Monday, November 29, 2010

Lecture Bible

I have what I call my 'regular' Bible, which is a cheap Bible that is a mess of dogears, stains, highlighting, pen & pencil notes, stickytabs, tape. It's good for study, but lousy for class: full of distractions. To avoid teaching from its encrusted pages, for years I've simply printed out the verses I need for a given class in the order I'll use them. That's fine, but then I teach from a piece of paper instead of the Bible; it's not the same for 6th-graders. They need to see The Book Itself be held; pages turned; words read.

This year I've dropped  paper printouts and have a second Bible, the Lecture Bible, for class. It's the same as the Regular Bible, but new, i.e., a new copy of the same NAB edition. I only mark in it what will be used in class. Here it is opened to Isaiah 53, part of the Isaiah-through-Malachi classes:

First, notice the numbered stickytabs at the top: those are the passages for this class, numbered in the order that I'll refer to them. If I fumble around more than 5 seconds to get to the next passage, the kids start to zone out, hence the idiot-proof numbers. There are 10 total tabs for this class; I arrange them so I can see the next number if possible. Tabs at the bottom are from prior classes; I will reuse them at least once. In the meantime they are out of the way, but can still be referred to.

Also see how tidy this page is: highlighting is limited to exactly what I'll be reading during class. Only what's relevant, and what we have time for. This page in the Regular Bible is a mess: good for preparation, bad for class.

With these numbered stickytabs on clean pages I'll have at least one full 55-minute period of smooth teaching and discussion, and if we run over (as we did this year), we simply continue in the next period.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Modern Century

No, not the 20th; and no, not the 21st. I mean the 19th century, the 1800s.

I never tire of reflecting on the speed with which the West develops ideas; that is, not so much the ideas themselves, but how the West grabs an idea and runs with it. For example, in 30 years, the West went from this:

to this:

And in 25 more years to this:

A virtual eyeblink.  And while 20th century aerospace is fascinating, these examples are shown only to introduce a more beguiling process in the 19th: the development of music.

You don't need to listen to these all the way through, just enough to get a sense of what geniuses imagined music could be at different points in the 1800s. They are all piano pieces, partly to focus on the music rather than the instruments; but also so you can hear the newer ideas being played with the same 88 keys by the successive composers. In other words the development isn't technical (like airplanes), but imaginative.

First up is the 2nd movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata from 1801.

Followed by Frederic Chopin's Berceuse (lullaby) from 1844.

And from 1888, Arabesque #1 by Claude Debussy.

Can you hear these men standing on the shoulders of their predecessors, each making music that the prior generation could not have imagined? That's the sound of the West at work.

I never get over the fact that the Arabesque is a 19th century composition. Its sensibility seems better matched to my life than to Teddy Roosevelt's. It's still a mystery to me how Debussy could conceive of such music, and a bit surprising that it didn't kill him; like seeing the face of God, which I expect all artists glimpse from time to to time.

This post is linked to Sunday Snippets.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pilgrims and Passover

This year's Thanksgiving reflection before grace:

"Y'all may remember from last year's Thanksgiving that the Pilgrims saw themselves as New Covenant Chosen People, whose experience paralleled that of the Israelites leaving Egypt and making a new life for themselves in the Promised Land. Not only was this true in general terms, but specifically so with respect to Thanksgiving.

Here's how Exodus describes observing the Passover:

“This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual ordinance”

And the first instruction for the New World's Thanksgiving (1619):

"We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantation in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God."  You can see how the writer alludes to Passover in his phrasing for the Thanksgiving memorial.

Let's also recall that  the first Thanksgiving held at the Plymouth Colony in 1621 was attended by a mere 53 survivors of the original 102 Pilgrims. In comparing our current misfortunes, both personal (ICU) and national, to those of 1621, we can be sure that we have much to be thankful for."

Grace follows.

This post is linked to Sunday Snippets.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Encore

I gave this reflection at my extended family's 2009 Thanksgiving dinner; it was well-received and I can't use it again:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Who's in Charge?

This post has been linked to Amazing Catechists

Y'all remember last class we talked about the Christmas Prophet...Isaiah! Yes. We have a couple more of his prophecies to look at.

In this one Isaiah is telling the Jews to cheer up, God is going to make things better. I like this passage, because it shows that although God is masculine, and is our father, that he loves his children like a mother as well:

"Sing for joy...For the LORD has comforted his people...14 But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me." 15 "Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. 16 See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name." Isn't that sweet? It reminds me of how my wife loves our children, even though they are mostly adults now. Then Isaiah says, "All [your enemies] come to you. As I live, says the LORD, you shall be arrayed with them all as adornments, like a bride you shall fasten them on you."  (Is 49)  I like that part because it reminds me of how beautiful my wife was at our wedding. Just look at this picture, isn't that great, boys? No! Girls? I think y'all look cute!  Thank you! Boys, I'm tellin' ya, wise up: this is the future...your future.

So whenever God talks about his people being his children or his bride, I know just what he means.

Now, y'all may remember from last week Isaiah prophesied that: God was coming; a Messiah, an Anointed One, a king was coming, but he was a talking, persuading king, not a fighting king; and his kingdom would be made of all nations, all peoples, not just the Jews. God also describes this Messiah as his servant:

"Behold my servant, whom I am pleased; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations....Behold, the old things have come to pass, and new things I now declare...Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high." That all sounds pleasant; but then Isaiah says, "...many were astonished at him-- his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men..." What's that mean, marred? Like...dented? Yes, let's say damaged, beat-up. Again: "..his appearance was so marred, beyond human [re]semblance" What's that mean? He's so beat up he doesn't look like a person?  Yes, people were mean to the servant; that seems odd. "[And] he shall he sprinkle many nations." (Is 42) Who sprinkles people? Priests! Yes, with...Blood! and...Water! Yes, so if God's servant will sprinkle many nations, then he must be a...priest? Yes. And when a priest sprinkles you what does it show? You got your sins forgiven. Yes, you were cleansed of your sins. And this servant will sprinkle "many nations," not just the Chosen Ones...which is also odd.

Isaiah says so much about this "suffering servant" that we can only look at a few things...please, don't thank me. All this is from Chapter 53: "He was...avoided by men, a man of suffering...One of those from whom men hide their faces...and we held him in no esteem.Yet it was...our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted." Smitten means hit, like with a fist or a weapon. "But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed."  If someone has been "smitten" why would he have "stripes"? 'Cause he was whipped? Yes, good. "We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all." That seems unfair. "...he was harshly treated...Like a lamb led to the slaughter...he was silent and opened not his mouth. Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away...he was cut off from the land of the living and smitten for the sin of his people...though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood." Poor servant, why should he suffer for other people's sins? But here's the good part: "Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Because he surrendered himself to death...he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses." So, who was unjustly put to death and took away other people's sins? Jesus? Yes. All this prophecy is about Jesus. We'll come back to Isaiah as we discuss the Gospels, and see how Jesus fulfilled so many prophecies.

Well, we've covered a lot of Isaiah's prophecies; now let's hear a story from Isaiah before we move on to Jeremiah. It's not a parable, though, it's real. Hmmm...I already need a volunteer! Get up here & stand by me! Your name is Shebna, Shebna. OK class, my name is Hezekiah. I'm the king of Judah, and he isn't, so I have all the power, and he...doesn't have any! That's right. But being the king, do I want to run around the kingdom all day collecting taxes and taking care of business, or do I want to lounge around the palace and eat pizza? You want to lounge around the palace and eat pizza!  That's right! Boy, y'all are smart. And even if liked running the kingdom I might have to leave town to visit other kings, or lead the army, or maybe I'd get sick sometimes...I'm just not going to be available 24/7...[I put my arm around my powerless volunteer] dear me, what shall I do? Make him your helper!  Now, there's an idea...does that suit you, Shebna? Yes! OK, Shebna, you're going be my prime minister...anyone know what a prime minister is? Like the president? Ummm...sort of. More like the vice-president. Who's the head of England? The Queen? Yes, Queen...Elizabeth. Yes. Queen Elizabeth has a whole lot of ministers, each one's in charge of something: the army, the navy, the treasury, stuff like that. She lets them use her authority to do all the things she doesn't have time to do. They don't have any power of their own, just however much of the Queen's power that she lends them. And she has one minister who is in charge of all the rest: the prime minister. If she's traveling the world he is in charge of all the rest while she's gone.

Shebna, I won't be here often and I'm leaving you in charge [I take out my key wallet & show the contents]. Here's my palace key, my chariot key, my castle key, my credit card, my bank card, and my library card. Take care of everything for me [I put the wallet on his shoulder]. Class, have I put someone in charge? Yes, Shebna! How do you know? You put your wallet on his shoulder. Yes...why didn't I just slip it in his pocket? So we could see. Yes. Now I won't give my wallet just to anyone...only to...someone you trust! Yes!

As it turns out, Shebna started using his position to make himself rich. Isaiah says, "Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, "Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: 16 What have you to do here and whom have you here, that you have built here a tomb for yourself, you who make a tomb on the height, and carve a habitation for yourself in the rock?" See, Shebna has bought him himself a very fancy tomb to be buried in; God only knows what else he's done..he...can'! Yes!

[I address Shebna] "Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you, 18 and whirl you round and round, and throw you like a ball into a wide land; there you shall die, and there shall be your splendid chariots, you shame of your master's house. 19 I will thrust you from your office, and you will be cast down from your station."  Shebna, you're fired [I take back my wallet]! Go sit down. Dear me, if I fire Shebna how will stuff get tended to? Get another prime minister! Can I do that? Yes! You're right, the prime minister-ship is an office; he's an official. I'll just get a new one. OK, I need another volunteer, get up here, your name is Eliakim.

"...I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe (hand it over), and will bind your belt on him (hand it over as well), and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah." [I act these things out on Eliakim] Class, how should I show you Eliakim's in charge now? Put your wallet on his shoulder! Yes! Isaiah says, "And 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." [I put the wallet on Eliakim's shoulder] So when someone in the Bible gives someone else a key...he's putting them in charge! Yes, geniuses! Go sit down, Eliakim, and give me back my wallet!

That's all for Isaiah, let's learn about our next prophet, Jeremiah. I will be reading from Jeremiah! yes, the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was born about 650 years before Jesus. By comparison, the Pilgrims came to America about 400 years ago. In Jeremiah's day, Judah had been conquered by a new, bigger enemy, Babylon, which had beaten the old enemy, Assyria. The king and the people had returned to their old bad habits, worshiping the baby-eating false god Baal, and taking the LORD for granted. Jeremiah tries to warn Judah that even worse may happen:

The LORD tells Jeremiah, "Stand in the gate of the LORD's house, and proclaim there this word...Amend your ways and your doings, and I will let you dwell in this place." What's the house of the LORD? The temple?  Yes, built by...Solomon?  Yes. In what city? Jerusalem!  Yes. And remember, the seraph, the burning one, purged Isaiah's lips where? In the Temple? Yes. Jeremiah goes on to say, "4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.' Of course it's obvious that Jeremiah is standing at "the temple of the LORD," so what's his point? No guesses, that's OK. He means that if the Judeans keep misbehaving, the temple won't save them, won't make any difference. And worse, he won't let them "dwell in this place," Judea. "For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly execute justice one with another, 6 if you do not shed innocent blood in this place...then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers for ever." How would the Judeans "shed innocent blood in this place"? Umm, by sacrificing babies? Yes, I think so. How awful.  "Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, burn incense to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house...only to go on doing all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of thieves in your eyes?"  Imagine if your house, or our church, was turned into den of thieves; why should God put up with that? He shouldn't! Right; Jeremiah says: "Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things, says the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14 therefore I will do to this I did to Shiloh." What happened at Shiloh? Everybody got killed! Yes, more or less: Eli, the high priest died; his bad sons died, and his daughter-in-law died. Even worse, what was captured? The Ark! Yes. God abandoned Shiloh and never dwelled there again, due to all the sinful behavior.

So, did the Judeans listen to Jeremiah? No! Of course not. Jerusalem was a huge, fortified city with a spectacular Temple, not some bump-in-the-road like Shiloh with a moth-eaten old Meeting Tent. Get real, Jeremiah. But within a few years Judea rebelled against Babylon, and was crushed. The people were hauled off as captives to Babylon, the Temple was demolished, and Jerusalem was left desolate,! Yes, worse than Shiloh.

But the Judeans were humbled by their defeat, and inclined to repent. Jeremiah offered them hope: "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, 32 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. "  Remind me please, what covenant do the Judeans have with God? No's the one they made when "I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt" The one with Moses? Yes, we call it the Mosaic Covenant. And God is Israel's husband, that makes Israel his bride, and I can imagine how he loves her and how his heart breaks when she isn't faithful.  "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: 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..." Where did God write the Law he gave the Israelites? On the tablets? Yes, on stone tablets. And now "I will write it upon their hearts." Which is the better place to write laws, stone or hearts? Hearts. Why? Because then you believe it?  Umm, sort of; if someone's name is "written on my heart" love them! Yes. So law written on one's heart is based Yes. That's how parents are with kids. Parents don't want to make up a bunch of rules; they want you to obey them because...we love them. Yes. And because they love you- just like God. Finally Jeremiah says,"I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." That's like parents, too. I forget most of the bad things my kids have done, just as my parents have forgotten the bad stuff I did. Parents and God are alike: they both want to forgive the children they love, but the sorry! Yes. They have to repent.

Our next prophet is Ezekiel. How many more prophets are there? Well in our class, after Ezekiel there are only two more, Daniel and Malachi, but none of them take as long as Isaiah. OK. We're only going to look at one thing Ezekiel said...but first, tell me about Naaman and the Jordan river. He had leprosy and washed it off in the river. Yes, and did his sins get washed away, too? No, just the leprosy. Yes, physical healing, but not spiritual. Now listen to Ezekiel's prophecy, he was in Babylon, and wanted the Judeans to feel better about going home someday: "For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land." That would make me feel better; but he goes on:  "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." Being sprinkled clean from idol worship isn't physical, it's spiritual, yes, getting cleaned from...sin. Yes. Do people ever have their sins washed away by water in church? Yes, at baptism. Yes. And when that happens it's like getting a new spirit and a heart of flesh. Y'all may not know that on the night before Easter there's a Mass called the Easter Vigil. Lots of adults get baptized at that Mass, it's pretty interesting. When you're older and can stay awake, get your parents to take you. Seeing them get baptized always reminds me of Ezekiel's prophecy.

On to Daniel. Daniel lived in Babylon with the captive Judeans; who knows the story about Daniel and the Lions' Den? The king put him in there with the lions but they didn't eat him. Right, that was the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. Well, one day Daniel had a vision of God judging all the earthly kingdoms that had oppressed Israel at one time or another; they appeared as fantastic beasts. "And as I looked, the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away...13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and he came to the Ancient of Days (that's God) and was presented before him. 14* And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away..." So after all the earthly kingdoms are swept away, a "Son of Man" comes on heavenly clouds, and is given a never-ending kingdom that includes "all peoples," as Isaiah would say. Who does that sound like? Jesus! Yes. Not only is that prophecy about Jesus, but when Jesus is arrested  after the Last Supper, he quotes Daniel's prophecy. But all that comes later on.

At long last we're down to our last prophet. Don't cry, but class is over for tonight, so we'll pick up next week with Malachi.

See you next week!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Flanders Fields

In case you didn't read this last April, it's appropriate for today:

And there's also this rock'n'roll treatment of the elegaic poem, In Flanders Fields: the words vary a bit from the original, and are online.

The original poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Christmas Prophet

This post has been linked to Amazing Catechists

Isaiah is our next prophet. He lived in the Southern Kingdom, which was called Judah; its capital was Jerusalem. Judah was named after one of the tribes of Israel, Yes, that was a gimme! Y'all may remember that the Northern Kingdom, where Elijah lived, was called Israel, and its capital was Samaria [I draw a quick map]; what do we call people who live in Samaria? Samaritans! Yes. Judah's main enemy at this time was Assyria. But even when they weren't fighting Assyria, the Judeans could never relax, because they were a small country surrounded by bigger ones. Just like today.

Anyway, like many other people in the Bible, Isaiah was minding his own business when out of the blue God spoke to him. In Isaiah's case he was at the Temple- in what city? Jerusalem? Yes. Isaiah writes, "...I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up in the temple." (Isaiah 6) Isaiah's having this vision in Solomon's Temple, but he's also seeing the Heavenly Temple, which Solomon's  Temple is patterned on, like the Meeting Tent. "Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew." Seraph is Hebrew for "burning one"; remember Kerub, Cherub, is Hebrew for... bodyguard! yes, "near one." Cherubim & Seraphim serve the LORD in Heaven. Look at this painting of a Seraph with his six wings:

 Isn't that cool? He's not on fire. No...but don't get picky. Seraphs are spirits, they don't have bodies anyway. "And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." Where have you heard that? In Mass! Yes, the Mass quotes Isaiah.  "And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"  What's all this "unclean lips" business? He says bad things? Yes, Isaiah's a sinner, and isn't worthy of seeing the LORD, much less speaking for him out of a sinful mouth. Blechh.  "Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar." How hot would a burning coal be that you had to pick it up with tongs? Too hot to touch!  Yes! "And he touched my mouth, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin is purged." Remind me, what "purge" mean? To clean something. Yes, usually it means to burn bad stuff away until only good stuff is left. The Bible talks about using fire to burn the impurities out of gold, for example. Imagine our souls are gold, what impurities would we want burned off? Sins? Yes, our sins. So Isaiah's sins are purged, burned away by this coal. That's why we think of Purgatory as being a swimming pool, right? Ha, it's fire, it burns! Oh, yeah, fire: it cleans away our sins, but it may hurt some.

Then Isaiah says, "And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here I am! Send me." Isaiah is ready to be God's prophet...what other prophet said "Here I am" to God? Samson! No, the other Sam...Samuel! There you go. What I'm reading comes from a book mostly written by Isaiah; its name- Isaiah! would be Isaiah, yes. Y'all are learning.

Isaiah is my favorite prophet, and Jesus' favorite, too. In the Gospels we'll see Jesus say things that Isaiah said; I always imagine his listeners thinking, "Oooh, Jesus is quotin' Isaiah...I wonder what he means." Isaiah prophesied about lots of things, including Christmas, so let's get started.

Ever since the Happy Days of King David and King Solomon, the Judeans wanted peace and security; that is, they wanted a new King to provide them peace and security. They wanted an Anointed One, a...Messiah, yes, a Messiah, to save them. And Isaiah had a lot to say about a Messiah, as we'll see.

First, Isaiah announces not only that a Messiah is coming, but that the LORD is coming: "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."(Isaiah 40) How is the mouth of the LORD speaking? Through Isaiah! Right. So Isaiah speaks with God's...authority? Yes. People can't just tell Isaiah to keep his opinions to himself.

So Isaiah's telling the Judeans get ready for the coming of the LORD, although they're really interested in getting a...King? Yes, an...anointed one...a Messiah! That's it. But if God's coming too, well, it can't hurt, right?

Remember that ever since God first spoke to Abraham he wasn't God to everybody. God chose Abraham's descendants to be his people; that's why they called themselves the Chosen People, the Chosen Ones. Like being married to one wife, not a dozen. So the people in Isaiah's day were expecting the prophet to tell them how God was looking out just for them; but that wasn't Isaiah's message. For example, many Judeans were worshiping baby-eating Gods again, Baal and Moloch, so you'd expect Isaiah to say they should stop. He does say that, but says more (Isaiah 56):

"Blessed is the man who...keeps the sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil." That's obvious, just be good. "Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely separate me from his people" What's a foreigner? Someone from another country. Yes, someone who isn't a Jew; we call these people Gentiles in English.  "For thus says the LORD: "To [those] who choose the things that please me and hold fast to my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off." Who are God's sons and daughters? The Judeans? Yes. But Isaiah says that if Gentiles, foreigners, hold on to the covenant God made with Moses, God will give them a name "better than sons and daughters." How would you feel if your parents told you that? That they didn't love me! Yes. But God isn't telling the Jews that he doesn't love them, but that they have to do the right thing to be counted as his children. If they worship false gods, that's like you calling other adults Mom and Dad and ignoring your parents. How would your parents feel? Like I didn't love them. Right, so it goes both ways. And if there are Gentiles who weren't lucky enough to be born into God's family, but treat God like their Father, why shouldn't he give them "a name better than sons and daughters"? They had to make a special effort to be included in the family. What's that called when someone becomes the son or daughter of parents who didn't conceive them? Adoption? Yes. God is saying he will adopt other children into his family.

Isaiah continues: "And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD...these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples."

What would this "house of prayer" on a "holy mountain" be? The Temple? Yes. So God will treat the foreigners just like his own children, and the Temple will be not just for Judeans, but "all peoples." Just to make the point about everyone being able to be God's children, his Chosen, Isaiah says, "Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered." And remember, the Temple isn't only on Earth, it's Heaven. Yes.

And there will be a feast on the holy mountain: "On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of the best of meats and the finest of wines." I know y'all would prefer pizza and pop, but they hadn't been invented yet. Have we had this fabulous feast yet? No. Right, but we will, you'll see. And it's not just for the Chosen people, but for...all people! Yes! Then Isaiah says, "On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations. He will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces." What veil is Isaiah talking about? The one in the holy space? In the Holy of Holies? Maybe...what does that veil do? Keep people from seeing God. Yes, but they'd like to see Him. So when God destroys the veil...people can see Him. Yes, we won't be separated from Him. And when we can see God, and death is destroyed, and tears are wiped away, where is that? Heaven! Yes; more than Heaven as we'll see. How can you have more than Heaven? I don't want to give it away...we'll see later on.

Back to the Messiah: Isaiah gives a hint of where this Anointed One will come from:

"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him..." Who was Jesse? David's father. Yes. He's the forefather of Israel's kings. Jesse fathered David, who- Solomon! ya too fast, yes, and so on. Isaiah is treating Jesse like the root of a tree that should grow to be big and healthy, but it's been cut down through the worship of baby-eating false gods, a divided kingdom, weak kings, big enemies, you name it. But a shoot, a branch, will grow out of the stump; that is, someone related to Jesse and David and Solomon.

Being a King, this Messiah should be tough like David, a good...soldier? Yes. But Isaiah says, "he shall strike the earth with the rod (you know, a stick, whack!) of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked." The breath of his lips? That sounds more like a talker than a doer...not a tough guy at all!   

 And "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb...and the calf and the lion and a little child shall lead them. ...In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a sign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious. (Isaiah 11)"  Now if lions and wolves don't eat lambs and calves, what's that sound like? Eden! Yes, so Isaiah prophesies: God is coming, and a Messiah is coming, but he's not a tough guy, and somehow things will be more like Eden than like slaughtering your enemies.

OK, on to Isaiah and Christmas. Class, what's 'Christmas' mean? It's when Jesus was born. Yes, good, that's what Christmas is...but what does 'Christmas' literally mean? Oh, Christ's Mass. Yes again. And you're right, it celebrates Jesus' birth. ¿Quién aquí habla Español? Who speaks Spanish? Me! ¿Cómo se llama Christmas en Español? How do you say Christmas in Spanish? Navidad. Yes [Navidad goes up on the board]. Does 'Navidad' mean 'Christ's Mass'?  No, it means the baby is born. Right. In English we say Nativity [on the board]. Somebody tell me, what's a Nativity scene? It's the little statues of baby Jesus and the 3 Kings and all. reason I like the word Navidad is that it reminds me of Jesus being born in that little humble stable.

OK, here's the deal. I'm going to read Isaiah's Christmas prophecies one at a time. You tell me what part of the Nativity scene is prophesied and I'll draw it in. We're going to create a New Testament picture by using Old Testament prophecies. Here we go.

"Hear ye now, O house of David...the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (7:13-14) Mary and Jesus! Yes; they aren't all this easy, I'm just being nice to start.  [Mary (and Joseph) are drawn, but not baby Jesus, for reasons that will become apparent later....maybe you can guess.]

Next: "O Jerusalem, you bring good not afraid, say...Behold your God!" (40:9) Ha! I told you the first one was easy. What are good tidings? Good news? Yes. In Luke's Christmas Gospel, who borrowed from Isaiah and said, " not afraid...behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy"? No guesses yet? Look at this Greek word, evangelousios [on the board]; it means good news, glad tidings. In Isaiah's day how did the king get his news? From TV? Ha, no, from  messengers! Yes, messengers. So let's think of evangelousios as meaning "good message" instead of "good news." Tell me again, who brings the message? The messenger! Yes. Please observe the magic finger [I erase from evangelousios until I have angel]. If evangelousios means "good message," what does "angel" mean? Umm, messenger? Yes, genius! So at Christmas, who said, "..behold, I bring you a good message of great joy"? Oh, the angel! Yes, God's messenger. And since the message comes from heaven, the messenger should have......wings! Yes. [On the board goes a winged messenger.] Make a halo! OK...there ya go.

Next:  "Behold, the Lord GOD.....shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom. (40:10-11)  All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee. (60:7) Shepherds and sheep! Yes. [I draw them.] That one looks like a dog instead of a sheep! Stop whining...pretend it's the best sheep you've ever seen.

And: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." (60:1-2)  No's more: "the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." The star! Thank you [up it goes], and what else...? Listen again: "the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." (60:3) The kings! Yes, both of them! There were three! Well, Luke doesn't say how many. For now I'm showing two.

"The multitude of camels shall come...(60:6)" The camels! Yes...see if you can tell me how many humps. Two! One! Y'all wait a second and listen to it all, don't just guess like monkeys: "The multitude of camels shall come, the Dromedaries of Midian and Ephah." So? Two? You're just guessing again. Does anyone know the main difference between the Dromedary camels in this passage, and Bactrian camels? One of them has two humps! Yes, the Bactrian, so I'm drawing one-hump Dromedaries.

"....they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the LORD." The three kings brought gold and incense! Yes, two I'm drawing only two kings, see? But there were three gifts! Well, if y'all can name the third gift that Isaiah left out I'll draw it and a third king. So? Umm...myrrh? Yes genius, myrrh! [3 kings and 3 gifts on the board] We'll look at the gifts again later on this year.

"I have nourished and brought up children; and they have rebelled against Me." Just like teenagers! "The ox knows its owner; and the ass its master’s manger. But Israel does not know; my people do not consider." (1:1-3) Tell me...the ox?  Yes, and? the...the donkey? [on the board] Yes, and what's a manger? Baby Jesus' crib. Yeah, sort of... "manger" is the French word that means "to eat,"'s what the animals eat out of. Yes, the name tells us. [on the board] Listen again: "The ox knows its owner; and the ass its master’s manger." Whose manger is it? The master's? Yes, and who is the master? Jesus? Yes. [He goes in the manger]  "But Israel does not know; my people do not consider." This line doesn't give us anything to draw, but something to think about.

Notice that Isaiah says Israel doesn't know the master, but the dumb animals, the ox and ass do; maybe they aren't so 'dumb' after all,  and as we see from the picture, the humble, uneducated shepherds know who Jesus is, and so do the Gentile Kings, who aren't even Jewish. So we see that Jesus will come for the Judeans, for non-Jews (that's us), the rich and the poor. Jesus will come for everyone, "all peoples," as Isaiah prophesied.

(the result from this year's class)

OK, that's all the time we have tonight; next week we'll have an Isaiah story, which is about keys, before we move on to Jeremiah.

Class over!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Res Ipsa Loquitur

This is the class which most of Dry Ground covers.  Readers of the blog may find it useful to hear what actually happens in the classroom, in contrast to the abbreviated and toned-down posts. You won't be able to see the acting and drawing, so use your imaginations.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The live class doesn't strictly match the post, because the post is based on this class, and all the prior years' classes where the material was covered.

For more live class excerpts, click on the Res Ipsa Loqitur label below right.