Learning Lessons from the Garden
We were created to be God’s image-bearers. But what happens when we distort that image or, even worse, presume that we know the will of God? What lessons do we have to learn from the Garden of Eden and from Golgotha? What does it mean to be in relationship with God?
- Religious Statements on Animals
- Please read the Scriptures for the week as well.
SMALL GROUP SESSION AGENDA
Creator God, with great intention, time and creativity, You gave form and light to an empty and dark world. Thank you. You’ve created the heavens and the earth, the great creatures of the sea and every living thing in it. You’ve formed humanity in Your image, in Your likeness, and You’ve blessed us with a timeless blessing. Thank you. By the power of Your Word, You’ve called us out of nothingness to become spiritual beings enclosed in flesh. You have called us to be bearers of Your Divine Image. Thank you. As we study, give us an understanding of the power and work that You require of us. Your infinite dignity blesses our finite humanity. Your grace meets us at the point of our need and equips us for this journey. Thank you, Holy One. Go deeper with us as we go deeper in love with You, ourselves, and one another. Center us with every breath in the fullness of time to be born anew. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen.
In the gift of this moment, we affirm that we are divinely loved and lovable.
We are the children of God.
Together, we will learn from the actions and words of one another.
Christ’s lessons on love are centered in how we treat others and in how we treat ourselves.
We will exercise courage in this study as we share stories of struggle and strength.
We will stay at the table and receive those stories with grace.
We will not be afraid to launch into the deep.
We will commit to the vulnerability necessary to allow God to break us open.
We will set and respect boundaries and honor confidentiality together.
When uncertainty arises, we will remember the Spirit of “peace that passes our own understanding” and can intercede for us.
We will remember that even when we don’t feel “United,”
The uniting love of Christ can reveal a pathway to greater
wisdom and mutual respect.
No matter what, there is a place for each one of us in this study together.
Let us hold each other up in prayer, hold each other accountable in love, and
trust that our God is making all things new.
Thank you for the gift of being present to one another in this holy time.
Genesis 1:26-31, 3:1-13 (14-19), 20-24, Romans 8:31-39
Rev. Dr. Valentín-Castañón, superintendent of the Frederick District, has taught theology at both Wesley Theological Seminary and at Perkins School of Theology.
Head & Heart Discussion
- God created us in God’s image, and too often, we return the favor – creating God in our image, at our own peril. Looking back on Eden, describe the relationships between God and the characters in the garden. How do they impact and inform us today?
- According to John Wesley, “all pride is idolatry; it is ascribing to ourselves what is due to God alone.” Where is pride or arrogance evident in your life?
- In the video, Rev. Dr. Valentín-Castañón said that Jesus calls us to live into the reality of the image of God – the imago dei. “This is a call God has placed on every human heart.” Do you feel that call on your own heart? If so, how do you live it out?
BEYOND THIS SESSION
Prayer and Pathway to Journaling
Often, when we become reflexively resistant to what we’ve experienced through study, it is pointing towards an area worthy of more reflection and prayer. In this part of study, we invite you to examine your areas of resistance or struggle. Allow God to reveal how transformation can occur in those areas.
Use these open-ended questions to facilitate your introspection:
- How does the discussion during this session apply to your life, your church, our denomination?
- Where is the Spirit revealing to you areas appropriate for growth and transformation?
- How does what we talked about transform your relationship with God and others?
- To be a child of God and follower of Jesus means dying to yourself and taking up one’s cross. What does that mean to you in your life right now? Choose one way this week you will intentionally claim and grow in your discipleship. Live out that intention.
- Write a prayer to ask for God’s support and enlightenment to apply what you learned, and then pray it.
- Essay: “Faith in Gods and in God,” by Richard Niebuhr. This essay distinguishes active faith from belief.
- Movie: Do the Right Thing (1989)
- The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 by J. Richard Middleton
- John Wesley Writings: Paraphrased and excerpted from: Sermon on “Original Sin”
- A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (book).