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BIBLE PASSAGE: Genesis 37
BACKGROUND: Families are tricky. Every single one is different, with different flashpoints and histories. Exploring the disfunction around Jacob and his sons is a way into these issues, but be aware of the potential this may have to bring up difficult memories or issues from ongoing situations. Have a pastoral team ready to help those who have had or are having difficulties.
OPTION ONE: Family portraits
You will need: a range of family portraits Before the service, find a range of different family photographs on the internet. Try awkwardfamilyphotos.com or search for some Victorian photographs. Display the images around your space and ask people to try to work out the different relationships or stories that lie behind the photos.
Bring everyone together and ask for any thoughts people may have about the families in the portraits.
OPTION TWO: Family stories
You will need: volunteers with funny stories about their brothers and sisters
Before the service, find some volunteers with funny stories about sibling rivalry or escapades they got up to with their siblings. Interview the volunteers about these stories and ask them about their sibling relationships now.
You will need: volunteers to play the char- acters in the story; appropriate costumes; a fancy robe; twelve bundles of corn Before the service, gather together your volunteers and rehearse this story so that they can perform it confidently. Make sure you have a range of ages, and although all the characters in the story are all men your volunteers can be any gender.
Once there was a man called Jacob.
Jacob stands centre stage. Jacob had twelve sons. He is surrounded by his sons. But Jacob loved Joseph most of all and gave him a special robe. Jacob puts a robe on Joseph.
When his brothers realised Joseph was more loved than them they hated him. All the brothers turn their backs on Joseph.
Joseph had two dreams. One night he dreamt that he and his brothers were in the fields, gathering up corn. They all made big bundles of corn, but Joseph’s
was the biggest and best, and all the other bundles bowed down to it. All the brothers get bundles of corn but Joseph’s is the best. He also dreamt that the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to him.
When they heard these dreams, the brothers and even Jacob were angry! Some of the brothers try to attack Joseph but are held back by others who shout: “Leave it!” and “He’s not worth it!”
One day the brothers were out grazing their sheep. The brothers gather on one side of the stage. Jacob asked Joseph to check up on them. Off Joseph went wearing his fancy cloak. Joseph crosses the stage towards his brothers. When they saw him coming the brothers attacked him, took
off his cloak and threw him in a well. The brothers do this and then stand in front of Joseph so he can’t be seen.
Some merchants from the south came by. The merchants come on stage. The brothers decided not to kill Joseph, but
to sell him as a slave. The brothers drag Joseph over to the merchants, who give them a money bag. They tie Joseph’s hands and take him off the stage.
The brothers tore up Joseph’s robe and covered it with the blood of goat. They mime doing this. They took the robe to their father and lied to cover their tracks. They take the robe to Jacob. They said he had been attacked and killed by a wild animal. Jacob is upset; the brothers look shifty.
You will need: copies of the questions below; Bibles
Break into small groups – made up of one or two families, or different mixed-age groups – then give each group a copy of these questions and a Bible:
- What do you think of Joseph’s dreams?
- What do you think of the brothers’ actions?
- Who was to blame for this dysfunctional family? Why?
- What does this story tell you about God?
Give the groups time to chat about these questions, referring to the Bible passage if they need to.
You will need: a roving mic (if needed) Get some feedback on the questions from ‘Small groups’ using a microphone to hear people’s contributions if your meeting space is large.
Set these three activities up in different parts of your meeting space. Explain what each one is and encourage people to go to the one that will help them process what they have discovered most effectively.
OPTION 1: Reflection
Set aside a space (a corner of your meeting space, side chapel or adjoining room) for quiet reflection. Some people may have their own difficult family circumstances and wish to think or pray about those. It might help to have some spiritual focuses on hand, such as holding crosses, wooden figures, candles or sand.
OPTION 2: Role play
You will need: a leader who is experienced at improvised role play and can deal sensitively with any the issues that arise
Come up with some family scenarios and invite two or three people to role-play one of them. At various points the leader should
stop the action and ask the rest of the group what could have been done differently, what the actors should say next, and so on.
OPTION 3: Creative response
You will need: art materials; writing materials Set out your art and writing materials,
then invite people to draw, paint or write something to help them explore what God is saying to them about their family or their relationship with him. Have someone on hand to help people access the materials or to chat if needed.
Bring everyone back together and ask if anyone would like to share what they did, thought about or discussed during the response time. Thank everyone for taking part and say an appropriate blessing to close the service.
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