I am woken early again by the French couple in the room next to ours. This morning they are clattering around and we guess they must be off early somewhere. My guess is the Sea of Galilee. We don’t have to be at the Seminary until 10.00 a.m so it would have been nice to have had a bit of a lay in this morning? C’est la vie!
Graham, Rosemary, Julia and myself walk down the hill from Saint Margaret’s and then up the hill to the Seminary. Chris is leading our devotions today so he has gone up early to make sure everything is ready. We like Chris, and his wife Margaret. Chris is a Deacon at a Baptist Church in the Southampton area and, until fairly recently, he was the Church Secretary. He strikes us as the kind of person we would liked to have had as our Church Secretary in some of the churches we have served.
Chris leads our devotions in a very helpful way reminding us both of things we have seen and learned so far, and the fact that we are to ‘pass on that which we have received from the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 11:23). There is a good time of prayer in which we pray for NETS and all the people associated with it that we have met. After our devotions we are introduced to Makram Mesherky, an Arab Christian, who is going to speak to us about ‘Jesus in the Eyes of Jews and Moslems’. Makram is an interesting character. He is a member of the Closed Brethren, a premillennialist, and very sympathetic to the Messianic Jews. He is also an extremely well informed and clever man who is very near to completing his PhD. He has written a number of books, most of which he distributes free of charge to Arabs because they are largely very poor. He is also a most gracious, charming and lovely Christian man. His mother died just over a week ago and since then over 2,000 people – Moslems as well as Arab Christians – have called on him to pay their respects, such is the high standing this man is held in.
He has two lectures to give us, one concerning the Jewish attitude to Jesus, and the other concerning the Moslem attitude to Jesus. Makram’s first lecture is about Judaism and he masterfully unpacks the relationship between the Old Testament, the Mishnah and the Talmudic books in Judaism, and explains how the Jews understand the various references to Jesus in the Talmud. We have a break after this first lecture because it is David’s birthday and we have all signed a birthday card for him. We have a yumacious cake … with candles! And then we return for Makram’s second lecture on Islam, where he skilfully explains how Islam views Jesus. Once again it is all explained clearly and helpfully, and we understand the development of Islam from the the earlier Meccan period to the later Medinean period – the former containing all that is good about Islamic teaching, and the latter all that is bad about Islamic teaching. Sadly, today, it is the latter that overrules the former in Islam. Islam considers itself to be both a religion and a state and is dedicated to bringing the whole world under Islamic rule by fair means or foul.
We return from our brilliant but tiring day to learn that there is to be a Moslem wedding celebration in the large Saint Margaret’s car park … and we are all invited to the feast. It starts about 6.30 p.m. with a religious service attended only by the men … the women are all on the lower courtyard stuffing themselves with all kinds of food! The service is relayed over huge loudspeakers to seemingly the whole of Nazareth … it is deafening. About 7.30 p.m. our food is served. It is a lamb and rice dish, not a chicken in sight, with sweet Arab pastries and fruit to follow. The religious service somehow transforms into a dance and we all go to watch. There are men seated on one side of the car park and women on the other. Only the men are dancing and it is fascinating to watch. We get into conversation with the bride’s parents who both speak very good English. We are told that the wedding has been going on all week and that the bride is actually at home tonight but will go to her new husband’s home tomorrow. We are still none the wiser despite their explanation. The bride’s father wants me to join in the dance with him? Fortunately my knees won’t stand up to the punishment so I am let off! It is real ‘dad dancing’ Moslem Arab style … I think I probably would be very good at it!