Posts Tagged ‘review’

Kind words about Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now from Dr. Layne Lebo, senior pastor at Mechanicsburg Brethren in Christ Church (locally known as McBic). Thanks Layne!

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m biased because I know Randy well, because he allowed me to read this book chapter by chapter as it was being written and because I love his many references to Central PA. Having said all of that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Beginning with Advent, Randy walks through the Christian year interweaving observations about nature, people, and his surroundings with Scripture and theology. The sub-title, Field Notes from Here and Now, points to the blend of current observations that point toward eternity. At one point Randy critiques systematic theology and suggests that a systemic theology would be more beneficial in many ways, that is what he does in the book, looking at nature, human experience and observation, the Christian year and Scripture as a systemic whole. Reading Participant reminded me of the importance of staying attuned to my surroundings and to God’s presence in my surroundings.


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Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church is a book about conflict. (And probably a book that has created some conflict). Rachel Held Evans against herself. She balances a cynical outrage against the church with a longing desire to belong to it that results in a 269 page wrestling match. The structure for the book is interesting. She writes her narrative using seven sacraments as “The tent pegs anchoring my little tabernacle of a story to the ground.” Her story however is not about the sacraments at all. These only provide the structure for her to hang her story of conflict about the church.

I confess that she loses me at times in her opinions and experiences. However, others may share her experience and feel affirmed by it. For the rest of us, Sunday is worthwhile reading if for no other reason than insight into the souls of those who long for church and yet can’t stand it at the same time.

Though she loses me at times, she is always able to bring me back. For example, here is the way she talks about water “Wrapped now in flesh, the God who once hovered over the waters was plunged beneath them at the hands of a wild-eyed wilderness preacher.” Bravo Rachel! There is more “He spit in the dirt, cast demons into the ocean, and strolled across an angry sea.” I can’t get enough of this “After the government washed its hands of him, God hung on a cross where blood and water spewed from his side. Like Jonah, he got swallowed up for three days.” So while there are parts of this story that cause me to lose interest, there are others that make me want to stand and applaud.

There are passages about the sacraments that offer a helpful perspective. In fact, the sacraments are among the very things that seem to constantly be pulling her into the church. Yet, most of her effort is spent talking about the shortcomings of the church as she sees them. Especially the strong feelings she herself has experienced as she has attempted to wrestle with the beliefs and behaviors of the church. She and I are in agreement that the church should be a place where questions can be explored and doubts can be expressed. If not the church, where can we expect such conversations to take place?

I suspect that many readers will have strong feelings about many of Rachel’s opinions and will have to read the book to form their own assessment. But many, including myself, will enjoy one of her concluding remarks about the church. “Here she is. Lovely, irregular, sometimes sick and sometimes well. This is the body-like-no-other that God has shaped and placed in the world. Jesus lives here; this is his soul’s address…”

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I like the movie. I like the way it begins with the question “Have you traveled far Tribune?” I like the way the rest of the movie answers that question. The Tribune, Clavius, is a fictional character inserted into the story of the crucifixion and the resurrection. Clavius is given the assignment of finishing the job at Golgotha and finding the missing body of the crucified Jesus. As seen through the eyes of this character, Risen allows us to view the resurrection from a different perspective.

For myself, I would have found Risen even more entertaining if the search for the missing Jesus would have lasted even longer. What would it have been like for Clavius to find himself just one step behind the disciples for a few more scenes?

The movie did leave me with some questions. For one, I am wondering why Tiberius is visiting Jerusalem. Perhaps the movie makers felt this helps make sense of Pilate’s desire to keep peace in the city. I am also wondering why the grave clothes were not folded. Perhaps this occurs so the shroud of Turin could make an appearance. And I wonder if sixth century preacher Pope Gregory the Great knew he would be so influential when he decided to turn Mary Magdalene into a prostitute.

I like the early statement by Clavius when summoned by Pilate “I am sticky with filth.” At the time he says this it is literally the case as he has just led his soldiers in battle against insurrectionists. But as the movie moves along I wonder if it is intended in theological fashion as well.

I really liked the way the sky darkens and the earth quakes as Clavius is on his way to Golgotha. I like the way he stops soldiers from breaking the bones of dead Jesus when he arrives at the scene of the crucifixion. I like the way the centurion declares him innocent. Those familiar with the text will understand why I like these things.

Although I wish the chase for the disappearing body of Jesus would have lasted a little longer, I do like the words of Clavius at the turning point of the movie. “I have seen two things which cannot reconcile: A man dead without question, and that same man alive again. I pursue Him, the Nazarene, to ferret the truth.”

The portrayal of Pontius Pilate is convincing. So are the portrayal of Caiaphas and the portrayal of Joseph. I also like the portrayal of Peter. My favorite scene involving Peter is during conversation with Clavius when he says “I haven’t every answer. We’re astonished too.” He then adds “We are followers. We follow to find out.”

I am not sure why Bartholomew is presented as such a giddy disciple. When the others climbed onto a fishing boat at the Sea of Galilee, I expected him to pull out a surf board. This prompted one writer to title his review “Dude, Where’s My Christ?” I also have a favorite scene involving Bartholomew. While in Galilee, Clavius asks Bartholomew if he expected resurrection. Bartholomew tells him he had doubts. Clavius then asks why he decided to follow. This conversation is interrupted as a leper enters the scene. Of course, Jesus heals the leper. At this point, Bartholomew turns to Clavius and says “That’s why.”

Perhaps my favorite line is the movie is the final line spoken by Pontius Pilate. Upon discovering that the whereabouts of the disciples are unknown he replies “I doubt we’ll ever hear from them again.” The movie then returns back to the place where Tribune Clavius was asked if he had traveled far. When we met Clavius he was praying to a pagan god Mars and he is now following a crucified Nazarene. Clavius answers “I can never be the same again.” Clavius has indeed traveled far.

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