Post-Christian or extreme Christian? Response to R. Moore’s CT “Riot” article

The recent item by Russell Moore  January 5, 2022 Christianity Today

argues that the January 6, 2021 riot signals the existence of a Post-Christian Church.  I question whether post-Christian is accurate.  Would extreme Christian be more accurate?

He writes: “One cannot carry Good News to people you might, if things get bad enough, have to beat up or kill. One cannot bring about good by doing evil. One cannot “stand for truth” by employing lies.”

How far back does one need to go to find missionary efforts that disprove this statement? To native Americans? other missionary efforts? To wars with religious elements like the Hundred Years War?  the Crusades?

“And that means we must choose between the way of the gallows and the way of the Cross.”

When has American policy toward dissidents, non-whites or through capital punishment or through the defense budget shown the “way of the cross”? Have “real” evangelicals objected to these policies on a regular basis?

Christian have long insisted on preserving their beliefs (and usually their way of life) by force. Many of the participants in the January 6 attack believed they were doing what Christians have been doing for nearly two thousand years:  Protecting their beliefs and way of life by gaining control of the political processes. Using violence when necessary.


Mary’s Song and Our Christmas Songs: Praise and Justice in Christmas Carols

cheerful cute family, adults and kids singing christmas songs carols, isolated vector illustration scene cheerful cute family, adults and kids singing christmas songs carols, isolated vector illustration scene christmas carolers stock illustrations

Elizabeth’s words may have confirmed the angel’s message to Mary or at least given Mary assurance that what she heard was really going to happen.  The effect was profound. Mary’s song was the first “Christmas carol.”  The angel’s words and song to the shepherds were of good news and joy.  A Savior was bringing peace. The angels praised God for what he was doing. How do the songs we sing at Christmas time reflect the themes of Mary’s song and the angel’s song?

The beginning of Mary’s song features words of praise.  Many of our Christmas songs include praise, some are primarily praise for the gift of Christ’s birth or calls to come to worship the new savior: “Angels from the realms of glory,” “O come, all ye faithful, Joyful and triumphant!” ”What child is this, who, laid to rest,” and “Joy to the world.”

Many of the hymns and songs reprise some aspect of the events of the birth of Christ.  “Silent Night,” “O, little town of Bethlehem,” “Christians, awake, salute the happy morn,” and “While shepherds watched their flocks by night” are examples of this. 

There are only a few Christmas songs that reflect Mary’s hope for the rising and falling of the poor and powerful, the hungry and rich.  Some of these take the next step and connect the birth of Christ with the actions Jesus set out in his first sermon (Luke 4) See the lyrics below Mary’s song. There may be a few that balance praise and concern for poor and oppressed.  (If you know of others with this focus, please let me know.) [There are some additional titles like “The Three Kings” about the “wise men.”]

Should our Christmas songs be more like Mary’s?

Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said,  “My soul exalts the Lord,
47 and my spirit has begun to rejoice in God my Savior,
48 because he has looked upon the humble state of his servant.
For from now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name;
50 from generation to generation he is merciful to those who fear him.
51 He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy,
55 as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-5 NET)

Christmas carols with social justice attention

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas day

And in despair I bow’d my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.” accessed 12/12/21

“O Holy Night” Adolphe Adam

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his Holy name!   accessed 12/12/21

“Hark the glad sound”  Philip Doddridge

Hark, the glad sound! The Saviour comes,
the Saviour promised long;
let every heart prepare a throne,
and every voice a song.

He comes, the prisoners to release,
in Satan’s bondage held;
the gates of brass before him burst,
the iron fetters yield.

He comes, from thickest films of vice
to clear the mental ray,
and on the eyeballs of the blind
to pour celestial day.

He comes the broken heart to bind,
the bleeding soul to cure,
and with the treasures of his grace
to enrich the humble poor.

Our glad hosannas, Prince of peace,
thy welcome shall proclaim,
and Heaven’s eternal arches ring
with thy belovèd Name. accessed 12/12/21

(Has the author offered a spiritualization of Psalm 146?)

“Now the heavens start to whisper” (VT 237)

Christ, eternal sun of justice,
Christ, the rose of wisdom’s seed,
Come to bless with fire and fragrance
Hours of yearning, hurt, and need.
In the lonely, in the stranger,
In the outcast hid from view:
Child who comes to grace the manger,
Teach our hearts to welcome you.

Text: Mary Louise Bringle, b. 1953, © 2006, GIA Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission of GIA Publications.

Accessed 12/12/21

“Come join Mary’s prophet song” Adam Tice  (Voices Together Hymnal #246)

Come join Mary’s prophet song

Of justice for the earth,

For right outgrows the fiercest wrong,

revealing human worth-

bound within the wealth we crave

or in the arms we bear,

But in the holy sign God gave:

The image that we share

(No online source of lyrics found.)

Words and Deeds of Praise Exploring Hebrews 13:15-16

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, acknowledging his name. Hebrews 13:15(NET)

The phrase “sacrifice of praise” still puzzled me after our preacher spoke about it in a sermon and then my Sunday School class discussed it. What meaning of sacrifice found in Hebrews 13:15?  How does that go with praise?  In most  sacrifices the essential act was the killing of animal (followed by burning of the meat or grain and/or a fellowship meal).  Does one focus on a metaphoric meaning of “killing”? (The root of the Greek word translated “sacrifice” means “killing”.)1 Do we need to kill something in ourselves to be able to praise?  A number of writers have noted that sacrifice seems to be something painful, but praise a joyful thing. Looking at the background of the passage gave me a better understanding of the phrase.  I would like to share that with you.

Origins of the phrase

The burning the meat on the alter was a way of giving the animal to God. The fragrance of the roasting/burning meat was the way God receives the offering. The English word “sacrifice” derives etymologically from a Latin term that means “make sacred.”2  So, to sacrifice an animal means to make it sacred or giving it to God.  I prefer to use the word “gift” in place of sacrifice to avoid the problems associated with the imagery of an animal being killed and burnt on a slab of stone. The word used by the Septuagint for sacrifice can mean “gift”.3 See note below for more about the gift concept. (In atonement sacrifices, blood from the killed animal was sprinkled on the altar, dabbed on the confessing person or unclean person to prepare them for God’s presence and forgiveness.) 

The thank-offering (called the Todah) was different from the required atonement and periodic sacrifices.  Offering it was prompted by the feelings of a person in a right relationship with God. God had rescued that person or blessed them in some way and the follower of God wanted to publicly praise God. (See the Psalms below.) In the thanksgiving sacrifice, there was first, a brief service at the alter with the priest passing the piece of lamb over the alter and burning certain parts on the altar. At some point, the High Priest was given a piece of the liver and the breast of the lamb and the officiating priest was given the right leg.  Finally, the chief worshiper hosted a fellowship meal with the rest of the meat and used some of the loaves of grain prescribed.

One writer wondered how one person could consume a hundred-pound lamb in the required two days (what remained on the third day must be destroyed).4  A local farmer familiar with butchering lambs, said that the meat from a one-hundred-pound lamb would be closer to forty to fifty pounds—and there would still be bones, like in the lamb chops.  He was familiar with Middle Eastern eating practices and noted that there wouldn’t be any lamb chops on the table. The meat was usually present in small pieces in a sauce or stew or kabobs. Given this, the lamb would serve many of the worshipper’s family and friends. Along with the lamb would be five loaves of several kinds of bread. (“He must present one [loaf] of each kind of grain offering” Lev.7:14 NIV).  We are not told how many grains were available so cannot determined how many loaves were brought to the feast. The author cited above guessed five grains. From my research, I concluded that most likely only two types were generally used, barley and emmer/wheat. These are sometimes translated as “cakes” since they were unleavened and fried.

Expressions of thanks in the Bible

The Psalms notes positively the practice of celebrating this sacrifice.

Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.  Psalm 50:14  (NLT)

Whoever presents a thank offering honors me. To whoever obeys my commands, I will reveal my power to deliver.” Psalm 50:23 

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you. I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good. Psalm 54:6 

I am obligated to fulfill the vows I made to you, O God; I will give you the thank offerings you deserve, Psalm 56:12 

Let them present thank offerings, and loudly proclaim what he has done. Psalm 107:22

I will present a thank offering to you, and call on the name of the Lord. Psalm 116:17 (All above from NET)

I especially like the translation of Psalm 50:14. The psalmist hears God saying he doesn’t need bulls and rams.  Proclaiming our thanksgiving is the gift (sacrifice) to God. In Psalm 50:23, there is a pairing of thank offering and obeying God’s commands.  Vows are mentioned in Psalm 116:18 the verse after the one mentioning thank offering.  Only Psalm 107:22 and its context does not refer to vows or obeying God’s commands.  There is no clarification of what keeping the “vows” entails.  Likely, the Psalmist meant he would carry out his promise to perform the sacrifice of praise.6  But the linking of the verbal and the next step, the action to honor God is clear.

Deeds added to words

The mentions of “vows”(good deeds to follow the thanksgiving gifts to God) in the Psalms passages connects these passages to the one we are considering in Hebrews. Hebrews 13:15. The next verse, Hebrews 13:16:

And do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for God is pleased with such sacrifices. Hebrews 13:16 (NET)

Does that mean that along with the gift (sacrifice) of praise, we should be giving God the gift (sacrifice) of doing good and sharing what we have?  In the Hebrew offering, the lamb and loaves are shared with others in a fellowship meal. Here is the next step after we offer the “fruit of our lips” (rather than of the fruit of the field or pasture). We “do good”.  We “share with others.”  And, when we do these things we are offering a gift of thanksgiving to God.


I found three songs using the phrase “sacrifice of praise”.  None of them used verse sixteen (maybe Moen’s and Murphy’s last lines hinted at it.).  Reminded me of my experience growing up.  I had memorized Ephesians 2:8-9.  When I got to college I was struck with verse ten.  Someone said, Brethren in Christ quote eight and nine, Mennonites quote verse ten! 

We Bring The Sacrifice Of Praise

The Maranatha! Singer

We bring the sacrifice of praise
Into the house of the Lord.
We bring the sacrifice of praise
Into the house of the Lord.

And we offer up to You
The sacrifices of thanksgiving;
And we offer up to You
The sacrifices of joy

accessed 9/7/21


(D. Alleman’s addition below to honor Heb. 13:16)

Help us do the good you ask,

The praise to honor you.

Lord, give us strength to share,

This is the thanks you’re wishing for,

The sacrifice of praise you honor.



Sacrifice of Praise

Don Moen

How can I say thanks
For everything You’ve done
And how can I give praise
Lord You’ve given me so much
You gave it all
You paid the price
Now I want to give You my life

As a sacrifice of praise
O lift it up to You
Lord I give my heart away
O I give it all to you
Lord make my life an offering
Let me worship You in everything I do
A sacrifice of praise I give to You

In sunshine and in rain
In sorrow and in pain
Lord I will give You praise
And choose to bless Your name
You gave it all
And You paid the price
Now I want to give You my life

As a sacrifice of praise
O lift it up to You
Lord I give my heart away
O I give it all to you
Lord make my life an offering
Let me worship You in everything I do
A sacrifice of praise I give to You

Lord I want to lift You up (X3)

As a sacrifice of praise
O lift it up to You
Lord I give my heart away
O I give it all to you
Lord make my life an offering
Let me worship You in everything I do
A sacrifice of praise I give to You (X3)

Lord I want to lift You up (X2)

accessed 9/21/21

Sacrifice of Praise

William Murphy

I wish I had some real folks in the house tonight who say I don’t always feel like lifting my hands.
I wanna teach you a real simple song tonight.
My brother Elder Eugene Brown is going to sing it for us.
It simply says.

We offer, the sacrifice of praise .
Come on, Lord we lift our lives.
Lord we lift our lives just to honor you, to honor you.
Though at times we feel like throwing in the towel, but we won’t give in for the hour is near.
When we search, when we search for those.
When we search for those, in spirit and in truth, we’ll worship You.
We will, we guarantee you, we offer.
We offer, the sacrifice of praise .
We offer, come on, make God an offer He can’t refuse.
All over this sanctuary, we offer, we offer, the sacrifice of praise.
Come on, we are the living sacrifice tonight.
Lord we life our lives, just to honor you, to honor you.
Though at times we feel like throwing in the towel, but we won’t give in for the hour is near.

When You search for those, and will be found by You.
In spirit and in truth, we’ll worship You.
We offer, we offer, we love You, we praise You, we magnify Your name.
We offer, the sacrifice of praise.
Hallelujah .
Halle means celebrate.
Hallelujah .
Jah means God.
Come on celebrate him.
Hallelujah .
Does anyone here have something to celebrate for?
He’s been good.
Hallelujah .
You are so worthy, of my sacrifice of praise.
We Celebrate, the sacrifice of praise.
You are so worthy, of my sacrifice of praise.
You called us out of darkness, into this marvelous light to show forth Your praise tonight.
You are so worthy, of my sacrifice of praise.
You’re so worthy, worthy is the name that was slain before the foundation of the world, the angels cry Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.

And Lord we draw, and is, and is, to come.
You are so worthy, of my sacrifice of praise.
We give you the glory, we give you the honor .
We offer, the Sacrifice of praise, of praise.
We love you so much.
We magnify Your name Jesus.
Come on unrehearsed, unprovoked, spontaneously come on.
Without any outside stimulus.
We offer.
We offer.
We won’t forsake our responsibility.
We offer.
We offer.
Not a lamb but ourselves, we offer.
We offer.

accessed 9/21/21


1Why is praising God a sacrifice? The word “sacrifice” (Greek, “thusia”) comes from the root thuo, a verb meaning “to kill or slaughter for a purpose.” Praise often requires that we “kill” our pride, fear, or sloth—anything that threatens to diminish or interfere with our worship of the Lord.

accessed 9/3/21

2means both kill and sacrifice

accessed 8/31/21


Accessed 9/21/21


accessed 8/21/21


The thank offering (Hebrew: תֹּודָה, pronounced Todah) or sacrifice of thanksgiving (Hebrew zevakh hatodah זֶבַח הַתֹּודָה ) was an optional offering under the Law of Moses.[1] This is also termed the “thanksgiving offering.”[2]

If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried.— Lev 7:12 KJV

Wikipedia accessed 8/21/21


accessed 9/23/21

The practice of making vows or solemn promises to God deliberately and freely to perform some good work was ancient among the Israelites. Ordinarily a vow consisted in a promise to offer a sacrifice, if God would give some assistance in a difficulty; hence, the Hebrew word neder means both vow and votive offering. No directive in the Mosaic Law obliged man to make vows or votive offerings;

——- ——-  ————-

Note: Questions about place of sacrifice in Hebrew Bible and New Testament:

The prophets tell us:

For I delight in faithfulness, not simply in sacrifice;
I delight in acknowledging God, not simply in whole burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6 (NET)

 Micah 6:6b: Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

. . . Verse 8: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly[
a] with your God.

The answered implied to the questions in verse 6 if “No, don’t do that,  do this (verse 8)

Isaiah 1:12-30 parallels the Micah passage.

(See also, I Samuel 15:22, Psalm 51:16, 17, Proverbs 21:3, Jeremiah 7:22-23, Psalm 40:6-8, and others.) These verses reflect a growing awareness reflected in Jesus words:

 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matt. 9:13 (ESV)

And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.  Matt. 12:7 (ESV)

Mercy and obedience were what God wanted.  Many commentators argue against the literal meaning of the words of the prophets and Jesus (many who otherwise insist they interpret scripture literally).  Jesus avoidance of the temple and ritual regulations argues for his rejection of the sacrificial system.  But, many insist that the prophets and Jesus meant show mercy, be obedient, but keep doing the sacrifices.  Jesus himself does not speak clearly about this metaphor of his death.  Those insisting that Jesus wants mercy and plus sacrifice link this to penal substitutionary views of Jesus death. 

I wonder if God’s first choice for his people was the sacrificial system. Certainly, there are commands in the Torah for this system.  There commands also are for war and genocide.  The God we know in Jesus did not command those acts.  What reasons can be given for applying the same principles to the sacrificial system?  We do not see Jesus participating in temple worship. (An exception was sending the man healed of leprosy to be checked by a priest.) The temple appearances mentioned in the gospels show him teaching and preaching.  He regularly condemned the spirituality of the priests.  He addressed the abuses of the merchants in the temple with the “cleansing of the temple”.  At his death the veil of the temple was torn,   (Matthew 27:51). He referred to himself as the “temple”.  Paul writes that we, the church, are the temple of the holy spirit. (I Cor 6:19:20).  So, was the sacrificial system a detour to giving ourselves to God by living as Jesus lived? Then it was used as a metaphor for dedicated living for God?

PA SR 655 or The Great Road: The Journey, Part 2

Mill Creek to Reedsville

U. S. Route 66 has nearly 800 books as its central subject, Lincoln Highway (Route 30) has 290 books, The Great Silk Road of Asia has over 1400 —in English–by their travelers, photographers and chroniclers. Pennsylvania SR 655 may not be ready for full book treatment. But, SR 655 deserves some attention.  Recently I have accomplished what few (if any) have accomplished:  driven the entire length of SR 655 in one day. *  Even my spouse, Julia, born and raised several hundred feet from that thoroughfare had not completed this journey.   Her family has an 1814 deed positioning a corner of the family farm at a “large rock” at the edge of “The Great Road”.  (The farm at the upper edge of Allensville is now the Peachey farm.)  Julia is one of the natives of Big Valley that knew that 655 has its northern end at Reedsville at North Main Street and Old 322, but this was the first time she had seen the (current) southern end. Here is part 2 of the chronicle of our journey. When the Eisenhower Interstate System was established in the mid-fifties, states were required to change two digit state route numbers to three digits. So, SR 76 became SR 655. [Thanks to Nelson Roth and Sanford King for this information.]

SR 655 becomes Valley Pike at Mill Creek

Mile 57.7:  SR 655 turns north toward Big Valley.  The original 655 ended/began here until 1964.  Mill Creek to Maryland was added at that time.

Just beyond this intersection are two churches: Mill Creek United Methodist and Mill Creek Baptist

At the edge of Mill Creek, Flush Run Creek crosses 655 and enters Mill Creek.

Mile 58.2: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of the Valley.

59.3: Next is Fousetown. (Fousetown Bible Church is shown on the map, but I could not locate it.)

A little further is Sand Plant Road.  At Sand Plant Road one can pull off and sometimes see the huge trucks taking sand to the Mapleton plant for processing.

Mile 60.1: Now, the traveler goes up Cramer Hill and enters Kishacoquillas Valley.  From Cramer Hill to 322 at  Reedsville SR 655 extends about 22 miles through Big Valley. This is the “tight end” of the Valley.  The Kish Valley is narrow here in contrast with the wideness of Kish Valley at Reedsville.

Mile 60.2:  Airydale.  Here is a house which was formerly a school and a sign for Brown Farms.  That’s all there is to Airydale!  But, Airydale warrants a road sign with mileage sign further down the valley along the Back-Mountain Rd. at Waynesburg Rd. The road past Brown Farm was closed sometime in the past 30 years.  [Sign just visible near center of photo).

Most of Airydale visible in this picture

Mile 66.6:  Most of Kish Valley is in Mifflin County, but the first mile 6.5 miles (the height of land is a hill just north Sharpsburg Road) is in Huntingdon County.  Sadler Creek drains the Valley beginning northeast of Sharpsburg Road and flowing southwest to Mill Creek.

Mile 67.4: Allensville Lutheran.  The church is next to the corner of the former Hartzler, now Joseph Peachey farm, where my spouse, Julia Hartzler Alleman grew up.

Hartzler–Peachey Farm
Allensville Lutheran Church

Mile 67.5: Allensville, Pa, Post Office 173 W. Main.

A bit further down the road is Mary Lee’s Fabric Store (formerly Rehoboth Christian Fellowship, before that Kennedy’s Store and Allensville General Store), then comes Allensville Community Church (formerly Presbyterian) 126 E. Main Street on the other side of the street.

Allensville Restaurant, officially Country Village Restaurant, is known for its buffet and Sunday chicken and waffles. (Closed in 2020)

Allensville/Country Village Restaurant (now closed
Shocks of wheat at ready to take to thresher.

There are many Amish, Mennonite and other farms along this route to Belleville.

Mile 73.2: Locust Grove Mennonite is located just before one gets to the town. A sign at the edge of the parking lot directs one to the Belleville Mennonite School several miles to the east. This is where I met my spouse, Julia in 19 years ago.

The next town is Belleville, Pa considered the center of the Mennonite-Amish community.  Someone has claimed that there are twelve varieties of Amish and Mennonites in the Valley.  Yellow top carriages, white top carriages, black carriages and black buggies (buggies have no tops) can be seen on SR 655.

Carriages of Big Valley (usually called “yellow top”, “white top”, etc)

Mile 76.6 is St. John’s Lutheran Church

Mile 79.4:  West Kishacoquillas Presbyterian Church.

At the bottom of the hill at the corner of Walnut Street is the Mennonite Heritage Center.

Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center, Belleville

Mile 74.8: Abe’s Café (now closed) and opposite it is S. Penn Street which provides access to the Belleville Livestock Market, Flea Market, Produce Market and Auction Barn on Wednesdays. 

Our granddaughter and her mother admire the abundance of whoopie pies at the Belleville Sale grounds

Baked goods are available with excellent moonpies and whoopee pies.  My favorites are the Purple Martin apple moon pies (half-moon pies).

Produce available at the Belleville Sale
Milk cow to be auctioned at the Belleville Sale
Son Nathan admires his purchase at the Belleville Sale

Mile 74.9:  Belleville Post Office

Mile 75.6:  Ye Olde Dog House has milkshakes, cones and sandwiches.  Since my spouse’s birth name is Hartzler, I must note that they also have “Hartzler Shakes” at $5.75 (AKA, the “Big Dog).

Mile 75.7: Ritchies’ Original Italian Pizza Restaurant has good Stromboli and other meals.  I would give it a higher rating if it was not closed the week our family is usually in the Valley.

AKA Original Italian Pizza Restaurant

Mile 81.7 Hard to see the end of the Metzler Forest Products’ property is the sign below. Behind the houses on the right is Mountain View Mennonite Chapel, Reedsville.

Mile 87.1:  SR 655 passes under US Route 322.

Mile 87.3:  North Main Street, Reedsville, the northern end of State Route 655. Old US 322 can be seen at the end of SR 655.

After nearly eighty-eight miles the weary traveler has finally reached the climax of the journey.  Other travelers would note wonders I have not mentioned or missed.  Another trip will possibly bring some these to my attention.  No rainbow gold, wise seer or striking vista rewards the traveler for persisting to the end of the road.  But the variety of churches, fields, gardens, houses and flowers, makes the journey a good one.

Names of SR 655

  1. Thompson Road
  2. Great Cove Road + US 522
  3. Timber Ridge
  4. Pleasant Ridge Road
  5. Pitt Street
  6. Waterfall Road
  7. Main Street (Saltillo)
  8. Hares Valley Road
  9. Campbell Street
  10. Bridge Street
  11. Oriskany Street
  12. William Penn Highway/US 22
  13. Valley Pike or Big Valley Pike
  14. Main Street (Allensville)
  15. Main Street (Belleville)

*If you have accomplished this feat, please contact me at I will add your name to the honor roll of SR 655 END to END in a Day Travelers.

My thirteen months as a bureaucrat and other Washington DC tales

As my sophomore year in college was coming to an end I knew I did not have funds for a junior year.  I headed home to the farm hoping a solution would show up.  Shortness of harvest time jobs on neighbor’s farms, distance from towns or cities and lack of skills made for a discouraging fall.  I heard that Civil Service jobs were a possibility, so began researching and applying for some.  In the spring, a neighboring farmer hired me at a minimum wage to make fence, drive tractor and be general helper.  My clearest memory is how cold I was riding that John Deere tractor pulling a disk and cultipacker across a bumpy Illinois field.  I did learn that an acre is 43560 square feet.  I was relieved and excited when the letter came telling me that I had a job and was assigned to the Agriculture Library.  How many Agriculture Department workers went from the field one week to the office the next?

Getting started

Fairly soon I found lodging at a rooming house just off 20th and Massachusetts, near Dupont Circle. The lodging featured a basement room which I needed to share with a roommate (that’s another story), was cheap and it included meals.  Ten to fifteen men ate and slept there. I interacted at various times with a group of Spanish-speaking teachers from Central America, several newly graduated lawyers with whom I got into a vigorous discussion about religious beliefs and others. The Department of Agriculture building at the corner of 14th and Independence was my work “home” for sixteen months. Work was a forty-five-minute walk or twenty-minute bike ride (or less depending on traffic) from Dupont Circle. Dupont Circle was a fascinating place with embassies, Georgetown University and people of many nationalities in the area

The job

My first job was assisting with a collection review project. During this project more than 500,000 items were removed the collection:  sent to other libraries or recycled.  We worked first with forestry materials.  During World War II the Forestry Library was merged with the Agriculture Library without making sure the cataloging details were the same.  So, the same book might be in two locations, usually quite close to each other. The person I assisted was given promotion to the job because she had been at the top of the non-supervisory level positions for many years.  After I “read” the shelves ahead of where we were working to be sure books were in order and nothing was there that shouldn’t be, I had nothing more to do.  So, I helped my supervisor learn months of the year, words like edition, publisher, and other things in a number of languages (I think I picked these up faster than she did).  I read all sorts of publications.  One detail, for some reason, stuck with me.  In 1947, 250,000 Egyptians wore imported suspenders. 

But, my supervisor worked slowly (!), so, I had a lot of down time.  I started to read about forestry.  I have no idea how many books I read.  However, my supervisor’s supervisor came around and saw me reading.  She decreed that I must sit, no reading—just wait for instructions.  I sat for up to an hour sometimes.  Bureaucracy! I soon realized that I must find a better and quicker way to finance the rest of my college degree.

Boredom motivated me to put in a request for a transfer to a different department with more activity. A new building was in the works for the Ag Library.  A new one was needed. While I worked at the old Ag Library, paper and bound materials were stacked in the aisles.  After doing my regular tasks, I started shelving the backlog of materials.  My supervisor took me aside and showed me a chair under the stairs.  This, he said, was a good place to be when I finished my regular tasks.  If I did extra shelving, the other workers would be annoyed that they might be required to do them also. Part my job was to go across 14th Street the Smithsonian Building on the same block as the Washington Monument.  This took an hour or two several times a week. I was to retrieve antique library books stored in the upper floor (attic?) of the building. I found seeing these old volumes like first editions of Audubon’s Birds of America a treat. This was supposedly a protected area.  However, the pigeon droppings and the whiskey bottles left by my predecessor were evidence of the lax care of the valuable books.  

One memorable event of my time at the Ag Building was the arrival of John Glenn after his space trip.  For his entry into DC down 14th Street, we were required to be at the windows or on the street to cheer him on. 

Sight Seeing

One of the first Sundays I was in DC I walked down 16th Street past the White House, toward the Mall.  I stopped at a ball field to watch a baseball game just beginning.  I learned later that this was the first game of the season for the Industrial Baseball League. Everybody was waiting for something.  Then Robert F. Kennedy stepped up and threw out the first baseball.  While I visited some of the historic buildings (ran up the Washington Monument-avoided the White House), my preferred leisure activities were riding my bicycle out the C&O Canal, through the Rock Creek Park and birding in the Rock Creek Park and along the Potomac. Good birding was to be found in the golf course north of the Rock Creek Park, but I needed to be there early, to avoid the golfers.  Another memory is riding the last trolley car out Columbia Avenue the day the trollies stopped running. 

I attended several churches during the Washington months.  The Christian Missionary Alliance had few young people.  I stopped attending there after a few months.  For the rest of the time, I attended a Nazarene church.  One of the best parts of that experience was the music and the fellowship with other young people.  Here again I encountered the teaching (familiar from my growing-up years) that one must experience a second “conversion” or sanctification.  I was challenged to grow in my spiritual life. But I observed some who repeatedly seeking that second work of grace (who apparently had for some time) who didn’t think they had experienced it.  At least one of those people seemed to me to be a very godly person. 


Novel experiences, bountiful resources, and unusual (for me) people were great. The frustration of working in a bureaucracy was dragging me down. The expenses and minimal increase in my college fund led me to look for other ways to finance my return to college. I returned to college. Loans and improved grades which earned scholarship money helped.  And, eventually, I got a library science degree and again worked in a library doing much more satisfactory work.

Spring and the Smithsonian tower


Benchmarks:Is it cold?

We went down the hill to the barn before daylight to milk the cows. The thermometer registered  minus twenty-two degrees.  The steamy milking parlor, the nearly frozen-solid milk cooling tank and the steam-breathing “young stock” outside were all reminders of the cold.  After breakfast on that snow-bright, January day, I helped my father shovel well-developed Illinois-sized ear corn out of our corncrib into the truck to be shelled and ground to feed our dairy cows.   We shoveled corn vigorously until lunch time.  During the morning under the influence of the sun and the work on the south side of the  corncrib, we had shed our coats.  Walking up the hill to the house carrying our coats, we enjoyed the fresh morning air warming under the brightness of the snow-reflected sun.  We were glad for warmer air. Once at the house, we checked the thermometer and to our surprise found that the temperature had warmed to only minus nine degrees.

Cartoon stick drawing conceptual illustration of chilled man looking at big Celsius thermometer showing low weather temperature around minus 15 degree.

Julia and I lived in Michigan for eighteen years. Our home was three or four blocks from my work.  One morning the thermometer showed twenty degrees below zero.  There was a bit of wind from the north, the direction of most of my walk.  Not wanting to break my record of walking to work every day (and since our cold car was parked outside), I suited up: Long underwear, heavy pants and flannel shirts; heaviest coat and under the coat my farmer’s bib overalls.  The knit mask on my face was barely enough to keep my face from icing up and a time or two I turned my back to the wind to let my face warm up. But I kept going and enjoyed the warmth of the library when I arrived.

Since then whenever the cold has threatened my determination to get work done (or perhaps play), I have gained some warmth remembering those cold winter days. I have reminded myself that if I put up with the cold then, what’s coming today, I can certainly deal with.


PA SR 655 or The Great Road: The Journey: Part 1

Southern end to Mill Creek

U. S. Route 66 has nearly 800 books as its central subject, Lincoln Highway (Route 30) has 290 books, The Great Silk Road of Asia has over 1400 —in English–by their travelers, photographers and chroniclers. Pennsylvania SR 655 may not be ready for full book treatment. But, SR 655 deserves some attention.  Recently I have accomplished what few (if any) have accomplished:  driven the entire length of SR 655 in one day.*  Even my spouse, Julia, born and raised several hundred feet from that thoroughfare had not completed this journey.   Her family has an 1814 deed positioning a corner of the family farm at a “large rock” at the edge of “The Great Road”.  (The farm at the upper edge of Allensville is now the Peachey farm.)  Julia is one of the natives of Big Valley that knew that 655 has its northern end at Reedsville at North Main Street and Old 322, but this was the first time she had seen the (current) southern end. Here is the chronicle of our journey. [PA SR 655 previously was SR 76 until the start of the Eisenhower Interstate highway system began in 1956. It took over the two-digit numbers and required state routes to be three-digit.] (Thanks to Nelson Roth and Sanford King for this information.)

At the edge of Hancock, MD, is the border of Pennsylvania and the start of SR655

.5 miles: First church on or jouney. Note the double doors. Tonoloway Primitive Baptist Church

Needmore Full Gospel Church, 4014 Thompson Road, Needmore, PA 17238 at mile 4 sets back off the road. (not shown).

Mile 9.1: US Post Office, 7992 Great Cove Road, Needmore, PA 17238 a brown brick building.

9.2 miles: Rehoboth New Life (Church), Needmore

655 becomes Great Cove Road and joins US 522 for .8 miles.  The only eatery in Needmore is Gordon’s Cruise-In, just south of the junction of US 522 and SR 655.  It is housed in the same building as Gordon’s Garage and Appliance.

Mile 10: 655 turns north along Tonoloway Creek.  655 takes the name Pleasant Ridge Road for the next 17 plus miles. The Creek runs approximately 32 miles south to the Potomac River.

Pleasant Ridge Church of the Brethren

Mile 12.3:  Pleasant Ridge Church of the Brethren church is 3.2 miles north of Needmore at the top of a hill.

Just over the mountain east is the Supreme Council of the House of Jacob, an African American community and religion/denomination with a fascinating history.

Mile 18.7 Less than 2 miles before Harrisonville, Baby Run flows into Licking Creek at Schooley Lane.  Licking Creek drains south.  Its origins are far to the east where part of it starts just north of McConnelsburg where it first heads north, then west before turning south. The other branch starts a bit to the north.  Sindeldecker Creek is a major branch

Mile: 21.3 Harrisonville Post Office on Route 30

1.1 miles north Route 30, just to the west on Buck Road, is the Independent Holiness Academy.

28.2: SR 655 passes over the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

After a mile, SR 655 becomes Pitt Street in Hustontown for a short time

Mile 27.1, the Hustontown Post Office shares a building with a library. This is the only public restroom between the MD line and Mapleton, Pa. Also here is the Brown Funeral Home.

Twist and Shake serves grapenut ice cream when their machine works.

Grace Bible Methodist Church is nearby.  Pitt Street becomes Waterfall Road. 

Some straight stretches along a curvy 655
One of the nice gardens along 655

Mile 33.9:  US Post Office at Waterfall, Pa.

Mile 37.7: Center Grove Brethren in Christ Church (may have changed it’s name or closed)

Mile 41.6: Junction with PA 994 which leads to Three Springs and PA 747 which leads to Agape Farm Retreat Center and Mt. Union, Pa. Agape Farm Retreat Center has an interesting history.  (See

Salillo Post Office

Mile 40.8: Saltillo, Pa, Post Office, Main Street.  According to Wikipedia, Saltillo was named after the Mexican War Battle of Saltillo (23 October 1840). It was a major tanning center during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Leas and McVitty Tannery was located here, known for quality hides. The main line of the East Broad Top Railroad ( was built through Saltillo in 1874. The railroad served the tannery as well as a short-lived iron mine and an equally short-lived limestone quarry, both just southeast of town.  (,_Pennsylvania  accessed 6/25/20)

Mile: 42.1: Calvary Independent Baptist Church, 20258 Main Street.

Mile 43.8 Gravedigger Drive heads up towards Jacks Mountain to the east-maybe a deadend.

Mile 43.9: PA 829 branches off to the west giving access to Cassville, Calvin and the Raystown Lake Recreation area.

Mile 44:  Hares Valley Creek. Pa 655 becomes Hares Valley Road.  Probably at the PA 829 junction (Signs for change didn’t appear for several miles). Hares Valley Creek runs near the road most of the way to Mapleton.

Mile 48.6: Just north of Labrador Drive (and before Soggy Bottom Lane) is Latta Grove Church.  No information is available for this church.  The fence in front and the unworn grass near the red front door suggest that there is little use of the building.

Mile 49.5: Barneytown Rd. on the left, then Jacks Mountain Road leads off to the east toward the mountain here.  Not clear from Google maps how far it goes or if the road is all season or requires all-terrain vehicles.

Mile 52.3: Beech Run Church of the Brethren, Mapleton, PA is 8.5 miles north of Gravedigger Drive.  Not sure that is significant.

Mile 54 in Mapleton, Pa, 655 becomes Campbell Street.

Mile 54.4:  another Main Street Post Office—just off SR 655 (n0t shown).

Nearby is the H.O. Andrews Feed Mill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 according to Wikipedia.  (Accessed 6/25/20).

My spouse, Julia Hartzler Alleman, remembers her father ordering animal feed from them in the 1940s or 1950s.

H.O. Andrews Feed Mill 1.jpg
H. O. Andrews Feed Mill in 2014 (from Wikipedia) accessed 9/11/2021)

Mile 55.4:  Pa 655 becomes Bridge Street, Oriskany Road beyond the Juniata River.

At the bottom of Jacks Mountain, SR 655 joins US 22 between Mt. Union and Huntingdon.  SR 655 is now William Penn Highway as well as US 22.

Mile 55.5:  U. S Silica, according to its web site: “The Premier Silica Sand Provider for Today and Tomorrow”.

U. S. Silica Sand plant

Across the Juniata River and not quite 2 miles west on William Penn Highway or U.S. 22 brings one to the beginning of the Valley Pike.

Mile 57.7:  SR 655 turns north toward Big Valley and is called Big Valley Pike.  The original 655 ended/began here until 1964.  Mill Creek/Mapleton to Maryland was added at that time.

Junction of US 322 and SR 655 at Mill Creek

Part two, Valley Pike, Mill Creek to Reedsville coming soon.

*If you have traveled Pa SR 655 in one day, email me a and I will add your name to the PA SR 655 Wall of Fame.

Composting and Gardening at Our Community Place

The smelly buckets of kitchen wastes sat by the back of the blue Our Community Place (OCP) building. A local hog farmer was slow in picking them up. Some yard wastes at the cement wall at the back of the property and a pile of dirt and stones along the east wall needed attention.  I liked to do composting.  The garden needed compost.  This was the beginning of my work with OCP’s gardening and composting activity. 

Beginning the composting project

When OCP staff agreed to the composting project, we started pulling branches and stones out of the pile at the “Roses” end of the OCP yard (Roses Department Store parking lot was on the other side and above the cement wall.)  We started with two pallet bins, plus a “collection” bin, then added a third bin for finished compost.  Sometime later, we added another bin for storage of leaves, straw or wood chips to cover kitchen trimmings or yard wastes before mixing them in the “cooker” bin.

Getting kitchen trimmings covered promptly was always a problem.  Sometimes there were a large amount of wastes coming out due to the nature of donations to OCP.  Food donation was often at the peak of ripeness (fruit and vegetables) or day-old (bread and pastries) and took some time to cover.  Cover materials like leaves, sawdust or woodchips weren’t always close.  Kitchen workers wanted to dump the kitchen trimmings quickly and get back to their work—preparing food or cleaning up the kitchen. This was especially a problem in cold weather.

About the time we started emptying the kitchen trimmings buckets into the compost pile’s collection bin (there continued to be problem with the hog farmer’s timely pick-up of the buckets), a US Agriculture Department agent stopped in to checked on our activity.  There had been a report that kitchen wastes headed for the farm had cigarette butts in them. (apparently dropped in while the buckets sat the yard waiting for pickup).  Trimmings going to feed hogs were an USDA issue.  Apparently a disgruntled, former OCP client had contacted the USDA with this complaint.  Ron, the director, was able to point at the just-started-composting project as evidence that kitchen trimmings were being handled properly.

Sifting compost

Stones and sticks needed to be removed from the pile of soil at the east wall.  We wanted to run the soil through a hot compost pile to help remove as much of the unknown and possibility undesirable ingredients from the soil.  We first used a flat sifter that sat on a wheelbarrow.  Then we used an A-Frame soil sifter which was less back-straining.  When visiting a friend, Tim, I saw his automated sifter.  It had a rotating drum run by a motor. 

With the craftsmanship of Mark Showalter, an automated sifter was designed for OCP.  The drum was a cut-down Volvo truck fuel tank which sat on four balloon tires.  Power came from an old truck battery that could no longer start a truck.  The power ran through two Volvo windshield wiper motors removed from trucks due to recall based on fear of the motors being the cause of fire starting in trucks.  The cut-out fuel tank we lined with half-inch hardware cloth. The three 10” square holes in the bottom of the frame caught the “fines”.  Stones and other coarse material fell out the back end.  Volunteers were always attracted to this sifter, requiring scheduling of feeding the sifter.  Later, when we had fewer stones in the compost, we used wood chips as our “filler” material.  These were sifted out and put back into the composting cycle.  The sifted compost is a much more attractive product for sale, which has been a recent development.  As time went on, Mark Doll became the manager of the sifter and the compost piles.

Scrounging for composting ingredients

Sometimes a lot of high nitrogen materials come from the kitchen and we needed more “browns” or carbon materials to mix with the nitrogen materials. One OCP supporter offered sheep manure.  She told us there would be a large percentage of sawdust/wood shavings with it.  We started loading the “manure” into the two pickups available. After working through loading and unloading the two pickup loads we wondered where the manure was. When we went back to the farm, a neighbor came with a tractor and front-end loader to help with the rest.  He told us that the family raised sheep to show at fairs.  So, they used a lot of bedding to keep the sheep clean.  He loaded more sawdust/shavings/manure and more.  We hauled 13 loads, if my memory is correct.

Bug Woman (that was her business name–she sold insecticides) had been part of OCP activities for a time.  She heard we needed ingredients for our compost piles.  She offered manure with a lot of hay in it from where her horses and cattle were fed.  Her offer was especially attractive as it was accompanied by offer to load the trucks with her front-end loader.  I located two pickups in addition to mine and we headed south.  The farm was much further than I understood it to be.  The “hayey” manure turned out to be nearly all manure and fairly decomposed.  While it was good stuff, it was very heavy material and our trucks sagged.  We did too, once we got done unloading the manure.

Some years earlier, I had gotten manure at a butcher shop.  We went to ask for manure and found they were glad to have us take some.  It was Autumn, so we needed nitrogen material  go with the leaves. It was usually Mark and I picking up a pickup load of manure on Tuesday’s work day.  The manure was mixed with a good bit of sawdust which was good for our composting.  Later they wanted to clean out their pens on a different day and haul off the manure in a dump truck.  They agreed to dump part of the load at our compost bin materials collection section.

“Greens” or nitrogen material coming from the kitchen or yard and garden wastes were usually plentiful.  Fruit and vegetables donated to OCP were often at their peak (sometimes nearly past) and it was difficult to use them before they spoiled.  Sometimes, too much of a particular kind of food was given.  When it could not be used or given to OCP people or neighbors, it was sent to the compost pile. Often, we had to scramble to find “filler”, also called “browns” or carbon material to mix with the greens.  One source of brown was tree leaves in the fall.  Some we could collect along the street.  Then the city started vacuuming leaves and bagged leaves were no longer available.  For a while the city stockpiled leaves at a site on E. Mosby.  Then they contracted to provide leaves as a cover for the methane generating trash mounds for Sentara hospital.  Then we no longer had this source of leaves.

Collecting wood chips

Once we had a good bit of manure plus the kitchen trimmings and excess coming to the piles, we needed more carbon materials.  (The general rule we followed was 1 part of greens to 2 or 3 of browns.)  We started calling tree trimmers and landscapers asking them to dump their loads at our site.  At one point, we needed to ask them to stop.  Other times we could go to a feedlot at the edge of the city. The farmer had a contract with the city to dump chips at his site.  Private tree trimmers dumped there, also.  He was a friend of OCP and would load our pickups free, rather than the usual charge of five dollars a scoop.

Speeding composting

To keep the organic matter moving through the three bins, which sometimes got a bit high, we started putting slotted drain pipes and other pipes in the piles to provide aeration.  Someone was assigned the task of pushing a half-inch rod down into the pile from the top to provide additional air for the microbes transforming the raw material into new soil.  To keep the bins from getting too wet, we made frames and covered them with clear plastic.  These were placed over the bins when rain threatened.  In winter, they provided some protection from the cold for the microbes and worms working in the bins.

Students and other volunteers

JMU students put down newspaper mulch before adding woodchips

James Madison University students, Community service clients, high school doing projects (and sometimes their parents curious about what their child was doing) and others supportive of the OCP mission have come to help with composting as well as gardening.  At times, we were overwhelmed with help, other times when kitchen trimmings needed covered or piles were ready to be turned, no help was available.

New bins

A church group from Mt Crawford Methodist Church (?) told us they wanted to do a project for OCP.  The compost bins needed repair, and no staff person wanted to show up on the weekend, so I agreed to be available to guide the project.  We planned the layout of new bins and the group leader said they would bring the pallets for the bins.  Then, they said that they wanted to come Sunday at 11:30!  I usually was still in church at the time. 

Around noon the group pulled in with green, plastic pallets!  Not the recyclers preference.  But, with the help of a total of 10-20 workers, some of them with much more construction skills then I had, the 5 bins were put in place with sturdy 4” x 4” corner posts.  Slots for bin front boards were added and we were ready for “industrial” level composting. 

Selling compost

When we had a lot of help running the sifter and producing finished compost, we set up a finished compost bin.  Someone suggested selling compost.  We first sold compost at the OCP Plant Sale.  First, we sold compost by the bucket.  Then Ron Copeland found someone to print OCP’s name on biodegradable bags.  These became a regular sales item at the Plant Sale.  Several individuals came each year for a pickup load of compost.  While not a big money maker, Mark’s composting work has brought in money each year.

The OCP Garden

Skip was a master gardener.  He liked to garden by himself.  Communicating to a helper required perfect hearing which I did not have.  The cigarette he usually had in his mouth made his speech even more difficult to follow.  Because his skills were in demand elsewhere sometimes and for other reasons, his absences from the OCP garden increased.  When he took another job, I was asked to take responsibility for the garden.

OCP Garden, Spring view

Partly because I preferred raised-bed gardens and partly because people involved at OCP tended to wander across the garden, I managed a switch to raised-bed garden with clearly defined paths.  The paths were usually covered with wood chips which we could get from local tree trimmers.  They found OCP a convenient place to dump their chips.  During the winter, we marked the path from the kitchen to the compost pile with string to keep people from packing down the raised beds.  Volunteers, especially, could not understand the idea of no-till or minimum tillage gardening.  One volunteer in particular would not follow instructions to use a digging fork to just loosen soil in the bed, but insisted on turning over the soil.

OCP garden: Tomatoes and cucumbers

While the beds produced fairly good crops of cabbage, collards, beets, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and other vegetables.  I was not prepared for gardening for a large group or for the peculiar circumstances found at OCP.  One of those factors was that during mid-season for a vegetable there were a lot of donations of that vegetable.  Certain vegetables were always available as “seconds” from sellers at markets. I didn’t learn this until my second as gardener.  So, if we could grow early potatoes, tomatoes, etc. those were more useful.  Having cherry tomatoes around the edge of the garden for snacks was good, too.  Also, producing enough of anything in a small garden for 15-40 people was another challenge.  Once, I sent a fairly large pan of young spinach leaves to the kitchen, expecting that they would be added to the salad.  The kitchen assistant was soon back with the pan wanting much more.  I learned that for a southern cook, spinach was cooked.

I was a volunteer who intended to be present only one-half day (Work Day) plus several hours on other days, especially in the spring.  Finding other volunteers to fill in to keep the garden weeded and watered was a constant source of frustration.  Help was often needed when students were having exams (April) or when they were gone for the summer.  Community service workers often did not want garden or composting work. The work was enough to stress my already operated-on-back.  I eventually had to turn the garden over to others due to that problem.  But, I was glad to have the opportunity to garden and compost there and felt I made a small contribution to the work of Our Community Place.

David Alleman 10/12/20,  Rev. 9/27/21

Holy What?

How often do we sing “holy” in a song? What does it mean to you when you sing it?  Are there specific Biblical events or Bible passages that help us to understand the word and concept of “holy”?  If Jesus’ teaching helps us understand the First Testament, what did he teach about the “holy”’?

Snails and more

In the Hebrew Bible (frequently called the Old Testament or sometimes the First Testament), especially in Leviticus, there is much about being holy. What about not eating snails?  The first command to be holy (Leviticus 11) follows a list of creatures not to be eaten, including snails. So, does holiness have to do with what we eat?  With how much we eat?

Where was God first called “holy”?

The first Biblical reference to God as holy is in the “Song of Miriam” in Exodus celebrating the work of God in defeating the Egyptians at the Red Sea.

1“I will sing to the Lord. He is greatly honored. He has thrown Pharaoh’s horses and their riders into the Red Sea. . .  .  11 “Lord, who among the gods is like you?  Who is like you?You are majestic and holy.  Your glory fills me with wonder.You do wonderful miracles. 

Here God was holy because he rescued his people from the Egyptians.  The gods of the Egyptians supported the rich and powerful. Israel’s God was different/holy. Israel’s God reached out to the “wandering Aramean” (Deut. 26:10-14) and created a people “who were not a people.”  Translated into modern terms, God rescued oppressed immigrants from a superpower whose gods approved of the rich having control over key resources and perpetuating control through the exploitation of other people groups. God’s holiness stretches beyond rescuing the Hebrews.  Many passages throughout the scripture expand our understanding of the separateness and otherness of God.

Jesus and holiness

Jesus teaching about being like God does not use the word holy.  Jesus command parallel to “Be holy for I am holy” is: “be completely merciful as is your Father in heaven.” (Luke 6:36).  Moses’ presence in the Transfiguration, Jesus calling himself a “‘ransom” (Mark 10:45), and words of Jesus at the last supper connect his ministry to the first exodus.   If the first exodus had to do with the rescue of an oppressed minority from a powerful empire, how does that apply to Jesus ministry? 

Perhaps it is with Jesus’ reaching out to those on the margins of society and those considered inferior in society.  (These include the good Samaritan, Mary (wanting to learn about God/the Law in a culture that denied learning to women), the lepers, the Syrophoenician woman, and the Samaritan woman at the well.) Jesus fulfilled God’s call through Isaiah and other prophets to spread the good news to all people. 

Be holy/merciful today

How do we translate this Jesus-style holiness into our lives today?  Are there people similar to the Hebrews in Egypt?  They would be people who need to be saved (rescued) from an “Egypt” or the evil one?   The US government aid has aided the “pharaohs” of our time, especially in Central and South America.  Military and development aid have enabled upper classes in these countries to oppress poor and small landowners.  Due to that aid there are “wandering Arameans” among us that we can rescue, following God’s example.  Recently, the billionaires and multi-millionaires at the head of government gained hefty tax cuts for themselves and others of similar economic status.  They have proposed large reductions in disaster aid, deportation of taxpaying, hardworking young adults who were brought to this country as children and are trying to deny health care assistance to those who cannot afford it.  We, as Christians, can prepare for and encourage a new exodus from a hostile United States to a welcoming United States or an exodus to our guests’ economically revitalized homeland.  If we do this we are following God’s example of holiness.

Let’s connect God’s holiness with Jesus command to be merciful.  How do we respond to the homeless, to the worker who has had his/her hours reduced so that the employer need not provide health care and other benefits, to those in our communities who need to hear the good news of the gospel or to long-time residents who long for the security of citizenship?

Singing about the holy should not just remind you about what God did at the Red Sea. God’s holiness is broader than the aspect of what I have written.  Seeing the holy through the roots of this concept and through Jesus’ teaching gives us a good start in understanding what we mean when we sing “holy”.

—–David Alleman 10/14/13  rev. 9/21/21

Threshing in Big Valley Pennsylvania

Across the valley from the mountain house where we stayed in Big Valley were two fields of wheat in shocks.  We were hoping that threshing would begin while we were here to watch. I was interested in seeing the threshing because I had recently scanned a photo of threshing in Iowa that I may have observed when I was about ten years old. By Friday we saw seven wagons loaded with wheat sheaves and wondered if they could thresh that much in one day. On Saturday morning at 7:00,  I saw activity in the field.  Half-mile distance made viewing the activity difficult. So, I drove across the valley, parked out of the way and ask if I could take some pictures.

Seven wagon loads of wheat sheaves

 I wondered if the older Amishman I asked would put some restrictions on my picture-taking, but he just said “Take some pictures”.

Note the rubber-covered steel wheels. See the end of the blog for detail.
Frick Threshing Machine

A belt from the Farmall 400 drove the Frick threshing machine. George Frick built his first grain thresher in 1843, and began manufacturing units for sale to the public in 1848, forming Frick Co., Waynesboro, Pa., five years later. (See Wikipedia)

Grain runs into the green grain wagon that two work horses just delivered to the site.

Two men unloaded the sheaves from a wagon. The wagon with the sheaves was pulled by two horses.  The threshing machine discharged the grain into a gravity wagon. A second gravity wagon pulled by two horses soon arrived.

Amish boy holding work horses

A boy who looked to be about ten held the lead of the horses the entire thirty or forty minutes I was there. While I stood there taking this picture, the itching at my neck reminded me that one of the challenges of threshing is the chaff that you can see drifting across the photo. As soon as the wagon the horses are hitched to is emptied, the horses will bring one of the other six wagons to be unloaded.

Baling the straw

The threshing machine blew the straw it separated from the grain through a metal tube, then through a canvas tube to the take up reel of a John Deer baler.  The baled straw is pushed up into a wagon where several teenagers stacked the bales. (I had wondered why they were threshing in the field, rather than near the barn which is where they would want the straw stack.)

A Huber tractor stood nearby pulling a trailer.

By 4:00 pm both the first field we saw with the seven  wagons in and a second field were cleared of shocks of wheat, and the threshing machine and wagons were gone. Four or five men plus four teenagers were working on the threshing.

Close-up of rubber-covered steel wheels on Farmall used to power the threshing machine.