Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sunday Snippets

Ok, this is embarrassing. I spent a couple of hours Friday in the public library's "quiet zone" to catch up on my Bible study homework. I was reading the commentary for this particular chapter in 2 Corinthians. I honestly can't tell you which chapter but it almost doesn't matter. Because the commentary was talking about Satan in general at this juncture and had cited another Scripture to illustrate Satan's role as accuser:

So I happen to be studying Numbers in another Bible study, a topical one on the Life of Moses. And I'm like, "When was Joshua of conquest fame high priest?" Well, he wasn't, of course. Son of Nun, notwithstanding.

Frankly, this exposes the fact that I've never read the Book of Joshua. But it's not as if I've never tackled the post-exilic prophets. In the summer of 2008, I heard Fr. Boadt lecture a week on them. But he was always more into the historical background and not so much about the text. And I haven't read his book.

But, see, this is what comes, also, from reading Jesus into every Old Testament scripture. I've honestly never taken the time to reflect on the original meaning of Zechariah 3 before inserting Jesus into the role of high priest. And now that I've seen it, I hope I don't forget.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Snippets

It's been a while since I criticized a church. That didn't go well, either. It seems that that pastor has moved on to movie making. A fine fit.

Since I haven't learned my lesson, here goes again:

Gimmick. Repeat after me, gimmick. Can we understand that?

"God told me to do this!" In your best Cosby-as-Noah voice, "Right."

I know some of these people and it makes me sad to think that this is their best.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Snippets

Even though I have griped about never being invited to lunch, I still wasn't prepared to be. Practically speaking, I had no cash.

My friend offered to treat me. In fact, she picked up the tab for everyone, all five of us. We handled the tip, including a tract. Quell the twinge of discomfort. But I can't remember when I last shared a meal with tract-leavin' church folk! Pray before eating, of course. Discuss churchy things in earshot of restaurant staff, sure. Send back meals that aren't gluten-free or vegan, absolutely. But leave tracts? Still, they kept saying, "Let's bless her. Oh yes, let's!"

What was interesting, even awkward, was that my friend took a call right after we ordered so I did my best of talk with the remaining three strangers at the table. One was a former Catholic now in charge of the youth ministry. She asked whether I'd ever read Lee Strobel's book.
Oh, sure, that's an old one. Read it in college1. Tells you how old it is! Kids find those kinds of 'logical' books convincing.
I went on:
But what's really convincing is actually going to Israel. I took my son there last February.
That broke the ice! Because another woman has also been, so we swapped stories. Travel is usually a great conversation topic. When my friend returned to the table, she joined in with plans of a summer mission trip:
They're in the woods, alone, for three days with only a flashlight, a blanket and a Bible. After the first day, they take away the flashlight!
Sounds monastic. So, they've memorized the Bible in that time or do they simply clutch it for comfort? Get a softcover one. How do they grow up not hating you and scarred for life?

Earlier in the day, at St. Rose, I noted a flyer of upcoming ecumenical Lent events. I couldn't wait to mention the one at their church with a preacher from the UMC! The news elicited a mild groan from them. They were quite unaware. I teased, "Maybe you're serving the lunch!"

After we finished eating, even the ones who sent back their meals and got replacements, the conversation turned to personal, true stories of attempted child abductions. These tales jogged my memory so I made my exit:
Yes, speaking of that, I must go pick up my children at school! Ta-ta!
I was glad to leave before the waitstaff picked up her tip.

1 In fact, I'm thinking of Josh McDowell's book. These popular apologetics were making the rounds of campus ministries in those days. I didn't read Strobel's book until I was out of college and working.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sunday Snippets

As the deacon and I waited for other participates to arrive Thursday, the final session for the parish Little Rock Scripture Study The Eucharist in Scripture, he shared about a recent mass at his workplace, a retreat house:
"The priest actually said, 'like the dewfall' and it sounded nice. You never hear that but it was alright."
With a few exceptions, I agreed with him that the prayers ought to be said as written. I expressed my frustration with the pastor who alters the prayers, especially as pertain to Mary. I confessed to him:
"I can't attend a Marian feast day here anymore. It's too distracting to hear him fumble for words. The pastor ought to mark his preferences in the book so it flows."
The deacon defended the pastor, saying, "He doesn't want people to get carried away with devotion to Mary. He's no Marianist, that's for sure. I, too, want the Big Guy to get top billing, you know?"

I replied that I trust the prayers to express proper theology (and mariology). Reading the prayers would correct any errors or exaggerations in anyone's piety. Attempts to downplay the significance may have the opposite effect.

After everyone arrived, we were discussing the homework questions. One asked, "How can you better prepare yourself [at mass] to receive Jesus [in the Eucharist]?"

My answer reiterated my earlier point: I rely on the prayers of the liturgy to prepare me. I'm not off doing my own thing at mass, not saying the rosary or any other private devotion. I'm not reading my Bible, at mass, or the pope's latest encyclical. Instead, I'm saying the public prayers with the congregation.

When I catch glimpses of people doing their own thing, usually as they're on their way out before the service actually ends, I wonder if they think they have a superior way.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sunday Snippets

"I met your music teacher's husband yesterday. At his church. He has a church."


A bye week for Valentine's Day allowed me to attend a ladies' study group at a friend's nearby A of G church. I arrived on time, not early, so that no one could text my friend in case she was blowing it off. I was introduced to the pastor within minutes of entering the meeting room (pictured above). His wife teaches music in my son's school and the reverend was careful to get my first and last name.

The group would finish "Breathe" by Priscilla Shirer, Tony Evans's daughter, and then take a short break before beginning the next topic. The program advocated not only Sabbath-observance but spoke repeatedly of "margin" which I understood as Pentecostal lingo for "rest."

Three other women staggered in, upwards of fifteen minutes late, looking rushed and preoccupied, and it occurred to me that the ten-week study had been unsuccessful in turning around their overcommitted lives. We began going over the week's assignment, and I listened several minutes before my friend offered to share her booklet. I discovered that she is literally unable to sit still.

She read from her answers, telling of her rebellious attitude, leaving the Church after confirmation, and her happiness that her Catholic husband now attends her church every Sunday without complaining. She actually said, "Instead of a religion, I have a relationship." She glanced at me for effect.

How can she admit rebelliousness, yet excuse it? Moreover, rebel further into another church? How can their applause for her husband's church-switching not implicate me?

She showed me a table of the literary structure of Genesis 1:1-2:4a, light on Day One and sun and moon on Day Four, etc. I told her I've seen that kind of analysis before. The materials rightly credited Meredith Kline with this framework but the scholar's name only vaguely rang a bell with me. I'm slipping because, even though it's been six years since I studied Genesis in a Reformed church where this framework was presented, Bruce Waltke's name leapt to mind instead, as I had used his Genesis commentary then.

In closing, prayer requests, past and present, were discussed. Referring to their prayer journal notes, inquiries were made for status on so-and-so but many were unknown. No one had been in touch with them. My friend shared her good deed driving last minute someone to treatment. She also shared about her homeschooling friends whose first daughter, then second daughter, both, became pregnant their respective first semester at Christian college. And prayers for the third daughter. I wanted to ask whether contraception had ever been recommended.

As I didn't take any notes, I took my turn swiftly in order to mention an intention I could recall. I feel like I did fine, praying for those away at school in New England dealing with a harsh winter.

Then we went out to lunch.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Sunday Snippets

I dreamed last night that Jeff and I were at a church supper. The food was laid out buffet style. Much was made about the fine quality of the food. A dish at the near end of the table was a vegetable salad with cucumbers, tomatoes and half of a large, red onion poised on top. The onion looked weird.

Before the meal started, there were a couple of songs of thanks. A row of musicians stood in front of the buffet, each holding a different instrument. After that, someone approached us and asked whether it was our first visit to the church. It was Jeff's but I was disappointed that I wasn't recognized from having attended the Bible study.

As the meal was to begin, we moved from where we were to a long dining table, and I wanted to sit at the far end. I was carrying a heavy, glass candelabra, without any candles in it, and as we neared the dining table, I decided that I wanted to put the candlestick back where we had been. So Jeff, who took a seat at the head of the long table, reserved my seat to his left with his coat and I walked back to the other section of the room.

Except I was now outside and a friend was walking towards me carrying a paper plate of pizza slices. She saw me and tripped and fell down. I reached her in time to help her up, despite my hands being full with the heavy candelabra. We fell in together and I showed her around, explaining that Jeff needed to mow down the tall grasses on the property. Somehow we found our way into a slow-moving car and I drove us down a country lane to a farm. Jeff was ahead of us, walking, wearing suspenders and carrying an animal, maybe a rabbit. He was accompanied by a couple of other men in suspenders also carrying small animals. Even in the car, I could not catch up to him because the place was crowded.

I mentioned to my friend that I was glad to see Jeff wearing suspenders, trying to fit in with those around. "We spend our early years trying to be different, and our later years struggling to fit in. Don't you find that?" I asked my friend. She didn't exactly agree, and I discovered that my attention was drawn from my driving with that brief conversation. It was so crowded on each side of the narrow lane with what looked like booths at a county fair. I was wondering to myself how I hadn't hit anyone yet. Then I heard a thud and looked back. Two gray-haired men in straw hats lay motionless near the side of the lane. No one was tending them.

I stopped the vehicle and hopped out. My friend also came. As I got nearer, a woman, maybe a spouse, was trying to wake up one of the men. By now, they were both in the ground up to their chests. And their complexion was green. It appeared to me that they'd been dead for some time. My friend took some extra steps to verify it: she opened one man's mouth very widely and peered inside. I said there was nothing we could do.

We continued on, touring the fairgrounds. We went past the 4H horse stable. I told my friend that I wanted to get my daughter into 4H with a horse and that, technically, we have enough property for a horse. But I would want a larger piece of land to be fair to the horse. Then we entered a hallway and found a room at the end with refreshments. I pour my friend some tea from a pitcher and also a glass of ice water. And I drank some water. That's it. I woke up.