Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Prophets - postlude

It is not easy to summarize this morning's lesson. We started with the shema and rehearsed it phrase by phrase, note by note, with me getting a bit mixed up but it is coming along. Then we sang it together especially for our new students. Then we calmed the heart with a prayer. I pointed to Zephaniah 3:8 and promised we would do more alef-bet for the new students in the future. We searched out a few letters, but I noticed that the circle was not large enough for all heads to be searching so I will make up an individual game for this.

In the lesson proper, after our 5 minutes of Hebrew, I was much more interactive than usual, but I had several older children there and they were happy to search out the question 'what is a prophet'. We went round the class getting various answers like - 'a good person', 'I don't know'. Even the young Korean who could not speak a word of English 6 months ago said clearly 'I don't know'. This is a very good place to start. I am not sure what order we did the following things in, but I had the attention of all some of the time and of most except the youngest most of the time.

We defined prophet as a servant and read some of Deuteronomy 34 and the beginning of Isaiah 42.
So Moses the servant of the LORD
died there in the land of Moab,
according to the word of the LORD.
And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab,
over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth
of his sepulchre unto this day.
I added something about - not even those who pick mushrooms (just to see if anyone was listening and to get the attention of the one who had picked mushrooms the prior week.) Then I read to verse 10.

Then we read 1 Samuel 3 depicting in full Samuel's service, and the call of Hashem to him. (I read this as a story with appropriate low key dramatic voice - all ears were present to the story.) We related Samuel's name to the Shema as one who hears. So we had from Moses and Samuel two indications that a prophet is a servant and one who hears the voice of the Lord. Then I called for three volunteers - one to play God, one to be the prophet, and one to represent the people. I chose the older students and though I did not chose one rambunctious youngster, he participated in quite an unusual way. Here is the dialogue.

In each case I prompted the actor since they did not know their part (and neither did I till we started). I had been wondering whether to use props but I think the action is a far better teacher.

Teacher: Prophet - face God; God - say something
Teacher: God say hello to the prophet
God: Hello
Teacher: Prophet - turn and face the people and tell them God's word to you
Prophet: God says hello
Teacher: suppose the people have done something bad
People: no comment
Prophet turns to God
God: tell the people to stop
(They caught on quickly)
Rambunctious voice - tell God to say kill the people
Teacher: OK - God, tell the prophet you are going to destroy the people
God: I am going to destroy this people
Prophet: about to turn
Teacher: no, prophet - don't tell the people, remind God of his promises and his reputation - What would the Egyptians say? Talk back to God, and by doing so suggest that God can't do this.

We stopped here - but recognized how many sides there are to communication and how the prophet also has the role of intercession for the people. This talking back to God is of course not making God's mind up for him but the pattern is clearly seen with both Abraham and Moses, as I am sure all who are reading this will be aware.

So we summarized the roles of a prophet and I mentioned Ezekiel's problem (Ezekiel 3:26) of his tongue stuck to his palate so he is unable to warn a rebellious people but we did not have time to explore this in detail.

We looked at some other one word roles of the prophet: I had several Bibles open and two of the students had brought their own, so we read some of the prepared verses and I noted briefly the role of the prophet in each whether rebuke (Nathan), sarcasm (Micaiah), hope (Isaiah), and so on. I also pointed out the books of the prophets and pulled Obadiah from the shelf to read the first verse of his call - so with the eyes and ears of Isaiah 35:5 still in our heads, we read that visions are also part of the prophet's receiving apparatus. I handed out to each of the older students a page (here) with several verses which I hope they will be able to look up on their own. (I have not assumed this sort of 'homework' in the classes before, but some of them are definitely old enough to read on their own or with parental help.)

Then I asked a student to read Ezekiel 3:1 and I opened the tin of edible scroll pastries that I had made last night. They didn't eat too many each but there were none left after - the parish ate the rest at our light lunch. The instruction on the tin was in Hebrew אכול את־המגלה (ekol et-hamegillah). It will be useful when we come to look at the five scrolls. They will remember the word for scroll and we will use it as a lesson in Hebrew plural formation.

Finally we turned to Hebrews 1:1 (I did not read it in Greek - it is too early for that move but the pieces are all in place) and we thought for a moment on Jesus as our prophet - with whom we can speak and who intercedes for us.

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