Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Mar
27

rc-bell

From the autobiography of R. C. Bell.

“Under the influence of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding, I soon saw that Paul’s description of some who would hold a form of doctrine, but deny its power, fit me. Especially, Brother Harding’s living, magnetic, contagious faith in God as a real personal friend matched the wavelength of my spirit. I slowly enough imbibed his enthusiasm for God’s fatherly care of individual Christians, for Christ’s brotherly sympathy and fellowship with them, and for the empowering Holy Spirit’s residence in them. In other words, for Brother Harding’s conception of Christianity as a “divine-human encounter,” in which spiritual communion between God and man, the sweetest of human experiences, was enjoyed.”

“I gradually came to realize, however, that the spiritual power of the church was contingent upon the actual personal presence and working of the triune God in and through Christians. More and more the conviction grew on me that Brother Harding’s interpretation of Christianity, which was Paul’s too, was needed to save the church from being merely a human organization with a formula to follow, a prayer to recite, and a dull, demagnetized program to render; with professional preachers in her pulpit mechanically saying dead words detached from the living realities of which they spoke, dealing in trite moralizing, threadbare platitudes, and heartless preaching about the heart and passion of Christ. This kind of a church instead of being the divine organism, instinct with the life and power of God, as designed by her Founder! In short, Brother Harding’s interpretation was needed to save the church from changing divine dynamics to human mechanics.”

Advertisements
Mar
26

DT10248

The soldier walked up to the condemned man’s side 

To test his wounds to assure he died 

When his spear came up the sky it cried 

The earth moaned and split open wide 



I can’t explain everything I saw 

When the water fell I felt it fall 

I held the feet of a Nazarene 

My hands are stained I want them clean

- Mike Mangione, Hands Are Stained

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) These are powerful words uttered by the apostle Paul. Think about being so devoted that you are only focused on knowing one thing. Paul understood the significance of the cross of Christ. He understood that everything else is meaningless without the cross. The cross shapes our lives as Christians. It is a lens in which we see the world. It is the means of our salvation. This is why we say the cross is central to the Christian faith. Without the cross there would be no Christianity.

Since the cross is so vital, it is important to consider how we view it. Scripture speaks of the cross in different ways. Jesus is glorified on the cross. When he is lifted up, he draws all people to himself. Our salvation is dependent upon the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice is the greatest act of love this world has ever known. At the same time, it is also a torture device, a cruel means of punishment. Those who hang on a cross are cursed. The cross reminds us of everything that is wrong with the world. An innocent man was crucified because it was the will of the people. The cross can be viewed in different ways depending on which Scripture is being emphasized. The beauty of the cross and the ugliness of the cross are both important. We learn important lessons from each of them, and we must be mindful that we do not neglect either view.

In our culture, we tend to emphasize the positive elements of the cross. We see it as a symbol of salvation. We wear it as jewelry, and we decorate our walls with it. Many people probably look at a cross nowadays and never think about death. They may not even realize that the cross was once a torture device. We don’t like to think about death or suffering. We would rather focus on all the blessings we get from the cross and skip over the pain and agony that Jesus endured. There will be ministers in America that preach on the resurrection this Sunday without ever mentioning the cross. How is that possible? The reason Jesus has to be resurrected is because he was crucified on a cross. The two events go hand and hand, but some people are so focused on the positive that they will not mention Jesus dying for the sins of the world. This is a problem. There is no gospel without the crucified Savior.

Before we hear the good news of the resurrection, we must spend time meditating on the sacrifice of the cross. One of the greatest meditations on the cross was written before Jesus ever took on flesh and walked this earth.

He was despised and rejected by men,

a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs

and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:3-5)

These are strong words. Jesus was despised and rejected. Think about that. The God of the Universe was despised by the people he came to save. The Creator was rejected by his creation, and yet that did not even stop him. His love for us is so great that he continued with his mission. He died for us, and we need to recognize the pain and agony Jesus endured on our behalf. From the cross, he cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the cry of one who has been rejected, one who has been despised.

Jesus’ cry from the cross is a lament. Isaiah says Jesus is a man of sorrows. Jesus came face to face with everything that is wrong with the world. He was an innocent man that was put to death. The cross shows us what humanity is capable of. We will torture an innocent man. We will put to death the very person who comes to help us. I say “we” because we are all implicated in the death of Jesus. He died for our sins. When we read the accounts of the crucifixion, we should picture ourselves in the crowd as they chant “Crucify him!”

As Jesus looks out upon this scene, he becomes a man of sorrows. These people who bear the image of God have turned their backs on the living God. They have spit in his face. They have mocked him and called for his death. The despised and rejected Jesus laments what has happened to humanity. He grieves what the world has become. This is a terrible scene, but it’s not the only scene like this. Humanity has not gotten any better. This world has not changed much in 2,000 years. Jesus continues to lament the circumstances of our day, and sometimes we are even a part of it. We are responsible for the ugliness that is present in our world. We sin. We fall short. This does not cause Jesus to love us any less. Paul tells us in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Jesus loves us no matter what, but he laments when we do not live as we ought to live.

Jesus does more than lament. Isaiah says he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. One of the most radical things to ever happen was that God took on flesh. He was born. He walked this earth. He had a physical body just like you and I. This was difficult for people to wrap their mind around in Jesus’ day. One of the first heresies the church had to deal with was the belief that Jesus did not come in the flesh. This heresy pops up while there were still living eyewitnesses to Jesus, people who touched him and ate with him. Why would people deny that Jesus had a physical body? It is easier to explain a spiritual god, than it is a God who bleeds and dies. This was mind blowing to the ancient world. We have grown accustom to this fact, but it is still just as incredible. God bled for us. He was pierced for us. He died for us.

Jesus was aware of what was going on while all of this cruelty was taking place. If this were to happen to one of us. We would object. We would protest. We would scream and fight. Jesus does none of this. He is despised and rejected. He is beaten. He is nailed to a cross, and what does he do? He says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) All of this is an act of love. The cross is both horrific and beautiful. When we meditate upon the cross, we should feel the weight of our sins. It was our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross! We are responsible. We are guilty. We had a hand in the greatest act of injustice this world has ever known. How can we live with ourselves? We can live with ourselves because as we are overwhelmed with our sin, we also remember that it is at the cross that our sins are taken away. Our sins put Jesus on the cross, but it was Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that takes them away. Jesus’ love is greater than our sin.

The cross also helps us overcome our sin because it reminds us how we are to live. Why do we sin? What is the cause of most of our sin? It is selfishness. We are thinking of ourselves rather than thinking of others. We choose our desires and pleasures over love. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate act of love. It was complete and total unselfishness. Jesus gave himself. He gave his body for you and me. Becoming a Christian means we receive the benefits of the cross, but it also means the cross becomes our way of life. We give up our sinful ways. We turn away from selfishness and we begin to live for others just as Jesus did. The cross gives us a brand new lifestyle. It invites us to live for something bigger than ourselves. This new mission brings us joy and happiness because we transition from being inward focused to being outward focused.

It is important that we acknowledge the suffering and death of Jesus because if we don’t, we miss out on one of the greatest blessings of the cross. When we think of the cross, we often focus on salvation. On the cross, the Father was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Salvation is central to the message of the cross, but it is not the only blessing associated with the cross. Jesus suffers and dies and because of this he enters into our own suffering and death. This means we are never alone.

One of the greatest questions ever posed is “Why do we suffer?” This is a question that all of us ask at some point in our life. We all suffer and we all want to know why. This is a difficult question to answer. It is a complex question and it deserves a complex answer. It is not to be taken lightly. At the same time, we must recognize that the answer to the question of suffering is not an answer but a person. Jesus enters into our suffering. Whenever we suffer, he is there. He is present with us. He understands our pain. He knows what it is like. We never suffer alone.

The cross is good news, but it is also important that we spend time reflecting on everything Jesus did for us. We must not skip over the pain, rejection, and death just to get to all the benefits. If we move too quickly, we miss out on all that Jesus has to offer. We know too well that life is not a bed of roses. It is a journey with peaks and valleys. We need to know that Jesus walks with us no matter if we are on a mountaintop or in the valley of the shadow of death. Reflecting on the cross will prepare us for the moments of pain and suffering that we all face.

Isaiah says that Jesus was a man of sorrows. This was not the only emotion he felt, but it was one of them. Too often in our modern culture, we try our best to avoid sorrow and lament. Although the psalms are filled with laments, they are absent from our hymnbooks. The people of God have sung laments for thousands of years and we have only recently decided they are not necessary. Lament is an important part of our faith. We experience suffering and tragedy that deserves our lament. We know there are things not right in our world and this should cause us to lament. On the cross, Jesus turns to Psalm 22, a lament.

As we prepare for the celebration of the resurrection, I think it is important that we first focus on the events that lead us to that glorious moment. We should reflect on what those early believers felt as they watched Jesus being crucified. We should meditate on the wounds of our Savior. We should spend time thinking about the cross, so that when we come together on Sunday what we experience will be a true celebration.

Dec
21

StockSnap_0QPA5BW4MV

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

One of the many things I love about Churches of Christ is our devotion to truth. We seek a Biblical reason for everything we do. We are cautious about traditions introduced after the first century. We are not opposed to them. We have adopted traditions from others and created some of our own. These include Bible classes, VBS, midweek services, individual communion cups, etc. However, we seek to have a reason based on Scripture for every tradition we hold.

There have been differing views in Churches of Christ regarding Christmas. Some believe that Christmas should not be celebrated because the Bible does not command it, nor does it provide the date for Jesus’ birth. Others see it as a great opportunity to teach their children about the birth of Christ and talk to their neighbors about Jesus. I understand both of these views, but I also believe there are some excellent reasons why Christians should celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas.

For many in Churches of Christ, the question is not “Should we celebrate Christmas?” That question has already been answered. Our homes are decorated with colorful lights and a Christmas tree. We buy presents and often speak of that jolly old elf from the north. We have no problem embracing the secular aspects of Christmas. The issue is if we should say anything about Jesus or if we should sing songs about his birth. This can be confusing for non-Christians. Why would those who profess Christ shun the spiritual side of Christmas and embrace the worldly parts of Christmas? Aren’t we instructed in Scripture to do the opposite (Colossians 3:2)? We send a mixed message to the world when we praise Santa Claus (aka Saint Nicholas), but refuse to mention anything about Jesus being born.

We should also consider the word Christmas. It is a compound word meaning Christ worship. The names of God and Christ should be revered and respected. We should not use them flippantly. It’s perfectly fine to wish someone a Merry Christmas if you intend to glorify and celebrate Christ, but if you think Christmas has nothing to do with Christ, then you shouldn’t use his name. We should never take the name of Christ and use it for secular purposes. The word Christmas means something specific, and we should remember this when we use it.

I acknowledge that we do not know the exact date Jesus was born, but this reason alone is not enough to keep us from celebrating his birth. We do not have to know when an event occurred to celebrate how it has changed our world. We celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus every Sunday during the Lord’s Supper even though we are not doing it on the date it happened. People sometimes celebrate birthdays on days other than their birthday. It is reasonable to set aside a day to honor Jesus and remember something as important as his birth without knowing when it happened.

We have Biblical precedent to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We have Biblical examples of angels and shepherds praising God and rejoicing when they hear the news (Luke 2:13-20). Matthew tells us of wise men worshiping Jesus and bringing him gifts (Matt. 2:10-11). When we set aside a day to remember the birth of Jesus and sing praises to his name, we are following the example of the angels, shepherds, and wise men.

We are given freedom in Christ to celebrate his birth if we wish. Paul writes,

“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.” (Romans 14:5-6)

We can celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus as long we honor the Lord when we do. What we cannot do is pass judgment on others who wish to celebrate or not celebrate this holiday.

Christmas gives us one more opportunity to meditate on the work of God and honor our Lord and Savior. It doesn’t take away from anything we do on Sunday, the day God appointed for worship. In fact, I believe it adds to the richness of our worship and gives us reason to praise God even more.

Nov
17

MV5BYjFhOWY0OTgtNDkzMC00YWJkLTk1NGEtYWUxNjhmMmQ5ZjYyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjMxOTE0ODA@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,648,1000_AL_

Wonder is the inspiring story of August Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a boy born with a facial deformity, who is entering the fifth grade. Up until this point, Auggie had been homeschooled and lived a relatively sheltered life often venturing outside with his astronaut helmet so no one could see his face. His parents, Nate (Owen Wilson) and Isabel (Julia Roberts), are aware of the difficult challenges Auggie will face and they do everything they can to prepare him for this moment.

Stephen Chbosky, who directed the fantastic The Perks of Being a Wallflower, does a nice job of navigating a story which could easily become predictable and filled with cliches. The film explores characters such as Auggie’s sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) and allows the viewer to experience the circumstances of the film from various perspectives. One should expect to feel empathy for Auggie going into the movie, but Chbosky presents the story in such a way that the viewer feels empathy for Auggie and several of the other characters as well.

Wonder is a story about several different virtues, but perhaps the greatest is courage. Auggie is bullied because he is different. When he begins school, most of the kids cannot see past his facial deformity. They don’t see him as a potential friend. They don’t even see him as human. To them, he carries the plague. He is a monster. It is not until someone has the courage to break down this wall that others begin to see Auggie for who he truly is.

There are aspects of Wonder that are predictable because this is a storyline that has been used many times before. However, it is a storyline we need to continue to hear because human beings still struggle with the issues explored in this film. We think of our opponents as less than human, and we fail to see them as individuals created in the image of God. What the world needs desperately is people of courage who are willing to break the barriers that are erected by others so we can see people for who they are.

It is somewhat ironic that Wonder is opening the same weekend as Justice League. Your children will likely be eager to see a new superhero movie, but let me encourage you to take them to see Wonder. They will enjoy it because it is a movie about kids and there are some pleasant surprises including the appearance of a Star Wars character or two, but more importantly they will learn about real justice. They will learn how to treat other people the way they should be treated.

Oct
17

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

It would be difficult to pick out the most neglected command in the New Testament, but I believe Ephesians 5:21 would be near the top. This is the command to submit ourselves one to another. The purpose of Christians submitting to one another is so we will be unified. It doesn’t mean we will all agree. If we agreed on every issue, then there would be no reason to submit.

The act of submitting involves yielding to someone else. It means we consider their cause or position. We might try to put ourselves in their shoes. Christians are a broad group of people who hold many different views. Obviously, we cannot submit to all Christians all around the world at the same time, but we should begin with the Christians we worship with and the Christians we interact with in person or on social media. These Christians are black, white, and brown. They are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents. They are conservative and liberal. They are NRA members and people who are calling for stricter gun control laws. They are citizens and illegals. They are people who stand for the flag and people who kneel. They are people who vote and people who don’t.

The commands regarding submission and considering the interests of others are commands to act. This means we cannot wait for someone to submit to us. We must take the first step.

The division in our culture is not something new. People have been divided since the beginning of time. Churches were divided in the first century. Jews and Gentiles did not get along. There were strong opinions about issues we care nothing about today. We no longer fight over meat sacrificed to idols or other things. We have our own issues, but the solutions are the same. We submit. We consider the interests of others, and we do this so that we remain united in Christ. Ultimately, there are things that matter a whole lot more than whether or not a person stands for the flag or votes in the next election. We must be committed to listening and understanding our brothers and sisters in Christ even though we may disagree because issues will come and go but we will spend eternity with one another.

Oct
12

marshall

Marshall is the true story of Thurgood Marshall, a NAACP attorney who would later become the first African American justice of the Supreme Court. Marshall focuses on Thurgood’s early life and one case in particular. At the time Thurgood Marshall traveled all over the United States defending clients of color who had been falsely accused of a crime. The film hones in on a particular trial in Connecticut, and it quickly becomes apparent that racism is not a problem unique to the south.

Director Reginald Hudson assembled a stellar cast of actors. The chemistry between Chadwick Boseman who plays Thurgood Marshall and Josh Gad who plays Sam Friedman drives the movie. Marshall and Friedman are a real-life odd couple. One an African American defense attorney who is used to seeing his name in the paper, and the other a Jewish attorney who tries civil cases and enjoys swimming alone. Although they have little in common, Friedman and Marshall are forced to work together to try and save the life of Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown) who has been accused of rape by Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson).

Marshall is about race in America and the injustices that people of color have faced for many years. It is an important reminder of our past and a call for us to continue to fight injustice as we work towards racial reconciliation. Although it is a film set in the past, most viewers will be reminded of the current racial tension in America. Thurgood devoted his life to helping people who were being oppressed because of the color of their skin. Great strides have been made since the time Mr. Marshall was an attorney for the NAACP, but we would be naive to believe that we have arrived. There is still much work to be done.

Marshall is a solid drama well worth your time. If there are any negatives, it is that the film follows the familiar pattern of other courtroom dramas and recent movies dealing with race. The ending is predictable, and yet it is the ending that most people want to see. One word of caution would be that there were many cases like Joseph Spell’s that did not have a happy ending. Countless innocent black men were convicted and hanged simply because they were accused by a white person of doing something wrong. There is nothing wrong with leaving a film feeling good on the inside, but I would hope that we would remember there was only one Thurgood Marshall and there were many cases he was unable to accept. We should be greatly appreciative of the work of Thurgood Marshall, but we should also all be devastated by the fact that innocent men were imprisoned and put to death just because of the color of their skin.

Sep
28

StockSnap_H5Y00D4OFT

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense…” (Proverbs 11:12)

We have a problem in our country with communicating with people who are on the other side of an issue. Rather than listen and respond politely, we see people calling names, degrading others, belittling their neighbors, or worse. Before we can discuss our differences, we must first address how we are to treat one another.

We are heavily influenced by the people we surround ourselves with. This is not limited to one’s group of friends. It also includes the radio, tv, and social media personalities we listen to each day. There are some very unhealthy voices in our society, and if we read or listen to them on a regular basis, then it is very likely we will adopt their unhealthy ways.

Conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, we should seek to only listen to people of character. We should avoid people who call names or degrade other human beings. We should not listen to people who are constantly angry and want us to share their anger. We should turn off anyone who makes fun of others or is disrespectful to human beings created in God’s image.

Instead, we should surround ourselves with people who display the fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Character matters, and it is important that we find trustworthy voices who treat other human beings with dignity and respect to listen to and learn from. In so doing, we will imitate what we digest and begin to treat our neighbors as God would have us to do.

Sep
03

storm_-_1_1

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2)

Now you might be wondering what this passage has to do with what we have experienced this past week. The text says that the earth was without form. The Hebrew word for without form means chaos. In the beginning there was chaos. I don’t know of any better word to describe the events of last week. It was chaos. We endured a historical storm that dropped more than 30 inches of rain on us in just a few days. We saw the Colorado rise to nearly 55 feet, the third largest flood on record in this area. We saw devastation. People lost their cars, homes, belongings, and more. We saw people not knowing what to do. There were people crying and people in shock. Many of us who came to volunteer had no clue what to do in a disaster situation. We just did what we could and tried to go where we were needed. It was chaos. Chaos in the form of a storm. Chaos in the form of a flood. Chaos in the form of people in crisis.

In the beginning there was a watery chaos and that is exactly what we have witnessed. We saw a watery chaos cover Fayette County, but that’s not the end of the story. In Genesis 1:1-2, we are told there was a dark watery chaos in the beginning, but then the Spirit of God began to hover over it. The Greek word for order is cosmos. Out of chaos God brought order. I’m not sure we have seen order yet, but what we have seen is the Spirit of God working among the chaos. We have seen beauty in the midst of destruction. We have been ravaged by the storm, but it has brought us closer together and made us stronger. God is working in this mess.

We have been the body of the Christ. We have been the hands and feet of Jesus. We have fed the hungry. We have helped the needy. We have gone out into the community and done what is needed. The church is not a building. The church is people. Last week, the people of La Grange saw the church and it’s not because they stopped by this building, although many did. It is because they saw us here and in other places doing the work of Jesus.

I saw lots of amazing things last week. I saw people drop what they were doing to help others in need. I saw people sacrifice time, energy, and money. I saw countless selfless acts. People were not thinking of themselves. They were only thinking about others. We never ran short on man power. There were always plenty of volunteers. We started collecting items on Monday. By Tuesday, our building was completely full. There were donated items in every pew. On Wednesday evening the building was empty and by Thursday afternoon it was full again. I know God was working in the chaos because we always had what we needed. He did not allow this building to set vacant.

21106391_10101020969371701_5605517085561314179_n

One of the most amazing things I saw this week was a father and daughter who were folding clothes on our communion tables. We ran out of room. We kept filling up pews. We ran out of tables to work on. Finally, we were backed all the way up to the pulpit, and so this father and daughter did what they could. They used our communion tables to sort and fold clothes for people in need. It reminded me of a passage in Luke where two people encountered Jesus at a table.

“So they drew near to the village to which they were going. Jesus acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.” (Luke 24:28-31)

Jesus used tables throughout his ministry. He used them to minister to people. A table is more than just a place to eat. It is a place to connect and serve. Our communion tables did not sit idle last week. They were used to serve this community. These tables where the fruit of the vine and unleavened bread now sit were used for the ministry of Jesus. The clothes that were folded on these tables are now being worn by someone who lost everything.

When we come to the table, we are reminded of the sacrifice of Jesus. We are reminded of what he did for us and who we are called to be. How does someone follow in the footsteps of Jesus? How do we live a sacrificial life? We do so by living a life of service, by giving ourselves to others. We do it by giving our time and energy to people who need us. Because of the events of last week, the people who need us has grown exponentially. We now have hundreds of people without homes in La Grange. We have people in our community who have lost everything. They are depending on us to be the body of Christ.

Today is a day of rest, but tomorrow we will begin the work again. We will go out into the community and we will meet the needs of the people we meet. As we enjoy the break from our labors, remember there is someone who needs us. As we partake of this meal, let us focus on Jesus. Let us remember his ministry and how he continuously helped others. Let us remember how he gave himself fully and completely. He did not hold anything back. He laid down his life in order to bless us. The table prepares us for our mission because it is at the table that we encounter the risen Lord.

Jul
06

GHO_87_M1.2V1.2_hires

“For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of the fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten.” (Ecclesiastes 2:16)

A Ghost Story is a riveting look at humanity’s place in time. This intriguing meditation on the moments that make up a life will cause viewers to pause and appreciate what is right in front of them. This film is unlike any you have probably seen before. In an age of CGI, A Ghost Story shuns special effects and follows a ghost played by Casey Affleck who is dressed in a white sheet. For most of the film, there is little or no talking. The film relies heavily on visuals, and director David Lowery gives the viewer plenty of time to take in each scene. Not only is time at the center of A Ghost Story, but Lowery also allows the audience to feel time with the slow pacing of several scenes. This comes as a shock to viewers who are so used to the dizzying effect of multiple cuts in a brief scene, but it is evident that Lowery is up to something greater than trying to keep the attention of an audience with a very short attention span.

The film opens by focusing on a couple (Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck) who are madly in love with one another. Nothing is unusual until the character played by Affleck suddenly dies and comes back as a ghost. He takes up residence in the house they lived in, and he witnesses firsthand the grief of his widowed wife. Now that he is a ghost, all he can do is watch. He cannot speak or comfort his wife in any way. Rooney Mara is mesmerizing in these scenes.

AGhostStory-FullRes3.tif

It seems for a moment that perhaps this film is going to be an exploration of grief. Although the viewer is given a glimpse into the grieving process, the film moves forward with Affleck’s character continuing to reside in the house as various tenants take up occupancy within it.

The longest piece of dialogue comes during a party as one individual laments the fact that time will conquer all things. Eventually, all will be forgotten. This pessimistic view is proven true by the fact that Affleck’s character has had to get used to sharing the house he once enjoyed his wife. Now the people who occupy this space have no idea of who has lived here before or what has taken place. If this were the final word in the film, then it would truly be a lament, but the film has a few surprises left.

I will not give away the ending, but I will say that I loved how A Ghost Story caused me to rethink how I view time. Some may not appreciate its slow pace and may become frustrated with its lack of dialogue, but I believe the film is working on multiple levels, and it is striving to get us, the viewer, to slow down and enjoy the moment we are living in. Most modern films move at lightning pace, but this also mirrors what many people experience in their own lives. Life is busy. Life is full. We attempt to cram too much into the space we are given, and we end up missing what is important. A Ghost Story is a beautiful wake-up call in more ways than one.

A Ghost Story is a film that you will want to discuss with others after seeing it. Here’s a helpful discussion guide to assist your conversation with friends or a group.

Discussion Guide

Jun
19

StockSnap_DX8J6LC1HB

A preacher spends many hours with a text before it becomes a sermon. They sit with the text, wrestle with the text, pray over the text, and carefully examine all the details within the text. The 25-minute sermon on Sunday morning is a result of much study.

A preacher is an instrument used by God. This means the preaching is never about the preacher. It’s not about his hair, his suit, or even his presentation. It’s about the message. The goal of most preachers is to get out of the way so that the message will be front and center.

The message that is often presented is one the preacher needs to hear himself. Sermons are composed with the congregation in mind, but the congregant that the preacher knows best is himself. A sermon is not the result of a preacher having mastered what he is preaching on. In fact, it is often the opposite. The preacher personally knows from his experience that this is a message that needs to be heard.

The message of God is presented each Sunday in jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:7). What preachers hope people see on Sunday is the power of God in a clay vessel, but sometimes all people see is a clay jar. Preachers are human. Preachers are imperfect. Preachers make mistakes, and because of this, they need grace as much as anyone else in the congregation.

The question that most preachers would like people to ask themselves as they listen to a sermon is “What does God want me to hear today?” The sermon was not designed specifically for your neighbor or the person sitting in the pew in front of you. The sermon is intended for the people of God, so that they may be transformed into the image of Christ. The only way this transformation will occur is if each member will focus on what the message has to say to him or her.