Note to the Teacher
The key idea for this lesson is “hope.” This hope is unlikely, though, in our readings from Ezekiel and John about the valley of dry bones and Lazarus. One icebreaker invites students to think in simple and fun ways about how our actions bring hope. Another icebreaker gets students thinking about resilience and hope that can be found in nature. The discussion encourages students to think about the words and metaphors used in the Bible to describe human feelings of loss and hopelessness as we grow to understand how hope evolves or survives in harsh circumstances. The activity gets youth to share their hopes and fears anonymously and affirms the importance of sharing feelings and thoughts like this. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.
1. Icebreaker: 'Kid President' and 'Flower in the Sidewalk' (10 minutes)
Get your students talking about concepts like forgiveness and hope,-giving actions like apologizing and dancing in this fun video for high-tech option 1. For low-tech option 2, have students think about resilience by playing a game like “Pictionary,” with beings from nature that survive in harsh environments.
Option 1: High Tech
Watch the video, then have students list things we should say more often that would bring hope to our loved ones, community, or world: Kid President's 20 Things We Should Say More Often.
Option 2: 'Flower in the Sidewalk'
There are certain beings in nature that survive in harsh or unlikely environments: a flower in a sidewalk; a fish at the bottom of the ocean; a creature in the desert. Have students to think of a being like that, but tell them now to share it with the group yet. Then, have students volunteer to draw that being they have in mind, and get the group to guess what they are drawing.
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our readings today are lively stories, but they don't start out that way. In the story of Ezekiel and the dry bones, we witness a yearning for new life for a whole community (of skeletons), not just one person alone. In the story of Lazarus, Jesus, Mary, and Martha, we witness how painful it is to lose a loved one and how new life after loss brings hope to everyone because we are all connected.
3. Discussion (20 minutes)
These stories from Ezekiel and John both involve surprising scenarios. Let’s talk about the meaning found in the story of Ezekiel and the dry bones and the meaning in the resurrection story of Lazarus.
- What movie genre would you use to describe Ezekiel’s and Lazarus’ stories? What do you think those scenes would be rated if they were movies?
- What does the valley of dry bones stand for in the story of Ezekiel? (v.11)
- What can valleys be a metaphor for? Have you heard that metaphor used in other stories or literature?
- How did Ezekiel feel about the dry bones? How do you think God felt? What do you think the dry bones coming to life symbolizes?
- How did Jesus, Mary, and Martha each feel about the death of Lazarus? How would it feel to lose a sibling or a good friend?
- Why do you think resurrection was such an important theme for the people of Israel in Ezekiel and in the story of Lazarus?
- Have you ever felt like a situation was without hope, but then things changed for you, or things turned around for another person or group of people?
- What do you do to find hope when you feel down about something?
Read Psalm 130.
- What do you think “the depths” are in Psalm 130?
- Work together as a group to put verses 1-4 into your own words.
- The writer of Psalm 130 trusts and hopes in the LORD. What do you think made this person gain such trust or hope in the LORD?
- How do you gain hope and trust in someone or something?
- Why does having hope in the LORD and in other people help us when we are feeling down about ourselves, our situations, or the world around us?
So far, we’ve discussed how our individual actions of faith can affect the people and the world around us--actions like admitting when we are wrong and forgiving someone else of a wrong or hurt. We have talked about how movement and change in our lives are part of following God’s call and how being known by God and others can help us to feel confident in walking through life with them. Today, we discussed the concept of hope in the story of Ezekiel and Lazarus.
In both stories, hope comes to a community, though all characters have individual experiences. What small or big things in life do you think can bring hope to the world?
4. Activity and Discussion (15 minutes)
Take this lesson to the next level by acknowledging our individual hopes and fears.
You will need two colors of sticky notes or pieces of paper. Each person gets one sticky note of the first color. Ask everyone to write down his or her greatest hope (for this year, for school, for the future, for family, for the world, etc.).
Distribute the second color of sticky notes with the instruction to each person to write down a major fear (for this year, for school, future, family, the world, etc.). Crumple up the sticky notes. On a count of three, everyone throws their crumpled notes to the center of the group. Then everyone collects one note of each color. Read all the hopes first, then all the fears. Thank everyone for sharing, encouraging them that it is a good thing to acknowledge our hopes and fears.
Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider praying for our hopes and fears.
Total time: 50 minutes
- YouTube video of “Kid President’s List of 20 Things…,” (high-tech icebreaker option)
- Computer with screen and audio
- Large area to draw or paper and markers or chalk to draw with (low-tech icebreaker option)
- Two different colors of sticky notes or pieces of paper and pens (activity and discussion)