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Midrash on the Beach

One of the things I love most about preaching is the opportunity to imagine between the lines of a story. I can’t resist a chance to illuminate the scene and characters from my own imagination. The Bible is often sparse in its literary detail, to put it lightly – I mean, come on, parchment is expensive! We can’t be wasting space with frivolous details, like the names of women and whatnot! But more often than not, my own imagination falls far short of the real beauty and complexity of the lives that must have been lived between the lines of those ancient pages.

That’s where a good book, movie, podcast, painting, or other creative effort comes to the rescue. 

As you head out into your summer, why not bring along a great book or download a new show to help expand your preaching imagination? Here are are few Biblical-story-retold favorites from some of our members and friends:

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Worship Bloopers

In times of solemnity, we have all heard things or said things that were unintentionally hilarious.

I recently watched the movie “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”  I found the romantic leads to be one-dimensional, and the movie wasn’t particularly funny, with the exception of one scene. Rowan Atkinson, a British actor most famous for depicting Mr. Bean on screen, is a nervous priest officiating one of the weddings. His scene had me hooting, and he ended his first prayer by saying, “…who reigns with you and the Holy Goat,” before self-correcting and saying “uh, er, Holy Ghost.”

The anxiety of Rowan Atkinson as priest is squirm-inducing and the wedding guests stare at him intently, their anxiety increasing as they await his next malapropism. He makes many, including asking the groom to repeat after him that he promises to take the bride “to be my awful wedded wife.” The groom modifies the words to say, “lawfully wedded wife.” “That’s right,” the priest admits, before rushing to end the service (and the end of his misery!) by concluding, “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spigot …Spirit. Amen.”

Movies, of course, tend to hyperbolize the mistakes made by a character for comedic effect, but there was enough truth in that scene of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” to make it memorable to me. I’m sure many of us could share stories of things that we have heard or things we have said in times of solemnity that were unintentionally hilarious. One pastor told me that she accidentally called God “immoral” instead of “immortal.” One male colleague at my last church told me that he was ministering to a family before a funeral, and he suggested chlamydia as a good choice for the flower arrangement (unfortunately, chlamydia is not a flower; it’s an STD).

My Dad went to a wedding in the 1970s. The officiating pastor was elderly, and it was a hot August day, and there was no air-conditioning in the church. Who knows whether it was the heat, the pastor’s age, or some other factor, but the pastor was not with it. During the vows, the pastor said, “Do you, Larry…” and the matron-of-honor (who was the bride’s sister) whispered loudly to him, “Earl!  His name is Earl!” The pastor then said, “Do you, Larry Earl, take this woman, Edna…?” The bride’s name was Linda. No one corrected him this time, and everyone joked afterwards about whether the couple were actually married since the pastor never got their names right.

When my Grandpa Art turned 80 years old, his children and grandchildren gave him as a present a new suit. He wore it to church the following Sunday, and we all sat in the pew with him as the pastor said during the announcement time, “We’re so happy to see Art this morning in his birthday suit.” The pastor caught his mistake immediately, and he blushed deeply. The laughter that followed was not directed at him, however, but rather with him; the laughter was—as grace is—warm and generous. Grace abounds.

Because grace is abundant and laughter does us good, I invite you to share your own stories in the comments section below. What are some examples of verbal bloopers in your pastoral context?

My Sisters, the Ghostbusters

345487149_9a3d3e1b2a_zWhen the Ghostbusters reboot was announced, I was pretty sure I’d want to see it, at least when it came out on streaming: I love the first movie. But when the hullaballoo over an all-female cast hit social media, I knew I’d be there with bells on. Even if the stars had been women other than Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, and Kristen Wiig, all of whom I find incredibly funny, I was ready to support my sisters in this movie.

I say “sisters” deliberately, because for about a decade now, I’ve been convinced that comedy has become the dominant secular prophetic voice in North America. Depending on which sociologist you consult, I’m either a very young Gen Xer or a very old Millennial, and for people in my age bracket, the desk of a comedy host (Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, SNL “Weekend Update”) has become the closest thing there is to a pulpit. And I feel a special kinship with the current generation of female comedians who, if they’re not my sisters, are at least my cousins.

And if a group of men were going to get cranky about the Ghostbusters cast as women? Well, you’ve got to support family. Count me in for opening night! Read more

Jesus on the Big Screen

Movie Reels

Movie Reels

While I was serving as a camp chaplain this summer, a young woman asked me if I could recommend a Jesus movie. Her question surprised me at first: I wasn’t aware of a demand for Jesus films from teenagers. But we were at the end of a very deep conversation about her faith, and she was at a tender and critical moment in her journey. I wanted to make sure I recommended the right one.

As I racked my brains for just the right Jesus movie, I realized that she was seeking more than just a cinematic experience. Her generation, more than any other, is one that gathers its information from online media, especially videos. While books, plays, and other forms of art and entertainment provided connection and conveyed meaning for past generations, she and her peers turn to video sources like YouTube, Hulu, and Netflix for those needs. This teenager was asking for more than just information: she was asking for a way she could connect and relate to Jesus.

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