them help with the turning on and off of music. But in the end, there was only one winner.

We then transitioned outside where I had put four colored circles on the ground. We played “musical circles” for a while, however, I never told the children they were out. I removed circles as the game continued, so that by the end, all twelve of them were laughing and standing in one small circle in a huddle.

During the game, one of our newest SNICKs, Christian kept asking, “How do we get people out?” I told him to hold on to that question and just play the game.

After the game was over, we sat down to debrief.

“What was different about the two games?” I asked.

“One had chairs, one had circles,” was one answer that came up.

“But what about Christian’s question about getting out?” I pressed. “Did you notice how in the first game people got out, but in the second game, no one got out?”

For the first time all night, the children were silent as they began to realize the difference between the games. A veil was lifting.

“Which game was more fun for everyone?”

“THE CIRCLES!” they shouted over one another.

When everyone gets to play, the game is much more fun. By the end of the night, the children were making invitations to SNICK to give to people at school. We prayed for those who find themselves “out” more often than not: the poor, the sick, the lame, the unpopular, and so on.

Bishop Wright’s theme in his first year as bishop has been to “widen the circle.” How are we widening the circle? Are we inviting people to the feast? Or are we still playing musical chairs?

I think Jesus is asking us to play a new game.