Glimpses of the Cross

My wife and I pastored our own church for 6 years.  It was a wonderful experience, full of many unforgettable memories – many of which surrounded holidays or special services we held.  One of my favorite times was an Easter service we did one year at the local movie theater.  I didn’t like just doing the “normal” things churches do for holidays and wanted to reach out to people who might never come to the church itself, not even at Easter.  This was when the movie “The Passion” had just come out, so we rented the largest theater at our local AMC Theater and on Easter Sunday morning opened it up for free to whomever wanted to come. Our worship team brought all their instruments and we sang before the movie started. After the movie I summed up the Gospel message and invited people to respond.  Many lives were touched that morning, and I’m so glad we decided to step out of the norm.

One of the simpler things we did for Easter which became something our church really loved, is what I am about to share with you.  We didn’t have the congregation size, building, or finances to put on some elaborate production… so I pulled together a telling of the Easter story from Peter’s perspective, using readings from Max Lucado and Dawson McAllister along with a mixture of video clips and live songs our worship team sung.  It was simple, but powerful… and it had just as strong an impact as seeing “The Passion” did on the big screen.  I’ve updated it a bit since then.  Enjoy. Continue reading

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Seeing God in “The Hunger Games”

I think that the first I’d heard of The Hunger Games was in a FaceBook conversation between a high school teacher I know and some of her students.  I love to read and have a heart for teens, so when I heard an outline of the story I knew I had to read it for myself.  Of course, then I found out it isn’t just one book but three, and I was thrilled.  There is nothing like a continuing story to wet the appetite of an avid reader.  I remember years ago discovering a paperback book series about the Oregon Trail that numbered into 30 or 40 books… I think I bought the whole set at a used book store in town and I devoured a book every couple of days.  Needless to say, if The Hunger Games story went on beyond the three books, I’d be one happy camper. So, when I found out that the books were being turned into movies as well, I got about as excited as any other fan of the series.

If you’re not familiar with the book, here is the story in a nutshell.  It is written from the perspective of a sixteen-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen who lives in one of the 13 “districts” in the country of Panem, which is what is left of North America after some future war.  Everything is run by the Capitol, a highly advanced city that seems to hold complete power over the rest of the nation.  The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 to 18 are selected through a lottery system from each of the districts  to compete in a televised battle in which only one person can survive.  The citizens of the Capitol find the most perverse pleasure in following what happens to the contestants from the comfort of their over-indulgent lives, and seem to love hearing the Gamekeeper’s creepy mantra, “Happy Hunger Games!  And may the odds ever be in your favor.”  Think of it as “The Truman Show” meets “Survivor” meets “Lord of the Flies” – or the extreme end result of our cultural fascination with reality television.  The story has families ripped apart, sacrifices being made, a disgust for the disconnected masses of the cultural elite, and a love story or two woven in between. Continue reading