Monday, February 04, 2008


Yesterday, the youth led worship at Poplar Grove UMC, and they used the film The Blues Brothers as a template. The worship service began with a series of clips from the movie in which Ayckroyd and Belushi are seen repeating, over and over again, "We're on a mission from God". This includes the most famous line from the movie: "It's [I forget the number of] miles to Chicago, we have a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses." To which Belushi responds, "Let's roll." The youth dressed in black pants, white shirts, narrow black ties, and shades. A few even sported fedoras.

Now, I am quite sure some traditionalists could be outraged by using such a movie as a template for a worship service. For one thing, it is a comedy. For another, it is a silly, nonsensical, and profane comedy (although it's got some of the best music of all time in it; my favorite is Aretha's star-turn as a waitress in a greasy spoon diner). Yet, God's grace is not escaped by hiding behind profanity, nonsense, and laughs. Even these can be vehicles for the Spirit.

My question is the same posed by the youth to the congregation - are you on a mission from God? Jake and Elwood are moved to get the band back together for a charity concert for the orphanage where they grew up, hardly anything radical. Yet, they see it as not just something they should do to be nice. This is what God is calling them to do. Nothing - not even pretty much every state trooped in Illinois chasing them - can stop them because, as Elwood intones in his flat, strangely Canadian monotone, "We're on a mission from God."

Another movie that explores some of the same territory, albeit a bit more self-consciously but still with humor - is last year's Evan Almighty.

I wonder. How crazy are we to insist that God is "calling" us, "sending" us, "using" us? I have no answers to these questions, because they are unanswerable in any definitive way, but I cannot escape this weird thought that we are indeed past the point of rational sanity at times - and I by no means say this pejoratively. I think both Joseph Smith and Muhammed were out of their minds; I also refuse to deny the possibility that they both had genuine encounters with Angels that provided new, fresh information on the mysteries of God's love for humanity. Perhaps being out of one's mind is a prerequisite for accepting the impossible possibility of such encounters.

Any thoughts?

Virtual Tin Cup

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