Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Sword of February

Happy Valentine's Day!

"Hey it's February. I notice there's more daylight now when y'all get dropped off, why is that? The days are getting longer? Yes, the Sun is up more. It'll be Spring soon, and the days...lengthen [on the board]. English-speakers once called this time of the year the "lengthen season." Now watch the Magic Finger (I erase letters in lengthen so it says len-t-en); what does the Church call this season? Umm...Lent? Yes, why? Because the days lengthen! Yes, so Lent is short for...Lenten, yes, which is short for...lengthen! Yes. Y'all are too smart. Sometimes we say Lent, sometimes we say Lenten season. ¿Quién aquí habla Español? Me! Honorary son, what's Spanish for Lent? Cuaresma [on the board]. How many days is Lent, Cuaresma? Forty. How do you know? Because cuaresma is like the word for forty. Which is? Cuarenta [on the board]. Yes; y'all can see how Spanish tells us Lent is 40 days long. Class, what's up with 40; why not 38 days, or 43 days? Because Jesus was in the desert for 40 days! Yes, and the Israelites...were in the desert for 40 years! Yes, good. Forty is an important number in the Bible; there are more 40s in the Bible than we have time for. Now, if you're in the desert like Jesus or the Israelites, are you having fun? I don't think so. Right, being in the desert involves discomfort, suffering.

In most cases the number 40 signifies a time of penance and preparation. So what are we preparing for during Lent? Easter! Yes. What word does Easter have in it? Umm....east? Yes, and where does the sun rise? In the East. Yes. Like Lent, the word Easter also 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. But the Church can give old pagan things a new Christian significance. Lent a fun time? No you're supposed to give stuff up. Yes, such as? Candy! TV! Fighting with my sister! Saying mean stuff! Yes, we deny ourselves those things in imitation of Jesus. What's something the Church wants us to not eat during Lent? Meat! Yes, let's look at meat for a minute.

When Adam & Eve were in Eden, could bad stuff happen? No!  How about the animals in Eden: would a lion eat a lamb? No!  Right again...and what was was the only stuff that could be eaten in Eden? They didn't need to eat!  Well, that's a good guess; listen to this bit from Genesis & try again: "God said, Behold, I have given you every plant-yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for meat."  Plants! They could only eat plants and apples 'n' stuff. Yes, but how about the animals? Listen again: "And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for meat." Animals had to eat plants too?  Yes. There was no eating each other in Eden; just good things could happen: 24/7 pizza buffet, no going to bed early, beer for the grownups....anyway, life was perfect just being with God in Eden. But then Adam & Eve ate the apple and were thrown out of Eden.

Many generations later there was a guy with a boat. Noah! Yes, tell it. He put all the animals in the Ark and after the flood they all got back out and were ok. long did it rain? 40 days! Yes smarties, another 40! And after the Flood, God told Noah, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." That's nice, that's also what God told...Adam and Eve! Yes. But then God says, "The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be meat for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything."  Sounds awful doesn't it? All the animals will be in fear of Noah. Why? Because Noah can eat them now? Yes, he and his descendants can now kill and eat animals. Why's that ok? Because they haven't planted any food yet? Well, maybe. Tell me this: why is it that there are any animals at all, that they all didn't drown? Because Noah put them in the Ark!  Yes, they didn't do anything themselves, it was all Noah's work. So if not for Noah, they'd all be...dead!  Yes. So the animals owe Noah...what do they owe him? Their lives?  Yes, so God is acknowledging that since the animals and all their descendants owe Noah their lives, God won't forbid people from killing and eating them. Now just because God no longer forbids eating animals, does that mean he approves of it? No. Right. So apparently God tolerates some things after the Fall that would never have been acceptable in the Garden; which is hardly the same as saying they are good, or blessed. God didn't say, "Kill and eat a bunch of animals, Noah and I'll bless you extra!" But sin has made the world a mean and scary place.

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

So tell me: is it better to be in Eden or in the world of sin? Eden!  Yes, where nobody would kill or eat animals; and so they weren't afraid of people. Well, during Lent, the Church encourages us to think about living as though we were in Eden, at least as far as animals are concerned. I like eating meat, but I admit that if I have a hamburger, someone killed a cow. In fact my eldest son has been a vegetarian for years because of this, and he's perfectly healthy eating veggies. I admire that, even if I don't follow his example. Yes? What are you giving up? Well, I don't know yet; usually we do extra things during Lent instead of giving things up: go to Vespers and Stations of the Cross; go to confession, that sort of thing. But I tell you what, we gave up watching TV for Lent more than 15 years ago, and still don't watch it. Really? Yep. You won't watch the Super Bowl? Nope. Look, I thought I was gonna die the first week or so without TV, but we got used to it, and we like the house being quiet. What about your kids? They're fine with it too- and we can watch DVDs if we want to. I think part of the point of giving something up is that you find out you don't really need it or want it as much as you thought.

Hey, besides Lent, what else happens in February? No guesses? Let me ask the girls in particular: daughters, what special day comes in February? Valentine's day! Yes, Saint Valentine's feast day on the 14th. It's Catholic. You boys ever heard of Valentine's Day? Yes. Isn't it exciting? No. Uh-huh; you'll change that tune soon enough. No we won't! Uh-huh. So what happens on Valentine's? People get candy and cards and stuff. Yes, it's very romantic, right boys? Boys...?

Speaking of Valentine's Day, tell me about those fat winged babies [I draw] on the cards. Aren't they angels? Sort of. How about the one with the arrows? He's Cupid! Yes who is a...Roman god! Yes, make-believe, of course. You might say he's been baptized into Valentine's Day. The proper word for those flying chubbies is "putti." Pooty!? Ha, pooty! Not pooty: put-ti, it's Italian. But no American wants to think, "hey, look at the pooty all over that Valentine's day card." So we use another word....anyone know it? No? That's ok.

 Happy Valentine's Day!

Who knows what a cherub is? They’re the little baby Valentine angels! Yes, you got it, they’re cuddly and silly. But a real cherub is not cuddly and silly. Somebody tell me about Adam & Eve after the apple. God made them leave Eden! Yes. Genesis says, “He drove out the man; and at the east of the Garden of Eden he placed the cherub[im], with a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” What language do you suppose "cherub" is if I’m reading from Genesis? Umm…Hebrew? Yes, genius! In Hebrew it’s spelled like this [on the board]: K-E-R-U-B, kerub. Kerub means “near one,” an angel who is close to God. When the President goes out in public there are usually some tough guys who stay near him all the time, why’s that? They keep people from bothering him. Yes, what do you call those guys? Bodyguards? Yes. The kerubs, the cherubim, are like God’s bodyguards, and they are as serious as cancer. On Valentine's Day I'm my wife's Kerub-with-a-K. Don' make me git my flamin' sword out! Keep away! Hey, did y'all know we have two kerubs in our church? We do? Where? Mmm, I’m not telling tonight, but we’ll find out later this year.

In the meantime keep your eyes open in church. If you find 'em on your own, tell us.

Class over!