Sunday, May 24, 2009
Picture: Damascus Gate Market, on the Palestinian side of the city.
This morning I worshipped with an Arabic congregation here in the old city Jerusalem that is associated with the Christian Missionary and Alliance denomination. I was going to give this post the title, "Worship in Other Tongues", but some of you might not get the joke. The church meets in a building that is right behind "The Church of the Holy Sepulchre", the place that is on the likely location of Jesus' crucifixion and nearby resurrection tomb. I was wondering if the tourists going into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre heard our worship time. It was very, very enthusiastic and joyous, even if I only understood the "Hallelujahs." If you have ever heard Arabian music you know that it has a very distinct beat: "1,2and, 3, 4and!" with a quick beat on the final "and" and with more emphasis on the final "and." Plus, the worship kept building and building beginning with prayer and music on a keyboard and one teenager on the bongos. Then, the worship leader started leading us in Arabic worship songs, always with that same beat. Next, the powerpoint guy hopped up on stage and started playing the drum set (his daughter took over the powerpoint duties). Next a guy stood up and started waving a flag. The keyboard guy added a bunch of trumpets and now everybody is excited. They stood and worshiped a really long time, but were very sincere. The closest parallel I have in my experience is when I've worshiped down in Mexico with the congregations there. One funny thing on my part. I was sitting next to a professor who teaches at a Christian university out in California, and I asked him what would be the theological symbolism of the Nokia telephone clip art they kept flashing on the screen. He leaned over and very dryly said, "I think it's a message to turn off your telephone." Anyway, we worshiped with some other students from Jerusalem University, two from Alaska, one from Australia, one from Canada, and about 15 pastors from Uganda who were in attendance at the service, plus about 100 in the Arabic congregation. The congregation was very indigineous, and I was glad to see the turnout. Fortunately the message was translated into English for us. Two and a half hours later we were out of there, and it was time for lunch and a nap on a day off. I spent the afternoon doing more reading on the family of Herod, and that's been the day.