Our sponsoring congregation, the Donelson Church of Christ, is going through The Story (check it out at TheStory.com). The church as a whole is using this material to study through the main events of the Bible to better understand God's Story and what it means for our stories. Before we finished up our furlough and left Nashville to began our journey home to Mozambique, Brian Oliver handed me a copy of the The Story for Children by Lucado, Frazee and Hill. It is has terrific artwork and well crafted chapters. I was pumped because it was going to be my turn to teach the Bible class for the kids and now I knew what we could use with them every Tuesday night for the next few months.
The week before I started going through the Story with the kids, my teammate Jeremy Smith and I were presented with a challenge. He had a group of church leaders who wanted to get a better understanding of what the Bible was all about. So, in just four sessions how could we teach through the main story of the Bible?
We settled on telling the story of the Bible as the story of four trees. It is the story of a God who created a people who then lost their way. But, God rescued his people - making a way for them to come back to Him. So, it is a story about being lost and finding the way again.
With the first tree - the tree of knowledge (Genesis 1-3) we see how God created the world and put his prized creations, Man and Woman in a beautiful garden. He told them to rule over the garden and that everything in it was theirs to enjoy. In the middle of the garden there was a tree of knowledge that God told Adam and Eve not to eat from. Adam and Eve were deceived by a serpent and ate the fruit of that tree. Because of their disobedience, they had to leave the garden, stop eating from the tree of life, and live in a world cursed because of their sin.
The second tree we come to is the burning bush (Exodus 3). Most of Adam and Eve's children followed in their sinning ways. But, God made a promise to a good man named Abraham and led his children, the Israelites, down to Egypt. There, they suffered as slaves. One day, God called to a man named Moses from a burning bush. He told Moses to tell Egypt's king to let God's people go. God did many miracles to get Israel out of Egypt and made a path through the sea to get them out and lead them eventually to a promised land.
The third tree we come to is the cross (Mark 15-16). God's people lived in a new land, but continued to disobey God. God called after them, sending many messengers until he finally sent his son Jesus. Jesus came to show us how to live and died on a tree, the cross, where he defeated humanity's enemies - Sin, Death, and Satan. God asks us to join him in loving and blessing the world until Jesus comes again.
Finally we come to the fourth tree, the tree of life (Revelation 22:1-5) One day, we believe that Jesus will return. The dead will rise, Jesus will set things right and those who belong to him will inhabit a new world, renewed through God's power. We will dwell with God in a beautiful city where there is no death, no darkness and no curse. God will replant the tree of life in the middle of the city and its' fruit and leaves will heal us all.
God uses the story of four trees in the Bible to help mark our path. We can remember where we have been, and see where we are going. Where we live in Mozambique many people use trees to mark their path (most mud huts look the same - as you can imagine!). They say, "turn at the coconut tree," and "when you get to the big mango tree you are almost there." We use trees to help guide us. God uses the story of these four trees found in the Bible to help us find our way home - a home with Him.
In my first class going through The Story for Children with the kids on the team, I asked the older ones: "If someone asked you what the Bible was all about what would you say?" Luke said, "Well I would say that we learn about God creating the world and keeping it running." Abby said, "I think I would talk about Jesus dying and rising again." Ellie said, "Yeah and we would need to talk about all the great things Jesus did and said." Then Andrew thought for a while and said, "This is a really hard question."
I had them line up on the wall. Each of them took on the role of one of the four trees or a major character in our "Four Tree Story" timeline (Abby really likes being the Burning Bush!). Over the following weeks we would line up and each of them would have a crack at telling the overarching story of the Bible using the four trees.
After a few weeks, we decided to put the Four Trees story into a song to help us remember. We picked a familiar tune and I think the kids have most of the song down by now (Katie needs help keeping the lines straight - though she is really cute singing what she remembers).
I put a copy of the song below so you can check it out. So, far the kids have really enjoyed going through The Story and it has been fun to have a hook like the "Four Trees Story" to help them remember how all the individual Bible stories fit into the overall narrative of what God's Story is really all about.
Grace and Peace,
Our Way through the Trees
(to the tune of "Down by the Bay")
by Abby, Ellie and Alan Howell
Long, long ago - there was a tree
Down in a garden - made for Adam and Eve
And God said "Don't - eat from that tree"
But, the sneaky snake
said God's rule was fake.
And they lost their way.
And then in Egypt - God's people were slaves
so he called Moses - from a bush on flames
he said, "Tell Pharaoh - 'Let my people free!'"
Moses led them to the sea
where it came to be
that God made a way.
Then God sent Jesus - made blind men see
taught us to live - set people free
gave up his life - died on a tree
He defeated death,
and he lives today.
He is the Way!
Jesus will return - he'll plant a tree
and it will grow - by the crystal stream
it's fruit and leaves - will heal us all
So, in the end,
our God will win.
Oh, what a day!
So, that is how - God leads us home
And in the darkness - no more to roam
He's made a way - through these four trees
And so now we know
how God's Story goes
He leads the way!