Saturday, February 28, 2009

No lesson last week

The children enjoyed the colorful pictures from Hogwarts - but I think the project is going to be much too difficult for most of them - so I am unsure how to proceed.

I will talk to them about it - and see where it goes. I just finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It too is way over the heads of the age group I am working with. The enemy within - the pairing of good and evil - the difficulty of appearances - the allusions to Job~! All these are too much - too abstract. Animals in the Bible they might cope with. But badger - so loved in the King James Version has become dolphin or sealskin in the current versions - that's a stretch! Was the tabernacle covered by the skins of an unclean animal?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The direction to Easter

We are going to do a project that I think will catch the children's interest. See if you can figure it out. It involves these verses - related to Lion, Raven, Serpent, and Badger.

עַל־שַׁחַל וָפֶתֶן תִּדְרֹךְ תִּרְמֹס כְּפִיר וְתַנִּֽין

נֹותֵן לִבְהֵמָה לַחְמָהּ לִבְנֵי עֹרֵב אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָֽאוּ

וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים

וְעָשִׂיתָ מִכְסֶה לָאֹהֶל עֹרֹת אֵילִם מְאָדָּמִים וּמִכְסֵה עֹרֹת תְּחָשִׁים מִלְמָֽעְלָה

I will give the children a very big clue: here

I am not sure yet where we are going - but I think they will learn a few words of Hebrew for they will need them in clues for an as yet to be defined Easter exercise.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bread, rule, and thanksgiving - after the first lesson

Generally, the class went very well from my point of view. We began with the planned Hebrew lesson on מָשָׁל (mashal) and we had much more time so I got the children to find the letters in the blocks and help figure out how to pronounce the word. They successfully matched the letters and sounded out a pronunciation. We finished with a children's version of Psalm 47 where I encouraged them all to stand up and jump and clap their hands.

Then we did the parable of the leaven as planned - I think I got most of the necessary bits in the right order. I started I think with the woman then the leaven. If I were to show the props in the word order of the Greek, I would start with the leaven. Our understanding of the kingdom of God arose naturally from Psalm 47 which is all about the king and trumpets and shouting. By beginning with the psalms, both the idea of parable and kingdom in the words of Jesus form in the mind out of the Jewish tradition.

In the response period, two of the boys hammered away at wood - and neither of them struck a finger. This is success. One of the boys asked me why we only do 3 minutes of Hebrew a week. So we worked through the whole alphabet and song. He is ready for more detail. I encouraged him to find and review the blog and ask questions. The door-keeper worked with the girls braiding, sewing, and colouring. (We just divided into girls and boys, it was not planned!)

Later I also delivered a lexicon to my senior student - maybe there will be time for lessons with more specific intent in Hebrew.

For the feast, we had the Challah which I had baked yesterday and we took time over the grace in Hebrew and English. (Thanks to this site for the image.)

Baruch 'ata Adonai Elohenu melek ha`olam
hamotsi lechem min ha-erets

Blessed are you O Lord our God king of the universe
who brings forth bread from the earth

This prayer linked our parable of the leaven with the thanksgiving of the world today and with the rule of God from all time and for all time.

Here's the alefbet song

You can hear the song - old technology here

Friday, February 6, 2009

Preparing the Mashal

Parable, riddle, dark saying and our search. Here is a diagram for riddle.

I have collected and shaped the parable material for Matthew 13:33: a bit of felt, a picture or two wrapped in tape, a criticism or two suppressed, and a potential for life from a riddle.

I have a picture by Vermeer for the woman and she stands. I have three images representing three measures of meal. I have a square of tan felt which I have cut in two – one flat and one round. The round folded in half hides under the flat. I made a small golden tetrahedron for the leaven, like a morsel of sourdough. The action could begin like this:
After opening the box, take out the woman –
then take out the little box with what she has to work with
– 3 measures of meal and the leaven –
then show what she does to make the dough by mixing them all together:
  1. place the flat felt piece hiding its fullness over the three measures and the tetrahedron to hide the yeast
  2. then leave time to rise
  3. then make the lump rise by pulling the larger piece of felt above the flat piece
I am going to need to practice.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Godly Play in the sections on Parables has a number of scripted statements that leave me slightly cold. So the Hebrew lesson preceding my parable will include the word מָשָׁל (mashal) in Psalm 49:1.
אַטֶּה לְמָשָׁל אָזְנִי
אֶפְתַּח בְּכִנֹּור חִידָתִי

Transcribed (read the Hebrew words and letters in reverse order to match)
'ateh lemashal 'azani
ephetah bekinor tidati
and a literal translation
I will stretch out to a parable my ear
I will open on the harp my riddle

In GP, parables are in a gold box - nice image. They must be opened and they are dark - good.

But what about the parables of the kingdom? Do they just come out of nowhere? Is there no root for them in the Old Testament? The psalms that use mashal are Psalm 44:14, Psalm 49:3-4, Psalm 69:11, and Psalm 78:2. Psalms 44 and 78 are Maskilim - songs of skill. 49 I have not classified and 69 is one of the many personal psalms.

But who is King? And does the Old Testament kingship - particularly as portrayed in the Psalms - have anything to do with the parables of the kingdom? Part of the English problem is the substitution of heaven for kingdom in Matthew - leading us to uproot the words from the first century tradition as if somehow the place where God reigns is not our concrete reality. I hope whatever I say will not leave this impression.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Note - the opening verses of Ruth use the verb תִּשָּׁאֵר from which leaven שאר is derived - very curious.

Coming up to the parable of the leaven. The presentation of parables seems a little rigid to me - but I must do it like a musical performance - the same only different every time. Will summarize it later.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


There was a long procession this morning and the Kyrie was after the procession so I was late for Sunday school. That meant my Hebrew letter occurred after the parable of the pearl of great price. Fortunately it fit well into the parable and the children joined in the alef-bet song too. Isn't it curious that KLMN-O turns into ךלםןס and that Samekh looks like an O which can be seen as a pearl?

After singing the alphabet song in English first then with the Hebrew letters as underlay (and following this image), I told them briefly about the 8 acrostic psalms. Then we read psalm 145:14 (which I had a challenge reading upside down - you try it) and we talked about the cost of God's support of us, the cost of our own learning when we really want to learn something (in this case, I knew I had a young violinist there, so I mentioned the cost of learning great violin music), and the reality of hope in God's support when we commit ourselves to him. Here is the image right side up also (that's the way the children would have seen it)!

I am thinking about Godly Play and I will receive a few lessons in it this week so I will report more later. It seems to me that no amount of explanation or apologetic will win commitment to the promises of God. What a mystery choice is.

I repeat the Hebrew transliteration of Psalm 145:14 from last week.

somech יְהוָה lecol hanoflim vezoqeph lecol-hakfufim
Sustains יְהוָה all the fallen
and he raises up all the distressed