Saturday, August 02, 2014

Sunday Snippets

We get the question, don't we, that if Jesus was probably crucified naked, why do Catholic crucifixes depict him modestly clothed. We're accused of being too bashful about the human form, which may be true. Certainly the humanity of Jesus is made very plain, absent the loincloth. Maybe we'd prefer a Ken doll on the cross.

Monday's first reading triggered surprising associations:
For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the LORD

The priest's homily clarified that Jeremiah's text is speaking about underwear that the Lord prohibits him from laundering. I felt a bit self-conscious as I sat listening to Father's words because I was myself behind on the laundry. And when I get behind on laundry, I borrow from my husband's drawer. It hasn't happened lately but Monday, yup. So that was on my mind.

After the homily, I glanced up and noted the Lord on the cross and the identity of the loincloth was made. It's everyone who clings to Jesus. We're there with him, not being crucified but benefiting from his crucifixion.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Sunday Snippets

Ever since my Princeton acquaintances removed to another PCA congregation, they've urged me to visit on Sunday morning. I may on Easter. But last night I attended a quarterly, Spring Praise and Prayer Service, primarily over concern for an acquaintance's son who's hospitalized from a burst appendix.

I arrived a few moments early and counted only two cars in the church parking lot. One had a Wilberforce School sticker on the rear window, so I knew that was the pastor's car. With my usual misgivings, I made my way to the main entrance. It's well-marked from multiple directions. There's only one door in anyway.

Large, clear windows face the main street. One can see directly into the sanctuary. I saw the pastor and the music director on his guitar. I went in and hung my winter coat on a hanger in the open closets in the foyer. The pastor came out of the sanctuary, firmly shook my hand and introduced himself. In introducing myself, I dropped the names of my acquaintances.

I entered the sanctuary and took a seat towards the front. The music director came over and politely apologized for not remembering if we've already met. He told me this is a quarterly service so I should not come next Sunday evening. I told him I get my information from the church's Facebook page so I won't make that mistake.

I flipped through the bulletin. The service was put together well, a mixture of hymns and Scripture. Behind me, I heard a man enter and discuss with the pastor whom I might be. "Is she a deacon?" Laughter. I forget how strange I appear attending such services without my spiritual authority, i.e., without my husband. I heard the pastor assign the man a Scripture to read from the program during the service.

An elder couple entered and I had to, again, explain that their inability to recognize me is due to the fact they've never met me before:
Me: First time here.

Them: Were you here this morning? Oh, you missed a great sermon, right, pastor?

I'll get the sermon from the website.

In total, fifteen worshippers turned out but that number would have been reduced by half if not for the participation of a large, extended Korean family. We got started with the hopeful understanding that others may yet arrive. No one did.

After working through the hymns and Scriptures, we spent some time at the end in what has been called "conversational prayer," the real meat and potatoes of the prayer meeting. Very specifically, in this denomination, it means sharing prayer requests with the small group such that people takes notes. Then the group turns to the Lord with the requests. A leader volunteers to "open and close" the prayer and each person takes a turn "lifting up" someone else's request in an intercessory way. No one is left to pray for their own personal intention.

As requests were made, the pastor felt necessary to explain each one to me because they were often just mentioned by name only. In such a small church, everyone knows the full story. So I learned that the music director had been accepted into a doctoral program at Princeton Seminary which was considered a blessing because it kept him close to the congregation he serves. And I learned that a youth pastor has been "called" from across the country. I had seen requests on Facebook for temporary housing accommodations for this family, so I had some previous familiarity.

Strikingly, they have the boldness to pray very specifically, almost telling God what to do. But, in that way, they can recognize when the prayers are answered, can't they?

When we were finished, I said my goodbyes and left. And that's another strange thing about leaving a Protestant church after a service because no one else is leaving. Ever. I guess because they come late, they feel they need to stay after.

Subsequent to this prayer meeting, I've prayed for the acquaintance's son at daily Mass. And recently I've taken God to task for the delay in healing because the family is really trusting and faithful. I told God it was time to deliver. Later that day, a story came across Catholic News Service that Francis said it's ok to pray from the heart to God. So I feel somewhat at peace about losing it.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I had never been up Mount Tabor and wasn't all that interested, either.

Our tour guide made use of a minivan taxi service from the base of the mountain, which each car seating about 13 passengers. He had cautioned us that if there was a line, we could forget it. There was no line but the people in charge were expecting a rush that Friday afternoon, so our guide hurried us into the taxi cars.

It was right after a huge lunch at a Lebanese place and the minivans were stuffy. I thought that, combined with the sharp incline and road switchbacks, I could become nauseous. It was a longer ride than I expected but I got through.

In an open bit of lawn near the upper parking lot were gathered a crowd of people blaring loud music and dancing. Our tour guide told them they were supposed to be quiet out of respect for the holy place, that they weren't allowed to carry on as they were.



We visited the site. I'm sure our guide told us all about Deborah and Barak and Sisera and Jael from Judges 4 and 5, a fascinating story the first few times you read it. But Transfiguration images predominate inside the church and that story became my focus.



Mass was going on when we arrived, so we were herded into one of the two smaller rooms, the one dedicated to Moses. The other is dedicated to Elijah. (St. Peter got his wish after all! Ahem, Moses has horns.) The story of Elijah versus the prophets of Baal has become my son's favorite.



Someone in our group got into trouble for picking a sizable branch from an olive tree in a nearby garden. I was appalled that anyone would. Then my son showed me a tiny, tiny lemon he'd plucked. Periodically, he'd scratch the exterior for its refreshing scent. The view was awesome. I must correct my opinion that Israel has no true mountains.

We gathered at the upper taxi stand for the trip down and our guide cautioned us against accepting anything from the Muslims who were near the parking lot handing out free Korans. They were very polite initially but as we walked by ignoring them, they began to shout things I've heard before: that the Bible says nobody can serve two masters, that Jesus never instructs anyone to worship him - that he, in fact, says the opposite - and, that the Gospel tradition has been corrupted over time.

Somehow I was slow getting to the taxis and they all filled up. It was only myself, the tour guide and Deacon Tom. Our tour guide turned back and began shouting at the Muslims, countering what they were saying. I'm not the type of person to get into a confrontation in public but I found the exchange interesting to observe. During the taxi ride down, the guide admitted that he had to say something to them, as they were speaking against Christ. Admirable enough. As we turned onto the main road, I spotted a man on his bicycle just beginning his ascent. I mentally wished him a heartfelt Godspeed.

Back at the hotel, shabbat candles were available in the lobby and the elevator confused us all. After dinner, the monsignor heard my confession.

Shabbat candles


cf. Mount of Transfiguration - Wiki

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sunday Snippets

We suffered a bit from the bus driver's inexperience. The best route was designated "Cars only." Back and forth through Brooklyn - Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst along 86th Street - in the evening rush we traveled, looking for the entrance to the BQE1. The bus driver asked directions of a gas station attendant. He didn't know how to inform his GPS that the Belt Pkwy wasn't an option.

Honestly, I thought we'd miss our flight out of JFK. 90 minutes driving around Brooklyn - how is that even possible? The entire trip wasn't supposed to be much more than that. But we arrived at the gate with thirty minutes to spare. EL AL begins boarding a full hour prior to departure.


I'd planned to kill time at the airport with dinner. Arriving as we did after 9, though, most of the restaurants were closed. Neither of us had eaten since 3, so he grabbed a sandwich and I got a salad from a counter service place.

As we lined up to board the plane, some in our party declared, "We made it. God wouldn't let us miss this flight!" I muttered in reply, "Anything can happen. Really." And it's true, especially when you're dependent upon someone else.

It's a ten-hour flight over and twelve hours back. Most of the time, it felt as if we weren't moving. I sat in the middle of the middle of the 777-200 with my son on my right and an (ultra-)Orthodox man on my left. The man tended to mutter to himself. At times, these were prayers. Generally, he seemed immature for his age. Or naive. Or sheltered. He wondered aloud how he was going to be able to sleep in this arrangement (being seated next to a woman who wasn't his wife). I was sorry for him but I planned to sleep! Honestly, I think he nodded off for a time, also.

About an hour after our first meal, I heard the sound of someone repeatedly vomiting. Just out of view - thankfully - I could make out a commotion by the exit doors four rows up. Plane staff were helping a woman who could not control herself. I suspected that she had morning sickness but it could have been anything.

Towards morning, the men gathered at the back of the plane for prayers. Several men, young and old, urged the man next to me to join them for prayer. He declined. He read several pages of his Talmud which lead me to believe he was merely skimming. Then he pulled out another oversized book, the Schottenstein edition of the psalms (Tehillim). He prayed several of them. When the men returned from the back of the plane, from their prayer, the younger men ribbed the man next to me for the size of his books. They advocated the travel-sized ones, but he defended his large ones because they had belonged to his father.

An hour before landing, a woman collapsed in the vicinity of where the vomiting had occurred the night before. I thought she had broken her leg. Her age, as well as her attire, indicated to me that she was a Christian pilgrim and I thought, "How unfortunate!" As it became clear to her that she would miss her pilgrimage, she began to sob. In fact, I learned later that she was a member of our group of 40 people and that she was hospitalized for an apparent stroke. She was not even released in time to fly back with us and, even though her doctor cleared her to make this trip, she should not have.

The sun was setting when we landed and was down completely by the time we left the airport. So unlike June. Our hotel that first night was in Netanya on the Mediterranean Sea. After dinner, Kenny and I walked down to the sea. It was out of season, of course, but nothing prevented us from going down to the water. Most of these photos were taken the next morning before leaving, driving up the coast.

Looking up from the beach at our hotel


Views from hotel balcony





View from street level


1 There was no reason to exit Route 278 after crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Sunday Snippets

I've still got the taste for olives and cheese in the mornings.

See, breakfast is dairy and dinner is meat. So breakfast is cheese and milk, even hot, chocolate cake. Olives accompany every meal.

I was concerned for my son's table manners, because he doesn't sit up straight. For the first few meals, though, we sat two to a table. Only in Jerusalem were we seated at larger tables. By then, I'd already seen such poor manners from the adults to not worry about my teenager. First night, a woman bent over the buffet chafing dish to sniff the fish.

"It's fish," she declared to us in line behind her.

Another woman ladled out some soup, frowning. "Lentil," she observed. I would have preferred them to move along and let me make up my own mind about the food. By the last night, some ladies were done with the local fare, waiting to grab something at the airport.



The Church of the Pater Noster was new to me. It's situated on the Mount of Olives, just up from Dominus Flevit.

As it's a French church, the various languages in which the Lord's Prayer appears - over 150 of them - are labeled in French. Pilgrims scurried about looking for the English version.

In haste, they hustled by it, not recognizing the designation "Anglais" or the Blackletter font it's written in.

Even when I called them back, they could not decipher.


I'm familiar with the font because I used to scan old German Bibles in the undergraduate library between classes. Cf. Chronology of German Typeface Development, About.com

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Sunday Snippets

It was to be our earliest day, to stand near the head of the line at the security gate leading to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The day before, we'd visited the Western Wall and noted that the line was almost out the city gate, three hours deep.

"I'm not spending your time in that line," our guide insisted. "We come early tomorrow." We were in line by dawn.

View to the south east

Right before 7:30 local time, a number of armed police passed us. I assumed they were reporting to work inside the Kotel area. Then my oldest son, Kenny, noticed another batch of police carrying riot helmets. Still the security gate did not open to us and I grew impatient. Shortly after, we heard what sounded like gunfire from the Temple Mount area. Birds flew away, startled by the noise.

Near-deserted Western Wall

I muttered casually to myself, "If that's going on up there, I don't think I want to go." The sounds of gunfire were prolonged, lasting maybe 20 or 30 seconds. After a minute or two of silence, our tour guide gathered us and hurried us through the Kotel area, to an arch leading to the Old City.

Old City - children walking to school

We found ourselves on the Via Dolorosa and, after seeing ambulances in the streets, we hurried into the Convent of the Sisters of Zion. Our guide took some time on his cell phone to assess the situation. He said the word on the street was that settlers were bringing an Israeli flag onto the Temple Mount and that Jordan is pulling out from Temple Mount custody. In the absence of any facts, that's the classic scenario, serving as a shorthand for ultra-Orthodox aggression. Every Arab's worst nightmare and every Dispensationalist Christian's wet dream. It proved too good to be true.

We managed to remain in the Old City when many other guides took their people out. However, we did not go to St. Anne's as planned because of its location on the eastern side and its proximity to the Temple Mount. Instead, we literally picked up a cross and, taking turns, walked the Via Dolorosa to the Holy Sepulchre Church.

My son passing Ecce Homo Convent on Via Dolorosa

Shops in the Old City were slow to open Tuesday morning and a police presence was noted on nearly every corner. Our guide said that so long as school children remain in school, things are alright. They are the canaries in the coal mine.

"The pictures used to seem exaggerations--they seemed too weird and fanciful for reality. But behold, they were not wild enough--they were not fanciful enough--they have not told half the story." - Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad



"Police, Palestinians clash on Temple Mount" - Jerusalem Post, 2/25/14
"Israeli police and Palestians clash on Temple Mount" - BBC News, 2/25/14
"Israeli Police and Palestinians Clash at Temple Mount" - NBC News
"Officers injured, three arrested in Temple Mount clashes" - UPI, 2/25/14
"Israeli police, Palestinians clash on Temple Mount" - National Israel News, Haaretz, 2/25/14
"Police to Limit Muslim Access to Temple Mount" - Israel National News, 2/28/14
"Netanyahu defends status quo on Temple Mount" - WND

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Sunday Snippets

The Tuesday evening Bible study of Romans (Parts I, II and coming soon, III) has been put off schedule of late due to bad weather. The ladies have joked that God has a thing for Tuesdays because snow hit on Dec. 10th, 17th and January 21st. The Christmas party was postponed until January 14th!

But we met on the 28th and the leader began by expressing her profound sadness over a Catholic funeral she'd attended that morning. It's quite out of the ordinary for her to talk about personal experiences although she does often complain about the unsaved. They frustrate her greatly and Catholics at funerals are no different.

I don't know where the funeral was held or for whom. It doesn't really matter, even though I am curious. I have to believe that she was acquainted with the deceased and that the elderly woman was not a family member. She said that she did nothing during the service but pray fervently to God that those in attendance would come to know him. She said the words all sound right, unless one happens to know, but none of it is pleasing to God. She was surprised to hear Scripture read but since it wasn't preached upon, instead the deceased's life was honored, it was empty. She said that she almost fell over when they started to sing "Holy, Holy, Holy," because it sounded so beautiful, but again, it wasn't really.

It sounds, from her description, that this was her first time at Catholic liturgy of any kind but that she'd already made up her mind about it.

After this "rant" - her own word for it - we got down to studying the word. A participant asked the meaning of Romans 8:17 -
and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Commenting on her question about the verse's meaning, I made a general observation to the group that interpretation is complicated further by the fact that "Him" has been supplied by the editors; the word doesn't appear in the original. To every participant, this was a revelation! How did I know this without the original in front of me?! I simply said that's how the NASB operates, that's how the editors have decided to present the text. I knew this because long ago I'd read the Preface to the New American Standard Bible1, as I always read the front matter of reference and other important books. In the Preface, the editors explain their choices in representing the text. Italicized words have been added to the original. How could these ladies do any accurate work in this translation of the sacred text without being aware of specific format? Did they think the italics implied emphasis?!

Thursday morning during brunch at the Allenwood study of Hebrews, a woman mentioned her son attends a Catholic high school. I was surprised and listened to her happy experience with the school. Her son loves the school very much, as well. But she conceded to me, in a confidential tone, "The religion is a bit off, of course." Of course. Her son's grade in Religion is among his lowest.

Why this sudden uptick in anti-Catholic sentiment? I've been in these Bible study settings for years and have only encountered the occasional negative comment. Am I just growing more sensitive, suspecting it's something more systemic, even deliberate? Perhaps. My hunch is that Francis's popularity even among liberal Protestant Christians has put conservative Protestant Christians on alert. They must stem the tide, nip any Protestant flirtation with Roman Catholicism in the bud.
1 "EXPLANATION OF GENERAL FORMAT ... ITALICS are used in the text to indicate words which are not found in the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek but implied by it." Preface to the NASB, Bible Researcher (an excellent website)