The film is a story of a actor in the Montreal area who is asked to "modernize" a passion play for a local Catholic parish. In the process, he and the rest of the actors in the play are changed by the experience in profound ways. The brilliancy of the film is that the entire film, not just the passion play itself, is a retelling of the teachings and life of Jesus. It's filled with metaphors and symbolisms that are just stunning. It's definitely something you need to see a few times in order to pick up on the subtleties.
It's a brilliant piece of filmmaking. Defintely worth the time. It lead to a great discussion with our community about the character of Jesus, what the gospel might look like in this culture, and what it might look like for our community to live counter-cultural, not with a "bubble" mentality, but in a socially redeeming kind of way.
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread that gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Lerner explores the influence of the Religious Right on the current political landscape, noting that many people are attracted to the movement becuase it speaks the language that resonates with a spiritual hunger that many feel deeply. The problem, Lerner notes, is that too often the rhetoric [and even policy] holds to a perspective of God that he calls "right handed" - a tradition that is propelled by the power and vengeance of God over his enemies, seeing the need to dominate the world in the name of God. What Lerner proposes is a rise of a vision of politics and government that embraces "the left hand of God", a tradition that is propelled by a sense of love, kindness, generosity, compassion and peace.
So far there's been tons of quotables, but here's one that jumped out...
Jesus rallied against the Jewish establishment in his day, like other prophets had done in their own time, and once again highlighted a commitment to the poor and the oppressed. Jesus insisted that people not duplicate Rome's oppressive rule in the way that they treated each other. His followers and many early Christians understood this message clearly - understood, as did the powerful in Rome, that it was a revolutionary message calling upon the faithful to reject the power of tyrants and embrace the power of love, which would ultimately be more forceful than anything Rome could deliver. Just as the message of Torah was tragically turned into its opposite by "the religious" and their establishment, so Christianity, taken over by Constantine, became its opposite, a system that provided justification for the powerful while ignoring and even actively subverting the needs of the poor and the powerless.
These perversions of Judaism and Christianity took place in the name of the original vision, drawing on the texts and the justifications that could be found there because at one point those triumphalist texts had provided needed empowerment for the poor and the downtrodden, and had been a psychologically necessary buttress against despair.
In the United States, the powerful have appropriated God and religion to justify imperial rule around the globe. They are not intent on using power to rectify the situation of the powerless. On the contrary, as their domestic moves make clear, they redistribute the wealth upward from the poor to the rich. The global system of capital that they have created has had the same impact, increasing the suffering of the powerless while empowering a small class within each society to act as guardian of the interests of Western capital in third-world countries. [pp. 33-34]
Props to Benjy over at i am paradox for the heads up on this one. He sent me an email seeing if I knew anything about LibraryThing - a website where you can catalog your library online. I hadn't heard of such a thing, so I decided to check it out. It's pretty amazing [and addictive].
You add books by title/author, or you can do it by ISBN. It adds a thumbnail from Amazon, as well as a link to the page on Amazon [which is where the website makes it's income]. You can also alter the fields that are shown online for your catalog. It allows anyone to access your books and do searches by title, author, year, etc. One of the cool features is that it shows how many people on LibraryThing have the same book in their library. You can also sign up for a rss feed when books are added to catalogs you are watching.
Did I mention that it's pretty addictive? Consider yourself warned!
Another sweet thought on God's restorational purposes...
In Romans, above all his letters, Paul presents the full sweep of the purposes of God, from creation to new creation. It is all too easy to shrink our reading and our understanding of a text like this into terms simply of "me and my salvation." But for Paul it neither starts there nor finishes there. It starts with God the creator, revealing his power and glory in creation, and ends with the entire createdf order set free from its present state of corruption and decay.
It was never God's intention that the world should be subjected to decay. God intended his creation to be the beginning of something glorious and ultimately permanent. Until we humans are made right with God, however, the creation, of which we are the flower, cannot be restored as God longs for it to be.
A day will surely come, says Paul in Romans 8.21, when all creation will be set free. God will liberate his children, and thereby invite the whole creation to share in the party, to partake in "the freedom of the glory of the children of God." Paul here is deliberately echoing passages in scripture about the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt. They were enslaved; God brought them out of Egypt; he led them through the wilderness, and home to their promised land, where they could worship him gladly and freely as he always wanted, and reveal his light and justice to the nations. At the resurrection God did for Jesus what he did for Israel. bringing him back from the bondage of death itself. He will now do for all his children, and ultimately for the whole creation, what he did for Jesus.
_from Reflecting the Glory, pp. 66-67
It again makes me think about what we see as the essence of the gospel. For so many people what is central to the gospel is me being personally forgiven of my pesonal sin, end of story. To even hint that there is something larger, leads to the accusation of "cheapening the gospel." Really?!? I wonder.
It seems that any presentation of the gospel that is merely trying to escape this world, making the goal of salvation to go somewhere else someday, is actually the antithesis of the purposes of God. God's ultimate desire, and that which all of human history is moving toward, is to "make all things new again." [Revelation 21.1-5]
Perhaps it's the reducing the mystery of the gospel to a "how I'm going to get into heaven" type mentality that is actually cheapening the gospel.
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to our body, and from all the evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Beliefnet did an interview with Michael Stipe of R.E.M. on Hurricane Katrina and his take on what pure Christianity looks like. It's amazingly insightful. Here's an excerpt...
If there's a schism in this country, it might be not between the people who have faith and the people who don't have faith, but people who have faith that is, in my opinion, pure to the teachings of Jesus and people who have taken that and turned it into something for other reasons, be that power, be that intolerance or ignorance. And that's where a schism might have occurred in this country presently.