Lesson One: In the image of God
Preparation for the teacher:
Read the texts (found below) ahead of time.
Watch the video – it may stimulate additional questions appropriate for your context. Make certain you have tested the equipment necessary for showing the video – it helps to keep the technical gremlins away!
Do a little homework about your church and community. Think about people in your church or your community who have been particularly effective leaders, who have been able to get good things done. What makes them so effective? How do they interact with other people? Do they try to share power and responsibility, or do they keep a tight grip on power?
Some helpful background: The story that opens the Bible is the first of two full-blown biblical narratives about the creation of the world. The other follows immediately in Genesis 2-3. There are other much more fragmentary allusions to ancient creation stories sprinkled throughout the Bible. The story in Genesis 1:1 -- 2:4a makes a number of unmistakable allusions to an ancient Babylonian creation story, the Enuma Elish. For example, the Hebrew word usually translated “the deep” (Genesis 1:2) is tehom, a Hebrew variation of the name Tiamat, the sea goddess in the Enuma Elish. The term often translated “the spirit of God” that hovers over the surface of the waters in 1:2 is probably better translated as “an awesome wind,” an allusion to the four winds that the Babylonian god Marduk blew across the belly of Tiamat, i.e., the surface of the waters. These and other allusions to the Babylonian story set up the brilliant and surprising switch that happens as the biblical story unfolds. In the Babylonian story, the creation of human beings is the final act of a bloody, violent narrative where the world is the end result of a divine massacre and human beings are created as slaves. In the biblical story, human beings are created to exercise power in the world as God exercises power in the universe. But that power stands in stark contrast to the kind of violent, dominating power exercised by the Babylonian empire and its patron god Marduk. God’s power is generous and joyful. The world, created in peace, is the source of flourishing life. Human beings, male and female, created in the image of God, are called to exercise power in the world the way God does, with life-giving generosity, confidence, and joy. Filled with power, women and men are free to give.
Pray for your students as you prepare this week’s lesson.
Teaching the lesson
As the class begins, welcome the class and engage in your usual opening exercises (taking attendance, collecting an offering, prayer concerns, other announcements, etc.)
Ask the class to list words that come to mind when they hear the word “power.” Make a list of “positive” connotations and a list of “negative” connotations of “power.” What makes the difference between the two lists -- what makes power “good”? What makes it “bad”?
Read the following biblical texts. Is “power” positive or negative in each of these passages? What makes the difference?
• Daniel 8:4
• Daniel 8:23-25
• 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
• Luke 6:19
Have the class watch these video links on YouTube
Ask the class to wrestle with the following questions:
The Babylonian imperial creation story portrays a dangerous, unsettled world where justice and peace depend on domination and the threat and actual use of extreme violence. The biblical story, by contrast, portrays a created world called into being by a divine word, without threat, without a fight, without bloodshed of any kind, a world teeming with abundant life. How might each of these world views affect the way someone might think about material possessions? About giving and sharing?
Name some of the fears -- as a nation, as a community, as a church -- that hold us back, that cause us to act without generosity and self-confidence. What might we be able to do if we could move beyond those fears? How might we begin to put those fears behind us or at least address them in a way that allows us to move forward?
In the biblical story, human beings are created in the image of God to share power in the world. Discuss some examples of people not experiencing their God-given power. What might the church do to help them experience that power? How can we increase the sense of shared power in our church? Our community? Our nation? Our world?
Close the lesson time with prayer.