Archive for the ‘Faith and Cinema’ Category

Obliviousness, Deliberate and Otherwise   3 comments

Above:  St. Philip the Deacon and the Ethiopian Eunuch

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 8:26-40

Psalm 22:22-31

2 Peter 2:12-22

Mark 12:18-27

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Ignorance is a lack of knowledge.  Ignorance of scripture is a matter in Acts 8:26-40, in which St. Philip the Deacon (not the Apostle) evangelized a man on the path to finding faith in Christ.  That pericope fits well with the assigned portion of Psalm 22, with its global emphasis.  Ignorance of scripture is also a matter in Mark 12:18-27, in which Jesus fielded another in a series of trick questions–this time, about the resurrection of the dead, of which the Sadducees rejected.  Apostasy–rejection after acceptance–not ignorance–is a matter in 2 Peter 2:12-22.

The readings from 2 Peter and Mark point to deliberate obliviousness.  We human beings are deliberately oblivious to much.  This is not always negative, for we have finite time, and we need to choose where to focus.  I am deliberately oblivious to almost all television, the majority of movies, and bad (that is to say, nearly all) music.  I am also a Western classicist, and I enjoy many old movies.  The three and a half hours required to watch Lawrence of Arabia (1962) are always time spent well.

When we are oblivious to God, however, we occupy the realm of the negative.  When we seek a proper path, we need reliable guides.  May we walk in faith and, when God calls upon as to do so, may we function as reliable guides, so that all the nations of the earth will serve God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-b-humes/

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A Question of Balance   Leave a comment

Above:  Balance Scale

Photographer = Andreas Praefcke

Image in the Public Domain

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[Jesus] called the people to him and said, “Listen, and understand.  What goes into the mouth does not make anyone unclean; it is what comes out of the mouth that makes someone unclean.”

–Matthew 15:10-11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

I remember a single-cell cartoon depicting a man standing before St. Simon Peter at the Pearly Gates.  The caption reads,

No, that is not a sin either.  You must have worried yourself to death.

Recently I have renewed my interest in Scandinavian-American Lutheran history.  I have therefore been reading in that field.  These volumes have covered topics including Pietism, complete with its condemnation of indulging appetites and engaging in “worldly amusements,” such as dancing, drinking tea, playing cards, playing chess, attending plays, attending fairs and circuses, and reading works of fiction.  I have remembered an old joke:

Q:  Why don’t fundamentalists have sex standing up?

A:  It might lead to dancing.

Pietism and Puritanism are two unfortunate -isms that overlap with regard to denunciations of “worldly amusements.”  Pietism, which originated within Lutheranism then spread beyond it, dates to the 1600s, as a reaction against excessively abstract theology in preaching.  Pietism rejects the definition of the church as the assembly of hose called by both word and sacraments and redefines the church as the gathering of the spiritually reborn.  Pietism also de-emphasizes doctrine and stresses deeds–many of them laudible acts of charity and general decency and honest piety.  Unfortunately, Pietism also bends toward legalism and de-emphasizes the sacraments and rituals (referring scornfully to “externals”), tends toward serial contrarianism with regard to “the world,” and is Donatistic.  A Pietist contrasts deeds and doctrines.  I rebut that deeds reveal doctrines.  As we think, so we are.  That which we are inside cannot help but be evident outside.

I affirm the following statements:

  1. What we do matters.
  2. What we do not do matters.
  3. What we believe (give intellectual assent to) matters.
  4. None of the above can save any of us from the consequences of our sins.
  5. Faithful response to God is vital.
  6. Legalism is spiritually detrimental.
  7. Salvation is a gift.  It is free, not cheap.

The allegation of works-based righteousness is a cudgel many Protestants use against Roman Catholicism.  This reality indicates a misapprehension of Roman Catholic theology.  Yes, many Roman Catholics have a sense of works-based righteousness, but so do many Protestants.  I, who grew up a United Methodist in the South Georgia Conference, recall some children’s sermons delivered by laypeople whose theology included works-based righteousness.  I know well that the doctrinal standards of that denomination reject works-based righteousness.  For many Protestants of various theological categories affirming orthodoxy becomes a means of salvation.  Salvation from damnation therefore becomes a matter of knowledge.  This is an error–a sort of Gnosticism, to be precise.  Furthermore, an obsession with personal peccadilloes becomes an excuse for giving short shrift to or ignoring collective responsibility for societal and social ills.  So yes, one might cheat one’s employees and oppose policies that would penalize one for doing so and prevent one from doing so, but one rarely uses profanity and never cheats on one’s spouse.  The Bible says more about the exploitation of people than about sexual activities, however, so such a one needs to rethink one’s priorities.  Anyhow, even the most moral life, measured by kindness, cannot save one from damnation.

In both Judaism and Christianity the law of love is paramount.  So, O reader, leave the world better than you found it.  God will save it, but your faithful response is to act positively.  Also, go ahead and enjoy your life.  Enjoy a good dance, if you wish.  Watch movies, from harmless popcorn flicks to profound art films.  (Italian Neorealism has enriched my life recently.)  Why not relish a well-written novel or short story?  Lose yourself in a symphony or other work of great music.

Finally, brothers, let your minds be filled with everything that is true, everything that is honourable, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love and admire–and whatever is good and praiseworthy.

–Philippians 4:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

The “worldly” in “worldly amusements” is not necessarily negative.  Yes, one should avoid much that one can find to amuse oneself, but many of the options are laudable.  Playing chess is beneficial for one’s mind.  Antioxidents in tea are good for us.  Idle hands are not necessarily the Devil’s workshop, for we need to rest and play as well as work.  God has given us life;  may we enjoy it and thank God frequently.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; FATHER OF MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOWER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Oh Fudge! Regarding Coarseness in the Mainstream of Society   Leave a comment

pdvd_000

Above:  Ralphie and a Bar of Lifebuoy Soap, from A Christmas Story (1983)

Screen Capture Taken by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The tongue is a flame too.  Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a whole wicked world:  it infects the whole body; catching fire itself from hell, it sets fire to the whole wheel of creation.

–James 3:6, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Coarseness in society is as old as society.  All one has to do to document this fact is to read history, regardless of one’s society or nation-state.

In 2009 the Wisconsin Tourism Federation, founded in 1979, announced that it was changing its name to the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin, due to many bloggers and online critics behaving as they did because of the initials “WTF.”  The expression for which those letters stand has existed since at least 1985 and become increasingly commonplace via changes in technology.

I have noticed increasingly frequent coarseness in the mainstream of my society in the United States of America.  For years I have become offended at needless profanity in movies, podcasts, YouTube videos, and Facebook memes.  I recognized degrees of curse words.  “Hot damn,” for example, is an expression that does not bother me.  Likewise, Rhett Butler not giving a damn in Gone With the Wind (1939) carries the appropriate weight in that scene.  If he did not give a darn or simply did not care, that would carry too little weight.  Likewise, I can think of several things he might not have given that would have ruined the scene by being needlessly profane.  Recently, while watching X-Men:  Apocalypse (2016), I noticed young Magneto’s F-bomb when he met Apocalypse.  That word did nothing to improve the scene and actually detracted from it.  Yet, at the end of The Front (1976), when Howard Prince, the bookie who fronted for blacklisted screenwriters in the 1950s, tells a Congressional committee to do something physically impossible, that language fits the context nicely.  Those witch hunters, who trampled upon civil liberties, deserved such contempt.

My social ethics, being rooted in the Old and New Testaments, emphasize building up the common good.  I do not seek a society in which all content is G-rated, but I do desire a society in which profanity is scarce.  This is a matter of a revolution of moral values, of people thinking about others more often.

Furthermore, needlessly profanity indicates linguistic laziness.  One can make potent points using words repeatable in polite society. Doing so might even be eloquent.  Among my favorite movies is The Brothers O’Toole (1973), an underrated gem.  In one scene Michael O’Toole, portrayed by the great John Astin, wins a cussing contest he never entered.  He wins without using one curse word:

I have, in my time, visited three political conventions, four sessions of congress, and two homes for the criminally insane. I have known army generals, steam doctors, vegetarians, prohibitionists, and a female suffragette. But never, even in an Orangeman’s Day parade, have I seen such pure and stainless brainlessness as I now behold in you. The Almighty, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, has given the worm enough sense to turn with, and the barnacle can grasp whatever happens to be standing by. But you are equipped with a mental capacity smaller than you were born with. Here we are, benighted in the middle of a nowhere named Molly-Be-Damn – a dreary little rookery, Timothy, a squalid sty, a festering pustule on the face of the western slope. Bless the town and bless the people! Look at them – the rabble of this cantankerous community! Knaves and fools, louts and lardheads, the least of all God’s creatures, without enough push to pick the fleas off each other, abiding in putrefaction and inertia, curled up comfy in it like hogs in a mud hole! And while I, of all people, fret and sweat for a way to pull these Simple Simons out of the bog, you stand around making flatulent noises for the titillation of the vulgar mob. And while he’s bubbling himself, what are you doing, you pusillanimous pack of popcorn pickers? You clattered clutch of clucks? The town dilapidating around you, coasting downhill in a handcart to Hell while you stand about gaping for flies and going patty-cake with your hands!…All right, all right, all right! Fine! Keep it, and treasure it the way it is! For when all this trash has collapsed into one pile, and the howling wilderness has claimed its own again, I want you hicks to be happy, belching and spitting, laughing and singing, swinging from tree to tree, with your friend Soapy Sam here, the Uriah Heep of the hookworm belt, standing around below waiting to steal anything that falls to the ground. If a nut should drop and fall – leave it lying there. It’s probably my little brother Timothy.

That is much better than swearing frequently and publicly, is it not?

The coarsening of the mainstream of any society is detrimental to that society.  It lowers the bar and harms the morals of people.  This coarsening degrades the sense of public and private decency.  This is reversible, fortunately.  After all, society is people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Grace Demanding a Decision   1 comment

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Above:  A Roman Oil Lamp

Image Source = Rama

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The Collect:

Lord God, with endless mercy you receive

the prayers of all who call upon you.

By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do,

and give us the grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 22:3-20 (Monday)

2 Kings 23:1-8, 21-25 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:105-112 (both days)

Romans 11:2-10 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 4:1-12 (Tuesday)

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Your word is a lantern to my feet

and a light to my path.

I have sworn and determined

to keep your righteous judgments.

I am deeply troubled; preserve my life,

O LORD, according to your word.

Accept, O LORD, the willing tribute of my lips,

and teach me your judgments.

My life is always in my hand,

yet I do not forget your law.

The wicked have set a trap for me,

but I have not strayed from your commandments.

Your decrees are my inheritance forever;

truly, they are the joy of my heart.

I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes,

forever and to the end.

–Psalm 119:105-112, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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One of the recurring biblical themes is the coexistence of divine mercy and judgment.  It is evident in 2 Kings, where King Josiah deferred yet did not cancel out via national holiness (however fleeting) the consequences of successive generations of national depravity and disregard for holiness.  The Hollywood tacked-on happy ending, in the style of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) after the studio took the film away from Orson Welles, would have been for forgiveness to wipe away everything.  Yet judgment came–just later than scheduled previously.

I would like to be a Universalist–a Christian Universalist, to be precise.  Yet that would be a false choice.  No matter how much grace exists in Jesus, the reality of the Incarnation does demand a response to the question,

Who do we say Jesus is?

(Thanks to Professor Phillip Cary, in his Teaching Company course on the History of Christian Theology for making the point that the Synoptic Gospels pose that question to audiences.)  And, as C. H. Dodd, while explaining Realized Eschatology in The Founder of Christianity, wrote of Jesus in that book:

In his words and actions he made men aware of [the kingdom of God] and challenged them to respond.  It was “good news” in the sense that it meant opportunity for a new start and an unprecedented enrichment of experience.  But when a person (or society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it, he is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter….The coming of the kingdom meant the open opportunity of enhancement of life; it also meant the heightening of moral responsibility.

–1970 Macmillan paperback edition, page 58

So, regardless of the number of challenges and severity thereof we might face due to our fidelity to God, may we find encouragement to continue to follow Christ, our Lord and Savior, who suffered to the point of death and overcame that obstacle.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD; AND SAINT JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF VIDA DUTTON SCUDDER, WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Things to Come   1 comment

Judgment Bus

Above:  Judgment Day May 21 Vehicle

Image Source = Bart Everson

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Judgment_Bus_New_Orleans_2011.jpg)

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 65:17-25 and Canticle 9 (Isaiah 12:2-6)

or 

Malachi 4:-1-2a and Psalm 98

then 

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Luke 21:5-19

The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Links:

Proper 28, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/proper-28-year-a/

Proper 28, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/proper-28-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twenty-sixth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twenty-sixth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twenty-sixth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Isaiah 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-22/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/fifteenth-day-of-advent-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/week-of-proper-28-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-24-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-24-thursday-year-2/

Isaiah 65:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-third-day-of-lent/

Malachi 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/week-of-proper-22-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/devotion-for-september-26-and-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

2 Thessalonians 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/week-of-proper-16-wednesday-year-2/

Luke 21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/devotion-for-the-forty-eighth-and-forty-ninth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/devotion-for-the-fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/week-of-proper-29-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/week-of-proper-29-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-year-2/

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thingstocome_wells_onset

Above:  A Scene from Things to Come (1936)

Image Source = http://markbourne.blogspot.com/2010/11/things-to-come-1936-hg-wells-explains.html

H. G. Wells (1866-1946) wrote The Shape of Things to Come (1933), a story about the destruction of civilization in a long, global war and the rebirth of civilization afterward.  Three years later audiences had an opportunity to watch the film version, Things to Come, complete with allegedly futuristic costumes.  (Apparently fashions will be very bad in the future, according to many movies.)

Proper 28 is the penultimate Sunday of the Western Christian church year.  The next Sunday will be Christ the King Sunday, followed a week later by the First Sunday in Advent.  So it is appropriate that apocalyptic readings occupy part of our time this Sunday.  Before God can create the new heaven and the new earth (Isaiah 65:17f)–paradise on earth–God must destroy that which is in place already and works against the goodness which is waiting to dawn upon people.  That current darkness will not go gently into the good night, so those who follow God must prepare themselves to lead spiritually disciplined lives and to suffer persecution, although the latter is not universal; the former is a universal mandate, though.  And, when, God destroys the old and evil in favor of the new and the good, God will deliver the faithful.

These events have yet to occur.  Examples of failed predictions of their timing range from the first century CE to recent years.  Something about the End Times grabs holds of many imaginations, frequently with idiotic results.  One who predicts the Second Coming of Jesus by a certain time might acknowledge the previous failed prophecies yet think that he could not possibly join the ranks of false prophets–until he does.  My library contains a 1979 book and a thrift store find, Christ Returns By 1988, by Colin Hoyle Deal.  And how can I forget the failed prophecies of the late Harold Camping?  The passage of time has rendered its verdict on both men.

May we leave End Times to God alone and lead spiritually disciplined lives by which we affect each other positively.  May our spiritually discipline compel us to leave our portion of the world better than we found it.  May we live for God’s glory and the benefit of others first, for our Lord and Savior came to serve, not to be served.  May we follow Jesus while we have breath.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS CARACCIOLO, COFOUNDER OF THE MINOR CLERKS REGULAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/proper-28-year-c/

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Proper Priorities   1 comment

citizen-kane

Above:  Some of the Possessions of Charles Foster Kane, from Citizen Kane

(A Screen Capture)

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 11:1-11 and Psalm 107:1-9, 43

or 

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23 and Psalm 49:1-11

then 

Colossians 3:1-11

Luke 12:13-21

The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 13, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/proper-13-year-a/

Proper 13, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/proper-13-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eleventh-sunday-after-pentecos/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-eleventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

Hosea 11:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/week-of-proper-9-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-9-friday-year-2/

Ecclesiastes 1-2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-24-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-25-and-26-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Colossians 3:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-a-principal-service/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-c-principal-service/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/week-of-proper-18-wednesday-year-1/

Luke 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-1/

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Citizen Kane is a wonderful film, one which many younger viewers, accustomed to a different, faster-paced style of cinema find intolerable.  That is their loss.  The movie ends with Charles Foster Kane having died recently.  His business empire is gone and his mansion is full of material goods which mean nothing to those burning them.

And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?

–Luke 12:20b, New Revised Standard Version

Night Prayer from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) contains the following words near the ritual’s beginning:

It is but lost labour that we haste to rise up early,

and so late take rest, and eat the bread of anxiety.

For those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.

–page 167

Proper priorities matter.  Appropriate work provides one with an opportunity for self-fulfillment and economic independence while doing something beneficial to others.  It is about the “we,” not just “me.”  Such work is something worth enjoying.  And everything which destroys or damages that which is best in others and in oneself one must not nurture.  Or, as Rumi wrote in A Basket of Fresh Bread:

Stay bewildered in God,

and only that.

Those of you who are scattered,

simplify your worrying lives.  There is one

righteousness:  Water the fruit trees,

and don’t water the thorns.  Be generous

to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous

reason-light.  Don’t honor what causes

dysentery and knotted-up tumors.

Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.

The spirit and the body carry different loads.

Too often

we put saddlebags on Jesus and let the donkey

run loose in the pasture.

Don’t make the body do

what the spirit does best, and don’t put a big load

on the spirit that the body could carry easily.

–Translated by Coleman Barks; from The Essential Rumi (1995), page 256

God, who loves us, longs to show us mercy.  Yet our actions will have consequences.  What we sow, we will also reap.  May we sow righteousness and focus on that which is positive and long-lasting.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDWARD THE CONFESSOR, KING OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WAYNE JUSTICE, JURIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/proper-13-year-c/

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Metropolis (1927)   Leave a comment

metropolis-1927-shift-change

Above:  Shift Change from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture I Took

METROPOLIS (1927)

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Thea von Harbou

To say that Metropolis is a classic and influential film is to understate reality greatly; immediately I recognize echoes of it in the works of James Whale (Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein), George Lucas (Star Wars, sequels, and prequels), and Ridley Scott (Blade Runner).  Scholars of cinema can and do create long lists of influences and subsequent homages.  And to state that those who butchered the movie (even destroying cut scenes) shortly after the movie’s debut were blooming idiots is to claim the obvious as true.  Fortunately, a nearly complete restored version (finished in 2010) is available.

There are versions of the movie available for home viewing.  I have the 2001 restored version (with about 3/4 of the movie present) and the 2010 restored version (with 99% of the footage included).  Alas, two scenes are, to the best of current knowledge, beyond salvage, so intertitles summarizing them will have to suffice.  Each of these versions–the Restored Authorized Version of 2001 and the Complete Metropolis of 2010–has different and helpful special features, so I recommend owning both if one is a cinephile.  The commentary track on the 2001 version is quite informative, for example, as is the documentary included with the 2010 edition.

This is a religious blog, so I choose to leave most aspects of the movie to already extant websites (such as http://www.metropolis1927.com/ and http://www.filmsite.org/metr.html ), which cover that ground quite well as I ponder some of the movie’s spiritual connections.  A film in which a city leader rules from the New Tower of Babel (a reference to Genesis 11:1-9), people read from the Book of Revelation (with references to the Whore of Babylon from chapters 17 and 19), and the leader’s son must serve as the mediator between the head (the ruler) and the hands (the oppressed workers) calls out for theological analysis.

Thea von Harbou’s story is set in an unnamed European city in 2026.  Urban elites live in skyscraper penthouses and play in the Eternal Gardens.  Meanwhile, those who built the city and who keep it functioning live hard lives, work ten-hour shifts, and occupy subterranean homes.  Joh Fredersen, the ruthless industrialist who governs the city, considers this arrangement just; the workers are, he says,

Where they belong.

His son, Freder, is naively unaware of the plight of the “other half” until Maria, the prophet of the working class, brings some of the workers’ barefoot children, clad in rags, to the Eternal Gardens and shows them their

brothers and sisters.

The butler shoos them away, of course.  But Freder begins to search the city in search of the woman with whom he has just fallen in love.  He does find her eventually, but not before he witnesses and experiences the harsh industrial conditions.  And he begins to realize his destiny to function as the mediator who will avert the violent overthrow of his father’s regime and who will create justice for the workers.

Some characters are inexact analogs for biblical figures.

Freder Fredersen is the Christ figure.  Not only is he the mediator, but he is crucified on a clock in one scene in which he takes a worker’s place.

If Freder Fredersen is the Christ figure, his father Joh is the YHWH figure.  If one reads the Hebrew Scriptures closely, one realizes that YHWH is not always nice.  Joh does approve of the workers’ rebellion so that he can crush it, eliminate troublemakers, and rule with an even more iron fist; he is an unsympathetic character.  Meanwhile, back in the Old Testament, depictions of YHWH are sometimes unpleasant; YHWH does send plagues and pestilences upon innocent populations more than once.  (See Exodus 7:14-12:32 and 2 Samuel 24:10-17, for example.)

Above:  Rotwang shows Joh Frederson the “Machine Man”

Rotwang, the inventor and prototypical cinematic mad scientist, is the Satan figure.  He pursues his own agenda and desires to undermine Joh.  Rotwang almost succeeds.

The movie portrays inhumane industrial conditions as idolatry.  In one scene Freder witnesses an industrial accident which claims human casualties.   He imagines the machine as Moloch/Molech, the Ammonite deity mentioned in 1 Kings 11:7 and 2 Kings 23:10, and experiences a hallucination of the machine consuming willing and unwilling human sacrifices.

Alas, the film’s conclusion does seem like a too-convenient deus ex machina, one which leaves the oppressive Joh Fredersen in charge.  But perhaps he will change his ways; nobody is beyond repentance and redemption, right?

Metropolis, despite its inconsistencies, is a staggering achievement and a masterpiece, one worthy of thoughtful appreciation and analysis beyond its obvious technical excellence.  This is not a story of the violent overthrow of the dictatorial and insensitive regime. Rather, the aborted uprising is the work of Rotwang, the Satan analog, who seeks to overthrow Joh, and of Joh, who wants to use the opportunity for his own purposes, only to find that they backfire on him.  So the politics of the film are inconsistent.  One might guess, based on the early scenes, that the ending might be different:  Freder and Maria overthrow Joh, with the screenwriter’s approval.  But no!

Yet the movie is what it is.  And the theme of social justice, especially that of the economic variety, is consistent with the ethos of the Hebrew prophets.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENEVIEVE, PROPHET

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA