We showed a clip from Sister Act this week in worship. In truth, we show this clip at every New Member class, too! It creates good conversations about what God is up to in this world- and what gets in the way.
The focus of the movie, of course, is the music. Sister Mary Clarence introduces new music into the Mass. Evidently, in some churches, people disagree about music! Is God offended by non-religious music in church?
The problem is deeper than music. The storyline (and this clip) turns on a fence that surrounds the convent. It is a sharp barrier between what is outside and what is inside, and music is only a symptom of the larger problem.
There are reasons for a fence of course, but there is also a cost. Watch the clip and notice the cost to the community outside to be fenced out from the community inside? Notice the cost to the people inside, too. Watch happens to both when the fence comes down.
The clip finishes with a picture of the Reverend Mother looking out from behind her window. The window panes suggest a prison keeping her in as effectively as any fence keeps others out.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his followers that they are the ‘salt of the earth’ and the ‘light of the world.' When a church is only concerned with what happens inside its building, it loses its vitality. It is about as useful as salt without flavor. When a congregation focuses its best energies only on itself, its light has little effect. Maybe that is the most offensive thing of all.
Our summer series continued last week with a clip from the 2015 movie, "Concussion." Will Smith portrayed the real-life Dr. Bennet Amalu. His last name translates as "He who knows, speaks." What Dr. Amalu knew was that too many professional football players were suffering from dementia and dying young. When he tried to tell people, they wouldn't listen.
Why is it so hard to hear the Truth?
Truth is something we value and teach our kids from an early age. It is a character trait we look for in others. There is even a biological preference for Truth. When we tell a lie, our bodies show signs of stress which can be measured by a polygraph (also known as a Lie Detector.) Jesus talked about truth as part of our liberation: You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.
So why is Truth so hard to find? Why are there lots of movies that tell the same story about people trying to hide the Truth?
Maybe part of the answer is found in this bit of wisdom from Richard Rohr:
"Before the truth sets you free, it tends to make you miserable."
We started our newest installation of Moving Pictures last Sunday and people tell me its a series they look forward to every year. I also occasionally get a question about why we do this series- why do we show movies in worship? For others, the question is more likely, "What are we going to see next?" Here is my answer to both!
Movies are the way we tell the stories that shape our lives. We used to sit around the glow of a campfire and hear stories that shaped our lives. Now we the glow is from a screen and the storytellers use film. A good film will entertain us for a couple hours. A really good film will intrigue us for weeks, and maybe the rest of our lives. It will challenge assumptions and reframe our thinking.
All of which worship in general and sermons in particular, are supposed to do.
I choose movies for this series not for the lessons they teach, but for the questions they raise. Once we identify the questions, we look to the scriptures to see how our faith addresses those questions.
The theme for this summer is “For Such a Time As This.” We are called to be God’s people in this particular time and place. What are the issues we must face if we are going to answer that call?
Here are the films for this summer- and the questions they raise:
July 9: Bonhoeffer: How do we let God interrupt our lives?
July 16: Concussion: If Truth is so great, why is it so hard?
July 23: Sister Act: What does ‘holiness’ look like in today’s world?
July 30: Still Alice: How is suffering redeemed?
August 6: Philomena: What is our response to the injustices of life?
We started our newest "Moving Pictures" series with a clip from the documentary of his life: Bonhoeffer.
Not everyone got to see it and even if you did, this is a longer version (5 minutes) of what we showed, and worth seeing.
The YouTube clip* below is titled, "Is Assassination Ethical?" While Bonhoeffer was indeed part of the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler, it is too narrow a question when considering Bonhoeffer's life and faith. Much of his too-short life was dedicated to the question of ethics and doing the right thing, especially when there was no easy way to determine what was the "right thing."
We live in our own unique time in history. The world is 'flatter' than ever before. We can work with people in India as easily as Indiana. Even as some boundaries of language and distance are dissolving, others are going up at a frightful rate. The same internet that promises to bring us closer is also used to separate, alienate and divide. Our own country has never been more prosperous, yet seldom has been so polarised. These are the times we live in. It is a period of great peril and promise. Are we up to the task?
Bonhoeffer was an unlikely person to play such an important role in the life of his nation, but he ended up being the right person in the right place at the right time. His voice became one of the most important voices of faith in the 20th century. It is still being heard. Perhaps it can help guide us in the choices of our time and place.
Who stands fast? Only the man whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, or his virtue, but is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to be obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God- the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.
Where are these responsible people?
* the clip is taken from the documentary, "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Nazi Resistor, Martyr." The DVD is available at the church for individuals and groups who would like to view it.
“So, what is this “Contemplative Spirituality thing?”
That’s a question a get when I try to explain what we are doing at New Hope- and why I am so excited about it. For many of us, the notion of ‘contemplative spirituality’ is something esoteric and for the spiritual elite who can spend their lives on a mountaintop, convent or monastery. I used to think that, too.
I have come to believe that contemplative spirituality is the ‘missing piece’ of our faith- especially for us who are used to expressing our faith in concepts, programs, discussions and activities. We like classes, ideas, small groups, socials and service projects. There is nothing wrong with any of those things, but they are incomplete. There is a part of the soul that isn’t touched. Lives aren’t changed. “Transformation” is something we talk about more than we experience.
We start a very special “Pastor’s Book Club” this Sunday. Unlike other Book Club selections, this one will span three weeks (July 9, 16 & 23.) It’s not because the book, The Human Condition by Thomas Keating is so big. In fact, it’s the shortest book I have used (less than 50 pages!) We are taking three weeks because we will not only discuss the book but take some time to practice what Keating calls “Centering Prayer.” We’ll discover that this kind of prayer isn’t just for ‘advanced’ Christians, but for anyone who is looking to experience God in new and powerful ways.
I say “we” because the other thing that makes this Book Club unique is that I am not doing it on my own. This will be led together with a new ministry in our church called the “Growing Everyday Spirituality Team” (GEST.) This is a group of folks who have made some of the same discoveries about contemplative spirituality:
It is accessible for anyone- including children and youth.
It aligns with some of the latest research on the brain.
Interested? The Pastor’s Book Club, featuring The Human Condition takes place from 10:30-11:45 in the Sedalia Room. Books are available at the church and even if you haven’t read a single page yet, you are invited to come and learn. Who knows, you may even discover a key piece that has been missing in your life, too!
Glad you're here! My name is Russ Kane and I have the privilege of being the pastor of an amazing church called, New Hope Presbyterian Church. It's a place where people "Find a Home, Build a Life and Make a Difference." This blog is a journal of our life together. Welcome!