Crisis: The People who walked in Darkness…

Introduction

As you will see this week, though we are moving through the scriptural narrative quite rapidly, the pattern of crisis and covenant continues. As David finishes his reign and is on his deathbed, palace intrigue leads to Solomon’s anointing as the new king over Israel. Solomon is, for the most part, portrayed as a wise and complex character, much like David. During his reign, the Temple is built in Jerusalem and worship of God is consolidated in a central location. Solomon’s reign is a time of prosperity, a detail that helps support the idea that Solomon and the Davidic line still dwell in God’s favor. Over time and as rulers succeed Solomon, the people of Israel grow increasingly far from worship of the one God and devotion in the temple. A split between the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah follows Solomon’s death. For some time the people move back and forth between times of dedication and devotion to God and worship of other idols. During this time, there are often foreign powers that threaten their existence.

Remember that for our purposes, the theme of crisis describes alienation from God, one another, and the earth. This pattern alienation continues as the people of Israel away from worship of God in the temple and begin to follow the gods of other foreign peoples. As they grow further from God, we will see that they also grow further from one another–many of our early prophets will rail against Israel’s abandonment of the poor, widowed, orphan, and alien.

Around this time, hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, prophets begins to emerge (today we will focus on Isaiah). These prophets tell Israel that if they do not turn back to God and love their neighbor, they will be destroyed and sent out of the land that God has given to the people. The people have forgotten who the one true God is, the God who brought the people up out of the land of Egypt, out a slavery and bondage; because of this, they tend to rely on their own strength or on other gods. The prophets remind the people of who God is and of who the people are supposed to be in response to God.

Even as Isaiah proclaims a rather gloomy message, he says that God will raise up another who will bring the people back to God–this person is Jesus (though he does not say this and there are alternative interpretations). Even though Isaiah claims that “the Lord is hiding his face from the house of Jacob” (Isaiah 8:17), he says the throne of David will be upheld in the birth of a child. This would have been a hopeful message for a people who were living under the weight of political oppression. In response to this message, the people come to expect a political savior who will liberate them from their political oppressors (kind of like Moses).

Objectives

1. To describe how the people of Israel sometimes had a challenging relationship with God–sometimes close and sometimes far, but often strained because of their own wanderings.

2. To begin to introduce the expectation for salvation and the restoration of the close relationship of God with the people.

Hear the Story

You may want to give the students in your class some of the historical background that I have outlined above, but especially for our youngest classes, this history may be too involved and complicated. The theme of the story that is important to grasp is that the people move from covenant to crisis/alienation and back again in almost cyclical fashion. The exile–the people’s being taken out of the land by foreign powers–is often understood in the Biblical narrative as a judgement from God, and they begin to plea for the restoration of their favor–and the promise of such favor begins to take root in the words of the prophets.

The text we will focus on this week is Isaiah 9:1-7. You can read this story from the Bible, tell it in your own words beginning with the background above, or use one of our children’s Bibles to tell the story. Unfortunately, so many of the children’s Bibles don’t deal well with the period of the Prophets and there is very little specific focus on any part of the text. If you use any of the following, you may want to use them only as supplemental materials and read chapter 9 from a real Bible.

The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the story of Isaiah’s prophecies under the title “Operation ‘No More Tears'” (pages 144-151) in the form of a letter from God. It’s a very brief presentation of the entire book and puts special emphasis on the prophecy about a “rescuer.” The Children of God Storybook Bible does not tell the story from Isaiah 9, but has some good material introducing the reasons why Isaiah was asked to address the people. You can find this under “Isaiah Becomes God’s Messenger” (p. 52-3). The Children’s Illustrated Bible shares part of Isaiah’s prophecies on p.154.

Respond to the Story

1. Light and Dark. Sometimes when we are not exploring a narrative story, but a piece of poetry as Isaiah 9 is, we can focus on the images rather than characters or plot points. the following activities help reflect on the significance of the phrase: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shone” (9:2).

  • Walking in Darkness Game:
  • Dark and Light: Together, brainstorm things about light and darkness. You might write each of the lists on the whiteboard. What does darkness look like? What does the dark make us feel like? What do you think the dark was like to the people of Israel? What does light look like? What does the light make us feel? What or who do you think the people of Israel thought the light would be?
  • Light Songs (Use our contact list and ask one of our musicians to come to your class). Some of these songs might help us think about light:
    • Light of the World (you stepped down into darkness)
    • Marching [in the light of God]
    • This little light of mine
  • Advent Light: The growing light of our Advent wreaths ties the image of light closely to the coming of Christ.
  • Mosaic of light: Make mosaic images of light using pieces of tissue paper on wax paper (so it can be hung like stained glass). Older children might like to try a mosaic with words “the light shines” or “the light shines in the dark.” Younger children may like to try making symbols and images of light– a candle, the sun, a bright halo, etc.
  • Decorate your room for Advent: In the church we use many symbols of light and dark during the Advent season. One kind of light we see a lot at this time of the year are lights on a tree. In a gray tub in the supply closet marked “Advent” (under the first aid kit), we have strings of white lights. With your class, you might want to string up some of those lights for the next two weeks. You can start or end your class with all of the lights off (except for the stringed lights) and with the words “Jesus is the light of the world” and response: “Which no darkness can overwhelm.”

2. How best to Rescue?

  • Come up with a plan or strategy: Together discuss what it is that the people of Israel need to be rescued from–exile, sin, being far from God– and divide into teams. Each team can come up with a strategy for how they think the people of Israel might best be saved from these things. The people of Israel thought that they might be saved from exile by a strong military or political leader, someone who could show the world the strength of God. Instead, God chose to meet the people in a child. Was this the only way to make things right? Was this the best way? Why did God choose something so unexpected?
  • Extra! Extra!: Imagine that you are the prophet Isaiah. Write a newspaper page about what is going on and what the people need to do to change and enter back into right relationship with God. Decorate your newspaper letter just like the front cover of a newspaper.

3. Names of Jesus: Feel free to generate more ideas on this theme for your class. I might have run out of steam. 🙂 

  • Wonderful Counselor: Write a poem, design a piece of art, or write a journal entry about what these names mean to you. Is there another name in the Bible for Jesus that is important to you? Is there a name that isn’t in the Bible that you think should be?

Close with a feast and prayer

Covenant: God remembers the people in Egypt/Moses is taken out of the water

Coptic Icon: Moses is drawn from the Water

Introduction

Last week we saw how things started to go down hill for God’s chosen people. At the end of Genesis, God’s people are in Egypt. Joseph dies and is embalmed in Egypt, buried far from the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As he dies, Joseph tells his brothers that God will bring them up out of the land of Egypt (Genesis 50:24), but as we know this does not happen for some time. In Egypt, the people of Israel expand in numbers and new king rises to power in Egypt, a King without all of the strong ties to Joseph and his family (Exodus 1:8). Because of the Hebrews large numbers, this new king is concerned about the Hebrews strength. He sets taskmasters over them and they make bricks–they go from being valued guests in Egypt to being slaves.

In the story we are tracking, we have seen how God has gradually entered into covenant relationship with the Hebrew people.

Moses is such a fascinating character and so much happens in his life. It can be tempting to move through the whole story this week (especially with how quickly we are making our way through the Old Testament at this point), but for this week, focus on the first two chapters of Exodus. In them, we learn why the Hebrew people are enslaved, we learn also about the subversive behavior of two Hebrew midwives–Shiphrah and Puah–who save many of the Hebrew children from certain death under the king’s orders (1:15-21). In chapter 2, Moses is born, his mother hides him for as long as she can. Then, in what may be one of the most hope-filled acts, she lines a basket with bitumen and pitch, and sets her son among the reeds (2:3) with his sister standing by to watch. I wonder what she thought would happen. A flowing river (perhaps teeming with Crocs and Hippos) is not the first place one would want to leave an infant. And yet, she does. When Pharaoh’s daughter draws the child out from the water, she gives him his name (pay attention to names in the book of Exodus; they are very important!), Moses.

Take a moment, to notice several things about this text. In it, women–midwives, a mother, a sister, the daughter of Pharaoh–are the agents with whom God works to save Moses (an act which we know leads to the liberation of the people of Israel much later). Also notice how the action taken by each character requires profound trust–Hebrew midwives defying orders from the king, a woman leaving her infant in possibly dangerous water, a young slave girl approaching Pharaoh’s daughter and offering her mother as a nurse, the King’s daughter raising a Hebrew child and giving him a name (when you give something a name, it’s hard not to bond). It’s hard to read this story without being moved about the way God works in such an unlikely way. Also note how much like the ark Moses’ lined basket of reeds might be. God brought Noah and his family through water as the earth was destroyed and now Moses is brought through the water in his own miniature ark. Finally, you may also be interested to note the way that this story prefigures the early life of Jesus (the threat from King Herod under which Jesus lives, the defiance of the king by the Magi, protection in Egypt just as Moses is protected by Egypt’s elite).

At the end of chapter 2, we learn that after all of these things, time passes. Moses grows up and flees to Midian after killing an Egyptian. “After a long time the king of Egypt dies” (2:23). Then, God hears the Israelite’s cries and remembers God’s covenant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Hear the Word

This story is in virtually every children’s Bible. We have many books in the Old Testament section of the Christian Education library about the life of Moses, many of them leave out the wonderful story of the Hebrew midwives. Notice the details that are left out by each telling and if you choose to use one of the resources in our cabinet, fill-in the details where they are missing.

Respond to the Word

1. Dress the Part: We have several Egypt costume pieces from VCS 2 years ago. Split your class into Egyptians and Hebrews. Borrow a baby doll from the nursery and act out the first two chapters from Exodus. If the weather is nice, take that acting outside!

2. Wonder: This is story filled with mysteries. Why do people who are in positions of low esteem work in ways that are contrary to those in power? How is God working in them? Does God forget about the Hebrews (since the text says that God heard and remembered them) and their location in Egypt? Is it important that the Israelites have this time away from the land that God promised to their ancestors?

3. Leave it Open-ended: Sometimes when we provide an end product for children to reproduce, we don’t let them respond to the parts of the story they find meaningful. Follow our approach from a couple of weeks ago, and provide several different kinds of materials for your students. Offer them lots of time to reflect on the parts of the story about which they had questions or which they found interesting. You may want to provide writing materials, art or paint materials, clay, or something that you have never tried in your class. Remember, if you put out a new material that the students have not used, you may want to provide a demonstration on how to use it.

4. Sing a Moses Song: Since we will spend two weeks on stories about Moses and the Exodus, you might want to introduce a song or two to sing the next two weeks. They may know the songs from Vacation Church School.

  • Pharaoh, Pharaoh is a favorite
  • Go Down, Moses

You can find the music these songs in the song binder in your classroom. Remember that we have several musicians who are willing to come and sing with your class if they are available and you provide enough notice. You can find them on the Google spreadsheet linked in your weekly teacher email.

5. Compare and Contrast Images: Take a look at some of the ways that this story has been depicted in art. The image below is a Coptic icon of Pharaoh’s daughter drawing Moses from the water. Also check out this image by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Moses in the Bullrushes (1921). What does each of these images show or suggest about the story? Which image tells the story the best? Which one do you like the most? Why?

6. Make Miniature story materials: Use clay, paper, felt, and other materials in the closet to make the various items in the story (baby moses, a basket, reeds, Hebrew midwives) so that students may retell the story to their parents when they get home. Here is one idea of how this might be done, but the possibilities are endless.

Close with a feast and a prayer

Crisis: Joseph is taken to Egypt

Introduction

The story of Joseph closes out our time in Genesis and it does so in a  strange way. After all of our stories of covenant, the story of Joseph is when things start to go downhill for the people of Israel once again. The themes of covenant and God’s provision are less apparent and at times almost seem to disappear. While it is true that throughout much of the almost 20 chapters on Joseph, he seems to get out of a lot of trouble and to garner the favor of Pharaoh, at the end of Genesis, Joseph is buried far from his ancestral homeland; that is, far from the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Sometimes when we read this story, Joseph is portrayed as a hero and the story seems to end on a high note with reconciliation among Joe and his brothers. But, when we tell this story, we have to keep in mind that at the end of it, the people of Israel are enslaved. It is quite some time before God raises up another leader on whom Israel can depend to bring them back to the land which they are promised.

The story of how Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37:3-36) explains how the people of Israel end up in Egypt and how they come, years later, to live as slaves under the oppressive hand of Pharaoh.

The children in your class are likely to know many of the stories of Joseph, but as usual when we think we know the story, we are often missing something in it. For example, in many children’s curriculum’s, one of the primary stories about Joseph is the coat of many colors, but our text doesn’t say Joseph had a coat of many colors, it says that Joseph’s father gave him a coat with long sleeves (check out the NRSV on this one). This is a small detail, and one that doesn’t seem to have a lot of significance, except that a big deal is made over this coat of many colors and almost every children’s craft about Joseph has some many colored coat craft. In this class, focus on the details of the story as they are offered by Scripture. I think that Children’s Bibles are okay on this story, but not great. They tend to be a bit moralistic and add details that are not in the text.

Hear the story

Share the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers in Genesis 37:3-36. This text is long, but interesting enough for children as it includes details about how Jacob favors Joseph, and the details of Joseph’s dreams (about his brother’s sheaves of wheat bowing down to his own sheaf, or the Sun and moon and stars bowing to Joseph). When you read these details, it becomes pretty obvious why Joseph’s brother’s don’t really like him.

Younger children might want to hear this story told in your own words. Older children may be able to read this story from Scripture. Because the stories of Joseph are so familiar to the students in your class, you may want to begin by asking them to tell the story of what happens, helping them with the sequence and details as you go.

Respond to the Story

This week, I wanted to try something a bit different. Rather than giving your students a project to complete, offer them several open-ended activities. The four suggestions below will get you started.

Open-ended response: Choose one or two of the response types below, then set up your classroom space. After you share the story, tell you students that they can respond to the story at one of the stations you have set up. Allow students to work independently, and check in as their work progresses. Encourage them and help them if they get stuck by asking questions. As their work progresses, you may want to ask them about the content by saying something like, “tell me about your picture here.” Keep all of the art at the end of the class so that we can hang them up. The biggest prep for this is the way you lay out materials, so think about items that you know are in the supply closet, and how they might encourage open-ended exploration.

1. Body Response: For this station, set out costumes, and objects that might represent materials from the story (Wheat, some paper stars), some of the Egypt materials from the supply closet. At this station encourage your students to act out the story together.

Alternatively, they can tell the story to each other and come up with body gestures (every time someone says Joseph, everyone takes a particular body posture).

2. Artistic Response:  Provide blank pieces of paper, a variety of materials, and something like paint or colored pencils. Ask them to think about the part of the story that is most important to them. Then, they can create an artistic depiction of that part of the story.

3. 3-D Artistic Response: Offer play-doh or modeling clay from the supply closet. Cover the tables with brown craft paper and allow them to work with an image or theme from the story that was important to them. Ask questions and offer a listening ear as they work.

4. Written Response: For this response, provide writing materials and a couple of prompts to choose from. Encourage students to illustrate their writings. Here are some suggested prompts:

What part of the story is most important and why?

If you could change one or more things about the story, what would it be and why?

If you were asked to tell this story to someone, how would you tell it?

Ask your students to help you clean up the space before snack and closing in prayer. 

Crisis: Scattered at Babel

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghul the Elder

Introduction

Like last week’s exploration of Noah, the flood, and the Covenant, the story of the Tower of Babel is one which may loom large in our imaginations and short in our Bibles. I was surprised as I continued to read through Genesis that the story of Babel, one I thought I remembered so well, turns out to be only nine verses, seemingly inconsequential, flanked by two genealogies (one of Noah and the other of Shem).

Before you begin to prepare for this week’s lesson, read through the text carefully. At this point in our story, we have been working primarily with creation and its undoing–creation’s alienation from God, the earth, and other created things–a theme we continue this week. The alienation we experience here is a tad different; first, the alienation itself seems intentionally created by God, and second, it has some permanence. Unlike the flood which come to an end and is reversed in some ways by the multiplying of peoples after it and the establishment of a covenant between God and creation, the confusion of language creates an almost permanent wedge in human community.

This story begins with the claim that all of the people of the world had one language (11:1). They migrate over the earth (from the east) until they find a place to stay and build a city (11:3), a city and a tower “with it’s top in the heavens” (11:4). The reason for such a fine city and tower is to prevent the people’s being scattered over the face of the earth (the reason for this particular fear is unknown. Are the people already under threat of being scattered? By whom?). When God comes down to examine the city and tower, God observes that they have been able to build such a tower because they share language. Now, it seems, nothing will be impossible for the people (11:5-7)! God confuses the languages of the people and they scatter over the face of the earth.

One common reading of this story sets it in juxtaposition to Pentecost. The fragmentation and scattering of the people is paralleled by the formation and coming together of a community of people at the Pentecost occasion (where people begin to speak in other languages as a response to the Holy Spirit and the story of the Gospel (Acts 2). Here, people are also “scattered” as they are set out to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to people in various languages. Laurence Hull Stookey puts it this way in Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church: “Babel results in disconnectedness, in a confused individualism. The church implies connectedness[…].” This juxtaposition helps us see the significance of this story in our salvation narrative–before we can ever get to Covenant, Christ, Church and Calling… we experience the Crisis of Fall, Flood and Fragmentation, the increased alienation of the created order from what God intended it to be.

Hear the Word

Share the story of the Tower of Babel from Genesis 11: 1-9. This story is short enough that even our youngest children can sit through its retelling. The Jesus Storybook Bible tells this story under the title “Stairway to Heaven” (beginning on page 48). The Children’s Illustrated Bible tells this story on page 28 and includes some historical tidbits about brick and Ziggurats that older children might find interesting.

Respond to the Word

1. Building Babel: Begin by asking each child to draw a “blueprint” of a tower that they would like to build.  Then describe some of its qualities. How high does it go? Is it strong? Fortified by additional walls or a moat? Then, put your students in two groups, using the cardboard blocks from the supply closet, let each group work together to build their version of the strongest tower. Afterward, each group can take turns describing why their tower is so strong. Discuss why God was worried about the tower building. Some have suggested that in relying on their own demonstration of power, the people forgot to rely on God for their safety. How might people build cities and towers differently if they were not worried about a display of strength? Let your students creative responses fly! Bonus: Babel Tower Falling Down: Did you already build a tower? Give each child a turn to remove one block from each of the two structures, until the tower falls down. See which group can remove the most bricks without it falling!

2. Building Babel a Block at a Time: Borrow the large plastic legos from the nursery (don’t worry, their Sunday School hour is very light and if you let me know before hand, I can remove the legos before the children arrive). Divide your class into two teams. Each team has one person who tosses one die and tells another team member how many blocks to get. The other team members take turns running to the lego blocks, collecting the correct number, and adding the blocks to their tower. Once they have finished, the die is cast again and the next teammate goes. The goal is to have the highest tower by the time the teacher says stop! Older children may like to play a variation on this game using this printable gameboard.

3. Act it out!: Work on some of the details of the story together by writing a script. Then, assign each person in your class a different character (you might need God or a narrator and some city people). Use costumes in the supply closet and act out the story together. Alternatively, You may like to use this script.

4. Babel in Picture: Spend some time together looking at artistic depictions of the tower of Babel. You can use the image above, or this, thisthis, or this. Discuss how each artist depicts the events of the story, and (if shown) Gods response. Which of the images offers the best interpretation of the story? Which of the versions is closest to what we find in our Biblical story? Which of the images do the children in your class like the best? Why?

5. Wonder Together: Wonder together about the story of Babel. Why is it that God scatters the people and gives them a different language? What is it that they are doing wrong?

6.  Explore different languages: The languages of the people at Babel were confused so that it was difficult to communicate. Learn how to say a simple phrase in different languages: here’s how to say hello in 21 languages, here’s how to say “I love you” in 101. If your students are older, you may even want to share the connection between the story of Babel and the story of Pentecost. In our time, the Church has been sent into all of the world to share the story of the good news of Jesus with all people (in their own language) with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Make a poster with all of the ways to say a simple phrase in another language.

Close with Prayer and a Feast

Crisis + Covenant: Noah, the Flood, and God’s Covenant

Noah Illumination , Italy, 14th Century

Introduction

Noah and the flood is one of the stories that we tend to hear often and know so well that we rarely have a close look at the text. This week, before you start planning your lesson, read through Genesis 6-9 and see if there is anything there that you haven’t noticed before.

Our story this week is a short three chapters which may loom quite large in the minds of the parish children. This is a story that you can count on being in almost every single children’s Bible. After the Fall, Genesis follows the story of the first family–Cain’s murder of Abel (4:1-7), the subsequent curse of the ground and Cain’s wandering over the earth (4:10-16), the spread of civilization (4:17-26), and the generations from Adam to Noah (5:1-32)–and the continual move by humankind away from God (6:5-8). These early stories are mostly about the increasing alienation of all of creation from God following the Fall.

It is also interesting to note that the fate of humankind (created in the image of God) and the fate of the rest of creation are tied up together. So much so that the wickedness and violence of humankind leads God to grieve over all of creation (6:6-7) and commit to destroying all human and animal life–everything with the breath of life (remember how important that breath was when God breathed into the first human, formed from the clay of the earth).

Noah alone is singled out as favored (6:8), presumably because he is both righteous and blameless (6:9). The following chapters cover Noah’s building of the ark, the events of the flood, the receding waters after the flood, and God’s covenant never to destroy creation again.

This is a story that may be made to seem softer with a moral lesson–Obey God like Noah–but the text doesn’t provide those connections for us. We may just have to sit with the text and find meaning in it. What is interesting for our context is creation’s alienation from God, and God’s covenant making with human creation. This is the first in a long line of stories that are about covenant making. God’s covenant with creation helps overcome estrangement and alienation, highlighting the kind of future that God wants for creation (in this case, a future without total destruction).

One more note before I list some suggestions for the lesson. Rainbows are quite an interesting symbol that deserves a moment of thought. In seminary, one of my professors suggested that God’s reminder to Godself is not merely an innocuous and beautiful symbol, but a bow (9:13). God’s reminder and covenant with all of creation is signified, it was suggested, through a weapon, which is (interestingly enough) pointed at God. People could take the promises of God very seriously because God takes Gods covenant with creation very seriously.

Objectives

1. Children will describe the story of Noah and the flood in their own words.

2. Children will be introduced to the theme of covenant as a promise between God and creation that helps overcome alienation and estrangement.

Hear the Word

Younger children may wish to hear the whole story in Genesis 6-9 in one of our children’s Bibles or one of the children’s books about the flood. These stories are often inadequate, but if you know the story, you can share parts that are left out with your class. If you use the Jesus Storybook Bible, your class might enjoy watching this video on an ipad. Older children may like to explore the whole story, but because it is too long for our 50 minute sessions, you might want to explore it in parts. Here are some suggested verses to focus on depending on the focus of your class: God sees the wickedness of the earth and selects Noah to build the ark (Genesis 6:5-22), the flood (7:11-17), God’s covenant with all living things (9:12-17).

Respond to the Word

1. Material Storytelling: Bring various items from the supply closets or elsewhere (blue cloth, different colored streamers or paper strips, a basket for the ark). After telling the story, give the children access to the different items you brought in in order to act out the different parts of the story from start to finish. They can tell the story as one large group setting the stage as they go, or in sets of two or three. If your students are readers, you can use this skit.

2. Covenant symbols: God set the bow in the sky as a reminder of God’s promises to humans and other creation never to destroy the earth and living things again. Invite children to discuss what kind of promises the people might have made to God in response: no more violence, no more wicked behavior, commitment to obedience and closeness to God. Then, using any material of your choosing (clay and watercolor strike me as particularly good options), allow each child to create their own symbol from the story–an ark, water, a dove, etc.–to remind us of what our side of the covenant might look like. How does God want us to relate to God, one another, and the earth, and which symbol is the best reminder of that?

3. Rainbows everywhere: Spend some time talking about what God’s covenant with creation means. Is it strange that this is also a covenant with all of the earth, including animals? Then work on creating rainbows of promise. You may want to guide them through creating rainbows from specific materials or provide various materials and allow children to create rainbows in their own way. Here are some good ideas to get juices flowing on possible materials: Rainbow mosaic, rainbow watercolor crayon resist, 3-d paper rainbow or another 3-d paper rainbow.

4. Build an ark: God brought Noah and his family safely to the other side of the flood by using an ark. This is an important symbol for the Christian Church and a lot of church architecture reflects this symbol. When you look up at the ceiling of the Nave (and many other chapels and churches) the architecture calls to mind an ark. Use the cardboard bricks in the supply closet and work together to build an ark.

5.  Noah Songs

a. Rise and Shine

b. (To the tune of Old McDonald): For the animal part, have each child provide a different animal to use for the song.

Good old Noah built an ark, like God told him to.
And on that ark he took 2:
(animals) ie. Cows.
With a moo moo here, and a moo moo there
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo moo.

6. Adapt the Naming Animals Game: Young classes may enjoy the animal game from a couple of weeks ago when talking about how Noah gathered two of every animal for the Ark.

7. Generations from Adam to Noah: Last year some of you expressed an interest in creating a sort of timeline for your classes, something that could be put up in the classroom and added to throughout the year. This idea–a timeline of the generations from Adam to Noah–might be just the thing you are looking for.

Close with a Feast and Prayer

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