The Knowledge of Good and Evil: THURSDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY

CREATE A SACRED TIME AND SPACE
Leave all screens turned off and outside of the gathering space/room.
Set a single candle in the center of your space or on a child’s nightstand or headboard.

As you light the candle, you might sing together the refrain only of, Change My Heart, O God

Change my heart, oh God; make it ever new;
Change my heart, oh God, let me be like you.

TAKE A MOMENT
This is a time to become fully present with one another and with God.
Invite everyone to take a deep breath in and exhale fully.
Repeat this deep breathing for about 20 seconds, everyone at their own pace.

LET GO & RECEIVE
Excitement over past or future events - or, worries, pain and/or guilt - can keep us from immersing in God’s loving Presence, right here and now.

You might invite participants to Let Go as follows:

“In one or two words, how have you separated yourself from God, today?
Allow time for a response from each individual.
Breathe in: know that you are, right now, in God’s Presence.
Breathe out: release into God’s grace any guilt, shame or pain that separation has 
caused.”

Pause

You might invite participants to Receive Grace as follows:

“How has God made you new, today?
Allow time for a response from each individual.
Breathe in: notice how God’s Spirit is as close to you as your breath.
Breathe out: thank God for always being close.”

Pause

READING SUMMARY
Before moving on, take two more deep breaths.

Then share a summary of this evening’s text. Using your own words is strongly encouraged. If that feels uncomfortable or overwhelming, or if you would like a young person to lead this portion, here are some thoughts on this story:

God’s very first warning to humans is: do not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of 
good and evil. For a long time this story has been used to teach or “prove” that men 
should be in charge of everything because women and girls are less important, smart, 
or strong - and females make ‘bad’ decisions and can’t be trusted.
But what this story really tells us is that God does not want us to label things ‘good’ or 
‘bad’.
Ironically, these years of bullying non-male humans prove God’s point: when we label 
things or people - like men or boys - as ‘good’, while labelling women, girls and non-binary people as ‘bad’, we create separation (which is the literal translation of the word “sin”, from the Bible) and lots and lots of pain and suffering comes from that separation.
Unfortunately, our brains are built to label just about everything - people, ideas, all the 
stuff in the world around us - as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This helps us understand our 
surroundings and feel safe.
God warns us that these labels can lead to death, though, so it is good to learn to use 
them with intention, not automatically.2 Knowing and naming real evil and identifying 
what is truly good is important to our work for justice and kindness for all people, after 
all.
In Contemplative Prayer, we learn to not judge, that is, not label as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, our 
thoughts, ideas or emotions. This can help us learn to not judge other people or the 
world, as well. God’s first warning to humans is incredibly important to understand if 
we want to work toward doing less harm and causing less pain to ourselves and to 
others.

SHARING THE READING
Readings can be shared around the circle by verse, or a different reader can lead each night.

A reading from Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-73:
2:15 The Divine Creator put the first human, “Adam”, in the garden of Eden to take 
care of it, like a gardener.
2:16 And the Creator said Adam could eat whatever he wanted, from every tree in the 
Garden;
2:17 “But,” said the Creator, “you absolutely may NOT eat the fruit of the tree of the 
knowledge of good and evil. If you eat that fruit, you’ll die."
3:1 Now the craftiest animal around, the serpent, said to the woman, "Did God really 
say, 'You aren’t allowed to eat from any tree in the garden'?"
3:2 The woman said to the serpent, "No, God said we can eat fruit from any of the 
Trees;
3:3 except the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden; we’re not even supposed 
to touch that one or we’ll die.'"
3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You’re not gonna’ die.
3:5 God just knows that when you eat that fruit, you’ll think you see everything clearly; 
you’ll be like God, the only one who is supposed to judge whether something is good or evil."
3:6 Now, the fruit on that forbidden tree looked really good to the woman: it was 
luscious and delicious-smelling, and she let herself be convinced that it would make 
her wise. So she took that fruit and ate it; and Adam was with her, so she gave some 
to him and he ate it, too.
3:7 And they both started seeing everything in new ways. Suddenly, being unclothed 
felt embarrassing, like it was bad, so they sewed fig leaves together and made 
themselves loincloths to wear.

DISCUSS
At the close of the reading you might begin with basic questions, such as:
Did this reading have any words or ideas that anyone doesn’t understand?
Let’s explore what those might mean, together.

If you are ready for further discussion, you might consider these questions:

  • Have you ever noticed yourself labelling things or people as “good” or “bad”?
  • How do these labels help you?
  • How can these labels be hurtful to yourself or others?
  • Why do you think God said, “You absolutely may NOT eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat that fruit, you’ll die."? What do these sentences mean to you?

CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE
From your devotional basket, please take the following items:
~Notebook or binder for everyone
~Drawing or coloring utensil(s) for everyone

Be sure notebooks/binders and utensils are handy but not a distraction.
You might invite the group into prayer with these or similar prompts:

I invite everyone to find a comfortable posture appropriate to prayer and encourage everyone to close their eyes.
Let’s all take a few deep breaths to settle our minds:
~let go of the discussion questions and conversation;
~let go of the Bible story;
~let yourself rest for a moment in the love of your family and the presence of
God.

After a few deep breaths, share the following:

I invite you to open your [notebook/binder/journal] to a blank page.

Allow a few beats for the movement to settle down.

Notice the openness and possibility on this page.

Pause for a few beats.

Look for ways God is near to you in the openness of this blank page.

Pause for two minutes.

If you are ready to experiment, I invite you to draw a line anywhere on the page, 
wherever it seems to you the line should go.
If you are not ready to experiment, if you are feeling very close to God with the simple 
page in front of you, stay with that feeling and leave your page blank.

Allow a few beats for drawing a line.

For the next few minutes, notice the page and, if you drew a line, notice the line.
Sit with God and wonder what happens on either side of that line: is one side good and 
the other bad?
Are both sides both good and bad?
Can both sides be neither good, nor bad?
Simply notice the page and the line and let God speak to you about the labels “good” 
and “bad”.

Allow about four minutes of silent contemplation before moving on.

At the end of your silent time, invite attention back to the room with words like these:

I invite you to return your awareness to this place.
You might quietly wiggle your toes and fingers or gently roll your shoulders or your 
head.
Slowly bring your body and mind back to here and now, and rest for a moment.

Resting is important: the transition from silence to immediate action or thought can be very jarring. Let the movement from rest to engagement be gentle.

PERSONAL REFLECTION
After a few beats, while people are still transitioning, introduce the reflection questions, as follows:

As you bring your awareness back to here and now, I encourage you to reflect on a 
moment or a sensation, a thought or feeling that seemed powerful or meaningful to you.
Consider what you observed, saw, felt or experienced in this time of prayer.
Where or in what way did you experience God in this time?

After a minute or two of resting, encourage people to write, draw or doodle about their experience.
Allow about 3-5 minutes; gauge the activity-level of participants to determine when they are “done”.
Invite people to share their reflections with the group/family, only as they are comfortable. Not everyone will have something to share or feel comfortable sharing their experience. Let this be okay: not everyone needs to share.

Listen carefully to one another.
Acknowledge each sharing with words of affirmation.
Discussion can and should be about curiosity, clarity and/or affirmation. This is not a time for correction or psycho-analyzing experiences.

BEDTIME SONG
As the following song is sung, the Leader should gather all materials utilized during the practice. Stow them in the basket for easy removal and future use.

Sing together the refrain only of, Change My Heart, O God1

Change my heart, oh God; make it ever new;
Change my heart, oh God, let me be like you.

FINAL BLESSING
As they blow out the candle, children can offer the following blessing/prayer with their adults:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”

Adult(s) can share the following blessing/prayer with the child[ren] as they turn out the lights:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”

1. Eddie Espinosa, Acoustic Worship; 1995.
2.  Richard Rohr does a great job of explaining the dualistic mind in this blog post.
3. This is Emily’s revision based on the NRSV.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Easter Evening - our final post, for the time being...

From Feast to Fast: Shrove Tuesday

Free Gift of Grace