Tag Archives: gospel

The Sower

The teacher informs the class that they have a test on Monday. He tells them what they need to study and the sort of questions they will be asked.

Some of the class are sitting chatting to one another and don’t even hear the teacher talking.

Another bunch hear the teacher and plan to study at the weekend. But as soon as they leave the class it goes out their head.

Others hear the teacher, and also plan to study at the weekend. Saturday evening comes and they sit down to study but they get a text from a mate telling them about a party that’s happening that night. The books gets closed and they forget all about it.

The final group hear the teacher, plan to study and sit down saturday night to do so. They also hear about the party invite but plan their studying around it.

Monday comes along. Who passes the test?

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Glasgow Passion Review

On Thursday night, I took our young people to see the “glasgow passion” (a modern retelling of the passion of Jesus set in Glasgow) in George Square, Glasgow and I thought I would share a few thoughts about it. I’ve seen a number of modern retellings, from the South Africa set “Son of Man” to the outdoor passion play in Manchester a few years ago. This production shared more than a passing resemblance to the Manchester play with its use of pop songs and outdoor city centre setting.

Rather than simply saying whether the play was successful or not, I will instead focus on three areas: story, setting and acting.

Story

From experience, I know how hard it it to translate the story of Jesus into a modern setting because the gospel of Jesus is culturally bound. The events and characters in the story are time and culture specific. The issues that Jesus grapples with are the issues of first century palestine. I feel that the writers of the ‘glasgow passion’ did a reasonable job of updating the story.

Herod and (Mc)Caiaphas were recast as politicans campaigning for re-election amidst allegations of corruption. So far, so good. This idea worked well as it gave them a reason for getting rid of Jesus. They wanted the power and so when a new political candidate rises up, they will do anything to stop him.

They also introduce a new terrorism act which works as a plot device to have Jesus arrested and tried. Having Jesus labelled a terrorist works well.

Translating the disciples was always going to be difficult and I think they do an adequate job but as is often the case with these productions, many of the characters aren’t given much to do and disappear into the background. It would have been better to reduce the numbers of disciples to three our four to make them more rounded.

My biggest gripe with the story is the ending. For most of the running time, the writers are keen to show that this is modern day Glasgow. That this is what would happen if Jesus walked around now. But by trying to be faithful to the gospel text, they make a huge mistake. After Jesus is arrested, he is sentenced to death by lethal injection.

That is not modern day Glasgow.

In that one act, the story loses its grip on reality. To add insult, the execution of Jesus is carried out publically. This would not happen.

It would have been better to have Jesus arrested and for Herod or Caiaphas to have paid another inmate to have killed him whilst in prison. Yes, the death wouldn’t have been public but it would have made more sense and would have fit better with the modern day setting.

Setting

An outdoor play, in October, is a difficult thing to pull off. It was very cold on Thursday night and many of our young people lost interest because of this. In order to keep people focused on the story, rather than the temperature, it has to be more engaging and unfortunately the story sagged in the middle.

There were four stages (i think) dotted around George Square and the audience had to turn to keep up with the action (or just watch the giant screens). The problem with this set up is that you waste a minute or so trying to work out where the actors are speaking from. It would have been better to have had the four stages at the front but that is a small gripe.

Acting

The main players: Duncan Rennie, Alan McHugh, Derek Munn and Mike Tibbetts played their parts well and Rennie did a great job of bringing real depth to the character of Jesus. The rest of the cast were a mixed bag and there was some truly terrible and amateur acting that threatened to derail the entire production.

Overall, it was worth seeing and was a good experiment. I think if it were to happen again, some of these issues would need to be looked at if it were to be more successful.

Auschwitz and Destructive Labels

My first article has been published! It appears in the latest ‘Insight’ Magazine. ‘Insight’ is the quarterly magazine from International Christian College, Glasgow. I’ll be putting up a scanned copy soon but here is the original draft. It is a reworking of an earlier blog post.

As always, let me know your thoughts.

 

This summer I was fortunate enough to merge two of my greatest, creative passions: filmmaking and youth work.

A former youth worker, now teacher, asked if I would accompany a group of pupils on their trip to Auschwitz.  My role would be to document their reactions to the camp in order to produce a series of short educational films based around the Holocaust.  I jumped at the opportunity, not only because I would get an opportunity to widen my filmmaking experience, but I would get to visit an incredible piece of history.

What I saw and felt there will stay with me forever.

I had heard stories about what happened at the concentrations camps. I had seen films depicting events there. But none of this prepared me for how I felt when I physically stood in a gas chamber where hundreds of thousands of people spent their last few minutes on earth screaming; it hit home.

As I walked through the different buildings and saw the piles of clothes, shoes, glasses and hair of the thousands of people who lived and died there; it hit home.

As I walked through the registration building and saw where thousands were stripped, shaved, hosed down and left to die; it hit home.

This really happened, to real people. Death was allowed to flourish here.

As a Christian youth worker, my beliefs, my worldview, permeate every part of my work and are, in fact, at the centre of everything I do. When I was at Auschwitz, I tried to process the horror. I tried to understand how something like this could have happened and how people could have done this to one another.

I believe that what happened stems from labels. The negative labels we put on other people, those that others force on us, and those we choose for ourselves.  This lesson is found in the first few pages of the Bible where Cain murders his brother because labels have divided them.  Abel was labeled as ‘favoured’ and, by default, Cain felt labeled as ‘unfavoured’. The great sadness of the story comes when Cain, unable to break free from the hurt of a negative label, takes his own brother’s life. Throughout the rest of the Bible, I find countless examples of the labeling of people. Both for good and for ill.

Recognising our differences is not wrong, belonging to a group is not necessarily harmful, but the trouble begins when it breeds a persecution mentality of deciding who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. When we strip people of their humanity and no longer see them as God created individuals, the floodgates open wide.  We then feel able to do whatever we like and say whatever we like because they are now different from us.  It is a truth we find in the Bible and a truth that has echoed throughout history.  At worst, labels allow us to indulge our darker tendencies to bully, manipulate, discriminate and hate other humans.

I believe that, in part, this is how the Holocaust unfolded. The Jews, and many other minority groups, were no longer seen as human beings, and so the Nazi’s rallied against them.  They were labeled as ‘different’ and that quickly morphed into them being seen as ‘less than human’, which then led to the justification of horrendous abuse. The slave trade, the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, the recent shootings in Norway all happened because human beings chose to label fellow human beings as ‘unimportant’, ‘unwanted’, ‘dangerous’ or ‘expendable’.

What continues to sadden me is that similar attitudes still thrive today. When I see people being singled out as different, and then being ridiculed or bullied because of it, I am aware that the concentration camps are only a few steps away. I recently read an article in “The Independent”, that stated that one in five children are victims of cyber-bullying.  In some cases, this has led to children taking their own lives. All because other people have defined them as ‘different’ and then ridiculed them mercilessly because of that label.

When I read about Jesus’ life in the Gospels, I see a man determined to do away with the labels that constrict, and turn us against one another.  Paul puts the actions of Jesus into words when he states in Galatians 3:28 that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.  These were the religious, political and biological labels of Paul’s day and he claimed that none of them should be used to create divisions.

Instead of starting with what makes people different, Paul urged the early followers, and now us, to find a common identity that unites people, rather than one that forces them apart. And that common identity was Jesus.  In order to heal the rift between mankind and God, Jesus stripped himself of the labels that defined him (Philippians 2:7). To heal the divide that exists between groups of people, we must do the same.

It is this theology of unity that is at the heart of my youth work practice, and it is what I attempt to share with the young people I come in to contact with.  It is a theology that proclaims that we all share a common origin and identity and that are our relationships with one another must start from that place.

Because until we stop casually defining each other with suffocating and toxic labels, there will continue to be casualties.  Tribes will continue to rise up and slaughter other tribes.  Minority groups will continue to be excluded and discriminated against, and individuals will continue to be crushed under the weight of bulling and ridicule. Death will continue to flourish.

Let us stand against this oppressive labeling system and choose to walk the alternative path that Jesus trod.  A path that unites rather than divides; includes rather than excludes; brings life rather than death.

 

Finding the Divine in the depraved!

I want to take a few minutes and talk about the film below:

Now much like my post on the revenge flick “I spit on your grave‘, I realize that this film is not for everyone and some of you may simply be disgusted that I would choose to watch a film like this and talk about it in the first play.

This blog probably isn’t for you then.

But for those who have seen it, or watch this type of film from time to time, I wanted to talk about it.

Here is the BBFC‘s overview of the film:

British Board of Film Classification

Image via Wikipedia

MUM & DAD is a horror film about a young Polish woman who is imprisoned and tortured by a middle-aged couple who wish to make her become part of their extended family. It was passed ’18’ for strong bloody violence, torture, terrorisation and sex references.”

As I said. Not for everyone.

But there are some intriguing themes lurking in the blood soaked corridors of the movie.

‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ have two adoptive children (Birdie and Elbie). It is implied that they were at one time captured like the Polish woman (Lena) and tortured. But over time, they became part of the family. That always seems the plan of ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’. They want to have children. They want to have a large family.

But what kind of family?

They want a family who will fear them. Who will do anything for them. Who will kill for them.

If the captured boys and girls’ will yield to ‘mum’ and ‘dad’, and fear them, they will be invited into the family.

As humans, we too have been given an invitation.

Paul, in his letter to the Galations says this:

“So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

We have an invitation into God’s family. We no longer need to be slaves to the idols of this world: individualism, consumerism etc.

And unlike ‘mum’ and dad’s family, it is build on love; not fear.

Unlike ‘mum’ and dad’s family, we are accepted unconditionally into this family. We don’t need to be slaves to their wicked demands.

Is this the message I speak of with the young people of the church?

Is this the message that they hear?

Not always. I’m often guilty of enslaving this good news with rules. Of ‘norms’ that they need to follow.

I end the post, as I often do, with a rhetorical question for myself (and maybe others)

What would the youth groups I oversee look like if they proclaim this joyful adoption message?

I Hate Christian T-shirts: A Rant

That title is maybe a little strong. I don’t hate all christian t-shirts. But I do hate some of them.

especially the ones below that I saw today:

If you will be so kind, let me spell out why I hate these two particular t-shirts.

GOSPEL- God’s only son provides eternal life

Now late me say I have no quarrel with the statement. I believe it. My issue comes with what is says overall. the word gospel means so much more than just Jesus giving us eternal life. the word in greek is euaggelion. It was a a word that existed before the new testament writers used it and they used it for a particular purpose.

‘gospel’ alluded to the birth of a new roman emperor. It forecast a new and prosperous era. It was a political term.

Mark chooses to start his story of Jesus with this line:

1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

This statement was an ‘up yours’ to the Roman Empire. It was subversive. Mark was saying, “here is the start of a new era. And it’s not brought about by a Roman Emperor. It’s brought about by Jesus. The true son of God. (the term ‘son of god’ was also a political statement as roman emperors referred to themselves as god’s son).

So do you see why I have issue with this statement? The gospel is so much more than Jesus giving us eternal life. It is about the coming of a new era. A new kingdom. It is about liberation. Other wise there is no point in mark including the story of Jesus’ life. It might as well just focus on his death and resurrection. But it doesn’t. it focuses on his life on earth as well. It focuses on his message. The gospel is about the gift of eternal life but to somehow say it is just about that reduces its impact considerably.Now on to the second one…

BIBLE- Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

In some ways this statement angers me even more as it represents a completely distorted picture of the coming of God’s Kingdom. Jesus did not come to say us somewhere else. In the book of revelation it says:

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

The word new is kainos in greek which is better understood as renewed. Our hope is in the fact that the earth will be renewed. It speaks of God coming to dwell on earth. Not us going somewhere else. What is remarkable about the gospel story is that the eternal logos came and took on flesh and lived here. It is the coming together of body and soul.

Revelation speaks of the return of the earth to how it was meant to be. Not its destruction. If we are simply going to go somewhere else why bother about this earth at all? e might as well just speed up its demise. What kind of message is that?

Well my rant is almost over. I could go on to say that reducing the bible to an instruction manual is also ridiculous but I think I’ve said enough.

I don’t hate all christian t-shirts but I DO HATE THESE ONES!

Rant over.