Save the date: A Gathering of communities on December 21
The night will include a progressive journey through a candle-lit house, engaging in various traditions and ways of celebrating God With Us.
Place: 299 E. 13
9th Street, the Bronx. One block from 3rd Ave./138th Street stop on the 6 train
Date/Time: Wednesday December 21, 7-9:30 pm
What to expect
Each room of the the house will offer a unique way to engage, from art and music to contemplation and tradition. Expect to journey and engage in small groups as you move from room to room, then to have a time of pot-luck foods, celebration and getting to know each other at a central room at the end. Expect to meet people from living-together communities and worshipping communities around the city, as well as with our friends and neighbors in the South Bronx.
How to participate
Bring a pot-luck dish if you can. Come as a community, as a family, or as an individual. Bring friends! An RSVP by Dec. 19 would be helpful. I”ll send out one more reminder closer to the date.
How to contribute
We would like the 4 to 7 rooms to be facilitated by folks from different communities, nationalities and traditions! A room might include:
Christmas traditions and foods from a particular country or culture, or
worship through the creation of art or music, or
contemplative writings, lyrics or images, or
a provocative and challenging engagement around issues of justice and brotherly love
If you, or your community, are willing to facilitate a room, please email transmissionchurch [at] gmail by December 7.
Like the kids in Glee, being part of a musical theater group in middle and high school helped me find a place where I fit in. And growing up a priest’s daughter, being in Godspell at age 14 made me feel like Jesus could be fun and cool.
Godspell shaped my teenage theology. There are still passages of Matthew that I hear and think of the corresponding Godspell scene, joke, or song; lyrics I see in the Episcopal hymnal and my mind clicks over to the Stephen Schwarz melody.
Godspell is an ensemble piece about Jesus’ love for his people, their love for him, and how Jesus teaches them to love each other (above money, hypocrisy, grievances, etc). “Come sing about Love! That made us first to be. Come sing about Love! That made the stone and tree. Come sing about Love! That draws us lovingly.” “So thank the Lord, Oh thank the Lord for all his love.” “Day by day, Three things I pray: To see thee more clearly, Love thee more dearly, Follow thee
more nearly, Day by day.” It’s sincere and simple (very little modern-day irony or Broadway glitz).
I really did love the rest of my troupe in the Olean Theater Workshop when I was 14 and twenty years later, we’re still friends, many now parents, some in ministry, spread-out and in touch via Facebook.
The show was already twenty years old when I was in it in the 90s. I used to listen to my parent’s copy of the original Broadway soundtrack on vinyl.
I knew the new production would need to improve upon the thousands of high school, college, and community theater productions out there for it to be worthy of a Broadway revival. And it was. Amazing. It kept most of the beloved original material, yet felt completely fresh with up-to-date cultural references and dance moves.
In last night’s production, lines struck me with new power. Lyrics resonated deeper. I cried, laughed, and clapped (in that order).
A few people I went with commented that Jesus was blond and John the Baptist/Judas was black, but I was struck by the diversity of the rest of the young cast: Latino, Asian, African American, Jewish, gay, straight, thick and thin. They looked like NYC and America. And it felt like they really loved each other.
In a Playbill interview about Godspell, composer and lyricist Stephen Schwarz says, “there’s a joy that comes from the story and also from the theatrical experience… actors and energy and words and music and the exhilaration that the theatre provides.”
I pray this production runs a long, long time, so that a new generation can be exhilarated by a fun, cool Jesus musical. And I want to go back once or twice more!
So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” — exodus 32:2-4
just to refresh your memory if you have forgotten the story, God and Moses are not at all happy with this and bicker like a pair of exhausted parents:
God says those are “Your people who YOU brought up out of Egypt.” and tells Moses to stand aside.
But Moses says oh no honey, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?
thankfully Moses wins this argument, but the major issues at stake don”t seem to have changed for 4000 years.
What we worship matters.
when we worship what we build with our own gold, we forget about the love of God who frees us from all kinds of slavery. We look to wealth and security as real things, but they have no more power to liberate us than a golden idol.
0;width: 0″>икониRELIGION- a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies…
A few nights ago, I was at an East Village bar with some friends and we
started giving our take on Terrence Malick”s love-it or hate-it epic The Tree of Life. When someone mentioned that it depicts the creation of the universe, Sharon, a young photographer, asked, “Is it a religious film?” her friend Mike immediately said, “No” as if that very idea would be insulting. “No no,” Mike said, “Malick”s background is in philosophy, guys like Heidegger and all that. He”s into asking metaphysical questions.”
I now think that Mike was way off, and that the Tree of Life is an intensely religious film. It”s just not necessarily a very Christian film, or at least what one might expect of that label.
“The Tree of Life” is about a Christian family in the 1950s, as remembered by their eldest son Jack (played by Hunter McCracken.) Christianity is a huge part of the family”s life, though each parent emphasizes different aspects of religion . Mother (Jessica Chastain) raises her sons to live with grace, love and selflessness, while The Father (Brad Pitt) demands discipline and obedience and teaches them to be suspicious of the evil in the world. That conflict brews confusion and resentment in the children, over how they ought live.
Above all this is the central question hovering over the film, which is the question at the heart of every religion. It”s the question we ask when we go to church, synagogue or mosque, when we kneel down to pray, or when burdens fall on us-”Where is God?”
This is the question that haunts Jack as he grows up in a home supposedly infused by Christianity but filled with violence and fear. It”s what his mother demands to know when one of her sons dies. It”s what his father fears to ask as he watches his dreams start to crumble.
Where the film loses its Christian thread is when Malick tries to answer the question. Instead of somehow making a case for Christianity, Malick argues that God is all around us, in creation. To make the point, he starts the film with a graphic showing God”s words to Job:
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?..When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?” JOB 38:4-7
He then follows this with a film version of the beginning of the Genesis story: 25 minutes showing the creation of the cosmos, set to a background of hyms and requiems.
However just like God”s response to Job, Malick”s answer is unsatisfying. Showing the divinity of creation doesn”t answer WHY God allows us to suffer, why he allows evil in the world and good people to be punished. And when Malick tries to go further, showing images of an “Earth Mother” reaching out to The Mother in grief, or a beach where all people from all time meet, his images become as vague and frustrating as they are beautiful.
In the end, the Tree of Life works best as a coming-of-age story, as Jack struggles to grow from both his father”s fearful discipline and his mother”s selfless grace. His bigger questions about the presence of God are definitely worth asking, but Malick”s answers seem so far outside the lives of his characters that they ring untrue to the story.
Even with its imperfections, though, The Tree Of Life remains one of the most visually stunning and affecting films I”ve ever seen. It absolutely will leave you frustrated with unanswered questions about the nature of God and the universe, but the very fact that I could leave the film in that state is proof of its power.
I have walked out of church on Sunday on many occasions, feeling numb, my mind on brunch or the afternoon”s activities. Many pastors spend a lifetime trying to get their congregations to leave their doors with an impassioned curiosity about God and humanity. Malick has accomplished that here, along with creating a visual masterpiece.
This weekend, I and four other Transmissioners made our way to the Wild Goose festival out at the Shakori Hills farm in North Carolina. It was a weekend celebration of Christian social justice efforts, with music, readings, lots of talks, artwork, great food, and plenty of time to both contemplate and refresh ourselves in our effort to grow closer to God and better love our neighbors. I”m sure there will be many more posts about the festival itself later on, but I just wanted to write about an interesting encounter I just had whose occurrence I directly attribute to the energetic and nurturing spirit of the festival.
I was on the train to work this morning, and a few stops into Midtown Manhattan came a preacher woman. A black Caribbean woman in a lovely brown summer dress talking — or more like shouting — about the blood of Jesus, and the fires of hell.
Now I don”t know about you but I”m not a huge fan of subway car preachers, or subway car musicians. I get annoyed even when people play their IPods too loudly. It”s not their activity: it”s the fact that they are invading the space of me and those other passengers. It”s one thing to enter a subway station with someone standing there – you can choose to stand further away from them. But the only way to get away from one of these subway preachers is to leave the car, and sometimes lose your seat.
Just as I was contemplating leaving, suddenly something released in me. I started waving my hands in the air, yelled out “Preach it sister!” and “Amen!” like I was the congregation at her church.
As she went on pointing at people in the crowd and talking about repentance, I got up and began singing “This Little Light Of Mine”.” As she recited passages about the gnashing of teeth, I recited passages about avoiding worry, and considering the lilies of the field. The crowd actually began laughing and smiling listening to our dueling sermons.
The woman finally confronted me after a minute or two of trying to avoid me.
She:The blood of Jesus rebukes you.
Me- I just had the blood of Jesus three days ago at a Christian conference, along with the body of Jesus.She: You have a religious demon inside of yuo.
I-I”ve got Jesus in me, just like you do! Let”s work together on this! You get more flies with honey than with vinegar!
I began to see a small smile begin to spread on her face, and I began singing “Let the Circle Be Unbroken.”
Then a funny and miraculous thing happened. The woman continued and as she did, I heard that her words were
changing. She went from preaching about hell and repentance, to talking about how Jesus told us to love one another and that we can be saved by faith, and through our faith, good works will arise. She started talking about Jesus” yoke being easy and his burden light. And suddenly this time when I said “preach it sister!” i wasn”t joking at all. She was now preaching a word of light to the people there.
I”m not sure how I feel about hell, but I know that the damnation argument has always seemed a cruel way to convert people to faith. Fear is a great motivator, but it”s disappointing when that”s the best we can do to bring people to God. And seeing how this woman went from preaching on the fires of hell, to preaching about the love of Jesus was truly inspiring.
I don”t know to what degree I played a role in that: perhaps she already had the love of Jesus part planned after the hell and damnation. All I know is that as we left that train car, and I looked at the smiling faces of the passengers, that we had lifted some spirits.
This is the great thing about the Holy Spirit: it has no limits. It can be just as strong in a sweaty New York subway car as on the green pastures of North Carolina.