Friday, March 07, 2014

Friday Five at the Movies!



The RevGals Friday Five (just for fun) this week is all about the movies!

1) Is there a film that so captured your imagination that you couldn’t stop thinking about it? In what way(s) did it affect you?
It's not your typical this-affected-my-life-forever movie, but... The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. This Australian film recounts the adventures of a gay drag queen (Adam/Felicia), a bisexual drag queen (Tick/Mitzie), and a transgender drag queen (Bernadette) as they travel across the Outback from Sydney to Alice Springs for a gig at a resort managed by Tick's wife. They share stories as well as adventures on their odyssey, and as they come to know one another they form a  bond of friendship and mutual support. I was struggling with my own identity when I watched this for the first time and found a way of naming what I felt--even though Tick is very different from me, I recognised his sense of confusion and eventual comfort with all of himself. It is also very funny. Warning to ABBA-phobes---lots of the soundtrack is ABBA cuts.

2) What religious/spiritual film has touched you? This could be something overtly thematic, like The Last Temptation of Christ, or something more subtle, like Enchanted April. 
I actually have one of each. In the overtly religious category is Jesus, with Jeremy Sisto in the title role. Jesus is portrayed as very human--he laughs, he resists his call, he teases the disciples (and indeed some of Jesus' comments to the disciples can be read that way). Palestine is portrayed realistically too--the Jordan is the stream/creek it really is, for example. I have one quibble with it--some of the non-Biblical stories have crept in, such as Jesus resuscitating a sparrow as a child. Oh, and I have trouble with Debra Messing as Mary Magdelene, and that she is portrayed as a sex worker (because that's not Biblically accurate).  But that is minor. More subtle is the old favourite Chocolat, with its themes of gratitude for God's blessings and willingness to follow where the Spirit leads and the difference one person can make...among others!

3) When the going gets tough, is there a film you turn to for distraction and/or to help shift your mood?
Yes, a couple, actually! Around Christmastime, it is Christmas Story. Other times it is Steel Magnolias; I love the strong characters and outstanding acting--what a wonderful collection of stars gathered for that movie! Tears every time. And sometimes it is Fried Green Tomatoes...

4) What is your all-time favorite movie?
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Again, excellent characters and world-class acting. The themes of taking care of each other, of the sense of an extended family, and of internal strength and knowing yourself... Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates are stellar. Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary Loiuse Parker are amazing too. I just regret the movie producers toned down the relationship between Idgie and Ruth; Fannie Flagg had created a lovely partnership between them. I understand (with regret) why it was done, but still...

5) If you were to choose a film for viewing and discussion with your congregation, what would you choose?
Either of the two mentioned in 2). Another option would be For the Bible Tells Me So (heartbreaking and joyous at the same time)--it is a documentary examining the way Christianity has been used to harm and bash gay men, lesbians and bisexual people. It follows several individuals, some of them prominent in American Christianity, telling their stories through interviews with them and their families. I would love to do a sort of film festival series on Christian themes in popular movies--The Apostle, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, It's a Wonderful Life....

Bonus: If your life were to be made into a feature film, who would you want to play you?
Hmmm. Young Mary Stuart Masterson in my teens; as an adult Meryl Streep, and more recently either Olympia Dukakis or Judy Dench. 

“Eyewitnesses” Transfiguration A (March 2, 2014)




2 Peter 1:16-21
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  He received honor and glory from God the Creator when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, This is my Child, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.  We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophets own interpretation of things.  For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 17:1-9
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, Teacher, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three sheltersone for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, This is my Child, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.  But Jesus came and touched them. Get up,he said. Dont be afraid.  When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, Dont tell anyone what you have seen, until the Human One has been raised from the dead.

 **** 
Will you pray with and for me? Loving God, be present with us now as you were present on the mountaintop; give us grace to recognise your presence and your power with us today and every day. May all we do be reflections of your love for us and for all your children. In all your names, amen.

Transfiguration Sunday, which we observe today, is not one of the big church holidays. But it is the turning point, in a sense, of the season. It is the last Sunday before Lent begins--our journey with Jesus pivots towards Lent and Easter, the movement towards Jerusalem, Palm Sunday, Jesus' death and resurrection. It is the time when his followers begin to realise this is not just a wise man they are following, that this is more than a diversion, that this is, in fact, deadly serious. There may be doubt about whether anyone but Jesus heard the voice of God at his baptism--it's not clear from the Gospel accounts--but there is no doubt here--Peter, James and John heard the voice of God, saw Moses and Elijah with Jesus, and Jesus all radiant with glory. This is the real thing! And so no wonder Peter babbles nonsense and James and John can't find anything to say at all...Moses, the leader of the Hebrew people out of exile, the great law giver, the foundation stone of the Jewish faith--gave them the  commandments of God, one who spoke directly to God and lived! And then Elijah, greatest of the prophets! Prophets in those days were not seers, or people who foresaw the future. The real meaning of the word is one who speaks truth to power, who calls for justice and righteousness. Martin Luther was a prophet--so was Gandhi  and Nelson Mandela and Harvey Milk and Troy Perry and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

So Jesus is revealed as a true child of God in the presence of the Law and the Prophets--that's what that radiance is--Jesus in all his glory, Jesus most truly himself. Remember Jesus says he has not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it; remember too, that he says that the greatest commandment is to love God and your neighbour as yourself --on this, he says, hang all the laws and the prophets. For what is it to love your neighbour but to cry out for justice for them? And to live your live in ways that harm no one and ensure that God is honoured? That is what it means to be a child of God.

And so Peter is quite right in one sense, to want to stay there on the mountain with Jesus and Elijah and Moses--but quite wrong in another sense. Ideally, we can all be like Jesus--so full of that love for God and sense of service and justice for others that we glow. Who would not want to be like that? And yet, we cannot live on the mountain--we have to go down and be among people--other people, people we like and people we don't, people who are righteous and people who are not, people who Re good to each other and their pets and children, who do their best to support their friends and neighbours and family--and people who don't seem to care two figs for anyone else as long as they have what they want. Yeah, it's messy sometimes. Yeah, it's hard most of the time. But Jesus leads them down from the mountain to begin the real work of ministry, among God's people, not remote and separated, down in the dirty, mucky, messy midst of God's people. He leads them down to begin that work, because soon he will be leaving them, and they will have to do his work without him. But he has shown them what it can be like--to be fully alive to the law of honouring and worshiping God and to caring for your neighbour, to crying out for justice.

As we prepare for this Lenten journey with Jesus, we can also prepare to serve God's people. What is it we lack, what talent or grace or wisdom or skill do we need? That should be our guide to a good Lent, a holy Lent--learning how to serve God's people--each other--more fully and completely, so that we too, can shine like the sun, fully ourselves as we honour and love God and work for God's justice and peace here on earth.

In all God's names, amen.