Friday FaithPost 2: “The Passion” This Palm Sunday Night (March 20th)

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As I was searching around earlier for links to use in the first FaithPost today, I discovered that FOX is broadcasting “The Passion” this Sunday night at 8 pm EDT. The home page has clips which are intriguing. Filmed around and broadcast (live?) from New Orleans, at first glance, it looks like it could be a “Jesus Christ Superstar” or “Godspell” for the early 21st century.

It’s getting a bit of buzz, especially in light of the growing trend of live musicals on TV.

Jesus Sings Pop Songs? 10 Things to Know About FOX’s Musical “Passion” which includes these tidbits:

5. Hundreds of people are expected to help carry a 20-foot-high illuminated cross from the Superdome to the park over the course of the show.

6. Not every street in New Orleans will be shut down, so the procession may at times be stopped by traffic, or even a passing fire truck. In which case Perry’s plan, he told reporters in January, is to say, “Jesus, call an ambulance.”

7. The music isn’t new. “We are using big hit songs that everybody knows, and we are putting them completely in a new context,” said Anders, suggesting viewers might not immediately recognize them.

“It’s incredible, when we start looking through the U.S. pop catalog, how many spiritual undertones there are, because most artists have a spirituality to them, and the songs are written from those moments in their lives,” he said.

Sounds intriguing. It’s on my calendar for Sunday night (when it’s laundry-folding night). I’ll likely be posting on my Twitter account – @hartleyrkrelig , following @thepassionlive and watching/posting at #thepassion.

And, I’ll let you know here on Monday what I thought about it…

 

Friday FaithPost – “40 A Video of Jesus in the Wilderness”

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As I mentioned in the first Friday FaithPost a couple of weeks ago, during Lent I’ll be offering more somber and thought-provoking links on Fridays. Sun(fun) Night Posts will remain light-hearted as Sundays are always days of celebrating Christ’s Resurrection – even during the Lenten season.

I sincerely encourage you to take four minutes now to watch this powerful video telling the story of the gospel from last Sunday.

 

I’m sharing this video with each of my classes today (3 down, 2 to go). And with each viewing, my appreciation of the powerful simplicity of it grows.

Kudos to YouTuber Adam Young who writes only this about the video:

I took these incredible illustrations by a British illustrator named Simon Smith and put them to an Explosions In The Sky song.

“The Miracle Maker” and NBC’s “A.D.: The Bible Continues” Episode I

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A big smile appeared on my face when I saw that Crux featured an article about the greatest Jesus movie that far too many people haven’t seen (or then shown to classes or groups).  I learned about it a few years ago from a theology teacher who mentioned it to the class in passing.  His opinion, with which I concur, is that “The Miracle Maker” follows the stories of the gospels quite closely while telling the story of Jesus in a creative and engaging way.

Take a moment to watch the trailer for it to see if it peaks your interest and curiosity.

Aside from the truly jaw-dropping use of stop-motion animation (be sure to watch the “making of” feature on the DVD after you view the movie), I most like the perspective from which the gospels are told.  The main character, who witnesses almost every moment of Jesus’ ministry from early teaching to Ascension, is Tamar – the fictitious name for Jairus’ Daughter.  She begins the film as a sickly ten year-old, dies and is raised from the dead by Jesus.  The dinner in the Road to Emmaus story is at her home and she is on top of the hill when Jesus ascends.

I’m in the midst of showing “The Miracle Maker” to my sophomores as one third of an assignment (Word version & PDF version) in which I want them to compare and contrast how Jesus is portrayed in a trio of popular films.  The other two films that I use are:

I just streamed the first episode “The Tomb is Open” of NBC’s A.D. The Bible Continues and I was pretty pleased with it.  Here’s my immediate thoughts:

+ The production values, from cinematography to use of CGI effects, are much improved over The History Channel’s The Bible. I show the Old Testament segments of this now two year-old mini-series to my freshmen with this disclaimer – “It follows the OT stories quite well and it shows both the Judges and the Prophets in ways most Bible films do not.  But, I feel it goes too far in both glorifying and sensationalizing the violence and bloodshed in the stories.”

+ The first episode showed the bloodshed and butchery which was a central part of the Jewish Passover ritual in the Temple.  I’ve not seen this aspect (which is referenced in John’s Gospel) in other films.  Unfortunately, the scene is used for exposition on the reasons why the Sanhedrian wanted to eliminate Jesus rather than any explanation of the ritual happening in the background.

+ Jesus and the Apostles are portrayed as they might have actually looked.  Jesus looks more Semitic than he does in previous films, including The Bible. John and Mary Magdalene appear of African descent.  Pilate looks appropriately Roman.  Unfortunately Caiaphas, the High Priest, doesn’t look Semitic at all.

+ Dramatic effects are used a bit too much.  The darkness, earthquake and Temple curtain tearing after Jesus’ death are all described in one or more gospels.  These after-effects of the crucifixion are shown for too long and in a manner bordering on cheesy.  And I think this is the first film to show the actual moment of Christ’s resurrection (spoiler alert – it involves an angel with a sword!)

+ Joseph of Arimathea, also a member of the Sanhedrian, is a central character.  The tension that his request to recover and entomb Jesus’ body likely caused between him and Caiaphas is shown quite convincingly.  The burial itself was interesting.  John the Apostle places Jesus’ body on the slab while Mary, the mother of Jesus, cleans the blood from his face and hands.  Meanwhile, what I assume is a traditional Jewish funeral prayer is chanted by a cantor.

Mark Burnett, producer of the twelve episode series (broadcast on Sundays at 9pm EDT/8 CDT) has described A.D. as “The Bible meets ‘Game of Thrones’ meets ‘House of Cards.'”  This is a ironic way of promoting a broadcast network series – especially since the two shows referenced are watched by millions either via cable or streaming (or both).

I’m looking forward to seeing what that future holds for the coming eleven episodes.  As this first season only covers to about Acts of the Apostles chapter 10, Burnett is hopeful he is given a second season to continue the biblical story.  He goes so far to dream of an annual series premiering each Easter Sunday.

If both the first and second episodes are available for streaming after the broadcast this Sunday, I’m considering showing this movie to my sophomores rather than “The Bible.” If so, I’ll let you know how it goes for us.

UPDATE: A blogger at Patheos posted a quite detailed summary about and reflection upon the first episode of A.D.  He plans to post summaries of the additional episodes after they air.  I’m going to use these summaries as an aid to my students’ viewing of the episodes in class.