Wednesday, December 30, 2009

He read aloud the bulk of chapter 11, the raising of Lazarus, then followed immediately with the apropos segment from le film du jour. Last time, someone had got hung up on "Jesus" being the guy from Lost. You can bet that "someone" wasn't I. And, no, I didn't recognize Christopher Plummer's voice.

He said it's a nice story with only a couple of oddities, like how Lazarus manages to come out when still being bound (Jn. 11:44).1 Or that Mary's identification is in reference to an event that has yet to be narrated in the Gospel: anointing of the Lord's feet in Jn. 12:3. And the usual, "why is this powerful story not in the Synoptics?"2

So what's unique, then, about Easter? He said Lazarus et al. die again.3

⇒⇒Return to "Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival."

1 and that the verb used for "loosen" is the same as found in Matthew 16:19 and 18:18, a very regular verb.

2 I read in Kostenberger that (1) Peter - the eyewitness for Mark (and, indirectly Matthew) is presumably absent from after his confession in 6:69 until chapter 13 and (2) the Synoptics avoid events set around Jerusalem until the final week.

3 Hebrews 9:27

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Asha sent out an email announcing a "new members" class on Thursday mornings with some materials by John MacArthur. She said the church website would have more information. I checked and found nothing, so I followed a link announcing a church plant in Hamilton.

Their "preview" service last Sunday was snowed out by the blizzard - was it only last Sunday? - and rescheduled for this morning. A friend of mine from high school is the secretary of a church that meets in an abandoned theater. As far as I know, she's done that her entire professional career. So the idea isn't anything new. Except, in this case, the other screens are still in operation: the parking lot was jammed but not everyone was heading to church. Movies on Sunday morning?! I can't say I've ever considered that. If I had nowhere to go on Sunday morning, I'd stay in bed.1

Their location was a good choice, very public and visible. I stuffed my NLT Catholic edition inside my coat, made sure to lock my car, and tried to act as if I do this every Sunday. Ushers associated with the church wore distinctive T-shirts and I was guided past the concessions into the theater. I haven't been inside a theater in probably ten years but nothing much has changed. There were about ten rows in an orchestra section down front, but I was shown a seat at the end of a full row in the middle, next to a preteen boy there with his mother and sister. The preteen had a cup in his cup holder and I hope it was hot chocolate. I was uncomfortable sitting next to a young boy 'though I wasn't supposed to be. The song leader told us to be at ease in the cushioned theater seats and not be uptight as if we were at church. But we were forbidden to fall asleep. The countdown on the screen showed :41 seconds, so I was just in time.

We were ordered to stand and sing along if we could as the band played four songs, of which I can remember the last three: "Hosanna (In the Highest)", "The Stand" and "Revelation Song".2 The rock music was loud but very well done. The guitarist was very good. After the second song, I grew tired of standing and wondered why I should let my cushy theater seat go to waste. Weren't comfy seats the venue's main selling point? I sat down, feeling like a rebel whenever a usher went by to seat a latecomer. Ironically, the next song was all about standing!

As the message started, we were told to be seated. But then, almost immediately, the preacher asked those with physical or emotional ailments to stand. Well, my ailment made standing uncomfortable so I stayed seated. The young boy next to me stood. Then the preacher asked us to stand and pray over or with anyone next to us who stood. So there was no avoiding it. I lugged myself to my feet and prayed for the young boy to my right: Please, God, get this boy and his family out of this church, in your mercy. Or something very like that. When I was done, I sat down and the message continued a bit more.

The Scriptural text was Eph. 1:4-14 and I've said before that the metaphor of adoption works better for me, theologically, than language about being born again. Unfortunately, we were assured that our mere presence at the preview service constituted our adoption into the family of God. Then, we were shown a video interview with a couple who adopted a girl and then were blessed with five biological daughters afterwards. The couple featured in the video were present in the orchestra section and I had recognized them from seeing them enter at the start of the service and be seated. They acted like "somebody" as they took their seats, and I began to suspect that the orchestra section was reserved seating.

To wrap things up, Josh invited people to accept Jesus. The next move was very familiar from my Campus Crusade days: bow your heads and close your eyes and if you accepted Christ, please make eye contact with me up here so I know. He acknowledged a few people's signals, genuinely, I hope. And while our eyes were closed, lo!, the band had returned to the stage for a final song: "O Holy Night" which I know only from the Home Alone movie.

In our packet - everything was branded with last Sunday's date - along with sermon notes, was a business reply card for contact information. I expected this and had no qualms about filling it out. I just wasn't sure about dropping it in the collection basket because I had no money to give. So I held onto it until way too late. We were invited to (Pizzeria) "Uno" for lunch, at our own expense, of course. And as much as I would have liked to, I had to get home. The neighborhood was familiar from two years ago when we ate brunch after Bible study at the Bob Evans. That establishment is now out of business.

Not knowing anyone, I had no reason to linger and socialize. The staff handed out free Christmas tree ornaments and I couldn't help but take one. I suspected it would advertise the church and, yup, it does. It's an image of their trailer.

First Preview Service from 217church on Vimeo.

I greeted the preacher on my way out and said, "A nice message," and he saw that I was still holding the business reply card and could he have it? So, sure. He says in January, he'll be reading through Proverbs, one per day, and will email out reflections. Oh, yes, the New Year, time for "reading through the Bible in a year" schedules, etc. Actually, Janet's has been going along pretty faithfully.3

And as I walked to the car, my legs felt unusually good. Josh had requested that anyone who receives healing, either at the service or in the following week, be sure to let him know. And I wondered to myself whether this was a church plant ... or a church split. How many church splits are disguised? It wasn't full-blown Pentecostal but healing and wholeness was emphasized, along with "things that unite us." Josh promised that he could probably sit down on any of our couches and talk for hours and neither offend nor be offended. Maybe, but I'm somewhat theologically beyond the Protestant pale. In short, the church is about service and not doctrine. It's better than not going to church at all, but I'd guess that between half to three-quarters of the people come from other churches. I wondered whether they would ever hold holy communion.

1 my husband said he'd gladly go to the movies on Sunday morning.
2 Maybe the first song was "Hungry (Falling on My Knees)".
3 I've tried following along but I just don't understand the point of her questions.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Maybe it was the unusual presence of snow on the ground that added stillness to tonight's clear night. Or that houses seem more decorated this year than in previous years. But driving down Windsor Rd. just a little while ago, I got a sense that people were keeping vigil, with their lights on, waiting. A really hopeful, quiet and peaceful expectation.

I tuned out the beautiful choir to say a rosary for a special intention. Jeff said Christmas comes once a year so I must go out again, alone to pray. I finished the rosary and the choir began Silent Night. Since I had arrived twenty minutes before midnight, I knew this was their final prelude and I allowed myself to listen to it.

A cantor greeted us with "Good morning," which after a moment's thought made perfect sense and we welcomed his greeting. Someone, I don't know who, sang the entire reading from Matthew and since it hadn't been read at the earlier service I attended, I was glad to hear it. It was well-done. But were some people around me snickering?

Just after the quotation from Isaiah but before the conclusion of the reading, the fire alarm went off. Very loud and very bright. No one moved but some people looked around. The woman next to me insisted someone turn it off, but her companion cautioned the fire department would arrive shortly. The alarm was silenced within a few moments without any further interruption.

The celebrant processed in wearing a chasuble. His stole was, I believe, propped up in his chair. He censed the altar and the creche. Then he slipped out of his chasuble and donned his stole, fumbling with the microphone while the transitional deacon intoned the Kyrie. The Gloria was like I'd heard at the earlier service, with a refrain of Gloria in excelsis Deo. I had translated it earlier for Kenny but this time I tried to sing it to God instead of the choir director. Being in a larger church, with a huge choir and a choice instrumental ensemble removed the self-consciousness I usually feel about singing.

The readings were the appointed ones. The transitional deacon processed around the church with the book of the Gospels behind the censor. The celebrant followed him actively with his eyes, looking expectant. The homily was about welcoming people who maybe haven't been to church since Easter. Father said he'd only been there since June himself so now would be a good time to sneak back in because he doesn't know everyone yet. "I'm new, so I haven't missed you." I wasn't aware of how new he was. I liked the previous pastor(s) fine.

He recited the Creed facing the altar, and we all genuflected at the appropriate time. The incense was brought out again when the gifts were presented. I can't say I've ever seen people incensed until tonight: everyone got it directed at them. The monsignor gave me communion. I wonder what he thinks of the new pastor's trends.

The choir was so good that there was spontaneous applause after the communion hymn. Previous pastors have invited the congregation to show their appreciation for the choir towards the end of the service, so it seemed unusual to me that this one hadn't.

The prayers that really made an impression on me:
By our communion with God made man may we become more like him who joins our lives to yours ... May we share his life completely by living as he has taught ...
And from the earlier service:
as we keep tonight the vigil of Christmas, may we celebrate this eucharist with greater joy than ever since it marks the beginning of our redemption
And both services used "Christmas I":
In the wonder of the incarnation your eternal Word has brought to the eyes of faith a new and radiant vision of your glory. In him we see God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see.
And the first Eucharistic Prayer which will be the last one standing and that's alright with me:
Though we are sinners, we trust in your mercy and love. Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us your forgiveness.
Even though we sang three verses of O, Come All Ye Faithful, we did not sing the final verse printed in Latin. With all the traditional moves the new pastor is making, the choir director may, unfortunately, be laying off the Latin.

After the final blessing, I made my way to the alcove of candles. I didn't have any money so I didn't light a candle for my intention. Instead, I waited for a spot on a prie-dieu to free up and I knelt down on it in front of a picture (not an icon) of Theotokos of the Passion. And I did something I never do, I asked for OLPH's intercession for this intention. I didn't get an answer and am not at the point where I'm looking for one. I'm still just waiting.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday's performance was sold out, so I got tickets for after Saturday morning's tennis lessons.

Chris skipped tennis to attend a birthday party and Jeff also took Ella. Tim may as well have skipped tennis as he didn't want to play. And I was too tired/too sick to insist. I spent the time sleeping in the car.

My memory was bad for getting from tennis in Manasquan to the former Grist Mill restaurant in Tinton Falls. I knew I wanted to take 34 instead of the Parkway. But how to get from 34 to Tinton Falls without going through Colts Neck? Well, I thought of 547 (Shafto Rd.) which I was able to get to from 33. And then from there, after showing the kids where we used to live, I took Wayside through Tinton Falls to the restaurant on Sycamore. It was perfect, but I barely remember the way.

The restaurant is now called The Falls. We were the only ones in it the entire noon hour. We picked the best seat, then. The lobster bisque was very good. When the waiter accidentally brought a cup for Tim, I almost suggested he leave it. Then, when I noted the price of it on the bill, I was glad he didn't. $4 a cup.

Kenny got crab cakes; Tim, a hotdog and I, a Reuben. The menu was very limited and consisted mostly of fancy hamburgers. I let the boys get dessert and Tim made a good choice of a chocolate chip pie. The bill was something else. I don't eat out often but I can't imagine three small scoops of vanilla ice cream running us $6. I know desserts and drinks are usually expensive and obviously the place is struggling. And instead of pricing Kenny's crab cakes from the kids' menu ($9), he charged us the appetizer price ($11). Now, I'm sure I could have said something and got it changed but I'm not really that concerned about a couple of bucks. It's just the idea of it, like we wouldn't notice.

And when I gave him 20%, he was strangely grateful. Well, why not? The food was good as was the service. I'm not complaining; this restaurant was purely my choice. We could have eaten elsewhere for less. $17 per person was just a bit beyond what I was willing to play for kids, for lunch. But it gives, I think, a clear picture of where the local economy is, even in rather well-to-do Monmouth County. I remember a time when it was necessary to park in the overflow lot at lunchtime, or just about anytime.

Then we drove over to the university and walked around campus a bit. The mansion wasn't open but we peered through the windows and saw the Christmas decorations. The show itself was very good. Our seats were decent. During the intermission, we did the usual thing of walking down the hall and peering into the darkened computer lab to watch the lights flicker. It wasn't much different from peering into the mansion.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The perennial Catholic gag, "What time is Midnight mass?"

This year, in Rome, it's at 10:
Papal 'midnight' Mass to begin at 10 p.m. - CNS blog, 12/08/09

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

New Advent's Bible, in Greek, English and Latin.

Via matt@Absolutely No Spin.
Last week we did John 6. Nothing magical. Jim says transubstantiation can't be found in it.

I had Brown's "revised" Intro to the Gospel of John, published, well, posthumously, with me on Saturday morning, so I read through its many introductions. And this quote struck me:
sincere confessional commitment to a theological position is perfectly consonant with a stubborn refusal to make a biblical text say more than its author meant it to say.
Right. This is quoted in a tribute book by Donahue (which I think I have on my Amazon Wish List) as well as in a book by M. Eugene Boring on how the Disciples (of Christ) interpret the Bible. And I think this was where Dr. Hutton may have been coming from too.

I don't have Brown's original Anchor Bible volume so I can't compare the revisions. I imagine it's mostly Fr. Moloney putting down what he thinks Brown would say thirty-five years after the original.

But just now, as the kids were on the playground (yes, it was 60 degrees and sunny this afternoon, global warming), I read Barclay which Jim recommended and I don't disdain. And I was surprised to see Barclay trot out that tired Jesuit explain-away interpretation of John 6:1-13:
(c) There may be another and very lovely explanation. It is scarcely to be thought that the crowd left on a nine-mile expedition without making any preparations at all. If there were pilgrims with them, they would certainly possess supplies for the way. But it may be that they would not produce what they had, for they selfishly - and very humanly - wished to keep it all for themselves. It may then be that Jesus, with that rare smile of his, produced the little store that he and his disciples had; with sunny faith he thanked God for it and shared it out. Moved by his example, everyone who had anything did the same; and in the end there was enough, and more than enough, for all.
Kind of the Stone Soup version. Yeah, ok, if rationalism demands it. But I did like Barclay's second alternative:
(b) It may be that this was really a sacramental meal. In the rest of the chapter, the language of Jesus is exactly that of the Last Supper, when he speaks about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. It could be that at this meal it was but a morsel, like the sacrament, that each person received; and that the thrill and wonder of the presence of Jesus and the reality of God turned the sacramental crumb into something which richly nourished their hearts and souls - as happens at every communion service to this day.
I suppose after such a confession as that, Barclay had to completely backpedal. Take away with the left what is given with the right.

We meet every week in December, except Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. So he hopes to get to through Lazarus, halfway.

Oh, a couple more things from Barclay:
Ameth is spelt with three Hebrew letters - aleph, which is the first letter of the alphabet, min the middle letter, and tau the last. The truth of God is the beginning, the middle and the end of life.
And this curious anecdote:
There is a tale of an old German schoolmaster who, when he entered his class of boys in the morning, used to remove his cap and bow ceremoniously to them. One asked him why he did this. His answer was: "You never know what one of these boys may some day become." He was right - one of them was the founder of the Reformation, Martin Luther.
We didn't do the Railroaders' Weekend this past October. I don't know why not. Too many birthday parties, probably.

But I was able to combine a train ride with the Christmas at the Historic Village at Allaire this past Sunday. I attended an early mass but still had to scramble to get the kids ready and together. The train rides began at 11 and I wanted to have them on the first one, but we arrived at 11:30 and found out rides were sold out until 2:30.

So I took them to the playground. The sun was warm but it was cold otherwise. I knew by mid-afternoon it would be even colder but I figured we could sit in the car if necessary. I saw some people doing that, people with little, little children.

I couldn't talk them into a horse & carriage ride. That would have killed some time. But probably been too cold, especially for me who had forgotten a coat.

I dragged them to the 12:30 chapel service. I knew the later ones would be SRO. We had a pew to ourselves which became a problem when it came time to sing The Twelve Days of Christmas. Our row and the row behind us were to sing "8 maids a'milkin'" but my kids don't sing (or won't) and the lady behind me seemed shy. Wouldn't you know, about six people came in the church, to get warm, just as we were starting and they sat in our two rows and sang along! Very strange and very convenient. After the song was over, they left. But the service was almost over anyway.

Not a particularly religious service. No "presentation of the gospel" or anything so evangelical. Just a performance of some Christmas music. I was surprised at how many adults did not sing along at the appropriate times. It seemed principled. But I'm just very used to singing in public. I mean, I sing along with the grocery store tunes.

I rewarded their patience in the chapel with cookies from the bakery. Chris was interested in the noises coming from the smithy, so I walked him over there. Photos weren't allowed but it was a working forge with a couple of guys banging out some metal. Looked like very difficult labor.

The train ran behind schedule by about 10 or 15 minutes. We got in line at 2:10, just as the 2 o'clock train departed. We were pretty close to the head of the line but it was a tough wait for the boys. I thought the train would go around only twice like usual but the Christmas train must need more time for Santa to make his way through and greet each child, so the train took three laps.

But our long wait in line was rewarded with a seat in the coveted cupola in the caboose. Unfortunately, all the "trainees" also hang out in the caboose because that's where the stove is. So I had to put up with old wannabes talkin' shop; men that were born 100 years too late to catch the railway boom. If nothing else, it was difficult to take pictures because these guys with their steady sea legs never took a seat.

But we survived and the boys were so ready to get home that I didn't have to deliver on my promised trip to McDonald's, the one with the indoor playroom. Good deal.
Saturday night, first snow. Tim at a classmate's ice skating party, Mercer County Skating Center off Old Trenton Road.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Just for me, because I hadn't read this before. Some of it has me reeling; most of it has me nodding.
We Protestants automatically assume that the Pharisees are the Catholics. ... What an odd irony that the Reformation made such readings possible.

to distinguish ourselves from Catholics who allegedly believe in works-righteousness. Unfortunately, the Catholics are right. Christian salvation consists in works.

As I oftentimes point out, it is extraordinary that Catholicism is able to keep the Irish and the Italians in the same church. What an achievement!

In contrast, Protestants don’t even know we’re being judged for our disunity.