Monday, July 26, 2010

Paying Attention

The art of paying attention: Debra Dean Murphy writes a short note about paying attention to books (Tinkers, which sounds interesting), movies (Inception, which we liked), and how it applies to liturgy.  This also applies in spades to bible study, of course.  We've been talking a lot about that following a reading of Under the Unpredictable Plant and Eugene Peterson's description of ministry.  Turns out it involves paying attention - to people!

Go figure.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Big Ten

Well, almost nothing.  Found a great resource on the Ten Commandments from the Jewish perspective.  Check out Hebrew For Christians.  It was invaluable when I was carving (painting) my stone (styrofoam) tablets.  Worth brosing the rest of the site, too.

Also, if you're investigating the different ways Christians parse them, try Wikipedia.  The article both sort out the Exodus vs Deuteronomy revelations, and the Jewish vs Anglican vs Catholic/Lutheran break up.  One of the odd situations where there is a differance and the Lutherans agree with the Catholics instead of the Anglicans.  Commandments 1 & 2 and 9 & 10 are the sticking points.

One of the misconceptions I've dealt with this time through Exodus is that the Ark held the broken fragments of the first set of tablets.  It may have, but Moses also got a second set on the occasion that the Lord passed by him in the cleft in the rocks. 

Cartoon from the often funny

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Study for the Story

Moses – Overview Study

For VBS this year we’re trying to tell the whole story of Moses.  In three 20 minute stories.  The goals for the kids are to hear the story, think about it vividly using their imagination, connect it to their relationship with God, and to put it in context with the Bible.  It’s okay if it doesn’t all happen here as these are mostly process goals we’re practicing.  Here is the story version of these bible passages.

For today, let’s look at the story and think about questions that arise for ourselves.  We can talk about the questions here or pose your own, or think of what questions the kids will have.

Day 1:  Moses is born, spared, raised as a prince, exiled, finds a family and then meets God.
Moral: we often don’t feel we can do what God calls us to.  He’ll help!
•    What connections do you see between Joseph’s story and Moses’?
•    How did Moses’ time as a Prince prepare him for what was to come?  Is it important that he was slated for death?
•    Moses doesn’t seem to have any trouble believing the voice from the bush is God.  Why is he so hesitant to go on God’s mission?

Day 2:  Moses returns to Egypt, with Aaron engages with Pharaoh, brings the plagues, including the first Passover, leads the people out and God destroys the Egyptian army.
Moral:  God has saved us.
•    What do you think about the idea of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart?
•    Why is it so hard for Pharaoh to let the Israelites go?  Can you relate to that?
•    Why so many plagues?  What can we learn from them?

Day 3: Moses receives the law, struggles with the Israelites, struggles with his own faith, learns to walk with God, and sees the people ready for the Promised Land.
Moral:  even if you screw up, stay in relationship with God.
•    Does God change his mind?  How do you think of passages like Moses pleading for the Israelites?
•    Why was it so hard for the Israelites to follow God, even with visual and visceral daily reminders of the Lord’s presence?
•    How do you separate forgiveness and consequences?  God repeatedly forgives the Israelites, but assigns consequences regardless.  Why?  How does it help the people?

What’s one thing from this story that you want to spend more time thinking about?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Moses in Three Days

Intro: Timeline -  have pictures representing Eden/creation, Abraham (2000 BC), Joseph(1800 BC), Jesus (0), middle ages (1000 AD), modern day (2000 AD).  Optional- David, Esther or Daniel.  Sort them out on a timeline, and then show something that represents Moses, and talk about him coming after Joseph.  If they don’t know about Joseph, you might want to remind/share that he came to Egypt as a slave, was made a prince, and saved the whole country and his whole family from a terrible drought.

Focus for all three days:  connections (text-self and text-scripture, especially Jesus) and imagining with 5 senses.

Day 1 (Exodus 1-4) About 1400 BC. 
Moral:  we often don’t feel we can do what God calls us to.  He’ll help!

70 men came with Jacob to live with Joseph.  They lived there for more than 400 years and became more than a million people.  They divided themselves into tribes by which of Joseph’s brothers they had as an ancestor, and called themselves Israelites after Jacob’s nickname Israel.  The later pharaohs did not remember how Joseph had saved all of Egypt, did not like the Hebrews, and made them slaves.  The Pharaoh in our story was worried that there were too many Israelites and ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all the boy babies!  But the midwives refused.  So Pharaoh told the Egyptians to kill all the boy babies that were born by drowning them.  When one beautiful baby boy was born his mother hid him for three months, but then couldn’t any more.  So she made a basket into a mini-boat and put him into the Nile River, which has crocodiles and hippos!

The baby’s older sister Miriam watched what happened, and saw Pharaoh’s daughter, a princess of Egypt, find him.  She immediately went to the princess and asked if the princess needed a nurse for the baby.  Miriam then went and got her mother, the baby’s own mother, for the job of nurse!  The princess named him Moses, which means “pulled-out.”

Years passed and Moses grew up as an Egyptian prince, but at some point learned he was a Hebrew by birth.  One day, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew and Moses killed the Egyptian!  He buried the body to hide what he did.  The next day he saw two Hebrews fighting and tried to stop them.  “What are you going to do, kill us, too?” they asked.  Moses was scared that people knew of his crime.  In fact, Pharaoh found out and ordered Moses to be killed, which caused him to flee out into the desert to a land called Midian.  The people who lived in Midian were also Abraham’s descendants, but not through Isaac, like Jacob, Joseph and the Israelites.

In the desert at a well, Moses saved some girls from shepherds, who had chased the girls away from the well.  The girls’ father, Jethro, accepted Moses into their tribe, and later married his daughter Zipporah to him.  Moses became a shepherd, and he and Zipporah had a son named Gershom, whose name refers to being an alien in this land, and more children after that.  Jethro was a priest of God, and we think that’s where Moses found out about the Lord.

One day when Moses was tending the sheep, he came to Mount Horeb, also called Mount Sinai.  There he saw a bush on fire that was not burning up.  That made Moses very curious.   When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”  And Moses said, “Here I am.”  God warned him, “Do not come any closer.  Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.  I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.  I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt and heard them crying out.  So I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and bring them into a good and spacious land flowing with milk and honey. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you:  when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” 

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am.  Say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”   Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’  But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him.”

Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” The Lord said, “Throw your staff on the ground.”  Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.  Then the Lord said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was diseased and white.  He put it back in his cloak and took it out and it was healthy again. Then the Lord said, “If they do not believe these two signs, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground and it will become blood on the ground.”

Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent. I am slow of speech and tongue.”  The Lord said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”  But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”  Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you.  You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.  He will speak to the people for you.  But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.”

So Moses went to Jethro and asked for permission to return to Egypt, and Jethro said yes.  So Moses gathered his wife and sons, Gershom and Eliezer (“God is my helper”) on a donkey and headed to Egypt.  The Lord had told Moses that all the people who wanted Moses dead were dead.  He also told Moses to do the signs he had been given for Pharaoh, but that God would harden his heart so that he would not let the Israelites go.  The Lord had Aaron, Moses’ older brother, come meet Moses and take him to the leaders of the Israelites.  They believed Moses and the signs, and worshipped the Lord for hearing their cries. 

Day 2 Exodus 4-14  
Moral:  God has saved us.

After talking to the Israelite leaders, Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and told him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert.’ ”  Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”  Moses and Aaron said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.”  But the king of Egypt said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!”

That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers:  “Make the work so hard that they will pay no attention to lies.”  The Israelite leaders complained about this to Moses and Aaron.  Moses asked God about it, and God said that He will set the people free, and to tell the Israelites that the Lord will them to the Promised Land.  But the Israelites were too discouraged to listen.  Moses again complained that he didn’t speak well enough to address Pharaoh, and the Lord reminded him that this is why He called Aaron.

Since Pharaoh refused, as God had warned, it was time for the plagues.  The Lord told Aaron and Moses to warn Pharaoh that God would turn the river Nile to blood.  Pharaoh wouldn’t listen, so it was done.  When Aaron stretched out his staff, even the stored water in jars turned to blood.  All the fish in the river died, it stank, and the people had to dig wells for water.  The Pharaoh’s magicians did a trick that had a similar effect, and that convinced Pharaoh to ignore Moses and Aaron.

A week later, Moses and Aaron told Pharaoh that they would fill the Nile and Egypt with frogs.  Aaron stretched out his staff and the frogs came.  The magicians did a frog trick, but this time Pharaoh said, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.”  So Moses asked the Lord for relief, and the frogs in the houses died.  After Pharaoh saw this relief, he changed his mind from yes to “No!” 

So the Lord told Moses to have Aaron strike the dust with his staff, and the dust turned into gnats that covered the animals and the people.  Even the magicians said that they couldn’t do this - that it must be God.  But Pharaoh wouldn’t listen.  The Lord told Moses to go back early the next day, and to warn Pharaoh that the next plague would be flies.  But just on Egyptians, not where the Israelites lived.  The flies started the next day.  Pharaoh said the Israelites can pray, but they should pray there in Egypt.  Moses told him that God had asked them to go three days out into the desert to pray.  After a day of the awful flies, Pharaoh said they could go pray and worship the Lord, so Moses said the flies would be gone by tomorrow.  The next day, every single fly was gone, but then Pharaoh hardened his heart, again.

The next plague was livestock - all the Egyptian farm animals would die.  Did it happen?  (Yes!)  Did Pharaoh change his mind? (No!)  The next plague was boils - big sores all over the Egyptian’s bodies.  Did it happen?  (Yes!)  Did Pharaoh change his mind? (No!)  The next plague was hail - the worst hail that Egypt had ever seen.  Did it happen?  (Yes!)  Did Pharaoh change his mind? (No!)  But yes! Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong.  Pray to the Lord, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.”  But after Moses prayed to stop the hail, Pharaoh changed his mind, again.

The next plague was locusts.  Pharaoh was afraid, and said the Israelites could go - but just the men.  So the Lord told Moses to stretch out his staff.  Did the locusts come?  (Yes!)  Did Pharaoh change his mind? Yes!  But after Moses prayed to God and He sent all the locusts into the sea, Pharaoh hardened his heart, again.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” So Moses did and total darkness covered all Egypt, except the Israelites, for three days.  No one could see anyone else or leave their house for three days.  Then Pharaoh said, “Go, worship the Lord. Even your women and children… but not your animals.”  Moses said they needed the animals, and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh said to Moses, “Get out of my sight! Make sure I never see you again, because the next time I see you, you will die.” Moses replied, “I will never see you again.”  But the Lord gave Moses a last warning for Pharaoh: “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go.  Tell the people to ask their neighbors for silver and gold.  About midnight I will go throughout Egypt.  Every firstborn son in Egypt will die.  There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt – worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.”  Moses gave Pharaoh this message, then, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.

The Lord told Moses that Pharaoh would let them go after this, and would even chase them out.  He gave Moses instructions for this crucial night.  The Israelites were to make a special meal of lamb, and smear the lamb’s blood on their door post.  The Angel of the Lord came that night, and passed over the doors with lamb’s blood, so that this holy day is called the Passover.  Still today Jews celebrate this feast in the same way Moses did.  But in each Egyptian house, the firstborn sons of the humans and animals died.  Even in Pharaoh’s house.  Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and told them to go, take everyone, take everything, and leave.

God told Moses the way to go, gave them a pillar of cloud to follow, and even told them where to camp on the edge of the Red Sea.  Pharaoh changed his mind (again!) and set out with his army to kill all the Israelites.  As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord.  They complained to Moses, “Were there no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?  It would have been better for us to keep being slaves than to die out here!”  Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see how the Lord will save you.”  The Lord gave Moses the plan, “Tell the Israelites to move on.  Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.” The pillar of cloud moved between them and the army of Egypt to hold the army back.  Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

When the cloud moved, the Egyptians pursued the Israelites. Pharaoh ordered all of his horses and chariots to follow them into the sea.  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the waters may flow back.”  Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were swept into the sea and not one of them survived.  That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians.  And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Day 3 Exodus 15-40, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
Moral:  even if you screw up, stay in relationship with God.

After crossing the Red Sea and the Lord’s destruction of the Egyptian army, the Israelites celebrated and praised the Lord.  Then they marched into the desert.  Three days in they found water, but it was bitter, and they started grumbling to Moses again.  The Lord told Moses to throw a piece of wood into the water to turn it sweet.

After 40 more days they were grumbling again.  “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve us to death.”  Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.”  Moses had Aaron tell the people.  While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.  The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” That evening, quail came and covered the camp.  In the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said “manna?” to each other, which means “What is it?”  Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.  The Lord has commanded: gather just as much as you need, and do not try to keep it overnight.”  He told them to take about a half-gallon per person. However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.  The Lord fed the Israelites manna and quail for their whole time in the wilderness.

Later the Israelites grew thirsty again, and again complained.  Moses urged them to trust the Lord, but still they complained.  The Lord told Moses to use his staff to bring water from a rock by striking it.  The Lord also helped them win a battle by having Moses hold the staff over the Israelite army, which was led by Joshua.

Moses had sent his wife and sons back to Jethro, his father-in-law, and they told him about the exodus from Egypt.  He was amazed at what the Lord had done, and went to see Moses and to bring back Zipporah and the boys.  They praised and worshipped the Lord together.  But Jethro saw that Moses was being the judge, settling all arguments, for all of the many Israelites.  He told him to appoint people, if God approved, to take over that job.  From then on, Moses only had to hear the most difficult cases. 

Finally after three months, they reached Mt Sinai, also called Mt Horeb.  The Lord told Moses to climb the mountain, where He would appear in a cloud and speak to Moses.  Moses brought Aaron with him, and then the Lord told Moses the law that we now call the Ten Commandments.  He described how the Israelites should worship, and gave them rules to make their life better and safer.  He told Moses he would send angels to show them the way and prepare the land.  He told Moses to go back and get the elders to worship from afar.  Moses told all this to the Israelites, wrote down everything that the Lord had said, and went back with the elders to the mountain. 

The Lord called him up to the mountain again for a week, and this time he took Joshua with him.  On the 7th day Moses was called into the cloud, where he then stayed for 40 days.  During this time, God gave Moses two tablets with the God’s own writing.  He also told Moses directions for a chest, called the Ark of the Covenant, to hold the tablets, and a tent to be their temple, called the Tabernacle, where the Lord would dwell. The Lord set Aaron and his family to be the priests for the Tabernacle. Aaron’s descendants became the priests of Israel even up until Jesus’ day.
But while they were waiting for Moses, the Israelites became impatient.  The people asked Aaron to make them idols to worship.  And he did!  They made a golden calf, and worshipped it as if it was God.  When the Lord told Moses what the people were doing, God said He would just wipe them out, and then start over with Moses, like Abraham.  Moses plead for the Israelites and went down to correct them.  He was so mad when he saw the Israelites out of control that he smashed God’s tablets.  He destroyed the calf statue, ground it up, put it in water and made the Israelites drink it.  He called for the people who were loyal to the Lord, and sent them like an army to kill the people who were not sorry.  Then Moses went back to the Lord and begged for mercy for the people.  God agreed to lead the people to the promised land. The Israelites built the Tabernacle by God’s instructions, and God would dwell there as a cloud.  When the cloud lifted and moved, the Israelites packed up and followed it.

During the journey, there’s two different ways that Moses met with the Lord.  In a meeting tent, the Bible says that they often sat and talked face to face, like two men.  But one time, Moses asked to see the Lord’s full glory.  The Lord said it would destroy Moses to see God’s true face.  So He told Moses to hide amongst the rocks, and cover his face, and then the Lord would pass by.  The Lord gave Moses two new tablets with the Law, then passed by him in the rocks.  When Moses went back to the people his face glowed so brightly from being that close to the Lord that the people were frightened.  So Moses put on a veil until the glow dimmed.  This agreement between God and the Israelites is called the Covenant of the Law. 

About a year after receiving the Covenant of the Law, they reached the promised land, also called Canaan. Moses sent 12 scouts into the land, one from each of the tribes.  When they came back from 40 days of exploring, they reported to Moses.  Caleb and Joshua said, “let’s go!”  but the others were afraid.  They spread rumors about how terrible the land was and that there were armies of giants.  The Israelites freaked out, and refused to believe God and go into the promised land.  God again was tempted to wipe them out, but again Moses plead for them again.  God forgave them again, but said they must wait one year for each day the scouts spent - 40 years - and no one who disobeyed the Lord would be allowed to enter the promised land.  This was almost everyone, except Caleb, Joshua, Aaron and Moses.  The Israelites weren’t happy with this, and tried to go in on their own, but they were badly defeated by the armies that lived there.  (Numbers 13, 14)

But sadly, during those 40 years of wandering, even Moses had a problem.  The people were grumbling again about water, and the Lord told Aaron and Moses to go to a rock again, call forth water, and strike it with the staff.  But when they did, the water did not immediately rush out, so they struck it with the staff again. God knew this was from a lack of faith, and told Moses that even he wouldn’t enter the promised land.  Another time the Israelites began to complain and the Lord sent poisonous snakes among them.  But Moses prayed, and the Lord said if he would make a snake to hold up on his staff, all who looked on it would be healed of the poison.  So Moses made a bronze snake and lifted it up, and the people were cured. (Numbers 20, 21)

For the rest of the 40 years, the people lived in the desert.  Sometimes staying in one place for a while, sometimes traveling each day following God’s presence in the cloud.  Manna in the morning and quail at night.  When the forty years were done, the Lord called Moses up to a mountain near Canaan.  There God showed him all of the promised land, and Moses finally died.  The Bible records him being 120 years old.  Then Joshua led the people into the promised land - and they followed him!  But how will they get past Jericho?  That’s the beginning of another story. (Deuteronomy 33, 34)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Nice Motivation

There's a nice post at a site called Challie's about why to read the bible daily:
On Personal Study.

Coming soon here: more Moses!  (Prepping for VBS.)