Saturday, March 22, 2008

Psalm 22 for Good Friday

Every day is a day for remembering Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection, but this is the day set apart from all others especially for the remembrance of that sacrifice. I always try to do something special on Good Friday to help me contemplate Jesus' death. Given who I am that usually means reading and/or watching something. Today I read from G. Campbell Morgan's collection of sermons, Great Chapters of the Bible. In his sermon on Matthew 27 he says this regarding Matthew's lack of detail regarding the act of crucifixion:

"It would have been a great advantage if that reticence had been observed down all the running centuries. No painting of the crucifixion, and no verbal description of it has been, in the deepest sense, really helpful in understanding the Cross. Not that the physical was anything less than appalling, but that it is possible to be so occupied with it as to lose the sense of that which is infinitely more terrible, the spiritual side of it." (p.142)

I can see his point. The descriptions of the physical pain of the crucifixion that I've heard from time to time can be arresting, as can a cinematic depiction like The Passion of the Christ. Nevertheless, neither can capture what it must have meant for Jesus who had known perfect fellowship with God throughout his life, a fellowship and communion we can only imagine, and in His divine nature from all eternity, to have become sin and been accursed. We who are born in sin will never know the depth of rejection. We can only approach it in his cry, "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me!", a cry from a psalm of rejection, but also of hope and promise.

'
To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
"He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.

Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O LORD, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!

Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.

From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live forever!

All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it." Psalm 22 (ESV)

Again from Morgan,

"It is impossible to read this psalm, and believe that the singer understood all its meaning. It was a prophetic utterance. It was a case in which David, or some other poet, was caught up, borne along; and through personal suffering and deliverance from it through confidence in God, interpreted the ultimate, central, final sorrows of the Messiah; and how through them, and through them alone, deliverance should come to the meek, who seek; and the sovereignty of God, based upon His redeeming activity, should finally be universally established." (p. 54)

That is what is to celebrate Good Friday and to remember how an event of horrible physical, and unimaginable spiritual, pain should result in our salvation. Christ is dead. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Squirrel and Penguin Dueling Banjos and a Quiz

I saw this on Marko's blog. Here are two great animals, two fine instruments, and some confusing/disturbing yet hilarious imagery. My money is on Penguin.

Marko also introduced me to this book quiz:




You're A Prayer for Owen Meany!

by John Irving

Despite humble and perhaps literally small beginnings, you inspire
faith in almost everyone you know. You are an agent of higher powers, and you manifest
this fact in mysterious and loud ways. A sense of destiny pervades your every waking
moment, and you prepare with great detail for destiny fulfilled. When you speak, IT
SOUNDS LIKE THIS!



Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.



As it happens, I've even read A Prayer for Owen Meany. It's a great book and way better than the movie based on it (as is almost always the case).

Saturday, March 08, 2008

This Film is Not Yet Rated and Making Money

It's snowing again.

Last Saturday I watched the documentary This film is not yet rated. It's a look at the MPAA rating system and particularly at the process of rating a film NC-17 and R. It includes interviews with various filmmakers who've had to fight the ratings board along with disputed clips from their movies. It also focuses on an attempt to identify the people who do the actual rating. Their identities are kept secret by the MPAA ostensibly to protect them from outside pressure. This part of the film involves the hiring of a private investigator and tracking her attempts to identify the raters. The final portion shows Kirby Dick's, the documentarian, own struggles with the MPAA over the rating for his film about the ratings. Not surprisingly given that he includes many clips that had caused their own movies to get an NC-17, Dick's movie does as well. His appeal was rejected and he released the movie unrated. The film is very interesting. It's hard to argue against its position that the ratings are often applied in a very inconsistent manner and that the appeals process is stacked against the appellant. It also makes some cogent points about the differing treatments of sex and violence in films and of independent and studio movies in the process. There is a self-righteousness and stridency to the movie that I did not enjoy. One of the rallying cries is that the ratings, especially the NC-17 rating, harm movies financially because NC-17's are locked out of most major theatres and rental/retail outlets. This is true as far as it goes but I found it interesting that the policy decisions of the distributors and retailers, despite John Waters attacks on Wal-Mart and Blockbuster, where largely left to the side, especially give the late revelation that the majority of the ratings appeals board consists of representatives of distributors. I know, it's a film about ratings, not film distribution, but that didn't prevent a lengthy digression about the MPAA's anti-piracy campaign, which has nothing to do with ratings. I was mostly amused by the apparent shock and outrage that there were two members of the clergy on the appeals board. Gasp! Horrors! One is a representative of the national Catholic bishops' board, the other represents the National Council of Churches, the primarily liberal old mainline Protestant denominations. Also not surprising was the general, apparently unquestioned, attitude that censorship of movies is bad because censorship, as such, is bad. There was an interesting suggestion that violence portrayed in Saving Private Ryan merited a less restrictive rating than that in e.g. James Bond or Arnold Schwarzenegger movies because SPR was more realistic while the others in not showing the true consequences of the actions involved were desensitizing. All in all it was an interesting movie, but once was enough.

I also read Terry Pratchett's book, Making Money last week. It was another amusing Discworld novel. Fresh off his success in reviving Ankh-Morpork's failing postal system, reformed conman Moist von Lipwig is thrust into the position of acting chairman of the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork and the mint. Moist has to call on all his wit and resources to fend off the intrigues of the family of the former chairman, to avoid his past, to get AM off the gold standard and onto paper money, and deal with the absence of his chain smoking sweetheart, Adora Belle, who prefers to be called "Spike." It's a fun book like any Discworld but many of the characters and ideas seem underdeveloped. It also reminded me that while Pratchett can set up a world and a situation his endings are often confusing and contrived. Still for me the main joy in any Discworld novel involves the interplay of puns and ideas and satire more than the plot so I enjoyed reading the book and will happily read the obvious sequel if it's ever forthcoming.

Thursday, March 06, 2008