(Genesis 1:1 31, JOHN 1:1 18)

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1 (Genesis 1:1 31, JOHN 1:1 18) The book of Romans tells us that God reveals himself through creation and that, because of this, human beings have no reason to say they don t know about him (Romans 1:20). This service will help your all-age congregation to explore the character of our Creator God and to thank God for his creation. As the members of your congregation hear God s Word in the Bible and are encouraged to wonder at the awesomeness of our Creator, they will also be invited to re-examine what it means to be the people of his creation, made by him in his own image. This service is concerned with who created everything rather than how everything was created. It therefore does not seek to address the ongoing creation or evolution debate. In the context of global climate change and associated challenges, Genesis 1 is a key chapter for Christians seeking to respond biblically. This service touches on some of the issues and includes an opportunity for your congregation to consider what they can do to care for the environment. This is a Light Link service. That means it directly relates to the syllabus of Scripture Union s Light resources, in contrast to those services where the primary link is to a Christian festival or other occasion. Light users have just explored the Easter story as told by Luke. The teaching from John 1 in this service should help them to see that God s plan of salvation, made known at Easter, actually stretches right back to creation. This should serve to emphasise God s goodness in creating the universe the current focus of Light users as they explore the opening chapter of Genesis together. 52

2 During the week before the service, collect some of your favourite holiday photos of landscapes, different cultures and creation. Ask members of your congregation to do the same. You might like to suggest a few ideas, such as sunsets, beaches, mountains, flowers, interesting cultural traditions and peoples, or even a snap of their back gardens! Scan the pictures into a PowerPoint presentation or photocopy them on to OHT ready for display. Display each of the photographs in turn. As each picture is shown to the congregation, invite the person who supplied it to explain why they have chosen this particular picture to share. You might get some interesting stories and memories! After showing the photos to the congregation, explain that what they all have in common is that they speak to us of God s creative power. Say that this will be the focus of your service. You might like to think about somehow making the images visible to the congregation for the duration of the service, so they can act as a prompt for them to wonder at our Creator God and all that he has made. Sing together one or more of the following creation-themed songs: I the Lord of sea and sky ; Lord of heaven and earth ( God of wonders ); O Lord my God ( How great thou art ); Over all the earth ( Lord, reign in me ); Over the mountains and the sea ( I could sing of your love forever ) Before each song, say the following verse together: Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker (Psalm 95:6). Ask the congregation to call out things for which they are thankful to God. Write up their suggestions on a flip chart at the front of the room. You could refer them to the photos from the introductory activity to help get them started! Why not use a variety of brightly coloured marker pens to write on the flip chart, to reflect the joy and excitement people feel about God s greatness and goodness to us? When you have a good number of suggestions, lead the congregation in a prayer of thanksgiving in which you include space for them to join you in calling out to God the things written on the flip chart. 53

3 Either read the following two Bible passages aloud yourself, or ask two members of the congregation in advance to come prepared to read them: Genesis 1:1 31 John 1:1 18 In addition, you could read the Genesis passage from The Street Bible by Rob Lacey, in order to give people a fresh view on this well known passage. This could either be read straight after the reading from the Bible, or at a separate point in the service, perhaps as a meditative reflection. You could also adapt it into a dramatised reading. Before the service you will need to prepare a large sheet of paper with eight symbolic images on it. They should be organised in two columns, the first relating to what the Bible passages for this service teach us about God (headed About God ), and the second relating to what they teach us about ourselves (headed About Us ). The images you will need are as follows: Column1: clock, sun, thumbs up, basket of fruit, arrow pointing upwards. Column2: mirror, world map, child with parent. You could cut out suitable images from magazines, ask someone with artistic talent to draw them, or source them using a website providing images free for noncommercial usages (such as www. sxc.hu). Each picture should be covered with an individual paper flap. You could use one colour paper flap to cover the images relating to God, and another colour flap to cover those relating to human beings. Before covering the images with paper flaps, make an individual A5-sized copy of each one. Write a different phrase on the back of each of these smaller copies as follows, and hide them in different places around your meeting room: Clock: There before everything Sun: Created everything Thumbs up: Pleased with what he made Basket of fruit: Provides for creation Arrow pointing upwards: Jesus shows us what God is like Mirror: Made in the image of God World map: Given responsibility for the earth Child with parent: Those who accept and put their faith in Jesus become children of God Ask for some volunteers of all ages to take part in a treasure hunt. Begin by asking your first volunteer to tear off one of the flaps to discover a clue. Tell them that you have hidden a matching image somewhere in the room, and they must find it in order to discover what the picture means. When the volunteer has found the matching image, ask them to read out the phrase written on the back of it. You can then expand on this using the notes below. Then ask a new volunteer to come forward, reveal an image and search for its matching pair. Each time, use the following notes to explain the meaning of the symbols: There before everything (clock) The Bible says God is the Alpha and the 54

4 Omega (Revelation 1:8). Explain that this means he is the beginning and the end. You might like to read Revelation 4:11, which illustrates that God will still be worshipped as the Creator of the earth, even at the end of time. Both Genesis 1 (v 26) and John 1 (v 1) highlight the fact that God as Father, Son and Spirit was there at the beginning of time. Created everything (sun) John 1:3 says of the Word that, Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. Ask the congregation to imagine all the creatures they can think of, right from the smallest bug to the most enormous animal. Invite them to pause and wonder at God s creativity in thinking of all the different shapes and sizes! You might like to ask the congregation to call out their favourite animals. If appropriate, stress the importance of remembering that, whatever we believe about how the earth was formed, it was God who created everything, and the Bible can help us to understand his purpose in creating it as he did. Pleased with what he made ( thumbs up ) At the end of almost every day that God spent creating the universe, he examined his work. Each time he concluded that it was good (Genesis 1). If the pictures from the Introduction are still visible in your meeting room, direct everyone s attention to them once more. Remind the congregation that these capture examples of God s creation that they think are very good. You could then ask the congregation to all put their thumbs up to express their praise and gratitude to God for his creation! Provides for creation (basket of fruit) God entrusted his creation to the care of human beings and provided green plants as food for everything living (Genesis 1:28 30). Challenge the congregation to think about how good they are at sharing with those in need. God originally provided enough food for everyone, yet there are now many starving people in God s world. You could invite suggestions as to what they as a local church congregation can do practically to share God s provision with others. the kindness of God. Genesis 1:27 says we are made in God s image. This means that we too should reflect the glory, truth and kindness of God. However, God s image in us was spoiled when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, meaning we no longer reflected God as he originally intended. Jesus is the perfect example of how we should live, and only with his help can we be the people God created us to be. Made in the image of God (mirror) Ask the congregation to call out what being made in the image of God makes them feel like or think of. Say that this unique identity gives us both an enormous worth and a great responsibility and purpose to imitate God in the way we live, act and think. Given responsibility for the earth (world map) There are many examples of human beings having neglected this purpose and responsibility. Point out that the growing problems of climate change, pollution and poverty are partly due to the effects of not having the love and respect for creation that we should have, or the willingness to dutifully obey God in his commands to care for his world. Say that you ll be exploring ways in which we can do something about these problems, and so exercise our God-given responsibilities, later in the service. Those who accept and put their faith in Jesus become children of God (child with parent) John 1:12,13 says that those who have faith in Jesus have the privilege of being God s children. When we examine the character of God the Creator how huge, powerful and awesome he is and then consider that he is willing to call us his children, how can we be anything other than lost in wonder, love and praise? You could share your own testimony of how it feels to know that you are a child of God. Jesus shows us what God is like (arrow pointing upwards) Taken together, verses 14 and 18 of John 1 tell us that Jesus life reflects the glory, the truth and 55

5 Before the service, visit the website www. fathersloveletter.com and familiarise yourself with some of the concepts contained in the love letter, which is a paraphrase of various biblical verses expressing God s love for his creation. Begin this time of confession by giving everyone in the congregation a small mirror. Ask them to look into the mirror and think of three words or phrases they would use to describe themselves. After a few moments, ask for some examples of what they have thought of. Relate the responses you receive back to the teaching of the Bible. For any positive, affirming comments people share about themselves, refer to the positive view God took of his creation in Genesis how he created us in his image, for his glory, and has called us his children. Encourage everyone to close their eyes and to think of themselves as something good, someone with whom God is very pleased. At this point, either read out the whole text of the Father s Lover Letter, or share some of the ideas from it in your own words, making particular reference to Genesis 1:1 31 or John 1:1 18, where appropriate. Many people will immediately have thought of negative words or phrases to describe themselves. Some might have no problem sharing these with the wider congregation, but many will prefer not to speak them out. Acknowledge that we may feel negatively about ourselves, and that you understand that people may not wish to give details about this. Say that even as sinful people God still loves us and has a purpose for our lives. He created us in his image. Perhaps people feel guilty for neglecting their God-given responsibility to caring for the earth, or they are sorry for not treating themselves and others as people made in God s image. Self-image can be a very sensitive issue and a struggle for some, so be careful and thoughtful in your choice of words. Conclude this time of confession by saying together the following prayer (the words will need to be displayed on a screen or printed on paper and distributed to the congregation): Lord, thank you that we are precious to you. Thank you that you created us and all of creation for your glory. We are sorry that we often mess up and don t fulfil your purpose for our lives. We are sorry that we often aren t grateful for the earth you have put us on. Help us to see through your eyes and learn to love it so much we can t help but care for it in the way you intended us to. Help us to think of ourselves and other people as you do, and see all the good qualities and gifts you have provided us with. Help us to see each person on this earth as made in your image, as you are our Creator. We know we can t do any of this in our own strength, so we ask your help in the name of Jesus, the one who shows us what you are like. Amen. Put together a short PowerPoint presentation following the suggestions made below (or download the ready-to-use one from www. scriptureunion.org.uk/light). This will help everyone to reflect and focus on what God has been saying to them during the service. If you can find a CD featuring various sounds from nature (eg waves, wind, the rainforest) to play as the presentation runs, this will enhance the reflective mood. Run the presentation, encouraging the congregation to take the opportunity to pray silently in their minds the prayer words that should appear on each slide. Conclude by reading together the words from Psalm 95:6: 56

6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. These words should appear on the final slide as a prompt. Suggested images for creating your own PowerPoint presentation: Slide 1: Images of beautiful scenery Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for letting us enjoy the beauty of your creation! Slide 2: Image of the globe Prayer: Lord, help us take responsibility for caring for the world. Slide 3: Image of a human silhouette Prayer: I praise you, Lord, for you made me in your image. Help me to learn to love myself the way you love me. Slide 4: Image of someone looking into a mirror. Prayer: Lord, help us to be imitators of you and to learn from Jesus example. Slide 5: Image of a recycling or Don t litter symbol Prayer: Lord, help us to do what we can to look after your creation. Slide 6: Image of the sky Prayer: Lord, we recognise you as Creator. You are awesome and big! We are amazed by creation and your big plan for your world and your people. Slide 7: Image of a sunset Prayer: Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. (Psalm 95:6) Read aloud Genesis 1:24 31 from Word On The Street (Zondervan, 2005, also known as the Street Bible), to refresh people s memories of what it says about God s purposes in creating human beings. Go on to say that in light of these verses we need to start fulfilling our God-given responsibility to care for the earth as an act of worship. Talk with the congregation about practical ways in which they could take up their responsibility for caring for the earth. Be sure to invite suggestions from people of all ages. Try to tease out a mix of things that are possible on a local level and changes people can make to their everyday lives. Ideas could include committing to recycle as much as possible, planning for a church litter-picking event, taking a shower rather than a bath or even writing to your local MP about climate change issues (read more on thinking biblically about climate change in the Scripture Union booklet, Connect: Climate Change). Give everyone a Post-it note and a pen. Ask them to write down one difference they would like to make to their life as a response to what God has said to them through the service today. Encourage them to take it home with them and stick it somewhere where it will regularly remind them of the commitment they have made. Close the service by saying the following words of blessing: The Lord bless you, and keep you The Lord make his face to shine on you, and be gracious to you. May the Lord reveal more of his greatness to you through his creation, And may you seek to be like Christ every day, Amen. 57

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