Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: Linus

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)

22charlie-brown-thanksgiving22-standard-printYear after year, during the week of Thanksgiving, families gather around the television to watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Since it first aired on November 20, 1973, it has become as much of the holiday tradition as the turkey, the Macy’s Parade, and backyard football.

It is a welcome site when our television screens begin projecting this classic cartoon. We find comfort that Charlie Brown still doesn’t kick that football, and that Snoopy is given more responsibility than the average beagle. Comforting especially when department stores quickly replace Halloween decorations with Christmas ones; when politicians debate who should and should not be welcomed; and when saying, “Thank you,” seems to be nothing more than the reminders of a nagging parent.

In the special, Sally tells Charlie Brown that she went to the store to get a turkey tree and there was all this “Christmas stuff.” Later she laments, “I haven’t even finished eating all my Halloween candy!” (even though she was in the pumpkin patch with Linus on Halloween). We feel Sally’s pain. Before we even get to Thanksgiving, we are bombarded with Christmas music, Christmas sales, and Christmas decorations.

Has the materialism of Christmas caused a forgetting of the tradition of Thanksgiving?

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It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Discussion Questions

I wrote this for our middle schoolers a few weeks ago to use in their Sunday morning small group. It’s a discussion that focuses on doubt and faith, and that we can trust in God.

great-pumpkin-charlie-brown-1

 

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3 Shades of Grace: Introduction

Three Shades of Grace“We know no gospel without salvation from sin.” -John Wesley

Charles Schultz’ Charlie Brown says to his friend Linus, “Life is just too much for me. I’ve been confused right from the day I was born. I think the whole trouble is that we’re thrown into life too fast. We’re not really prepared.”

Linus replies, “What did you want . . . a chance to warm up first?”

It could be said that “the whole trouble” of humanity is original sin. Original sin is the corruption of the nature of every human being. In the beginning, God created, and it was good. God created humanity in the image of God, and it was good. John Wesley referred to this original righteousness as “original perfection.” But, when the first humans ate the fruit of the tree, sin entered the world. The Fall, as the Genesis 3 narrative is commonly referred to, left humanity fallen from perfection.

Sin is the “whole trouble” with humanity. It has left the image of God within humanity disfigured and diseased. As Paul says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Wesley understood that what we inherited from Adam and Eve was not so much guilt, but corruption and disease.

There is no escape from sin.

This is why humanity is in need of divine grace. Grace is the undeserved, unmerited, loving action of God. It is grace that renews and restores the fallen image of God within humanity. Grace is the answer to the problem. Grace is the medicine for the disease of sin. Grace transforms us from a sinful state to a righteous state. As United Methodists, we affirm that salvation comes through this loving action of God we call grace.

John Wesley understood grace in three shades, or three movements. Prevenient grace is God’s love at work in our lives from the beginning, even before we realize our sin-filled reality. While justifying grace pardons us through Christ, sanctifying grace empowers us to participate with God in healing our sin sick selves. But only if we choose to cooperate. This has been called Wesley’s “Way of Salvation.” It is the story of how grace restores us to original righteousness.

The next few posts will explore these three shades of grace.

 

A Charlie Brown Valentine (2002)

CB Valentine A Charlie Brown Valentine is the first Peanuts cartoon special that was made after the death of creator Charles Schultz. It is also the third time that such a special was made with digital ink and paint, rather than the traditional cel-hand-drawn animation (thank you, Wikipedia.) The change in animation style also refers to the way the characters are presented on screen. They are drawn in a style that is similar to way they appeared in the newspaper comic strip. For example, you may notice the annoying white line around Lucy’s head. That is to make her appear more like she does in the comic strip. But, Schultz didn’t see a need to do it in the original specials, why do it here. It is mostly a distraction, and it was never done again.

The fact that Charles Schultz was not involved in this special is evident. The animation is not nearly as good as older Peanuts specials, and the story-line leaves much to be desired. Even so, it is a Peanuts special, and it attracted over 5 million viewers when it has been aired.

The story focuses on Charlie Brown and his secret love for the little red-haired girl. They are in the same class and despite all the effort on Charlie Brown’s part, he cannot quite find the courage to talk to her. He makes a Valentine for her and hides behind a tree, hoping that she’ll walk by and take it. In the meantime, Peppermint Patty and Marcie are both are trying to get Charlie Brown’s attention, as they are both interested. But Charlie Brown is getting his sleeve caught in the pencil sharper, trying to get the little red-haired girl’s attention.

Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally, puts all her Valentine attention on Linus. Linus, as usual, rejects that attention and love.

Sally with hands held open: I’ll just stand here until you give me a Valentine.

Linus: Or, you can stand can like for the rest of your life and never get anything.

Linus, as usual, may be on to something. Sally has it wrong, it is not about what we get, it is about what we give. Sally makes a big deal out of the Valentine box in her classroom. I couldn’t help but wonder what would we put in Jesus’ Valentine box? I would hope that we would put ourselves in there. We are the best gift we can give Jesus. The Valentine we can give to Jesus is to show love to others.

At their wall, Linus convinces Charlie Brown that he should invite the little red-haired girl to the Valentine dance. But it doesn’t quite happen, and when Charlie Brown gets enough courage to ask her to dance, she is already dancing with Snoopy.

Charlie Brown is overly love-struck in this special. He makes reference to it himself. He gets so distracted that he cannot focus on his school work or anything else. His mind is solely on the little red-haired girl.

It is a pretty standard 25-minute special. Peanuts watchers will notice that the little red-haired girl in this special looks different than she does in It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown. Here, she looks a little bit like little orphan Annie.

This Peanuts special is the 34th prime-time TV special. It first aired on February 14, 2002 on ABC, the first produced by ABC and was directed by Bill Melendez.

It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown

Peanuts First KissIt’s Homecoming at Charlie Brown’s school. He and Linus are on the same Homecoming float, when Charlie Brown notices the little red-headed girl. The little red-headed girl is the Homecoming Queen. Charlie Brown and Linus are two of the guys who have been selected to escort the Queen and her court onto the dance floor.

Linus explains what is expected of Charlie Brown. Tradition states that when Charlie Brown escorts the Homecoming Queen to the dance floor, he then must give her a kiss. At this, Charlie Brown can’t believe it. In fact, he is filled with so much disbelief that he falls off the Homecoming float.

During the Homecoming football game, where Charlie Brown is the team’s kicker, he is totally distracted by the little red-headed girl in the stands. And distracted by the fact that he will  have to kiss her. Each time Charlie Brown goes up to kick, Lucy pulls the ball. Even when he has the chance to be the hero and win the game, Lucy pulls the ball away from Charlie Brown. Everyone is disappointed that Charlie Brown lost the game.

But, everyone’s attention now turns to the Homecoming Dance. Charlie Brown is so nervous, he is shaking and turning red. The other boys escort the court to the dance floor, and then it is Charlie Brown’s turn. He slowly walks down the red carpet, takes the little red-headed girl’s arm, and walks her out to the dance floor. Then, he leans in and gives her a kiss.

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The next morning, Charlie Brown joins Linus at their wall. Linus recalls how they lost the football game the day before. And even though Charlie Brown didn’t win the game for the team, he was the hero of the dance! Poor Charlie Brown doesn’t remember any of it!

Somehow he found the courage to kiss the little red-headed girl, who in this special we learn is named Heather. Charlie Brown cannot believe that he actually did it! “What good is it to do anything, Linus, if you can’t remember what you did?” Charlie Brown inquires.

Linus just reminds him that it was still a good day because it was his first kiss. The special ends with Charlie Brown smiling in satisfaction. What a great way to end or start a day. Smiling in satisfaction. No matter what we have done, or how much of it we remember, it’s a great way to be. It’s counter to how we usually experience Charlie Brown. He can’t seem to kick that football, but he can drum up the courage to kiss the little red-headed girl.

This Peanuts cartoon is the sixteenth prime-time TV special. It first aired on October 24, 1977 on CBS and was directed by Phil Roman.

Sermon: Love as Charlie Brown Loved

This is a recording of my sermon from Sunday, December 29, 2013 at Peakland United Methodist Church. The text was 1 John 4:7-21. This was during the Horizons Praise service.

Repost: The Greatest Gift of All

Linus recites Luke 2:

Linus recites Luke 2:

This post was first posted on December 24, 2012. 

 

Sometimes, we can feel like Charlie Brown. We get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas and wonder, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus, much like the angels on that first Christmas, remind us what Christmas is all about.

“Peace and goodwill toward men.”

Peace and goodwill is hard to come by these days, as it was that first Christmas.  Charles Campbell reminds us, “The political powers, in both Jesus’ day and our own, play on fear to get their way – whether it be the fear of the emperor, the fear of terrorists, the fear of the ‘other’ (the immigrant), or the fear of death.”

Government mandated oppression.

Discrimination against those were different than them.

The poor were kept poor.

People suffered from hunger.

Violence was evident on the streets daily.

But, that was in “those days.”

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7, NRSV).

The arrival of Jesus brought with it a “new day.” There is no longer need for fear, only joy. There is no longer need for corruption, only freedom. There is no longer need for hunger, only feasting. There is no longer need for occupation, only liberation. There is no longer need for war, only peace.

And yet, we struggle to see this “new day.”

Political parties inspire fear of the other party.

Hatred and bullying of someone, anyone, who is different from us is rampant.

The great divide between the have’s and the have-not’s gets wider and wider.

People suffer from hunger.

Violence is evident on our streets and in our schools.

And there is something deep inside of us that wants to cry out like Charlie Brown, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is about?” Sure, we get all these warm fuzzies at this time of year that make us feel so good. It’s great giving and receiving gifts. It’s great going to parties. It’s great having family and friends around.

But, at least for me, there is something hard to swallow about Christmas. That is with all the joy, there is grieving and hopelessness. And I don’t mean to put a damper on things. From Central America and back, I have seen suffering at the hands of poverty, addictions, and violence. And while we try to not think about these things at Christmas, we have to remember this is why the baby boy was born. This poverty, these addictions, and this violence is the reason God became man. This suffering is the reason that Jesus was born.

Jesus is not just the reason for the season. Jesus is the greatest gift of all. In that lowly manger sits hands of grace that bring healing and hope into our hopelessness.

John’s gospel talks about Jesus’ birth as a great Light that penetrates  the darkness of the world. Matthew quotes Jesus telling the disciples that “You are the Light of the World.” This is just one of the many commissioning sayings of Jesus. God sent Jesus as the Light, we are the light-bearers. It is now our responsibility to carry that Light into the dark crevices of the world. Because we claim Jesus Christ, we now become a gift to the word.

Taking the Light to the oppressed.

Taking the Light to the poor and the hungry.

Taking the Light to the bullied and the bullies.

Taking the Light into the violent streets.

It is us who must act. It is us who must bring peace and goodwill to all. It is our gift to give.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Whalen-A-Charlie-Brown-ChristmasOn December 9, 1965 an animated Christmas special aired on CBS. Some network executives had already made the commitment to air it, but they only planned to air it that one time. Little did they know that the simple story of Charlie Brown searching for the meaning of Christmas would be the second most watched show that week (second only to the western Bonanza), much less a Christmas tradition.

They only planned to have it air once, but they didn’t think it was very good. It is a miracle that the special ever made it to the air anyway. Producer Lee Mendelson got a phone call explaining that Coco-Cola wanted to sponsor a Christmas special and accepted the offer, even though he didn’t have one. He called Charles Schultz and asked if he could have a story in a week. They pitched the Christmas special and it was accepted. They had six months to make the special, which is usually not enough time. But the team of Schultz, Mendelson, and Bill Melendez made it happen.

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The Greatest Gift of All

Linus recites Luke 2:

Linus recites from Luke 2

Sometimes, we can feel like Charlie Brown. We get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas and wonder, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus, much like the angels on that first Christmas, remind us what Christmas is all about.

“Peace and goodwill toward men.”

Peace and goodwill is hard to come by these days, as it was that first Christmas.  Charles Campbell reminds us, “The political powers, in both Jesus’ day and our own, play on fear to get their way – whether it be the fear of the emperor, the fear of terrorists, the fear of the ‘other’ (the immigrant), or the fear of death.”

Government mandated oppression.

Discrimination against those were different than them.

The poor were kept poor.

People suffered from hunger.

Violence was evident on the streets daily.

But, that was in “those days.”

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7, NRSV).

The arrival of Jesus brought with it a “new day.” There is no longer need for fear, only joy. There is no longer need for corruption, only freedom. There is no longer need for hunger, only feasting. There is no longer need for occupation, only liberation. There is no longer need for war, only peace.

And yet, we struggle to see this “new day.”

Political parties inspire fear of the other party.

Hatred and bullying of someone, anyone, who is different from us is rampant.

The great divide between the have’s and the have-not’s gets wider and wider.

People suffer from hunger.

Violence is evident on our streets and in our schools.

And there is something deep inside of us that wants to cry out like Charlie Brown, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is about?” Sure, we get all these warm fuzzies at this time of year that make us feel so good. It’s great giving and receiving gifts. It’s great going to parties. It’s great having family and friends around.

But, at least for me, there is something hard to swallow about Christmas. That is with all the joy, there is grieving and hopelessness. And I don’t mean to be a damper on things. From Central America and back, I have seen suffering at the hands of poverty, addictions, and violence. And while we try to not think about these things at Christmas, we have to remember this is why the baby boy was born. This poverty, these addictions, and this violence is the reason God became man. This suffering is the reason that Jesus was born.

Jesus is not just the reason for the season. Jesus is the greatest gift of all. In that lowly manger sits hands of grace that bring healing and hope into our hopelessness.

John’s gospel talks about Jesus’ birth as a great Light that penetrates  the darkness of the world. Matthew quotes Jesus telling the disciples that “You are the Light of the World.” This is just one of the many commissioning sayings of Jesus. God sent Jesus as the Light, we are the light-bearers. It is now our responsibility to carry that Light into the dark crevices of the world. Because we claim Jesus Christ, we now become a gift to the word.

Taking the Light to the oppressed.

Taking the Light to the poor and the hungry.

Taking the Light to the bullied and the bullies.

Taking the Light into the violent streets.

It is us who must act. It is us who must bring peace and goodwill to all. It is our gift to give.

Merry Christmas!

The meaning of Christmas, via Linus.

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