Monday, July 19, 2010

I took the luxury of sticking around only to discover that I was expected to. There was pizza dinner at 5 and thirty minutes later there were still seven whole pizzas left over. The pastor offered them from $5 a pie. At a Catholic church, they'd be given away for nothing.

Enzo, a presenter from "The Lizard Guys" showed up with enough time to grab a bite. I simply assumed Enzo was somebody's dad because he dropped off the containers near the stage and joined a family's table to eat. He referred to himself as Italian a couple of times and mentioned twelve years of Catholic school. I would have liked to know whether it did him any good. And I should have mentioned the Italian American festival underway near the Freehold racetrack if he was looking for something to do after work. I think the pastor told him to try to tie in his show with the Bible, God and Creation. He seemed very comfortable saying, "God made these creatures in special ways ..." before describing their unique features. But at other times he referred to God as "the man upstairs" and I caught Tim looking up the first time he said it. It probably sounded ominous to him.

It was a successful show. The guy held their attention. Kenny's hand was up about the entire time, always with some comment or question, mostly related to his recent experience of having a lizard pet in school (scroll down). Eventually the guy said, "OK, no more questions from this kid." Before it was all over, Kenny was practically sitting in the guy's lap.

But the guy ran five minutes over. Imagine! That threw Pastor Cindy's unforgiving schedule for the evening into a tizzy. Everyone was rushed into the sanctuary after sanitizing their hands. Most of them had handled the creatures. The music man in the sanctuary set out to teach us a new song. Despite the overhead screen, he refused to display the lyrics. It didn't look or sound like this because if it had, I would have liked it. Then the kids went to their activities and we parents were told by Cindy to "go to the back."

Well, I looked towards "the back" of the sanctuary and no one was there. No one was even headed there. Instead they were leaving the sanctuary by the doors on either side of the front wall. To me, that's "the front" but I know there's a hallway out there that runs the full length behind the pipe organ and choir sections, and meeting rooms on the other side. So we met in the room where Tim's Rutgers summer reading class had been two summers before.

While we had been in the sanctuary, Pastor David had related to the children the parable of the sower. He wanted the children to identify allegorically what each element in the parable represented or stood for. So he asked the children who was the sower and someone said, "Betsy Ross." Strange demonstration of free association. Then he asked what the seed was and someone said, "People" (Mk. 4:15) to which he gave a resounding "No" but I had a vague recollection of her interpretation appearing in one of the Synoptics. In an effort to sort that out, I kind of tuned out the rest of his Q&A and thumbed through the New Testament I'd brought1, finding the story in Matthew first, then using the cross-references to quickly find the parallel in the other two.

So, with our group of parents we were going to consider the parable of the sower a bit more. But first, the icebreakers. There were about sixteen of us, some couples. We had to give an adjective that begins with all the letters in our given name. I asked for paper and pencil. And that they begin on the other side of the room. But the lady next to me boasted to everyone, "I'll go first, I'm ready." Then she gave her name - "Elizabeth" - said "Energetic" and turned to me. Then everyone explained she needed an adjective for every letter and she quickly recovered, "Well I go by 'Liz.'" It was my turn before I knew it.

I gave my name, saying "Without the 'h'" because I didn't want to be on the hook for too much. "'Tall,' uh, let me skip 'E' for the moment. 'Reclusive,'2 uh, 'Self-effacing,' and 'Ambitious' in a Macbeth way." They brought me back to the 'E's." "Excitable!" I said and Cindy said, "You skipped the first 'E.'" I replied, "No, no, I skipped the second!" But then I got t' thinking, as I passed my turn, that "self-effacing" could count as "S" and "E," especially because the rules got softer as play passed around the table. By the end of it, entire phrases were acceptable! "Oh, you'd be good at our Koinonia meetings!"

Then we did another icebreaking activity about the time we followed someone's advice ... or didn't and wished we had. So I said something about not going to grad school for library science because my husband wanted me to get a good job so that later I could be home with the kids. So I did and I am.

Finally we turned to our Bibles. I opened right up to Matthew 13, just guessing that she'd take the "most fleshed out one" of the Gospel parallels. But it might have been instructive, as much as I am against it, to look at all three stories side-by-side. Well, obviously that wasn't her plan so I didn't even suggest it. And the parable of the sower is one of the few parables that Jesus himself interprets for us. Cindy was most intrigued by the seed that's gobbled up by "the evil one" (Mt. 13:19) before the person ever gets a chance. She was so firm in her conviction that everyone gets a fair chance that I could only suggest "the evil one" is, in fact, incorrect expectations of the Christian life. Nobody said, "Devil" or "Satan" and I didn't want to show myself to be the only oddball supernaturalist in the room. Never mind that I think those "incorrect expectations" are the devil's lies.

Cindy latched on to my idea pretty tight and used it for the rest of our study time together. It's the realization that following Christ doesn't provide all the answers here and now, that not everything is wonderful all the time and that some pretty dreadful stuff can even happen to believers. But eventually she backed away from embracing the notion of the cross and returned to her conviction that "she's never been happier" and "y'all gotta try this Christian living stuff 'cuz it's loads o' fun." Yeah.

Then we went into the sanctuary and kicked out Kenny's group who were gathered around the grand piano. We took a place at the handbell table and worked through several measures a few times of "Beautiful Savior" (Music: Schlesische Volkslieder) a.k.a., "Fairest Lord Jesus." I never once recognized it as we played it. Not once.

Ligouri Publications puts out a VBS with the same name as the one the boys are doing at the Presbyterian church in Freehold. I don't know how different it is but it would be nice if there weren't many differences. The Ligouri one carries an imprimatur. But it would explain the obvious incompatibility between the theme, "rainforest" and the scripture, "parables." Catholic catechesis always uses the parables of Jesus as the starting point. May as well tackle the difficult stuff first.

1 I found two ABS paperback NTs, one in the TEV and t'other in the NRSV. I supposed they were leftovers from my volunteer days as a catechist but when I opened one to put contact paper on, I saw the insert with my (married) name, a portion of Luke 24:32 - "Were not our hearts burning within us?", mention of the occasion and location - Emmaus Retreat, Xavier Center, and the date - sometime in 1995. I remember that retreat pretty well - it was the first one since graduating college. The NT has sentimental value.

2 They all said it had to be an accurate description!

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