I really love the 1 John reading founding in the Revised Common Lectionary selections for Sunday, April 29, 2018. Yesterday, I focused on several verses from the 1 John passage and offered some Sufi poetry that focuses on the God-is-Love idea. Today, I’ll offer a couple of suggestions for the last few verses — which are really perfect for kids. Here are the verses:
4:19 We love because [God] first loved us.
4:20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.
4:21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
Hinduism’s Sibling Holiday
A nice interfaith tie-in with this idea of “love for brothers and sisters” is the Hindu/Indian holiday of Raksha Bandhan (which means “the bond of protection, obligation, and care in Sanskrit). The celebration date varies from year-to-year because it’s based on the Hindu calendar, but it usually falls in August. This year, the date is August 26th. The primary tradition is tying an amulet, called a rakhi, around the wrist of the person being honored. Rakhis come in various styles. They can be made of twisted/braided thread, beads, metal, or jewels. Traditionally, sisters tied rakhis onto the wrists of their brothers. Brothers, in return, offer their sisters a gift. While the holiday is not particular religious, the Puranas (the Hindu sacred texts containing stories of the deities), contain numerous references to the amulet-tying practice. You can find a few of those stories here.
In many parts of India (and the rest of the world), Raksha Bandhan has been thoroughly modernized. For example, you can buy ready-made Raksha Bandhan cards from sites like Zazzle, Etsy, and Desiclik. You can even send Raksha Bandhan e-cards via 123Greetings. We make a pretty low-tech rakhi craft with the kids in our program. Here’s what we do.
1) Measure and cut 12 embroidery threads that are each 30” long.
2) Hold them together, fold the bunch in half, tie the bunch at one end with a short piece of thread, and cut the loop.
3) Divide the 24 threads into 3 groups of 8 and begin braiding. It might help to have someone hold the tied-off end or to hold it down with something heavy like a book.
4) When finished, tie off the braid off with another short piece of thread.
1) Use a compass or circle template to draw a circle on card stock/recycled cereal box. Cut it out.
2) Cover it with a small piece of fabric and/or decorate it with markers, stickers, feathers, beads, buttons, etc.
3) Use the hot glue gun to attach it to the center of the braided bracelet.
4) Now tie it on someone’s wrist!
It’s Not Just for Siblings
Of course, most Christians would claim that we should understand the term “brothers and sisters” more broadly. Interestingly, much the same has happened with Raksha Bandhan. Nowadays, the holiday can be used to celebrate any familial bond, special work relationships, or one person’s deep connection to another. As one Indian web site put it, “…in a broader perspective the festival of Rakhi (Raksha Bandhan) conveys an intrinsic message of universal brotherhood and sisterhood. Thus the festival of Rakhi conveys a message that has socio-spiritual significance underscoring the need for nurturing of positive qualities, purity in thought, word and deed.”
It’s hard to argue with any tradition that encourages putting love — for family, friends, and community — out into the world. Especially one that ties in to the basic principles of the New Testament.
Interfaith Sunday School is a weekly blog offering tips for sharing information about the world’s faith traditions to kids. Posts are published on Wednesdays and focus on one of the Revised Common Lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday. Questions? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.