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?

Pre-Session Assignment

  • Putting our assignment of stewardship for creation in context: Humane Society article
  • Please read the Scriptures for the week as well.

SMALL GROUP SESSION AGENDA

Opening Prayer

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.

Who are we affirmation

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.

Scripture

Genesis 1:26-31, 3:1-13 (14-19), 20-24, Romans 8:31-39

Video Content

With Eliezer Valentin-Castañón, who is pastor of Trinity UMC in Frederick, has taught theology at Course of Study Program at both Wesley Theological Seminary and at Perkins School of Theology. 

Download

Head & Heart Discussion 
  1. 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? 
    1. 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? 
      1. 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? 
      Closing Prayer

      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.
      Additional Resources
      • Essay: “Faith in Gods and in God,” by Richard Niebuhr. This essay distinguishes active faith from belief. 
      • Movie: Do the Right Thing (1989)
      • Books:  
        • The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1 by J. Richard Middleton
      • John Wesley Writings:  Paraphrased and excerpted from: Sermon on “Original Sin”  

      "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Gen. 6:5. “In his natural state, every person born into the world is a rank idolater. Perhaps, indeed, we may not be such in the vulgar sense of the word. We do not, like the idolatrous Heathens, worship molten or graven images. We do not bow down to the stock of a tree, to the work of our own hands. We do not pray to the angels or saints in heaven, any more than to the saints that are upon the earth. But what then? We have set up our idols in our hearts; and to these we bow down and worship them: We worship ourselves, when we pay that honor to ourselves which is due to God only. Therefore, all pride is idolatry; it is ascribing to ourselves what is due to God alone. And although pride was not made for man, yet where is the man that is born without it But hereby, we rob God of his unalienable right, and idolatrously usurp his glory.”

      • A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (book).

      "The first advice I would give those who have been saved from sin by grace is to watch and pray continually against pride. For it is pride not only to ascribe what we have to ourselves, but also to think we have what we do not. One man, for instance, ascribed his knowledge to God and therefore was humble. But then he thought that he had more knowledge than everyone else which is dangerous pride. We often think we have no need of anyone's advice or reproof. Always remember, much grace does not imply much enlightenment. We may be wise but have little love, or we may have love with little wisdom. God has wisely joined us all together as parts of the body so that we cannot say to one another, 'I have no need of you.'

      “Even to imagine that those who are unsaved cannot teach you is a very great and serious mistake. Dominion is not found in grace. Not observing this has led some into many mistakes and certainly into pride. Beware of even the appearance of pride. Let there be in you that lowly mind which was in Christ Jesus. Be clothed with humility. Let modesty appear in all your words and actions.

       “One way to do this is to own any fault we have. If you have at any time thought, spoken, or acted wrong, do not refrain from acknowledging it. Never dream that this will hurt the cause of God--in fact, it will further it. Be open and honest when you are rebuked and do not seek to evade it or disguise it. Rather, let it appear just as it is and you will thereby not hinder but adorn the gospel."

      This excerpt from the book comes from Devotional Classics 
      (edited by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith) pp. 258-259.