Prepare: Find a very simple puzzle, like a preschool puzzle, you really only want about 6 or 7 pieces for this. Bonus points if it is an Easter puzzle! Also bring along some cardboard scraps that are a similar size to the puzzle pieces, but just squares or rectangles so that the puzzle piece is still pretty obvious.
As the children gather, get all the puzzle pieces facing up except for one. Let one piece sit surrounded by the cardboard so that it is obviously a puzzle piece, but so that the picture cannot be seen on it. Start getting the puzzle put together, let the children help if you want, but keep them away from the upside down piece. Once the puzzle is together be really sad and confused about the missing piece.
Oh no! I’m missing a piece! I thought they were all here! I even asked the person who gave me the puzzle and they said all the pieces were here. (At this point it is good if you let them see the missing piece.) Well, I guess I’ll just throw it away, if I can’t find the piece. What? You say it’s over here? No, this is all just cardboard, no puzzle piece there. Oh, wait! You’re right, there is the missing piece! I don’t know why I didn’t see it, but there it is! Now the puzzle is complete. Thanks.
This reminds me of the Gospel story that we hear today. The story happens on the day we call Easter. Jesus’ friends are walking away from Jerusalem when they meet a stranger on the road. They start talking and they find out that the stranger has no idea about what just happened in Jerusalem. He doesn’t know about Jesus, he doesn’t know about Jesus being killed, or buried, he doesn’t know any of it, so they tell the stranger all about it.
Here’s the fun part of the story, the stranger was Jesus! He was walking with his friends and they didn’t even know that it was him. They were so sad and worried that they couldn’t see Jesus walking with them. Just like me with that puzzle piece, I was so upset that it was missing that I didn’t even want to look for it. They didn’t know that they were with Jesus until they sat down to eat and Jesus broke bread and poured wine, then they suddenly recognized him. Just like I didn’t see the piece until someone turned it over.
A missing puzzle piece is not really a big deal, is it? No, not really. But forgetting to look for Jesus? We do know something that those disciples didn’t know, we know that Jesus is alive and among us, so we know that we should always be looking for Jesus, we should always be finding people who need our love and care.
Risen Christ, we sometimes forget that you are here with us, we forget to look for you in the people around us, and we forget to be loving to everyone we meet. Help us to see the good in the world and to live with your forgiveness and grace in our hearts and on our lips. Amen.
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