Monday, February 28, 2011

Melchizedek Redux

 
Remember from last week that Jesus had come to Jerusalem a few days before Passover. Now it's Thursday evening and Jesus wants to have dinner with his friends the apostles. "Now the feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death ...Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. The disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He said, "Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, 'The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples." And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.  When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples."    Tell me please, at the first Passover, what did people eat? A lamb. Yes, and...umm, some bread? Yes, what's called unleavened bread. Does anyone know what leavening is? No? How about yeast? No? Yeast or leavening is what makes bread fluffy. If you don't put yeast in bread dough, you get very flat bread. But you can eat sooner, because it can take more than 2 hours for leavened dough to rise and fluff up. At the first Passover, Moses told the Israelites to make unleavened bread and eat quickly, so that when Pharaoh decided to let them leave Egypt, they'd be ready to go. Tell me what pita bread is. It's flat round bread. Yes, it has just a little yeast and it doesn't rise for very long before it's baked. Can anybody think of some other round flat bread? No? How about at Mass? Oh, communion bread!  Yes; it's unleavened bread, too.

So what do you expect Jesus and the apostles to eat at this dinner? Lamb and bread! Yes, unleavened bread. "Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples...." There's the bread. And Jesus said, "This is my body which is given up for you." What? Why would Jesus say the bread was his body? So we would have Communion? Yes. But right then the apostles didn't know that. Remember after Jesus fed the crowds and they wanted more miracle food the next day he said some strange things that upset people...about eating weird stuff...drinking weird stuff...oh, eat my flesh and drink my blood! Yes! Nobody understood Jesus; how could anybody eat Jesus? But then at the Last Supper he says the bread is his body. Would the apostles know how eat Jesus now? Yes, they'd eat the bread! Yes, the bread he turned into his body. Then he said, "Do this in remembrance of me." What did Jesus just do? Change the bread? Yes, into...his body. Yes. So what should they do to remember Jesus? Change the bread? Yes. How can they do that? Jesus would work the miracle through them; they would have his authority. When do we still remember this? At Mass. Yes. And listen again: "This is my body which is given up for you." What's Jesus mean that his body is given up for them? If say, soldiers give up, what happens? They surrender. Yes. Is Jesus going to surrender himself to anybody soon? The Roman soldiers? Yes; and what will happen to Jesus? He'll be crucified. Yes, he'll be sacrificed for our sins. So when Jesus says his body is given up for them he's making a little prophecy, because nobody's arrested him just yet. And the apostles don't know why he'd give his body up for them anyway. But we know he'll be sacrificed. So, did Jesus sacrifice himself? Yes. Oh, he killed himself at the Last Supper? Ha, no! Right; who did kill Jesus? The soldiers. Yes. Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice at the Last Supper, but didn't do the actual sacrificing, the killing. That happened the next day, which would be...Good Friday? Yes. Why do we say it's Good? Because it was good for us.

"And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you." Y'all and the apostles have already figured out how to eat Jesus's flesh; how will they drink his blood? By drinking the wine? Yes, by drinking the wine Jesus changed into...blood.Yes. Do y'all think at the Last Supper Jesus's body and blood looked like a hunk of meat and a cup of blood? No it just looked like bread and wine. Yes; the apostles still needed faith, just like we do on Sundays.

Now Jesus and his friends were observing Passover, which began with Moses in Egypt; what have they eaten so far? Bread? Yes, anything else? Well they drank some wine. Yes; what are they supposed to eat at a Passover dinner? A Lamb! Yes, sacrificing and eating lambs were signs of the Covenant God made with the Israelites. Tell me about the sign of the lamb's blood at the first Passover. They splashed it on their houses! Yes. But Jesus says drinking his blood, not splashing it, is the sign of a new covenant. And right about now the apostles are thinking: what new covenant? Isn't this a Passover meal like people have eaten for centuries? But maybe the apostles remember one of Jeremiah's prophecies that we looked at a couple of months ago: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD...." See how important marriage is? "I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." It's like a romance between God and his people. Do my wife and I have a bunch of rules on paper? No. Why not? Because if you love somebody you don't need rules.  Yes. Boys never answer that question, but the girls always get it right. Boys, pay attention to what the girls say. Anyway, I imagine the apostles thinking, "Wow, is Jesus talking about that new covenant that Jeremiah prophesied?  I wonder how that's gonna work?" Somebody tell me how it's gonna work. No takers...what do we expect the apostles to eat that they haven't eaten? A lamb. Yes. Tell me what John the Baptist called Jesus...Jesus was coming to be baptized...behold the Banana of God...Behold the Lamb of God! Yes, who takes away...the sins of the world. There ya go! So if Jesus is a Lamb, what kind of Lamb...a Christmas Lamb....Little Bo Peep's Lamb...a Passover Lamb! Yes. How are the Apostles going to eat this Lamb? What's the bread? Jesus. What's the Lamb? Jesus. So if you eat the bread you...eat the Lamb! Yes. This is a new covenant meal; but it's like the old one, too.

Now who was it that made that Passover covenant with God? Moses. Yes. Moses was a very big deal for Jews: he got their ancestors out of Egypt, brought them the 10 Commandments, set up the Ark and Meeting Tent, got them to the Promised Land. So why would anybody dump that covenant and listen to Jesus talk about a new covenant? 'cause Jeremiah said there'd be a new one? Ooh, good guess, but Jeremiah isn't as big a deal as Moses. He doesn't outrank Moses.

Now tell me yet again what they have at this Final Din-Din? The Last Supper. Yes...what did they have? Bread and wine. Yes. And thinking way back this year, y'all may remember this guy [on the board] M-e-l-c-h-i-z...Melchizedek! Yes. Tell me. He was a priest? Yes. A king and a priest. What did Melchizedek bring out to Abraham...chips and dip? Umm, bread and wine? Yes. We don't know exactly how Melchizedek offered up the bread and wine, but Genesis said he was a priest. And Abraham gave him a tenth of the stuff he had just won in a battle. Sort of like the way we give money on Sunday to support the Church. So if Melchizedek blesses Abraham, and then Abraham makes an offering to Melchizedek, who ranks higher? Melchizedek? Yes, why? Well...Abraham had to give him stuff. Yes. And because Melchizedek outranks Abraham, he also outranks Abraham's descendants, like Isaac and Moses. So when Jesus offers bread and wine like Melchizedek, he's showing that his new covenant outranks Moses' covenant.

When Jesus offered the same things that Melchizedek did, I bet the apostles were thinking, "is this like Melchizedek?" And then "does it matter?" because they didn't figure things out right away, and Jesus had given them a lot to think about.

After supper was over did they go out bowling? They went to pray! Yes, in...a...bowling alley? Was it the Garden of Eden? No, good guess; another Garden, the Garden of Gethsemane. But time's up, we'll start here next week.

Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Wow, y'all are getting good. Class over!

Daughters & Prayers

Thanks all you prayin' machines.

Today Francie and her eye were examined by 7 doctors. Short answer: the infection 'etched' her cornea, but the rest of the eyeball suffered no permanent damage. She couldn't see through it at all yesterday, but today can distinguish light from dark; and gross motion. Tentative prognosis: the cornea may self-repair enough be workable. If not, she may get a cornea transplant.

Coulda been worse.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

My daughter is very ill, please pray for her.

Daughter Francesca has an eye infection which threatens her sight in that eye, as soon as a hospital can be found that can treat it she'll be headed there. Thanks for your prayers.

Update 1am Monday : got her into a hospital 100 miles away. She's on an IV, infection is under control, but vision in the eye is probably lost. Better luck next time.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Just Do It


Y'all remember last week Jesus drove the Temple staff crazy right in front of the Temple! Imagine someone coming into your house and yelling at your parents...who would stand for that? The scribes & priests got so fed up with Jesus that they wanted him dead. Tell me again, who ran Judea? Caesar? Yes, and who did Caesar put in charge of Judea? He washed his hands at Jesus's trial...Pontius Pilate! Yes, the Roman Governor, who had the power to sentence criminals to death. So the priests told Pilate that Jesus wasn't just a religion problem, but a political problem, too. Crowds of people thought Jesus was the Messiah, a new King like David; that would make Jesus a rebel. So after knocking over tables in the Temple Court and chewing out Pharisees, Jesus had only a few more days to live.

In these last days Jesus was still busy telling parables; let's look at a couple of them. Remember when I read parables, imagine ya'll are in ancient Jerusalem listening to Jesus tell 'em.

"What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he repented and went.  And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his father?" The first one! Yes, that's easy. Jesus isn't too interested in what people say they believe, he's interested in what their faith makes them...do!  Yes, because Jesus expects us to act...in...faith! Yes. Then Jesus told the chief priests and Pharisees, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you." I bet their heads were about to explode! Tax collectors and prostitutes weren't part of decent society...but they're going to heaven first? Jesus means that people like the Prodigal Son who repent of huge sins will do better than people like his older brother, who won't repent of their small sins. Then Jesus says, "John the Baptist told everyone to repent; and humble sinners did repent. But y'all are too proud." And without repentance, there's no...forgiveness?  Yes. And no forgiveness means...hair on fire...pitchfork in the butt...Hell! That's it!

Tonight my favorite Sacrament is Marriage, because it figures in this next parable. "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a marriage feast for his son..." OK, this is a parable, so tell me who the King is...God? More specifically...God the Father. Yes...and the son is...Jesus. Yes. The father "sent his servants to call those who were invited to the marriage feast; but they would not come." OK, now this half of the class is Chosen People, Sons of Abraham; the other half are non-Jews, what we call Gentiles. Which group is invited to the wedding feast? Chosen People! Yes, but they didn't come. This doesn't mean every last person didn't come; it just means a lot of them didn't, even though they were God's family.

"Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have made ready my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.' But they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them." Now, who might one of these messengers be, whose message the Pharisees ignored? Jesus? Good guess, but who is the son in this story? Jesus. Yes, so he can't do two parts.  Who was the messenger who came before Jesus...his head got cut off...it was put on a plate...John the Baptist? Yes. "The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the highways, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find.'  Which group is this? Us! Yes, the Gentiles, people not part of God's Covenant. And those servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. "But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment..." Who has been to a wedding feast, what we call nowadays a reception...lots of y'all...tell me about it. It's fun and there's good food. And? People dance and there's music. Yes, a great time. And how do people dress...like they're gonna cut the grass? No they dress nice! Why? Because it's special! Yes...I mean, why do people dress nicely when they attend something special? You just have to dress special if you're going to something special. Yes, that's how we show with our bodies that our minds and souls believe it's special. Daughter, if I came to your wedding in a t-shirt & flip-flops, how would you feel? I wouldn't like it. But suppose I said I know this is your special day, and I'm so glad I came, but I don't like wearing a suit and tie, they're not comfortable like jeans. I wouldn't care. Right. You wouldn't want someone to behave badly at your wedding. But clothes aren't the same as behaving. Well, in some ways, it's a kind of behavior. How you act, smell, sound, and look are all parts of behavior. 

And the king says to this guy who had no wedding garment, "Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?" I love that: "how did you get in here?" The king can tell just by looking that the man doesn't have respect for the king, and how wonderful the feast is.  "Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth." What's the outer darkness? Hell?  Yes. Now what banquet is the parable about? We have it on Sundays....Mass! Yes. But something is missing from this wedding feast...we have the groom...we have the father of the groom...there's no bride! Yes! Who or what is the bride...who is Jesus's bride? Jesus didn't get married. Yes, you are right. But this is a heavenly, spiritual marriage; like when Isaiah said Israel's husband was God.  Jesus's bride is the Church. He loves the Church like I love my wife; well, actually it's the other way around. And that's why we call the Church "she," like a ship. Do priests get married? No. Right: they imitate Christ, who had no bride on Earth. But who is Jesus's heavenly bride? The Church.  So if priests imitate Christ, they marry...the Church too? Yes. How can she have a thousand husbands? It's not identical to an earthly marriage. By the way, speaking of spiritual marriage, whom do nuns marry? Nobody. I said spiritually. Ummm, the Church? Is the Church a bride? Yes. Do women marry brides? No. So do nuns marry the Church? No. Women marry...men. Yes; so nuns marry...ummm, Jesus? Yes. Priests give themselves to the Church and nuns give themselves to Jesus; and my wife and I give ourselves to each other. It's all very romantic.

Here's our last parable from chapter 25 of Matthew's gospel: "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne." That's Jesus quoting Daniel again.  "Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left." So the sheep go to...heaven, and the goats...to Hell. Yes. And he says to the sheep, "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'  Once again, Jesus wants to know what you do, not just what you claim to believe.

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?  And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'

When Jesus says "the righteous" in this way does he mean people who are really, truly righteous? No, people who just think they're righteous. Yes; people who think they aren't bad enough to need to repent, and do good works. And in this parable, how does Jesus expect us to take care of him? By taking care of other people? Yes, because Jesus is in all of us.

[I pull out a picture book about this person:]

 Who's this? Mother Teresa. Yes, nice to see some of y'all know who she is; tell me about her. She takes care of sick people. Yes, she used to; she died a few years ago...the Church may make her a saint in your lifetimes. [I show some pictures in the book] She lived in India, where very poor sick people may lie on the sidewalk until they die. She made it her business to take care of as many of them as she could. She had been a schoolteacher, but one day on a train, Jesus spoke to her. He asked her to love him by loving the least of his children, just like Jesus said in this parable. So her life permanently changed at that moment.

Who's Jay Leno? He has a TV show! Yes, the Tonight Show. About 30 years ago, I saw Mother Teresa on the Tonight Show. In her photographs she always looked grumpy, but I was surprised to see how lively and happy she was in real life. I couldn't understand why she was happy, since she spent all her time dealing with scabby, smelly, sick, dying people. But she said she saw Jesus in all those people; and she was happy to do stuff for Jesus. She was just doing what Jesus said to do in the parable. Anyway, for years after watching her on TV, I felt guilty about not doing anything for anybody like Mother Teresa did. One day I told my priest I liked Mother Teresa's example, but I never saw sick people lying on the sidewalk in Greenville. So he started me going to the hospital to visit sick people and bring them Communion. At first it was odd: I can't stand the hospital, didn't know any of the patients, and felt unworthy of bringing them communion. But after a couple of months I got used to it, and learned to see Jesus in those people...no kidding. Now y'all remember Moses' stick and Jesus's cloak with the tassels, were those things magic? No, they were just...well, God's power went through them. Yes; they were media, like the TV that mediated Mother Teresa into my house. Well, over the next few years of going to visit the sick, I realized I was being a medium for God's grace; there were times when dying people were so happy to see me, but it wasn't me in particular. I think it was God coming through me to them...like so:

One time I went to see a woman, who of course was a total stranger. I knocked & walked into a dimly-lit room. There was a very old, thin woman in the bed, the skinniest thing you've ever seen. She wasn't moving, but her eyes were open. Her daughter, a grownup like me, was trying to feed her some yogurt; and her two daughters, about your age, were there too. The old woman's daughter was stressing out and getting frustrated because her dying mom wouldn't eat any yogurt, but she was supposed to. And the two granddaughters were worried and stressed because their mom and grandmother were stressed. The whole room was unhappy. I told the daughter I was there to bring her mom Communion if she could receive it; sometimes people are too dehydrated to receive Communion. The daughter said her mom would want to, but she was too dry, couldn't swallow, and wouldn't eat any yogurt, which would moisten her mouth and throat. I said, do you mind if I try? She said sure, go ahead, and sat in a chair, just exhausted from taking care of her two girls and her mother. I took the cup and spoon. As I got closer to grandma, I saw she was so dehydrated that her lips were cracked and had little scabs on them. I said to her, "Hey darlin', I'm here to bring you Communion if you'd like to receive." She looked right into my eyes and nodded just the littlest bit; she was worn out, too. "OK...do you want to try some yogurt? It'll help you to swallow." Another little nod, kept looking right in my eyes. "OK...here you go, just a little bit...there. Was that too much? OK...another one...let me know when you've had enough...another one, good..." And it went like that 'til she ate the whole container. Then, "Do you think you can swallow a little bit of Communion?" Yes. "Would you like to sip some water from a straw to help it go down?" Yes. "OK darlin'...the Body of Christ...Amen...here's the water...is that enough? There ya go." We just looked at each other the whole time, and all the tension left the room. I swear she was smiling with her eyes the biggest smile I've ever seen. I could feel God's love flowing out me and into her, and from her into me. We were both seeing Jesus in each other. It was incredible. I said, "I'll see ya next week," and kissed her on the forehead. When I came back the next week she was gone. Yes? How come she got to have communion right after eating? Because the rules are different when you are seriously sick.

This is a good example of what can happen if you try to see Jesus in everyone, especially "the least" of his children. Not only can you be a medium of Jesus's love to a stranger, but surprise, they can channel Jesus's grace right into you as well. It's amazing what great things happen when a sinner like me lets God use him. And if it weren't for this parable and Mother Teresa, I don't know if I would ever have visited a single sick stranger.

That was our last parable; Jesus is going to be arrested soon. But before the soldiers come for him, he and his Apostles eat the Final Dinner. The Last Supper? Oh yeah, that's it. We'll cover that next.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

House of Prayer, Den of Thieves

This post is linked to RAnn's Sunday Snippets

Y'all remember a couple of weeks ago we talked about Jesus and the children [Mk 10]? Yes. We covered that a little out of order to compare those kids going straight to Jesus to the boy with the loaves and fishes only getting access to the Apostles. Remind me please, who brought those kids to Jesus? Their parents. Yes, the parents knew Jesus was some kind of prophet, miracle-worker, maybe even the Messiah. What'd the parents want? They wanted Jesus to bless the kids. Yes, by...laying his hands on them!  Yes! Did Jesus tell the kids, "Hey now, your parents put you up to this; y'all come back when you have some faith of your own, and then I'll bless ya." No, he just blessed them! Yes, because the parents wanted it for their children; the parents had faith. It's the same with Baptism: do babies know anything about Jesus? No. Right. Babies don't know anything; but their parents do. Babies are Baptized because of their parents' faith.

Shortly after blessing the kids, Jesus started on a journey, probably to Jerusalem. "And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus says,"You know the commandments: 'Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness"...which means? Don't lie! Yes..."Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother." What's defraud? Tricking someone out of his money. Jesus is sort of teasing him, like saying, "What's the matter? Don't you know the 10 Commandments?" And the man says "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." And Jesus, looking upon him loved him..." Why do you think Jesus loved him? Because he wanted to be good?  Yes! And because he felt like observing the 10 Commandments wasn't enough...there was more he should be doing, but he couldn't say what.  Jesus said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Uh-oh...I don't know if I could do that.  Following Jesus means more than checking off the 10 Commandments every day. "At that saying [the rich man] went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions."  Jesus didn't let people stop with the 10 Commandments, he had two more: love your...neighbor? Yes, as yourself; and love your...? No guesses? Jesus told us to turn the other cheek if someone hits us, and to love...our enemies!  Yes! I think those two are tougher than the first Ten. And Jesus said, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And they were exceedingly astonished..." Tell me, in Jesus's day, how could you tell if God had super-blessed someone? They were rich? Yes, God blessed people with lots of kids and goodies. And if God didn't bless you, you might wind up with a son who was blind from birth. But now Jesus says being rich is more of a problem than a blessing. But if it's hard for the rich, who enjoy God's favor, to get to heaven, what chance do the poor Apostles have? They said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For men it is impossible, but not for God; for all things are possible with God." Jesus means that whether someone is rich or poor, he still can't get to heaven on his own; we all have to trust in God. Now y'all may remember Peter had a mother-in-law, which means...he was married? Yes. And I know how much I miss my wife if I don't see her at lunch every day. But Peter had to leave home to follow Jesus all around the Judean countryside for a couple of years now. Peter said to Jesus, "We have given up everything and followed you." I think Peter's reminding Jesus that he didn't just give up being a fisherman, which would make him poor, but he gave up being with his wife and family, which is even worse! Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold...and in the age to come, eternal life." Jesus is telling Peter he knows what Peter has sacrificed. People like Peter, who trust in God and let go of whatever they have to to follow Jesus, will have eternal life, which is what the rich man was looking for at the start of the story. The rich man was afraid to completely trust in God. He also wanted to trust in his stuff; but that may keep him out of heaven. I know how he feels; I like to trust in stuff too.

Shortly after this episode, Jesus enters Jerusalem during the time of Passover, as we saw last week. One of the first things he does in Jerusalem is to go aggravate the scribes and priests at the Temple. Tell me about it. He went in and knocked over the tables and whipped people! Yes! "The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables." Now Jesus didn't go into the holy part of the Temple where only priests could go; he was in the outer court where people could come in to make their Passover offerings. If they came from far away they might have to change their money to pay a Temple tax and buy animals for sacrifice. Imagine cows peeing and pooping and farting in front of our church: smelly, noisy, and completely irreverent. "And he...said to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?" What's that mean? That people should be respectful? Yes. Then he says "But you have made it a den of thieves." Tell me about it. They shouldn't steal people's money? Yes, maybe the moneychangers were taking advantage of poor people who didn't know what a fair deal would be; defrauding them. That's how most of the people who heard Jesus would understand what he said. But the scribes and Pharisees and priests understood Jesus even more, which made them decide that they had to get rid of Jesus, and soon.

Let's see...who can read this [on the board]: NTHNG. Nothing? Yes, good! Keep going if you can...NTHNGBT. Nothing but? Yes again...this is harder...NTHNGBTCNSNNTS. Umm...nothing but consonants? Yes, genius! Very good. Sometimes grownups can't figure that out. In Jesus's day, the Scriptures were written in Hebrew. The Hebrew alphabet didn't have vowels, and there were no spaces between the words, or punctuation, or lower case letters, or paragraphs. A book in the Bible was one long stream of consonants on a scroll. What's a scroll? A rolled-up book? Yes, one long page rolled up. Reading was hard to do, and the only people who could read well were Pharisees, and scribes, who could also write. They made a living out of reading, studying, and memorizing the Scriptures. They knew them very well; all of the important parts from memory, much better than the average person, even the Apostles. So when they heard Jesus say "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations" they knew right away he was quoting Isaiah. And when he said "den of thieves" they remembered Jeremiah had said it first. We covered both of these quotes a couple months ago during our prophet classes; let's see what Jesus was telling the scribes, Pharisees, and other Temple staff.

First off, Jesus quotes Isaiah. But when the scribes hear "house of prayer," they don't just think about those words, but the whole passage. Isaiah prophesied that someday God's House would be for all people, not just Jews: "Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people." So Jesus reminds the scribes and Pharisees that being Chosen won't matter if God will accept all people into his Covenant.

Then Jesus quoted Jeremiah while standing in the Temple Court, where Jeremiah had stood when he chewed out the Temple staff centuries before; Jesus was showing he had the same authority as Jeremiah. When he said "den of thieves" the Pharisees recalled the whole passage, part of which is: "Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of thieves to you?" Now I don't think the Temple staff of Jesus's day were doing all the bad stuff Jeremiah's talking about, but Jesus's point is they were just as unfaithful in their own way. And then they'd remember the next thing Jeremiah said: "Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel." Tell me about Shiloh and the Ark. They took the Ark to a battle and everybody died, and they lost the Ark. Yes, and when they got the Ark back, did they return it to Shiloh? No? Right. God abandoned Shiloh; God and his Ark never dwelled there again.

Now these two prophecies together are completely insulting to the Temple staff. Jesus, speaking through Isaiah and Jeremiah, prophesies that being a Jew won't matter much, and that non-Jews may be dearer to God than Chosen People. Then he compares them to adulterers and worshipers of Baal, the baby-eating false god. And finally he says that this place, the beautiful Temple in Jerusalem, will be abandoned by God just as Shiloh was: that God won't live there anymore.

As fast as the scribes and priests figure all this out, they are livid! What's livid? Real mad? Yes, you might say killing mad.

Then "...the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them." Healing is how Jesus shows his authority to prophesy. "But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were indignant; and they sought a way to destroy him; for they feared him, because all the multitude was astonished at his teaching." When people say "Hosanna to the Son of David!" to Jesus, who do they think he is? The Messiah? Yes, and a Son of David Messiah would be a...king? Yes. So how would Caesar like for the Jews to get themselves a new king like David? He wouldn't like it. So what would he do? Have a war?  Yes. And the Temple staff don't want a war: the Romans would go crazy and kill half the country. So they have both a political reason and a religious reason to get rid of Jesus.

Y'all remind me what Jesus did in Jerusalem when he was 12. He was teaching the grownups? Yes, at the camel store? Ha, no, at the Temple! Yes he was discussing the Scriptures with the teachers there (probably scribes and Levites), and they were impressed with his knowledge. I like to imagine that on the day that Jesus quoted Isaiah and Jeremiah, some of the older men at the Temple would have remembered Jesus when he was a smart kid 20 Passovers ago.

Class over!

[Much of the groundwork for this class is elaborated on here. Anyone teaching this would want to get a bigger picture than what I cover with the kids in this post,]

Res Ipsa Loquitur 2

This post is linked to RAnn's Sunday Snippets


Here is a short (5 minute) recorded bit from the February 20 class: Barney & St. Augustine

I posted on the topic a couple of years ago: Barney & St. Augustine.

Interesting to see how the live version compares to the old written version.


For more live classes, click on the Res Ipsa Loquitur label at lower right.




Saturday, February 19, 2011

Asparagus me, Lord


I was thinking about aspergillums this morning, the sprinklers used at Mass (and elsewhere) to disperse Holy Water. I didn't imagine the silver sticks with a ball on the end, but an old-fashioned aspergillum made of a plant. The sort of thing Moses would have whipped up to sling blood on Israelites. And I thought: wouldn't a bundle of asparagus would make a fine aspergillum? And then: could the words be related? Let's see.

Asparagus comes from Late Old English sparage, from Medieval Latin sparagus, from Latin asparagus, from Gk. asparagos, ασπάραγος,  from Persian asparag, meaning "sprout" or "shoot," from the Proto-Indo-European stem -sphereg- "to scatter." (In England the word was commonly mispronounced as "sparrowgrass.")

It's amazing how sometimes a word remains recognizable across millennia, miles, and culture.

Aspergillum comes from Latin aspergere, [ad-spergere] "to sprinkle on," from spargere, to scatter [also the root for disperse], from the same Proto-Indo-European stem -sphereg- "to scatter." So the words do come from a common root. I doubt that anyone has ever grabbed a modern asparagus to sprinkle with, though; rather, an aspergillum was made by bundling whatever "sprouts or shoots" were handy. But look at this wild asparagus:


You could sprinkle a regiment with that fistful. (Kinda looks like wheat...imagine that.)

Then I wondered if the -sphereg- root was also the source for words such as spring and sprinkle, especially considering what an aspergillum is for. Turns out there are two close roots -sphereg-, and -spergh-. They both overlap in a general sense of sprinkling, scattering; and have some shades of meaning unique to each. To me, -spergh- seems to be the better root for asparagus, but my Indo-European reference says otherwise. Considering the alternate pronunciation and spelling of aspharagus which is as old as Greek, the difference may be academic anyway. I suppose both roots come from an earlier common source which would predate Indo-European; but it's interesting to see that by 10,000 BC, give or take a millennia, that such fine distinctions in sound and meaning were already developing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Straight Down the Toilet

Hey before we pray, Madam Bouncer has a handout for y'all....everybody got one? Look at the prayer at the bottom, you've heard it before, but now you can read it. Here we go: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.
Amen"

OK...now look at the painting on the handout; it was done a few centuries ago by an artist named Rembrandt. He was Dutch, so what country did he live in? Holland? Yes. What is Holland famous for? Windmills! .....Wooden shoes! And what flower? Tulips! Yes, geniuses! Rembrandt painted lots of Bible stories, like this one. Can you guess the story? No? Actually it's a painting of one of Jesus's parables. I like this painting because it reminds me of how I feel when I go to confession. Any guesses yet on the story? No? Y'all have heard the story before, and now you're gonna hear it again, but with cartoons. Won't that be all the fun you can stand? No. Oh cheer up, your suffering comes to an end in a couple of months. 

Pretend Jesus is telling you the story (all from Luke 15):
"There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them."

[I draw two faces without mouths] This is the younger Son....and his Father, he's old like me...needs a beard & some wrinkles...there. Where are their mouths? I'll put some in later. What do you call it when a parent's property is divided among the children? Inheritance? Yes, the part each child (usually they're adults, like the son) gets is his inheritance. Do my kids have their inheritance yet? Ha, no. How do you know? Because you're not dead yet. Yes; not quite yet. And you're right, a father's estate doesn't get divided among the kids 'til he's dead. So how would the father feel when the son asks for his inheritance? Sad? [I put a sad mouth on the Father] Yes, the Son can't wait around for his Father to die so he can get the goodies. But the Father goes ahead and gives the Son his share, which today might be a million dollars or so. The Father allows the Son to exercise his free will, even if it's gonna be a big fat mistake. How does the Son feel? He feels great! [happy mouth on the Son] He's an ingrate, but he feels great (haw!); I bet he has tons of self-esteem, but not a lick of self-respect. He's very proud of himself, and all the money he has that he didn't earn. Now who is the Son thinking about? Himself? Yes [arrow from the Son's head back around to his head). Who's the Father thinking about? Himself? Well, if he were thinking of himself he'd've thrown his son out of the house with nothing; so I suppose he's thinking of...his Son? Yes [arrow from Father to Son].

Then Jesus says: "Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living." What's that mean, to "squander property in reckless living?" To waste all his money! Yes, but how? Buying lots of stuff, cars and things! Yes, and? Parties? Yes, probably getting drunk, gambling and behaving badly with women like King David did...what today we might call Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll. What's wrong with Rock'n'Roll? Well, sometimes it's ok; other times, especially if people aren't behaving well, it can make it easier to behave even worse. Like what? Like, ask your parents; this isn't a Rock'n'Roll class. It's a Learn About God class. Yes? Is he the Prodigal Son? Yes, you got it.

Prodigal means 'wastefully extravagant.' He just blew that money right out the window! Do you think the Son would've done that if he'd earned the money himself? No! That's right! Hey, tell me what the lottery is. It's when people buy a ticket to win a lot of money! Yes. There are some people who win millions of dollars in the lottery, and within a couple of years it's all gone. People tend to disregard things they don't work for. You should always carefully spend the money you're given as though you had to work for it yourself.

Then Jesus says: "After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he was hungry. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs." Now ever since Moses at least, Jews couldn't have anything to do with pigs, which were unclean: no bacon, no ham, no barbecue. Mmm...I love pigs. But for the Son, and the Jews hearing the story, this is just the nastiest situation. "He longed to fill his stomach with the swill that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything." Have y'all ever seen what pigs eat? No? When I was kid, my uncle kept pigs. He'd collect leftovers from the schools in big buckets: food, milk, juice, just a dreadful stinky glop. He'd pour out that smelly slop and the pigs went snortin' crazy for it. I can't imagine being as hungry as the Son; to want to eat that mess.

How does the younger Son feel now? Sad. You bet he does [I erase the Son's smile, replace it with a sad mouth]. Who does he feel sad for? Himself. Yes. And notice how Jesus says "no one gave him anything." Who's the only person who gave him anything?  His Father! Yes, who loves him. But he was mean to his Father, so too bad for him now.

Then Jesus says: "When [the Son] came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men."

Now this is starting to look a lot like My Favorite Sacrament...which is? The Eucharist? Well...that's not my favorite right now. Another guess? Baptism? Baptism!? No! You're just throwing out answers now. It's Confession. The son at last realizes he's sinned against his Father; we'd say he's examined his conscience. Y'all know what that is, right, examining your conscience? When you think about your sins. Yes, I try to do it every night before I go to sleep. Before Confession you should do it too, so you don't get in there and say, "Umm I have some sins I think....just a second."  So the Son has decided to go confess his sin to his Father. And why is he doing this, why does he now realize he's offended his father? Because he's hungry! Yes, he's still thinking about himself, but he's thinking about his father as well, so that's progress [new arrow to the Father]. And is he still prideful? No, he's humble. Yes. That's progress, too. And he knows he doesn't deserve to be treated like a son since he's already wolfed down his big slice of pie in one huge bite. How's he gonna pay all that money back? He can't! That's right! A million bucks flushed straight down the toilet, squoosh! So he can't make amends! What's the only thing he can hope for? That his father will forgive him! Yes; the Son doesn't want justice. He wants what? Forgiveness! Yes, he wants a merciful Father. As we say, "Have mercy on me Lord, a sinner."

Then Jesus says: "So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him..." What does the Father do? Put on his kicking boot? No he runs out to his Son!  Yes! "...he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."

I think the Father is surprised his Son is even alive, and runs out to hug and kiss him. How does the Father feel? Happy! Yes [Father now smiles] But isn't the Father the offended party? Yes. So why is he glad to see his good-for-nothing-blow-a-million-bucks younger son? 'cause he loves him anyway! Yes....and who is the father thinking about? His son! Yes. If he thinks about himself, and how thoughtless his Son had been to him how would he feel? Sad. Yes. Now does the Father know the Son's sin, how the son offended him? Yes! Can he tell the Son is as sorry as he can be? Yes! But instead of saying, "hush now, you don't have to apologize," he lets the Son confess his sin out loud, even though he already knows what he's going to say. Just as we do in Confession, the younger Son repeats out loud his Examination of Conscience: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son." Why does the father let the Son confess? So the Son will feel better! Yes. Confessing our sins out loud to a priest isn't for God's benefit- he knows our sins before we do...who's it for? It's for us. Yes. And who is the Son thinking about now? His Father. Yes...a little about himself too; he's miserable, who can blame him?


Now let's look at Rembrandt's painting again. The poor Son is exhausted by his sins and his guilt. His shoes are falling apart; he's penniless. Just a poor, forlorn sinner like me. This is just how I feel when I'm in Confession and the priest tells me Jesus has forgiven my sins. The Son looks peaceful and relieved and sorry all at once. And the father is patient and affectionate....he can stand there and comfort his Son and welcome him home for as long as the Son needs him to. Rembrandt was one of the world's greatest painters, and he knew it. Like most adults he committed some spectacular sins, and wallowed in pride like a pig. Rembrandt painted this when he was old and near death, like me. He's showing how he hoped God would forgive him his sins. He didn't want justice, he wanted...forgiveness! Yes, just like me.

OK, back to the story: the Son just wants to be treated like a hired hand, not a son. But Jesus says: "...the Father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' Was the Father always ready to accept his Son back? Umm...yes?  Yes, as long as the son...apologized? Yes, he had to be sorry, and say he was sorry, and repent. It was up to the Son, not the Father. Do you think the Son will be this mean to his father again? No! Right; like Ezekiel said, he has a heart of flesh now, not one of stone.

So the Son, having confessed, is forgiven by the Father, who restores him to an even better situation than before he left, as we'll see in a minute. At this point how does the Son feel? Happy! Yes, maybe happier than he's ever been. [happy mouth on the Son]. And the Father? He's happy too! [two happy faces]. And the Father is thinking about...the Son! And the Son....his Father! Yes, they're not selfish, but.....selfless! Yes [arrows from each face toward the other face].

Remind me, how many sons did the father have? Two? Yes. Now Jesus says: "So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field...and he heard music and dancing. A servant said 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound. The older brother became angry and refused to go in the house."

And who's this [new face]? The older son. Which person is he in the painting? The one in the back? Good guess, but no. How do you think the second older son feels? Mad! Yes. So? The man on the right? Yes, and both he and his father are wearing red, an expensive color. And you can tell he's not happy that his worthless brother's back in town; his Daddy may be an old softie, but he's not. He ain't huggin' nobody! Who're the other people? Servants probably. So the older Son is mad [angry face] and won't come in the house...what do you think the Father does? Goes outside? Yes! Who's he thinking about? His son! Yes.

"So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends." Now, who is the older Son thinking about? Himself. Yes [arrow from his face that curves back around to his face]. "But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf." I love that...it's not "my brother," but "your son."


Then the Father says: "My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because your brother was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." And let's see...who's happy? The Father and the younger Son. And who are they thinking about? Each other! And the older Son is...thinking about himself! and....is unhappy. Yes. And the story ends with the older son staying away from the celebration.

Now the older Son is a problem for most people: he says he's obeyed his Father, isn't it reasonable for him to be annoyed? Yes! Maybe so....but my guess is he's like most of us. I say, oooh, that Prodigal Son, he was so bad. He needed to apologize big time to his Dad. But me, I've never been that bad, I don't need to apologize, I do what God wants...more or less. But like me, the older Son is a sinner, too. He has things he should apologize for to his Father; we all do, even saints. But he wants to focus on his brother's sins. That way he can keep his pride, and not have to examine his own conscience; he'd rather examine his brother's conscience. He doesn't want to apologize out loud like his brother. Plus he sees his father and younger brother are closer than they used to be....he's jealous of that, but doesn't want do what's necessary to have that closer relationship with his Dad: to admit out loud he's sinned, too. It's harder for him to ask forgiveness for his small sins than for his younger brother to apologize for his big ones. So the lesson we learn from the older brother is as important as the one we learn from the younger one. Sometimes I'm like the younger Son: I know I need forgiveness. Sometimes like the older Son: I think I've been pretty good, I don't need forgiveness, I haven't been that bad. But God doesn't care how big your sins are; he cares that you repent and confess your sins out loud so He can forgive you.

And we're made of what...? Bodynsoul! Yes, we have two natures: spiritual and...physical! So we need to confess spiritually and....physically! Yes, so God can forgive us spiritually and.....physically! And in Confession, how do we get physical forgiveness? The priest tells us we're forgiven! Yes, right in our ears. Just like King David heard the words of forgiveness from Nathan's mouth.

This is a great gift, sons & daughters, but like the Prodigal Son we have to use it: to confess, repent, and be forgiven even our worst sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The handout's to help you when you and your family go to confession: the Act of Contrition is there so you don't have to be embarrassed if you don't remember it. And while you're waiting in the line & feeling uncomfortable, you can look at Rembrandt's painting and remind yourself how great you'll feel after you tell God out loud you're sorry; and you hear Jesus tell you through the priest that he forgives you, and loves you more than you know.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Griswold vs. Music

I was born in 1957. Grew up amid music which predated Griswold vs. Connecticut (the 1965 Supreme Court case which ok'd contraceptives for married people), Eisenstadt (1972) and Roe (1973). Looking back over the decades, it's remarkable how the Sexual Revolution has affected the imaginations of songwriters and their audiences. And I don't mean rap or death metal, but popular music that can be played in polite company.

As I kid I heard and learned songs such as:

Love & Marriage (1955)

Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like the horse and carriage
Dad was told by mother
You can't have one, you can't have none, you can't have one without the other!

I Have Dreamed (The King & I)

I have dreamed that your arms are lovely,
I have dreamed what a joy you'll be.
I have dreamed every word you whisper.
When you're close,
Close to me.

(That's just how I feel about my wife)

Sweet Lorraine

When it's raining I don't miss the sun
'Cause it's in my sweetie's smile
Just think that I'm the lucky one
Who will lead her down the aisle

(I felt just like that on my wedding day)

and Some Enchanted Evening (South Pacific):

Some enchanted evening
When you find your true love
When you feel her call you across a crowded room
Then fly to her side
And make her your own
Or all through your life you may dream all alone

(Our courtship was just like that; we joke that I launched myself at her like a cruise missile)

I especially took the last line to heart: not only is marriage good, but not getting married has a price. But you say: there's not a word about marriage in this song. And I reply: yes, it goes without saying. And the adult world around me confirmed it. I remember only one marriage-age woman from my early childhood who wasn't married or a nun. And every adult man I knew was married, or a priest. Adulthood in my childhood meant taking an other-directed vow of one kind or another.

I could go on, but here's the point: how I imagined adult life and romance always pointed to marriage, partly because the popular culture which I absorbed did the same. But music started to change when I was a kid. The songs I list here are hardly comprehensive, but simply a few of the ones that made lasting impressions on me, for better or worse.

Griswold was in 1965; in 1967 Angel of the Morning was a huge hit. It seemed odd to a kid...why doesn't she sleep at her own house? What sin is she talking about?

I see no need to take me home, I'm old enough to face the dawn.
Maybe the sun's light will be dim and it won't matter anyhow.
If morning's echo says we've sinned, well, it was what I wanted now.
And if we're the victims of the night, I won't be blinded by light.

Now let's jump ahead two years to a song which from the age of 13 has contributed mightily to my image of marriage, Our House (1969), by Graham Nash:

Our house is a very, very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you

My life is just like the song; but only after I was married in 1988 did I learn that Our House is not about a married couple. By 1969 living together was becoming mainstreamed as an alternate/ prelude to marriage. But Graham Nash, who was born in 1942, made this song about living with Joni Mitchell into such a beguiling little hymn about the joys of monogamy that it looked just like marriage to me...and probably to Nash as well.

Of course 1969 was also the year of Whole Lotta Love. I don't count it because like much of the blues it springs from, its sexual bluntness wasn't in the cultural mainstream, and it didn't affect my ideas about love and sex one way or another.

In 1971, Carly Simon recorded That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be which was surprisingly blunt about getting married:

But you say it's time we moved in together
And raised a family of our own, you and me -
Well, that's the way I've always heard it should be:
You want to marry me, we'll marry.

If you check the whole song you'll see that in spite of assorted substantial misgivings, she still accepts marriage as the adult model of love. Pretty remarkable for 1971; but Simon, 12 years my senior, was raised in a more normative culture than I was.

Also in 1971 the Temptations released Just My Imagination, which shows Motown could still think traditionally about men and women:

Soon we'll be married and raise a family.
In a cozy, little home out in the country with two children, maybe three.
I tell you, I can visualize it all.
This couldn't be a dream for too real it all seems.

Then in 1972 there was Summer Breeze(recent version) which like Our House even today informs me about the quotidian joys of marriage:

And I come home
from a hard day's work
and you're waiting there
not a care in the world

See the smile a-waitin' in the kitchen
food cookin' and the plates for two
Feel the arms that reach out to hold me
in the evening when the day is through

Is the couple in Summer Breeze married? I don't know. I like to think so: my life is just like this song too.

It wasn't until 1974 that I started to understand mainstream lyrics that not only didn't point toward marriage, but seemed to point away from it, like Joni Mitchell's Help Me (recent cover):

Help me, I think I'm falling in love with you
Are you going to make me go there by myself
That's such a lonely thing to do
Both of us flirting around, flirting and flirting, hurting, too
We love our loving
Not like we love our freedom

and

Didn't it feel good, we were sitting there talking
Or lying there not talking, didn't it feel good?

Then in 1976, Mitchell was more explicit about her inconstancy:

Hejira

I'm traveling in some vehicle
I'm sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
That shell shock love away....

In our possessive coupling
So much could not be expressed
So now I'm returning to myself
These things that you and I suppressed...

In the church they light the candles
And the wax rolls down like tears
There's the hope and the hopelessness
I've witnessed thirty years.

Hejira is Arabic for flight (as in flee, not fly); here it implies a flight from commitment, not Mecca.

Coyote

There's no comprehending
Just how close to the bone and the skin and the eyes
And the lips you can get
And still feel so alone...

Now he's got a woman at home
He's got another woman down the hall
He seems to want me anyway
Why'd you have to get so drunk
And lead me on that way...

Coyote's in the coffee shop
He's staring a hole in his scrambled eggs
He picks up my scent on his fingers
While he's watching the waitresses' legs

Song for Sharon

When we were kids in Maidstone, Sharon
I went to every wedding in that little town
To see the tears and the kisses
And the pretty lady in the white lace wedding gown
And walking home on the railroad tracks
Or swinging on the playground swing
Love stimulated my illusions
More than anything...

Sharon you've got a husband
And a family and a farm
I've got the apple of temptation
And a diamond snake around my arm

I was 16 in 1974, and I regarded 31-year-old Joni Mitchell as a thinking adult. But how could a thinking adult have such a wreck of a love life?  Why was love so difficult? Back then I didn't see that what went without saying were Griswold, Eisenstadt, and Roe.

Together these songs became a cautionary tale; I sure didn't want my life to be like that. But my life has turned out wonderfully, as I especially reflected on this Valentine's Day while my glorious wife and I sat in the sun, laughed, and kept tabs on our two grandkids. I imbibed the traditional view of monogamy and marriage through the popular culture that preceded my teen years; and songwriters such as Mitchell warned me that living like "Don Juan's reckless daughter" does not lead to happiness. So I wonder: what about the generations that follow me...my kids for instance?

In 1994 I watched the movie Reality Bites, about GenXers' directionless lives. It was the first time I heard the song Stay, by Lisa Loeb (born in 1968). In the song a couple argues about breaking up, but we learn from the closing lines that the woman who intended to leave will stay:

You said "you caught me cause you want me
And one day you'll let me go"
You try to give away a keeper, or keep me cause you know
You're just too scared to lose.
And you say, "Stay."

What strikes me is that it's clear they're living together (it goes without saying), and it isn't working. The man asks her to stay because he doesn't want to be alone; she knows that is his reason, but stays anyway. And at no point in the song does the woman give any impression that marriage is anywhere on the horizon with this person, or another person, or that there's any choice except to maintain this formless "relationship" or have no relationship at all. And set marriage aside for second: what about love, or romance?  She's only choosing among different levels of dissatisfaction. To which I say, well, yeah: if marriage is simply not an option, then love will be problematic. It sounds like the songwriter (or at least the character in the song) lacks any image of marriage as a model for any present or future way to live; which is far, far away from the worldview I grew up with. She clearly wants love and happiness, but at age 26 seems unaware of how to pursue it. And the song shows how the historical/ anthropological model for sex and romance (marriage) has been just about erased from a popular culture that's marinated in a contraceptive/abortive worldview for more than 40 years.

Of course the erosion of cultural/ moral substance isn't limited to love, sex, and marriage. Even fundamental, existential notions of what life is for are also slipping away. In 1996 Smashing Pumpkins released the album  Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which contains the song 1979 (recent version) which is nominally a treatment of teenage ennui. But the songwriter, Billy Corgan (born 1967) was 28 at the time, and makes observations more adult than adolescent. I don't think this degree of anomie was lyrically expressible in say, 1979:

We don't even care to shake these zipper blues
And we don't know
Just where our bones will rest
To dust I guess
Forgotten and absorbed to the earth below

Double cross the vacant and the bored
They're not sure just what we have in store

We don't even care as restless as we are
We feel the pull in the land of a thousand guilts
And poured cement, lamented and assured
To the lights and the towns below.

Man, that's bleak. And yet when I sing along to 1979, I hear a yearning for meaning, and feel optimistic. If these younger generations can recognize when life is empty or pointless, then maybe they can obtain a life that's substantial and full, if they know how. Yet they struggle against so much that I never had to: it would never occur to me that maybe one or more of my siblings had been aborted, for example.

My imagination has never been my enemy; is theirs?

In closing let's look way past Griswold; could no one have predicted the consequences of easy contraception?

"....the use of contraceptives has made sexual intercourse independent of parenthood, and the marriage of the future will be confined to those who seek parenthood for its own sake rather than as the natural fulfilment of sexual love.

But under these circumstances who will trouble to marry?

Marriage will lose all attractions for the young and the pleasure-loving and the poor and the ambitious.......It is impossible to imagine a system more contrary to the first principles of social well-being."

Christopher Dawson, 1933

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Blinder Than Blind

  

Last week we were talking about how Simon's name was changed to Peter, the Rock, the Stone; and how his name was changed in Spanish to Pedro, which is like Piedra, stone. And then Jesus gave Peter the keys to heaven, which were invisible, or symbolic, or both; and quoted from Isaiah, so the other apostles would know that Jesus was putting Peter...in charge!  Yes, just as Hezekiah's prime minister got the King's keys, so does Peter. Then Matthew's Gospel says, "From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." Now imagine the apostles: what? what?  Why would the scribes want Jesus dead...and what's this raising after 3 days stuff? Jesus, pleeeze stop talking strange and upsetting us! "And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you." What's rebuking? No guesses, that's ok, it's an old word. It means to chew someone out, severely correct someone. It means Peter is going to straighten Jesus out!  "But [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."  So Jesus actually straightens out Peter, and calls him Satan! But why? No guesses, don't worry. I don't think the apostles understood Jesus either. "Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Tell me, if you are taking up, carrying, a cross in those days, what does that make you? A criminal? Yes, and what will happen to you? You'll be crucified? Yes. I imagine the apostles are more confused than ever. They aren't criminals and neither is Jesus; why is he saying this? 'Cause he'll get crucified later? Yes, Jesus is making some prophecies that the 12 won't figure out for a while. "For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." More prophet-talk, more confused apostles. "For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he shall reward every man according to his works." Now the first part of that sounds like the prophet Daniel. A few months ago we looked at one of his prophecies which included "behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man...And to him was given dominion and glory." So the apostles would have thought, "Jesus is quoting Daniel...about himself!" And they might've calmed down some, thinking that later on all those other strange prophecies Jesus made over the last few days would make sense: eating him, drinking his blood, taking up crosses. And after the Son of Man, that is Jesus, comes in glory with his angels, "he shall reward every man according to his works." What are works? What you do? Yes. So, does Jesus care about what you believe, or what you do? What you do! Well, he cares about both; remember when Peter stepped out on the water, he was doing, acting. But why did he start sinking? He stopped believing! Yes! Peter had to act...and...believe! Yes, because Peter was made of a body'n'soul, yes, so he had to act...in...faith! Yes. So when Jesus says "he shall reward every man according to his works," does he mean he doesn't care what you believe? No...he just means you have to do good things too. Yes.  Hey, do y'all know anyone (don't say any names) who believes it's important to wear a seat-belt in the car, but never does? Yes. Because...they're uncomfortable. Uh-huh...who agrees it's more comfortable not to wear them...everybody. OK: if someone believes seat-belts are important, but never wears them, tell me about their belief. They don't really believe it. Oh...did you look into their soul? No, I see they don't wear the seatbelt. Yes...they may believe it a little, but not enough to change what they do. That's why Jesus always reminds those creatures that have a body'n'soul, that's us, that if we truly believe what he teaches, we can tell we believe it by...what we do. Yes. Soul and Body; Faith and Works; Believe and Do; Act in Faith.

About a week later, "Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain." Why bother going to the top of a high mountain? Try this: is it better to offer a sacrifice in a hole, or on a mountaintop? A mountaintop! Because? It's closer to God. Yes, so Jesus took them up...to be closer to God. Yes. "And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light." The apostles may have remembered that after Moses visited God on Mount Sinai, his face shone, too.  "And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him."  Now Elijah is the #1 prophet who raised people from the dead and performed food miracles like Jesus. And Moses made the Covenant with God, and brought the 10 bananas...10 commandments! oh yeah, right, to the Israelites. This shows the apostles that Jesus is at least the equal of these two very important guys. And if that's not enough, "a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Tell me, when John the Baptist baptized Jesus, what did God say? The same thing? Yes, so once again, God in Heaven quotes from Isaiah. "When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe." Y'all may remember when Manoah and his wife saw the angel zoom up to heaven, they fell on their faces, too.

A few seconds later they looked up, and Moses and Elijah were gone.

Trick question: were Moses and Elijah in Heaven? Yes!...No! Well? No! Right, why not? Jesus hadn't died yet! Yes. Heaven was closed to sinners. Were Moses and Elijah in Hell? No? Right, they weren't in Hell either. Purgatory? Good guess, but there's no Purgatory yet. They were in S-h-e-o-l [on the board], a place where the souls of the dead stayed before heaven was available. It's pleasant enough, but it's not Heaven. In Greek stories, who knows where dead people went? Hades? Yes, H-a-d-e-s [on the board], good. Sheol and Hades are similar. Well see later on that Jesus visits Sheol.

On the way back down the mountain, the apostles have Elijah on their minds. They asked Jesus, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" Now, what sort of jobs did the apostles have before they followed Jesus? Fishermen?  Yes, and other regular jobs. They didn't spend their workdays studying scripture like the scribes and Pharisees. So they ask Jesus, who they know is the Messiah, to explain to them about Elijah coming before the Messiah. Jesus probably reminds them of the last prophecy of the Old Testament, when Malachi says "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes." Jesus said "Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased." He means the scribes and Pharisees. "Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist." Of course the scribes and Pharisees knew who John was, but their pride blinded them to John's significance, that he fulfilled Malachi's prophecy.

Speaking of blindness, our next story, which is the whole chapter 9 in John's gospel, is one where Jesus heals a blind man. I'll be the blind man! Alright; and you two volunteers are his parents. The rest of y'all are the crowd and the Pharisees. "As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth."  Blind man, is that true? Yes? Parents, true: blind from birth? Yes. How would you know? We're his parents! Yes, just checking. "And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, teacher, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" The disciples have the common understanding of sin in those days: that if you sinned, or your parents sinned, or your ancestors sinned, God would punish you here on Earth. Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him."  Jesus means the man isn't blind because of his or his parents' sins, but so that Jesus can turn this into yet another teaching opportunity.

Then Jesus said "I am the light of the world." Now, I'm Jesus; blind man, stand by me. Shut those eyes! Now does anyone want to guess how I heal him? You lay hands on him! Good guess, that's sort of right! I do touch him. First I reach down and get some dirt. Now what do I do? No guesses? ptoo...ptoo...I spit in the dirt...ptoo. Close those eyes blind man! Now I make mud out of the dirt and spit...and...you rub it on his face? His face? What's his problem, that he's ugly? No, on his eyes! That's better. Hold still blind man, you volunteered for this; besides, this is make-believe spit-mud...there. Now go wash it off...open your eyes...well? I can see! Yes. See your way back to your desk. Crowd, tell me about the mud...is it magic? No. Right. Was Moses' stick magic? No!  Was the tassel of Jesus's cloak magic? No! Elijah's cloak? No! Remember watching the comedian on TV...is the TV funny? No, the comedian! Right. The TV has no sense of humor, it's just the thing in the middle that conducts the humor from the comedian to you. So the mud is just another physical thing-in-the-middle, a medium, to carry God's power in our physical world from God to us. 'Cause we're made of a...body'n'soul!, yes, so God comes to us spiritually and...physically! Yes.

But everyone isn't happy about this miracle: "The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, "Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is he"; others said, "No, but he is like him." He said, "I am the man."..."They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes." Uh-oh, Jesus is healing on the Sabbath again, doing doctor's work. "The Pharisees...asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, "He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see." Some of the Pharisees said, "This man is not from God, for he does not keep the sabbath." But others said, "How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?" There was a division among them.  Oh dear, once again people are...getting...aggravated! Yes! "So they...said to the blind man, "What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?" He said, "He is a prophet." Well, let me assure you as a Pharisee that no blind man can recognize a prophet. I'm the expert in that department, and I don't see no prophet nohow in Jesus. Why, I bet this is a scam, a trick, and he was never blind in the first place! Let's ask his parents.  Parents, "Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?" Parents, speak up! We don't know! Do y'all still say he was blind from birth? Yes? The parents were afraid of the Pharisees,  who "had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue." What's Christ in Hebrew? Messiah! Yes, so the Pharisees would throw anyone out of the synagogue who said Jesus was the Messiah. The parents aren't any help, so they ask the man again how he was healed. He says, "I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again?" He wonders if the Pharisees want to follow Jesus! They must love that.  "They reviled him, saying, "You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from." And the man says, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes...Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing." The formerly blind man now can see, and not just physically; he can see spiritually, too, and believes that Jesus is at least a prophet, and comes from God. Now the Pharisees go nuts! "You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?" And they cast him out of the temple area. See, this is plain old pride in action, just like Adam and Eve's in the Garden. The Pharisees just assume that the man is a worse sinner than they are, and that they know God better than any beggar.

"Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?"....He said, "Lord, I believe"; and he worshiped him.  This reminds me of Isaiah's Christmas prophecy: "The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master's manger; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand." The Pharisees are too proud to recognize the Messiah, but a blind, illiterate, humble beggar can.

Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." Now the Pharisees are smart, and they know that Jesus's remark is aimed at them in some annoying way: "some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, "Are we also blind?" Which is their way of saying their eyes work just fine, and if Jesus means they can't see spiritual truth, well, he's flat wrong. Now what Jesus said is hard to understand, which makes it a bit of a prophecy. But can someone tell me, in this story, can the blind man now see? Yes. And can his parents? Yes. And the Pharisees? Yes...No! No? Don't their eyes work? Yes, but they can't see Jesus is the Messiah. Yes, they won't see; and this prophecy won't be limited to the Pharisees.

And finally Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now that you say, 'We see,' your sin remains."  Uh-oh. Not accepting Jesus's authority as the Messiah isn't just a matter of opinion, it's a sin.

Y'all are still kids, and someone always has authority over you. Your lives don't have a lot of room for pride yet: your parents feed you, house you, clothe you. Your teachers teach you what you don't know. You can't drive, can't make money, can't reach things on high shelves. Depending on others for so much tends to make you humble. But as you get older, you gain the knowledge of how to do all that yourself, and that makes adults proud...real proud in some cases. But every adult, even a king or president, is still under God's authority, and still depends on God even if they won't admit it to themselves, just like the Pharisees. It's always a struggle for adults to be humble; if pride's not a problem for you now, it will be a problem soon enough. Even nowadays one adult will tell another, "Your pride is blinding you to the truth."  So always remember the Pharisees in this story: they weren't obviously evil like King Herod, killing babies. But refusing to humble their intellects before God's authority was a big enough sin to keep them out of heaven.

That was the whole chapter 9 of John's gospel. Speaking of being humble and letting God be in charge, let's look a bit at chapter 10 and that'll be it for tonight.

In this chapter Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd; in Spanish, el Buen Pastor. Remind me, pastor is Spanish and Latin for...shepherd, yes. Remember last week the crowd looked "like sheep without a shepherd" to Jesus; and part of the Loaves and Fishes miracle was to show the people that the apostles had Jesus's authority. In this chapter Jesus has more to say about his sheep, his flock. Tell me about "sheep without a shepherd"...are they safe? No. Why not? Other animals would eat them. Yes. And if they're hungry, do they hunt rabbits? Ha, no they eat grass! Yes...does the shepherd just follow them around the countryside like a baby duck following the momma duck? No, I think he takes them to where they can eat good grass or something. Right, he leads them to food and water. So shepherds have two main responsibilities...which are...protecting the sheep? Yes, and...getting them food? Yes. Jesus says the shepherd will "find pasture" for the sheep. And he also says "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." So if a wolf attacks the sheep, the shepherd runs off? No he fights the wolf. Yes the shepherd will risk his own life to save the flock. Jesus is making a prophecy about his own death.

Now Jesus is a Jew, a descendant of David under the covenant God made with Moses, and preaches to Jews. So when he talks about his sheep, who's he talking about? The Jews? Yes, God's Chosen people, the Sons of Abraham. But he also says, "And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd." This is a prophecy, too. Who would those other sheep be? Are y'all Jews? No. But are you part of Jesus's flock? Yes! So...we're the other sheep? Yes, all the people who believe in Jesus but weren't Jews.

So how many shepherds are there? One! Yes, who is...Jesus. Yes. So why does every parish have a pastor, a shepherd, if Jesus is the one shepherd? 'Cause Jesus is in heaven? Yes, he's not physically here for the time being. And centuries before Jesus, Jeremiah prophesied  "I will give you pastors, shepherds according to my heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." So even though there is one shepherd in heaven, he has lots of assistants on earth.

Now tell me about sheep and shepherds: who is in charge? The shepherd. Who knows best? The shepherd. Who has authority? The shepherd. Yes, it's very obvious. Suppose the sheep decided they didn't like their shepherd; could they fire him, run an ad in the paper and hire a new shepherd? Sheep can't do that. OK, how about Jesus's flock, we're people. If we don't like our priest or bishop can we fire him and hire another one? No. Right. We don't hire our pastor, he's appointed. Like the apostles: Jesus picked them, not his followers. He even picked Judas, who betrayed him; so shepherds aren't always saints. Catholics sometimes murmur and grumble like Israelites and Pharisees about not being able to fire their pastor and get one they like better. But if the people can fire the pastor, is the pastor really in charge? No. Who would really have the authority? The people! Yes, the flock, the sheep. And suppose half the flock liked the pastor and half wanted a new one...what then? Well, the unhappy people could get their own I guess. Yes, and split the flock. That is not what Jesus taught, and not what Jeremiah prophesied. If God "gives us pastors according to his heart, who shall feed us with knowledge and understanding," how can we hire or fire them?

Real sheep are naturally humble; they know they depend on the shepherd. But we prideful humans like to think we know better than God, or his appointed shepherds.

Class is over 13, 12, 11 seconds early!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cannibals

continued from the prior post

The day after Jesus and the apostles crossed over the Sea of Galilee, the crowd couldn't figure out where Jesus was, since the apostles had taken the only boat. John's gospel says they had to walk along the shore to find some more boats, and "they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves." So why does everyone chase after Jesus? 'Cause they want another miracle? Yes, I think so; but Jesus isn't going to give them one. Instead he's going to take advantage of their excitement to do some teaching. Knowing they're still fired up about the free food, Jesus says, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you..." And the crowd thinks, ummm...ok! They have no idea what he's talking about yet, but they have miracle food on their minds, and they remember a very old food miracle...in the desert...40 years...Oh, manna! Yes! They say, "Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Now that'd be a deal: 40 years of free food, courtesy of Jesus. "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?" And Jesus says "my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always," as in ok, fine, whatever, just give us the miracle bread already.

But Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst." Enough prophet-talk, please...now, about the bread?  "The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Jesus is puttin' on airs. Now "murmur" is when people grumble and complain to each other about someone else. The Israelites murmured, griped, about Moses before the manna miracle, and now they're griping about a food miracle again.

But Jesus goes on: "I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die." What? What bread? I don't see any bread!  "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."  It gets worse by the minute! Now Jesus expects people to eat him like bread? They...are...getting...aggravated! Yes! "The Jews then argued among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Now, when someone in the Bible says something more than once, they're emphasizing how important it is. Jesus has just said that they must eat heavenly bread, which if it's his flesh means...they have to eat Jesus? Yes. Now y'all count out loud each time Jesus says that; he's said it once already. So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man [two!] and drink his blood, you have no life in you"  More aggravation: now they have to eat his flesh and...drink his blood? Yes. Girls, how about it? Ewww, gross!  "he who eats my flesh [three!] and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." Now many Christians believe that Jesus was speaking symbolically; nobody had to literally chew him up and swallow him. But then Jesus says, "For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink," so we know he's not meaning it symbolically. Then, "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood [four!] abides in me, and I in him." What's abide mean? To live? Yes..abide means not just to be alive, but to dwell, like in a house, an abode. So if Jesus says we'll abide in him and he in us, what's he mean? Umm...that we live in each other's house? Yes, that each one of us dwells in Jesus; and Jesus dwells in us. He'll be at home in us. "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me [five!] will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread [six!] will live for ever." Living forever- what's that about? Is everyone confused yet?

I don't think anything else in the Bible was said six times in a row, so we can be sure Jesus is as serious as cancer about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. At this point almost everyone is...aggravated! Yes. And offended. Disgusted, even. "Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it? After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him." This is the first time the Gospels say Jesus lost followers. I probably would have left too. Eating people and drinking blood; it's too awful even to hear about.

But not everyone left: "Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Go on, take off if it's too tough for ya. Guess who answers this question? Peter? Yes! "Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." I like Peter...does he understand all this cannibal talk? No? Right, he's as disturbed as anyone else. He doesn't understand Jesus, but he has faith in Jesus even if he doesn't understand.

Somebody tell me though where Jesus is bread and people eat his flesh & drink his blood. At Mass! Yes, we know how this all turns out. But on that day, and for another couple of years, the apostles did not know how it would turn out, did not know how what Jesus said could possibly be true. But they had...faith! Yes.

A few days later Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" Son of Man is an Old Testament way that Jesus refers to himself.  And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Everybody's got an opinion about Jesus: he raised the dead and performed food miracles like Elijah, baptized like John, and aggravated the scribes and Temple staff like Jeremiah.  "He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Who's gonna answer this? Peter! Yes, as usual the Gospels show Peter is the #1 apostle.  "Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Tell me, what's the Hebrew word for Christ? Anointed! Yes, in English, good; what's the Hebrew? Messiah! Yes, so Peter is saying Jesus is...the Messiah? Yes the one all the Jews have been waiting for. "And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven." Notice Jesus doesn't call him Peter. And Peter didn't figure this out on his own like a genius, but what? God told him! Yes; God is giving Peter some special guidance that he isn't giving the other 11. Tell me what Jesus says next. Thou art Peter...and upon this rock I build my church!  Yes! At this moment Jesus changes Simon's name to Peter, which means...rock. Right. Do we ever say, "Peter broke the window with a peter?" What? Do we say, "I stubbed my toe on a peter"? Ha! We say rock. Right. We might also say stone. 'Peter' is just a name to us in English. But let's see... ¿Quién aquí habla Español? Who speaks Spanish? Me! OK m'ija, digame, cómo se llama Peter en Español? How do we say Peter in Spanish? Pedro. Yes...who already knew Pedro is Spanish for Peter? Almost everybody, good. [I write Peter and Pedro on the board] Hija, when Jesus changes Simon's name to Pedro, how does he say 'rock'? Roca. Oops, sorry, how does he say 'stone'? Oh...piedra! He says "piedra". Yes, 'piedra' [piedra goes on the board beside Pedro]. Y'all see, it's more clear in Spanish that Peter is the Rock, the Stone, the words are almost the same. And by the way, how do the French say Peter? Pierre? Yes, Pierre, which is also exactly how they say stone [Pierre goes on the board under Peter, Pedro, and piedra]. It's perfectly clear to the French that Peter is the Stone. In French you can say, "Pierre broke the window with a pierre." And at the port in Charleston there are piers; what do think they're made of? Stone? Yes, and concrete too, but you see where the word comes from.

Now we know in the Bible that a name-change is a big deal, from Abram to...Abraham, yes; from Sarai to... Sarah, and Jacob to...Isaac? Close, starts with an I...Israel! Yes. In each case they got blessings and authority. So when Simon's name changes to Rock, he gets...blessings and authority. Yes. And about his Church Jesus says, "the powers of hell shall not prevail against it;" which means...bad stuff won't happen to the Church? Almost. It means that even though bad stuff may happen, that in the end...the Church will be ok? Yes.  Then Jesus tells Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Honorary sons & daughters, what's the business with St. Peter and the keys? Well, Jesus gave him the keys. Yes, to his car? Jesus didn't have a car! Peter got the keys to heaven. Oh yeah, heaven. I bet they were huge keys, heaven being so big and all. They weren't real keys. Well, put it this way, heaven is a spiritual place, so the keys would be spiritual not physical, but they might still be real. If I give you the keys to my car or my house, then you're in charge and you can do....whatever I want? Yes; but if you are trustworthy you'll try to do what's right. Somebody tell me the story about King Hezekiah...the story about the keys we acted out a couple of months ago...where he gave the keys to the other guy? Yes, the names are hard to remember. King Hezekiah took his keys back from Shebna, the dishonest prime minister, and gave them to Eliakim. King Hezekiah said,"I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open." This is like Jesus telling Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." And when the apostles heard Jesus say that to Peter, it reminded them that King Hezekiah put Eliakim in charge of his kingdom the same way. I bet they were thinking, "Ooh, Jesus is quotin' Isaiah again... he's putting Peter in charge of everything!" Now did Jesus put Peter in charge of the kingdom of Judea, or Israel? No, he was in charge of the kingdom of heaven. Yes. It's amazing that Jesus would put a sinful human in charge of heaven, and let him bind and loose "whatever." How could Jesus be ok with that? He'd watch out for him? Yes, we saw how God gave only Simon the knowledge that Jesus was the Messiah; and then Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter to indicate his new authority. So it's reasonable to think Jesus will provide his new prime minister guidance so he won't make a mess out of heaven or Jesus's church, and the gates of hell won't prevail against it.

 Class over!