Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mr. Slingshot

This post is also available at Amazing Catechists

Y'all remind me who we were talking about last week...Samson...after Samson, the other 'S' guy. Samuel? Yes. Samuel was dedicated to God by his mom Hannah before he was conceived. What's 'conceived'? When you first have the baby? Yes, and about 9 months later...the baby is born. Yes. Well, when Samuel was a little boy, his parents took him to the Meeting Tent at...Shiloh, yes, and he served God there, living with the judge and high priest Eli, and his adult sons. Eli was old, and mostly sat around while his sons ran things. But they were corrupt, what's that mean? They did bad things? Yes, they abused their position as priests. They'd steal meat from the sacrifices, and even take advantage of women who helped out around the Meeting Tent. Eli knew there was evil right in God's house, but never did much about it.

One night, "Samuel was lying down within the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was. Then the LORD called, "Samuel! Samuel!" and he said, "Here I am!" and ran to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call; lie down again." So he went and lay down. And the LORD called again, "Samuel!" And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." But he said, "I did not call, my son; lie down again." ...And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, "Here I am, for you called me." Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, Speak, LORD, for thy servant hears." So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the LORD came and stood forth, calling as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for thy servant hears." And God told Samuel he was going to punish Eli and his sons. From then on, God spoke to Samuel, "And the word of Samuel came to all Israel." People whom God speaks through like that are called prophets. Samuel mediated God's messages to Israel.

Now here's a story for you: just a few years ago there was a married man in Lebanon, near Israel. He didn't like his wife anymore, and met another woman in an online chatroom. They fell in love and decided to meet at a cafe. The guy goes into the cafe...guess who is there to meet him? No guesses? An adult would get this: it was his wife! They were both cheating on each other in the chatroom! So the husband is furious at her, never mind his own sin, and yells, "Divorce, divorce, divorce!" and stomps out. In traditional Arab cultures a husband can divorce his wife by just saying it three times. Here's why: people got married and had contracts long before there were pens, pencils, paper or widespread literacy. What's literacy? When you can read and write! Yes. So most marriages and contracts were made by each person agreeing out loud three times to the contract. And to cancel a deal, you'd have to say so...three times! Yes, like that husband. When you say what a contract is instead of writing, it's an oral contract. They still count even if they aren't written down on paper.

Tell me, how many times did God call Samuel? Three times! Yes...why three times? 'Cause he was making a contract with Samuel? Yes, an oral contract. Remember oral contracts, we'll learn about an important one later on.

Back to Eli and his sons. At some point, Israel had just been defeated in battle by the Philistines. They decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the next day's fight. So Eli's corrupt sons brought the Ark to the army. The book of Samuel says, "When the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, "What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?" And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said, "A god has come into the camp." And they said, "Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness." Help, the Israelites brought their God Box, we're gonna lose! But the Philistines decide it's better to fight and die than be captured and become slaves. And Israel was defeated again, but much worse. The ark was captured, and Eli's sons were killed. Back at Shiloh, Eli was sitting by the Meeting Tent. A messenger ran up, told him the ark was captured and his sons killed. Eli is so shocked he falls backward, breaks his neck and dies. His pregnant daughter-in-law who is married to one of the dead sons, is so shocked that she goes into labor, has the baby right there, and dies.

This is bad news more than anyone could have imagined! How could God allow the Ark to be captured? But God was making the point that Israel couldn't misbehave indefinitely and then expect God to cut them tons of slack just because they were his Chosen People.

After God sent plagues on the Philistines like he did to Egypt, they eventually gave the Ark back to Israel, but it was never returned to Shiloh. God never dwelled in Shiloh again.

Now, after Eli died, Samuel became the last judge of Israel. But his sons were no good, just like Eli's; so the people pestered Samuel about getting a king. Finally God said OK, let them have an earthly king, but tell them what a bad deal it will be. So Samuel told Israel, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day." A golden toilet would have been much cheaper.

God sent Samuel out to find a king. He found "a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he; from his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people." So he was tall and handsome...big deal, right? What was his name? Saul! Yes. And to show that Saul was king, does anyone want to guess what Samuel did? Lay hands on him! Great guess, but no: Samuel poured oil on his head, he anointed him. The Hebrew word for anointed is Mashiah [on the board]; how do we say it? Jesus was Mashiah...oh, Messiah? Yes. The Hebrews got the word Mashiah from the Egyptians, who anointed the Pharaoh with crocodile oil. Their word for crocodile is msha. What could be more interesting?

So Saul was Israel's first king. He was good in some ways, bad in others. For example, Saul wanted to offer his own sacrifices instead of letting the Levites do it...a big no-no. At least he was tall and handsome...must be a lesson in there somewhere. Anyway, God sent Samuel out to get a replacement for Saul. He said, "Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." Why did Samuel need oil? To anoint the new king! Yes. And this Jesse the Bethlehemite...where'd he live? Bethlehem? Yes. And if one of his sons would be king, then the king would be from...Bethlehem too? Yes; why do we care if this next king is from Bethlehem? 'Cause Jesus was born there? Yes, much later.

So Samuel visits Jesse on the sly, has a look at his sons, Jesse has seven of them on display. God tells Samuel they won't do. "And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here." And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. And the LORD said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is he." Tell me, who is this next king...the shepherd boy...David? Yes, good. But this anointing is secret from Saul.

Now the book of Samuel says "...the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him." Some people think he may have suffered from depression and migraine headaches, which are awful. "And Saul's servants said to him, " out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre; and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well." What's a lyre? Like a harp? Yes, good. One of Saul's servants recommended David. "And David came to Saul, and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, "Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight." And whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him."

Now about this same time there was a giant Philistine soldier that all of Israel feared...yes? Goliath! Yes, tell the story. Nobody would fight Goliath, but David said he would. Yes, and he was too small to wear King Saul's armor; so what next? He killed Goliath with a slingshot! Yes, and used Goliath's sword to chop his head off! How about that, girls? Ewww! Boys? Cool! Uh-huh.

So David became very popular. Giant-killer, soldier, lyre-player, singer; an all-around great guy. As David grew into a young man, Saul became jealous of David and tried to kill him. David had go away and hide, until Saul and his sons were dead; then David became king.

David was very close to God, enjoyed God's favor for most of his life. He even talked straight to God, and God would talk right back:

David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" And the LORD said to him, "Go up." David said, "To which shall I go up?" And he said, "To Hebron."

David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I go and attack these Philistines?" And the LORD said to David, "Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah."

David asked, "Will Saul come down?" And the LORD said, "He will come down."

Then David said, "Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?" And the LORD said, "They will surrender you."

Whether or not David heard God speaking out loud isn't the point, although he may have. What matters is that David had God's ear, so to speak. He went straight to God and heard right back....Old Testament Instant Messaging.

David brought great victories to Israel, and captured Jerusalem, which became the capital city. David built himself a palace of cedarwood there, which must have smelled terrific.

David's life would seem pretty good at this point: a nice new palace, wives (he had a few), a new capital city. But one afternoon, David was on the roof of his palace, and saw a woman named Bathsheba taking a bath, and he wanted her for himself. He had an affair with her; unfortunately she was married to one of David's soldiers, named Uriah. So David arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle. Then David married Bathsheba. David clearly committed some serious sins, including conceiving a baby with Bathsheba while she was married to Uriah. (2Sam 11)

How did David do that ? Do what? You know...the baby. I tell you what, ask your parents if you want to know the details- they conceived you, after all.

Now remember Samuel's successor, Nathan. Nathan was a prophet who had been authorized by God to be the King's keep him out of trouble, and to scold him if necessary. Nathan knew David needed to repent of these serious sins in order to rule Israel well, but it's not smart to just tell a King, "hey King, you super sinner, everybody knows how bad you are, you'd better repent or else!" Kings have big egos, they think they're so great, a King would just get mad...that's how John the Baptist lost his head, by the way.

Instead of yelling at King David, Nathan tells him a sad story:

"O great King, let me tell you about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had lots of sheep, more than he needed, but the poor man had only one little lamb. It grew up in his family along with his children; it was like another daughter to him. (I pretend to cradle a dear little lamb.) Then one day the rich man needed a sheep for a feast, but being a bigshot, instead of using one of his own, he took the the poor man's lamb instead." (2 Samuel 12)

King David blew his top! He yelled, "that selfish jerk is gonna pay for that big time! That's outrageous! He treated that poor guy like dirt!" But Nathan said, "That rich man is you! God's given you so much, but you stole Uriah's wife Bathsheba, and then had him killed to try to cover up your sins!"

Now, here's where it gets interesting. Did God already know David's sins? Yes. In fact, did God know David's sins before David was even born? Yes. And David's a smart guy, he would have known that God was aware of his sins, right? Right! And of course, David knew he had sinned by having, umm, married love with a woman he wasn't married to, and getting her husband killed. So why hadn't David repented? Well, he just put it off. Yes. He could do what I like to do, just tell God he's sorry, what the heck, God knows all his sins anyway. He didn't have to admit it to anyone else, so he kept his pride. I like to keep my pride, too. Just like Adam and Eve.

But David acknowledged his terrible sins to Nathan, who was God's authorized advisor and scold. Instead of saying, "Interesting story Nathan, but I haven't killed any lambs, stop wasting Royal time," and later on going straight to God to apologize and seek forgiveness, he 'fesses up to Nathan, "
I have sinned against the LORD." Now, tell me: did God know David's sins? Yes! And did Nathan know David's sins, at least a few really big bad ones? Yes! And did David know David's sins? Yes! And could David go straight to God for all sorts of stuff, as we saw earlier? Yes!

So....why did David bother to confess to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD"? Because God went through Nathan, David has to? Yes, genius daughter! And think of it this way....have you ever been mean to your Mom? Yeees.... And were you sorry right away? Yes! Did you 'fess up right away? No, it's embarrassing! Yes, you wanted to hang onto what Adam & Eve hung onto, your...pride! Yes, we all love our pride, ourselves, instead of loving others. What's the opposite of being prideful? Being humble! Yes.

Back to your Mom- when you felt sorry, did she know you were sorry without you saying so? Yes, she can tell. So if you apologize, you're just telling her what she already knows. So why does she want you to say you're sorry out loud? It makes her feel better. Yes, but there's another reason. When you tell her you're sorry, what does she say say back? She says that's ok, she forgives me. And how do you feel? Better. Yes, you humble yourself by saying that you did something wrong, and you're sorry; it's hard. But your apology allows your Mom to say she forgives you. It wouldn't be right for her to say it first, although she probably would want to because she loves you. You're humble; Mom's merciful. And after you say you're sorry and she says you're forgiven, how else might her body show you're forgiven? She'll hug me. Yes, and how do you feel? Happy. Yes, often we're happiest after we've just repented and been forgiven, in spirit and....physically! And what 2 things make a person, by the way? A body and a soul! Yes, they go together, bodynsoul. So if your soul is sorry, what else should be sorry? Your body! And one way your body shows it is? By saying you're sorry. Yes, out loud, just like King David. It's humbling.

Now back to King David. David didn't just privately confess to God. He confessed his sin to God through Nathan, who was God's physical representative. He physically humbled himself before another person, because being a bodynsoul his spirit had to confess to a spirit, and his body had to confess to.....? another body! Yes, and since Jesus wasn't around yet, God wasn't physically what did David do? He confessed to Nathan. Yes. And what does your Mom do after you say you're sorry? She forgives me! Yes. So guess what Nathan did after David confessed? Umm...he forgave David? Yes! Plain as day, Nathan said, "The LORD has put away your sin..." Trick question: how do you know if your Mom forgives you for something you do? Umm, she says I'm forgiven? Yes, the words go right out of her mouth and into your ear. Next trick question: how did David know his sins were forgiven? Nathan told him right in his ear! Yes! But David didn't sin against Nathan...who said Nathan could speak for God? Umm, God said so? Yes, God appointed Nathan, and gave him that authority. We know this because the Bible says that God would tell Nathan what to tell David. So when David heard the words from Nathan, he could believe them. Nathan mediated God's forgiveness.

This story about David and Nathan should remind you of how Catholics confess our sins to God. Can we pray straight to God like David? Yes! But when we want to confess our serious sins, and be forgiven, what do we do? Confess to a priest. Yes, just as David confessed to Nathan. And how do we know we're forgiven? The priest says so. Yes, just like Nathan. And how do we know the priest can do that? He speaks for God. Yes...just like Nathan. He's got authority from Jesus' Church.

When I was a kid the priest would say: "May our Lord Jesus Christ absolve you; and by His authority I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen." The words are a bit different now, but the priest still speaks for Jesus so you can hear the words go right into your ear, just as Nathan spoke for God in the Old Testament. We and David are forgiven, body and...? Bodynsoul! Yes, bodynsoul.

By the way, after you are forgiven your sins, the priest usually wants you to do something......oh, penance. Yes. David had a penance too, but that's a story for next week.

Class over!