Since we are focusing on one particular theme during Lent (wilderness journeys), I’ve been trying to think of a way to keep some discussion going on other things that I’m reading and that are happening. I don’t mean to duplicate Jeff’s Saturday Ramblings, but I will add my own “Sights along the Road” post on Sunday afternoons during the season as an additional forum for reference and conversation.
In “Sights along the Road,” I’ll try to bring you up to speed on what I’m reading, watching and listening to, what’s being said around the web that got my attention, news that may of interest to IM readers, and perhaps even an occasional rant.
Plus, cool pix of bizarre roadside attractions. HERE is a great blog about them.
So, without further ado…
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First, a video of some happy music I’ve been enjoying. This is from last years album, “Days,” by Real Estate. If you like cute dogs, jangling guitars, and a sixties’ vibe that recalls the Beach Boys and the Byrds, you should dig it.
Second, an alert regular reader and commenter sent me a link that verbalizes what we all know is an unwritten rule in many churches. It seems North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, CA has a vibrant missions program with regular missionary speakers and an annual Missions Conference. In order to help missionaries attending their conference, the church leadership gives them a set of guidelines: “…to ensure that the conference runs smoothly without any undue embarrassment to either the missionary or our church.” Guideline #8 is especially interesting —
8. All of us have burdens, but please do not let it show on your face. We want to portray to people that the ministry is great. Burdens are part of life; however, the people of the church need to see that we are living on the winning side. The ministry is great!
Uh huh. I knew it was written down somewhere. And I’ll just bet that Paul never let any of those experiences in 2Corinthians 11 “show on his face,” right?
Schneider writes: ‘The tension between the need for mercy that defines Lent (in theory) and the works righteousness with which it has all too often become synonymous is the theme of the film Chocolat (2000) starring Johnny Depp, Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, et al. Simply put, Chocolat is as pure a Law and Gospel film as one is likely to find. The legalism of a small, highly religious French town finds itself at odds with the graciousness of a beguiling new arrival named Vianne, who causes a scandal by opening a chocolaterie (chocolate shop) at the beginning of Lent. The mayor of the town, Comte Paul de Reynaud, played by Alfred Molina, exclaims, ‘The sheer nerve of the woman … opening a chocolaterie just in time for Lent. The woman is brazen.’”
Through various film clips, we learn the story of how Vianne (the Christ-figure in the film) eventually teaches grace to those around her. Schneider concludes: “We would be wise this Lent to remind ourselves of the Gospel, so that we might err on the side of Vianne rather than that of the Comte. But even if we are aggressively self-righteous like the Comte, praise be to God that grace will eventually bring us to our knees and lighten our spirits.”
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Fourth, I am thoroughly appreciating Peter Enns’s new book, Evolution of Adam, The: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins. I like it best because it cuts to the heart of the matter — how we read the Bible and what we expect from it. This book is a specific example illustrating the “incarnational” approach advocated by Enns in his earlier book, Inspiration and Incarnation. I have not yet reached the material about Adam (particularly Paul’s interpretation), but Enns’s teaching on Genesis is outstanding.
Many who hold a “literal” view of the Bible’s early chapters think people like Enns and myself have rejected that position because we have abandoned “the clear teaching of Scripture” and have substituted “science” as our primary authority. Nothing could be further from the truth. It wasn’t scientific advances that changed everything, but additional knowledge gained in biblical studies. Many people are unaware how much we have come to learn through archaeology and other forms of scholarship about the composition of the Bible itself, as well as its ancient contexts and parallels in other literature. Enns asserts that we can say with confidence that “Genesis is an ancient Israelite narrative written to answer pressing ancient Israelite questions,” and as such, is not designed to deal with the same issues modern historical studies and scientific theories of origins explore.
I have long believed that teaching Genesis faithfully would never even touch on matters like evolution if one simply stuck to the Biblical text. But we live in a cultural context (and culture war context) in which people have come to expect the Bible to answer all kinds of questions it doesn’t address, and so we have mistaken expectations and engage in unnecessary battles. People take strong positions, and before you know it someone suspects your orthodoxy and Christian faithfulness if you say the Bible is not about those things. Thank God for people like Peter Enns who are doing the hard work of helping us see a better way.
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Fifth, I recommend Lauren Winner’s fabulous article about taking Ash Wednesday to the streets. We go to church to practice our own penitence, and it’s also one of the days when we “wear our faith on our sleeves” (or foreheads) as we go about our daily work. But Winner calls us to offer ashes to our neighbors as well, in public, as an imitation of John the Baptizer’s ministry of calling everyone to turn and get ready for God’s Kingdom.
That’s what she was doing last Wednesday with a group of Episcopal priests on a street corner near Duke University Hospital.
“To my mind,” she writes, “the priests who offer ashes in public on Wednesday are not doing something for the sake of convenience or expediency; this is not liturgical fast food. Cathie and I will be in front of the hospital offering an invitation to willing passersby to join us in reflecting on our limitations and sins and our need for God’s grace. And we will be in public, with our prayers and our crosses of ash, to meet the Christ who died in a public place.”
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Finally — Here is a glimpse at one of America’s most iconic roadside displays:
“Standing along Route 66 west of Amarillo, Texas, Cadillac Ranch was invented and built by a group of art-hippies imported from San Francisco. They called themselves The Ant Farm, and their silent partner was Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh 3. He wanted a piece of public art that would baffle the locals, and the hippies came up with a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin. Ten Caddies were driven into one of Stanley Marsh 3’s fields, then half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt (supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza). They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high for all to see on the empty Texas panhandle.”