And Jesus answered
them, "Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and never
doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree,
but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast
into the sea,' it will be done."
Ward and Marda Stothers arrived back home from their five weeks in
California to Belfast around 10 a.m. on Friday, so we've all been
busy ever since; them with resettling back in the work here and me
helping them and going along for the ride because as they become resettled
I also learn more about the place, the people, and the calling we
have to be here. And all that means that I am now even farther back
in my catch up with my diary than I was when I last wrote, on Thursday.
Now I am a whole week "behind," just reporting on this Monday
(today) about events of the previous Sunday and Monday.
I did not
take new photos or videos on Sunday, thankfully (as that would have
made me even more back-logged), as
I was asked to talk on C.S. Lewis at the evening service of the Townsend
Presbyterian Church in the absence of their pastor, Jack Lamb, who
is on a six-and-a-half weeks sabbatical trip in Mumbai, India. So
I declined an offer to do some touring after church in order to prepare
for that talk. It had been several years since my last public speaking,
so I was nervous and it took a while to find my stride, but it seemed
to be appreciated and several of those present have mentioned they
are looking forward to the second half of the Lewis overview.
On April 21
I covered Lewis's birth through his rebirth, and the second half,
scheduled for May 17, is to cover his apologetics (or defenses) of
Christianity. I believe the two most important things to keep in mind
about Lewis is that he declared more strongly than any one else ever
has, I think, that what unites Christians of all communions, denominations,
and jurisdictions, is far more important than anything separating
them and that becomingand beinga Christian is an all-or-nothing
proposition; nothing can be held above the waters of baptism (metaphorically,
of course). Especially in the first case, no place in the world more
needs to hear that exhortation than Lewis's home city and province,
Belfast and Northern Ireland, and it is that which makes him so much
admired in Anglican, Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Orthodox
Maximos Murray of our Orthodox parish took me to a meeting on the
campus of the Queens University where a summary of the blueprint for
shared education for Northern Ireland was being introduced to wide
coverage of the media in Belfast. Maximos and I had worked on documents
summarizing what we consider the important concerns to be kept in
mind, from an Orthodox perspective, in such blueprints for educational
reform. We had been the only Orthodox contributors to the ministerial
advisory group, which included input from probably hundreds of people
representing Catholic and Protestant ministries (I think ours is the
only active Orthodox parish in Belfast). "Shared" refers
primarily to sharing the educational institutions, facilities, and
curricula of the schools across religious and socio-economic barriers,
Northern Ireland's type of integration.
Paul Connolly presents recommendations of the Ministerial Advisory
Group on Advancing Shared Education for Northern Ireland.
who is the music leader and reader for our parish, and I have known
each other for the past two years, but we both wanted to get better
acquainted, so after that conclave adjourned he drove us into the
countryside of County Down, southeast of Belfast, where his family
had its roots (his parents had emigrated to Manchester, England, where
he grew up before coming back to Ireland after his father's death).
of that drive are seen in the video below. The first picture, a slide
with no sound, is the exterior of the thatched-roofed cottage restaurant,
the Old Post Office in Lisbane, where we had lunch. I next added some
views of our lunches, both choosing the baked potatoes and side dishes,
and a short panorama of the old and colorful restaurant interior.
the > on the video to launch. After the video launches, you can
double-click the screen to enlarge it to full-screen. If your browser
cannot open the video in Windows Media format, you can try it on YouTube,
drove to Mahee Island on Strangford Lough, the site of the ruins of
an ancient monastery, Nendrum, established by Saint Mochaoi, the Irish
spelling of Mahee, in the fifth century. According to legend, Mochaoi
was appointed bishop of that region, or as abbot of the monastery
there (both were high ranks of the pre-medieval church) by St. Patrick,
the first archbishop of all Ireland. And, as the wind-blown soundtrack
of this video records, both ranks were signified by shepherd's staffs,
as both bishops and abbots (heads of monastic communities) were shepherds
of "flocks" of other Christians.
the ruins of Nendrum as consisting of three concentric circles. The
center circle included the church and the abbey (residence of the
abbot), the next included the residences (called "cells"
in monastic terms) of the monks, and the third included lands under
cultivation and any outbuildings or support structures required to
sustain the community.
also shows the man-made peninsula stretching from the bottom of the
hill on which the monastery stood into the water of the Strangford
Lough to be the site of a tidal mill, which archaelogists have described
as the oldest mill ruin ever recovered. Strangford Lough (the Irish
version of the Scottish "loch," meaning "lake")
was considered the best natural harbor into Ireland in ancient times,
and it is believed that the raiders who kidnapped St. Patrick as a
teenager took him into this part of the island then, and that he also
returned to Ireland by way of Strangford Lough after finishing his
education in what is now known as France and being called back to
Ireland by way of a vision.
your screen does not render the photo above legible, click it for
a larger view.
My take on this passage on the fig tree is this: the fig
tree is often considered a symbol of the Israel of Jesus' time. As
its lack of fruit for Him to use brought its decline, so He prepared
the way for the Roman Empire, a mountain, to be moved from paganism
to belief in God through Him, the incarnate son. Through the prayers
(and "watering" of its soil by its blood through martyrdom)
the old pagan Rome was "cast into the sea" (metaphorically)
as the church moved the world that had its capitol in Rome over the
next three centuries into the center of God's attention, protection,
and providence, the place that had historically been occupied by the
fig tree, Israel.
§ § §
my mission to Northern Ireland in your prayers. You can read my overview
of this undertaking here.
My residence/postal address is 227 Crumlin Road, Belfast, Northern
Ireland BT14 7DY, UK. Mobile: 07772197118.
I was a boy, I was told that anybody could become President;
I'm beginning to believe it.
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