Friday, November 10, 2006

Lesson 2: In the Beginning...

One thing we discovered while we taught nine- and ten-year-olds about the Old Testament was that some stories needed no review. The Creation was one example—light, darkness, plants, fish, birds, crawling things, Adam, Eve, Serpent, fruit, expulsion. Any child in our class could have rattled that list off without blinking, so there was little need for retelling. For our class about the Creation, we set up a still life in the center of the room and placed all the children in a circle around it. We passed out paper and colored pencils, and asked them to draw what they saw. David did a hasty scribble and then insisted that he was finished. Joshua was done not too much later. The girls—Ali and a visitor—took their time, creating careful renderings of what they saw. JC and I drew too. At the end, we compared our drawings.

“Are all of our drawings the same?” I asked. After pointing out the many differences between everyone’s drawings—JC’s was quite precise, mine had lots of color, Joshua’s was smaller than the rest—Ali finally said, “We all drew different things.” She pointed out how I had drawn the purple dolphins on the sarong we had draped over half of it, whereas she had drawn the spiraling lamp that we’d placed at the center. Joshua’s drawing showed more of the basket at the base of the group, and hardly any of the sarong. “Why do you think that is?” I asked her.

“We all sat in different places.” Eventually, with a good deal of leading questions, we got around to the idea that we had each drawn an image of the same thing, but each drawing was different, each one was incomplete.

“What does it mean that we are made in God’s image?” asked JC. “Does it mean we are just like God? And how can we all be just like God, since we’re all different? Are some of us better images?”

The kids thought about this one for a minute. Then Joshua slowly said, “No…but we’re each like a part of God. Like God drew us all from different angles.” The other kids looked at him oddly, but David nodded.

JC looked at the kids, who were just absorbing all of this, and winked at me. “Who knows where Eden is?”

“No one,” said Ali.

“That’s not true,” JC said. “The Bible tells us right where it is. Someone get a Bible and read Genesis 2:10-14.”

David did. “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” JC showed them on a map more or less where Eden should have been. “Back in the middle ages, during the Crusades, people marked Eden on their maps—a lot of people claimed to have found it, since the Bible told them where to look.”

“Why didn’t they go back to Eden, if they knew right where it was?” Ali wanted to know.

David answered her before we could. “There’s an angel with a flaming sword, don’t you remember?” Ali insisted that it wasn’t fair for God to exclude all people from Eden just because two people messed up.

“Have any of you ever given in to temptation?” I asked. They nodded. “What kinds of things tempt kids your age?”

“Being mean to my brother.”

“Cheating on a test.”

“Ignoring my parents.”


“So we’ve all sinned, right? Sin is just giving in to temptation. But there is a way back to Eden.” The kids looked at me, puzzled. “What is Eden? It’s a special kind of place, where God walks with people, physically. They hear him coming. Have you ever heard God? It’s a place without work—you just pick your food off the trees. It’s a place of harmony and peace. Does that sound familiar to anyone?”
“It kind of sounds like heaven,” said Joshua.

JC opened his Bible and read them Romans 5:15-17. “’But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.’ What does that mean?”

“That Jesus died to make up for Adam’s sin?” said Joshua.

“Yes, and also the sins of everyone since then. If I were the only person in the history of people to have sinned, Jesus would have died to cover that sin. Or if you were, or if no one at all had sinned since Adam and Eve, Jesus would have come and died just for them. It’s because of his death that we are able to enter Heaven, which is like a new Eden,” I paused, and glanced at JC. I wasn’t sure what to say next.

“Have any of you ever taken the punishment when one of your siblings really deserved it?” he asked them. Ali looked at him with a perfectly straight face.

“No,” she said. “Why?”

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