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Sacrament of the Last Supper by Salvador Dali

ImageI am incredibly grateful to my favorite seminary professor, Reggie Kidd for incorporating art into his lectures at Reformed Theological Seminary. He was particularly fond of Renault and Rembrandt. Growing up in Tampa, I always loved going to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. The one painting of Dali’s that is not in St. Pete that I would love to see again (I saw it in D.C. when I was 8) is The Sacrament of the Last Supper. The painting is beautiful and if you would like to read an excellent analysis of the painting by Michael Novak, a student from Marquette.

Tunesday: Towers by Bon Iver (video)

One of the awesome/terrible things about most music is the lyrics are often vague and subject to interpretation. As someone who tries to discern authors intents in ancient writings for a living this can be incredibly frustrating. However, as someone who loves the beauty of the ambiguity much modern music provides, it can be very beautiful.

It is like my right and left brain are at war with one another. Part of me says, “What does it mean? It must mean something!” The other part of me says, “Who cares what it means, it’s provacative and it gets the people going”.

No artist evokes this sense of wonder more than Bon Iver. These indie darlings write beautiful music that communicates a sense of trnascendance in a way that is normally isolated to clasical composers like Bach and Handel. And yet, these songs complete with biblical imagery and references to sermons and seminaries communicate some elusive meaning that I can’t quite crack.

Watch this video for the banks song, Towers.

Bon Iver – Towers (Official Music Video) from Bon Iver on Vimeo.

Gorgeous song. Gorgeous video. It seems to communicate something so profound about the way we desire to create and control and yet when it falls apart, so do we.

I know this is how my idolatry works. I work so hard to only to have things fall apart. This leads to anger and despair, which often pushes me deeper into the arms of my idols that don’t fulfill. Thank heaven there is the Spirit which reverses the tower of Babel and tames my desire to rebuild it. Again and Again.


Movie Review: Tron Legacy

So I saw Tron:Legacy for the second time this afternoon.

Let me start by saying that I really enjoyed it. Really enjoyed it. Lock in your suspension of unbelief and enjoy the ride.

For those of you who don’t know, it is the sequel to the 1982 movie Tron and takes place in the present day. The movie is loosely based on the idea that Jeff Bridges character, Kevin Flynn, has created a digital world called “The Grid”. He also creates computer programs to inhabit this world. Soon, the most powerful computer program, made in his own likeness, stages a coop and takes over the world. Flynn is trapped and the outside world moves on.

Eventually Flynn’s son makes his way into the Grid and they seek to get out together. Action and adventure ensue.

The one other twist is that somehow, a group of programs were created by spontaneous generation. They weren’t written and were somehow half human (users) and half programs.

The movie had killer computer shots and beautiful landscapes. (on a side note I have seen it in 3-D and regular-D and it doesn’t make a big difference) At times, the dialogue could use some help and the acting was par.

There were a couple of themes that I found striking. First, the movie has some very interesting parallels to the story of creation and the fall. Flynn creates Clu in his own image and Clu ends up overthrowing Flynn’s rule. For this the other programs hail Clu as a liberator. The deep irony apparent to the viewer is the Clu has actually enslaved the programs. Though the story conflates Adam and Satan, the themes are still unmistakable. In fact, at one point Clu reflects on his creation while looking at an apple.

There is also the story of the redemption of Rinzler/Tron. Though the story doesn’t get a ton of screen time, it does play a significant part in the narrative.

So what do we learn from this? What has this part of Athens to do with Jerusalem?

Our sin is actually enslavement. Our pursuit of what we think we are designed for, not what we are actually designed for will always lead to our enslavement. In our culture, we often use our self-perception to dictate our actions. We do x because a person like us should do x, and in doing so we become slaves to these things. (On a completely related note; Chuck Klosterman’s article on Kurt Cobain and David Koresh explores this well…)

Second, the film has an odd fixation on Perfection. Ben Witherington III points this out on his blog. Where I think more should be explored is in the area of why. Why are the writers of Tron so entranced by perfection? It seems to be a longing for something that we know exist and yet know that we can’t attain. There is a great scene (on the solar sailor) that demonstrates the tension between the transcendence (and unknowable-ness) of Perfction/God and the imminence of Perfection/God. The writers of Tron are just writing from what they know and somehow the creator has endowed us all with a sense of his Holiness and how far away it is.

iPads in the Pulpit!?!

As many of you know, I received an iPad as a gift for my ordination a few months ago.  Since then, I have loved a number of things about it.  I use Pocket Informant HD to keep my calendars and to-do list.  I use Dropbox and QuickOffice to edit documents on the fly and make a step towards using less paper.

I also started to use the ESV Bible application.  I love its simplicity and I love using to notes function to create sermons or youth talks.  At the same time, I am weary of using it too much, especially in church settings.  Tim Challies wrote a great series of post, that you can access by clicking here, about e-books and how the medium shapes the message.

So with great trepidation, I preached my Grandfather’s funeral from my iPad.  Afterwords, I was discussing my discomfort about preaching from an iPad with my dad.  He, in his keenly sarcastic way, said, “Yeah, I remember when the Gutenberg Press was invented and these slacker pastors started carrying their bibles into the pulpit instead of memorizing the whole thing”.  In short, get over it.  And in short, I think he was right.

So when it was my turn to preach last week, I decided to dive headlong into 21st century sermon prep.  I had my secretary scan all my commentaries and studies into PDF’s.  I loaded those into the iPad and trotted on over to Starbucks to do my prep.  It was wonderful.  The only thing that I would change is the fact that I couldn’t multi-task (which is coming in November).

So here it is in all of its technological stumbling:  The Table Guests: Luke 14:1-24

Top 5 Rock Records of the 90’s

Oh, to fan the flames of overwrought controversy.

Here is the definitive list of the 5 best Rock Albums recorded in the 1990’s. If you don’t like it, comment and correct.

1. Weezer – Weezer (the Blue Album): Unbelievable hooks, catchy lyrics, and every song is amazing.

2. Counting Crows – August and Everything After: Beautiful from start to finish. The lyrics are cryptic and sometimes haunting.

3. Jimmy Eat World – Clarity: Though the album has a few songs that are not gems, the 14 song masterpiece is incredible. It also ends with a 14 minute tribute to A Prayer for Owen Meany (the greatest novel of the late 20th century)

4. Third Eye Blind – Third Eye Blind: Known mostly for the commercial success of Semi-Charmed life, this record is amazing from the word go. The album has the best final 5 songs of any album of the decade.

5. Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen: The lyrics and the music on this quirky, sometimes sad jam are unbelievable.

All Apologies List: Nirvana – Nevermind, The Juliana Theory – Understand this is a Dream, Radiohead – OK Computer, Clueless – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Blink 182 – Enema of the State.