Tuesday, June 15, 2010

This morning was the last formal meeting of the ladies Bible study on Acts using Keller's materials. Nine chapters remain, however. Some expressed interest in continuing over the summer, including me, so I picked four dates, taking into account commitments to VBS and let everyone know.

The first date is the end of June. We'll be meeting at someone's house and I offered to facilitate the discussion. There won't be any babysitter so I decided to sign Chris up for a VBS in town at the Presbyterian church. Just to give him something to do.

I got in touch with the contact person who promptly emailed me the registration form. I made arrangements to drop it off early this afternoon. There was one car in the parking lot and, as always happens when I set foot on an unfamiliar campus for the first time, I couldn't guess where I should head. There was a steep metal staircase, of fire escape quality, up the right side of the building to the top floor. And a window A/C unit could be heard running next to it. But the door had no exterior knob.

"Let me see what else there is before I scale those stairs," I thought.

I didn't bother with the giant front doors, which I supposed were locked, but went around the other side. I tried three doors around the side and the back, all locked. That brought me around again to the fire escape. The kids remarked about the cemetery in the back and on the side. "Yes, that's right," I said to them.

I ordered the little kids not to follow me up the stairs as I climbed up and knocked. The door opened from inside and the lady invited me to meet her at the front door. She explained that she could accept the paperwork from me and even give me a tour of the facility.

I didn't want to trouble her about that but then decided that Chris would have less anxiety about going if he knew what he was in for. I mustered up the courage to follow her through the sanctuary, down the center aisle and into the back. I have been in the church a few times over the years but it's so white and tall and angular as to be intimidating.

She took me through a doorway behind the front wall. I can't remember if there's a pipe organ on that wall or not but probably there is. She showed me one of the rooms the program would be using. Then she showed me where snack would be served. Then she took me upstairs, just outside her office, and showed me another room that may be used. I asked about how many children they expected and she couldn't be sure. But I would think it's small.

She apologized that the program runs only three mornings because typical programs span four or even five mornings. The reason is the pastor is going on sabbatical, beginning that week but he wants to be there for VBS. I assured her, sincerely, that it's exactly what I'm looking for, for Chris's first time: a small, short program close to home. She told me she's been church secretary for about seventeen years and the coordinator has been running VBS for a few years now and that all the volunteers are friendly and good. I thought to myself, "Really, if I had any concerns, I wouldn't be here." Later, when I told Jeff of her reassuring statements, he said, "Yeah, this isn't mandatory; you're taking Chris because you want to."

Funny thing, at the end of the tour, Chris walked down the stairs and shot out the first door he could find. We came out the back of the building. Not so funny, Ella fell on their crooked sideway and skinned her knee and her hands. When we walked around front to the parking lot, we noticed the giant front doors were still propped open, so I had Chris close them and make sure they locked. Wouldn't want anyone getting in there.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Projet du Jour

Yes, I put it back together again but it's no longer usable. Too many stray pieces of twisted metal sticking out between the beads.

I need a new "wooden" one.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

In chapter 17 of Acts, Paul goes to Athens. Keller has labeled the lesson, "The gospel for intellectuals" and points out that Paul can't work from the Scriptures in the marketplace as he has in other cities:
"He [Paul] did not argue that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Scripture. Instead, he argued first, for the diety [sic] of Christ and second, for the historicity of the resurrection. One does not have to assume the infallibility of the Bible to argue for those things."
I wonder how the Van Tillians would feel about that.

Background on Epicureans and Stoics was provided in the Leader's Notes which I found misleading. According to the notes, Epicureans did not deny the existence of gods but considered them completely removed from the world. History was random and life had no meaning. After death there was nothing. Adherents were encouraged to pursue pleasure. I came away with the idea that Epicureans were Hedonists. But Wiki paints a more balanced, even enlightened picture, of going after "modest and simple joys." It's an attractive philosophy and ethic with some real wisdom to it.

On the other hand, the notes described the Stoics as subscribing to a sort of pantheism. Adherents carry out their duties under a fixed fate which they must accept. Someone in the group said aloud, "Fatalism."

Everyone seemed very put off by the flagrant idolatry described in the text as if they were standing there themselves. I wanted to tell them not to worry, that Greece has been Christian since Constantine. Maybe they would have scoffed at the suggestion. One lady wrinkled her nose and said, "Their gods needed to be appeased by sacrifices." I said, "Yeah, their gods were angry at them." I half-expected some of the more knowledgeable ladies to speak up and say, "Um, but ..."1

My impression of the Athenians from the text was that they wanted to appear open-minded and gracious upon hearing these "novel" ideas from St. Paul. In other places, Keller has pointed out what we all know, that cities have "character" or "a feel." Major cities are known for things, i.e., Athens for theater. I thought these men interacting with St. Paul had put on a πρόσωπον ("face"). Verse 32 gives them away, "We want to hear you again on this subject."

The other thought I had is that Athens is saturated with gods so doesn't Paul emphasize Jesus' humanity to them in verse 31:
"He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." [NKJV]

1 Adjectives like "holy" and "just" appear in the notes as euphemisms or code words for "angry."