1. In The Beginning – Creation – Genesis 1:1-2:3
In the beginning there was nothing but deep, dark emptiness. Then God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. God saw that it was good, and separated the light from the darkness. He called the light ‘Day’ and the darkness ‘Night’. Next God separated the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth, and called what lay between them ‘Sky’. Then God brought all the waters of the earth together to make oceans and seas, and to form dry land between them. God covered the dry land with flowers, trees and grass, and saw that it was good. God created the sun, moon and stars, birds, fish and animals of every kind. Then God made man and women to be like him, and he put them in charge of all that He had created. When God had finished his work of creation, he saw that everything was very good indeed.
2. Adam & Eve – Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17; 3:1-7
God planted a garden in Eden and there he put the man and woman he had formed, who were called Adam and Eve. God told them that they could eat of the fruit of any tree in the garden except for the fruit of ‘the tree of knowledge of good and evil’ – because if they ate that fruit, they would die. One day a craftly snake persuaded Eve to eat some of the forbidden fruit, and gave some to Adam as well. Immediately, they knew that they had done something terribly wrong, and they were ashamed of themselves. God punished Adam and Eve by sending them far away from the Garden of Eden, which meant that they could no longer eat the fruit from the ‘tree of life’, but would have to work hard to grow the food they needed, and would eventually die.
God saw that there was a great deal of wickedness among the people of the world that he had made to be good, and was sorry that he had created human beings. God decided to wipe them all out – except for Noah, who was a good man, and Noah’s family – and to start again. God gave Noah instructions for building a big boat, an Ark, into which Noah, his family and a pair of every living creature had to go, in order to be saved for the new beginning God wanted to make. Then the heavens opened and rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights, until the whole earth was flooded with water and every living creature drowned. For about six months the Ark sailed on the water before coming to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Forty more days passed before Noah sent a raven out of the Ark, and then a dove, to see if they could find somewhere dry to perch, but it was another week before the dove returned with a fresh olive leaf. When Noah was sure that the floods had gone down, he opened the Ark and the animals, birds, reptiles and all the creatures he had saved went onto dry land. God blessed Noah and his family and made a solemn promise that he would never wash out everything and everyone from the earth again. Then God put rainbow in the sky, saying that whenever people saw a rainbow, they would remember that it was a sign of his promise.
God wanted to have a closer relationship with His people, and he chose Abraham to be the founder of a nation that would be especially blessed by God. Abraham was told to pack up everything he owned and to take his wife Sarah and all his family to the land of Canaan. God promised Abraham that he would have children, and as many descendants as there are stars in the sky, but years and years went by and still Abraham and Sarah had no children. When God repeated his promise, Abraham found it hard to believe because he and Sarah were growing old – and when three strangers arrived at their camp and one of them said that Sarah would give birth to a son, Sarah laughed. However, God’s promise did come true, and, Abraham and Sarah had a son, whom they called Isaac.
Abraham’s son Isaac grew up and married Rebekah; they had twin boys. Esau and Jacob. As Isaac grew old, he lost his sight, and Jacob pretended to be Esau, who was the twin born first, so when Esau found out that Jacob had cheated him, he was very angry. Esau wanted to kill Jacob, so Isaac and Rebekah told him to go to his Uncle Laban. It was quite a long journey, so Jacob had to camp overnight on the way. During the night he dreamed that a ladder was reaching up to heaven from earth, and that angels were going up and down on it. Then Jacob dreamed that God stood beside him and promised that Jacob would return to the land of Canaan and that he would be blessed. When he woke up, Jacob realised that he had spent the night in a holy place, the gateway to heaven.
6. Joseph & His Brothers’ – Genesis 35: 22b-26; 37: 1-11; 23-36; 44: 14
Jacob had twelve sons, but Joseph was his favourite. When Joseph was 17, he had a strange dream and told his older brothers about it. In the dream several signs pointed to the fact that Joseph would become so important that his brothers would bow to the ground in front of him. The brothers thought that Joseph was becoming too big-headed, and they plotted together to get rid of him. They threw him into a dried-up well and were going to leave him there, but a camel train of traders, on their way to Egypt, came along and so they sold Joseph to the traders. When they arrived in Egypt, the traders sold Joseph on to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Years later there was a long drought and people in many countries suffered from famine. Jacob sent Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to buy food, because he had heard that someone in Egypt had foreseen what would happen and had built up stores of grain. The ‘someone’ turned out to be Joseph, who had worked his way up into the highest position in Pharaoh’s court, and there his brothers really did bow down to the ground in front of him.
Abraham’s descendants, who had by then become ‘the people of Israel’, settled in Egypt. They grew to number so many that the Pharaoh and his advisers were afraid that they would turn against the Egyptians, and they made a plan to deal with the Israelites. First of all, all the Israelites were put into forced labour, building great cities for Pharaoh, but as the immigrants continued to thrive and to have children, so Pharaoh became more and more afraid of revolt. So he ordered the midwives to kill all the Israelite babies at birth, but they pretended that it was impossible. Pharaoh then commanded the Egyptian people to throw every Israelite baby boy into the River Nile. When Moses was born to an Israelite woman, she was afraid that he would be killed. She hid him at home for 3 months, and then made a waterproof basket for him and hid it among the reeds on the river bank. Moses’ sister, Miriam, watched to see what would happen to him; when Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river, she found the baby Moses, and felt sorry for him. She decided to adopt him and bring him up as her own son, but first he had to be old enough to leave this real mother. Miriam fetched Moses’ mother and Pharaoh’s daughter gave her money to live on until Moses was old enough to go and live in Pharaoh’s palace.
8. Moses & the Ten Commandments – Exodus 24: 12-18; 32: 1-6; 16 & Deut. 5: 1-21
When Moses was grown up, he discovered who he really was, and God told him to free the Israelites from what had become slavery in Egypt. After overcoming many difficulties, Moses finally managed to get the Israelites away from Egypt and they all set out towards the land promised to Abraham many generations earlier. The people soon got fed up with travelling and became bad-tempered and unmanageable, so God told Moses that he would help him with the task of leading the people onwards. God told Moses to meet him at the top of a mountain, where he would give him stone tablets with the rules for living as God’s people written on them. Moses was up on the mountain for forty days and forty nights, and whilst he was away the people grew restless. Moses’ brother Aaron, who had been left in charge, gathered all the gold jewellery that the people had, and made a statue, a golden calf, and told them to worship the statue. So they had a festival and offered sacrifices to the statue, as if it was a god. Moses returned from the mountain while the people were still partying, and he was so angry that he threw the stone tablets he was carrying to the ground, where they broke into pieces. He then destroyed the golden calf and punished the people who had been running wild, before going back up the mountain to plead with God to give the people another chance. God gave Moses another two tablets of stone, and Moses told the people what was written on them, summarised as the ten rules or commandments, by which God’s people would live. Moses told the people that God had said: I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods. You shall not make any idols nor offer worship to other than me. Do not use the name of the Lord your God wrongfully. Observe a day of rest and keep it holy. Honour your father and mother. Do not murder. Do not go with someone else’s wife or husband. Do not steal. Do not tell lies about anyone. Do not want for yourself what belongs to someone else.
Much later, following a succession of leaders called ‘Judges’, the Israelite people made God angry again, because they had been worshipping all the gods of the nations amongst whom they lived, and had abandoned God and God’s way of life. The Israelites were taken captive by the Ammonites, which brought them to their senses. They told God that they were sorry and stopped worshipping other gods, and God accepted their apology. However, forty years later the Israelites were behaving badly again and were captured by the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years. One of the Israelites, Manoah, was a good man. God promised that he and his wife would have a son, who would be special and would save his people from the Philistines. Manoah’s son was called Samson and God blessed him. When he grew up, Samson fell in love with a Philistine woman called Delilah. The Philistine leaders, who had become afraid of Samson’s enormous strength, bribed Delilah with silver pieces so that she would find out how to overpower Samson before he overpowered them. After several attempts, Delilah discovered that if Samson’s hair was cut off, he would lose his strength completely. One night, while Samson was asleep. Delilah got a man to shave the hair from Samson’s head. Them the Philistines seized Samson, blinded him, and took him in Chains to a prison in their city of Gaza. While he was in prison, Samson’s hair began to grow again. When the Philistines held a great feast to celebrate their victory over Samson and the Israelites; they sent for Samsons so that they could make fun of him. Samson was chained to the pillars of the banqueting hall, which contained about three thousand people. Samson called out a prayer to God, asking for one more burst of strength, and then stretched out his hands to the pillars on either side. He strained with all his might and the whole lot came crashing down, killing everyone there, including himself – but he had saved his people from the Philistines.
31. The Crucifixion – John 19:13-25 – Although the crowds had cheered for Jesus on the Sunday, by Friday they had changed their tune, and demanded that Jesus be crucified. Carrying his own cross, Jesus was taken to be crucified, along with two others whose crosses were on either side of his. While Jesus’s mother Mary, with her sister Mary Magdalene, watched and waited, the soldiers threw dice to see who would get Jesus’s clothes, which were of good quality.
32. The Resurrection – Matthew 28:1-8-By the time that Jesus had died, it was almost dusk, which meant that the Sabbath day would begin, so he had to be buried quickly in the tomb made available by Joseph of Arimathea. I was Sunday morning before the two women called Mary could go to the tomb to finish anointing Jesus’s body, according to their custom. As they drew near, there was an earthquake and an angel rolled the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was as white as snow. The temple guard stationed at the tomb was stunned. The angel told the women not to be afraid, because Jesus had risenfrom the dead. They saw the empty burial cloths and began to run off to tell the disciples, but suddenly they saw the risen Jesus, and they fell at his feet and worshipped him. He said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me”.
33. Breakfast on the Beach – John 21:1-14 – The disciples had gone to Galilee to wait for Jesus to appear, but Peter grew bored and decided to go fishing. Six of the others went with him, but they caught nothing all night. As they were making their way back, just before dawn, they saw someone on the beach and heard him telling them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. When they did, they caught so many fish that they couldn’t haul the net in, but had to drag it along towards the beach. Then Peter, who had experienced something similart years before, (Luke 5:1-7) realised that the man on the beach was Jesus. He jumped out of the boat and splashed towards Jesus, leaving the others to deal with the boat and the net full of fish. When they all reached Jesus, they saw that he had a fire burning and was cooking breakfast for them. Just like he had done at the Last Supper they had shared with him, Jesus took the bread and fish, broke it, and gave it to them. Then they knew that he really was Jesus and that he truly was alive again. Through Jesus, who had died, been buried and had risen from death to new life, God shows how much he loves his people.
35. The road to Emmaus
36. The feeding of the 4000. Hartlepool Community Scene