Who is God?

Lesson 3

 

Lesson Intro For Leaders

There are many examples of stories that can give a weird idea of who God is in the Old Testament. The following eclectic story is used to get to the heart of who God is in our lives and as seen in the Hebrew scriptures. God is a God who is surrounding us with goodness, ready to bless and be with us.

The book of Numbers is a story of people on a journey from a context of economic and racial- ethnic oppression toward a context where justice, righteousness, freedom and joy are envisioned. (Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. They wandered through the desert for a long time on their way to the Promised Land.) Their story is one of moving from oppression to freedom, from slavery to justice. Some scholars think that the person who wrote the Adam and Eve and Balaam is the same person. Balak is the leader of the Moabite people and Balaam is a Gentile prophet, a seer of the Divine, a pagan.

 

Gathering Questions

The person who’s birthday is in January goes first, then so on through December. (no matter the year).  When you go to question 2, start with the 2nd person in the rotation, and so on so that everyone has a chance to answer first.

  1. What is your favorite sport to watch or play? 

  2. If you had to choose your favorite Bible Story, what would it be?

  3. If you could make a Bible event into a sport or activity, what would you design?  Is there a game you could play that would help you understand or teach someone a story or parable in the Bible.

  4. Jesus used lots of parables to teach.  What is a story ( not in the Bible) you have heard that teaches a lesson? 

 

Opening Prayer

Supplies: Candle (optional)

As a family/group- have one person read the “leader” parts, and the rest of the family/small group respond in the following call & response prayer below adapted from Psalm 136:1-9. Instruct the person leading the prayer to read the leader part and have the rest of group respond with the response “For God’s love forever!”


Leader: O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good

All:         For God’s love lasts forever!

Leader: O give thanks to the God of gods, O give thanks to the Lord of lords

All:         For God’s love lasts forever!


Leader: Who alone does great wonders and by understanding made the heavens

All:         For God’s love lasts forever!

Leader: Who spread out the earth on the waters and made the great lights

All:         For God’s love lasts forever!


Leader: Who made the sun to rule over the day and the moon and stars to rule over the night

All:         For God’s love lasts forever!

Leader: O give thanks to the God of heaven


All:        For God’s love lasts forever!

 

Alternate Opening Prayer

Gracious God, we know that you are good and that you love endures forever! We give thanks, for we know that you are the Lord of lords, the one who does great wonders throughout heaven and earth. You are the creator of all things and for your creation, we give thanks!

Bless this time together that we might be reminded of your love for us, a love that lasts forever! Amen!

 

Tower Creation Activity

For this activity each camper is going to create a free standing tower out of whatever materials they have available to them in the room they are in. The Goal is to see who can build the largest free-standing tower. Campers will be given 5 minutes to build their structures. Once they are done judge each tower to determine the winner. 

(While your campers are building take the time to ask them what materials they are using and why.)

When you are finished, ask the following questions:

  • Did God create the materials you used?

  • Who created your towers?

  • Did God create you?

  • Ultimately, who created anything and everything?

After this discussion explain to the group that everyone who participated in the activity are the real winners regardless of the size of their tower. The leader can say something like this: “God, our Creator, continually builds a Kingdom where the ‘last shall be first.’ We are going to be looking at a parable to understand more about this concept and God’s activity as a ‘Governor’ of all creation.”

 

Alternate Activity:
Paper Airplane Creating

Supplies: One Piece of Paper

Ask the students to make a paper airplane out of one piece of paper.  Give them several tries to fly their plane.  Ask students to give each other suggestions in the chat box for airplane improvements.  


Discussion Questions:


  • No matter how far your airplane flew, who created your airplane?  

  • No matter how far your airplane flew, who created the paper?

  • No matter how far your airplane flew, who created the air?

  • No matter how far your airplane flew, who created the world?

Leader to say:   God, our Creator, continually builds a Kingdom where the ‘last shall be first.’ We are going to be looking at a parable to understand more about this idea and God’s activity as a ‘Governor’ of all creation.”

 

Scripture Background

For the leader...

The common title “The Laborers in the Vineyard,” for this parable is misleading. The fact that the story is set in a vineyard is irrelevant to the story. The title also draws the reader’s attention to the laborers as the focus of the parable and as characters we can identify with. Instead, the focus of the parable and the character we are to identify with is the landowner. Notice that the landowner does not conduct interviews to see if workers are qualified. As a result, no worker was hired based on time or experience. A ‘usual daily wage’ was enough to feed a small family for several days. By the end of the parable, everything is flush or even: the landowner got the work done that he needed, the manager followed instructions as expected, all workers got enough to feed their families.


In Matthew 20:3 (NRSV) – “others standing idle” is not quite an accurate translation from the Greek and is heavy with judgement. A more literal Greek translation would be “wanting work, but not able to find it.” In Matthew 20:11: the first hired do not want to be treated equally to the last hired; they want to be treated better than. And in Matthew 20:15 – “envious” can be translated into “giving an evil eye.”

  

Scripture Details


  • In Matthew 20:3 (NRSV) – “others standing idle” is not quite an accurate translation from the Greek and is heavy with judgement. A more literal Greek translation would be “wanting work, but not able to find it.” 

  • In Matthew 20:11: the first hired do not want to be treated equally to the last hired; they want to be treated better than. 

  • And in Matthew 20:15 – “envious” can be translated into “giving an evil eye.”

 

Scripture Reading

Matthew 20:1-16 (NRSV)

(Bible background for students:   Jesus had left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Joran river.  Large crowds followed him, and he cured them there.  Then, several people asked Jesus some questions and he explained about how the last shall be first and the first shall be last with the following parable.)

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

 

Digging Deeper Questions

Surface: 

  • Where do you see yourself in this parable? (workers, manager, landowner) Why?

  •   Should the workers who worked all day get more pay? Why or why not?

  •   Where do you see God in this parable?

  •   God governs our world with generous love that is equal for all people. Do you think that is fair? Why or why not?

Deeper: 

  • How do you think the manager feels when he carries out the instructions given by the landowner on how much to pay each worker?

  •   How do think the workers who only worked an hour felt when they got a full day’s wages?

  •   How do you think the workers who were there all day felt when the late workers got a full day’s wages, the same as them?

  •   How would you have paid the workers? How does this parable show the ways God’s grace is given to us?

Deepest: 

  • Which group of workers would you want to be in and why?

  • How do you think those who had to wait for work felt before they were hired?

  •   What is the difference between fair and right? Is there a difference at all?

  •   Instead of congratulating the late workers because they got a day’s wages, the

  • early workers grumbled. Why?

  •   What does this passage teach us about the character of God and God’s love?

  •   What’s the point of serving God all your life if you can wait for the last hour to

  • accept God?

 

Either/Or???

Ask your campers which of each set of items they would pick. If you are on an online platform like Zoom you might ask people to raise their hands for which one they would choose. 

  •   Sleep in or get up early?

  •   Small group dinner or big party?

  •   Rock or country music?

  •   Go to a football game or a concert?

  •   Sweet or sour candy?

  •   Do homework or do the dishes?

  •   Summer or Winter?

  •   Would you rather be beautiful or smart?

  •   Breathe underwater or fly?

  •   Be a landowner or a worker?

  •   Which would God rather be, a landowner or a worker?

 

Closing Discussion

Spend some time discussing and reflecting on this lesson and then close with a prayer below.

  • After this lesson, how would you answer the question: Who is God?

  • What are some ways we can share God's generous love with the world around us? 

What to Remember:

God loves us all with the same extravagant love

 

Getting Ready for Prayer

(Optional)

 Given that God loves us all with the same extravagant love:


  • If you close your eyes and breath in through your nose, can you smell the fragrance of a rose?  Try.

  • If you close your eyes and breath in through your nose, can you smell the fragrance of a dandelion?  Try.

  • If you close your eyes and breath in through your nose, can you remember the smell of rain?

  • Say:  God brings the rain on the weeds and the flowers alike.

While you think about these questions:  Put your hands together in front of you in the shape of a bowl.  Lower your bowl, as if you are receiving something placed into your hands during the prayer.

 

Closing Prayer

Invite the students to pray with you as you read the prayer below.


O God of the Vineyard,

 

You call us all to productive labor,

To employ our gifts and talents for you.

We pray for those who are in power,

Strengthen them towards generosity without condition.

We pray for those who are unemployed,

Strengthen them in this difficult time,

Until all people are moving towards the common good,

And praising God with heart and mind and soul forever. 

 

Amen. 

 

(Taken from The United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 541)

 
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