Religion

Remembering is an Ebenezer passion and 'stone of help'

 

The ceiling of the Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church soars more than 70 feet high, supported by walls of cast stone, brownstone and brick. Stoneofhelp
Looking out across the congregation from a folding chair in front of the sanctuary steps, my eyes moved upwards across soaring stained glass windows, as if following the strains of the oboe with notes rising to fill the expanse of space above. 

There I noticed the resemblance of the ceiling trusses to the hull of a ship, symbolic, says the church history, of a vessel carrying pilgrims home safely to port.

“What perfect traveling music,” I thought, moved to tears by our oboist’s exquisite rendering of the hauntingly beautiful “Gabriel’s Oboe.”  The piece was just one of many offered by the Tim Keyes Consort as part of a service of remembrance celebrating the life of Geoffrey Ames Petersen, a consummate musician, organist, composer, teacher, and friend, say those who knew him well.

It was an experience of which I was especially grateful to be a part, for what is more meaningful than remembering and celebrating the life of another?

In looking back on more than 10 years of singing with the Consort, it seemed that this service of remembering was really part of a pattern, or more significantly, a passion of our director – a passion for remembering; remembering Christ, Mary, the Saints, the Apostles, the words of Scripture, the glory of creation, the richness and gifts of every culture, the value of each life.

In what he composes and what he calls the Consort to perform, Tim offers us, and our audiences, an opportunity to recall the glory and goodness of our loving God, an opportunity to be enriched in our faith and our musical lives.  He offers us an Ebenezer.

Most of us would probably associate the name with Dicken’s “Christmas Carol” and the miserly curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge. Perhaps there is more meaning in the name than we’ve realized.

In the Bible, in the Book of Samuel, we read about the Israelites’ losses in battle to the Philistines. The Israelites press Samuel to continue in his prayers to God on their behalf, and as he does so, God throws the Philistines into confusion and they are subdued by the Israelites.

Scripture recounts, “Samuel then took a stone and placed it between Mizpah and Jeshanah; he named it Ebenezer, explaining, ‘As far as this place the Lord has been our help.’”

The “stone of help” would serve as a reminder to the Israelites of God’s presence and assistance.

In our lives, Ebenezers may be crafted or experienced in any number of ways, but always serving to remind us of the ever-present love of God – songs, hymns, prayer, Scripture, sacramentals, liturgy, the sacraments, and, perhaps most especially, other people.

Then there is Ebenezer Scrooge.

I always wondered why Charles Dickens chose the name for his protagonist.

But I find it interesting that, after a night of remembering and foreseeing which leads to an epiphany, the man best described early on as Scrooge, becomes the true man, Ebenezer, a “stone of help,” for Tiny Tim and the Cratchit family, and, no doubt, many others. Finally, Ebenezer was able to love and to accept love.

It seems Dickens understood it is only in our remembering that we become who we are meant to be.

“I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:11

A column from Things My Father Taught Me. Mary may be reached at mary.wellspring@yahoo.com. Her book, “Things My Father Taught Me About Love,” can be found on Amazon Kindle. Follow her on Twitter @mreginam6.


My Mother's Lessons

Typewriter-hemingway

Sing ~ Study ~ Read books ~ Wear gloves ~ Learn to type ~ Serve muffins ~ Be kind to animals ~ Practice the piano ~ Write thank-you notes ~ Learn to be self-sufficient ~ Always carry pens and tissues ~ Never forget where you come from ~ Speak up and speak out when necessary ~ Smile and make the world more beautiful ~ You can run but you can’t hide from your mother ~ A mother's love is the source of incredible strength ~ There will never be anyone who will love you with the unconditional love of God, except your mother.


A little bit of love in a muffin tin

JiffyNever be without a box of Jiffy muffin mix.

That was the bottom line for my mom, who loved to give guests something fresh from the oven.

As a mom who worked outside the home, quick and easy was a welcomed choice, and you couldn’t get any quicker or easier than Jiffy. Still, we loved the small yellow muffins hot out of the oven, sometimes with a pat of butter or a dusting of powdered sugar. But on weekends, when she had more time, she would sometimes make ma'amoul, a Syrian pastry, or Syrian bread – both worth the time and effort.

She was proud to share her ma’amouls with my cousins when family came to visit. I suspect there was a bit of a rivalry between aunts as to who could make the best ma’amoul, but if it meant my mom would keep trying to make it better, I was happy to be the taste tester.

Today, it’s the one family favorite I continue to make.

My mother-in-law, Muriel, on the other hand, preferred Entenmann’s. My sister-in-law once said to me, “If I ever bring an Entenmann’s cake to a party, shoot me!” We were both about home-made in our younger years. Not so much anymore!

I have often recalled the many animated, and sometimes, loud “discussions” that took place at the table set with a plate of muffins or ma’amoul or coffeecake, and sometimes wonder what it was like at Mary’s house during those years of Jesus’ grounding. (You know, after Mary and Joseph find the 12 year old in the temple after he was missing for three days? You think there’s not a reason why we don’t hear from him again until he’s 30? Mary was no push-over.)

Of course, my less than theological version of Jesus’ time at home, working as a carpenter alongside Joseph, does not do justice to a time that served as a profound experience of Jesus’ growing “in wisdom and grace,” before beginning his ministry at exactly the right time – God’s time.

Still, I wonder what it was like for guests at the home of Mary and Joseph while Jesus was there.

What did Mary serve her guests? What did she bake? Did she participate in the conversations? What were the loud discussions around the table?  And assuredly they would be loud if they were about religion! Did guests from Nazareth, their home town, chastise Jesus, as one of their own, for thinking he knew everything? What was the dynamic between Jesus and the guests, or even Jesus and Joseph?

So many questions, so few answers, other than those that might be expected from the culture of the time. But thinking about the unknown life of the Holy Family, reminds me that they were just that – a family, like mine, with the same challenges and joys. And Mary was a mother, like me, dealing with all the same issues and relationships that we each deal with, from putting muffins on the table to following a child to the cross.

I often think how good it would be to have Mary to tea, and muffins, and talk about the old days.