THE MUPPETS AND HOLY NONSENSE

From Spencer Burke’s blog THE OOZE

THE MUPPETS AND HOLY NONSENSE

BY JOSH LARSEN

How I love the Muppets. So free of moralizing and sterile family values, they’re nevertheless imbued with a joy that is, at its very core, good. I consider what they do – with all their felt and comic fury – a sort of holy nonsense.

Created by the late Jim Henson and beloved by a generation raised on their 1976-1981 television variety show and subsequent movies, the Muppets return to the big screen courtesy of cowriter-producer-star Jason Segel (a member of that generation). Lovingly crafted, amusingly self-referential and deliriously silly, “The Muppets” isn’t just true to its tradition. It’s true to a contemporary world deserving of quality family films but too often populated with the likes of “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked.” It’s a corrective, not a bout of nostalgia.

Segel stars as Gary, a cheerful, small-town guy who lives with his brother Walter. Walter looks, well, like a Muppet. No one remarks on this much – though a photo from the brothers’ high-school prom catches Walter’s date in a hilarious double take – until the pair, along with Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), visit the now-closed Muppet studio in Hollywood. When they learn of a nefarious developer’s plan to take over the property, Walter convinces Kermit the Frog to come out of retirement and put on a studio-saving telethon.

Walter finds his true place in the process, but that’s about the extent of the lesson-learning in “The Muppets.” Ever since the episode featuring the tale of the grasshopper and the ant, in which the grasshopper moves to Florida and the ant gets stepped on, it’s been clear that this group is hardly interested in the moral of the story. That anti-tradition is carried on in “The Muppets.” Although Kermit is given to inspirational speeches, it’s notable that during one of them he’s flattened against the wall by an opening door.

Instead of lessons, we mostly get nonsense. Animal in anger management. Chris Cooper, as the evil developer, breaking into a gangster rap. Chickens doing a dance routine to a Cee Lo Green song (we can only assume it’s called “Cluck You”). Yes, occasionally, incidentally, a lesson is learned. As Walter tells Gonzo at one point, “When I was a kid and saw you recite ‘Hamlet’ while jumping your motorbike through a flaming hoop, it, well, it made me feel like I could do anything.”

The holiness of this nonsense – the spiritual joy it brings – can be difficult to quantify. As Frederick Buechner wrote in “The Hungering Dark,” “Joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances, even in the midst of suffering, with tears in its eyes.” I happened to see “The Muppets” a few hours after attending a wake, one marking a particularly unexpected and senseless death. If we have such nonsensical grief in our lives, doesn’t it stand that God provides nonsensical joy as a counter? A time to weep, and a time to laugh? Holy nonsense blows on the fading embers of our soul, bringing it back to glowing life.

That’s not to say this nonsense is only palliative. It also points to the world of which we live in hope, a restored creation where brokenness, strife and grief are nowhere to be found. In their place, filling that welcome vacuum, there surely will be room for the silly alongside praise for the sublime.

We’re far afield from the Muppets now, but maybe not so far as it might seem. “As long as there are singing frogs and joking bears,” Walter says at one point, “the world can’t be such a bad place after all.” There’s more to it, of course – much more – but the holy nonsense of the Muppets is a very good start.
_________________

Josh Larsen is editor of www.ThinkChristian.net, where this review originally appeared. He also writes about movies at www.LarsenOnFilm.com and at Facebook.com/larsenonfilm.

IT’S JUST THE GRAND CANYON

Love this post from PC Walker – Steve

It’s just the Grand Canyon

What do we do when God seems distant and hard to see? There are those times when God seems so difficult to know. I find encouragement in Romans 1 verse 20.

“His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.”

We are able to see God in the things he has made. If we would take more time to notice these things we would come to see him and know him more clearly.

We would stand at the lip of the Grand Canyon unaffected.  A huge problem is that we have lost all wonder.  Nothing amazes us anymore.  We grow more and more numb to the amazing!  We forget how powerful God really is because none of these things amaze us anymore.

Remember being scared to death of a thunderstorm?  Remember when the Grand Canyon WAS amazing before seeing it in a million pictures?  We lose all the wonder when trees, natural running streams and crashing waves, enormous mountains are no big deal to us.  We see them every day, in pictures or as we walk outside.  But we forget the amazing things we learned in elementary school; about how trees grow, the details about how waves are created.  We forget all those things because we learn it and are no longer amazed.

We do our ability to praise a disservice!  We do God a disservice when we are no longer amazed by these things.  Praise is our amazement expressed!  The problem is that we simply are not amazed.

 

THE MUPPETS AND HOLY NONSENSE

Josh Larson shared this insightful look at life in the world on the blog OOZE-Evolving Spirituality that is published by Spencer Burke.

The Muppets and Holy Nonsense

by Josh Larsen

How I love the Muppets. So free of moralizing and sterile family values, they’re nevertheless imbued with a joy that is, at its very core, good. I consider what they do – with all their felt and comic fury – a sort of holy nonsense.

Created by the late Jim Henson and beloved by a generation raised on their 1976-1981 television variety show and subsequent movies, the Muppets return to the big screen courtesy of cowriter-producer-star Jason Segel (a member of that generation). Lovingly crafted, amusingly self-referential and deliriously silly, “The Muppets” isn’t just true to its tradition. It’s true to a contemporary world deserving of quality family films but too often populated with the likes of “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked.” It’s a corrective, not a bout of nostalgia.

Segel stars as Gary, a cheerful, small-town guy who lives with his brother Walter. Walter looks, well, like a Muppet. No one remarks on this much – though a photo from the brothers’ high-school prom catches Walter’s date in a hilarious double take – until the pair, along with Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), visit the now-closed Muppet studio in Hollywood. When they learn of a nefarious developer’s plan to take over the property, Walter convinces Kermit the Frog to come out of retirement and put on a studio-saving telethon.

Walter finds his true place in the process, but that’s about the extent of the lesson-learning in “The Muppets.” Ever since the episode featuring the tale of the grasshopper and the ant, in which the grasshopper moves to Florida and the ant gets stepped on, it’s been clear that this group is hardly interested in the moral of the story. That anti-tradition is carried on in “The Muppets.” Although Kermit is given to inspirational speeches, it’s notable that during one of them he’s flattened against the wall by an opening door.

Instead of lessons, we mostly get nonsense. Animal in anger management. Chris Cooper, as the evil developer, breaking into a gangster rap. Chickens doing a dance routine to a Cee Lo Green song (we can only assume it’s called “Cluck You”). Yes, occasionally, incidentally, a lesson is learned. As Walter tells Gonzo at one point, “When I was a kid and saw you recite ‘Hamlet’ while jumping your motorbike through a flaming hoop, it, well, it made me feel like I could do anything.”

The holiness of this nonsense – the spiritual joy it brings – can be difficult to quantify. As Frederick Buechner wrote in “The Hungering Dark,” “Joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances, even in the midst of suffering, with tears in its eyes.” I happened to see “The Muppets” a few hours after attending a wake, one marking a particularly unexpected and senseless death. If we have such nonsensical grief in our lives, doesn’t it stand that God provides nonsensical joy as a counter? A time to weep, and a time to laugh? Holy nonsense blows on the fading embers of our soul, bringing it back to glowing life.

That’s not to say this nonsense is only palliative. It also points to the world of which we live in hope, a restored creation where brokenness, strife and grief are nowhere to be found. In their place, filling that welcome vacuum, there surely will be room for the silly alongside praise for the sublime.

We’re far afield from the Muppets now, but maybe not so far as it might seem. “As long as there are singing frogs and joking bears,” Walter says at one point, “the world can’t be such a bad place after all.” There’s more to it, of course – much more – but the holy nonsense of the Muppets is a very good start.
_________________

Josh Larsen is editor of http://www.ThinkChristian.net, where this review originally appeared. He also writes about movies at http://www.LarsenOnFilm.com and at Facebook.com/larsenonfilm.

ANGRY NERDS

Greg Stier works with the Dare2Share, an organization committed to teach young people to share their faith. This is a repost from his April 10, 2012 Greg Stier: Relentlessly Pursuing Christ and His Cause.

Is it me or is there a growing number of theologically conservative preachers, teachers and seminary students who just seem ticked off all of the time? They soak in all of their “ologies” (Soteriology, Hamartiology, Christology, Pneumatology, etc) and come out of their Bible bathtubs bubbling with bitterness, bile and bite. Sadly, they are marked more by their pointed index fingers and furrowed brows than the joy of Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for the “ologies” and am passionate about rightly dividing the Word of God. On a theological level I’m pretty stinkin’ conservative myself. But it seems to me that Biblical truth should not make us angry nerds who lash out at others who don’t line up with our point of view, especially on the issues that don’t matter as much. Jots and tittles shouldn’t be the Kibbles n’ Bits we feed on. Instead we must feast on the love of God himself and then invite others to join the feast! Strong theology should fill our hearts, not with rage, but awe, joy and gratefulness.

If God’s grace is a reality then I should be marked by a smile, not a snarl.

If God’s Word is true then I should have confidence, not arrogance.

If God is triune then I should seek unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ, not division.

If God chose me before the foundation of the earth then I should be filled with humility, not pride.

If God made me in his image then I should reflect divine love, not religious legalism.

The great theologian and apostle wrote these words to Timothy in his last days before losing his head to Nero’s sharpened axe,

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:24-26

I’m not sure that Paul in his early ministry years was characterized by the same sense of gentleness and love he is urging Timothy to model in this passage. Early on in Acts he seemed angrier, less patient and more demanding…angry enough to turn John Mark away…angry enough to send Barnabas packing. But, later in life, it seems as though the heart of Christ (love) and mind of Christ (truth) collide in Paul’s life and through his pen in unprecedented ways. May the same be true of us!

Hey seminary students, exegete this…

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If we master theology but don’t have the love of the Master ruling our hearts then we gain nothing. If we learn the truth but don’t live it in love then we have missed the punch line to the greatest theological truth in the universe…a holy and just God who hates sin, loved us enough to send his Son to die for us. His great love for us should usher about a great love in our hearts for him, each other, the lost and, yes, even false teachers.

Great theology, truly understood, embraced and incarnated should turn our frowns upside down.

Signed, Greg Stier

RE-IMAGINING THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION

Re-Imagining Theological Education | 3DM from 3DM on Vimeo.

CALLING OPEN MINDS: THE KINGDOM OF GOD NEEDS YOU

I came across this powerful challenge via Spencer Burke’s The OOze

Calling Open Minds: The Kingdom of God Needs You (by Dr. Bradley Duncan)

The kingdom of God needs open minds. The kingdom of God, also called the kingdom of heaven or the church in the broadest sense of the word, is God’s work on this planet. Jesus calls believers to a great mission to spread his message and deliver freedom to all people. To do this he’s enlisting those with open minds to help with the cause.

Calling Truth-Lovers: The kingdom of God needs people who love the truth. The message that God has for today. The point. What the speakers recorded in the Bible would say to us today if they were standing here on the stage. People who can hear the challenge in the words. People who grapple with less-than-obvious meanings. People who care about the harmful effects and missed opportunities, when we believe “easy” interpretations passed down by tradition instead of grappling with the hard concepts ourselves. God is calling open minds!

Calling Good Listeners: The kingdom of God needs people who can listen. To teach others we have to engage them in discussion. Hear their opinions, thoughts, beliefs and questions. Have an open mind about what we will hear. Guide them to the water but don’t make them drink! We need to care and relate. We need to share ourselves with people — using our ears more than our mouths! The kingdom of God needs people that can deliver God’s good news through listening! What’s more, to hear God calling we need to be good listeners. We need to be open to what he will say. If we want to know truth we need to open our ears!

Calling Thinkers: The kingdom of God needs people with diverse ideas and from diverse backgrounds. We need to understand how different people view the world. We need to hear ideas we don’t agree with! We need to hear solutions, plans, visions and dreams of people willing to think out loud. The kingdom of God will not prosper through inward focus of like-minded people, but through expansions across all boundaries. Calling Scientists! Tell us how you see the world, in its vastly intimate detail. Calling Philosophers! Can you help us understand the complexity of being human? Calling Literary Geniuses! Can you teach us the swelling power of human language to both bind us and liberate us? God is calling thinkers to join his cause!

Calling People with Differences: The kingdom of God needs to meet you. It needs to understand you. It needs to learn from you. Will you please come and tell us what we have been too blind to see? Will you please tell us your story, your concerns, and the ways you have been misunderstood? We’ve never invited you in, so we really don’t know you at all! God is calling you, and we need you as partners. Armed with diversity we can avoid isolating ourselves, avoid the blinders, avoid the narrow, controlling, suffocating pressure to conform. All we need is some people with diverse backgrounds and ideas! Please join us, and please help us to open our minds.

Calling Justice-Lovers: The kingdom of God needs you! Jesus came to liberate the captives, and sent his Holy Spirit to continue the work through people. He needs people who will open their arms to humanity in all its diversity of backgrounds and mindsets, to be ready to accept them into the kingdom as God pours out his love and extends his call to all. The kingdom of God needs people who are ready to accept the unexpected! Because here they come! God needs people who will open their hearts to the oppressed and abandon their own comfort in order to speak up for them! Still slaves? Still exploited? Still without advocates and without options? People are in desperate need of liberation. The kingdom of God is coming to find those people! God is calling justice-lovers to partner with his mission.

Calling Compassionate Hearts: The kingdom of God needs people who can be open to people with needs. Who else will God send if we don’t go? Calling Humanitarian Innovators! We need massive global organization of people who care, to fight hunger, sickness and poor living conditions. Can you help us!? The kingdom of God needs to reach the world and bring God’s love. We need open hearts. We need talent and innovative thinking! Calling Financial Wizards! We need to invest our resources in things that matter, things with lasting return! We need organic, compounding growth of every dollar we invest, by wisely investing in change and in people who can bring change! We need no-nonsense guidance on how to do this! God is calling the workers into the fields, to carry compassion to the world and gather the harvest of the rescued masses of hungry, naked, homeless, sick and poor. Who will respond to this call?

Calling Women: The kingdom of God needs you! You are now free and unlimited. Please don’t hold back in providing your wisdom and leadership. We all the know that the men have typically held the roles of leadership and responsibility, while women worked along-side. But we need the diversity of opinions, talents, and emotions to find a way to reach others. We want the women to step up (and some of the men to step down to make room), because we need the balance and the differences that you bring. We need your talents that we have swept under the rug for too long! We need the “other half” of the church! How can we accomplish anything if we’re only 50% utilized, and lop-sided at that! We don’t need only “hunter-gatherers” to build the kingdom. That will leave us out in the woods! God is calling women. God is calling men to make way.

Calling the Defenders of the Future: The kingdom of God needs people who care about the Earth, sustainability, global sciences, and global clean-up. We live in our garbage and exhaust! We burn the Earth’s limited resources to fill the sky with soot. We have focused so long on spiritual things that we’ve made a mess of our house. We need a wake-up call! God’s kingdom on Earth is not just in the present, or for our children or grand-children. Though the future is unknowable and God’s timing is likely to be surprising, we need to prepare for the long haul! What if the kingdom of God on Earth is to continue for hundreds or thousands of generations!?!? How many zeros can we put on God’s plans for this planet? Future generations will be affected by the decisions we make today. Defenders of the future, please speak up. Please guide us to find better solutions for a sustainable planet.

Calling Global Business Experts: The kingdom of God needs you, because the global economy is supported on the backs of slaves, exploited children, and unappreciated laborers. Please help us leverage economic influence to end modern-day slavery! We don’t need the chocolate, coffee, or cell-phone chips so badly that its worth using humans as battery-powered machines to feed our consumption. Help us bring massive change to the businesses that provide our goods, help us apply pressure and generate public awareness. Help us use our dollars (or Euros or whatever) as votes to end exploitation! We don’t want it any more. The kingdom of God needs visionary leaders who can help us free the slaves through a massive grass-roots movement and the will of consumers to reject slave-made goods.

Calling the Spiritually Sensitive: The kingdom of God needs people who can sense God, hear him calling, and lead us in responding. Where is God going? What is he up to? What will change when we listen and follow his new direction? Can we keep up with God? We have lots of questions and we need those connected people, those relational types, those spiritually aware and open-minded people, to offer their guidance, to help answer our questions. We need a Vision! A Vision of a better world and a Vision of what God is calling us to create in his kingdom. We pray “May your kingdom come, may your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”. So what is God’s will on Earth? Please help us see it. God is calling visionary leaders to show us his thoughts and movements for today. God is calling us all to step up, with open minds and hearts, with open spirits, to hear him calling and to bring change. We just need to respond.

_______________________

Dr. Bradley Duncan is an aerospace engineer living in Boston. He blogs athttp://GraceEmerges.blogspot.com and started the “Open Church Initiative” Facebook page.

I MUST SWALLOW MY PRIDE

I must swallow my pride.
Forget what I believe I deserve.
And get over myself.
Resist the world’s freedoms.
Embrace God’s parameters.
Allow myself to be accountable and restricted.
Choose to go without every little thing I want.
Strengthen my character.
Determine where I am incorrect.
Humble myself.
Stop manipulating God’s way to look like my preferences
and choose His plan – His way –
for every detail.
– from Flashbang by Mark Steele