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1169Thursday's Belfast blog - Ballymena

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  • Jon Kennedy
    Aug 7, 2014
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      Belfast blog - Jon Kennedy
      The Jonal, Jon Kennedy's blog on the Nanty Glo, Pa. Home Page.
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      JONAL ENTRY 1564 | THURSDAY, AUGUST 7 2014

      Today's Scripture: Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is my beloved son; listen to him." And suddenly, looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of man should have risen from the dead.
      — Mark's Gospel, chapter 9:2-9,
      from today's Orthodox lectionary readings.
      See the homiletical thought below. «

      Today's diary - life in Northern Ireland

      This morning was so bright, sunny, and cloudless (well, that describes the sky looking only in one direction here, but I don't have eyes in the back of my head despite some rumors you may have heard) that I decided it was time for a road trip. An excursion.
      And the next destination on my list of places awaiting a closer look was Ballymena, which my Presbyterian friend calls the Bible Belt of Northern Ireland. I hoped to find evidences of that on my visit, and maybe the photo above is the first exhibit. Where else have I found a "Protestant Hall?" Never, that I can recall. And there were teenagers giving away free CDs, presumably of contemporary gospel music similar to that which the band in the photo inset at right were playing in the town center gazebo.
      Ironically, big churches were not nearly as prominent in the center of the city (population over 50k) as in Magerafelt, the destination in my most recent previous excursion. But the Wikipedia page on Ballymena (which means "midland town," bally being Irish for town and mena for middle, and it being close to the middle of County Antrim) says that Ballymena's population breakdown is 72.2% Protestant background, 24.2% Roman Catholic background, and all the others "other."
      It might not be Grand Rapids or Colorado Springs, but I think there is something to Ballymena's reputation. My only previous visit setting foot in the town was for an address by Cambridge University mathematics professor John Lennox, as part of the festivities surrounding the half-centennial anniversary of C.S. Lewis's death last November. That event, in a Presbyterian church, may have been the best attended religious events I've seen in my 16 months here; the large church was full.
      I hope to share other photos from my excursion in days to come. «
      A closer look
      Links to news, features, and opinion pieces. See Caveat, below.
      Richard Mouw, writing in First Things, compares evangelical colleges and
      seminaries to monastic orders, without the requirement of celibacy
      Pope Francis urges altar servers not to waste time on Internet, smartphones, and TV
      US gives UCLA $194k to study skill-building for male sex workers in Peru
      Author Lev Grossman in The Atlantic says that C.S. Lewis taught him
      that stepping into magical realms transfigures earthly concerns
      Houston police charge teacher of intoxication on first day on the job
      Chick-Fil-A is suffering consequences of 'forcing religion on others'
      New Yorker article reports on an evangelical spiritual disciplines project
      'His eye is on the minnow,' a look at biblical support for keeping species around
      Christian worldview
      (This department alternates with Writing stuff)

      The meme above might be a secularized version of the New Testament theme of being fools for Christ (1 Corinthians 4:10) and "being considered crazy" as part of the suffering and persecution the Lord told His disciples they would be required to endure if they took up a cross to follow Him. And "cultural conditioning" is just a modern way of referring to "following the course of this world" as described in Ephesians 2:3.
      Are you a fool for Christ and, if not, what are you not getting about being His follower? How has this requirement not become part of your Christian worldview? «
      Today's video
      Today's quotes
      It is easier for feeble straw to resist a mighty fire than for the nature of sin to resist the power of love. We must cultivate this love in our souls, that we may take our place with all the saints. For through their love for their nieghbor, they were all pleasing to God.
      — St. Elizabeth the New Martyr «
      There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion ('man's search for God'!) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?
      — C.S. Lewis «
      Homiletical thought: Today's Gospel passage is the complement to yesterday's epistle passage, in which Peter recalled in his old age the voice of the Father saying from the cloud, "This is my beloved son; listen to him." The Transfiguration is a foretaste and preview of the heavenly realm, where everything is transformed, made dazzling by the energies of God. As Father Paul, my priest here in Belfast, said in his Transfiguration homily, this event is the center of the Gospel stories of the ministry of Christ. «
      §     §     §
      Jon R. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis Writer in Residence