Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Archbishop of Canterbury - Narnia - Holy Week Lectures

I've just come across the Archbishop of Canterbury's Holy Week Lectures, this year based on the Narnia Chronicles. They have the following titles: 'Not a tame lion'; 'I only tell you your own story'; and 'Bigger inside than outside'. Listening to the first one, it came as no surprise to encounter deep, rich and nuanced literary and theological reflection.

If you love the Narnia Chronicles, appreciate Rowan Williams' intellect and spirituality and if you've got a spare hour for each one, you can listen to them here.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Of Gods and Men

Over the weekend I heard the best sermon of the year and it came through a film. 'Of Gods and Men' isn't the sort of film to watch if you're wanting a chilled, stress-free, undemanding Saturday evening. Fast, frenetic, action-thriller it isn't, nor is it remotely like a rom-com, and last weekend's 'Eat, Pray, Love' is about a million miles away! What it is is a luminous, poignant, deeply challenging film based on the true story of a community of brothers in a monastery in Algeria, which in 1995 came to the corporate decision to stay rather than go when threatened by religious fundamentalist terrorists. All but two of them were kidnapped and murdered as a consequence of that decision.

It's slow-paced with almost no music featuring frequent episodes of the brothers at worship. You witness their struggle as they face their fear at the real possibility of martyrdom. You see both their joy and their sorrow as they partake in their last supper together. Interestingly, the trailer has this scene set to the same music used in The King's Speech, the slow movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, while in the film the music is from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. Within a nearly silent soundtrack it's effect is devastating.

On Sunday morning I preached on the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and as part of this explored the different expectations of the crowd and Jesus. Jesus was was setting out on the last leg of a journey to his death on a cross. Death would not have the final say, but that's a far too premature conclusion to reach at this stage of the journey in Holy Week. The way of Jesus is to be the way of his followers as he calls them to 'deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me'. It could not have been put more effectively than by 'Of Gods and Men'.

Monday, 4 April 2011

God and the Arts and Media - Where Faith and Life Meet

I had a great time at Gold Hill on Sunday evening - how good that a church is addressing the subject of the arts. In the context of worship there were two talks, one from me, and one from Jonathan Dennis, a member at Gold Hill and a film writer and director. Jonathan's an interesting guy - check out his website Contender Films - and it was fascinating to hear about his experience of the media from within. He told a superb story about the promo for BBC's The Nativity which he wrote.

I had the opportunity in my talk to explore some basic questions about the arts. When we speak about the arts, what are we speaking about? How as Christians should we approach the arts, especially in the light of a not-too-favourable track record? Do the arts really matter - surely other things are more important? (Just in case you have any doubt about where I'm coming from, the answer is they matter a huge amount!) And how do we as Christians, both artists and appreciators, go about engaging with the arts?

Within a twenty minute slot - which I stretched a bit - we looked at a framework for thinking about the arts, around God the Creator, a good creation, a spoiled and broken creation, and a creation that is being made new.

I quoted Tom Wright, a terrific advocate for the arts, who writes, 'But the church desperately needs artists of every sort, from sculptors to storytellers, from painters to potters, from singers to seamstresses, and so on; artists whose work will draw attention not to itself but rather to the glory of God.  After all, if in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, new creation has begun ... and if beauty is now let loose in all the world, it will rightly generate new forms, new possibilities, new delights.'

The only frustration was that I could only touch upon big issues, and there wasn't the space to make any real connection with art. There was opportunity, within the service, to pray for those there who work in the arts and media, not a small number at Gold Hill.  And afterwards I had some stimulating conversations. So a very worthwhile evening.

It's my intention to begin a series of occasional events within the Central Baptist Association, with the title, Faith Engaging with the Arts. Watch this space!