Thursday, April 19, 2007

servants with talents

one of the joys of our ministry is the privilege of knowing amazing people from around the world. they are adventuresome, cross-cultural, and often, very talented. this year's community included artists, language instructors, musicians, thespians, dancers, athletes, and more. our end-of-year party for the international bible study featured performances by a few of our friends. if you want to get a look at them first hand, you can find the links below:
you can see that we enjoy being together. it's been a great year, with many stories of God's faithfulness and transforming power. what you won't see on the video is how much we love these friends — they are precious to us.

i thank my God in all my remembrance of you,
always offering prayer with joy
in my every prayer for you all,
in view of your participation in the gospel
from the first day until now

for i am confident of this very thing,
that He who began a good work in you
will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

for it is only right for me to feel this way about you all,
because i have you in my heart,
since both in my imprisonment
and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel,
you all are partakers of grace with me.

philippians 1:3-7

Thursday, April 12, 2007

april snow

this is the view from my front door — on april 12! funny, the weather was never like this in berkeley…

(if you click on the photo, it'll enlarge and you can see how hard the snow is falling!)

Monday, April 09, 2007

keeping up automagically

for those of you who would like to keep up with our blog, but find it a pain to check (or perhaps you simply forget), your troubles are over! rss and atom will allow you to do that automatically; just subscribe the rss/atom link — in our case, — in a rss feed reader, also known as an aggregator (i use the freebie netnewswire lite). at regular intervals, it collects whatever new posts it finds at the sites you specify — not just blogs, but news sites and a variety of web pages that are syndicated. that way, whether a site is updated multiple times daily or once a month, you know pretty much right away without having to waste time checking.

this works in some web browsers as well; for instance, in firefox, you'll find an rss symbol to the right of the web address — just click on it to subscribe. safari works in similar way.

alternatively, if you're on facebook, you'll find an option to subscribe to my notes there, all of which are imported from the blog.

to find out more about getting started with rss, click on the appropriate link for windows or mac. it may seem like a bit of trouble, but it's easier than it may sound and worth the effort.

technology serving friendship — as it should be!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

reflections on the passion

i recently invited a not-yet-christian friend to a viewing of mel gibson's the passion of the Christ, sponsored by the christian medical dental society at mcgill. it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it wasn't long into the film that i began to have pangs of regret. it's an amazing achievement — the story of the last hours of Jesus' life, told in latin and aramaic, reasonably close to the biblical accounts; yet it became a huge box office hit. it evinces care and reverence for the subject and has evoked a powerful response from many people. but it's also graphically violent — so much so that my friend couldn't watch in some places. i winced whenever i glanced over at her and saw that her head was bowed again, her eyes avoiding the ferocity and cruelty of all that Jesus had to endure. worse than that, she had to leave right after the film, and so missed the discussion that followed. she left emotionally drained and bewildered as to what it all meant.

the over 2,600 reviews at the internet movie database suggest that the film is a feature-length rorschach inkblot. nearly all of the reviewers either love or hate the movie; there's very little middle ground. some see one of the greatest films ever made ("unparalleled as a work of art"), while others say that it's utter rubbish ("a completely vacuous and empty movie which is masquerading as something that is spiritually enlightening"). some were inspired ("the film's greatest impact has been to get me to pick up the bible again, and do so with a new faith and understanding"), while others were repulsed ("exposes a sadomasochistic side to christianity that i wasn't even aware of"). could these people really be describing the same film?

as i watched the story unfold, i was reminded again of how context and meaning are inseparably linked. the movie was impossible for my friend to understand because she didn't have enough context; she has very little familiarity with Jesus' life and teachings. to her, the passion appeared to be short, random memories of Jesus' life and bits of his teaching, interspersed throughout a graphic two-hour beating and execution. what could be the significance of that?

gibson attempts to provide a frame of reference with several quotes from scripture, including these:

but he was pierced through for our transgressions
he was crushed for our iniquities
the chastening for our well-being fell upon him
and by his scourging we are healed
isaiah 53:5

greater love has no one than this,
that one lay down his life for his friends.
john 15:13

but in my estimation, it's simply not enough in what is largely a post-christian, bible illiterate generation. that's why so many viewers, lacking a context in which to understand all of the violence, are completely puzzled. others, importing their own ideas about the meaning and purpose of Jesus' life, are offended by what seems to them to be gratuitous, even pornographic violence. still others, partially understanding gibson's intent, believe that he is trying to guilt people into the church.

however, to those who understand the film (and these events in Jesus' life) in light of the two quotes cited, the violence takes on meaning. it is the ultimate act of love: Jesus lays down his life for his friends — taking on betrayal, humiliation, suffering, and death, so that we might be made whole. another of my friends who was watching the movie for the first time came to a deeper, more visceral apprehension of what it meant for Jesus to give his life for her and all of us. she, like many who have seen the film, came away both sobered and profoundly grateful the love of Jesus that endures all of this to break the power of sin, evil, and death, and to restore us to right relationship with our Creator and one another.

i remember discovering, as a young christian, that good friday was the day on which Jesus died. for some, 'good' only means that they get a day off school or work; but for some of us, 'good' is far too weak a description for the greatest gift of all — one that promises to transform us and all of creation.

so if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away;
see, everything has become new
2 corinthians 5:17