Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Faith & Film: Theological Themes at the Cinema Series

So we were going to have a "Faith & Film Discussion Series" at North Street this summer, but it kind of fizzled out, mainly due to schedule, but also because no one but me was really excited about the book.  I've known about the book Faith & Film: Theological Themes at the Cinema for a while, but had never actually read it (hence inviting our community to read it too).  Even though it hasn't worked out with North Street, Meghan and I have decided to read the chapters and watch the films together.  I'm looking forward to it.

The book has a number of enticing elements to it for me: 1. To order the theological themes, the book uses the Apostles' Creed.  I continue to grow in appreciation for the place of the ancient creeds in worship and formation, so I appreciate this (and also some "order" to the discussions rather than a generally-themed book (like "love," "mercy," "faith," etc.).  2. The theological and ecclesiological lenses through which the author, Bryan Stone, would write such a book (I hope).  I've already mentioned Bryan here before: I have really appreciated his work, particularly Evangelism After Christendom.  He grew up in my tradition (the Church of the Nazarene), and still has connections (including maintaining his ordination credentials, or so I've been told).  But he is what we might call a "recovering evangelical."  He is thoroughly Wesleyan.  3.  It involves watching movies.  I need to enflesh myself in more stories in my life that I might tell stories better myself.  (Side note: We are finally moving from a cable-TV home to a no-cable TV home.  Instead of cable, we've signed up for Netflix.  Perhaps I'll blog soon about some other "re-modeling" that we are doing in our home.)

As we finish each chapter, I'll write a response here and update the chapter links below.  I enjoy movies, but be forewarned: I'm no film critic.  And I confess that lately that most movies haven't really moved or wowed me.  The only exceptions are the great blockbusters (like Avatar) or very simple stories that are believable (like Once).  I've only seen a handful of the movies below (and actually like very much the ones that I've seen), so we'll see how Bryan's other choices do for me.

Introduction - "Cinema, Theology, and the 'Sign of the Times'"
1 - "I believe" - (Contact)
2 - "God, the Father almighty" (Oh, God!)
3 - "Creator of heaven and earth" (2001: A Space Odyssey)
4 - "Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord" (Jesus of Montreal)
5 - "Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary" (The Greatest Story Ever ToldThe Last Temptation of Christ, & The Gospel According to St. Matthew)
6 - "Suffered under Pontius Pilate" (Romero)
7 - "Was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead." (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)
8 - "On the third day he rose again, He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father." (PhenomenonPowder, & E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial)
9 - "Will come again to judge the living and the dead" (Flatliners)
10 - "I believe in the Holy Spirit" (Star Wars)
11 - "The holy catholic church" (The Mission)
12 - "The communion of saints" (Babette's Feast)
13 - "The forgiveness of sins" (Dead Man Walking)
14 - "The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting" (The Shawshank Redemption)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Acknowledgement of Presence

I think that they lonely are often so, not because they don't have people in their lives, but that they have so many people in their lives who don't acknowledge their presence.

A couple of months ago I decided to start saying hello to whoever came into my presence.  Whether walking down the street or sitting in Panera Bread or something, I now simply say hi or hello to everyone.  The responses are often humorous.  More often than not, I catch them off-guard and they're not too sure what to do (it's simple really...just say hi back!).  Sometimes it'll take them 2 or 3 seconds and they might be 5-10 feet behind me now (if we're walking past one another) and they'll respond.  Pretty much everyone responds, though some don't.  No one's punched me yet, so I think I'll keep doing it.

I'm becoming more and more a believer in presence.  Presence begins with a physical proximity.  Sometimes this is enough - just to be present in one's life, much like the Jewish practice of a shiva call.  Shiva is the grieving process put into place after the death of a Jew.  When people visit those who've had the loss, they come just to be present: not to talk and not to offer trite cliches about "another angel in heaven."  From Wikipedia: "Traditionally, no greetings are exchanged and visitors wait for the mourners to initiate the conversation, or remain silent if the mourners do not do so, out of respect for their bereavement."  When I've tried this, it's been hard...the modern tendencies of our society are word-based and we always think we have to say something.  Often, it's better not to, as St. Francis also reminds us.

But then there are the times when we just completely ignore each other's close proximity.  It's these ones I'm trying to challenge myself about.  It's not that I'm changing anyone's life in doing this; rather, just the opposite.  I'm hoping that this practice helps me notice others around me.  Our own agendas (even if the agenda is boredom or procrastination!), our busyness, and so many other things direct us to focus on what we're thinking, doing, or even not doing.

I'm still floored by the Joshua Bell story.  I'm not saying that I would have stood there for the whole 45 minutes, but I'd still like to think I'd stop to listen.  I wouldn't have known who he was and I wouldn't have picked out that the violin was a Stradivarius, but I do recognize good classical violin.  Yet I probably would have been like most anyone else that day: too distracted by whatever to see the beauty in front of me.  It makes me wonder how often we do this every day.

Joshua Bell Story from City Church Chicago on Vimeo.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vermont, Family, Community, & the Body of Christ

I've already rambled about our camp on Lake Champlain before and my love for the place, family, and time that I find there.  We just got back from a week or so up there.  The first several days we were with other extended family, and then we were alone as a family of six for about two days.  I wish I could say that I feel rested (like you're "supposed" to after a vacation), but the fact is that in this season of life (=four younguns), it's more about creating memories than it is about rest.  Regardless...we had a great time and I daresay were quite successful in the creation of memories.

I like to talk about community quite a bit, as you know (though I rarely use that actual word anymore).  I can't call my extended family a community because we are apart far more often than not, but there are some incredible aspects of my family that portray my understanding of the ideal community that I know from no other experience, group, church, etc. in my life.  I was reflecting yet again on this:

My extended family who gathers at the camp is extremely different from person to person.  For sure, we all share the same blood and heritage (although...there are a number of children adopted by my grandparents who share not the blood...but I suppose that only feeds my forthcoming point).  We come from the same family tree.  Yet today...we are all quite different, even in the "ever-important" things of faith.  Some in my extended family are atheistic or agnostic.  Others are rather deistic (God exists, but isn't really in the picture anymore).  Others are rather evangelical.  Others are recovering evangelicals (raised hand here).  Still others...well I'm not completely sure about everyone.

The differences continue: some of us are politically conservative, others almost as liberal as you can get and still be called American (don't assume that these lines are drawn in the same places as the faith understandings above - they're not).  Still others are politically confused and perhaps what I might call politically agnostic (raised hand here).  Some of us drink alcohol.  Others abstain (raised hand here).  Some of us are rather patriotic and even militaristic, one even having served in Iraq.  Others don't think we should be there.  Still others are rather pacifistic (raised hand here).  Some of us eat meat (and a lot of it).  Others are vegetarian.  Still others are vegan.

There are some rather "important" similarities among us all: love of the Boston Red Sox, fishing, and the couple that was and is Stephen and Christine Nease.

As you can see, in list-form, the differences outnumber the similarities.  But somehow...the similarities carry enough weight to keep bringing us together.  For sure, I imagine that with Grandma & Grandpa now dead and the years since their deaths now growing in number, we will be together less and less as time goes by.  And also for sure...we know of our differences.  Sometimes we do...um..."discuss" them.  Lots of the time, we don't and we just let the similarities rule.

I wish the Body of Christ could do this better.  We're so good at knowing who's who by identifying our differences.  And we're even "better" at letting the differences rule.  It makes me very, very sad, is extremely unbiblical, unlike Christ, and not of the Kingdom of God.  The things of God and faith surely separate.   And in my own faith journey, will separate in some kind of way for good sometime down the road.  But that separation ("judgment") is not of our own doing...but of God's.  We need not serve as judge right now.

I know that some immediate problems arise with this for many:
Some will call me a universalist.  You need to read again what I'm saying.  Although...I have little problem with being a universalist when it comes to how we respond to others in love.  We should let our actions separate...not our words.  As for eternity, I need to learn to be comfortable with leaving that to God.

Others will accuse me of being "yoked together" with unbelievers.  No I'm not.  I'm no more yoked to unbelievers than Jesus was to prostitutes.  You do know what a yoke is, right?  It's that thing that makes you do something with another (two oxen yoked together must go in the same direction).  We need not participate in the things that those we are with do any more than Jesus poked the prostitutes he hung out with.  Holy huddling is anything but.

But what about speaking prophetically into peoples' lives?  I affirm that there is a time and place for this. But a look at scripture shows that the vast majority of prophetic speaking is limited to the person of God (prophet) warning the people of God (exceptions exist: Jonah and Ninevah, Abraham and Sodom-Gomorrah).

I have a lot more to say about this...but it's already too long and rambled.  Perhaps more later...

My mother did a good job of capturing a few moments from our time together in Vermont that though short, does a good job of showing what it's often like up there.  There were many missing (actually...if everyone who "owns" this camp were up there at the same time, it would be rather crowded).  But this is what's rather normal for us while at the Lake.  (By the way, be sure to take note of my never-been-Boy-Scouts-trained camp fire...I fully affirm any accusations of pyromania.)

(I'm currently eating cream of wheat with Vermont maple syrup on top.  While we were up there, I asked on Facebook of my Vermont-resident friends where the cheapest syrup is these days.  Some people (who aren't Vermont residents) responded and told me to get it at Ocean State Job Lot (discount store) or other non-Vermont locations.  Uh...NO!  :-)  I don't care if the stuff actually came from the same tree and some how got shipped to separate locations...I will always buy it in Vermont.  We ended up finding this nice older gentleman (Mr. Gillespie) at the end of a dirt road in Waterville who sold us two quarts for $20.  And it tastes really good.)