Monday, March 28, 2011

Rags & Aprons

continued from the prior post

One more bit from Acts of the Apostles and we'll move on. I need volunteers. I need... a mother! That's you! And if I need a need a father! Yes, you, sitting right next to mom. And this [I put my rubber fetus on mom's desk] is your little girl. But it's not born yet! Well, pretend she's been born and she's bigger. It looks weird. She looks just like you did when you weren't born yet, so stop whining. How old are you? 12. Then pretend it's your 12-year-old-daughter. And I need a St. Paul...yes, come on up here. Now, mom & dad, your daughter is deathly sick. But look, who's in town? St. Paul? Yes. St. Paul, show the rest of the class your preaching skills, but silently...that's it, bring them the Good News. Parents, what are you going to do about your dear, sick little girl- stay home and pray? No, we're going to take her to St. Paul so he can lay hands on her! Great plan parents, but your daughter is so near death you don't dare move her.  Here you go mom, one of your dishrags [an old rag from my house] from the kitchen, don't argue! But what is- be patient, mom! Father, your wife has to stay home with your daughter, but she's giving you the dishrag...go on, hand it over. Father, what are you gonna do? Mmm...take it to Paul? Well, go on, time's a wastin'. St. Paul, here comes the sick girl's daddy [Paul takes the rag, wads it up in his hands a few times and hands it back]. What now, dad? [He goes back home and gives it to the mother] Well, mom? [She covers the baby with the rag] Somebody tell me what happens? The baby gets better! Yes indeed she does! Why? 'Cause the rag had touched Paul! Yes! Acts says, "God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them." By the way, back in the Book of Exodus, how'd the Israelites get water in the desert? Moses hit the rock with a stick! How'd Jesus heal the blind man? Put mud on his eyes! How'd the old woman with the bleeding problem get healed? She touched Jesus's clothes! Yes, a tassel, the littlest piece of his cloak. How do we get sins washed away? With water! How do we eat Jesus? Bread and wine! Yes, when they become...body'n'blood! Yes; is any of this stuff magic? No! God's power goes through the stuff, because we are made of a...bodynsoul, yes, so even today Jesus still comes to us spiritually, and...physically! Yes.

Now tell me about this rag, which is not a magic rag. Do you think it might heal someone else later on? I guess so. Sure, there's no rule that says God's power is exhausted with that one healing; who knows, maybe people's faith could keep it charged up like a holy battery. [Out comes the chicken bone] It might work like Elisha's bones, which did what? Make that man come back to life when they threw him on the bones. Yes, and even though Elisha had been dead for a good while, nothing but bones, God's healing still went through his dead body parts. That's why Catholics respect the bodies of saints; or even parts of their bodies, like this bone.

That's it for Acts of the Apostles. But let's recall how Paul would come to a new town, and set up a new church. I'm Paul, y'all are the congregation of new Christians; some Jews, some Gentiles. OK y'all, I have to bring the Gospel to another town now; goodbye, flock! Is there anything missing? You have to lay hands on somebody! Yes. Can y'all recommend anyone? Him. OK, let's see, your name is... Timothy! [I lay hands on Timothy] Timothy, I give you my authority to shepherd this flock, and pray that you be strengthened by the Holy Spirit. 'Bye now, I'll probably never see y'all again.

Things may go fine for a while for Bishop Timothy, but problems will will likely arise. The Jewish Christians might insist that the Gentiles quit eating pork. Or some Gentiles might want to sacrifice an animal to Zeus every now and then just to be on the safe side. Or they might disagree about keeping the Sabbath on Sunday, in honor of Easter, instead of Saturday. Timothy, do you want to figure this stuff out on your own? No! So what's the fix? Can you come back? No, sorry, I'm far across the sea. Flock, how can I give Timothy some guidance? Well...could you write him a letter? Yes, geniuses, that's exactly what Paul did! In fact, St. Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, called the First and Second letters to...Timothy. Yeah...another gimme.

The Greek word for letter is epistoli [on the board] (επιστολή, fyi); what is it in English? Epistle. Yes. Let's look briefly at the Epistles, which follow Acts in the New Testament. Paul wrote most of the Epistles because he set up so many new congregations which then needed his instruction. But other apostles wrote letters, too, such as Peter and James. Let's look at a few things in the Epistles before we move on; we'll see more of the Epistles when we learn about the Mass in a couple of weeks.

To start, here's a short bit I like from the Letter to the Hebrews: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us..." The part I like is the "cloud of witnesses." What's a witness? Someone who sees what happens? Yes, and if the witnesses are in a cloud, what are they? People flying? No, it's more like when a cloud took Jesus to Heaven...what sort of witnesses would be on those clouds? Oh...angels? Yes, and...saints! Yes. I like this passage because it reminds me that we're never alone [I look around the room at the top of the walls]; we're surrounded by these cloud-witnesses..hey y'all, how ya doin'? That's funny. Hey, I'm serious, they're here. The angels & saints love us and want us to get to heaven, too. That's why you have a guardian angel, and should have a patron saint by the time you're confirmed. They want to help you "run the race." Anyway, I especially think about the cloud of witnesses at Mass. Remembering the statues in church, what witnesses in particular might be with us at Mass? Mary?  Yes, and? Joseph?  Yes, and? Angels. Yes. A priest was ordained at church a few years ago, and I imagined all the saints packing the church that day. What a cloud of witnesses that was. By the way, where do you usually hear about witnesses? When people have a jury? Yes, in court. Sometimes guilty people don't want a witness to testify, and the witness may be murdered if they won't keep quiet. The Greek word for witness is martyr [on the board]. Why do we call some saints martyrs? 'Cause they were killed? Yes. Martyrs, God's witnesses, were, and still are, being killed because they won't keep quiet about Jesus. You mean like today? Yes, even today Christian witnesses are martyred for their faith.

Now I need someone to tell me what Jesus taught about the hungry and the naked and the sick and so forth. We have to give them clothes! Yes, clothe the hungry, and- no, feed the hungry! Oh, OK, and...clothe the naked. Yes, and...visit sick people. Yes. That's because Jesus doesn't just care about what you believe, but also...what you do! Yes, your works. And in the Epistle St. James wrote, he says, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is it? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." St. James means we have to! Yes. He goes on: " Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?"  Tell me about it. God had to make sure Abraham believed in him. Yes, and how did God make sure? He let Abraham almost kill Isaac. Yes. And finally James writes, "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead." So we can't say "la-la-la, I believe in Jesus" and do nothing; we have to faith. Yes.

Speaking of body and soul separating, tell me about that bit in Isaiah when the angel put the burning coal on Isaiah's unclean lips? It cleaned his lips! Yes, so he...could...say good things!  Yes, so he could speak for God. What do we call it when something's burned 'til it's clean and pure? Purgatory!'s called purging, but that's where the word Purgatory comes from. The angel told Isaiah, "see, your lips are purged." Now let's look at something Paul wrote about burning away the bad in order to save the good. It's in the first epistle he wrote to the flock in Corinth, Greece, who were...Corinthians? Yes. It's from First Corinthians. Paul says that each one of us is a part of the spiritual building of the Church; and that the building's foundation is Jesus.

Paul writes, "Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw...each man's work will be made known..." So Paul is comparing our work, what we do, to different stuff, like so [on the board]:


The best work the top, yes, and the junk, the the bottom. Yes. Paul says our works "will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done." Starting at the bottom, tell me what to erase...straw, hay and wood!...yes, when our works are tested by fire. And what doesn't burn up? The good stuff. Yes, the good things we do. Paul writes, "If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." So the bad things we do will get burned off, and we'll be saved "as through fire." What happens to saved people? They go to Heaven? Yes. So what's the place where we have our sins burned away and we're saved through fire? Purgatory? Yes. But it's not physical fire: where are our bodies if our souls are in Purgatory? In the ground! Yes! So Purgatory's only a spiritual purging, which might still be painful.

 Hey, if your body and soul are separated at death, what eventually has to happen? They get put back together again? Yes. The last book in the Bible, the Book of Revelations, talks about that. We'll learn about that book next week. Yes? Is next week the end of class? No, we'll still have 3 classes on the Mass; your suffering doesn't end until the last week of April.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and Forever!

Class over!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bishops & Epidemics

Last week we saw how the apostles set up the Church so that it would keep running after they all died. Let's look at a picture of that [I draw]. Here's Jesus...and somebody else. What's Jesus doing? Laying his hands on the other guy!  Yes, is Jesus laying hands on a monkey? No, an apostle! Yes. Remember, the Bible doesn't say whether or not Jesus laid his hands on the apostles to give them his authority; but that was the standard Old Testament way to do it. I don't want to draw all 12 apostles...which apostle do you think this one is? Peter! Yes, because Jesus changed Simon's name to...Peter, yes, and because Jesus told only Peter to...feed...his sheep! Yes. So Peter represents all 12 apostles in this picture. Now Jesus goes to heaven [Jesus is erased]. The apostles know they're going to die, so...they lay hands on other people. Yes, just like the way Paul laid his hands on Timothy and Titus, who became...shepherds! Yes, what's the church word for them, you had it last week...bishops! Yes. 

So who is this guy [I draw] with this pointy hat? A bishop. Yes, and he's got his bent stick, a crook...because...he's the shepherd! Yes, a shepherd. And the apostles get old....and...they die! Yes [apostle is erased], but it's OK, because...they made bishops. Yes, and when these bishops get old...they make more bishops! Yes, all the way down to today. And bishops also make...more bishops? No, I mean besides more bishops. Who runs our parish, the bishop? Does he run around the state every Sunday saying Mass as fast as possible in all the churches? Ha, no! So, who takes of business at the parishes? Oh, the priests! Yes, bishops make hands! Yes, and anointing.

But what about Peter? Huh? Peter got special authority from Jesus...and he made another Peter? Yes, what do we call his office? What do we call men who replace Peter? Popes? Yes, popes. But when St. Luke was writing Acts of the Apostles, was St. Peter dead yet? No. Right, he was alive and doing things that Luke wrote about. So there's nothing in there about replacing Peter in particular; it wouldn't have come up yet.

And remind me, where'd Peter get his authority? Jesus. And when Peter died, was that it? Did his authority disappear? No, they picked another pope. Yes. By the way, in Rome they don't say Pope, they say Papa [on the board]. Why is that? Because he's the father? Yes again, and because fathers have authority....trick question: what language does 'Papa' come from? Latin? Good guess. It's Greek, the Romans got it from the Greeks! But yes, the Pope is the Holy Father, the Papa. In Italy, Greece and Spain they still say papa for pope.

Time for some more Greek...what do you use to see things far away? A telescope? Yes; in Greek it's spelled like this: teleskopos [on the board] (τηλεσκόπος, fyi).  And to see very small things? A microscope! Yes; mikroskopos [under teleskopos] (μικροσκόπος, fyi). And to see out of a submarine? A periscope! Yes; periskopos [under mikroskopos] (περισκόπος, fyi). 

So what does tele mean? Far away? Yes, and mikro? Small! And peri? Up? Good guess; it means around. On subs they use the periscope to look around. And skopos? See! Yes [on the board]! My, my, geniuses at work; how'd y'all learn all this Greek? We're smart! Uh-huh.

What's an epidemic [on the board] (επιδημία, epidimia)? When everybody gets sick! Yes. Epi-demic is Greek for over-people [over goes under epi]. It's a disease that's over all the people.

Now I write epi-skopos [under Papa] (επίσκοπος, fyi).

OK, what's epi mean again? Over! And skopos? To see! And if someone is an epi-skopos what are they? over-seer? Yes, genius! [overseer goes next to episkopos] And is an overseer a monkey that gets told what to do? No, he's the boss, he tells the monkeys what to do!  Yes. An episkopos, an overseer, is someone who is in charge. Who's in charge of our diocese, all the Catholics in South Carolina? Bishop Macaroni! That's very funny, his name is Guglielmone, goo-lyel-MO-neh. It's Italian. But we're not talking about Italian tonight, we're talking about...Greek! That's right.

Now watch the magic finger [I erase episkopos down to piskop]; how do we say episkopos in English? Umm, bishop? Yes! ¿Quién aquí habla Español? Me! How do you say bishop in Spanish? Obispo?  Yep. 'Obispo' comes from episkopos, too [bishop and obispo go beside piskop]. Some Bibles say 'bishop' and some say 'overseer,' but it's the same job: being a bishop.

Y'all can see how the old word episkopos changed into the new words over 2,000 years. That's how old the office of Bishop is, about 2,000 years old. The New Testament talks about bishops a lot, and what language was the NT written in? Greek! Yep. And the Old Testament? Hebrew! Yes, mostly Hebrew; you remembered.

Bishops are so important to the church that the word bishop shows up in the New Testament six times, which shows you that there were bishops even before the Bible was finished. Now, there are Christians who go to churches that don't have bishops. They may tell you bishops aren't necessary, or are just overseers, nothing special. But appointed bishops are in the Bible, so the Bible agrees with the Church.

OK let's review a bit, who's in overall charge of feeding the sheep of Jesus' flock while he's away? The Pope! How do we say that in Greek? Papa! And who helps the Papa take care of the flock? Bishops! And what's 'bishop' mean? Overseer!  Yes. And next come what the Bible calls 'presbyters.'

I have presbyopia [on the board]; I can't see stuff close-up anymore. Presbyopia is Greek, it means old-eye. What might 'presby-' mean?  Old?  Yes, old. The Greek word for an old man, an elder, is presbyteros [on the board under 'episkopos,' restored from 'piskop'] (πρεσβύτερος, fyi). You may remember St. Paul and the apostles didn't just appoint bishops, but also elders. Presbyteros is a very old word, a few thousand years old or so. We use it all the time in English but it's changed so much we don't recognize it anymore. It's gotten shorter, look: [I rub letters out of presbyteros so that it reads presbyter--]. That's like what word? Presbyterian?  Yes. But it got even shorter: [more rubouts] pres--ter. Nowadays it's real short: pres--t...what's that word now? Is it priest?  Yes, good. So when we say 'priest' we also are saying....elder? Yes. Some Bibles will say 'presbyter;' some will say 'elder.' Hey, who's the President? Obama? Yes, where's he from, a big city....Washington? No, where's he from? Umm, Chicago? Yes, Chicago. In Chicago's government they elect elders, who are right under the mayor. They call them 'aldermen', it's just a way to say 'elder-men'. Kind of like the way our priest-elders are under the...bishop? Yes.

Now remember last week we learned from Acts that when the apostles were first setting the Church up in Jerusalem, they needed help feeding widows and orphans. They appointed men who would help them serve the tables. In Greek, the word for that kind of Church helper is diakonos [on the board under presbyteros] (διάκονος, fyi). What do we- deacons! Yes, we call them deacons. They assist at Mass, baptize, and marry people; they help the priests and bishops, just like in the apostles' day.

So these are all the offices of the Church; say 'em in English from the top: pope...bishop...priest...deacon. Yes. The Catholic Church has all of these offices, but other churches don't.

What church's name sounds like episkopos? Episcopal? Yes. Who do you think is in charge of that church? Umm...bishops? Yes. They don't accept the Pope's authority, which Jesus gave to Peter.

How about presby- Presbyterians! Yes, do they have bishops? No. Right; Presbyterian churches have elders and deacons, but not bishops and popes.

And last are churches that don't have elders but have...deacons? Yes. For example, most Baptist churches have a Board of Deacons which run each church.

So tell me, which Church has all the offices that we see Jesus and the apostles setting up in the New Testament? The Catholic Church. Yes.

class continues in the next post

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Living Chain

 continued from the prior post

After hands were laid on Paul, he went to Cyprus and Greece to evangelize. Y'all know about Greece, right? Yes. It's still a country, and Cyprus is a copper-mining island near Greece. The word copper comes from Cyprus. Paul intended to bring the Gospel to Jews living in Greece and Cyprus, but he had better luck with Gentiles, people like us who weren't Jews. Let's imagine Paul coming to a new town, let's say Corinth in Greece. What would you call people who live in Corinth? Corinthians? Yes. Paul would go to the synagogue or the marketplace, and start preaching about Jesus to whichever Corinthians would listen. As people came to believe in Jesus, Paul would baptize them. After a couple of months, there would be enough new Christians to start a small church; usually people would meet in someone's house. But was Paul's job to stay in one town and run a parish? No, he had to go to other places. Yes, why? Well, to tell everybody about Jesus. Yes. Now when Paul would leave a new flock of Christians, what would they need? A shepherd! Yes, and would the sheep hire their own shepherd? No, Paul would pick one! Yes. He might ask the flock to suggest someone to be in charge of them, but it was his decision to appoint a shepherd. Yes? I thought Jesus was the shepherd. He is, but remember how Jesus gave his authority to the apostles to feed the multitudes, baptize, forgive sins, and so on? Yes. Well, the apostles laid hands on Paul to give him their authority; and in turn, Paul laid his hands on men he would authorize. Just like Isaac "handing" down his authority to Jacob. Let's jump ahead a bit since you bring this up now. Later on in his travels, Paul makes bishops of two men named Timothy and Titus. In a letter he wrote to Timothy, Paul said, "I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands." And what do people rekindle? A fire. Yes, in this case spiritual fire. And he wrote to Titus, "I left you in Crete, that you might...appoint elders in every town as I directed you." Paul is always careful to appoint shepherds or bishops by laying of hands; people don't vote for them. And he expects those lay hands on people too. Yes, in this example, to "appoint elders." In those days if someone claimed to be an elder, he might say, "The apostles laid hands on Paul; who laid hands on Titus; who laid hands on me." That way people could see that he shared the authority of the apostles. The Bible doesn't say one way or another, but I expect that Jesus laid his hands on the apostles to start the chain.

Speaking of all this hands-laying, what will happen to y'all next year? We get confirmed. More specifically, please. The Bishop lays his hands on us? Yes. He's at the end of a 2,000-year-old living chain of authority and hand-laid blessings and going back to Jesus. So in a couple of years when you're confirmed, you'll become a part of that chain.

And when y'all are Confirmed, are y'all going to be bishops? Ha! No! Oh....are you going to be priests or deacons? No, we just stay the same. Well, actually you don't stay the same; there is a change, but the change isn't obvious.

When a baby is born, what's the first thing Christian parents do? Get the baby baptized. Yes, when the priest squirts ketchup on its head? No! He uses water! Oh yeah, water....what does the water wash away? Original sin! Yes...and if the priest prays real hard but doesn't pour water on the baby, does that work? No! Right; Jesus said you have to be born again of water and spirit. So the water and the Holy Spirit together change the baby. Can you tell the baby is different? His head's wet. Uh-huh, thank you for your contribution.....after his head dries off, he seems exactly the same as before, but the Holy Spirit's made a big spiritual change. Original sin is gone, and the baby is permanently changed, even if he sins when he gets older. He can never be un-baptized.

Through Baptism the baby is cleaned of Original Sin by a big first dose of the Holy Spirit.

But in the New Testament we see the Apostles get extra doses of the Holy Spirit after Baptism. The second time is when the resurrected Jesus breathed on them and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (Jn 20) Then on Pentecost Sunday the Apostles got a third dose of the Holy Spirit. What did that dose look like? You could see it above their heads.... Oh, fire! Yes, fire; they were...fired up! Yes! So we know the Apostles got at least three separate doses of the Holy Spirit. I doubt they looked any different after any of them, so don't be disappointed if you look the same after Confirmation.

Later in Acts, the Apostles 'hand' out doses of the Spirit like so: "Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit." (Acts 8:14-18) The Bishops today lay hands that same way. And their blessing is like Isaac's: so special that it makes a permanent difference. You can usually tell a blessing is special when someone with authority puts his hands on the head of the person being blessed.

The dose of the Holy Spirit we all receive at Confirmation doesn't authorize us to forgive sins, but it is a bit like the Apostles' last dose on Pentecost. You'll be spiritually strengthened, and receive what are called Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Everyone doesn't get the same gifts: like St. Paul said, a body has different parts, but they all work together. But you'll get something, and it may be years before you realize what it is. It took me about 30 years. My gift is making 6th graders suffer! We know that already! Oh.

And what else will the Bishop do? No guesses, that's ok. You'll get treated like King'll get...anointed? Yes, genius! We will? Yes, no kidding. Remind me please, Messiah [on the board] is the Hebrew word for anointed, yes, and Christos [on the board], or Christ would be...? Greek for anointed! Yes. They both mean anointed. At Baptism a baby gets oil put on its head, it's called Chrism [on the board], the Greek word for oil. See how Christ and Chrism are related? And when priests are ordained, their hands are anointed with...Chrism. Yes.

All these anointings with Holy Chrism mark a permanent change in the anointed people: the King is permanently King; a baby becomes a member of Christ's family; a priest is permanently a priest. When you are Confirmed, you'll be anointed, marking a permanent change in you. Sort of a spiritual doesn't come off. By the way, the Greek churches call Confirmation 'Chrismation'...why is that? Because that's Greek for Anointing? Yes, genius at work, you are right!

These are the things that will happen to you at Confirmation: the Bishop, who is a successor to the Apostles, will lay his hands on you in blessing. You'll be anointed with Holy Chrism. You'll receive another dose of the Holy Spirit, giving you Gifts to help to live your Christian faith. All these things have been done for God's children for thousands of years, and soon you'll be a new link in that living chain of spiritual fire. So when the bishop lays his hands on you, don't just think about the bishop. Think of the apostles on Pentecost Sunday getting fired-up with Gifts of the Holy Spirit; the apostles handing that fire on to the bishops; and the bishops keeping the fire alive for 2,000 years so that those Gifts can be handed on to you.

But suppose I said you can skip all that Confirmation business; I'll rub some oil and lay hands on you right here in class? How about that? It wouldn't work. Why not? You aren't a bishop. Right; I don't have...authority? Yes. I don't have apostolic authority.

Back to Paul. Remember he converted more Gentiles than Jews to Christianity. The problem was that Gentiles did things Jews didn't do: eat pigs, oysters, lobsters, food that was unclean for Jews; do whatever they wanted on Saturday, ignoring those 39 rules the Pharisees were so obsessed with; and paid no attention to all that Levitical sacrifice business at the Temple in Jerusalem. Well, the Jewish Christians thought the Gentile Christians needed to do all the Jewish stuff in order to be Christians. After all, Jesus followed all the Mosaic laws; shouldn't his followers do the same? And weren't the scriptures God's Word? Who could ignore them? Trick question: what did Paul decide? That they didn't have to do that stuff? Good guess, but no; Paul didn't make a decision on his own. "Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question..." Even though Jesus had personally appeared to Paul, spoke to him, blinded him, and knocked him down, that didn't give Paul authority to make this big decision by himself. "When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them...But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, "It is necessary to...charge them to keep the law of Moses."..."The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter." Did the whole flock of sheep get together? No, just the shepherds! Yes, genius; just the shepherds. And guess which apostle spoke first? Peter! Yes, "...after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them...why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?" Then James said, "Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God..."  And so the apostles and elders decided, "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden..." So the shepherds as a group decided that people who belonged to the New Covenant didn't have to obey the rules of the...Old Covenant? Yes. And they understood that the Holy Spirit would guide them to the right answer. The apostles didn't cast lots or draw straws to find out what God wanted, like they did when they replaced Judas with Matthias; they were were more confident now about making decisions together with the Holy Spirit. And even though some of the sheep didn't like the apostles' decision they had to accept it, because the shepherds had...authority? Yes. Neither Paul nor the sheep could decide for themselves what Scripture means, or what the Church should do.

When all the shepherds meet to make big decisions for the whole flock, it's called a council.  Because this council was held in Jerusalem, it's called the...Council of Jerusalem? Yes. And there have been many other councils in other cities since then. That first council was held by Peter and the apostles, but they're all dead. Who would be at a Church council now? Umm, the Pope?  Yes, and? Bishops?  Yes. The most recent council was held in Rome when I was about your age, the Second Vatican Council. Bishops came from all over the world to that council; it was very exciting even for kids.

That's it for tonight...praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and Forever!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Building the Church

 This post is linked to Sunday Snippets

Y'all remember from last week Jesus rose from the dead on...Easter Sunday, yes, and after a certain amount of time...40 days, yes again, will go to...heaven. Yes. Let's look at two more things Jesus did before He "ascended to His Father."

What did the apostles do for a living? They were apostles. I mean before they followed Jesus, what did they do? What did Peter do? He was a fisherman. Yes. They were regular guys with regular jobs, not Scripture experts like the scribes, priests, and Pharisees. So after Jesus was alive again, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Jesus had to explain to the apostles how prophecies (like all the Christmas prophecies) made by men such as Isaiah were true about Jesus.  "...he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures..." I don't think they would have figured it all out on their own.

Remember that even though the Risen Jesus was on earth between Easter and the Ascension, he wasn't here the whole 40 days, only occasionally. And He didn't give the apostles clear instructions about what they should be doing. They were at loose ends. One evening Peter was with some of the disciples. "Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." Doesn't that sound sad? "Guess I'll go fishing, go back to my old job..."

"They went out and got into the boat." How many fish do you think they caught? Not any! Yes. "...but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" Well? No! Right. "He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat..." Then what? They caught a lot! Yes! "So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish." Then they recognized Jesus- why? 'Cause they caught all the fish. Yes; it was like the first time Peter met Jesus three years before, after fishing all night and catching nothing.

After they got all the fish to shore, they had breakfast with Jesus. Remind me, on the Thursday night Jesus was arrested, what did Peter do when people recognized him as a friend of Jesus? He said he wasn't His friend. Yes, how many times? Three! Yes, which means Peter...broke...the contract! Yes: "I ain't no Rock, I'm Silly-Putty!" Poor Peter. But "When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Peter is so sorry he abandoned Jesus. How many times...three!  yes, Jesus asked Peter three times. And how many... three times!  yes, three times Peter said he loved Jesus. Which means? They have the contract again. Yes, in front of witnesses. And each time Peter said he loved Jesus, Jesus said  "Feed my lambs." So the contract is pretty specific now. Who is the Good Shepherd? Peter! Is he?, Jesus is! Yes! Is Jesus going to be around much longer? No! Where's he going? Heaven. And while Jesus will be away he...puts somebody in charge! Yes. By the way, did Jesus give all the apostles his authority to forgive sins? Yes? Yes, they were all together in one room when he breathed on them. But did Jesus tell them all to feed his lambs? No, just Peter. Yes, Peter is the #1 apostle-in-charge.

That's the end of the Gospels.

The next book in the New Testament is about the acts of the Apostles, the things they did. What's the name of this book?  The Acts of the Apostles? Yes. Whatta gimme that was. As we know from the Gospels, Jesus has resurrected, but he really belongs in...Heaven. Yes. Chapter 1 of Acts says: "So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" See, even after all this Resurrection business, the apostles are still expecting Jesus to restore the kingdom that had been built by...King David, yes, and...King Solomon. But Jesus wants them to quit obsessing about politics.  "He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit." " shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight." Bam, just like that, gone.

Imagine the apostles standing there, with their mouths open, gaping at the sky: wow...wouldja just look at that. "And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes..." who would be...angels? Yes. They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." How did Jesus go up? On a cloud. So how will he come back? On a cloud? Yes, we assume so: "in the same way."

The apostles went back to Jerusalem and waited for the Holy Spirit. In the meantime, they had a problem. How many apostles were there? Twelve? Oh. Who betrayed Jesus, a monkey? No, Judas! Yes, who was a monkey? No, an apostle! And Judas the slimy traitor was still part of the Apostle Club? No, he killed himself. Yes, so how many ap...eleven! Yes, there were only eleven apostles now. How many should there be? Twelve. So they have to...make another apostle? Yes. "Peter stood up among the brethren..." see, Peter's in charge; and he says, "May another take his office." Tell me, if my brother dies, can I get another brother? No. But if the mayor or the president dies, what then? We get another one. Yes. Being a mayor or a president makes someone an office-holder. Even if the person in the office dies, the office goes on. And Peter says being an apostle is an office, so they should get another. "So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us; one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection." They pick from the disciples who had been with Jesus the whole three years. "And they put forward two, Joseph...and Matthias. And they prayed and said, "Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship..." And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles." Casting lots is like drawing straws or rolling dice. I think the apostles weren't too sure of themselves yet to just out-and-out pick someone.

Remind me how many days it was from Easter Sunday to the Ascension. 40. Yes. So the Ascension is always on a Thursday. There's another event 10 days after the Ascension...? What's 40 plus 10? 50. Yes. What's this called [I draw a pentagon]? A pentagon. Yes; P-e-n-t-e [on the board] means...five! Yes, so the the event 50 days after Easter Sunday is...Pentecost? Yes, Pentecost Sunday, it's the birthday of the Church; like the Last Supper was the birthday of the priesthood. Let's look at Pentecost now.

"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. "Y'all have probably seen paintings of the apostles with the little birthday-candle sort of flames above their heads...I think of them as getting FIRED UP! No more "Jesus, we're too scared to stick with you; Jesus, we're too tired to watch and pray; Jesus, which one of us do you like the best; Jesus, explain that to us again; Jesus, we don't know what to do next." Instead, like John the Baptist said, they were baptized with fire and the Holy Spirit. From then on they spread the Gospel, the Good News, fearlessly; so fearlessly that they were all eventually martyred except for John.

"Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?" People can't believe these hicks from Galilee know any foreign languages. This is one of their gifts of the Holy Spirit, to spread the Good News in other languages.

The Church started in Jerusalem. Before too long there got to be so many new Christians that the apostles needed some help with the daily work of the Church, such as feeding the poor. "And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen..." and six others. "These they set before the apostles" and what did the apostles do? Lay their hands on them! Yes!  "...they prayed and laid their hands upon them." They "handed" over some of their authority to these helpers.

Now let's learn about a man who is sometimes called the 13th apostle. His name is Saul...Yes? His name got changed to...Stop! Don't give it away yet! So, there was this man named Saul. He may have been a Pharisee: knew the Scriptures up and down, back and forth, way better than the apostles did. And he knew all the rules about the Sabbath and so forth. Well, Saul didn't like this new Christ-Messiah business that the apostles wouldn't shut up about. They were aggravating scribes, Pharisees and Levites at the Temple just like Jesus used to do! So Saul had it in for the Christ-followers, the Christians: "...Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison." And if that's not bad enough, he was there when Stephen, who was just made one of the apostles' helpers, was stoned to death. The book of Acts says "And Saul was consenting to his death."

Stephen is the first of many martyrs.

Then "...Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." Saul wasn't satisfied with nailing Christians in Jerusalem; he had to go root them out in Damascus, which is still the capital of Syria, right next to Israel. "Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" So...who was it? Jesus? Yes. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus."

Some paintings of the moment that Jesus appeared to Saul in that blinding flash of light show Saul knocked off a horse he had been riding. Acts doesn't say if he was on a horse or not, but I like the idea that Jesus knocked Saul off his high horse to get his attention and teach him some humility.

After a few days, Jesus sent a disciple named Ananias to heal Saul's'd he do it? Laid hands on him! Yes. "Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened. For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, "He is the Son of God." Saul was converted to faith in Jesus in just a few days; of course having Jesus personally appear to Saul and knock him silly helped with that.

And today if someone has a rapid change of mind about something important, people will say they had a Damascus Road conversion.

Saul was such a great preacher about his new faith in Jesus that he aggravated people in Damascus; some were aggravated enough to...kill him? Yes. But his friends lowered him over the city walls in a basket, and he made it back to Jerusalem.  Saul needed some time to persuade the Christians in Jerusalem that he had had a change...of...heart! Yes, and that he could be trusted. But once the Church was satisfied, Saul and his friend Barnabas were sent out on their own:  "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off." Being "set apart" means Saul is especially dedicated to his job of evangelizing. In Saul's case being set apart meant that like Jesus, he never got married. What people are like that today? Priests? Yes, and ...nuns. Yes. Priests, nuns, and Saul all imitate...Jesus. Yes.

Now after Saul got hands laid on him and was set apart, the Bible never calls him Saul again. OK you can tell me, from now on he's called...Paul! Yes, his name was changed, like Simon's named was changed to...Peter, yes which means...rock, or...stone. Yes.

continued in the next post

Saturday, March 12, 2011

No Loitering

After Jesus was buried on Friday evening, the apostles hid out; they worried they'd wind up on crosses themselves. What happened on Saturday? Nothing? Well, Saturday was a feast day...what feast day? Easter! Easter? There's no Easter just yet; when's the first Easter? The next day. Yes, Sunday. So what's the Saturday/Sabado/Sabbath eat-the-Lamb feast? Passover! Yes [on the board]. What's the Hebrew word? No guesses? It starts with a P.  Yes, P-E-S-A-C-H, [on the board under Passover] that's ok, it's not easy to remember. So what happened on Sunday? Jesus was alive again! Yes, we call that particular Sunday...Easter Sunday. Yes. What word does Easter have in it? Umm....east? Yes, and where does the sun rise? In the East. Yes. The word Easter refers to Springtime, it's an old pagan word, but now we use it for a Christian holy day...we baptized it so it's a Christian word now. You can't baptize a word! You're right, I don't mean it literally. Hey, cómo se llama Easter en Español? What's Spanish for Easter? Pascua! Yes, P-a-s-c-u-a [on the board under Pesach]. That's how the Spanish say Pesach. In Italian they say Pasqua; in French Pâques; in Holland it's Pasen; in Danish it's Påske. Most countries say "Passover-Pesach" when we say "Easter" because the whole 4 days from the Last Supper on Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday make the Passover, the Pesach, of the New Covenant. We miss out on that in English; but we do call Jesus the Paschal Lamb, which means what? The Passover Lamb? Yes, the Lamb of the New Passover.

So when did Easter start? Sunday morning. What happened? Jesus was alive again. Yes, that's called the...Res...Resurrection! Yes. Somebody ask me how Jesus resurrected. How did He do that? I...don't...know! It's...a...miracle! Yes! Humans can't figure it out. Now, Super-duper trick question: what was the first thing Jesus did after he was buried? Walked out of the tomb? Good guess, but listen:

I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,
Creator of Heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into Hell.
On the third day, He rose again...

So before Jesus rose? He went to Hell!? Yes, but remember when Lazarus, the dog-licked-scabby-man died, he rested in the bosom of...Abraham! Yes. Was he in Heaven? No. Was he in Hell with the Devil? No. So where was he? The other place that starts with an S. Yes, S-H-E...Sheol! Yes, like Hades in Greek. English uses the word Hell for both Sheol and 'regular' Hell..

Let's look at a great picture of Jesus descending into Sheol [handout]:

This event is called the "Anastasis" in Greek. It means "standing-back-up;" just like "Resurrection" means "surging-up-again." By the way, Anastasia (ah-nah-STAH-zi-ya) is a girl's name in Russian and Greek; it comes from Anastasis. How about that name, girls? It's pretty! I think so, too. Boys? Who cares? Boys- you'll never learn. 

What would you expect a picture of the Resurrection to show? Jesus coming out of the tomb with the soldiers and all. Yes. But the Eastern Churches remember Jesus went to Sheol first, like the Creed says.

Hey, let's check out the Greek on the picture: over Christ's head is HANAcTACIC, Anastasis. To the left is IC, short for IECUC, "Jesus"; to the right, XC for...Christ! XRICTOC, yes, "Christos". Why don't the C's sound like C's?  They do, like the C in "cereal". And the X shows why we abbreviate Christmas as Xmas. Now look at Jesus; what's he up to? He's pulling those people out of Sheol. Yes, pulling them to where? Heaven? Yes. And he's yanking them out by the wrists, he's fired up! Time to get out! Now who are these people? Good people who couldn't go to Heaven? Yes, but now they can, because...Jesus died for their sins? Yes! How long have they been there? A long time? Yes, that's why Jesus is in a hurry, they don't need to be in Sheol one more second. Tell me who the first two people are that Jesus is yanking out...are they two monkeys? It's a man and a woman. Yes, and the man has the longest beard so...he's the oldest? Yes, and so...he's been there...the longest? So, who would this man and woman...Adam and Eve! be, yes Adam and Eve! They're getting out first because...they went there first. Yes. And behind Eve, who's the guy with stick who comes next? What's the stick? A shepherd thing. Yes, a crook. So he's...a shepherd. Yes, so? Who's a shepherd after Adam and Eve? Abel! Yes! And behind Adam, who are the two men with crowns? Kings? Yes..Kings Herod senior and junior? No, they were bad. So? David and Solomon? Yes, which is which? David is the older one. Yes, and his son Solomon is younger. And how about the man with the ragged hair and dull's not obvious...John the Baptist? Yes, genius! Messy hair, a long beard, and plain clothes are some of John's attributes, like Peter's keys and St. Lucy's...eyeballs! Yes!

Now I'm just guessing about the other people, but they may be Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, & Isaiah...prophets & such. Now look at the bottom, what's that busted-up stuff? Locks? Yes, why? 'Cause Jesus unlocked Sheol? Yes, and those broken doors show people can't be shut up in Sheol anymore. Can y'all see that tied-up man down there? Who might that be? A bad person who won't go to Heaven? Good guess...or maybe he represents Death, or the Devil. This painting is in a church in Istanbul, Turkey, so if you ever go there, you might go see it. Yes? We just learned about Istanbul in school! Yes? Tell us about it. There's a big church there called Hagia Sophia and it was built by Justinian. Yes, I've been to Hagia Sophia a few times, it's the best, it's incredible! Hagia Sophia means "Holy Wisdom" in Greek; Istanbul used to be a Greek city. Here's a word y'all probably know: philosopher. It's Greek for someone who "loves wisdom;" the soph- is the same in Hagia Sophia and philosopher. 

Back to the story: after Jesus "descended into Hell," then what? He rose up out of the grave. Yes, the tomb. "Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter...and the other disciple...Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb..." Why did young John let Peter go in first? 'Cause Peter was older? Yes, and because Jesus had changed Peter's name, the apostles knew Peter was #1. But John and Peter thought someone must have stolen Jesus's body: "as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead." They didn't have any idea that Jesus would come back to life. "Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb...turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus...(She supposed him to be the gardener)." Mary was so sure Jesus was dead that she didn't recognize him! "Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbi!" (which means Teacher)."  Once Jesus spoke to Mary, she knew who he was. She must've tried to hug him, because "Jesus said to her, "Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father." Don't touch me? What?

Later that evening "Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord." They probably thought she was just seeing things. "On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." Can you imagine how excited they would have been? And Jesus appeared to them in a shut room- how'd he manage that? "And...he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." Y'all remember earlier in Jesus's ministry, he stopped doing Baptisms. If you wanted to get Baptized, what would happen? One of the apostles would do it. Yes, Jesus charge! Yes, in charge of...baptisms! Yes. Well, when Jesus tells them "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven" what's he putting them in charge of now? Forgiving sins? Yes; so if we want to get our sins forgiven...we get an apostle? Yes. But they're all dead. Yes. Jesus put the apostles in charge, and they knew they'd die; so in turn, the apostles put...somebody else in charge? Yes, bishops and priests. So if you want sins go to a priest? Yes. But can't we pray to Jesus if we're sorry for our sins? Yes, we can, and do. But we're made of a...body'n'soul, yes. And which parts sin? Both parts! Yes, and for both our soul and our body to experience forgiveness, we go to Confession. We have to confess body and soul to an authorized person, like King David confessed to... Nathan! Yes!

"Now Thomas, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe." We call him Doubting Thomas. He didn't want to have faith, he wanted to...see!  Yes, people say! Yes! "Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them...he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"  How much faith did Thomas need to stick his fingers in Jesus? Well, not any. Right, and Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."  But I feel better knowing Thomas did stick his fingers in the holes.

Remind me please, on Good Friday, what happened? Jesus died on the cross. Yes, he was dead. Totally dead, not sorta dead, or nearly dead. Completely alive on Thursday; completely dead on Friday. And then on Easter he rose from the dead, much to everyone's surprise. Completely dead on Saturday; completely alive on Sunday! But the Risen Jesus, the new Jesus, wasn't like the old Jesus: chewing out Pharisees, driving out demons, knocking over tables, drawing crowds. It would've been ok to hug the old Jesus. But the Risen Lord didn't want Mary to even touch him.

On one occasion Jesus runs into two apostles on a road, the Road to Emmaus. They talk and walk with Jesus for a long time, and don't recognize him until dinnertime; as soon as they recognize him, he disappears!

Then two times the Apostles were more or less hiding in the upper room, with the door shut. Each time, Jesus appears among them without coming through the door, and apparently leaves without going through the door.

Sometimes Jesus eats; sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he doesn't want to be touched, as Mary Magdalene learned; but what did Jesus tell Thomas to do? Stick your fingers in the holes! Yes! Sometimes he's here, then vanishes, then he's somewhere else. People have no idea when or where Jesus'll be or how long he'll stay if he does. Sometimes he says important things; other times he hardly makes a peep.

Trick question: when Jesus would disappear...where'd he go? Umm, heaven? Maybe so; maybe he spent time with his momma, too. Now, remember Adam & Eve in Eden: sick? No! Old? No! Hang out with God the Father all day? Yes! What messed up this good deal? Sin! Yes. Now, before the Resurrection, could Jesus get sick? Yes! Get old? Yes! Die? Yes! Good. Trick question...was Jesus a sinner? No! So how come he could have bad stuff happen to him? No guesses? Go back to Eden: in Eden could a lamb get eaten by a lion? No! How about after Eden? Yes! Did the lamb become a sinner, and so that's why it could get eaten, get sick, and die? Ha, no, animals can't sin. So why did bad stuff happen to animals? 'Cause Adam & Eve messed everything up? Yes, the whole world suffered because of sin. So why did bad stuff happen to Jesus? Well 'cause he was in the world? Yes. Even the innocent suffer. How about after he rose again; could bad stuff still happen to Jesus? Right, why not? Well, he had risen from the dead. Yes, so? OK, if we die in a state of grace, where do we go? Heaven. Yes, our souls go to heaven; our bodies go...into the ground! Yes. When Jesus died on the cross, where'd his soul go? Heaven? Yes, he opened heaven. But Jesus' soul couldn't just stay in heaven while his body decomposed in the tomb. Why not? Umm, he had to show people he was God? Yes. When Jesus rose physically, he showed that all that stuff he'd been saying for the last 3 years was true; that he had conquered sin body'n'soul. But his new, glorified body was different...y'all guessed right that he couldn't get sick, grow old or any of that. Who does that sound like: no sickness, no growing old, no death...? Adam and Eve? Yes, in Eden. So Jesus' risen body is free from the bad things that come from sin. But even though he's risen, he still appears in the sinful world. If your body'n'soul is free from sin, where should you be? Heaven? Yes, and that's where Jesus wants to be, just like we would, but he has to tie up some loose ends. He appears to a few people (especially Thomas) so they can be sure he really rose from the dead; he eats a little food so they see he's not a ghost; Jesus shows the Apostles how the Old Testament is full of prophecies about himself; and he gives them an extra dose of the Holy Spirit so they can forgive sins. But Jesus doesn't stick around more than necessary. Living in the sinful, fallen world just isn't comfortable if you should be in heaven; it's not normal. Jesus doesn't want to get very involved in the world like he used to, it's not his home anymore. He just lingers a bit here and there....he's disengaged, that's a good word for y'all to learn. Remember Jesus told Mary Magdalene right after he'd risen, "don't touch me, I haven't yet ascended to the Father." He wasn't used to his glorified body yet, and didn't want to be touched by the sinful world; he just wanted to be in heaven. Later on, he did let Thomas touch him, but I imagine Jesus had to prepare himself for that. So during the forty days after Easter, most of the time he must've been in heaven, because he visits Earth only a few times, and never for more than an hour or two. Jesus exists between heaven and earth, he appears and disappears, but he's not a ghost. Remind me about 'forty days,' please. It means a long time. Yes, a long time of what? Preparation! Yes. So this 40 days is about Jesus preparing to do what? Umm, stay in heaven? Yes, where he belongs.

In next week's class Jesus will go to Heaven; and the apostles will get fired-up about their new job: setting up the Church.

Class over!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Prodigal Thief

 Continued from the prior class.

So after the Last Supper, where did everyone go? To the Garden. Yes, the Garden of...G-E-S-T-H Gesthemane! Yes. And what did Jesus do? He prayed. And what did Jesus ask the Apostles do? To pray too. Yes, to watch and pray. And what did Jesus pray for? He didn't want to die. Yes. "He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will." And what was God's answer to this prayer? No? Right; God said No. I remind myself when I pray for something that if God could tell Jesus No, he can tell me No.

Then Jesus went to check on the apostles; guess what they were doing. Sleeping? Yes! "...he said to Peter, "So, could you not watch with me one hour?"  Then he went to pray some more; "again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy." Guess how many times he found them sleeping? 3 times!  Yes! Tell me, doing or saying something 3 times makes or breaks a...contract! Yes! So the apostles showed they'd rather snooze than pray with Jesus. Does anyone know what Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is? No? Who knows what this gold thing is [I draw a monstrance]...yes? It's what they put Communion in. Yes, it's called a monstrance; not like monster, but like demonstrate. It means to show. This center part is glass so it shows Jesus in the Eucharist. Some parishes have what's called an Adoration chapel; usually about the size of a dining room. It's open 24 hours a day, and has a monstrance placed on a little altar. People sign up for an hour at a time to watch and pray in these chapels with Jesus, partly because the apostles were too sleepy on that Thursday night. If anyone in your family does Adoration, you might go with them sometime; it's very peaceful, and the hour passes quicker than you might think. You can help make up for the snoozing apostles.

Right after Jesus found them sleeping for the third time, he was arrested and taken to the chief priests of the Temple, who wanted the Romans to get rid of Jesus. The High Priest said "tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Remind me, Christ is Greek for...Messiah! Yes, the Anointed One. "Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Jesus is quoting Daniel again about himself: sitting beside God the Father, coming down from heaven. It's like Jesus saying he's God. The high priest goes nuts! "Then the high priest tore his robes, and said, "He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?" They answered, "He deserves death."

So they took him to the Roman governor...P-O-N- Pontius Pilate, yes. But Pilate didn't think Jesus was a threat to Rome. He sent Jesus to King Herod, the son of the King Herod who killed all the babies when Jesus was born.  Herod was the King of Judea, the King of the Jews, but he was outranked by Pilate. Herod didn't have a problem with Jesus either, and sent him back to Pilate. Pilate was ready to release Jesus, but the priests said no. What did Pilate do to Jesus, hoping the priests would feel sorry for him and agree that he could be let go? He whipped him! Yes. But what did the priests and the crowd yell for to happen to Jesus? Crucify him! Yes. Now what day is this? Thursday? That was the night before. Friday? Yes, and the next day is...Saturday. In Hebrew please...the Sabbath. And this is a special Sabbath...the Lamb business...Passover!  Yes! "Now at the [Passover] feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted.  And they had then a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas." What's notorious? Bad?  Yes...famously bad. "So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you, Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?" For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up." What's envy mean? Jealous? Yes. The priests were jealous that people followed Jesus, and thought he was the Messiah; and that he knew the Scriptures better than they did; and that he seemed righteous when he knocked over the tables earlier in the week. Jesus aggravated them and they were fed up. But Pilate didn't want to do what was right, which would have let Jesus go! Yes. He wanted to do what was convenient. So he let the crowd choose between Jesus and Barabbas and they chose...Barabbas! Yes. And what did Pilate do to show it wasn't his problem? He washed his hands? Yes. He wanted to show that his hands were clean of this dirty business; he said, "I am innocent of this righteous man's blood;" but he was the person in charge, not the crowd; he wasn't innocent.

Now when Jesus was arrested on Thursday night, what did the apostles do? Run away! Yes, they were all scared. Later that night some people recognized Peter as a friend of Jesus. What did Peter say? He wasn't Jesus's friend. many times did he say that? Three times!  Yes, so he's breaking...a contract!  Yes...what contract? Umm, to be Jesus's friend?  Yes, to be his disciple, his follower; Peter had told Jesus at the Last Supper he'd stick with him and even die for him. But Peter, whose name means...Rock, yes, ran off and even told people he didn't know who Jesus was. Some Rock.

About noon on Friday the Roman soldiers took Jesus up to a hill called Golgotha to be crucified between two thieves. While he was hanging there people made fun of him: "Hey Jesus, if you're the Messiah, why don't you get yourself offa that cross; why don't you get Elijah to come save you? Huh? Huh? C'mon Son of God, get down off the cross and we'll believe in ya!" Just terrible how mean people were to him. Jesus was treated like the Suffering Servant that Isaiah had prophesied. And "One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "...this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." The second man is called the Good Thief...why? 'Cause he told Jesus he was sorry? Yes, genius! He repented of his sins and had a...change...of heart! Yes! "And [Jesus] said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." I like to imagine the Good Thief and Jesus on their crosses: hot, sweaty, thirsty, dirty, bloody, big nails hammered into them, flies buzzing around their heads. And how happy they would both be: the Good Thief repents, and Jesus forgives him. I bet for a few minutes they were as happy as the Prodigal Son and his Daddy.

Then Jesus saw his mother Mary with the youngest apostle, John. John was pretty brave to be with Jesus; he was the only apostle there. Because Jesus didn't have any brothers or sisters, who would take care of his mom when he died? Didn't he get John to do it? Yes, what did Jesus say? Umm...behold your mother? Yes, and to Mary he said...behold your son? Yes, good. Then Jesus said he was thirsty...tell me. They gave him some wine in a sponge? Yes, how'd they get it up to his mouth? On a spear? Close, but no. A stick? Yes.

At about 3 o'clock Jesus died. "Since it was the day of Preparation, in order to prevent the bodies from remaining on the cross on the sabbath (for that sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away." If tomorrow is the Passover feast what's being prepared today? The food? Yes which includes...lambs? Yes, so what's the first step with the lambs? To cook them! Before that. To kill them? Yes. And John the Baptist called Jesus...the Lamb of God, yes and at the same time that the Old Covenant lambs are being killed, the New Covenant being killed too! Yes. And when Jewish people had an Old Covenant priest kill and offer up a lamb for their sins, what would happen? They'd be forgiven? Yes; sacrificing the lamb atones for the sins. And how about when the New Covenant Lamb was sacrificed on the cross? Our sins are forgiven? Almost; the sins are atoned for. We still have to ask for forgiveness, though. Trick question: who offers sacrifices for sinners? Priests. Yes; trickier question: who offered up the New Covenant Lamb? Well, the Romans killed him. Yes, but as Jesus said, they didn't know what they were doing; when was Jesus's body and blood offered to God, not killed? Umm, at the Last Supper? Yes. So who was the priest? Jesus? Yes. But how can he do that? Do what? Be the priest if he gets killed. Well, what we understand is that Jesus is the priest and the victim. That way we have a perfect priest and and a perfect victim to atone for all sins forever. But they're the same person. It's different from sacrificing an animal.

Back to the story: the Jews don't want these crucified guys "hanging around" on Passover, it's not dignified. They ask the Romans to break their legs so they'll hurry up and die before Passover starts. "So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him; but when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs." I think the soldiers beat the thieves' shinbones like you'd hit a baseball with a bat, just as hard as you can until they were broken like toothpicks. Ewww, gross! No kidding. But Jesus looked dead so they didn't break his legs. That way he'd be a perfect lamb; God wouldn't accept lambs that were sick, mangy or had broken legs. Then what did a soldier do to be sure Jesus was dead? Stick a spear in him?  Yes; and what came out? Blood and water!  Yes, genius, you remembered the water. Does anyone remember what Moses and Levite priests used to sprinkle blood and water on people? It was a bunch of sticks. Yes, remember what kind of sticks? H-Y-S- Hyssop!  Yes. John's gospel says a hyssop stick was used to raise the wine-soaked sponge up to Jesus's mouth. So there's hyssop, blood and water when Jesus is sacrificed. That's like those Old Testament rituals when a priest would kill a bird over a pot of water, and use hyssop to sprinkle that mixture on people or homes, like so: "take the...hyssop...along with the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the bird that was killed and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times." John's Gospel is careful to show these same things at the crucifixion so people will know Jesus's sacrifice connects to the old way of sacrificing. Trick question: how do we get sprinkled with the blood of the New Covenant Lamb? When do get sprinkled with anything? At Mass we get sprinkled sometimes. Yes. Any other time water gets on us? At baptism?  Yes. In both those cases we're sprinkled with water, but the blood is included in the water because...what came out of Jesus? Blood and water! Yes. So if we're sprinkled with the water, it includes...the blood. Yes; the blood of the...Lamb! Yes.

Later on Friday Jesus was taken down and placed in a tomb: "After this Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus...asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away his body. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there."

Class continues in the next post.