Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored

22May/140

Old School: Sister Act

Sister_Act_film_posterSister Act is an amazing movie...I picked it up in VHS form on the Goodwill rack a few weeks back because I remembered that it was fun, and wow, did I forget how much meaning the movie has. In particular, it seems like every time Whoopi Goldberg interacts with the head administrator of the convent, spiritual truth comes bursting forth.

Her Arrival: When Whoopi first arrives at the convent, she refuses everything. She complains about the food, the dress, the living conditions and the whole idea of staying at the convent. Her mind is telling her, "This lifestyle is bad for me." But after hearing her complains, the head mistress confronts her with the truth: her lifestyle led her to sleeping with a married man who is now trying to kill her--she needs to change for her own good. So often we get used to a certain lifestyle and change seems threatening. However, if there are big problems in the life you currently live, you need to blame your lifestyle and look for ways to live differently.

Her Ability to Bring Out Talents: When Whoopi joins the choir she is given a change to help them sing. She meets with phenomenal success, because she can identify the ladies talents and help them use them to make beautiful music. So often we meet passionate people who simply don't know how to use their talents. We need to help people discover and use their gifts boldly. Then everyone will find joy in the outcome.

Her Influence on the Goals of the Convent: The head administrator had sought to make her nuns holy by giving them lots of time to be solemn and thoughtful. She made these actions the goal of each and every day, to the point that she became a rule keeper. However, there are so many other ways to connect with God beyond the calm attitude and thoughtfulness that we expect to find in a convent, and too much of one attitude or pursuit turns people into legalists, rather than lovers of God and lovers of people. Whoopi gives the nuns of the convent a chance to move beyond the calm of the convent and begin serving the people in the rough neighborhood outside their walls. Although the head administrator fears the pain the ladies will experience, you can see that the opportunity to serve the needs of others draws everyone closer to God: the nuns and their neighbors.

Lost in Tradition: In two great confrontations toward the end of the movie, you can see that the head administrator is lost in tradition. She has made the calm and thoughtfulness of 50 years ago the ONLY way to godliness. She can't accept newer styles of music, new ways of singing old lyrics, or new ways to be drawn close to God. She calls herself a relic, and she is truly that. Their church is dying. It no longer serves and reaches the community, it simply exists for insiders from 30 years ago. Many churches are like that today...they have made tradition the ONLY way to godliness. God never intended the church to create and defend traditions. Traditions are powerful things for the people who saw them form, but we must understand that our main goal at a church is to reach people, create new traditions, and let go of the old whenever it hinders our ability to serve our communities.

19Jun/130

Review: The Bible Miniseries

the bible miniseries

It’s no secret that the Bible has a lot to say—more than can be told in a movie, taught in a sermon series, or acquired in a lifetime of learning. God’s grand literary masterpiece, a collection of 66 books by 40 different authors is deep—and yet it has an epic, unifying message that the whole world needs to hear and understand. I am so pleased that despite all the criticism that the world brings to anyone attempting the task, Mark Burnett and ___ have been willing to use their gifts and influence to bring that grand story to the screen in their way. We need more people willing to portray the story using their unique perspective and understanding.

Here begins a short interaction of my likes and dislikes, respectfully submitted for others to consider.

 

 Likes:

I love the way Jesus attracts people. He carries a kind, smiling attitude that I love. He speaks the appropriate words for the situation. And He touches the heart, not just the head, when He approaches people like Peter and Matthew to invite them as followers. I will treasure that portrayal of Jesus for a long time. That’s the way I feel He approached me too, in my initial encounters with Him.

I love that many of the characters the series portrayed are NOT as I had imagined them: Sampson, Saul, and Pilate. That’s challenging to me. Did I get it wrong? Did they get it wrong? I think they got a lot right…I’m pretty certain Sampson was portrayed wrongly, but man, I have enjoyed watching these characters in action and being reminded how human they really are. How limited and haunted they are by the social pressures around them.

I love the way the political pressure of Rome and their disruption of worship causes the Jewish leaders to get rid of Jesus. They were truly trying to protect the people to some degree—and prevent a violent backlash from Rome. Too often I forget that, and think that they were simply greedy and power-hungry. In the end it was a lot of all those motives, not just one or the other. And that’s sin’s undoing. It won’t throw one good reason at us for doing wrong, it tries to stack them up.

I appreciation the adult themes of this series. So often our portrayals of the Bible are set for children. We needed a series that gave the Bible the grit and blood of the real world. I love the bloodiness of the sacrifices, the battles, and the passion. God’s story is a serious one, and our sin has made this world messy. I’m glad to see God’s work portrayed in the midst of our broken world.

 

 

Dislikes:

Jesus said some challenging things to those who knew better than they acted—he occasionally drove the religious leaders off with a righteous anger, not simply overturning a few tables in the temple, but actually threatening the money changers with a whip. Not simply telling a small girl laughingly that the temple would be destroyed, but weeping over the city’s rejection of him, cursing a tree that does not bear fruit, and speaking of the terrible judgment to come. That Jesus has some crucial points to make, and many need to hear the harshness of the call to discipleship that He calls us to. And hear the harshness of the judgment that awaits those who mislead people with their prideful knowledge of religions facts and practices.

I wish we had seen Jesus family during his ministry years. Though Mary was a key character in the story, I would have loved to see Jesus’ brothers and sisters around her as he suffered. To see James, Jesus brother and future leader of the church as his brother passed away.

A wish a few scenes had been a little more accurate. I know that this portrayal of Jesus requires some stories to be combined, and as many times as I dislike the combination of two scenes, I like it too. I appreciation Jesus’ calling of Matthew being mixed with portions of his teaching. But I wish the woman who traveled with the disciples would have been Peter’s wife. I wish the shepherds would have heard Jesus’ birth announced by a miriad of angels. I wish I could have seen the Jewish revivals in the time of Hezekiah or J____. And I wish I could have seen the pillar of God’s glory resting over the tabernacle, and eventually the first temple of Solomon.

The scale of the Bible’s numbers and the nation of Israel is immense, and unfortunately the movie has to portray battles and the Exodus with people in the hundreds, rather than a nation in the millions. I would have loved to see a million people passing through the Red Sea, and a million entering the promised land. Alas, the camera lens is too small and the budget too tight at times.

 

12Jun/130

Book Review: The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

explicit gospelFinished this book this morning, and let me just say, as much as I like Matt Chandler, this book was tough to read through. My initial impression was that his thoughts were scattered, some of his comments were misdirected/mislabeled the issues, and the book itself didn't quite make points skillfully. In short order, he needs a ghost writer to make this flow much better in the future. If you want to read a better book on this subject, I heartily recommend The Green Letters.

Here's the main point that needs to be taken from this book:

The Gospel is the core of what we believe and what transforms us--if we don't make it clear enough, often enough in our churches and our relationships, people will assume incorrectly that we are just trying to be good to earn God's favor--the basis of every other religious system. The gospel is about the restoration of the entire world, one heart and mind at a time, through the power of the Holy Spirit. In order to experience that, people must understand that their sin stands between them and a holy, just God. Then they must understand that there is one payment for sin--past present and future, in Jesus Christ. We must live, preach, and teach this truth.

That said, the book explains why the gospel is important, a message that needs repeated as many times as possible. While I found the book dry for me, I loved the first 30 pages, and the last 15...those thoughts were worth reading the entire thing. Here are some of those thoughts I loved:

We are wired to worship--and if we don't know that it should be God, we find people or things to worship: celebrities, movies, sports teams--the world is full of fanatics for things that really don't matter that much. pg 36-37

God is HUGE, and in some ways, out of our league. We need to live in awe of His power, knowledge, and love. Rather than presume that He owes us something, or that we can earn His favor, we need to start coming to God on HIS terms, not ours. pg 28-29

We need to learn to let go of the past--God forgives our past, present, and future sins in Christ. However, we let those things come back to disable us. We need to see the past as God sees it--we died to that life. It no longer matters. What matters is the present and how we move into the future, with the new life God has given us. pg 212-213

The key to defeating sin is twofold: We need to kill the root of our sin--to have our heart's motivations reshaped, and we need to fall deeply in love with God. If we can do those things, then following God will become far more attractive than sin. But it takes time. It takes a deep conversation with God, and the insight and accountability of others. If we are just trying to cover our bad behavior or stop it, we need to make sure that we understand God's purpose in saving us--it is not about earning God's favor! pg 216-219

Those are the best part of the book for me. Without trying to slander Matt, whose intentions are great. Here are a few things I think he could have argued better.

Matt tended to attack messages and preachers for not preaching the saving news of the gospel at every event. He seems to think that we need to explain the work of Jesus every time we are in front of people. That's distracting, and its overkill to me. Coming to Christ takes time, takes the full breath of teaching of what our Scriptures have to say. He took a non-believer to a True Love Waits rally for Christians on sexual purity, expecting her to hear the gospel. Wrong event, wrong person, not the wrong message, in my opinion. He was placing expectations on an event that he should not have. I don't take non-believers to the Leadership Summit, or a Married Life Live conference to let them hear Jesus on the cross. I take them to a service intended for non-believers.

Matt tended to portray the gospel as if it would always evoke an immediate response--as if a person is changed dramatically for good or worse by a single sermon.  I think that most people take a lot of time to come to a saving faith--they listen to our sermons, watch our actions, and begin to trust God slowly by hearing about how much love and mercy and grace God has for this world. Demanding a response from people short-circuits their ability to be drawn by God. We need comfortable, yet challenging church environments and relationships with people that allow them to "taste and see" that God is good, trustworthy, and gracious without demanding an response until they are ready. pg 63