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November 14, 2021

Year 2 - Week 11 (November 14 - 20)

Day 1 (Monday)

Genesis 11:1-10, 26

Last week we saw how Noah’s son Ham took a turn toward evil, taking advantage of his father’s weakness to try to seize power and dominion in the world for himself and his descendants. The next chapter in Genesis (chapter 10) gives the initial genealogy from Noah, listing the 70 nations that were known to the Israelites and where they came from. This genealogy gives the general background for how the different peoples of the world came to be. What follows explains why they went their separate ways, instead of all living together as a single people. There is an icon included here that shows the scene at the Tower of Babel, and a couple links below that explain more about this for those who are interested.

image from www.imparaklitou.gr

The Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole earth had one language and few words. 2 And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Descendants of Shem

10 These are the descendants of Shem. When Shem was a hundred years old, he became the father of Arpachshad two years after the flood.

…Arpachshad fathered Shelah, who fathered Eber, who fathered Peleg (in whose days the earth was divided at Babel - Genesis 10:25), who fathered Reu, who fathered Serug, who fathered Nahor, who fathered Terah…

26 When Terah had lived seventy years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

For more information on questions of God's Divine Council, and the Mountain of Assembly discussed below, and what is happening at the Tower of Babel, please see the following links.

Genesis and "the Fall"

God’s Divine Council

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (Leader needs to explain two things. First, the reason they were building the tower was that they were trying to make an artificial “Mountain of Assembly,” the place where the Most High God ruled; their goal was to control God as though He were one of the pagan gods, who could be bribed with temples and sacrifices. It is in response to this sinful action that God divides them into many nations, confusing their languages. Second, what is less obvious here, but is seen elsewhere in Scripture, as the one above, is that God gave each “new nation” into the authority and care of one of the angels, to teach them and care for them and lead them back to true and right worship of Himself. We can see these angels going with each new nation in the icon. But these angels did not do this; instead, they fell as well, and accepted human worship, and became the gods of the pagan world, the demons that Christ came to deliver humankind from.

It is from this point that God begins to prepare His people Israel, which is why the genealogy brings us up to Abram, which starts the process that ends with the Church on the day of Pentecost, when the confusion of the languages is resolved by the Holy Spirit and all the nations of the world are called back together into the Church. In the Church, we have been called back to true worship of God, invited to ascend the mountain of the Lord to meet God face to face. As an aside, this is why the Altar is elevated above the rest of the Church.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 2 (Wednesday)

Doxastikon for the Aposticha of the Vespers of Pentecost

On Day 1 we read about the separation of the nations from one another at the Tower of Babel. Today we will read a short hymn from the Feast of Pentecost (which happens every year in the early summer, 50 days after Easter), and then will read a brief explanation about what the Tower of Babel has to do with Pentecost.

Doxastikon for the Aposticha of the Vespers of Pentecost

Tongues were once made useless, because human beings dared to build the Tower of Babel. Tongues now become skilled, for the glory of the knowledge of God. Then, God condemned the people who committed sacrilege, because of their sin; here, by the Spirit, Christ enlightened the fishermen. Then, speechlessness was imposed as a punishment; now harmony is restored, for the salvation of our souls.

Explanation:

This hymn is connecting the Tower of Babel and the Day of Pentecost as two ends of the same story. Human beings at Babel tried to control God, and as a result, God confused their languages and divided them into many nations. These nations came to worship many different gods as the angels to whom God entrusted them accepted worship and fell into darkness, becoming the demon-gods who enslaved them.

God doesn’t abandon humanity, though. Beginning with Abraham, and working through the entire Old Testament, God prepares Israel as a priestly people for Himself. Jesus Christ renews and perfects this priestly people in the Church, and on the Day of Pentecost, through the Holy Spirit, He calls all the nations back to Himself. On this day, all the different languages which had divided them at Babel are used by the Apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, not to divide the nations, but instead to call them back together to unity with one another in right and perfect communion with the Most High God.

image from www.imparaklitou.gr

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (Leader should point out that the sin at Babel is trying to control God, to make Him do what we want, rather than submitting our lives to Him and and following Him. God can’t do anything for us when we try to control Him, except to leave us to our own desires, and their consequences. But when we submit ourselves to Him, then the Holy Spirit comes to us, and brings us into communion with Himself, and begins to heal all that is broken in us).

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?

Day 3 (Friday)

Mark 4:21-34

Last time Jesus preached the parable of the sower, and we discussed the different types of soil, and what needed to be done to make them good soil, and how it is our responsibility to care for the soil of our heart, to prepare it to receive the seed that is the Word of God, so that it can bear fruit in our lives. This time, we will see how Jesus continued from that parable to tell more parables about the Kingdom of God, and how He works in the world, and what our part is in that work. We should remember that the last words of the Parable of the Sower are about how the good seed bore fruit, as much as a hundred times what was sown.

A Lamp under a Bushel Basket

21 He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

The Parable of the Growing Seed

26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

The Use of Parables

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Discussion questions:

1) What did you notice in today’s reading? What surprised you or what was memorable to you? (The Leader should point out that, while all these parables are connected with the idea of the Parable of the Sower, and the seed of the Word of God growing in the world, they have gone in a different direction, to talk about how that seed actually grows, and what that looks like. The main point seems to be that the Kingdom of God doesn’t grow in the way we expect Kingdoms to grow, with plans and strategies and quarterly reports and such. It happens in secret, in the depths of the human heart, but the fruit of it is and must be evident in our lives, as with the lamp on the lamp stand. God’s work in this world begins in humble places, in humble people, acting in humble ways, but when it comes to its fullness, it topples empires and transforms everything, not by a conquest from outside, but by a complete transformation from within.)

2) Where do we see Christ in this text; what is He saying or doing here?

3) Do we see ourselves and the Church in this text; what does it say about us?

4) What do you find difficult about this reading? Is there anything confusing about it, or anything that you dislike? (This is an open question, as always. )

5) Does this reading make you think that you need to change anything in your life?