Wednesday, January 04, 2012

1 Chron 12:32 report (New Series) 100: The Visual Bible initiative -- the Gospel of John

We live in a visual, multimedia age, where even the brightest youngsters are at best in two minds about acres of print in thick books. 

That means we have to rethink how we reach out to this generation with the gospel. 

For, thick, fine print books with few illustrations and little or no colour simply will not get attention. And, long monotone speeches from a pulpit without any visual illustration are almost as ineffective.

I think, we need to rethink.

(I also think the iLumina and Glo Bible initiatives are a beginning.)

As a first step to that, as the new year dawns, let us take time together to view the Gospel Of John video:

I think this is a refreshing way to see our Lord in action, and to begin to reflect on the force of the Good News we have to share. 

(BTW,what would he have to say to us on our tendency to self-promotion and the like, if he took a whip to the Temple's money changers who had taken over the Court of the Gentiles? [And, for those who want to see anti-semitism in this Gospel, I suggest, that this is a linear continuation of the Tanakh's many prophetic critiques of corrupt religious and secular establishments in Israel, and with direct implications for corrupt power elites everywhere. Pilate's cynical "What is Truth?" leading to knowing condemnation and execution of an innocent but falsely accused man, speaks volumes about corrupt power brokers everywhere; including here in the Caribbean. And of course, Pilate was a Gentile and Pagan Roman.])

I have been thinking a bit about the theology of the gospel, and in so doing, the potential of this and other videos has been driven home to me. In addition to the Gospel of John movie embedded above, I am particularly thinking about:
0] Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ video, which helps us rethink on the street credibility issue through discussions with some serious scholars. (Note my own presentation on street level issues C1 - 21 here.)

1] The Jesus Movie [full form here], arguably the most watched movie in history.

2] Zeffirelli's 6+-hour Jesus of Nazareth TV miniseries, which gives a somewhat dramatised view of the wider context of the Gospels. (Amazon DVD here, accompanying book by William Barclay [warning, though quite erudite, a bit theologically liberalish; cf. here on the root-problem of modernist theology], here.)

3] The Visual Bible verse by verse initiative presentation of the Acts of the Apostles
I am even wondering whether it would be a good idea to do a festival of Jesus films in our churches, perhaps even as a series done as the main morning worship hour, to help us soak in the context of the Gospel message deep into our bones. 

My thought on that would be to begin each such service with a period of reflection, prayer and praise, then move to a focus reading and brief introduction, then show a full shorter video, or show a good chunk of the longer ones, and then have a panel of response; possibly even, a time for audience comments and questions too. 

In effect, a series of multimedia sermons.

My primary concern is that such a wide and deep theological exercise would be perhaps fairly challenging for leadership, so beforehand, there would need to be a workshop of preparation that provides readings and briefings to help prepare for what is to come, maybe even integrating a mini Gospels and Acts Survey seminar.

But, I think the results would be well worth it, as the background on the Gospels and the Acts so achieved, would provide a context for much richer exploration through teaching sermons and panels that address key issues and challenges. In turn that would enhance the spiritual depth of our discipleship all across the region.

I have a second concern, that the black vs white flashpoint in our region may be triggered, as some of the movies play a bit to the historically inapt and culturally insensitive blond, blue eyed Jesus of older Sunday School art. (I find that even the Jesus Film's carefully coiffed hairdo for the Jesus character, is a bit over the top -- especially where just about everyone else's hair seems to be on a permanent bad hair day.)

That would have to be put on the table, explained, and thus taken off the table as a counter talking point to play at polarise and dismiss rhetorical games.

Finally, as I have been thinking on the theology of the gospel, I have been led to look at Bishop N T Wright's 1994 piece on the meaning of the term "gospel' in Galatians. For, quite often, an apparently simple or obvious term -- one that is so familiar that it does not send us digging into Bible Helps materials --  has in it depths and nuances that are not readily apparent. 

The very word, gospel, is like that. 

Here, then, is a clip from Bishop Wright's paper, to help us get started on our preparatory reflections:
In order to arrive at the meaning of ‘gospel’ within the confines of the letter to the Galatians, we must go back to the old question: where did the idea come from and what echoes did the word in consequence carry both for Paul and for his readers? . . . . 

the two backgrounds regularly proposed for Paul’s [usage] . . .  are, predictably, the Hebrew scriptures on the one hand and pagan usage on the other.  The line between the two tends to follow the old divide between those who suppose Paul to be basically a Jewish thinker and those who see him as having borrowed his fundamental ideas from Hellenism . . . .
In terms of Gal. 4.1-7, the message of the Pauline gospel is this: the true god has sent his son, in fulfilment of the prophecies of scripture, to redeem his people from their bondage to false gods  . . . ; he now sends his own spirit to make his people truly what they were before only in theory and hope—his own children, heirs of his world.  Equipped with this gospel, the Galatian Christians now know the true god; or rather, as Paul quickly correct himself, they are known by him (4.9). 19  That is, they have received the great blessing promised by Isaiah throughout chs. 40-55: the one true god has revealed himself in saving them, routing the idols of the nations in doing so.  The message of good news decisively confronts the power of the spurious gods . . . ["Gospel and Theology in Galatians," (Originally published in Gospel in Paul: Studies on Corinthians, Galatians and Romans for Richard N. Longenecker, eds. L. Ann Jervis and Peter Richardson, 1994, pp. 222–239. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Supplement Series 108.]
So, what do we think? END

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