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Monday, March 31, 2014

Doing Theology by Story - Rethinking My Thinking

This post, like my last (I Was Too Critical and Not Critical Enough) are 1) prompted by my recent reading in John P. Meier’s  second volume of his A Marginal Jew series, and 2) efforts to continually rethink my thinking. 

Today I was struck by his use of the phrase “doing theology by story (Meier 922).” [i] In context he is talking about the gospel stories of Jesus walking on the water and cursing the fig tree – stories that he believes go back fairly early in Christian history, but are probably not actual-factual-historical events.  He believes them to be creations of the early Church as a way of “doing theology by story.”

And, honestly I have no real problem with this.  It is the way that I have come to understand several parts of the bible – Noah, Jonah, etc…  These stories, as we have them in our collection of scripture, are (to steal another of Meier’s frequently used phrases) not videotaped replays of historical events.  They are theology embedded in a story. 

But I must confess: I haven’t been fair in applying this.  Way back in 2010 (That’s a long time in internet years…) I wrote about a story told concerning a U.S. Infantry brigade during World War I and Psalm 91. 

As I was reading and researching Psalm 91 … I began to find a story about the 91st psalm repeated over and over on numerous websites, in the exact same words (or only slightly varied) each time.

A story from World War I tells about the 91st Infantry Brigade of the U.S. Expeditionary Army. When it was preparing to enter combat in Europe, most of the men were "green soldiers" who had never seen combat. Its commander, a devout Christian, called an assembly of his men where he gave each a little card on which was printed the 91st Psalm. They agreed to recite the Soldiers' Psalm daily.

The 91st Brigade was engaged in three of the bloodiest battles of WW I: Chateau Thierry, Belle Wood, and the Argonne. While other American units similarly engaged had up to 90% casualties, the 91st Brigade did not suffer a single combat related casualty!

Because of this story Psalm 91 is frequently described as the “soldier’s psalm” and as the “Ultimate Shield,” and you can find Psalm 91 devotional booklets to be distributed to soldiers to keep them safe.

Isn’t that story amazing?  Isn’t it just unbelievable? 

Exactly.  It is unbelievable, because there was no 91st Brigade in the U.S. Expeditionary Army.  Its commander wasn’t a devout Christian.  They didn’t recite the 91st Psalm every morning.  They didn’t fight in three of the bloodiest battles of World War One, and they didn’t avoid the massive casualties that every unit on all sides of that horrible war suffered. The story is not true.

 So on the one hand, I am willing to accept “doing theology by story” when I like the story, or when I like the theology.  But I am (unfairly?) critical of it when I don’t like the story or the theology.  

It’s these questions I’m asking myself now – how far is this “doing theology by story” allowed to go?  What guides or limitations should be in place?  Should the theology conform to, and confirm my understanding of other parts of the bible?  Should the story confirm, and conform to what I have experienced?    Should actual-factual-history be considered?  If so, then how much?  Does it matter that there was no world wide flood, that Jesus may not have walked across the surface of the Sea of Galilee, that there was no 91st Infantry Brigade reciting psalm 91….

I don’t know that I have complete and finalized answers to these questions today. I’m just rethinking my thinking…

[i] Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew Vol. IIL Mentor, Message, and Miracles Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 1994.

I Was Too Critical and Not Critical Enough – Jesus Walking on the Water

Maybe I was too critical (and not critical enough) when I asked the question back in 2012 – Why was Jesus going to walk right past the disciples “in the boat, rowing frantically against strong storm winds… in serious danger of being shipwrecked or drowning and he’s just going to walk right on by them?  I mean, what the heck, Jesus? Did he just not see them?  Or perhaps he didn’t care?”

I wonder now if I was, in one regard, not critical enough in my reading and questioning of this text (Mark 6: 30 – 56) because I was rather careless.  Mark does not say that there was a storm.  Mark tells us that Jesus’ disciples were “straining at the oars, because the wind was against them (6:48).”  There is no sense of storm.  There is no sense of danger.  When the disciples cry out in terror it’s not because of “the storm” (because there wasn’t one) but because they saw Jesus walking on the water and thought he was a ghost (6: 49).

Matthew also tells the story – but there’s no storm in his version either, only that the disciples boat was “buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it (Matthew 14: 24).”  Again there is no sense of life and death peril.   Luke doesn’t tell the story, but John does – and, like Mark and Matthew before him – there is no storm.  John says that “A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough (John 6:18).”

So I wasn’t critical enough in my reading. I was sloppy.  In my mind I conflated the story of Jesus walking on the water with the story of Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4: 35 – 41 / Luke 8: 22 – 25).  It was a rookie mistake that I shouldn’t have made. 

And I also ask myself if I was too critical – in the sense of unfair.  My initial impulse was to see Jesus’ actions as a bit calloused. As a bit cruel –walking right on by the disciples as they floundered in the storm… Again, sloppy reading lead to bad interpretation.

I eventually made some sense of it – found understanding in Jesus wanting to test his disciples, to see how far they’d progressed in their faith.  And, apparently, I’m not alone in finding that to be a helpful way to understand Mark 6. 48 and the story as a whole; it is listed by John P Meier in his summary of five various ways the story is explained. “Others interpret the phrase [“he was about to pass by them”] to mean that Jesus wanted to test the disciples’ faith… (Meier, 916)”[i]

Meier, however, suggests a better way to understand the story, as a Theophany – “a striking, extraordinary, and temporary appearance of a divine or heavenly figure in the earthly realm… (996)” The Jesus walking across the surface of the wind driven waves is not an indifferent Jesus, unconcerned for his floundering disciples, neither is it the pop-quiz Jesus surprising his students with a test.  Rather it is Jesus demonstrating to his disciples evidence of his divine nature.

He strides across the surface of the water like Yahweh of the Old Testament:

Job 9: 8 “He alone stretches out the heavens
    and treads on the waves of the sea.”

Psalm 77: 19 “Your path led through the sea,
    your way through the mighty waters,
    though your footprints were not seen.”

Jesus was about to “pass by them” in the same way that the glory of YHWH passed by Moses.

Exodus 33: 22 “and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by”

In my previous reading of this story I was too critical and not critical enough.  One of these days I may eventually get it right.

[i] Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew Vol. IIL Mentor, Message, and Miracles Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 1994.

Biblical Limericks: Noah’s Wife

It’s an old joke and very well known,
I think it’s funny, it gets a groan -
tell me now, without strife
the name of Noah’s wife.
Here’s the punch line: his wife’s name was Joan.

Joan … Joan of Arc… get it?  Joan…
Genesis 6: 18

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Keep Your Head

This sign is posted above a very low doorway (I had to bend at the waist and the knees to pass through) leading into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

 photo KeepYourHead_zps5ed8c50d.jpg

I think it's pretty good advice for those entering the church, both in the physical realm of bruises and concussions - and in the spiritual realm of fanaticism and willful ignorance.

Other photos I took at the Holy Sepulchre can be seen here (Light Into Darkness), and here (Inside the Holy Sepulchre) , and here (Grafitti and Prayers).

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 15

Here is this week's free background image.  You can use it in Powerpoint (or another similar presentation program.) You can use it as the wallpaper for your computer or smartphone.  Use it at home, work, school, or church. Print it out and line your dresser drawers with it.  Use it however you like; I only ask that you share it freely and that you tell others that you found it here.

This week's picture comes from the Church of All Nations in Jerusalem (also known as the Basilica of the Agony).  This is one of the pillars on the front facade of the building.

week 15 photo Week15_zps3049b9bc.jpg

Bitter Water / Smoke

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Why Does Ken Ham Bother With the Rest of the Bible?

I’m not sure why Ken Ham keeps the whole bible; apparently all he needs is Genesis 1 -11. Everything he needs is is found in Genesis 1 - 11.  The rest of the bible is just commentary on those few chapters in Genesis 1 - 11.

“…every single biblical doctrine of theology directly or indirectly is founded in Genesis 1 – 11.  Why did Jesus die on a cross? Genesis 1 – 11.  Why is there sin? Genesis 1 – 11.  Why do we wear clothes?  Genesis 1 – 11. Why do we need the new heavens and the new earth? Genesis 1 – 11.  Why do we have a seven day week? Genesis 1 – 11. Why marriage, one man for one woman? Genesis 1 – 11.  Why is Jesus called the last Adam?  Genesis 1 – 11. Do you think Genesis 1 – 11 is important? 

I was at a church not long ago, and I said to the congregation, it was a church of about 3,000 people, ‘can you name one biblical doctrine of theology that ultimately directly or indirectly is not founded in Genesis 1 – 11?’  I sorta’ meant it as a rhetorical question, but one bright spark in the audience  decided to answer me, and he jumped up in the middle of my talk and said, ‘What about the doctrine of election?’  And I just answered him and said, ‘You wouldn’t need such a doctrine if man hadn’t fallen in Genesis 1 – 11.’” 

(Quote starts at 1:37:57)

Rhythm and Texture

I like the rhythms and textures found in the metal siding of this building.

Rhythm and Texture by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Rhythm and Texture by Jeff Carter on 500px

Aronofsky’s Noah – Part of the Biblical Conversation

Though I plan to see it, I haven’t gone to the theater for Darren Aronofsky’s new film Noah yet.  But several of my friends and comrades and compatriots have and their reviews and comments posted on Facebook or Twitter have been disappointing to me.

Do not...DO NOT go see Noah. It was HORRIBLE!!!! Aside from the fact that there was a flood, and the main character's name was Noah, I cannot account Biblically for anything in that movie. Really awful. Very disappointed indeed. Well...sigh... we saw Noah this afternoon. What can I say about it? I wanted to find something in it that was spiritually elevating or inspiring, giving me hope that the director would not be creating something that would only be making him $$. I was sadly (and I'm sorry for this) disappointed.

From my friends comments it seems that they are unfamiliar with the way that the story of Noah and the worldwide flood (and all of scripture in general) has come to us.  My friends are disappointed with Aronofsky’s Noah because of the way he’s changed the story; they seem to want an unchanged, unadapted, uninterpreted version of the story as told in the book of Genesis (or as  the story of Noah was told to them in Sunday School). 

But stories – especially biblical stories – don’t work that way.  They don’t just lie there, frozen in space and time.  They continually inspire new tellings, new versions, new interpretations – as evidenced by the Noah stories found in ancient books like 1 Enoch and the Book of Jubilees. These books are part of a collection of writings sometimes known as the  pseudepigraha - written between c.300 BCE and c.300 CE. They are distinct from the Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical books, in that they are not accepted as Scripture by any Christian or Jewish groups.  But even though they’re not considered part of the ‘word of God’ they still contribute to the way that we understand and interpret the scriptures.  They are part of the biblical conversation.

One story inspires another which affects the way that another is told.  One story branches out and influences many more that follow.  

Even the story of Noah and the flood as we have it in the book of Genesis seems to be the result of various tellings of some earlier original story.  What we have in our bible is the combination of two separate stories about Noah and the ark and animals and the flood that have been combined into one new story.

The threads of these two separate stories can be teased out somewhat from the story as we have it today:  Two different reasons are given for why the flood occurs (angel-human intercourse / Violence) Noah is given two different sets of instructions about what types of and how many animals to bring aboard the ark (7 pair of the clean / 2 of each kind) Two different sources for the flood waters (Rain / Fountains of the Deep ).Two different accounts of the duration of the flood (40 days & nights / 150 days)  Two different birds were sent out (Dove / Raven)   See the two accounts laid side by side here. 

Now these differences are not necessarily contradictory – which may be why the ancient editor felt he could combine them into this new version of the story - but what we have is a changing of the way the story was told – which in turn changed the way the story was told – which affects the way the story is retold still today.  The story changes – and, if it’s a good story it changes us.

Whether you like Aronofsky’s Noah or not, whether you agree with the way he has interpreted the story or not, it is unfair to say that it is “unbiblical” – it is very much in the biblical tradition of storytelling.   His movie is part of the larger biblical conversation that has gone on for millennia and will continue into the future. 

(And I think that it is strange to look for something “spiritually uplifting” in a story about divine genocide… but that’s just me.)

Biblical Limericks: Jesus the Prestidigitator

We will have to answer the question:
was Jesus, in fact, a magician?
With symbolic gesture
he effected the cure -
a spit / magic word combination.

Mark 7:31 - 34

Friday, March 28, 2014

Biblical Limericks: The Origins of the Nephilim

Now the Sons of God were observing
Earth women whose figures were curving;
they decided to mate,
an act which sealed their fate,
God said, “of wrath they are deserving.”

Genesis 6: 1 - 4

Biblical Limericks: 666 is Mark's Number

Ignore all the threats and the curses,
I know what John’s number rehearses:
for the truth you must hark
that the Gospel of Mark
has six hundred sixty-six verses.

(This assumes you stop counting at the original ending of Mark’s gospel – 16:8) 

What Is (and What Isn’t) In Sarah Palin’s Amazing America

It has been announced that former (quitter) governor of Alaska, vice presidential nominee, and political commentator, Sarah Palin, has a new upcoming television program on the Sportsman Channel called Amazing America with Sarah Palin.  The show will feature an “anthology of stories” focusing on “the original and inspiring people, places, and pastimes connected to America's outdoors lifestyle.” 

The theme song for the show has been released as part of early promotion for the program, but I’m a little disappointed in the way this “amazing America” is portrayed.

Now, granted the Outdoorsman Channel’s specific focus and the fact, of course, that one can’t explore every aspect of this sprawling multicultural, multivalent nation in a brief two minutes and fifty-five seconds, the depiction of “America” contained in this song (by the band Madison Rising - and its accompanying video) is still limited – very limited - even considering the time constraints.

Featured in the video are things like fishing, and guns, and pick-up trucks, and guns, and dogs, and horses, and guns, and rodeos, and guns and race cars and guns.  Seriously there are 8 separate depictions of guns (of various types) in this short video – more than any other subject (excepting shots of the band in the recording studio.).  The next most common subject in the video is racecars – with three clips in the video.  Guns, guns, and more guns are – apparently – what make America Amazing. 

But what is more problematic to me is what is not represented. This “Amazing America” apparently has nothing of Art. Nothing of Science. Nothing of scholasticism.  Nothing of music. And nothing of religion.  Most of this is attributable to the fact that the show is the creation of the Sportsman Channel.  But even considering the Outdoorsman Channel’s narrow focus, this last absence is striking.  Sarah Palin has made a name for herself by continually striking two chords – American Pride and God.  But there is very little of God in this song and video.  There is the one line of the lyrics, “nature provides and God gives the rights,” but what that means is not really clear.

And to make things even murkier is the fact that shown in the shots of the band in the recording studio are banners with the Yin-Yang -  symbol of Taoism - and the Om symbol representing the sacred syllable in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.   Is this the Christian nation that Palin has been so vocal in promoting? 

So…to sum up: America is Amazing because, 1- Guns and 2 –Outdoor activities (mostly involving guns).  The show premieres April 3 at 8 PM on the Sportsman Channel. 

Amazing America – by Madison Rising

We believe in the American way
and we built this country called the USA
and we fly our flags ‘cause we’re proud and free;
we’re Americans.

Red, white, and blue is our way of life,
and we never back down from a challenge or a fight,
nature provides and God gives the rights;
we’re Americans.

We make up America,
this amazing America.

We fish the waters and we hunt the lands,
and we forge the steel with our own two hands
with what we’ve got we do the best we can;
we’re Americans.

From the snowy paths to the desert sun,
the dogs, and the horses, and the trucks, and the guns,
mothers, and daughters, and fathers, and sons;
we’re Americans.

We make up America,
this amazing America oh yeah,
home of the brave in America
we’re an amazing America.

We might be a little crazy, get a little nuts,
but you can’t have the glory if you aint got the guts,
I stand for pride, and faith, and trust
as American.

We like the wildest things that you’ve ever seen
we make ‘em bigger, and faster, and louder, and mean,
tell me, who wouldn’t want to be
an American?

We make up America,
this amazing American, Oh yeah,
Home of the brave in America;
we’re an amazing America.

(I transcribed the lyrics from the video.  Any mistakes are mine.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sandhill Cranes and the Platte River

Coming home from several days of meetings in Kearney, Nebraska, my wife and I took a short detour away from the interstate highway to travel along some of the backroads.  We were looking for cranes. Sandhill cranes.  And we found them - lots of them.

Did you know that there are fossils of sandhill cranes that are 2.5 million years old? (There's even one in Nebraska that is nearly 10 million years old, though whether that one is a sandhill crane or another earlier species is debated...)

Two Cranes photo TwoCranes-KearneyNE_zpseb7c2bdd.jpg
Without a better zoom lens this was as close as I could get without spooking them.

We also stopped so I could take a few more pictures of the Platte River, and while stopped I found a pile of bird bones (Hawk, I think). I pulled out the largest and least broken of them and brought them home for my son (he's into that sort of thing).

Platte River photo PlatteRiver-NE_zpsa40e70aa.jpg

Biblical Limericks: A Fish Story

In Capernaum Peter was asked,
“Does Jesus pay the two drachma tax?”
Jesus said, “Bring to me
a fish caught in the sea;
he’ll have coin to get them off our backs.”

Matthew 17: 24 - 27

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Pillow Talk

My lover, your beauty makes me stir,
your breasts are like deer among les fluers,
and till the break of day
upon them I will play,
they’re the hills of frankincense and myrrh.

Song of Songs 4: 5 - 6

Dancing River Weeds

I am in Kearney, Nebraska for a few days of meetings.  During the break this afternoon I went to the Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA) and then drove around a little bit to take some pictures.  These desiccated weeds were dancing in the wind and sunlight along the banks of the Platte River.

Dancing River Weeds by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Dancing River Weeds by Jeff Carter on 500px

Isn’t This the Blind Beggar?

When the man who’d been born blind
                -sightless, he was darkness once-
came home seeing those now unfamiliar places
his neighbors asked each other,
“Isn’t this blind beggar?”
Some said, “Yes,”
but others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

For, though they’d often walked past him,
they’d never seen him before that day.

(John 9)

Praying at the Western Wall

 photo WesternWallPrayers_zps2ed20fe6.jpgIt is common to see pictures of people at prayer at the Western ("wailing") Wall in Jerusalem.  Thousands - even millions - of written prayers are place within the cracks of the wall every year - in a tradition that goes back over 300 years.  They are collected up twice a year and carefully buried on the Mount of Olives.  The 'Wailing' Wall, however, is only a small section of the the Western wall - the retaining wall built by King Herod the Great to support the massive temple complex built during his reign.

 photo WesternWallTunnels2_zps5188699f.jpg In recent years a tunnel has been excavated along the entire length of the western wall. It is now possible to walk the entire length of the wall through a tunnel beneath the buildings of the old city of Jerusalem.  There visitors can see the massive (truly massive) stones cut for the wall, an uncovered Roman road, and a Hasmonean cistern at the northern corner.

And while the visible 'wailing' wall remains a popular place of prayer for people from all over the world, the entire length of the wall is considered holy by the Jewish people and many go for prayer to places along the tunnel.

 photo WomanatPrayer_zps9d93a7b6.jpg
The power went out as our tour group made our way through the tunnel.  We were plunged into darkness for a couple of seconds before the emergency power kicked in.  I know that a few prayers went up right at that moment.


Good grief but no grief is good.
And what good is the pastor
who knows no prayer,
no words of comfort,
against cancer,
against death?

Good God, by Christ,
I hope you are.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Hooded Crow in the Garden of Gethsemane

The Hooded Crow is found across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.  It is an opportunistic omnivore with a loud "kraw" song.  This particular one was photographed in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem.

Hooded Crow photo HoodedCrow_zpsb9b4c721.jpg

Annunciation Day

Even though the angels of the watch
have seen our rough shedding of blood,
our cycles of violence and despair,
the mighty one has said:

“Rejoice, oh favored ones;
the Lord is with you.
Do not be heavy of heart;
do not fear.”

But we are greatly perplexed,
overwhelmed as we are
by the rough violence
and cycles of bloodshed
that leave us little more than despair.

“How can this be?
How can this happen?”

The mighty one replies:
“Do not doubt and do not fear
for nothing is impossible with God.
The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
overshadow you with her wings
and what is born in you will be holy.”

The angels may leave us
but the Lord is with us, within us.
Amen, may everything he said come true.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hanging Lamps

These lamps are hanging in the Tomb of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem.  Apparently she didn't need it for very long.  According to the stories - or to at least some of the many varied and conflicting stories - about the end of Mary's life, she "fell asleep" (died) in the normal way, was resurrected a few days later, and then taken up into heaven. According to some accounts she dropped her girdle (or belt) for Thomas to catch.

Biblical Limericks: Blessed Are Your Eyes

The greatest prophets Israel received
and all of her kings, those who believed,
though they longed for the day
when they could at last say,
“Here it is!” their wait was not relieved.

Luke 10:24

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Almost Forgotten Death of Rachel Corrie

This post comes a few days after the anniversary of her death – March 16, 2003 – 23 year old Rachel Corrie, peace activist from Olypia Washington. She died in Rafah – a city in Gaza – where she was attempting to non-violently protest and prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).  She was crushed to death by an armored bull dozer.

I remember at the time of her death my preaching text was to come from the book of Job.  I chose Job 12: 5
 “The comfortable hold calamity in contempt…[i]

The song by Billy Bragg uses the tune of Bob Dylan’s 1964 protest song – The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.

[i] Anchor Bible – Marvin H. Pope

Biblical Limericks: Bel and the Dragon

Said the king, “Bel lives! See how he eats?”
Said Daniel, “He’s not, not in the least.”
When the trick was exposed,
the hidden door was closed
and the king killed all Bel’s lying priests.

They also worshipped a great big snake,
said the king, “You can’t claim this one’s fake.”
But without sword or stick
Daniel killed it, no trick -
he fed it tar: death by belly ache.

Bel and the Dragon 1: 1 - 27

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 14

so you know the drill - each week I put up a free background image for you to have. Use it in powerpoint (or another similar presentation program). Use it at home, work, school, or church. Use it as the wallpaper for your computer or smartphone. Print it out and make paper airplanes.  Use it how you will.  I only ask that you share these images freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

This particular photograph was taken in the gardens surrounding the Church of the Beatitudes, near the sea of Galilee - but I have toyed with the colors quite a bit.

Week 14 photo Week14_zps0635a63f.jpg

A View of Galilee

This photo was taken from the gardens surrounding the Church of the Beatitudes.  The haze in the air is actually sand and dust carried up from the desert during this years unseasonably rainless winter. A few days after this picture was taken it did rain and the skies cleared up quite bit.  Still and all - the haze makes for an interesting picture.

This photograph is (like several of my other photographs) available for purchase as a professional quality print.  The money I make in these sales is given to support the work of the Salvation Army in Newton, Iowa.

A Blessing for the Seeker of Truth

May your wells and fountains always be full
bubbling up from within
with the water that gives life,
and life eternal.

May you worship truly,
honoring the Father of us all
in spirit and in truth
for this is the kind of worshipper
that the Father honors.

May you know the Messiah that is with you
and may he bless you with his presence.

(John 4: 5 – 42)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Biblical Limericks – The Verse Paul Actually Intended

The one who eats meat, eats and enjoys
and in thanking God he makes much noise,
but the one who abstains
makes of himself a pain -
good God! Vegetarians annoy.

Romans 14: 6

Return Unifies Us

While we were recently in Israel our tour company –Educational Opportunities Tours – hosted a brief evening discussion of current issues between Israel and Palestine.  It was an informative and illuminating discussion.

In his opening five minute remarks, the Palestinian representative detailed the history between the two groups going back to the British administration that followed the end of World War I.  He described the various resolutions and treaties that have been made (and broken.)  He listed the points of conflict: the illegal (and increasing) Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas, the control of water, security checkpoints, the walls etc…

When the Israeli representative spoke he said, in essence, “We don’t trust them. How can we have peace when we can’t trust them?  They say they want peace but we don’t trust them.”

I was a little surprised by the stark differences between their presentations.  (I didn’t bring my audio recorder to the meeting.  I wish I had. )  These two men are friends (or at least friendly).  They have worked together for some time.  It wasn’t a rancorous or acrimonious debate.  But still I was surprised by how differently they approached the story. 

Today (March 22, 2014) is marked as an international day of action for the Palestinian people – under the banner “Return Unifies Us.”  They are seeking the right to return to homes and lands from which they were expelled.

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been working with Palestinian and Israeli negotiators, attempting to help bring them to some peaceful resolution.  His target date of April 29, 2014 is looming closer and closer, and yet Israel is attempting to delay.  President Obama has commended Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for consistently renouncing violence, and consistently seeking a diplomatic and peaceful solution that allows for two states, side by side, in peace and security. 

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu offers no concessions and insists that "Israel has been doing its part [to make peace]” and says that he regrets “that the Palestinians have not." 

Neither half of this statement is altogether accurate.  If Netanyahu were serious about Israel’s commitment to peace, he would (at minimum) enforce the ban against expanding Israeli settlements in Palestinian areas  –10,589 housing settlement units have been built on Palestinian-claimed territory since negotiations began less than eight months ago! -  and he would recognize that it is Palestinian negotiators who are trying to hold to the April 29 deadline for peace talks and have been commended for their work towards this process. 

 photo PrayfortheFreedomofPalestine_zps829e9ec1.jpg

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Ghost in the Church of All Nations

Church of All Nations photo Churchofallnations-exterior2_zps8a9d9333.jpgThe Church of All Nations (officially named the Basilica of the Agony) in Jerusalem marks the spot believed to be the place Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, the place he said, "my soul is overwhelmed with sorrow, to the point of death."    The center altar overlooks a slab of rock, believed to be the very place where Jesus prayed.

The modern building is built over two previous churches - one built by the Crusaders in the 12th century (abandoned in 1345) and the earlier Byzantine basilica (destroyed by an earthquake in 746).

I photographed a ghost while we were there.

Ghost in the Church of All Nations photo churchofallnations1_zps32ccd5bc.jpg

Biblical Limericks: Pull My Finger

It is rare that the phrase is invoked,
but when “the finger of God’s” provoked
lice is formed up from dust,
the law in stone is thrust,
and demons of Beelzebub get poked.

Exodus 8: 18 -19, 31:18, Deuteronomy 9:10, Luke 11: 19 - 20

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Poor Syzygus

When Euodia and Syntyche
fought t’was best to say out of their way.
Still, Paul wanted no fuss –
sent loyal Syzygus…
we haven’t heard from him to this day.

Philippians 4: 2- 3

Jesus the Exorcist – The Jesus I’ve Never Known

Before he was worshipped as the God/man, Lord and Savior, the Historical Jesus of Nazareth was an exorcist.  More than a moral teacher, more than an itinerant rabbi with a cluster of following disciples, more than an eschatological prophet – he was also an exorcist, casting out demons and unclean spirits by the “finger of God" (Luke 11:20). (Meier, 407)[i]

But this Jesus I have never known.

Even though he commissioned his disciples (and, one might assume, those of us who follow these many centuries later) to follow in his footsteps and “gave them power and authority to drive out all demons (Luke 9:1)” this is still a Jesus I have never known.

Despite all the warnings I’ve received over the years that watching horror movies, listening to rock music, dancing, playing dungeons and dragons, meditating, dressing up for Halloween, etc… would inevitably lead to demonic possession – or at the very least demonic attack  - I have never experienced anything that I could label “demonic” – meaning something of an evil supernatural spirit activity.

Actually all those warnings had the exact opposite of their intended effect: I wanted to see some supernatural phenomenon. I looked for ectoplasm, tinkered with an Ouija board, lit candles and meditated. I read Bob Larson’s books in preparation for the demonic assault.  But … nothing.

So I’ve never been able to cast out any demons.   Jesus the exorcist is the Jesus I’ve never known.

“Perhaps in no other aspect of Jesus’ ministry does his distance from modern Western culture and scientific technology loom so large and the facile program of making the historical Jesus instantly relevant to present-day men and women seem so ill-conceived (Meier 406-7).”

Still – this movie looks like a load of fun:

[i] Meier John P. A Marginal Jew (Vol.2) Mentor, Message and Miracles, Doubleday, New York NY, 1994

Praying in God's Theater

My friend, Joel Watts’, latest book –Praying in God’s Theater: Meditations on the Book of Revelation – is now available.  You can order it from Amazon or directly from the publisher Wipf & Stock.
Much like the book of Revelation, Joel L. Watts’ Praying in God’s Theater aims to pull readers into a deeper spirituality to confront the daily struggles of Christian life. Drawing from the rich well of Christian mystics and theologians from across the ecumenical experience, Watts uses the Apocalypse to build a series of prayers and devotions aimed at increasing what he identifies as the contemplative unity and the certain unity between the individual and Christ. He urges a radical vision of the prayer and the sacrament of the Eucharist.
 Each chapter of Revelation is considered, explored, and finally used as a basis to draft prayers. Added to this is an application commentary that explores ancient liturgical practices similar to the scenes in Revelation while looking at Revelation in a mystical manner. Watts offers Revelation as an early liturgy, using this proposition as a catalyst for building prayers and a vision of life based on the Eucharist as the emblem of how we are to approach God. What emerges is a profound view on how we envision Scripture, prayer, and the book of Revelation.

And – if you still need more reason to consider buying it – Joel asked me to write the Afterword.  So go – go buy a copy or three.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

All Who Have Suffered in Zion – Psalm 87 (updated)

Our local weekly bible study group has been working through the Psalms, wrestling with them, enjoying them, and finding discomfort in them as well as comfort.  Today we looked at Psalm 87, a “psalm of the sons of Korah” in praise of Jerusalem – Zion – the city of God. It is a short psalm – 7 verses – but even in that brevity it is filled with translation difficulties and profound theological and even political implications.  It’s not a psalm to breeze through.

Jerusalem in the Rain photo JerusalemintheRian_zps8d54af41.jpg The psalmist begins with a description of Zion’s (a poetic name for Jerusalem) idealized past as city founded and built  by God upon the holy mountains. This is an idealized picture of Jerusalem’s past. We know that that Jerusalem was originally built by the Jebusites – I don’t think that there are any (or if there are, there aren’t many) who believe that God literally came down from heaven and physically hefted the stones into place himself. 

It is the city that he loves more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.  And it is there in that beloved city, God speaks glorious wonderful things. He inhabits the city, dwells therein and he speaks from there.

Let’s pause there to think about that.  These ideas ring backward and forward through the scriptures, from the prophets’ visions of Zion as the mountain of God to the New Testament’s assertion that Abraham went searching for the city with foundations whose architect and master builder was God himself (Hebrews 11:10).

If the opening lines of this psalm begin with the city of Zion’s idealized past, the middle section of the Psalm (verses 4-6) describes its idealized future as a time when the various peoples of the world are united in Jerusalem – even (or especially) her enemies. People from Egypt (somewhat cryptically referred to as Rahab – the twisting primeval sea monster that repeatedly devoured Israel  (see Isaiah 30:7 and Psalm 89:10) Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, and Cush are all declared “to have been born there” in Zion. Zion is their mother (as the LXX translation of verse 5 indicates – and to which the apostle Paul may have been referring in Galatians 4:26). 

From the South, the East, the West and the North these various peoples are drawn to the city of Zion and are declared by God himself to be natural born citizens, with all the rights and privileges that title entails.  That they are enemies and gentiles isn’t even mentioned, that they acknowledge (Hebrew – yadah – “know” or “understand” or “have experienced”) God.

Some say that this psalm is a “prophecy” – and by that they mean that it is a divinely inspired prediction of what will actually, surely happen at some point in the not very far off future… I don’t hold to that particular understanding of “prophecy” and instead understand this psalm as a vision – a hope – a dream of what the idealized, city of Zion can be – what the city of Jerusalem could become.

And here we Selah pause again. 

How difficult it is to accept strangers and enemies as compatriots – as brothers. And yet it is here, in this unity that God makes the city of Zion secure.   Think on that as you drive through the barbed wire gates of a military checkpoint.

The final verse – in most translations – says something about singing and dancing, and springs or fountains being there in the city – a picture of celebration and gaiety.  There is laughter and music and joy in this united city.

But Mitchell Dahood, translator for the Psalms in the Anchor Bible series of commentaries – takes a different tack. His translation of verse 7 reads:

And all who have suffered in you
will sing as well as dance.
(Dahood, 300) [i]

I like this translation – though others have said that “while [it is] attractive theologically, [it] is not defensible exegetically.” [ii] Even so.  Theologically, experientially, and not the least, emotionally – it rings true.  Having just returned from Israel, and from the city of Jerusalem, with the picture of heavy concrete walls and barbed wire fences and military checkpoints still fresh in my mind, I choose to accept this translation, even if it is a minority one.  All who have suffered from this lack of unity and brotherhood will one day – I hold out hope for this – sing as well as dance in the city of Zion.

UPDATE: - I realize that I wasn't as clear as I could have been.  Dahood bases his translation of this verse on the Syriac. See the Syriac Peshito Version of the Psalms - page 187

We have not yet realized the psalmist’s idealized vision of the united city of Zion. There is no unity or common brotherhood in the heavenly city of Zion.  She is not yet the mother of us all. Not yet. So until then I continue to hold on to this psalm for all who have suffered in Zion, praying for the day when we shall be gathered from the east and from the west to sit down in the kingdom of God.

They Shall Come From the East

They shall come from the east,
they shall come from the west,
And sit down in the Kingdom of God;
Both the rich and the poor,
the despised, the distressed,
They'll sit down in the Kingdom of God.
And none will ask what they have been
Provided that their robes are clean;
They shall come from the east,
they shall come from the west,
And sit down in the Kingdom of God.

They shall come from the east,
they shall come from the west,
And sit down in the Kingdom of God;
To be met by their Father and welcomed and blessed,
And sit down in the Kingdom of God.
The black, the white, the dark, the fair,
Your color will not matter there;
They shall come from the east,
they shall come from the west,
And sit down in the Kingdom of God.

They shall come from the east,
they shall come from the west,
And sit down in the Kingdom of God;
Out of great tribulation to triumph and rest
They'll sit down in the Kingdom of God.
From every tribe and every race,
All men as brothers shall embrace;
They shall come from the east,
they shall come from the west.
And sit down in the Kingdom of God.

(General John Gowans – originally written for the Salvation Army musical The Blood of the Lamb, 1977.)

[i] Dahood, Mitchell Psalms (51 – 100) Introduction, Translation, and Notes, Doubleday & Company, Inc, Garden City, New York, 1968.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lost in the Old City Bazaar

Old City Bazaar photo Bazaar8_zps90aa9a20.jpgWhile in Jerusalem last week, our tour group had opportunity to visit the bazaar in the Old City.  It's a scene straight out of the movies - crowded narrow streets, music written in double harmonic scales piped in from somewhere, vendors calling out to customers, the smells of exotic foods, the odd animal or two pushing through the crowds...

It would be easy to get lost in there - the streets all look very similar - and, indeed it was.  Three members of our tour group got separated from the rest of the group. So our tour guide and I did a quick reinterpretation of Jesus' parable and left the 57 to go in search of the missing 3.  We did eventually find them.  They were safe, just a little turned around and starting to get panicky. They had tried to ask for directions, but each of them thought it was the "other way" or "just over here."  I imagine it was a bit like Lucy and Ethel trying to find their way through the exotic market streets.

Old City Bazaar 2 photo Bazaar2_zps262b050f.jpg

Old  City Bazaar 3 photo Bazaar3_zpsd49b0ee1.jpg

Clash - A Short Film with My Sounds

Tim Manders - a filmmaker from The Netherlands - has released a short, but powerful little film entitled Clash, that uses some of my soundwork.  Check it out.

Clash - Short film from Injectie Media on Vimeo.

Here is my sound by itself:

Biblical Limericks: To the Church in Laodicea

These are the words of the tried and true:
I know your deeds and I know that you
are neither cold nor hot,
and because you are not
from my mouth I’ll vomit and I’ll spew.

Revelation 3: 14 - 16

Monday, March 17, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Geography Gone Splat

Some scholars would try to suggest that
the town of Nazareth was too flat
for Jesus , whom they’d known,
from a cliff to be thrown;
they say Luke’s geography’s gone splat.

Luke 4: 28 - 30

(See my earlier, more serious post: Mount of the Precipice - Maybe)

The Mount of the Precipice – Maybe

Looking Down from the Precipice photo ViewDownfromtheMtofthePrecipice_zps33978d9b.jpgOne of the places we visited during our trip to Israel was the Mount of the Precipice – the traditional site for the event described in Luke 4: 28 – 30 after Jesus has delivered his first sermon in his hometown of Nazareth, “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.  They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him up to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.  But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.” (NIV)

As our bus approached the city of Nazareth, going up the steep slope, I remembered reading that not everyone is convinced of the historical or geographical accuracy of this story.  Some scholars tell us that there was no steep cliff in Nazareth from which the townspeople could throw Jesus; some are not convinced that Nazareth even existed in first century Palestine.

Neither Flavius Josephus nor the Talmud mentions the city of Nazareth.  This argument from silence (which isn’t exactly airtight conclusive) might be more convincing if we didn’t already suspect that Nazareth was something of an unimportant backwater burg. “Nazareth! Can anything good com from there?” asked one of Jesus’ early followers (John 1:46).  Why would such an unimportant place be mentioned? 

But historical evidence for a 1st century Nazareth is not altogether absent.  In 1962 archaeologists found an inscription in Caesarea Maritime listing the priestly families and where they settled following the Jewish war against Rome – including some who relocated to Nazareth. [i] So it does appear that there was a Nazareth in Jesus’ day, but whether or not there was a cliff there is another matter.

View Larger Map

John P. Meier – whose A Marginal Jew series on the historical Jesus I have found very helpful – says this: “The ending of Luke’s story…suffers from a historical difficulty.  Luke says that the angry Nazarenes dragged Jesus ‘to the edge of the cliff [literally, the brow of the mountain] on which the city was built, to throw him down the precipice.’ (Luke 4:29).  Actually, Nazareth lies in a sloping basin on the side of a hill; there are a number of higher elevations around it.” (Meier, 303)  [ii]

View of Nazareth from Mount of the Precipice photo MtofthePrecipice-viewofNazareth_zps6313d2a4.jpg

Robert J. Miller has said, “Luke generally seems poorly informed about Palestinian geography.  Aspects of his geography may therefore be fictive.” [iii]

As I stood on the traditional site (always taken with a large grain of salt) of the Mount of the Precipice, I wondered about that.  Modern day Nazareth (sometimes known as the “Arab capital of Israel” – roughly 2/3 Muslim 1/3 Christian) surrounds the traditional site on the north to the southwest.  (The modern Jewish city, Nazareth Iliit, is further to the north and east.) It does, as Meier said, rest in a sort of natural bowl on the side of the hill.  There are no steep cliffs there. 

But the traditional site isn’t so far removed (it’s about 2.5 miles) as to make it completely impossible is it?  Luke does say that they “drove him out of town….”

(Photo #1 looking down from the traditional site of the Mount of the Precipice. Photo #2 Looking West towards Nazareth from the Precipice.)

[i] Mythicist René Salm doesn’t accept this discovery - but  see James McGrath’s comments on Salm’s work.

[ii] Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew- Rethinking the Historical Jesus – Vol. 1: The Roots of the Problem and the Person Doubleday, New York, NY.

[iii]   Footnote #1 –and yes, I know it’s Wikipedia, get off my case…

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Blessing for the Ascent

Hills of Qumran photo QumranHills2_zps6e56300d.jpg

As we make our pilgrim way
 through the rocky vale
let us look up to the mountains-
Where does our help come from?

From weak idols that need to be awakened?

May the Lord be your guardian.
May the Lord be your shade.
And may the Lord be your strong right hand.

May he shelter you from the sweltering sun
and from the deleterious influence of the moon.

When you go out and when you come in,
when you go up and when you come down.
May the Lord, the king of the universe
be with you, now and forever. Amen.

(Psalm 121)

(Photo taken at Qumran.) 

Powerpoint Slides for Everyone - 2014 - Week 13

If you're a regular reader of this little blog you already know that every week I create a new background image for use in Powerpoint (or other similar presentation programs).  And if you're not a regular reader of this little blog, you know it now.  These weekly images are free for you to download and to use as your very own.  Use them at home, work, school, church, wherever. I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.

This week's picture was taken at the Sea of Galilee - from my hotel room in Tiberias.  During the first several days of our trip in Israel, there was a severe haze in the air.  It's been a long dry winter - without the usual amount of rainfall, so a lot of dust from the desert was hanging up in the air.  It was so thick that you sometimes couldn't see to the other side of the lake.

Week 13 photo Week13_zps94978762.jpg

Biblical Limericks: This Story’s Been Hacked

Sometimes when the people read over
John’s tale:  The Woman Adulterer,
they stop when they get to
“nor do I accuse you,”
and miss the next part, “go, sin no more.”

But I think that this story’s been hacked -
for if she were caught in that coarse act
there must have been a man
because no woman can
do that alone, and that is a fact.

John  8: 3 – 11

(thanks to Sean Wise for the first verse)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Outside David's Tomb

While in Jerusalem our group went to the traditional site of King David's Tomb.  I took pictures of it, but I like these that I took outside the tomb better.

Photograph Outside David's Tomb by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Outside David's Tomb by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Cat Outside King David's Tomb by Jeff Carter on 500px

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Pilgrim’s Beatitudes

Oh the happiness of the one who returns, having seen the holy land and sacred sites.
Oh the happiness of the one who is sad to leave Jerusalem.
And oh the happiness of the father whose children welcome him at the door and the mother of children who greet her with an embrace.

Sunlight over Southern Steps by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Sunlight over Southern Steps by Jeff Carter on 500px

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Biblical Limericks: Cursing the Fig Tree

Now leaving Bethany in the east,
our Jesus was hungry for a feast,
saw a fig tree en route,
oh, but it had no fruit,
so upon it a curse he released.

Mark 11: 12

Light Into the Darkness

After returning from Israel I've got a lot of photos to work through.  Here's one that I especially like.  It was taken inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by Jeff Carter on 500px

Photograph Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by Jeff Carter on 500px

At the End of the Pilgrimage

My feet are pilgrim sore
having climbed stone steps up to temple heights
and down into underground waterways beneath the city;
my face is red from desert winds and sun.

I have lit candles in the hushed and incensed air of churches
and muttered prayers at the western wall,
sung psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
in the bus and on the boat.

I have seen far too much in too short a time;
how can I go home just now?
Next year in Jerusalem!

 photo TheWallsofJerusalemintheRain_zps7ea46f89.jpg

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sounds of the Garden Tomb

I’m a high church kind of guy – even though I’m an ordained minister in a denomination that doesn’t have much use for them, I like the ‘smells and bells’ and the liturgy and vestments and candles and what not. And so, when visiting the various places in Jerusalem proposed to be ‘the’ place where he was crucified and buried, I prefer the Church of the Holy Sepulchre over the Garden Tomb. I like the large echoing chambers. I like the dark stairwells and shafts of light from high ceiling windows. I like the smell of the incense and burning wax.

But hey, that’s just me. Others prefer the simpler, less ornate, less 'cluttered' style...

Our group went to the Garden Tomb this morning, our final morning in Israel and we had a brief service there in the garden – even though it was cold and windy (cold is relative. I’ll be returning to snow and ice…) and rainy. I had my audio recorder with me and so, using my keffiyeh as an improvised dead cat to protect the microphones from the wind I recorded our meeting. (The keffiyeh dead cat worked mostly… there’s still some wind noise in the recording. Sorry.)

 Listening you’ll hear our group singing and testifying and reading from scripture and preaching. You’ll hear my friend John’s slightly out of tune guitar (but hey- it’s an awesome collapsible guitar!) You’ll also hear bird calls in the garden, and the rain on our umbrellas. You’ll hear people walking on the gravel pathways, children playing at a nearby school, police sirens in the city. You’ll also hear the noise of the bus station that is right next to the garden tomb (really rather appropriate if this was the execution place right at the cross roads outside the city walls…)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The photo was taken in the Syrian Chapel within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Syrian Chapel photo Sepulcher2_zpscc71660a.jpg

Graffiti and Prayers in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Here they’ve left their names,
made their mark,
inscribed upon the walls,
carved into the wood.

And here they’ve lit the candle
of their prayers,
glowing wax and smoke
in the hushed and darkened chamber.

Here the pilgrims,
ancient and modern both,
have said, “I was here with him.”


Aren’t They Sons of Abraham Too?

I frequently wear a keffiyeh – the scarf worn by Jordanians (red and white checkerboard pattern) and Palestinians (black and white wavy lines pattern).  Mine is of the Palestinian variety.  I wear it in part because it’s a great multipurpose garment.  In the winter it’s a great scarf.  In the summer it keeps the sun off my neck and head.  But I also wear it because I support the Palestinian people and their quest for an independent state of their own.  This is not to say that I am opposed to the existence of the state of Israel or the Jewish people. Nor is it to say that I endorse the violent actions used by some Palestinian groups. 

I have been wearing my keffiyeh during our trip through Israel these last several days.  And for the most part it has not caused any difficulty.  As we toured through Galilee in the north I received no comments or suspicious glances.  When we went into Bethlehem (which is under the Palestinian authority) I was complimented and hailed by the occasional vendor as “hey, Mr. Arafat…”

But the other day at Masada I provoked a small confrontation.

Our group had gone up to that mountain fortress that was at one time a stronghold of King Herod, and later was the last stand of the zealots during the Jewish revolt against the Romans in AD 72.  Masada today is almost a religious site for the Jewish people and a symbol of Israel’s national identity.  While we were there we saw a family celebrating their son’s Bar Mitzvah in the remains of the synagogue used by the zealots before their mass suicide.

As our group was preparing to leave the mountain I stepped aside to take a few last pictures.  As I approached the vantage point that I wanted to photograph I realized that my path would take me right in front of two women who were taking pictures in the same area. Not wanting to photo-bomb their pictures, I waited as the one gave instructions (in Hebrew) to her friend on how to use the camera.  When they were finished I said, “Shalom” and made to pass on by.  The woman with the camera then rattled off a string of Hebrew to me in return.  I apologized (in English) and said that I’d just about exhausted my knowledge of Hebrew.  She in return said, “That’s okay, I’m Canadian.” 

Then she picked at my shirt and vest and my keffiyeh and said, “Why do you wear this Arab scarf?”  Not wanting to engage in a confrontational debate right there and then – and also because our group was starting to leave – I made my excuses and continued on my way.

Most of our group rode the cable car down from the top, but some of us (brave or foolhardy – you decide) took the long and rugged “snake path” down from the top.  When we arrived, hot and sweaty, at the bottom of the mountain, we ate our lunch at the visitors’ center there and after the obligatory few minutes at the gift shop we went out front to wait for our bus.

And there I saw her again – or rather – she saw me.  “There is my Arab American friend” she called out.  And she asked me again, “Do you know what this” (and here she picked at me again) “means?  Do you know what this is?”  I explained that, yes.  I do understand the implications of the scarf, that I have some understanding of the history of the conflict between the two peoples.  And we engaged in a short conversation there in front of the visitors’ center. 

When she learned that I’m a Christian pastor she said to me, “As follower of Jesus, you should support the sons of Abraham.”  To which I replied, “But aren’t the Palestinians, aren’t the Arabs, sons of Abraham too, through Ishmael.” My new Canadian Jewish friend waved her hand and dismissed my question, “pfft.” 

Our bus arrived shortly after that.  I shook hands with my new Canadian Jewish friend and we both said, “Shalom.”  But still I think that the question is valid: “Aren’t they sons of Abraham, too?”

In this photo is me and my friend N. He and I came down the mountain together.
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