Thursday, August 27, 2009

I listened to the sermon the excerpt came from:

I am so not a Baptist.

This stuff appeals to people because it goes against everything they've ever heard. The gospel Truth is largely mainstream in our society ... a reality that makes born-agains suspicious. They expect the Truth to be "found by a few" (Matt. 7:14), "hard teaching" (John 6:60), not accepted by the world (John 14:17). That God the Father, creator of heaven and earth, doesn't love everyone possesses that shock value born-agains are after. But, of course, it is more shocking to believe God loves everyone.

You just must listen to what he does with 1 Timothy 2:1-4! He throws out that Baptist rejoinder that "No Scripture is a matter of private interpretation," a gross bastardization of 2 Peter 1:20. He puts his misquoted 2 Peter 1:20 into slick service, as underpinning his hermeneutic to "let Scripture interpret Scripture," not a biblical injunction whatsoever. And he subjugates 1 Tim. 2:1-4 to Jeremiah 7:16 and 14:11 and, in answer to the question of how can we live peaceably when the socialist Obama takes bread from our pantry, he reads from 2 Kings 9:16ff.

He spends time in Psalm 109 where David supposedly models the form of prayer Brother Anderson imitates,
"'Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.' ... If somebody is going to twist my arm behind my back and tell me to pray for Barack Obama, this is what I'm going to pray. Because this is the only prayer that applies to him [Obama]: 'Break his teeth, O God, in his mouth. As a snail which melteth, let him pass away.' It's ok to pray a Psalm 58 type of prayer for these people but don't pray for their good."
And, you know what: if you disagree with this preacher, then you haven't read your Bible. Because:
"The sermon's alot of Bible tonight. I don't even have to do much preaching tonight. 'Cuz this sermon kinda preaches itself.

"You say, 'You're not loving!' Are you talking to me or are you talking to God? I'm just reading God's word.

"It's not God who's in control. I know your hyper-Calvinist, TULIP preacher told you that God's in control. But you know what: the devil is the god of this world, according to my Bible.

"'Maybe he's saved.' Whew. He's a Pentecostal. He's a Holy Roller, Charismatic. Didn't you see his pastor wearin' a dress and everything?

"His name [Barry Santoro, aka Obama] has been blotted out."
His biggest misappropriation is Ephesians 6:12, cited according to the King James: that we wrestle "against spiritual wickedness in high [places]." The word "high" implies heaven, which poses a theological problem, but Brother Anderson applies the verse to high public officials.

This guy has got to follow his conscience. He's obligated to pray the way he thinks the Bible tells him. I just hope he doesn't influence too many people. For their own sake.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

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This week: An experience of Bible study in a Protestant church.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

He continued with some texts that he struggles with. And shared that in researching interpretations of these texts, he found that more prudent minds than his knew enough to leave them alone.

Fools rush in ... I could only smile, as one whose own interests so outstrip her capability.

The well-known story of Elijah verses the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18 (read the study Bible notes), that the false prophets are all slaughtered at the end. I found myself protesting, "Yeah, but if they are leading the people astray ..." but I had to be honest. Anyway, he concluded that the people killed the false prophets while Elijah looked on (Acts 7:54ff), thereby exonerating the man of God.

And he's unsettled by how Jezebel dies in 2 Kings 9:33, thrown from a window by order of the newly anointed king who is establishing himself.

I could almost hear the line Arnie delivers when his on-screen wife Jamie Lee Curtis asks whether he ever killed anyone in True Lies:
Yeah, but they were all bad.
However, the story that really got under his skin was First Kings 22 in which God wants Ahab so dead that he solicits a spirit who will entice the king of Israel to march against the Arameans to his own doom.

Now he said that if he were discussing this passage with his colleagues who believe in the "development of the text," it would be a matter of categorizing the clarifying vision as detail added later. And while the suggestion of a "bonehead" editor who so clumsily inserted these verses without connecting them to the surrounding text may explain why Zedekiah son of Chenaanah says the things he does, as if he hasn't heard Micaiah's vision, in a devotional setting (such as this), it's just as easy to say that Zedekiah was too self-absorbed in his own conceit to even hear everything Micaiah told the king.

Of course, "this was added later" leapt to my mind immediately, too, without the pastoral tempering. And when he concluded that Zedekiah merely incriminates himself in attempting to discredit Micaiah, well, I saw it myself, quite before he told us. It was all I could do to keep from blurting it out.

How can this not be literature? Are real-life court politics ever as cunning as this?

Jeff said yes. No reason to think it didn't actually happen.

And the following chapter has that story about Elijah sitting under the broom tree asking for death. You know, that we read last Sunday.

Now, I can't be sure that this "questioning" isn't an assumed posture for the sake of these lectures. At times, he seems sincere in his questioning. At other times, he's too ready with an answer. And perhaps willing to accept a weak answer.

He's said that belonging to a "confessional community" gives him both the freedom and the support to ask from the text. I'm not sure his audience understood what he meant by that - and he may be speaking a little more as a Lutheran than as a Presbyterian would - much less with they agreed with him on it. I agree with him on it. It's the safest, freest place to be. The stronger, the better. For this type of thing.

cf. Delaware River Valley Churches to Host Summer Education Series.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Friday night at Seven Presidents in Long Branch, photos.

The playground is gone. I was shocked, mostly because I didn't know. Meaning, we haven't been to this beach all summer. Certainly true. Just had other things going on on Friday night: the Fourth, Jeff's parents, rain, Ella's ER visit, VBS, car in body shop. That accounts for every Friday. But I hope to go again.

And the playground needed repair/improvement so I'm glad it's gone. The sign said there would be something in place in September.

The beach was the busiest I've seen it but we were earlier than usual. And it cleared out rather quickly as most had been there all day. The water was warm and gentle the entire time.

Timmy would not stay close which bothered me. He seems to think that the entire beach is his to roam. I think the Hershey Boardwalk experience emboldened the two little ones to not sweat the waves. I wish they would have been a little more intimidated, actually. But towards the end of the evening, Ella caught a wave in the face, so that might set her back next time.

She and Chris made sand angels, an idea she must get - like so many others - from Max & Ruby. She kept saying, "Snowman" as she was moving her arms and legs. "Snowman" usually means "It's snowing." She doesn't seem able to distinguish between those sounds. Chris was crawling around like a crab but also joined in to create a couple of sand angels. Then the two of them simultaneously turned over to their stomachs and belly-crawled down to the water. Sometimes they are like twins, the way they don't mind copying each other.

And their attitude was as if they were getting away with something. Crawling below my radar. As if I was going to yell at them for heading down to the water. Usually it's their own reluctance that keeps them back. But the way the water was behaving itself, they were quite fine in getting wet.

We rinsed off and changed clothes. Chris thought he had left his yellow security blanket on the grass by our car but turns out it was at home the whole time. He fell asleep in the car on the ride home but I gave the blanket to him before putting him to bed. He roused long enough to acknowledge it and Jeff told me he had a big grin.

I took a wrong turn on the way home, exiting 537W at 18N instead of Kozloski Road. It wasn't a big deal, adding probably ten minutes on, as I exited at 79S in Marlboro. But I can't explain it because I almost never take 18N from 537; I have little reason to ever go north on 18.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It was a good-sized deer on the 30th coming home from Freehold around 8:50pm. Coming back from VBS actually. That'll learn me. Ordinarily, no, I would not be out so late with all the kids.

It's a busy intersection. I've seen deer run through there, by Gus's Diner. I saw a car hit a deer there one weekday morning almost three years ago. So, they are there. Jeff thinks if they ever build that plaza on the northwest corner, it will put an end to them.

I had merged from Business 33W to 33W by Peking Pavilion. I had followed a car driving about 40 in a 50, clearly lost or disoriented, so I was anxious to get around. But we all stopped at the light for 527.

When the light turned green, I presssed my cruise control's resume button and shifted into the right lane at the head of the pack. When my speedometer topped out at the previous setting of 50, I pressed the "+" button on my steering wheel with the intention of stepping up to 55. I never increase my speed this way but it allowed me to keep my eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel.

I had pressed the button only once when the deer showed up from the front left. I imagine the deer went flying but all I remember is braking and getting to the shoulder. I heard no crying so figured everyone was alright but I asked to make sure. A car had pulled over behind me and then one pulled in ahead. Neither stayed long.

I could not open my door, so I slid out the passenger side after ordering the kids to stay seated and buckled. They wanted nothing else. So I looked at the damage. I had some light on that side. That was a concern. I wouldn't consider continuing without light for visibility. The wheel well seemed intact but it looked like turning could be an issue. I saw the deer in the grassy median, just slightly back from where we stopped. Too bad but better him than me.

I called Jeff for his advice. He was still at work in Newark and suggested I try driving it home. I wasn't keen on not being able to open my door but I also didn't like the idea of a tow truck. So I went down the nearest side street which was Woodward and drove home on Baird. There are deer on that street too.

Once we got home, Kenny and Tim had a slightly gruesome interest in seeing the damage. Ella had no clue. Chris was the most upset, not even wanting to see it. His older brothers talked him into at least walking past it. So, given his level of discomfort with the whole thing, the plan was to find a repair shop and get the car to them asap.

The car went to Compact Kars the next afternoon but since the guy receiving it had a wedding to attend - not his own - I shouldn't expect a quote until after the weekend. That was alright: I wanted to keep the car local. They said they fix Volvos.

The quote came Monday, the parts were ordered and arrived. He promised it the following Friday or Monday at the latest. Instead, Compact Kars drove it to me this afternoon, a couple of days sooner than expected. And that's a big help because the car I rented, a Kia Sportage, doesn't have enough room for all the kids. Unless Kenny sits in the front seat. And, even at nine years old, Kenny isn't going to sit in the front seat.

There's an issue with the driver's window coming right back down after pressing the up button. I took it over to them towards the end of the day, but they couldn't figure out how to reprogram it. Then I got a message "anti-skid service required," so I told them about that. Then the cruise control wouldn't hold. Then the anti-skid went "temporarily off." Cruise control returned but I'd rather have both features, you know? Especially because I found the ABS very helpful when I hit the deer.

Well, I have to bring it by again tomorrow. The tech told me he purchased a hand-held interface for the Volvo computer just yesterday to clear the "SRS Airbag Service Urgent" message. No, the airbags did not deploy. I've wondered why, actually. But I just want to repeat my initial question, "Do you repair Volvos?"

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Even though she had to miss this evening's session, she recommended the lecture series to me ... and promised to be available to join me on upcoming Sundays. So I took the initiative, which isn't difficult for me in such things, and went over there, to Titusville, to hear Dr. Hutton. I was just late enough, sadly, to miss the introductions and it's so difficult to recover from that. At least for me it is. But I think the scope of these Sunday lectures is the Former Prophets, what we call the Historical Books.

His explanation of how the books are divided in the Hebrew canon seemed belabored to me who had the less familiar table of contents of my Tanakh clear in view on my lap, the Hebrew and JPS translation side-by-side on each page. He said things I liked, that the primary function of a Jewish prophet is not to predict the future, that Jeremiah wasn't quite accurate on the 70 years, and wondered aloud what the heck are Nahum and Obadiah doing in our Bibles!

He fell short of admitting to three Isaiahs when telling us which chapters comprise the major sections. If I had asked him when Daniel was written, I would have likely received a satisfactory response. At least in private. But I didn't test it. I will ask him about Amos 3:7 next time ... how those of us not of the Left Behind persuasion may make sense of it.

His profile of a Jewish prophet got bogged down when he broadened it to include Jonah and Daniel. It's not for nothing Daniel is among the Ketuvim. He pointed out the favorable nod Micah gets in Jeremiah 28. He reminded us of a recent reading from Amos (10th Sunday after Pentecost, according to his liturgical calendar, July 12; I remembered reading it) in which Amos rejects the label of prophet but explains his mission along those very lines. And, in fact, that everything in the Former Prophets sets the stage for the Latter Prophets and the rest of the Bible. Not unexpectedly, he affirms the wisdom of the Jewish order but allows the Christian order serves a different purpose, or Person.

To understand the prophetic office, he assigned us a couple of passages, 1 Kings 11:28-40 and 2 Kings 9:1-10 to read and discuss in small group. In the first passage, Ahijah tears a robe, it isn't clear whose cloak it is, into pieces (he said the MT and the LXX give a different number of pieces, but I can't track that down online. Maybe I'll look at some books.) to give Jeroboam the message about the coming kingdom division into north and south. His demonstration is physical and private. In 2 Kings, Elisha's disciple anoints Jehu over Ahab's house in revenge for Jezebel. Dr. Hutton pointed out that prophets were kingmakers ... and kingbreakers. That anointing a royal successor effectively dethroned the sitting king. That sitting kings didn't always take kindly to that and the successor often had to fight for the throne. And that it wasn't always easy to tell who was right and who was speaking for God. Deut. 18:21-22 has an ambivalent test but, consider the case of Micah whose prophecy took 120 years to be fulfilled. How much time is enough? And he admitted that we don't always know today who's right which I completely agree with. He's ELCA speaking to PCUSA's ... I don't envy them their denominations.

Next time he'll talk about the doctrine of the two kingdoms as taught by Luther and Calvin. I've heard reference made to that but I'm not very sure what it is. The lecture will be at Stockton Church which, as it happens, the pastor there first served at a church in East Bethany, very familiar from drives to my mother's house.

Now, so tonight, we met in Titusville on Route 29. I've skirted this area when I'd visit Jeff in Flemington; we went to New Hope once or twice. Along the Delaware River looked unique and yet familiar. That IS New Jersey: for all its variation, somehow everywhere the same. I passed Villa Victoria and caught myself daydreaming, "When it's just Ella at home, I'd have the luxury of driving her to any school, even here." But I came back to reality pretty quick, reasoning that I had just driven 50 minutes from home, through downtown Trenton on a Sunday evening. Imagine that route on any weekday. No, it would have to turn boarding school first.
I had to do a whole lot 'a-hollering to get them there the first night ... but after that, they were hooked.

They already want me to sign up them for next year!

That's good ... I want them to like it. And I think I found a good program.

20 kids, tops - four per group. Kenny's teacher took a real shine to him. Among the papers that Tim bought home was a worksheet that called for assigning sequence numbers to four drawings pertaining to the resurrection (according to Luke). Tim's numbering was nowhere near correct.

Kenny's favorite thing was human foosball. They used swim noodles. I had trouble visualizing it from Kenny's description but I understood once I saw the pictures during the "Week in Review" photo slideshow. It's certainly a good way to keep soccer non-contact.

They made God's eyes which Kenny wants to put on the Christmas tree this year. Tim threw his away. I was actually pretty sure that God's eyes were mystical, Mexican things. And, sure, there is a large Mexican immigrant population in Freehold but none of them were enrolled in the VBS program. Oh, well, no reason to be superstitious about it.

They got some solid experience with handchimes and singing. They probably learned something about the story of Jesus. These pictures were taken during the Friday evening performance in the sanctuary for parents, followed by a campfire outdoors with s'mores. Ever since Timmy had his Rutgers summer reading program in their basement last summer, I've been looking for an excuse to get into their sanctuary for a peek.

And it's breathtaking, at least coming into it as we did on Friday night, next to the choir. The first thing you see is the sweeping balcony (always closed for safety reasons), the dark wooden pews with red seat cushions. Behind you on the wall are the pipes to the organ. Three high-backed chairs form half a circle at the head of the sanctuary. The huge pulpit is front and center with a communion table directly in front of that. I noticed that there is no center aisle. This frustrated my picture-taking as the only way to get a head-on shot of the pulpit would be to sit in the front row. And I wasn't about to do that. So all my pictures are taken at an angle. I wanted to ask someone how the bride comes down during a wedding. I'm sure the design is intended to thwart any clerical or eucharistic procession.

The church's adoring, unmistakably hand-painted mosaic tile had an early Byzantine style (I suppose) but its teal blues and brick reds were so reminiscent of anything in the Holy Land. It was as if the artist had first-hand exposure to Holy Land mosaics. Jeff said that of course they wouldn't use genuine tile as that's expensive and Italian. True enough.

It became clear over the course of the week that participation in worship that Sunday would be expected. So that the kids could perform a song from VBS. Kind of give a report to the congregation. I wasn't opposed to that. I just figured that most of the VBS participants were also congregants and we wouldn't be missed. But it's a good thing that we obliged as about half the others didn't. We arrived early so the boys could practice. I knew parking on city streets would be limited and it was already crowded ... because so many members also serve as greeters, ushers, deacons. We were greeted by three women who knew we were visiting because we didn't have name-tags on. Nobody asked us about our regular church. Jeff said it's like on The Prairie Home Companion where everyone is busybody enough to know you're visiting but too polite to ask where you're from. Yes, that was it exactly.

I received a blue paper gift bag stuffed with tissue paper, a book mark, Rick Warren's booklet, a Max Lucado DVD, a church brochure and a bulletin as a welcome. (Their women's retreat in October looks interesting). The same greeter tried to give me the bag again when it was time to leave. Kenny's teacher was also all over us. I didn't see Tim's teacher at all. It was mostly praise music projected overhead on the screen. But one hymn from the hymnal afforded Kenny a chance to hear a real pipe organ. Ours is a simulator ... and not a very good one, too fuzzy. The organ was very nice and I would have been ok with only hymns. The Gospel was the same as ours, without the complementary reading from Exodus and the rest. The kids followed along in the pew Bible and the pocket edition I had taken to Israel ten years ago was the right version - it fit in my purse.

The woman, Pastor Cindy, was dressed in a singlet and capris. The men had ties. Too hot for Ph.D. robes I suppose. Or M.Div. or whatever they have. Pastor Cindy gave a "talk to the children" before the man gave the sermon. I noticed during VBS that she's very good with children but I couldn't help wondering whether she had that position because of her gifts ... or whether her position prompted her to develop the necessary gifts. I'm thinking the former. The third minister did little, gave a blessing I think. But he generally slumped in his high-backed chair looking very uncomfortable. And I told the kids to take communion.

Kenny's teacher joined us again for the closing prayer which involved congregational hand-holding. Ugh. And she asked us, "Kinda different from your church, huh?" I said yes and I suppose Kenny probably crossed himself before and after prayers, so they knew.

I hope they aren't disappointed if we aren't there next week. Upon leaving, I saw the Applewoods Estates shuttle van loading up the seniors. That explained how they could fill the church will such limited urban parking. I felt sorry for those older people having to endure praise music. But Jeff said rightly that the target audience is the youth and the seniors can f--- themselves. I just got a vision of being in the same situation myself someday, boarding a van at my retirement community to whatever church is the closest.