Saturday, 10 January 2015

Martha and the Older Brother - When Good is the Enemy of Great

As Scott was speaking beautifully last week at church about Mary and Martha, and how, in the busyness of life, we must find time to sit at the Master's feet, I found myself thinking that Martha sounds a lot like the older brother from the parable of the prodigal son.

It says of her in Luke 10:
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Here's what it says of the older brother in Luke 15:
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
Both were so focused on "the tasks" that they missed the greater thing that was going on. In one case, the return of a lost loved one, in the other, the Lord of the Universe was here to enjoy their company.

And interestingly, both of the names "Mary" and "Martha" mean "rebellious." If Western Christian tradition is right, Mary had been a prostitute and Martha had been the diligent one. But if we are to consider Martha as rebellious, then what is her crime? That she allowed good to become the enemy of great. The Master was here, and she was more interested in the table decorations.

There is a parallel in the parable of the Prodigal, the younger son squanders his inheritance with prostitutes, whilst the older son never leaves his father's house for the sake of his duty. When the younger son returns to joy and feasting, the resentment of the older son towards the Father is palpable - he was more interested in his tasks and/or building up his inheritance.

Both wanted affirmation for their tasks and their service more than they wanted to share in the joy of their Father / Master.

In both cases the ending is left open. Did Martha leave her identity-affirming tasks behind and go in to sit with the others or did she run back to them flustered, upset and feeling misunderstood? Did the older son stay out in the field or did he come in and join the party?

If anyone is guilty of putting tasks for Jesus above time with Jesus, and wanting be affirmed in them, I am. I make good the enemy of great.

The ending is still open. How will it be written?

Saturday, 3 January 2015

A Genuinely Good Christian Film…

Most "Christian" films I watch leave me annoyed, either because they are too blatant and in your face, or they go so far off script (Like Noah) that you really wonder if you're watching the film you thought you'd paid to see.

So, off the back of this recommendation, I watched this refreshingly different film:

The reviewer said:
Good Christian Movies Are Being Made, but They're Being Ignored.

Audiences largely ignored Believe Me and The Song, which is a true shame, because both movies are explicitly Christian and both made for compelling viewing...

Believe Me is ... a roaring satire of Christian ministry that doubles as a goofy heist movie. It follows three college students who come up with a fake, charity: water-type ministry to pay off their student loans, and then struggle to keep up the act. Watching these guys try to learn the ins and outs of Christian culture is about as funny as any movie got in 2014.

It's not completely clear why these movies failed to capture the same word-of-mouth buzz that accompanied God's Not Dead, but it may be that both ignored lesson No. 2. The morals were not on the bottom shelf, served piping hot and easy to digest. Believe Me avoided easy answers, and The Song did not encourage audiences to text any spiritual imperatives to wayward friends. In short, both movies might have been just a little too challenging.
I think the reviewer is spot on.

It's a film that will make many Christians both laugh and cringe as they see themselves cleverly and satirically reflected in some of the characters. (I was a bit like Gabriel in my university days.) It also shows how the machine of "Christian Industry" plays in the murky shadows of less than squeaky clean ethical practices justifying it with the excuse of protecting the Faithful and the reputation of the ministry.

And whilst we non-American Christians may be tempted to cynically (enviously?) write much of it off as a quirk of the American approach to culture and community, if we are willing to be honest for a moment, these days, we're more like that than ever, especially when we become "too big to fail" in our own eyes.

It isn't available in UK via normal channels, but you can watch interviews, trailers and outtakes or even pay for a VHX download from the official website.