The Broken Covenant: Where Are You?

KEN DICK

The aim of this lesson is to increase the students’ awareness of the human need for the savior. It is suitable for a grade 9 or 10 class and employs scenes from the movie Cast Away Instructional time will vary with the number of activities and objectives selected. A total class time of three hours is required for the teaching of all objectives included in the lesson.

A. INTRODUCTORY REFLECTION ON SCRIPTURE - Genesis 3: 1-13

Now, the snake was the most subtle of all the wild animals that Yahweh God had made. It asked the woman, 'Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?' The woman answered the snake, 'We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, "You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death."' Then the snake said to the woman, 'No! You will not die! God knows in fact that the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good from evil.' The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was enticing for the wisdom that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.

The man and his wife heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the garden in the cool of day, and they hid from Yahweh God among the trees of the Garden. But Yahweh God called to the man. 'Where are you?' he asked. 'I heard the sound of you in the garden,' he replied. 'I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.' 'Who told you that you were naked?' he asked. 'Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?' The man replied, 'It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.' Then Yahweh God asked the woman, 'What is this you have done?' The woman replied, 'The serpent tempted me and I ate.'

B. BACKGROUND NOTE FOR TEACHER:

The greatest sin may very well be the denial of sin itself. The brokenness in ourselves begins with the broken covenant with God. In this lesson the teacher is invited to have students use scripture, movie clips, quiet reflection, discussion, research and construction and composition. Students are challenged to use new vocabulary in the context of the human need for redemption. The primary goal is to increase student awareness of their own presence in the Genesis story.

C. LESSON OBJECTIVES:

  1. Students will recognize the story of Genesis as their own story.
  2. Students will identify sin as brokenness in relationships.
  3. Students will recognize and use 16 items of vocabulary in the context of the lost soul.
  4. Students will identify the Holy Spirit with fire, an elevated self-esteem, the breath of the comforter, the confidence and security against the darkness. (see G.2)
  5. Students will analyze one paragraph of scripture in relation to four marks of alienation.
  6. Students will discuss and then compare and contrast the need for a rescuer in the story of Genesis and in the story told in the contemporary movie CAST AWAY. (This is a Robert Zemeckis film starring Tom Hanks. The film is rated PG 13 and while it runs 143 minutes, only selected excerpts are used. These include the crash, the beach discovery of fire, the invention of Mr. Wilson (an idle companion), and the decision to launch the raft in order to escape the island. A school permission contract is required to show 20th Century Fox films)
  7. Students will examine a simple modern sports based parable of betrayal. The student group will be challenged to compose a solution to rebuild a broken trust with teammates and with the team owners.
  8. Students will construct a collage of photographs that display evidence of either: A) broken trust in the world community. B) rescuers busy in the world healing and restoring trust.
  9. Students will write a personal reflection on the need for courage in seeking to build relationships and healthy families and communities in a wounded world.
D. NEW VOCABULARY

  1. Segullah - the Hebrew word which translates as "my special possession" or "my very own". Explain we are God's segullah, not valuable by ourselves but a special treasure to God.
  2. Covenant - the love contract between God and His people. It is a bond entered into voluntarily by two parties in which each pledges himself to do something for the other.
  3. Original sin - the first act of disobedience by man toward God resulting in the breach of trust between man and God and between man and his neighbor. The results of this sin are inherited from generation to generation with the attached loss of privileges with which man had been created.
  4. Nakedness - an awareness that God and neighbor sees our weakness, leaving us with a sense of shame and the desire to hide or disguise our fallen nature.
  5. Grace - the Divine energy given as gift which empowers us to respond to God's invitation to follow him.
  6. Jesus - the one who saves and rescues His people.
  7. Messiah - the anointed one, selected by God to rescue His people.
  8. Virtue - a habit of doing good.
  9. Vice - a weakness causing harm and injury.
  10. Freedom - the power and opportunity to do what is right.
  11. Holy Spirit - God, the third person of the Holy Trinity; the one who empowers the life of the church.
  12. Alienation - the division of person from community through sin.
  13. Diablos - the name of the devil, which means the one who divides and breaks community.
  14. Paschal Journey - the uncharted journey from slavery to freedom.
  15. Despair - the psychological state of hopeless defeat.
  16. Communion - the experience of Jesus entering our shattered hearts in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

E. Activity One:

Read the introductory two paragraphs from Genesis shown above. Discuss how God valued human beings as His segullah. Ask students to volunteer examples of personal treasures that may have great value only to them. Ask students to consider God's disappointment at the betrayal by Adam and Eve of His covenant. Ask students to consider the four human responses to shame listed below: Shame expressed as:

E.1 Denial (Adam covers his nakedness — he is ashamed and doesn't want to be seen for what he is, in his sin — with a fig leaf. We, the children of Adam, are involved in the cover-up too. We cover our brokenness and our sin with modern masks of power and possessions. Our attempt to deny our inner hurt and woundedness only delays the call for healing and forgiveness.);
E.2 Blame (Adam says it was the woman you gave me);
E.3 Rationalization (she gave me the fruit);
E.4 Minimization (the serpent tempted me and I ate — that's all that happened).

Do we ever act like Adam and Eve when we are shamed by our own weaknesses?

F. Activity Two:

Share a modern parable of betrayal. Develop a short story about a football player who sells the team playbook to the opposition. The consequences are that his teammates are hurt, defeated, betrayed. His team is humiliated. His own performance in the game is weakened. There is suspicion between team members and shame before the coach. The weakness of his action is now on public display. The team works harder for little reward. Ask the students for solutions? Where will the rescue come from?


G. Activity Three:

Use of clips from the movie CAST AWAY. Show clips of the storm and crash, of the wash up on the beach, and the search for fire. Show clips of the invention of the idle companion Mr. Wilson. Show a clip of the decision to launch the raft and try to escape the island. Follow with discussion questions below:

G.1 What are the major obstacles facing the cast away?

G.2 Why is fire so important to the cast away? Why is spiritual fire important to the lost soul? Why is the Holy Spirit represented as the spiritual fire of the church?

G.3 What are some of the things that the cast away misses in his other life?

G.4 Why does Mr. Wilson become so important to the cast away? (after man satisfies his basic needs for water, food, and shelter, he longs for someone to share his life with, he longs to be in relationship with another, he longs to have someone to love)

G.5 Check Eccl 11:1 and Mtt. 8:26 & 9:1-8, then relate these to the story of the cast away.
(TEACHER NOTE - With scripture we draw the student into God's word. We expect students will quickly see the connection to the images of water and wind but we want more. Encourage them to reach into the ideas of risk founded in faith. Placing self in God's hands is the Abraham style of initiative. The necessary courage flows out of line Ecc 11:5…"God is behind it all." With the Matt 8: 26 line we invite discussion of how faith overcomes fear. "Even the winds and sea obey Him". Consider if the character's rescue is a random act. Move from God's power over the waves to Matt 9: 1-8 where God has power over sin. That power is proven by Jesus empowering the paralyzed man.)

G.6 Why is courage necessary to a paschal journey? What kind of life is left the cast away if there is no courage for the journey?

G.7 How do the stories of Abraham, Joseph (son of Jacob), Judas, and Peter compare with the cast away story?
(TEACHER NOTE - Abraham risks all to cross his desert in hope of finding a new life. Joseph crashes from favor to become a slave in a cell and is rescued again. Judas suffers isolation and despair and chooses suicide. Peter moves past despair to find new life.)

G.8 How does grace enter the rescue efforts of the cast away?
(TEACHER NOTE - The actual presence of God's power in the rescue story is a mystery because it must also include Chuck's friends who died. It is easier to understand that loving presence in the survivor. Finding the raft, finding the island, finding the means to build fire and the courage to escape are all evidence of grace in Chuck's story.)

G.9 After the rescue what changes would you expect in the cast away?

G.10 What deep and stormy waters must we cross in our own lives if we are to discover our talents, mission, and community?

H. Activity Four:

Assign students a project of constructing a collage of photographs that display either:

H.1 evidence of broken trust in our world
H.2 evidence of rescuers sent to heal and restore trust

I. Activity Five:

Students are assigned the writing of a personal reflection on our need to be rescued. This reflection may form part of the student's class journal. It will be shared in confidence with the teacher only. Please use new topic vocabulary in your written reflection. There are two important teaching acts needed to prepare students for building the connection of the broken covenant to their own life.

Begin by drawing a circle on the board, which will become an island. In the center of the circle write the acronym PALS AGE. Explain each letter stands for one of the seven CAPITAL SINS which separate us from God and neighbor. These seven sins can then be described in a second concentric circle around the perimeter of the first. Show pride, anger, lust, sloth, avarice, gluttony and envy in seven "cells" around this second circle. Discuss the meaning of each cell and the opposite virtue, which will be the escape raft from each of those cells. For pride our raft is humility. For anger our raft is self-control. For lust our raft is modesty. For sloth our raft is diligence. For avarice our raft is spiritual prayer. For gluttony our raft is temperance. For envy our raft is love of neighbor (charity). Discuss the work it takes to build the raft and then to begin the journey to freedom.

Caution the students that freedom is not achieved in simply building the raft. Examine the scripture reading at Wisdom 14 …."Father is what steers it , you having opened a pathway even through the sea, a safe way over the waves.

Conclude the lesson by reading John Donne's poetry "No man is an island". Now challenge the students to break out of their own islands and its cells and to write their personal reflection.

...no man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's
or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me,
for I am involved in mankind,
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.

John Donne (1572-1631)

STUDENT EVALUATION

Grades may be awarded for:

Participation in class discussion
Vocabulary Quiz.
Critical analysis of scriptural paragraph.
Responses to instructional video questions.
Solution to football parable.
Quality of photo collage.
Personal Journal .

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Ken Dick "The Broken Covenant: Where Are You?"

Reprinted with permission of Ken Dick.

THE AUTHOR

Ken Dick holds a Bachelor of Education from the University of Calgary and a Masters of Education from the University of Alberta. He has been involved in education for 32 years working in the areas of teaching, curriculum development, and holding positions in administration as both a principal and superintendent. He is married with six children and lives in Okotoks, Alberta. Ken Dick is on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.

Copyright 2002 Ken Dick


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