Bible Text: Genesis 1–2
Lesson Focus: God has created us to reflect God’s image as we actively participate in creation today.
Big Question: What can I really do to make a difference in caring for creation?
Key Words: CREATE, CHAOS, ORDER, STEWARDSHIP
• God is our creator and we are part of God’s good creation.
• The two biblical versions of the creation story help us explain who we are and whose we are; they are not meant to be read as scientific or historical fact.
• God gave human beings a special place in creation that puts a heavy responsibility on them.
• We are called to live in faithfulness to God the creator, in whose image we were created.
The Genesis story takes two forms: first, the creation of the heavens and earth in a series of six days followed by a day of rest; and second, the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. These two stories contradict one another at times, and if Genesis were submitted for publication today as a brand new manuscript, it would probably go through much revision.
The first creation story (Genesis 1:1–2:4) is a methodical story beginning with the chaos of a dark, formless void that in six days becomes a flourishing, diverse earth with living creatures of all kinds. This creation account moves from confusion to order in a logical sequence by the command of the all-powerful God. The source of this writing is generally attributed to the Priestly writer, or “P.”
The second creation story (Genesis 2:4–25) begins with the creation of a human from the dust of the ground. Here, too, God is the creator. But God is personified—planting a garden, breathing into the nostrils of the human being—which playfully allows for errors in creation. The source of this creation story is ascribed to the Yahwist writer, or “J.”
Despite their literary differences, both of these creation stories point to one thing: God is the creator, and we are part of God’s good creation. Boundaries between creator and creation have been set; there is order in the world between God and humans, humans and animals, and in the interrelationships within humanity.
The creation stories of Genesis tell us who we are and where we came from while still acknowledging the deep mystery of God. Some things just can’t be explained, even with a really good story. What we do know is that we were created in God’s own image (1:27) and that “God saw everything that [God] had made, and indeed, it was very good” (1:31).
Although God created us for good, it did not take long for humanity to push the boundaries. Genesis reveals a world where humans’ less-than-perfect decisions have consequences. God does not control us, nor can we control God. Rather, we are called to live faithfully and responsibly within our relationship with God the creator.
Human beings have been given a special place in God’s creation, but it comes with a burden: Men and women share the task of being conscientious stewards of the earth and all creation. Humans need one another and should not take the gifts of creation for granted.
We also need boundaries! The stories of the people in Genesis read like stories about small children testing the boundaries set by parents. There are consequences for going beyond, but there is also grace in forgiveness.
Many teenagers can relate to the story of Adam and Eve pushing the boundaries that God gave them. Like a good parent’s discipline, boundaries are set out of love to protect and preserve.
For teenage students struggling with normal adolescent anxieties like acne and awkwardness, it may also be helpful to lift up that we are created in God’s own image, created to be good. Our lives are to be lived as a reflection of the image of God.
The Bible is a story of a living people that is passed on through the ages largely by oral tradition. Most cultures throughout human history have had some sort of creation story; Judeo-Christians are no different. In fact, our creation stories share similar themes. Universal foundation stories help us understand what it means to be human and where we came from in a divine sense. Genesis reads like a family history of the people who will be the nation Israel. The central points are that God loves us, God alone created us, and chaos will not win.
The two versions of the creation story show us that the Bible should not be read as a science or history book. The issue of creationism has been distorted in contemporary thought, polarizing hard science against religious meaning. The writers of these biblical words lived in different worldly understandings and could not have foreseen the unfortunate modern battle that has pitted faith against fact. The earth is undoubtedly billions of years old; our religious ancestors could not have known such geological and anthropological facts, nor could they have particularly cared as it relates to our relationship with God the creator.
What is important is our understanding of creation: God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good!
What can I really do to make a difference in caring for creation?
Help youth make a connection to the abstract concept of God in order to make the creation story seem real in their daily experiences. When they hear the phrase “and God said it was good” applied to each thing that God created, they can realize that God created a world for them. But the world is not just for them to use. They have an obligation to care for creation, and there are many things they can do to meet that obligation.
Each person is created in God’s image, and God is very pleased with the creation. This lesson helps students grasp that “in God’s image” does not mean they look like God; it means they were created to please God and do God’s work in the world. Hearing over and over that God was pleased with all creation, especially humans, is central to enhancing self-esteem. Youth need to understand that God created them to be unique individuals, not to become what others think they should be.
Help kids dive into the Key Words by asking for definitions and/or providing these definitions:
CREATE/CREATION: to bring into being; the environment or surroundings; a creature or a living being.
CHAOS: a state of utter confusion; the confused unorganized state of matter before the creation of distinct forms.
ORDER: the arrangement or sequence of objects or of events in time; to arrange by putting persons or things in relation to each other.
STEWARDSHIP: the careful and responsible management of the resources that have been entrusted to our care.
Choose one of the following three options to introduce the lesson. Then lead students in the Opening Prayer.
Movement Option: Chaos Chorus
God created the world as order out of chaos. Have students stand and slowly move around the room or area. As they are milling about, ask them to make the sound effects of birds, including any noise a bird might make. After a minute, clap your hands to get their attention, and ask them now to make the sounds of small animals in a forest. Continue in this manner with large animals in a jungle, fish in the ocean, animals at night, or any other “noisy” animals. You might want to add sounds of nature, such as wind, storms, and waves crashing on the shore. Encourage the students to be bold and expressive. Get their attention one last time and ask them to stop and remain completely still and quiet.
Debrief the movement activity with these questions.
• How would you describe the atmosphere in the room during this activity?
• Was anything productive happening during the chaos? How might you have controlled the chaos so that there could have been some order in the room?
• What do you think the chaos was like before God created the world?
• How does the order that God built into creation help you function in the world today?
• What types of chaos do you find in the world today?
Gather the group around a visual representation of the creation, such as a picture of Earth from space, a drawing of the planets in the solar system, a globe or world map, a picture of a sunset, mountains, or other natural landscape; or go outside and be a part of nature.
Creator God, you made us, the earth, and the heavens; we praise you and thank you for our neighborhood called Earth. Thank you for creating us in your image. Thank you for the daily signs that show us you created a masterpiece. Thank you for being an artist who paints skies, sunrises, and sunsets. Help us to join you in your creative work. Amen.
My Faith Story
Ask kids to respond to the Big Question: What can I really do to make a difference in caring for creation?
Then share a part of your own faith story using the suggestion below or another way to share about reflecting God’s image in everything we do and being good stewards of the creation.
Think of a time when you felt particularly close to God or experienced God in nature. Share how the power of God and nature came together for you. Talk about the respect and care you have for nature and how that feeling is reflected in how you care for Earth. Discuss with the students what connections they have to creation. Where have they experienced a closeness to the Creator God? What do they do to reflect the image of God when it comes to caring for their schools, neighborhoods, state, country, or planet?
Open the Bible
Lutheran Study Bible page 48: Read together the first two paragraphs of “What’s the Message?” to understand why the Bible starts with the book of Genesis. Then invite students to turn to Genesis 1:27 in their Bibles. Ask someone to read the verse aloud. Pay special attention to these words: created and image of God. Read the verse again. Why do you think this is a key verse in the creation story?
Created is the translation of a Hebrew verb that was used in the Bible only when referring to God, not to people. Only God could create the world. Only God could speak and bring everything into being. Genesis doesn’t give details as to how or when this was done, but it does declare that God is the creator of all. We stand in awe of this creator who loved us enough to make us the climax of the creation. What responsibility comes with being the climax of the creation?
Lutheran Study Bible page 50: Read the Lutheran Perspectives sidebar, “What do Lutherans believe about creation and evolution?“ This is a good time to reinforce the fact that Genesis and all the books of the Bible are not science books, but rather that Genesis is a book of faith. See the comments in “Deep Prep.” Give students a chance to raise their questions about evolution.
To explore the idea of the image of God, share the story of a time when you had no idea about how you looked. Maybe you were helping your grandmother sort through old photos, or you were raking leaves, or you were just acting goofy with your brother or sister. That’s the image of God that you were made in—a reflection of goodness so involved in living and being connected that it makes you forget yourself and causes you to be your truest self. How do you reflect that image of God when you are with your friends?
Invite students to read Genesis 1:31 together. A “good” creation equals a creation that maintains its connection with God. Many connections were already formed in the creation: between God and the world, between humans and creatures, between individuals and the whole community. What relationships do students spend lots of time thinking about? What relationship do they have with the creation? God dealt with relationships throughout the Bible. What relationships were developed at the creation of the world?
Compare the two creation accounts in Genesis 1:1–2:4 and 2:4–25. Why are there two similar stories? What conclusions can we draw? Talk about how the Bible is not a history or science book; it is a book of faith. It tells us about God’s relationship with humankind.
Movement Option: Creation in Motion
As a group, determine a simple movement to represent each day of creation—for example, flapping arms, wave motions, and tiptoeing insect motions. String these movements together in the order of the days of creation to design a simple dance that flows from one movement to another. Challenge the students to sing or say their days of the creation song. Use a traditional days-of-the-week song and substitute creation words, such as “Light Day,” “Sky Day,” “Land Day,” “Sun-Moon-and-Stars Day,” “Sea-and-Sky-Creatures Day,” “Animals-and-People Day,” “Sabbath Day.” Add the simple movements to each day as they recite or sing the days of creation. After having fun with the dance and song to depict creation, you could try to do the dance in reverse order and see if chaos returns. Be sure to rest at the end.
Summarize the activity with these questions:
• Do you think God had fun in creating the universe? Why or why not?
• In creation, what is the difference between order and chaos?
• Do you think one day in creation was more important than all the other days? Why or why not?
Music Option: What a Wonderful World
Play the song “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong (from Louis Armstrong’s All-Time Greatest Hits, UMG Recordings). Please preview this content to determine its appropriateness for your setting.
This classic song has been sung by a range of musicians in multiple ways, highlighting the variety that exists even in singing about this awesome creation that we live in. This song reminds us not only that God looked at everything in creation and saw that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31), but also that we have so much to be thankful for in God’s wonderful creation today.
In this song, “trees of green,” “skies of blue,” “bright, blessed days,” and “dark, sacred nights” make Louis Armstrong think, “What a wonderful world.”
Once you listen to the song, ask these questions about the song and its connection to the lesson’s Bible text:
• What makes you think, “What a wonderful world”?
• How, or where, do you see God when you look at creation?
• As a unique individual, where do you fit in this wonderful world?
Getting Involved Option: Your Creation Cause
Ask students about possible options for them to be activists for Earth. Search your local newspaper to learn about environmental issues in the community. Check environmental magazines, such as E—The Environmental Magazine, or check Web sites, such as www.care2.com, for causes you can get involved in to help preserve the environment. Also consider talking to people in the congregation who may be environmental activists, or seek out responsible businesses who are making an impact in the community. Choose the local issue that attracts you, and start getting involved.
Summarize this activity with these questions:
• What is your job as part of God’s creation?
• What is one thing you could do to help care for creation?
• How could you encourage others in the congregation and the community to join you in caring for creation?
Pass out pencils and Student Sheets. Look at the front of the Student Sheet together. Pick a volunteer to read each bullet point aloud for the group. Talk about the points with students.
• Why did God create the universe?
• What is the purpose of creation? What is your purpose?
• What is your extra responsibility as a special part of creation?
Turn to this week’s activity called “HWS Bible Trivia.” Let your kids pair up to work through the activity together. After a few minutes, discuss the answers as a group.
Use the cartoon and questions on the Student Sheet to kick off a conversation.
• What do “chocolate” and “candy” mean in reference to creation?
Use the concept that “Chocolate inside, candy coating outside” is something good that we all like. Make the connection to the fact that all that God created was very good. “It was good” meant that the creation was in relationship to God. What are the students doing to deepen their connection to God?
• Why is this cartoon called the “first” plan for Earth?
It was God’s plan that the created world would be perfect, a desirable place for anyone, just like candy is desirable. God created something very good and brought order to chaos, but chaos would return.
• What happened to the first plan for the earth that changed it from the image of chocolate and candy?
Draw out the students’ knowledge about sin entering into the world and spoiling the good that God created.
Student Book Connection
Student Book page 75: Ask five students to each read one of the “Five Most Common Images for God in the Bible.” In today’s lesson, we learned about one name for God—Creator. Discuss what is in a name. See if any students know what their names mean. Together, come up with a definition for “Creator,” drawing on what has been discovered in this lesson. Have students write that definition on their Student Sheets.
Define some of the other images and names we use to describe God. Why can one God have so many different images and names? Note that many of the names we use for God are descriptive of particular actions or acts of God. What other names for God, besides these five, can you list?
Student Book page 56: Read together “The Top 10 Bible Miracles and What They Mean.” Divide the class into groups of two or three and ask each group to review the 10 miracles and agree on a ranking of what they consider to be the three most important miracles. When the small groups report back to the large group, there may be some interesting debate among the students. Encourage students to state their reasons for their choices. Conclude that the miracles tell us who God is and how God continues to create. In what ways does God relate to people today? Does God still use miracles?
Talk about last week’s Life Connection. Ask your group what they did this week to live out last week’s lesson. What did they learn? What might they do in the future to keep living out that Life Connection?
If possible, step outside together. Ask students to think about a time when they might have felt especially close to nature. Nature can stir youth to think about their place in the world and to wonder at the magnificence of their surroundings. For a few quiet moments, look at, touch, and listen to nature. Then ask a student to read this week’s “Life Connection” from the Student Sheet. Invite students to name some possibilities for how they might fulfill their stewardship responsibilities as an important part of God’s creation.
Kids this age have lots of questions about right and wrong, stories in the Bible, and faith and life. Provide time for them to ask questions. Remember, there isn’t always a right answer, but encouraging discussion is great! Questions help kids explore their faith. Help them explore on their path to confirmation.After their questions, ask one or more of the following questions to connect your conversations with the Lesson Focus:
• When you look in the mirror, do you see a uniquely created person? Explain.
• What does it mean to reflect the image of God?
• How are you connected to God’s creation? What could you do to enhance that connection to practice stewardship of the earth?
For a prayer, begin by reading together Psalm 148. This is a psalm of praise for the Creator. Have students write their own song of praise to the Creator, perhaps adding music, dance, or rhythm instruments; or use this prayer based on the Psalm.
Group 1: Praise the Lord from the heavens!
Group 2: Praise God in the heights!
Group 1: Praise God, sun and moon!
Group 2: Praise God, all you shining stars!
Group 1: Let them praise the name of the Lord,
Group 2: For God commanded and they were created.
Group 1: Young men and women alike,
Group 2: Old and young together!
Both Groups: Let them praise the name of the Lord. Amen.
Before dismissing the group, share the following blessing with them. Make the sign of the cross as you say the blessing.
May God who brought order to the chaos and created everything help you to believe that you are a special part of creation and have been given the opportunity to care for it. In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Host a quick quiz show to review what you’ve covered in the lesson so far.
Multiple Choice Questions
1. The creation stories of Genesis tell us . . .
a. who we are and where we came from.
b. more than the new food pyramid does.
c. that God is the same as the creation.
d. that creation was a one-time event that took seven days.
2. Human beings are given a special place in God’s creation, which means . . .
a. they have a heavy responsibility.
b. they can ruin things at their leisure.
c. they are pangolins.
d. they are free of any responsibility.
3. God brought order out of chaos in the creation, proving once and for all that . . .
a. God can now order us around.
b. it was tough getting the oceans to behave.
c. chaos will never win over God.
d. creating the universe wasn’t very hard to do.
4. We are made “in God’s image.” That means . . .
a. God must really be good-looking.
b. we were created to please God and do God’s work in the world.
c. God could use a makeover.
d. we have the same powers as God.
True or False Questions
5. God rested in the middle of the creation week; it was just too much!
6. Created in the Hebrew language is a verb reserved for God’s action, not people’s activity.
7. The day of rest is called the Sabbath.
8. God saw everything that was made, and indeed, it was just so-so.