Friday, November 15, 2013

Both Excited & Scared for 'Noah'

Have you seen that there is a blockbuster movie being made about the biblical character Noah and the story of the flood...and Russell Crowe is playing Noah? Here's the trailer:

I find myself ambivalent about this cinematic project. On the one hand I'm excited that a biblical narrative is being brought into the public sphere by a famous and talented director. The big-budget nature of this film, combined with the popularity of the cast, means that this film will undoubtedly be watched by millions and conversations about this infamous scripture passage will ensue. In my world, conversations about the Bible are always good and helpful. I hope that this movie will spur on great dialogue about who God is and what God is like. I hope it will spur on healthy discussions about a God of redemption, rather than a God of vengeance.

But I have my doubts. From watching the trailer, it seems like there is a lot of violence in the film. Some of that is necessary in staying true to the narrative. It's a violent story. God destroys the world. I could say more here about my view of scripture (I'll save that for another post), but there is no getting around the violence of this tale. But this movie seems to go a little overboard with violence, especially with the character of Noah. When you read this biblical narrative, there is NO INKLING of violence with Noah and his family, and yet, in the movie, Crowe portrays Noah in much the same way as he portrayed Maximus in Gladiator. Cold. Calculated. Dark. Angry.

I worry that the chief message that will emerge from this movie is one of vengeance and retaliation, rather than redemption, hope, and new life. I hope I'm proven wrong. There are a few subtle lines in the trailer about this being a 'beginning and not an end' that give me hope about the message this film will transmit, but I still find myself worried that God will come off as strong, mean, vengeful God, rather than the loving, peaceful, and hopeful God I have encountered in the character of Jesus. Bottom line: I'm excited to see this film when it comes out in March of 2014, and I'm hopeful that productive and transformative conversations will emerge from its viewing.

P.S.  Rob Bell recently wrote a blog post about the story of Noah and his thoughts were very helpful and thought-provoking. You can find them HERE.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Musical Prayers

I don't know about you, but some of my best insights come in the shower. I'm not exactly sure why that is, but I would opine that during this season of my life, the shower is about the only place in my home where I can escape from my ever-curious toddler. Something about changing diapers, watching PBS Kids, playing with toys, and reading stories to a baby doesn't leave much room for deep contemplation and introspection.

During my Monday morning shower I had another one of those 'aha' kind of moments. Every Monday night we host a student-led worship and prayer service at the youth center where I work and often I am in charge of leading the music for that event. In the midst of my warmth-induced shower coma, I suddenly had a an idea about how I might lead the students in worship and prayer that evening - I would use the themes from our songs to lead us into intentional times of prayer.

I began by choosing six songs that all had a certain theme that I wanted us to pray about. Then, during our actual time of worship that evening, we would sing a song and then follow that by breaking into small groups to pray over the theme that the song had just addressed. For example, I began by playing the song "Your Grace is Enough" and then we broke into groups to thank God for God's incredible grace and forgiveness in our lives. We went on to sing five more songs, focusing on the themes of love, God's strength and greatness, God's intimate and personal nature, following Jesus through discipleship, and serving the world through justice.

I didn't know how this idea would work and whether the students would enjoy the process, but it worked great and they LOVED it. And I did too. It was a lot of fun and was a really meaningful way of worshiping and praying. I look forward to making this idea a consistent part of these student gatherings, and may even try it with our church in a Sunday worship service. The picture below is my rough outline of the songs I chose and the themes we explored in prayer. I think I'll call this form of worship and prayer "Musical Prayers" (see what I did there?!?).