Crisis: The Fall and Exile from the Garden

Introduction

In Genesis 3, a crafty serpent questions God’s guidelines for life in the Garden of Eden. Eve and Adam, presumably compelled by the Serpents arguments, share a taste of fruit God has banned, and receive the consequences–exile from the garden, trial in working the ground, alienation in intimate relationships, pain in childbirth, and death–alientation from God, one another, and the earth.

This weeks theme, the Fall and Adam’s and Eve’s exile from the garden, is challenging. While the story of creation focused on how things were ordered, put together, and good, the fall introduces a kind of un-creating, falling apart, and the establishment of new divisions. Instead of loving and careful relationships, Genesis 3 describes the conditions of alienation, most profoundly, alientation from what God wants for creation.

Interestingly, as earth shattering as this saga is, and as important as it is for the story of salvation, the story we find in Genesis 3 is alluded rarely and only indirectly in what follows of the Hebrew Bible. Compare that to the multitude of times God reminds the people of Israel: “I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of the land of Epypt.” In other words, lest we think this story is too important, we are reminded by Scriptures own repetition that the Scripture is more often about what God is doing and has done–about God’s loving pursuit of us– and how God will make all things new. Indeed, in the stories after the exile from the garden, God is still very much present with creation.

Objectives

1. Children will describe the events that precipitate what we come to call “the fall.”

2. Children will recognize that even when we are far from God, God goes with us.

Hearing the Word

With your class read Genesis 3: 1-7, 23

You can find some short dealings with the Fall in some of our children’s Bibles, but these stories tend to try and resolve all of the issues we encounter in the text. In reality, the Christian tradition has had a lot of ways of dealing with the sin of Adam and Eve–they disobey a direct command from God, the Fall is a loss of innocence. For this story, resist the urge to wrap it up. Share the story with your students straight from Scripure and find out what they think happened. Why are Adam and Eve sent from the Garden? Why did the serpent want Adam and Eve to eat from the tree (remember that it is only in later motifs that the serpent is associated with the devil)? What does God want for us and from us? Did Adam and Eve want the same thing that God wanted for them?

Respond to the Word

Many of our responses this week grapple with images or characters from the story. Remember that the goal isn’t the art project that students get at the end, but the process of working with and through the story, thinking about the images, and sharing thoughts. Making snakes is fun, but wondering together about what happened to God’s good creation because of the exchange between the snake, Eve, and Adam, is more important. It’s about the process, not the product.

1. The Drama of Sin in Dramatic Fashion: If you are in a class of readers, explore the story together with this script. Select students for each of the different characters. Then, reflect together on what happens in the story. Invite each of the children in your class to re-write the story in their own words. Share some of the different versions with the class. If you have time remaining, illustrate each of the stories with images that help explain what happened.

2. Material Storytelling: If you are in a class of non-readers, collect items to represent different images from the story (a stick for the tree of knowledge of good and evil, an apple for the fruit, a toy snake for the serpent) and put them in a paper bag. As you share the story, arrange the materials on the floor or in the middle of the table, so that the story creates a living scene. Afterwards, invite students to retell the story by moving and manipulating the materials.

3. Paper Spiral Snakes: Talk together about the snake that talks with Adam and Eve in the garden. What do we know about the snake from the story? What does it mean to be crafty and why did this snake want to question God’s command? While talking about the snake, draw intricate designs on a circle of paper (pre-cut the circles, you can use chalk, sketch, or water color papers) using markers, crayons, colored pencils, or watercolor paints. Then, cut your circle in a spiral so that it make a shape. Draw a face on the top piece.

4. Snakes Slither Together Game: Set up objects from the story on one side of the room (something representing the fruit, tree of life, tree of knowledge of good and evil, etc.). Then, select one child to be the “snake” and stand in the middle of the room, pivoting on one foot. Each person gets one chance to try to collect all of the materials one at a time without getting tagged by the snake. If the person is tagged before they collect all of the items, they have to link arms with the snake and try to tag they next competitor together. The game is over once all items are collected (in which case the humans “win”) or all the players have been tagged and are linked up in one big snake (in which case the snakes “win”).

5. Imagine there’s No Sin. It’s easy if you try.: As a class, imagine what creation would be like with no sin. If nothing ever fell apart, what would life and the world be like? Create a mural together with artistic depictions of what creation would be like with none of the consequence of sin. At the end of the year, we will talk about how Christians believe that God is one day going to make all things new again. Is this image of creation without the fall similar to or different from the kingdom that God will usher in at the end of all things?

Share a Feast and Close in Prayer

Creation: God Creates the World and the Sabbath (Days 6-7)

Introduction

This week we finish our conversation on creation by taking a look at days 6 and 7.

In Genesis 1, On the 6th day, God creates living creatures of every kind (1:24-5), and humans (1:26-7). The humans are created in the image of God (the only thing created with such a designation) and with dominion over the creatures that have been previously made. Like God’s other creations, on days 1-5, God calls the creation good; indeed, very good! On day seven, when “the heavens and the earth [was] finished, and all their multitude,” God was finished, rested, and called the 7th day holy (2:3) because on the 7th day “God rested from all the work God had done in creation” (2:4).

In Genesis 2 we get quite a different account of creation, and in particular, God’s creating humans.  This chapter begins by saying before the creation of plants and rain, the Lord God formed the human “from the dust of the ground” and God’s own breath, “the breath of life” (2:7). In what follows of this account, God creates other creatures in an attempt to provide a helper and community (2:18). From the same ground, the Lord forms the creatures of the world, bringing them to the human who in turn named each creature (2:20). But this is not enough.  The Lord makes another human partner out of the human rib.

These are both interesting and beautiful accounts of creation and deserve time and attention. In the first account, there is emphasis on the good gift of God’s creation, and of course, the Sabbath–the holy day–the observation of which is a covenant distinctive for the people of Israel. Because of the Sabbath day, the people of Israel come to believe (and, I might add, we come to believe) that work and rest are both holy and dignified work. Indeed, so much of Israel’s ethical code rises from the claim that on the Sabbath, God rested from God’s work and hallowed the day of rest. Abraham Heschel claims that ancient rabbis believed that there was an act of creation on the Sabbath, for on the Sabbath God created rest (The Sabbath, 22).

For younger children, it may be easier to stick to the narrative in Genesis 1, especially since they already followed the first 5 days last week. Older children may be interested in talking about both of these stories together–the creation of each part of the world in a series of days (including the Sabbath), and the creation of the human in both accounts. You might ask them to share which of the stories they most enjoy or which they believe is the most true. Feel free to focus on one or both of these stories in your class.

Objectives

1. Children will be able to share and describe the 6th and 7th days of creation.

2. Children will identify humans as one of the creatures created by God.

Hear the Word

Share one or both of these stories with the children in your class. Younger children may enjoy hearing the story from one of the children’s books mentioned last week. Older children will be able to read the story from one of the children’s Bibles on the shelves in your classroom. Especially if you are working on both stories, it is beneficial to have the Biblical text right in front of each child.

Respond to the Word (In addition to the activities below, you might want to consider revisiting one of the activities from last week)

1. Clay of the Earth and Breath of God: Spend some time working with clay (older children) or play doh (younger children). There is a box of terra cotta clay in the supply closets and a roll of brown paper  to cover the tables. Remember that God formed humans from the clay of the earth. Think together about the ways that God lovingly formed each human and then made it alive by offering breath. Wonder together about why God used dust. When we are marked with the sign of the cross on ash Wednesday, we are reminded that we are dust and to dust we will return. Is there something important or good about coming from and returning to the earth.

2. Created in Gods image: Wonder together about what it means that we are created in the image of God. Throughout Christian history, there have been a lot of different answers. Some have said that we are like God in the sense that we are rational, others have stressed our capacity for love, or desire for community. Ask your students what it means to them that they and all the people of the world are created in the image of God. Does it make a difference for the way we might live our lives? how we treat others? what we believe about who God is? This may even make a great journal prompt.

3. All Seven Days: Use the white “prayer cube” boxes in the supply closet to make creation cubes. You can use this printable, or have the children in your class illustrate all of the sides with the things that God made on each day. Remember to number them.

4. Praising God Together: Young children may enjoy using the song “He’s Got the Whole World in his hands” filling in each verse with something that God made on each day of the week, “He’s got the bugs and the crawling things in his hands…” “He’s got the whales in the ocean in his hands…” When you get to the 6th day you can even modify the words “He made you and me brother with his hands, he made you and me sister with his hands, he made the whole world with his hands!”

5. Sabbath Rest: Why did God–the ruler of the universe–need or want to rest once God had created the world? What did it look like for God to rest? Did God sleep, observe creation, or something else? Share with one another why rest is important, especially after a long day of work (or play)? Make a list of things that are restful that we might do together on the Sabbath. Individually or as a class make a list of ways to enjoy Sabbath rest. Turn this into a poster to take home and share the story of the first Sabbath with parents.

6. Naming Animals Game: When God was looking for a companion for the man, God brought the animals to him and they were each named by him. Play a game with your class where each child is given an animal to act out. One child tries to name all of the animals in the room by determining which animal each child is imitating.

Close with a feast and prayer.

Creation: God Creates the World (Days 1-5)

We will gather briefly in the commons right before our class to make sure that children know where they are going and who their teachers are (so parents recognize your face), and so they can get nametags. In the future, Church School will begin in your classrooms. Since this is our first week gathering for the year, take a bit of time at the start of your class to get to know one another. All of the children should (hopefully) be wearing nametags. Younger children may enjoy sharing their names by sitting in a circle and passing a ball to one another (whoever is holding the ball says their name and something about themself). Older children may like to get to know one another by playing a simple game such as repeating everyone’s name in the order they are given (the first person says their own name, the second person says the first persons and their own, etc.). Whatever you do, spend time getting to know one another. Building community, sharing friendship and fellowship is one of the main goals for our young people in Sunday School. Here are some more ice breaker ideas. The lesson below is shorter so that you have time to do this.

Orthodox Creation Mosaic from the Monastery at Vatopedi.

Orthodox Creation Mosaic from the Monastery at Vatopedi.

Introduction

Since we are focusing on the whole narrative of Scripture this year, we begin this week “in the beginning.” Old Testament scholar Ellen Davis calls the dramatic start to the Story of God in Genesis 1, a  “liturgical drama in poetic form.” In it the cosmos is shown to be one large temple, created and sustained by God. Genesis 1 has a unique (or art least unusal) quality; it invites us to see the world from God’s point of view, “God saw” and “it was good” are the repeated phrases that remind us of this. The function this account of creation, which is essentially a liturgical hymn or poetry, is to show that all of the world belongs to God, and is made for the worship of God because of who God is.  It is important to note, as we explore this story that it is a story about who God is–God over all the earth, careful and artistic creator, the one who calls the physical stuff of creation good.

Objectives

1. Children will describe the world as created by, loved by, and belonging to God.

2. Children will describe the physical stuff of creation as good.

Hear the Word:

This is one story that is great to read straight from the pages of Scripture (here in Genesis 1:1-25)  because it has great rythmn and movement. If 25 verses seems like a lot, get your class to move as you tell the story. You may also want to begin with a shorter story to get everyone into the lesson. All of our children’s Bibles have this story. A quick telling in in the Children of God Storybook Bible beginning on page 8. Don’t focus on God making humans or resting on the Sabbath yet; we will do that story next week.

Respond to the Word

1.Make your Own Liturgical Drama: After reading the story to your class, act out each of the days as God makes it. You could begin with all of the lights off in your classroom and have someone read in a dramatic voice “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth[…] and God said let their be light” [turn the lights on]. For each day, children can move their bodies and make sounds like rushing water, tall trees, and large land and sea creatures. Ask them to share with you what it would have been like to watch the whole world unfold right before their very eyes.  Wonder together about how each of the created things in the world–trees, flowers, hippos, whales, giraffes, and rain–worship God. How does the rain worship God?

2. Make Creation Cards: With your class, make a list of all of the things God creates and in what order (as given in Genesis 1). Using cardstock and art supplies, make a half-sheet sized card with images from each of the days of creation. Don’t send the cards home. Save the cards for next week so that you can add images from the final days of creation. If your students don’t finsh, they can continue to work on the days of creation next week. Older children (who are more efficient at cutting) might even like to make a set of number like this.

3. Collage: Use some of the old magazines in the supply closet to make a large poster of everything God made. You might label it “God made the world.” Your collage might include some great drawings as well as magazine clipplings.

4. Collect Creation: Take a walk outside with your class and collect some of the beautiful items God has made. Once you return to your class, you can lay all of the items out on the table and say a prayer thanking God for the goodness and abundance of creation (you can find a collect for creation in the Book of Common Prayer). Younger children may like to use the items (sticks, acorns, leaves, and flowers) in lieu of a paintbrush to make a piece of art. Older children may like to tape something from nature in their journal and reflect on a prompt such as “Why did God make the [acorn, leaf, etc.].”

 

Close with a feast (Cat cookies in your class) and Prayer

If you have time, you may like to use this time to start learning a prayer that you pray every week (such as the Lord’s Prayer) or you can close with a collect from the BCP. Let me know if you would like suggestions.