Archive for September, 2018

We Would See Jesus

Posted on: September 16th, 2018 by Wayne Fraser No Comments

On a group tour of Israel with Dr. Judy Paulsen, Professor of Evangelism at Wycliffe College, we discovered the sheer numbers of pilgrims and tourists which overwhelm the venerated places of Jesus’ birth and death. Spiritual reflection at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is virtually impossible with the press of crowds.

What did we expect by being there? Does the star embedded in the floor really mark the place of Jesus’ birth? Jesus was more likely born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem. We were amazed at pilgrims kneeling to kiss the stone where Jesus’ body supposedly lay. The Via Delorosa winds along crowded market streets—the route could have been elsewhere.

In any case, to worship such places, even to call the land holy, invites a kind of idolatry, because the Creator “blessed all that he had made.” All of creation is sacred.

Still, we found it meaningful to gain a sense of Jesus’ movements during his last week. The Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane have remained in the same place for 2,000 years, we think. According to our guide, Dr. Steven Notley, Professor of New Testament on the New York City campus of Nyack College, thousands would have camped out in those hills around Jerusalem at Passover. Judas’ kiss would have indicated Jesus’ campsite to the Romans.

Pilate’s quarters and Herod’s palace were near neighbours. Jesus was easily shunted back and forth—a hurried trial, torture and crucifixion, all done before dawn. The temple authorities wanted this troublemaker gone before the common folk awoke. Recent excavation of the home of a high priest demonstrates the fabulous wealth of collaborators with Rome. Tax collectors and Pharisees had a vested interest in the status quo.

Still drawn to come closer, we walked on what Notley claimed was millenia-old pavement outside the old Eastern Gate. This moment felt authentic as he explained how Jesus and his disciples would have crossed it every time they entered and left Jerusalem.

The Temple Mount itself was a revelation. Jews pray at the Western Wall to be near the Holy of Holies. Muslims believe God brought Mohammed from Mecca to this place. Christians have no specific interest in the Mount—one less player in centuries-old conflicts.

We learned the strategic importance of the river valleys crisscrossing the excellent agricultural soil, providing as well easy travel along the trade routes joining Egypt to the East, hence the reason for battles among warring tribes.

The tour made vivid historical and scriptural connections. At Shiloh, the Israelites placed the Ark of the Covenant under a tent and worshipped there for centuries. Confident God was on their side, they carried the Ark into battle against the Philistines, but lost both. Centuries later Jeremiah incorporated this calamity into his prophecy against the corruption of the temple in Jerusalem: “Remember Shiloh!” Jesus then echoed Jeremiah in his challenge to the temple authorities: “You have made of my house a den of robbers.”

At sunrise on our first morning, we climbed the Roman rampart to Masada. The view was magnificent from this important place in Jewish history. When the thousand zealots saw that the Romans would enter the fortress on the morrow, all but a handful, left to tell the tale, committed suicide.

This event in 73CE marked the end of Israel until its new creation in 1948. All that time Jews prayed “Next year in Jerusalem.”

The tour taught us the lay of the land and we saw how scripture emerged from the contexts of the writers and their times.

–article originally published in The Niagara Anglican, September, 2018, p. 5.

A novel parable with a story message

Posted on: September 12th, 2018 by Eleanor Johnston No Comments

I am honored that Editor Hollis Hiscock chose to publish a review of my novel, Shaking Parkinson’s, in the September issue of The Niagara Anglican Newspaper. What follows is Hollis’s review:


I decided to review Eleanor’s novel because my father had Parkinson’s Disease, and perhaps to vicariously relive our family’s experience. Also, I admire her writings and knew it would be worthwhile, thought-provoking and enjoyable.

A novel can be like a parable — a story with a message. Eleanor’s Shaking Parkinson’s is an excellent example. The story immediately captures and holds the reader, and its message, according to Robert Kirk, is one of “hope and joy”.

Just as Jesus’ parables came from his observation of human experiences, so does Eleanor’s “novel parable”.

It tells the story of Joyce Saunders as she — with her family, friends and colleagues — face and struggle with Parkinson’s Disease, and how it impacts and revamps their own attitudes, behaviours and relationships.

In the preface, Eleanor describes her own personal journey with Parkinson’s Disease, as well as a “greater insight into the emotional and psychological repercussions of what is often called this dread disease”.

I found the sequence interesting — to get the facts and then read the story. At first, I thought it should be reversed, but as I read the novel I found my thoughts going back to Eleanor’s preface. After completing the novel, I went back and reread the preface to get further insights.

I enjoyed the quotes from William Shakespeare, A.A. Milne and others at the beginning of each chapter, and searched for their relevancy and application as I delved into Joyce’s story.

According to the back cover, you should read Shaking Parkinson’s because, “This is a larger-than-life novel, one that tweaks your conscience and helps you address the challenges of Parkinson’s Disease in your life”.

Read Eleanor’s novel parable for its story; any message you garner will be a bonus.