|Apples in a bowl|
I began by removing the yellow, green and red apples first. We noted that they were all apples even though their surfaces were different colors. I sliced two of them to reveal the "star shaped" core and dark brown seeds. Then I admitted that I had hidden two non-apples in the bowl. To make the difference clear, I cut the nectarine lengthwise as well. We observed that the core was quite different, housing a single pit. The pear, when divided in half, clearly had a different interior with distinctive seeds.
My purpose for the lesson/devotion about fruit was to illustrate a truth about churches. My students in 5th and 6th grade are starting to wonder about different types of churches and what they believe. On the outside (either the building's architecture or the liturgy/worship), churches might appear to be very different. A child might assume, mistakenly, that if a particular church is not quite like the one he is familiar with then it must not really be a church.
How do we know for sure? Like the fruit, we could determine its identity by the core. What is the core that defines a church?
I introduced them to the Apostle's Creed, a summary statement outlining the "core" doctrines to which all Christian churches hold and which they profess.
At times we might see something from a distance that appears to be a church. The people enter a building, where they sing, pray and receive instruction. However, if the core is not there--if one of the central tenets of the Apostle's Creed is rejected--it is not truly a Christian church. It may be a religious gathering, but it is not a Christian one.
One student asked a perceptive question. He asked about a particular denomination saying, "What about this church, which also believes that a human authority is equal to the Bible? Can that be a church?"
I picked up one of the apples and a bit dramatically hurled it to the floor. After picking it up, I asked the students what had happened to the apple. They said, "It's bruised now."
"Is it still an apple?" I pressed them.
"Yes," they replied.
I went on to explain that every church has some problems, some things that are not they way they are supposed to be. Because churches are filled with sinners, there will always be a bruise or blemish somewhere, but that in itself does not disqualify the church as long as the core remains intact.
In a world where many things are judged by external appearance or visual appeal, I wanted to convey the importance of considering the core or heart of something to determine its true worth.