Teaching Methods For Religion Teachers

Choral Speaking: Call Of Matthew

Demonstration Choral Speaking: Call of Matthew

This teacher training lesson plan can be adapted for classroom use.

1 Introductory Question

Whenever you begin a lesson, give your students a reason for paying attention and participating. In this case, tell them that after we read the story of the Call of Matthew, we will act it out, using the Choral Speaking method. So, as we read, think about the character you may want to portray.

2 Read the Call of Matthew aloud.

When you have finished, prepare your students to dramatize the text through choral speaking. Describe the historical context of the event. Be a Storyteller.  Either tell or read the following information about Matthew. This will draw students into the feelings and concerns of Jesus and the disciples.

Choral Speaking: Call of Matthew - Teacher StoryBecome a storyteller. Ask your students to enter the scene.

Back in bible times, the Holy Land was occupied by a foreign power. Roman soldiers patrolled the roads and market places and imposed harsh laws and high taxes on the Jews.

Before Jesus called Matthew to be a disciple, Matthew worked for Rome as a tax collector. Because of this he was seen as a traitor: his job was to take money from his fellow Jews and give it to the Romans. Matthew was hated because, like all tax collectors, he charged more than the Romans required and kept the rest for himself. He called on Roman soldiers to confront anyone who objected. With lowered spears, inches from the man’s stomach, the soldiers forced him to pay Matthew whatever he asked.

This made Matthew a social outcast. Anyone who associated with him also became an outcast.

Choral Speaking: Call of Matthew - Teacher StoryMatthew Regrets His Choices

Imagine Matthew, sitting in his tax collector’s booth a short distance from the beach at the Sea of Galilee. From the outside, Matthew looks good. He wears fine clothes and there is a large stack of money on his desk. But, on the inside he is sad because there is no love in his life.

For several days, he has listened to Jesus preach along the seashore. He has watched the joyful crowds. Oh, how he regrets his life choices. Oh, how he longs to be one of that crowd.

That is why Matthew responds so quickly to Jesus when Jesus visits his mansion and asks him to become a disciple. Matthew is overjoyed to get a second chance in his life. He wants to celebrate with a feast.

3 Introduce the choral speaking activity.

Ask, why did Jesus risk His ministry in order to call Matthew? To answer this question, tell students we will perform a choral speaking activity to learn what might have happened.

Give a copy of the script, Come To The Feast, to each person. You may download the script at the bottom of this page. Explain that this will help transport us back in time to where the event occurred. We will become emotionally involved in the passions of that time and place. Then, cast the parts. As you direct, feel free to change or add to the script to provide added drama or clarity.

4 Plan the performance.

Assign the characters:

  • Soloists
  • Matthew
  • Jesus
  • Pharisee #1
  • Pharisee #2
  • Pharisee #3
  • Pharisees Chorus
  • Disciples Chorus
  • Tax Collectors Chorus

Provide stage directions.

Arrange your room so as to form a large open space. One side is the patio at Matthew’s house, where dinners were eaten. The other side is the yard. Matthew stands in the center of his patio. Some of his tax collector friends are on the patio already seated on the ground around a tablecloth.  The disciples are standing in a group on one side of the patio. A group of Pharisees are in the yard facing the disciples.

Introduce speech dynamics.

Your primary goal is to interest your students in the teaching Jesus conveyed in The Call of Matthew. Invite your students to assume the characters of the people eating a meal with Jesus. Together, go through the choral speaking text. Pause occasionally to discuss ways of expressing the emotions. Plan and practice which tone of voice and which gestures to use. This is how your students will portray their characters to more fully experience this ancient event.

Choral Speaking provides enough theater to accomplish your goal. Emphasize expression of feelings. Solicit ideas from the actors. Slow the rate of speech. Accent certain syllables. Sometimes, create a rest between words. Suggest vowel prolongation. For example:

“Mathew’s a traaaitor…….. a traaaitor…….. a traitor!”

Attention to technique immerses your students in the feelings and opinions of the persons in the story.

Provide props.

  • Large table cloth set with large paper plates.
  • Choir robes add a touch of reality because bible people wore robes.
5 Do a walk-through.

Actors rehearse their moves, their lines and add expression and gestures to their character’s words.

6 Perform the choral speaking activity.

Choral Speaking: Come To The Feast

Choral Speaking Script (PDF) Download A Word Document (DOCX)

Matthew
(Pleasantly. To the disciples.)
Welcome! Welcome to my feast.
I hope you will share my joy.
(To the Pharisees.)
Come, and share my joy.

Pharisees Chorus
(To Jesus. Accusing.)
Matthew’s a traitor, a traitor, a traitor!
Matthew’s a thief.
Do not ask this of us.

Jesus
(To the Pharisees. Extends hand.)
Come to the feast at Matthew’s house.
The Kingdom of Heaven awaits you here.
Gloom awaits those who say, “No.”

Matthew and Tax Collectors Chorus
(Extend hands. Urge.)
Celebrate with us at Mathew’s house!
We who were lost are now found
Come join the feast with us!

Pharisee #1
(Demanding. Shaking fist at Jesus.)
Why do you break our sacred Laws?
Why do you eat with sinners and outcasts?
Why do you anger our God?

Jesus
(Firmly.)
Should a doctor tend to the sick or the well?
The Kingdom of Heaven awaits you here!
Gloom to those who say, “No.”

Pharisees Chorus
Matthew’s a traitor, a traitor, a traitor!
Do not ask this of us.
Do not ask this of us.

Disciples Chorus
(Sit down around the tablecloth.)

Pharisee #2
(Step forward to speak to the disciples. Point to Jesus.)
This man is dangerous.
The Synagogue doors are closing for you…
Leave now. Leave now!
(Step back.)

Pharisee #3
(Step forward to speak to the disciples.)
This man is breaking the Law.
God will punish us all.
Leave now. Leave now.
(Step back.)

Disciples Chorus
(Look at Pharisees.)
Come to the feast with us!
The Kingdom of Heaven awaits you here.
Mercy and love prevail.
(Watch all but three Pharisees exit.)

Pharisees
(Three Pharisees remain in their place. After a pause they approach Jesus.)
Master, we will follow You.
If you lead us.
We will hold your people in our hearts.

Jesus
(Welcomes them. Spread arms wide or hug or shake hands.)

Jesus, Matthew, Disciples and Pharisees
(All sit around the table. Bow heads.)

7 Now, clap your hands! Praise the actors and thank them for a great performance. Optional: consider filming the performance with your mobile phone. Students of all ages love to see themselves perform! Ask students if parents would would like to receive the video performance by email.

Discussion Questions

Select the questions below which are best for your age group. For more help, see my commentary The Power of Questions.

Questioning is a teaching method where religion teachers can really shine. The more you stimulate your students to interact with you and with one another, the more they learn. As they performed the Choral Speaking activity for the Call of Matthew, your students gained some idea of the meaning of the story. Now, they are ready for more details. Encourage them to share and guess answers to the questions. Encourage them to agree or disagree with one another. Discussion of The Call of Matthew plus your input will show them just how much courage it took to follow Jesus. It will also help them experience the feeling of joy that comes from this choice.

What do the words mean?

Feast
Are there people you would not want to eat with? Why? What does table fellowship mean? (Sharing a meal is symbolic of friendship. It unites people. The pharisees did not want to be identified with the outcasts.)

Pharisee
Who were the Pharisees? (The Pharisees were a sect that believed that salvation came through extremely strict observance of the Law as it was given to Moses by God on Mt. Sanai.)

Kingdom of Heaven
What is the Kingdom of Heaven? What do we mean when we pray, “Thy Kingdom come?” (With the birth of Jesus, God’s Kingdom began to break in on earth in a new and more powerful way. The Kingdom of God on earth is a lifestyle. It is the community of believers who love one another, respect each other, help each other, play together, pray together share their talents and who invite all others to join them.)*

Traitor
Why was Matthew called a traitor? (His income came from the money he added to the Roman taxes. The Romans saw this as business. The Jews saw it as stealing from them to aid their enemy.) How can the Kingdom of Heaven be compared to a feast with traitors? Why was it important to Jesus that Matthew become a disciple? (Jesus wanted His inner circle to include outcasts and reformed criminals. That way other outcasts and reformed criminals would know they were welcome.)

The Synagogue doors are closing for you.
Why was Jesus unwelcome inside the Synagogue? (Jesus taught that sometimes, mercy was a higher priority than obedience to the Law. For example, He healed on the Sabbath and allowed His hungry disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath. Violating the Sabbath Law made Him unclean. Unclean meant, unfit for worship). Jews did break Sabbath Laws, but only for matters of life and death.)

God will punish us all.
The Jews saw the Roman occupation as God’s punishment for their failure to obey the Law as meticulously as they should. When Jesus introduced extenuating circumstances into the way the Law was practiced, the Jewish leaders believed He was inviting more punishments from God. Many rabbis did extra penances to compensate for those who were lax in their obedience.

What does the story of The Call Of Matthew teach us?

Gloom to those who say, “No.”
Why gloom? (This sentence contains the major teaching of the Call of Matthew. Anyone who could not welcome Matthew and other outcasts into the Christian community, could not belong. Of course, it does not mean that anyone could be a member. Christianity required a person to change his/her heart. A person who wished to follow Jesus had to give up criminal, unethical and abusive behavior.)

Are You Listening for Your Call?
Do you feel you have been called to follow Christ? How might you recognize such a call? (It is different for everyone. Some see the high quality of friendship in the Christian community and want to be part of it. Others like the teachings and feel a strong desire to help Christ build a better world.)

What might your ministry be?*
(You will feel a growing desire to serve God. He equipped you with a set of talents. Your ministry will grow out of those talents. The teacher may wish to describe his or her call to be a religion teacher.)

* Stress the need for age appropriate ministries.

Follow Up Activities

Here I Am, Lord
Listen to this hymn.

A good way to end this session is to sing the hymn, Here I Am, Lord by Dan Schutte. Like choral speaking, Here I Am, Lord is a dialogin which The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each sing a solo calling us to be disciples. The chorus is our response. Students can sing along with the recording. They should listen to the verses because these convey God’s call. In the first verse, God, The Father is the soloist. We know this because He identifies Himself as the Creator. The second verse is a solo by God, the Son. We learn this when He sings, “I have borne my Peoples’ pain.” Since wind and flame are images for the Holy Spirit (Acts :2:1-3), we know that verse 3 is sung by God, the Holy Spirit.

Credits/Sources
* While Jews have always suspended the Sabbath work Law for issues of life and death, for Jesus to allow his disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath was another matter for the Pharisees.
“Here I Am Lord” © Dan Schutte.
Click to Google search: “choral speaking and the bible” for links to staged choral speaking performances.
“The Calling Of Matthew” © 2015 FaithImages, LLC. All Rights Reserved. © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers.

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