Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: ultimate concern

He is Strong

Read Romans 5:1-11.

Lent Ponderings - jasoncstanley.comGod created the world and declared that it was good. God created humanity in the image of God and declared that it is good! But sin entered the sin and corrupted, marred, and distorted the image of God within humanity. As a result, we are imperfect, we are infected with sin.

We are weak, but as the children’s song goes, Jesus is strong.

Paul explains to us that Jesus did not die for those who are good or perfect. Jesus died for those who messed-up and screwed-up. Jesus died for the weak. Jesus died for those who fail and fall. Jesus died for those who have fallen short of the glory of God.

That would be you and me.

Because the image of God within each of us has been marred, corrupted, and distorted by sin, it has affected our relationship with God. Christ’s death and resurrection was so that we could be reconciled to God through Jesus (Roms. 5:10).

Traditionally we give up something during Lent to focus on our relationship with God. Some choose to add a spiritual discipline or a new practice. Either way, the season of Lent beckons us to reflect on our relationship with God. Where are we in our faith? In what ways are we weak? How has Jesus been strong when we have been weak? How have you encountered grace?


The Ten: Worship Only God

Do not make an idol for yourself—no form whatsoever—of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow down to them or worship them, because I, the Lord your God, am a passionate God. I punish children for their parents’ sins even to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me. But I am loyal and gracious to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6, Common English Bible)

The Ten - jasoncstanley.comThere is a story in Exodus 32 where the people of God have grown impatient. Moses had been up on the mountain with God for too long. There had been no messages, no texts, no pigeons, nothing. In their anxiety, the people circle around Moses’ brother, Aaron. “Come,” they cry out, “make gods for us, who shall go before us.”

The people had already been anxious because they have been wandering in the wilderness. And without the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day, they do not know of God’s presence in their midst. It is still something they are getting adjusted to. The irony is that as the people circle around Aaron, Moses is on his way down the mountain with the tablets.

But, Aaron gave in to the people. He told them to collect all the gold among the people. They melted it and molded it into a golden calf. The Wesley Study Bible says, “The golden calf represented either an image of the Lord or another deity all together.” The golden calf had become the focal point of their worship, not the Lord. The Hebrew people had done that with their liberation. They were still giving Moses credit for their liberation, not the Lord God.

The Israelites must have been tempted as they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land to worship other gods. The polytheists had a catalog of gods. You have a problem or an issue, there’s a god for that. If you were having fertility issues, there was the god Baal. If there were issues in your marriage or with a pregnancy, there was the goddess Kathirat. And these ancient gods had images associated with them.

It is possible that because the people of God had been surrounded by images of other gods who had specific attributes, they were looking for something similar in the Lord God. It was still a “new thing” to have a God with multiple attributes. The Lord God can be loving, a parent, a giver of life, a redeemer, and a judge.

The 20th century theologian Paul Tillich defined religion as ultimate concern. Ultimate concern is that which concerns us the most. The ultimate concern, Tillich says, becomes our religion. It may not be a golden calf, but if drugs become our ultimate concern to the point everything we do is to fulfill that concern, it has become our religion.

With God has our ultimate concern, we affirm the relationship that God called us to. We also affirm that God has gone before us, beside us, and behind us. The very god the Israelites went to Aaron looking for to worship, is the very Lord God whom they had neglected.


You’re Next (2011)

Ponderings - You're Next ReviewAs far as horror films go, Adam Wingard’s You’re Next is mild. It is by no means Saw or Nightmare on Elm Street. But it is still a horror film, though it beats to its own drum. Wingard’s approach is strike and go. He does not linger on the blood or violence. There is more to this story than that.

In You’re Next, a wealthy couple invite their grown children and their partners to their isolated estate. As the family gathers, it is a very typical dysfunctional family dinner. Old rivalries that have resided in deep resentment surface. During a heated argument at the dinner table, one boyfriend notices something outside. He stands up to look out the window. He is the first of this family to fall fate to the animal masked men outside the home. Ironically, the boyfriend is a documentary filmmaker who is portrayed by horror film maker Ti West.

The message “You’re Next” is scrawled around the house. So, we the humble horror film viewer, know that there is more to come. The film, however, has a few plot turns that are unexpected. Mainly the character of Erin, the girlfriend of one of the sons. Sharni Vinson is by the far the best part of this film. As Erin she is a strong, independent, leader and survivor. When all the mess hits the fan, she goes into survival mode. She does what she learned to do growing up in Australia. It is natural for her, unlike her boyfriend who runs off. This sets Erin apart from this family that she marry into.

Erin is the only one who does not give up. She is only one who does what she must to survive. She will not allow this darkness, this violence, this injustice, to win. And it’s not easy. She sets up traps and arms herself with an axe. The true difficult moment comes when she figures out who is behind all of this violence.

Vinson as Erin

Sharni Vinson as Erin

At the heart of this film (do horror films have hearts?) is family. The problem that the film presents for us is that the darkness, the violence, the injustice that we experience can be at the hands of our family. It quickly becomes clear that the family reunion has been hijacked to ensure that one son gets an inheritance much sooner than planned.

It is hard to believe that family would do this to family. Paul Tillich taught that the thing we care about the most – the thing that motivates us to do the things that we do – becomes our ultimate concern. And that ultimate concern becomes our religion.

And, let’s face it, people do crazy things for their religion. Even kill?


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