Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Media Connections for Second Sunday in Eastertide

Our scriptural focus for this Second Sunday in Eastertide will be upon John 20:19-31--but in particular the first 5 verses, 19-23. You can read the whole passage here, but the connections below will be mostly to the beginning of the story.

A couple of pieces of art that imagine what the scene of Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit on the disciples that first Easter evening may have been like:

"Jesus Breathes His Spirit Upon the Disciples," by Hanna Cheriyan Varghese

"Appearance to the Disciples" by Ed de Guzman

I hunted and hunted for a movie clip I believe illustrates the power of Jesus' breath in a beautiful way--"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" from C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. The movie doesn't catch the fullness of how Lewis describes this scene in the book, but you can catch a glimpse of it by watching this link I hope: 

Finally, in the coming weeks we will be spending time exploring the Holy Spirit together, this gift the risen Christ gives to us to be active in our lives and help us actively carry on Christ's work in the world. The scripture doesn't always give us a clear-cut definition of what the Holy Spirit is, but it does tell us--in lots of different ways--what it is that the Holy Spirit does. The Wordle below, which includes many of the activities of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Bible, will be our bulletin cover for the next several weeks. Which of these attributes strike you as most important? Which are new to you? Which are most familiar?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

An Image for Maundy Thursday

Consider the picture below, by artist Lars Justinen, of Jesus washing the feet of world leaders. The image is of prominent world leaders from the year 2007, when this piece of art was commissioned: German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Tony Blair, England; Kofi A. Annan, UN; Osama bin Laden; George W. Bush; Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; and Jiang Zemin, former president of China. What does this image evoke in you as we prepare to remember Jesus' sharing of the last supper and washing of his disciples' feet tonight--and his new commandment for us to do the same?

Hope to see you tonight for Maundy Thursday worship at 7. For me, it is one of the most meaningful and powerful services of the year.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Media Connections for Palm Sunday

Our texts for this Palm/Passion Sunday are Matthew 21:1-11 and Matthew 27:11-54, which you can read here. The media connections below focus on the first text, of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.

My absolute favorite Palm Sunday song, which Jeremy sang for us in worship a few years back, is Andrew Peterson's Hosanna. "Hosanna" is not just a word of praise; it is a cry that means, "Save us!" From what do we need to be saved? Consider that as you listen to the song below. I hear "Hosanna" totally differently after hearing this song.

I have a poster of the print below that I hope to display somewhere in worship on Sunday (someone please remind me to do this!). It is “Guatemala: Procession” by Betty LaDuke. I love how often this story has been envisioned across different cultures in vibrant, varied ways.

Beyond art, reflect on reality. Look at these images of modern Christians around the world celebrating Palm Sunday in their context. Why do you think this story has connected with so many? What looks common among the various ways groups retell this story? What looks different?

In Ivory Coast, West Africa:
 In Jerusalem:
 In Krakow, Poland
 In Pakistan:
 In El Salvador:
 In Paris:
 In Spain:
 In the Republic of Georgia:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Media Connections for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Our texts for this Sunday are two stories of resurrection: Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:1-45, which you can read here.

After reading these stories, here are some pieces of art, music, and story to inspire your reflection and thinking:

First, the wonderful illumination of this passage from one of my favorite modern works of art which I have shared with you all before, The Saint John's Bible. Look at the image of the bones across the bottom of the page. What else do you see in this picture? Why do you think the artist included these things?

This beautiful seriograph of the Raising of Lazarus by John August Swanson shows not just Lazarus, but an entire community wrapped up in this scene. What do you see in the people on the fringes of the action? Where are Mary and Martha in this scene, do you think, and what are their reactions?

The Ezekiel passage speaks of the wind of God's breath bringing new life. A children's book that really captures this idea is "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, which tells of Kamkwamba's effort to bring hope to his drought-stricken village in Malawi by figuring out
how to harness the wind to create electricity that can pump water. You can see a great sample of the book, which has beautiful language and illustrations, by clicking on the image of the book to the right.

Finally, one of the truest and most powerful songs I have ever heard about resurrection, by Andy Gullahorn and Jill Phillips; listen for the reference to the Lazarus story from John 11.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Media Connections for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Our stories for this week are stories of seeing--two of my favorites (okay, I have a lot of favorites, but these are definitely among them!)--1 Samuel 16:1-13 and John 9:1-41, which can be read here--and I strongly encourage you to give them a read, so that hearing the story versions of them on Sunday (and engaging the connections below) can be even more meaningful.

When I was reading the stories for this week, the first memory that came up for me was of our Music and Arts camp back in 2011, when our kids memorably acted out the story of Samuel anointing David--the youngest of all his brothers, one everyone overlooked--to be king. I went back through the archives and found these great pictures of the "brothers" lined up, "Samuel" anointing "David," and the Spirit descending on young David. There is power in telling the story ourselves, with our own bodies!

I also connected these stories quickly to a song I listen to a lot when I feel like I am having a hard time seeing the world and others as God sees it--a song that is really a prayer. I encourage you to give it a listen--"Give Me Your Eyes," by Brandon Heath:

If you're into poetry, here is a lovely and thought provoking offering from David Whyte's book Songs for Coming Home, entitled "The Opening of Eyes"(1984):

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

Finally, I came across a really wonderful quote from late 19th century French artist Paul Gaugin: "I shut my eyes in order to see." As you consider what this might mean, try engaging a couple of famous works by the painter below. What do you see in these? What do you see in them when you shut your eyes?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Media Connections for the Third Sunday in Lent

Our texts for this Sunday as we continue to explore God's story together are Exodus 17:1-7 and John 4:5-42, which can be found here.

Again, this week's blog will feature some media connections from around the web that might help you begin to delve into some deeper meaning in this week's texts, both of which revolve strongly around themes of water, thirst, and God's provision.

First, this really interesting modern envisioning of the encounter between Jesus and the Woman at the Well by Dinah Roe Kendall, and a slightly older rendition of the story of Exodus 17 by one of my favorite painters, Marc Chagall (another version he created of this story will be part of our bulletin art this week):

A long-time favorite song of mine, "Share the Well" by Caedmon's Call, inspired by the band's travels abroad in India and Ecuador and in particular the way they witnessed groups of people sharing resources--particularly water, drawn from community wells in many places today just as it was in the time of Jesus.

Finally, a great organization that addresses water needs in forgotten areas of the world is Watering Malawi. Explore their website, and read some facts they share about what they call "water poverty" in the world below.

A white-tailed deer drinks
from the creek;
I want to drink God,
deep draughts of God.
I’m thirsty for God-alive.
I wonder, “Will I ever make it—
arrive and drink in God’s presence?”
-Psalm 42:1-2, The Message

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Media Connections for Second Sunday in Lent

Our texts for this second Sunday in our Lenten journey of connecting our stories to God's story are the stories of Abram from Genesis 12:1-4 and 15:1-6, and of Nicodemus from John 3:1-21. You can read the text to these here.

First, shameless plug:  Join us tonight as we begin our new Lenten book study of John Indermark's Genesis of Grace. At the church at 7pm--come even if you don't have a book!

Second, the new curriculum for which I am privileged to write has a very cool feature called "Media Connections." Each week, we provide for suggestions for teachers of ways they can use different forms of art and media to help children and youth engage the story from a different angle, or that can help them enter into the story more deeply. Finding media connections is honestly one of my favorite parts of writing sessions, so I thought that I might try offering you some media connections to our lectionary passages here on the blog--things you might want to look at, listen to, or ponder to begin opening your heart and mind to the stories you will encounter on Sunday. 

So here are some offerings for this Sunday, where we will look at two stories of people who encounter God in the darkness of night.

Consider these two modern art echoes of our stories: Peter Teekamp's "Old Man and Baby" and Richard Hook's "Jesus and the Businessman," alternately called "Jesus and Modern Day Nicodemus":

The wonderful Andrew Peterson song "In the Night," which though it does not name either Abram or Nicodemus tells the story of many others who lived through the darkness of night in scripture and connects their stories to ours:

The Night, written by 17th century poet Henry Vaughan and inspired by John 3:2:

The Night

      Through that pure virgin shrine,
That sacred veil drawn o’er Thy glorious noon,
That men might look and live, as glowworms shine,
         And face the moon,
    Wise Nicodemus saw such light
    As made him know his God by night.

      Most blest believer he!
Who in that land of darkness and blind eyes
Thy long-expected healing wings could see,
         When Thou didst rise!
    And, what can never more be done,
    Did at midnight speak with the Sun!

      O who will tell me where
He found Thee at that dead and silent hour?
What hallowed solitary ground did bear
         So rare a flower,
    Within whose sacred leaves did lie
    The fulness of the Deity?

      No mercy-seat of gold,
No dead and dusty cherub, nor carved stone,
But His own living works did my Lord hold
         And lodge alone;
    Where trees and herbs did watch and peep
    And wonder, while the Jews did sleep.

      Dear night! this world’s defeat;
The stop to busy fools; care’s check and curb;
The day of spirits; my soul’s calm retreat
         Which none disturb!
    Christ’s progress, and His prayer time;
    The hours to which high heaven doth chime;

      God’s silent, searching flight;
When my Lord’s head is filled with dew, and all
His locks are wet with the clear drops of night;
         His still, soft call;
    His knocking time; the soul’s dumb watch,
    When spirits their fair kindred catch.

      Were all my loud, evil days
Calm and unhaunted as is thy dark tent,
Whose peace but by some angel’s wing or voice
         Is seldom rent,
    Then I in heaven all the long year
    Would keep, and never wander here.

      But living where the sun
Doth all things wake, and where all mix and tire
Themselves and others, I consent and run
         To every mire,
    And by this world’s ill-guiding light,
    Err more than I can do by night.

      There is in God, some say,
A deep but dazzling darkness, as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
         See not all clear.
    O for that night! where I in Him
    Might live invisible and dim!

Finally, try counting the stars in this magnificent photo by NASA: