Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: Revelation

Book Review: Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God

 Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News, Brian Zahnd, Waterbrook, 2017.

Brian Zahnd has been on a theological and spiritual journey. And thankfully, he has taken any who are willing to go, with him. Much of this journey has been documented in his earlier books and through his sermons at Word of Life Church.

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God continues to take us on this journey. Here Zahnd turns a traditional theological understanding of a vengeful God on its head. That is, the idea that God has utter contempt for humankind that was introduced by Jonathan Edwards in 1741.

Edwards’ sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, which I read for the first time in an American Lit class in college, is the main vehicle of this idea. A Puritan classic, the sermon is one of the prominent influences on American evangelicalism. Zahnd provides plenty of quotes from Edwards’ sermon in the opening chapter as he prepares the reader for the shift he is about to make.

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Yellow Butterflies

“Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” -Nathaniel Hawthrone

Yellow ButterfliesAs I was preparing worship and a sermon for what would be my last Sunday at Peakland United Methodist as their Associate Minister, the communications coordinator, Kim, shared with me the bulletin cover she designed. It had a key verse from one of the scriptures I was using and a picture of a butterfly. It was perfect on all sorts of levels.

I hesitated to ask her to change anything. Finally, I asked if it would be possible to make the orange butterfly a yellow butterfly.  She gave me one of those, “that’s an odd request” look, and then said, “Sure.”

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Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters (1984) Original_2A quiet librarian, who is a tiny woman, gently returns books to their shelves. Around her, books are beginning to move . . . off the shelves and around the library. This is just one of what will become many psychic nuisances. Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), and Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) geek out in their own way as they investigate the nuisances. After losing their lab and research positions at the university, they branch out to start their own business.

An old, run-down firehouse is renovated to become the 24-7 headquarters for the Ghostbusters. It is here that they meet Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) for the first time. Dana comes to the Ghostbusters because there seems to be a strange glow and menacing monster inside her fridge. While, Ray and Egon take interest in the actual case, Peter takes more interest in Dana. This is the character that Bill Murray plays so well. He is intelligent, and cool-headed, making side comments whenever he can.

The movie, no doubt a classic summer blockbuster, combines two elements that, prior to this film, were never combined . . . well. It did well the special effects, which require painstakingly detailed work. The floating, green, slimy ghost, the horned beasts, and the other strange things that need ghost busting. On the other hand, it is comedic gold. The dialogue is quick and smart, and with the combined alumni from the schools of Second City/National Lampoon/”Saturday Night Live”, there is little doubt of its awesomeness. The comedy that Murray, Aykroyd, and Ramis learned in these settings is the kind that requires spontaneity and improvisation. And these are some of the masters.

Theologically, what does Ghostbusters offer us? When Winston (Ernie Hudson) joins the team, he and Ray talk about the Biblical connections to the end of days kind of stuff that is happening around them. Winston didn’t believe in the supernatural when he started working for them, he just needed a job. But after seeing it, he believed, which for him makes the possibility of the Revelation-like end of the world even more believable.

A metaphorically reading of Revelation would leave us with various “beasts” that would bring destruction upon the earth. The message at the end of Revelation is that no amount of beasts or destruction will prevent the victory of Jesus Christ and the creation of the New Heaven and the New Earth. And yet, we as Christians play a significant role in the Kingdom of God. We are agents of that Kingdom, eliminating the beasts that roam the earth for the simple intention of destruction. Like the Ghostbusters, we seek out the dark creatures of our world to eliminate. We set out to put an end to poverty, racism, hate, bullying, oppression, marginalization, and neglect. We have a responsibility as people of God to do this justice work. And, like the Ghostbusters, people are going to think we are foolish and strange for doing so. But it is our calling. It is our vocation. It is our purpose. We are the ghostbusters for the Kingdom of God.

Sermon: Savior, Like a Shepherd

A sermon preached April 21, 2013 at Peakland United Methodist Church the Sunday after the Boston Marathon bombing. The texts for the sermon were Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, and John 10:22-30.

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