Marianne and I have never recommended a movie on our blog, but yesterday we went on a date and saw the new movie, Les Miserables.
Twenty or so years ago I saw the Broadway play in New York, and it was powerful. But the movie is … amazing.
I was hesitant to go to the movie, because I expected the original Christian themes of redemptive grace and forgiveness in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel to be watered down, if not eliminated. After all, that’s the way of Hollywood. They take culture created by Christians and bastardize it.
Recently I shared with some of our fellowships, including those in the jail, how Mary and others failed to recognize the risen Jesus.
Think about it. There He was, in the garden right in front of Mary, and she didn’t recognize Him. Likewise, He appeared over the next forty days – before His ascension – to others who knew Him before the cross, but after the cross they consistently failed to recognize Him.
His resurrection was so outside their reality and frame of reference that even when He was standing right in front of them, they only saw a stranger, and not Him.
They thought they knew Jesus, and to a limited extent they did. But only in terms of their own pre-resurrection reality.
Post-resurrection, they simply couldn’t get their minds around the bigger reality of who Jesus really was and what He really was about, because a resurrected Jesus did not conform to the Jesus they thought they knew, had lived with, saw crucified and helped bury.
The quiet stillness of the morning is my favorite time of day.
As creation wakes and my soul is renewed, I am often reminded of this stanza from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It is one of many that I memorized in my twenties, and it remains with me like an old friend:
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
“Church” – as a platform for the gifted man and his anointed ministry – is crumbling all around.
As people start peeking outside the walls through the cracked facades, some find liberty.
Many, however, choose to remain trapped in the ruins.
We all have a choice. Liberty and life, or bondage and stagnation.
Seek grace, find courage, embrace joy and venture forth.
You’ll be surprised at how many other brave hearts await you outside the walls.
God’s call is clear: It is time to be the church once again.
Early Virginia mornings with a cup of freshly brewed Columbian coffee is proof enough that God still smiles over His creation.
(A recent tweet. I’d love to connect with you on Twitter. My handle is OrganicSower.)
It’s the 4th of July weekend here in the United States, and I was thinking about the first time I truly fell in love with America.
It was during my first trip overseas on my own, at the ripe old age of 21, after a year of grad school at Westminster Theological Seminary. I was sitting in Trafalgar Square in London on Independence Day, after more than a month of backpacking through the British Isles. It had been a grand trip of personal discovery as I hitchhiked from town to town, ate my meals in open air markets, slept on church steps, and occasionally visited youth hostels to take a shower. During my stay in Scotland, someone had given me the book “When Free Men Shall Stand,” and I had been reading it off and on during my travels.
As my trip was coming to a close and I was hanging out in London waiting for a stand-by airline seat home, I finished the book while sitting in that park. For the first time, I started looking back at America through the filter of another culture and began thinking about what made America unique. Many, like me that day, never really discover America until they’ve had the opportunity to leave her.
At that time in the United Kingdom, Thatcher had not yet been elected Prime Minister and the Liberal Party was wrecking that nation with policies that destroyed personal responsibility and initiative. Even as a twenty-one year old, the culture and the people, by and large, struck me as bland, crass and dominated by attitudes of entitlement. As money was being sucked out of the economy to feed that sense of personal entitlement at the hand of big brother, hope and opportunity were dying.
As a result, the Brits had lost their spark and zest for life. It finally was dawning on me that those qualities are vital for any people. I also was beginning to realize that those qualities had persevered in America because of the ideals that sparked the revolution of 1776 and then the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Those ideals, in turn, were gleaned by our Founding Fathers from Biblical principles that gave birth to the first Constitutional Republic to grace the earth in nearly 3000 years (since dying out when Israel foolishly chose a King rather than continuing as a constitutional republic under the Decalogue through locally chosen representative leaders).
I very much had been a liberal activist until then, but started weeping that day as I suddenly realized how I had taken for granted – and been ignorant about – the principles in our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I also began to appreciate how truly revolutionary the core value of our Founding Fathers had been: Mainly, that the liberty to pursue virtue requires limited civil government, and that the greatest danger to virtue and liberty is a government which assumes the prerogatives of individual responsibility under the guise of benevolence.
I came back a changed man.
Are there any other 4th of July stories out there, or tales about your own political and cultural epiphanies, as we celebrate Independence Day?
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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how God fellowshipped with Adam. It was in the garden, where the two of them walked side by side and talked face to face in the cool of the evening. God met Adam in his full humanity, where life sprang forth both in and around Adam.
It took me a long time to learn that it’s OK to be human and that God wanted to meet me too in my full humanity.