The Mystery of The Revelation

March 30, 2005

We’re now four days away from the start of our study of Revelation in Families of Faith.

When I first took a hard look at this book, about 20 years ago, I wanted to know all of the answers. I wanted to be able to explain the meaning of every symbol, every verse in detailed, concrete terms. This was probably because I came from a faith tradition that assumed all of scripture could be clearly understood in immediate, material terms.

But now I know better. While I can make sense of most of the symbols in this book in the context of the immediate purposes of the book (which I believe was to strengthen and comfort late first-century churches dispersed throughout Asia), Revelation is still, ultimately, a book of mystery. Not everything we are told in this book is altogether clear. And I’m okay with that.

One of my favorite texts is becoming Chapter 10, verses 3 and 4. I hardly paid it any mind twenty years ago, but now it captures my imagination. Revelation unveils much of how God is redeeming His people through Jesus, even as we continue to suffer and face hardships here on earth, but it doesn’t tell us everything. Throughout the centures, Christians have had to wait and watch as God’s plan unfolds.

And in that sense, the Revelation of Jesus continues even today.


The New Galactica

March 28, 2005

One of my favorite TV shows during the days of my early adolescence was Battlestar Galactica. During 1978, while most of my friends were feeding off of a steady diet of shows like Mork and Mindy, Charlie’s Angels, and Eight is Enough, I was caught up in the vast (albeit brief) saga that was unfolding on ABC’s prime time Sunday night lineup.

After 25+ years, the original Galactica definitely shows signs of aging. Unlike its contemporary inspiration, Star Wars, it now comes across as dated and campy space opera. It is still fun to watch, but moreso for nostalgic purposes than entertainment. Levi, my 13 year-old son, scoffs every time the subject comes up, correctly opining that Galactica is an obvious Star Wars knock-off.

This weekend, I had a chance to get my second look at the new Galactica, which is airing on Friday nights on the Sci-Fi channel, and – despite some negative publicity surrounding the show – I have been pleasantly surprised.

The overall premise of the new show is the same. Humanity, scattered across twelve planets, is virtually wiped out by a cybernetic race called the Cylons. A lone, surviving military ship (similar to an aircraft carrier), along with a fleet of vulnerable, civilian ships, is on the run, seeking to evade detection and survive until it can locate a legendary thirteenth planet/colony named (you guessed it!) “Earth.”

While the basic premise is the same, the new Galactica is a completely different show in most other respects. Starbuck, though still a rogue fighter pilot, is now a woman. Adama, played by Edward James Olmos, is a brooding, flawed figure – much different from the optimistic, larger-than-life protagonist played by the late Lorne Green. And the tone of the show is now dark. Very dark. The new Galactica is gritty, military sci-fi, much different from the campy space opera that characterized its predecessor.

Yet it is captivating in its own way. I’m coming to care about the characters in this show in the same way that I did for Mulder and Scully, as they strugged to make sense of their worlds in The X-Files. Deep, real characters are a rarity in science fiction, but they are present in Galactica. And the writing for this show leaves many other, more “serious” TV dramas in the dust.

Galactica poses some intriguing questions. While the old show assumed that humanity will always survive because it is strong-willed, innovative, etc., the new one isn’t afraid to ask questions such as “do we really deserve to survive?” The pilot/miniseries (avaialble on DVD) was filled with angst-ridden characters who were struggling to come to terms with their own sins and shortcomings in the context of an apocalyptic calamity.

I’m not quite sure what to make of the relationship between Baltar, the frighteningly believable “Judas” of the show, and the enigmatic Number Six, a Cylon agent played by Tricia Helfer. I like the way their ongoing relationship demonstrates that Baltar was and continues to be vulnerable to temptation, but a lot of the scenes involving the two characters seem tacked on and gratuitous. In a show that is otherwise well written and “real” (in the sense of the way the characters think and act), these scenes feel out of place, as if they are the product of a network exec’s demand that the creators appeal to the show’s nerd-ly, and largely dateless core audience of teenage and young adult males. In short, the Baltar/Six sub-plot is worthwhile, I just wish it could be toned down a lot.

I’ve always thought that good TV shows are comprised of two elements: interesting characters and good writing. The new Galactica has both, and in that sense it is worth checking out, not only because it is good science fiction, but because its a good show by any standard.

Easter Chorus (Rev. 7)

March 27, 2005

Its the song of the redeemed, rising from the African plain
Its the sound of the forgiven, drowning out the Amazon rain
The song of Texas believers, filled with God’s holy fire
Its every tribe, every tongue, every nation
A love song born of a grateful choir

Its all God’s children singing “Glory, glory! Halellujah! He reigns!”

(Steve Taylor and Peter Furler)

Where I Live

March 26, 2005

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save
‘Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ, I live

(Keith Getty and Stuart Townend)

More Than Life

March 25, 2005

How can it be
You were the one on the cross
Lifted for all our shame?
How can it be
The scars in your hands are for me?
You are the King of All.

And I love you more than life.

(Ruben Morgan)

Interactive Worship

March 23, 2005

Christianity Today is running an online article about the nature of the innovations that are changing Christian worship in our culture. In short, worship is becoming more customized, more participatory, and more community oriented.

I like these trends, not because they are new or cool (though, occasionally, they are both), but because they engage people in ways that linear, traditional styles of worship do not. Worship is no longer a carefully planned program, with only a few participants and many spectators. Instead, it becomes a collaborative effort in which the entire faith community is involved.

Having been involved in planning and implementing bible classes for the last few months, I am particularly intrigued by how these same ideas can be used in that format. I’m coming to the conviction that class should be an extension of the worship that is already taking place in the larger church assemblies, rather than a separate event with a separate purpose. That doesn’t mean that class can’t serve its traditional purpose of conveying knowledge about scripture – I just think that, especially in larger churches with more traditional worship formats (such as Highland), class is also an ideal place for worshippers to abandon their role as spectators and consumers, and become participants in worship.

Here’s an example of how I think this might be done at a church like Highland:

In the main assembly, there is a message about how, in response to our own salvation, we are called into a Kingdom that feeds the hungry and clothes the poor. Songs about how God rescued us from sin and our gratefulness for that salvation are part of the worship program. Then, in class, after a brief review of some texts that connect the Kingdom of God with ministry to the poor (which resembles a traditional class), members discuss their reservations about this issue and longings to be involved with the poor. The class is concluded by creating a large prayer wall in which prayers for the poor of the community are written while music is playing softly in the background, and class members pray together in small groups about the poor of the community. Directions to specific people and places where this ministry can be accomplished are provided to members at the end of class.

I realize that some people would be uncomfortable with this format, because it calls them out of a “pew potato” role and into direct involvement with the message. But it also seems to me that it is closer to satisfying the purposes that church assemblies served in the first century.

What do you think?

Microtransactions: Here We Go!

March 21, 2005

Apologies in advance to my non-gaming readers. I need to rant for a moment. If you check back in a day or so, I’ll say something more constructive and less nerd-ly.

The gaming world has been buzzing for several days now about microtransactions, a concept that will be introduced with the next iteration of the XBox, presumably before Christmas of this year. The idea behind this concept is that – for a small price – players can purchase various items for use in the game that will enhance the game experience. Thus, in sports games, new bats, uniforms, and golf clubs will be available. Likewise, in action games and RPGs, new weapons, spells, and characters and/or character abilities can be purchased.

What has surprised me about all of this news is the lack of skepticism that is being expressed (or at least, published) about this concept. Call me overly cynical, but I am suspicious that the end result of the availability of microtransactions will be this: stripped-down games that require the player to pay ADDITIONAL money to get full content. Thus, instead of paying $50 for game and content (as is currently the case), a typical player will pay $50 for a bare-bones game and between $10 and $20 more for the content that he/she really wants. Publishers of products like The Sims and racing games (which thrive on a variety of cars and couses) will have a hey-day, repeatedly charging users for new, updated content.

Someone please tell me that I’m wrong.