Monday, September 27, 2010


Picking up where the previous post left off, we're now discussing Abraham (Gen 11-27):

Who knows what Mesopotamia is? Me! Me too! I do! Wow, y'all all know! Hey, did you know Mesopotamia's a Greek word: Meso means middle, potamus means river. Mesopotamia means "land between the rivers." Yes, what? The Tigris and the Euphrates rivers! Yes! You 6th graders are too smart! Tell me smarties, where's Abraham from? Mesopotamia? Yes, that was a gimme question. One day in Mesopotamia, Abram was standing on a ziggurat having a beer and minding his own business when God spoke to him: "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." Yes, what? Who's "Abram?" Oh, his name isn't Abraham yet...God changes it later on. So God tells him to drop everything and take off into the desert, and God'll let him know when to stop. And off Abram goes! Now that's faith. If God told me tomorrow to just move to Atlanta I'd probably say, "What? I can't hear you!" I'd think of reasons not to go. But Abram went with his wife Sarai, and his extended family. Eventually Abram came to the land of Canaan, where God said, "To your descendants I will give this land." Which is odd, because Abram & Sarai were were old, and had no children. Then Abram "built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him." What's an altar for? To pray? Good guess, but we can pray without an altar...another guess? To sacrifice? Yes, you need an altar for that. If I'm going to offer a thanksgiving sacrifice of say, a lamb, I suppose I could throw the lamb on the ground, put my foot on his neck and jab it with a sharp stick 'til it was dead. Then I'd set it on fire, say, there you go God, thanks, and walk away. That would be weird. Yes, it's not dignified. Raising the sacrifice up on the altar shows respect, plus it moves the sacrifice away from Earth and toward...Heaven? Yes, toward God. It's even closer to God if you put the altar on a mountain....or a ziggurat. There are two main things we offer sacrifices for: to atone, to make up for sin, and to give thanks. My guess is Abram offered a thanksgiving sacrifice because God let him stop walking.

Once Abram arrived in Canaan, you'd think he could settle down, but noo, people were already living there. Imagine I'm a Canaanite, I'm minding my own business in Canaan. Abram comes walking in from the desert, finishes the last of his beer, and says, "Hello, God gave me this land." I'd say, "Oh yeah? God didn't bring me the news, and this is my land. Get off it." So Abram had to fight a lot of other tribes to get the land, and even today, the Jews are still fighting for that same land.

After one particular battle, Abram was victorious. Who might he thank for that? God? Yes, and how would he thank God? By sacrificing? Yes, what kind of sacrifice? A thanksgiving sacrifice? Yes. Genesis says, "And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth." Who has heard of Mechizedek before? Me! Where from? I forgot. OK, anyone else? No? Well, if you've ever been to Mass you've heard his name, but if you weren't listening you wouldn't remember. Pay attention at Mass. Mechizedek's a priest, what's a priest's job? To pray? Yeah...he does that, but he does something more altars...oh, he sacrifices!  Yes, so instead of Abram sacrificing...Melchizedek does? Yes...but he doesn't kill a lamb, what's he offer? Listen again: "Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was..." Oh, bread and wine!  Yes. And what do we bring up at the Offertory at Mass? Bread and wine! Yes, the same. And then "Abram gave him a tenth of everything." Abram is giving money, camels, goat cheese, whatever to Mechizedek in thanks, the same way we do at the Offertory at Mass, although we skip the goat cheese nowadays. Melchizedek shows up again near the end of the Bible and in the Mass, so remember him.

Tell me, what do we call the deal God made with Noah? A covenant. Yes. Now that Abram is in Canaan, God makes a covenant with him, too: "I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham...I will make you exceedingly fruitful; kings shall come forth from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant...And I will give to you, and to your descendants...all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession..."

First off, how many kids does Abram have? None! Right; so being a "father of a multitude of nations" seems impossible. But God says Abram will "be fruitful and multiply," just like who? Adam & Eve!  Yes, and? Noah! Yes. And God changed Abram's name to Abraham, which is what language...Hebrew! Yes, it means "father of multitudes;" how convenient is that? And God changes Sarai's name to Sarah, which means "princess." So they both got an upgrade in the name department. As the year progresses we'll learn about other people in the Bible whose names are changed; a name-change usually means more authority and higher status.

Well, name-changing is fine as far as it goes, but Abraham and Sarah are still old and childless. But one day they were visited by 3 strangers, who were invited to stay for lunch. Now how many strangers are there? Three. Yes, but here is how they talk: "The LORD said, "I will surely return to you in the spring, and Sarah your wife shall have a son."  When the 3 of them speak, it's the LORD speaking. They don't speak as individuals. If it's God speaking, why are there 3 persons?  Umm..because it's the Trinity? Yes, Christians believe that the Trinity visited Abraham. Look at this picture, it's called "The Hospitality of Abraham":

Can you tell where Sarah is? That's easy, she's the woman. Yes, and Abraham? The old man. Yes, and the other three...the Trinity. Yes who are...Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Yes. How can you tell they are more holy than Abraham & Sarah? They have wings? Yes, and something else...look at the haloes. Oh, their haloes are nicer! Yes, each one has 3 crosses on it, to emphasize the 3 persons in the Trinity, and why crosses? What do they remind you of? Jesus being crucified? Yes. And what are they all holding? Scrolls? Yes. Why? Umm...they're bringing a message? Yes, which is...Sarah will have a baby? Yes, good. We'll look at other art during the year, I want y'all to learn to look at the details, they're important.

Back to lunch: when Sarah heard she would have a baby, she laughed, because she and Abraham were so old. But God said, "Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, in the spring, and Sarah shall have a son."  So what do you think happened in the spring? She had a baby! Yes she did. And they named their son Isaac, which is Chinese for...Chinese? It's Hebrew!  Y'all are too smart, yes it's Hebrew for 'laughter;' why'd they name him Laughter? Because they were so happy to have a baby! Yes. When my kids were born I laughed too, it was so wonderful. Isaac was their firstborn and only child. We might call him their only-begotten son. Where've you heard "only-begotten son" before Mass? Yes, and it refers to...Jesus? Yes.

So Isaac grew up, and they were a happy family. Now y'all remember,  Abraham had to fight lots of nearby tribes to get his piece of Canaan. Those other people didn't worship God. They worshiped false gods like Moloch and Ba'al. Abraham's neighbors were so afraid of their gods that they sacrificed their firstborn children to them. Can you imagine how awful that would be? But God didn't ask that of Abraham when Isaac was born. But then years later when Isaac was older, God said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." I can't imagine killing  and burning one of my children, I don't even like to think about what Abraham went through. Who can tell the story? He put Isaac on the altar but an angel grabbed his arm so he couldn't kill him!   Yes. So God doesn't make Abraham give Isaac back to God. But that doesn't mean that Abraham doesn't have to sacrifice something. C'mon, y'all tell me. Abraham saw a lamb to sacrifice. Yes, a ram, a grown-up lamb, whose horns were caught in some brambles so Abraham could grab it.  God accepted the ram instead of Isaac. What's more valuable, the ram or Isaac? Isaac! Yes, God loves Abraham so much that he accepts the ram as a substitute for Isaac. And God continues to do this with his people; they won't have to kill their kids, but can substitute something less precious in the place of their children, or in place of themselves.

Eventually Isaacs' parents died. Isaac married Rebecca, and she became pregnant with twins.  As the first baby was coming out, they saw he had more hair than most babies, so they named him Esau, which is Hebrew for 'hairy.' Ewww, gross, a hairy baby! C'mon, he wasn't hairy like a gorilla, some people just have more hair. Well, as Esau came out, they saw another little hand grabbing onto his ankle...that baby was named Jacob, which means "heel-holder." Yes, what? Umm, how does that work? What exactly? You know...babies? Oh you mean how does sex work? Yeah. Ask your parents, this a religion class, not a plumbing class.

So: who was the firstborn? Esau. But they were twins! But Esau came out first! Yes, right. And if you grab someone's heel what happens? You trip them! Yes. Jacob's going to trip up his brother, let's see how.

The firstborn usually inherits from the father all the goodies: tents, camels, goat cheese, iPads, along with the father's authority. When the father gets too old to run things, he blesses the firstborn son by laying his hands on him; that's how the son gets all the stuff and becomes the new boss of the family. But Esau wasn't too sharp, and Jacob tricked him by swapping some bean stew for Esau's inheritance when Esau was hungry. Esau lived for the moment; he didn't like to plan ahead. But since Isaac still had to lay hands on Jacob instead of Esau,  Jacob and his mom, Rebekah, also had to trick old Isaac, who couldn't see very well. They disguised Jacob to be like Esau, and confused Isaac laid hands on Jacob, and blessed him, but Isaac thought he was blessing Esau. So although in spirit he blessed Esau, with his hands Isaac blessed Jacob.

Esau found out about the trick, and said, "Bless me, even me also, O my father!"  But Isaac said, "Your brother came with guile, and he has taken away your blessing."  Isaac couldn't give Esau the blessing! And he couldn't take it back from Jacob, either! Isaac said, "Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing.” Then Esau said to his father, "Have you but one blessing, my father?" But Isaac couldn't give the firstborn blessing more than once. So even though it doesn't seem fair, Isaac's misplaced blessing was permanent. Not even Isaac could undo it.

Some blessings are like Isaac's: so special that they make a permanent difference. They're like a spiritual tattoo, they don't ever come off. You can usually tell a blessing is permanent when someone with authority puts his hands on the person being blessed. In the next year or so, who will lay hands on you? The Bishop. Yes. That'll be like Isaac's blessing, but better.
That's it for tonight; next week we'll learn a bit about Joseph, and a lot about Moses.

The story continues at Prince of Egypt.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


This article has been linked to Sunday Snippets

Condensed from this year's 3rd class, Gen 7-9:

Hey y'all, last week I said a bit about the guy who lived longer than anyone else in the Bible...who was that? Ummatthew? No, not Matthew, but his name does start with an 'M''s Methuselah. And we're gonna talk about Methuselah's grandson tonight...Noah. Yes, what? He built the ark! Yes. Remind me please, was Noah in Eden eating grapes? No he's in the world. Yes, where there is...sin!  Yes. In fact there is so much sin that Genesis says, "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart." I suppose generations of people were bad all the time unless they were asleep, and then they were dreaming about being bad.

So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them."  Trick question: could those animals sin? No! Right. Can we? Yes! Because we have what? Free will! Yes. Then doesn't it seem like God would just wipe out the people who commit the sins, and leave the animals alone? Yes. Tell me, in Eden could a lion eat a lamb? No! How about after Adam & Eve's sin? Yes! So even though the lamb hadn't done anything to deserve it, it might get eaten because of...Adam & Eve's sin!  Yes, which didn't just mess up the two of them, it messed up...everything!  Yes, all of Creation. So all of Creation, even cute squirrels and chipmunks and babies suffer. 

Well, thank goodness that "Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD" which means Noah wasn't so bad...he was still a sinner, like me, but Noah had God's favor. So tell me what happened. God told Noah to make a boat and put the animals in it! Yes, good. And what was the boat called? The Ark! Yes. Ark is an interesting word, well aren't they all...what's it mean? Boat! No! That was a trick question, it just means a container. Sometimes in the Bible an ark is a box. But if the ark has to float's a boat! Yes. And in the Bible arks are sturdy because they protect precious things. Not precious like cute bunnies, but precious in the sense of something very valuable.

And what went in the ark? Two animals of each kind? Yes, like..two male pandas and two female camels? No, one boy and one girl. Why's that? So they could breed and make more. Right. And Noah's family got on too. Then what? It rained for 40 days!  Yes...40. How long is Lent? Umm...40 days? How long did the Israelites wander in the desert? 40, years!  How long did Jesus fast in the desert? 40 days! Yes. In the Bible, the number 40 means "a lot." It also signifies a time of preparation. So when we have 40 days of Lent what do we prepare for? Easter! Yes. By the way, how many thieves did Ali Baba have? Who? Never mind..he had 40 thieves. 

So after 40 days of rain then what? Noah sent a bird out but it came back. Yes. And after 7 days he sent it out again, came back with a branch. Close, an olive leaf. Then after 7 more days he sent the raven out didn't come back. Because...the land was ok. Yes.

OK. Who can tell me what a contract is? When you sign a paper to make a deal. Yes, great answer! But back in Noah's day, people weren't literate, they couldn't read and write. When they wanted to make a contract, a deal, they had to say it out loud, usually 3 times in front of witnesses. Even today in some traditional societies, people do this, especially when they get married. Well, God made a contract with Noah, a particular type of contract we call a covenant. If I buy a house, it's a regular contract. It may be twenty pages long, all kinds of details, stuff to sign. People often have long, picky contracts with people they don't know, because if they don't really know each other, it's hard to trust each other. But a covenant is different, it's more like a marriage. Trick question: how many pages long is my marriage contract? None! Wow, that's right! All we signed was a marriage license, paper about the size of my hand. And the priest signed it too. So we didn't have a contract with conditions like, "I agree to unclog the toilets and clean up the kids' vomit if you agree to change the code brown diapers and cook spaghetti on Saturdays." Kind of a 50/50 deal. Instead, we essentially said, I give myself to you without worrying about the details because I love you and you love me. That's a covenant, not 50/50, but 100/100. It's based on love, and it's personal.

Well, after everyone got out of the Ark, God made a covenant with Noah: "I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." And, "I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth." What's "a bow in sky"...for God to shoot giant arrows? Ha, no, it's a rainbow! Oh, yeah, you must be right. I like the rainbow because it shows how God uses Creation, the world he made, to communicate with us, to send us things. Somebody tell me how God worked through Creation to make sure the Wise Men didn't get lost on the way to Bethlehem. They followed the North Star! That would've worked if Jesus was an Eskimo; but yes, a particular star did appear that they followed across the desert to Las Vegas...why are you laughing? It was Bethlehem!  Oh, yes. Bethlehem.

Then God said to Noah, "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." Have you heard that before? God said it to Adam & Eve!  Y'all are too smart! God is starting over with Noah and his family, and this new covenant is like the one he made with Adam & Eve. Then God says, "The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything."  Sounds awful doesn't it? All the animals will be in fear of Noah. Why? Because Noah can eat them? Yes, he and his descendants can kill and eat animals now. Why's that ok now? Because they haven't planted any food yet? Well, maybe. Tell me this: why is it that there are any animals at all, that they all didn't drown? Because Noah put them in the Ark!  Yes, they didn't do anything themselves, it was all Noah's work. So if not for Noah, they'd all be...dead!  Yes. So the animals owe Noah...what do they owe him? Their lives?  Yes,  so God is acknowledging that since the animals and all their descendants owe Noah their lives, God won't forbid people to kill and eat them. Now just because God no longer forbids eating animals, does that mean he approves of it? No. Right. God didn't say, "Eat a bunch of chickens, Noah and I'll bless you." But sin has made the world a hard, fearful place, and God doesn't blame us for that. 

¿Quién aquí habla Español? Who speaks Spanish? Me! OK m'ija, digame, cómo se llama "carne" en Inglés? Meat!  Yes, C-A-R-N-E means meat, flesh. How about 'voracious,' do y'all know that word? No worries, sometimes 6th graders surprise me. How about 'devour'? To eat real fast? Yes, like an wild animal. If we put the Latin roots of carne and devour together we get carnivorous; anyone know that word? Yes, it means to eat meat!  Yes, ever since Noah we've been carnivores, like lions. So animals are afraid of us, even the carnivorous ones.

Tell me about the 40 days before Easter. Lent? Yes, Lent. Sometimes during Lent we don't eat something...meat! Right. Is it better to be in Eden or in the world of sin? Eden!  Yes, where nobody could kill or eat animals; and so they weren't afraid of people. Well, during Lent, the Church encourages us to think about living as though we were in Eden, at least as far as animals are concerned. I like eating meat, but I admit that if I have a hamburger, someone kills a cow. In fact my eldest son has been a vegetarian for years because of this, and he's perfectly healthy eating veggies. I admire that, even if I don't follow his example.

Tell me please, what's a generation? Like a father and son? Yes, from father to son is one generation. From grandmother to granddaughter is how many? Two!  Yes. Well, it's 10 generations from Adam to Noah, and 10 more from Noah to the person we're going to learn about next: Abraham.

continued in the next post, "Laughter"

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Smarter Than God

This article has been linked to Sunday Snippets

Condensed from this year's 2nd class:

Let's see, what book in the Bible are we learning about? Genesis! Yes, we're up to the end of Chapter 2 and Adam & Eve are in Eden. Somebody tell me about life in Eden. Nothing was bad! Yes. Could Adam & Eve get sick? No. Get zits? No. Get hit by lightning? No! Die? No! Right. In fact, life was so good in Eden that Adam & Eve hung out with God in a physical way, not just spiritual...does God the Father have a body? No. Right. But listen: "...they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day", even though God didn't have a body, he was still with them sort of like the way we're together now. He wasn't far-off in Heaven, but right there.

[I pull out a rubber ball] What's this? A ball. Yes... watch this. I throw it down, it bounces up. I throw it up, it bounces down. OK, watch closely this time, it's gonna decide not to bounce down...nope, it came down. Let's try again, I'll decide for the ball not to come down...huh, it came down again! Why does the ball always come back down? Gravity! Yes, the Law of Gravity. Can we decide not to obey the Law of Gravity? Huh? If I jump like so, [jump] can I decide not to come down? No! Right. It's a physical law, I can't decide to ignore it. The Laws of Physics are part of God's Creation, and we don't have any choice about observing them. Can someone think of one of God's laws that we can choose to ignore? Yes, tell it. Don't steal? Yes, someone else, another one. Don't kill? Yes. Why can we decide to ignore those moral laws? Because we have free will? Yes, what's that mean to have free will? It means you can be good or bad. Yes, that you can freely decide to be good or bad. If I grab your wrist & swing it to slap someone, are you being bad? No, you are bigger than me. Right, you have to make a free decision to be bad...or good. Hmm...can a bear decide to be good or bad? Ha, no! Right. Bears and other creatures aren't made in God's image & likeness like we are. God loves us so much he allows us to choose between good and evil on our own. He doesn't force us to be good, doesn't treat us like babies.

Speaking of babies, what was the first commandment to Adam & Eve? Have babies! Yes, be fruitful and multiply. And the second commandment? Don't eat the fruit! Yes. Let's look at that now. Chapter 3 of Genesis says, "Now the serpent was more clever than any other creature... He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat of any tree of the garden'?" And the woman said, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees; but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, neither shall you touch it, or you'll die." But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die. God knows that when you eat of it you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Tell me, who's the snake? The devil. Yes. How is the snake tempting Eve about the fruit? No guesses? Is he saying it's tastier than the rest? No...? OK, listen again,"God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Guesses? That she'd be like God! Yes. And if Eve could be like God, in the sense of being equal to God, would she have to obey him? No, she could do what she wanted to. Yes. Show me hands, who likes to be told by their parents or teachers what they can or can't do? Nobody? Don't feel bad, I don't like it either. Neither did Adam & Eve. We're all proud of ourselves; we're the smartest things Earth, we don't need to be ordered around, right? We don't like to be subject to anyone else's authority. And in Eden there was only one little thing that was forbidden; why wouldn't Adam & Eve leave it alone? Well...they just wanted to see what would happen, they wanted to know for themselves? Yes, they wanted to be as smart as God; smarter, even. When I was kid, I asked my parents, “What’s in that cabinet? That’s the liquor cabinet. What’s liquor? It’s something grownups drink, like whiskey. Can I have some? No it’s for adults, not children.” So what did I most want to taste in the whole world? Liquor! That’s right! Who can tell the story about Pandora's Box? She had a beautiful box that she wasn't supposed to open, but she opened it anyway and bad things came out. Yes, that's a Greek myth, and it makes the same point: people's pride, mostly pride in their intellect, their brains, gets them in trouble. Who's someone who never sinned? Umm, Jesus? Right. And was Jesus proud, or humble? Humble! Yes, perfectly humble. And who is a huge sinner? The devil! Yes, Satan. And if Jesus is humble, then Satan...has a lot of pride? Yes. And that's one reason he knew he could appeal to Eve's pride: "Oh Eeeve, God doesn't want you to know what he knows, you wouldn't have to listen to him me."

So Adam & Eve sin was simply to disobey God because of their pride. All their descendants, that includes us, still have this problem with our pride. We like to think we're as smart as God.

After they ate the fruit, "the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God. But God said to him, "Where are you?" Adam said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." Why did Adam hide? Because he was embarrassed? Yes…but God knows he’s naked, God doesn’t care. Why’d he hide, give me another reason. He felt guilty! Yes, he disobeyed God and he feels guilty, and ashamed. When I was a kid and would get in trouble in school, what did I do when I got home? Go hide in your room! You bet I did!

Then God said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent tricked me, and I ate."

I love this. First Adam says, "It ain’t my fault, you gave me Eve, and Eve gave me the fruit." Then Eve says, "It ain’t my fault either, that snake made me do it." See, pride hates to admit guilt, because it’s humbling. It’s easier to say someone else is guilty. Show of hands, who likes to apologize for bad stuff you do? Me neither; but we should whether we like it or not.

So what happens to Adam & Eve? God makes them leave Eden. Yes. God doesn’t get rid of Eden, he…gets rid of Adam & Eve! Right. “He drove out the man; and at the east of the Garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, with a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Hey, who knows what a cherub is? They’re like little baby angels. Yes, you see them on Valentine cards, things like that, they’re chubby and silly. But a real cherub is not chubby and silly…what language do you suppose cherub is if I’m reading from Genesis? Umm…Hebrew? Yes, genius! In Hebrew it’s spelled like this: K-E-R-U-B, kerub. Kerub means “near one,” someone who is close to God. When the President goes out in public there are usually some tough guys who stay near him all the time, why’s that? They keep people from bothering him. Yes, what do you call those guys? Bodyguards? Yes. The kerubs, the cherubim, are God’s bodyguards, and they are serious as cancer. Did you know we have two kerubs in our church? We do? Where? Mmm, I’m not telling tonight, but we’ll find out later this year. In the meantime keep your eyes open in church.

So Adam & Eve are out of Eden. Could they get sick? Yes! Get zits? Yes. Get hit by lightning? Yes! Get sucked up by a tornado? Yes! Be a snack for tigers? Eww, yes! Die? Yes! Right. Their sin didn’t just mess up their souls, it messed up Creation. The consequences of sin are almost always bigger than we can imagine. God said, ”cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you… In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Yuck: one sin and even the ground is cursed.

But Adam and Eve still obeyed God’s first commandment, and so…? They had babies! Yes, who? Cain & Abel! Yes, and what was Cain’s job? He was a farmer? Yes, and Abel? He was a shepherd. Yes, good. Genesis says, “Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought the firstlings of his flock.” Question: what’s an offering? When they gave something to God? Yes, good. Cain gave God some of his wheat and fruit, I suppose, and Abel gave what? What’s a “firstling of the flock?” Umm, a baby sheep? Yes, what’s a baby sheep? Oh, a lamb. Yes, and the firstlings would be the best ones.

Y’all tell me how a lamb is offered to God…did Abel say, “This firstling lamb is for you, God; now I’m going to make it into lamb chops just for you and then eat them just for you?” Ha, no, he had to kill it but not eat it! And then what, leave it sitting there for buzzards to snack on? Umm, no…he had to burn it? Yes, and Cain did the same with his offering. When people kill lambs & offer them to God what’s the word for that kind of offering? A sacrifice? Yes, good. Did Adam & Eve offer sacrifices in Eden? Umm, no? Right, they did not…why not? Why were they thrown out of Eden? ‘Cause they ate the apple? Yeah...what’s the bigger reason? They sinned! Yes. So where there’s no sin there’s…no sacrifice? Yes, and where there is sin…there’s sacrifice! Yes. What is it about sin that makes people offer sacrifice? OK, if you break your mom’s nicest flower vase, what should you do? Fix it? Yes, what if it’s too busted up to be fixed? Well, I guess buy another one? What if it’s too expensive? Umm, say I’m sorry? Yes. Suppose you didn’t break it in the first place? Then I wouldn’t have to do anything. Right. So what’s the point of sacrifice? Making it up to God? Yes, partly; making up for what? Well, just sinning? Yes. And it’s also a way of saying thank you. Abel is saying, “thank you God for all these sheep, I’m giving the best back to you.”

Back to their offerings: “And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” Abel offered God his “firstlings,” but Cain probably offered some good fruit, some bad. God could tell that Cain would rather keep the best stuff for himself.

“So Cain was very angry. The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is waiting at the door; but you must master it." Why didn’t God look with favor on Cain’s offering as he did Abel’s? Cain didn’t give God his best stuff. Right, and if Cain is upset about it what can he do? Give his best stuff like Abel does. Yes. It’s clear, but Cain wants to keep his best for himself and is angry that Abel isn’t as selfish.

So “Cain said to Abel his brother, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.” What had Abel done to Cain to deserve being killed? He didn’t do anything to Cain. So why did he kill Abel? Because Abel was so good? Yes. Cain couldn’t stand being made aware of his own selfishness by constantly comparing himself to Abel. It’s the same in school: slackers and misbehavers can’t stand a good student.

This is the first time in the Bible, but not the only time by any means, that an innocent person is killed just because sinful people can’t stand to have him around. We’ll learn about those other people later this year.

After Cain killed Abel, Cain was driven away. But Adam had other sons and daughters, who knows of one? Seth! Yes. Seth fathered Enosh, who fathered Kenan, and so on. In each case, the Bible says “and he died.” One man in that line of fathers & sons was named Enoch. About Enoch, the Bible doesn’t say “and he died.” Instead it says, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not here, for God took him.” What would that mean, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not here, for God took him?” That God took him straight to Heaven? Yes, more or less. Remember, Jesus hadn’t opened Heaven yet. But Enoch still 'walked with God' in some special way. And Enoch isn’t the only person that went to be with God without dying, as we’ll learn about later on.

By the way, Enoch was Methuselah’s father; who was Methuselah? He lived the longest! Yes, the Bible says he lived longer than anyone. What’s more interesting about Methuselah is that he was Noah’s grandfather. We’ll discuss Noah next week. And that brings us to the end of Chapter 5.

Class over!

P.S. That's a self-portrait of Maurice Quentin de la Tour, whom I regard as the Artist of the Enlightenment. I saw this image a single time more than 30 years ago, and recalled it again today for its trenchant portrayal of humanity's pride in its own abilities.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Plus de Review

We review at the beginning of most classes, not more than 5 minutes. When reviewing, I always add some new information onto the reviewed material. Every little new tendril will reach out toward something else that will crop up later on.

For example, last week we covered some Bible basics and the first two chapters of Genesis:

"Hey y'all, let's review a bit of what we learned last week: what are the two parts of the Bible? The Old Testament and the New Testament. Yes, what's the difference? The Old Testament was before Jesus was born. [new stuff] Yes...we might say Before Christ, B.C. What's B.C? It's how we make dates before Jesus. Yes, and after B.C? Ummm, A.D.? What's that mean? No guesses? It means Anno Domini; it's Latin for "Year of (our) Lord." So the O.T. corresponds to...B.C., yes, and the N.T. to A.D., yes, more or less.

[review] And the O.T. was written in what language? Jewish! Not quite...Hebrew! That's it.  And the N.T.? Latin! No...? Greek! Yes, Greek. [new stuff] By the way, what's the language of the Church? Latin? Yes, there you go. All the unusual words you'll see this year are going to be Hebrew, Greek, or Latin. Sometimes you can guess the language by what I'm reading from.

[review] Somebody tell me about Adam's rib. He misses his rib and wants her back! That's right! [new stuff] How many ribs did God take from Adam? One. how many wives should Adam have...three? Ha, no, one! Yes. God didn't take a bunch of ribs for Adam to have a wife posse, just one rib. Now all of us men, and boys, who are future men, inherited that sense of missing something. Honorary son, let's say God took your rib and made her out of it, and you over there, your rib became this girl, and my wife came from my rib. Now if you're missing your rib, do you want his rib? Ha, no I want mine! Right. You don't just want any want your rib. Well that's how my wife is to me, not just a woman that God made, but what? The woman God made for you? Yes, just for me. I don't want another woman any more than I want someone else's rib."

All of these new bits anticipate concepts that the kids will encounter later on.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Power of Luck

Regular readers will know my elder daughter nearly died in an accident on Memorial Day ( ICU ). Since then she's finished all her therapy regimens, and can drive again. She's about 80% of her old self, and gradually recovering. However, she lives at home (instead of being in school at the College of Charleston) and is on some meds. Before the accident she had applied for summer work at 5 places, but by the time she was employable again, all the positions were filled. She hasn't been able to get a job, and she's been feeling down about her circumstances.

Last night at my Knights of Columbus business meeting I asked everyone to pray for my daughter's full recovery. Our Insurance Agent, Steve Miller (the other Steve Miller) was sitting next to me, wasn't up on her story, so I filled him in. He said he'd sure pray for her, probably thinking as I used to, there but for the Grace of God....

About 4:00 this afternoon I got a Catechism-related email from Steve (we're both catechists). At the end of the email he wrote, "I have been thinking about Francie since I woke up this morning. All the LeBlancs are in our prayers."

At about 4:30 Francie came in and asked if she could borrow some money to buy some dressy clothes. Umm yeah, I guess, what are they for? Well, she just got back from calling on the place she most wanted to work for back before Memorial Day, and they hired her to start tomorrow as the hostess! The daughter is so re-energized and optimistic, I think she may have recovered to 85% in about an hour.

The power know.

At the top, Francesca and Alexandra about 9 years ago.

Monday, September 6, 2010


This post is also available through Sunday Snippets

This is  a common interchange in my house:

"You are a great wife." (Love sees clearly)

"That's because you're the perfect husband." (Love is blind)

I have wondered for a couple of decades now, what makes for the best spouse? And yesterday I figured it out, I think, with some help from Fr. Dwight Longenecker, author and blogger. In one of his books I remember a line like this about saints:

A saint is someone who let God make him into everything God intended for him to be.

Which I have adjusted to:

The best spouse is one that most helps you to let God make you all He intended for you to be.

Which is a good working definition in my household.

Other definitions are welcome.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Hey y'all, I'll be on the The Catholic Revolver with Jerry | Internet Radio | Blog Talk Radio live on Saturday the 4th at 12 PM Pacific, 2 PM Central, & 3 PM Eastern.

Here's the link:

While you hold your breath 'til Saturday, have a listen to some of Jerry's other podcasts, such as:
 The Catholic Revolver with Jerry - Alex Basile 8/3/2010 - Jerry Weber | Internet Radio | Blog Talk Radio

Alex is a published (as in PUBLISHED) catechist; we both write columns at Amazing Catechists, the brainchild of Lisa Mladinich who is also a published (as in PUBLISHED) catechist:

The Catholic Revolver with Jerry - Lisa Mladinich 7/26/2010 - Jerry Weber | Internet Radio | Blog Talk Radio