The Laundromat Movie – Theology Review

“The meek will inherit the earth…” Matthew 5:5

A movie about power, money, and corruption has this two characters that quote this verse. One quotes it in a church after hearing the priest preach about it. The other quotes it after their husband dies and is looking for justice.

Both characters were taught that to be meek meant to be passive. One had an eschatological view (end of time) that the meek would inherit the earth sometime when Jesus returns. But certainly not in the present time.

To be meek, biblically speaking, is to not abuse power or not to be arrogant and oppressive. It means to use power under the Lordship of Christ. We use our power for the benefit of others; not at their expense.

In the movie, The Laundromat, both characters had a different biblical interpretation that in some ways, shaped their lives and decisions. It matters how we interpret and how we theologize. It’s partly why I’m constantly reading and reflecting. I’m seeking integrative truth to believe and live from.

The one character (Meryl Streep) who is seeking justice from a corrupt political and banking system ends up going under cover to expose the companies for their deceitful practices. She used meekness to seek justice. The other character (Antonio Banderas) misused his power and knowledge to take advantage of others, not wanting to know what these shell companies were actually doing. They called it privacy. But this was not privacy. This was a sin of omission…a failure to know their clients and their business purposes. In fact, they did know what their clients were doing but kept hiding behind “privacy laws”. This is the exact opposite of what meekness and justice are.

From an eschatological perspective, we don’t wait for Jesus to enact justice at the end of time. We’re to seek justice with an attitude of meekness. If something is wrong, we’re to do something about it. And we’re to do it with meekness and Jesus does.

The movie is a great reminder to keep doing the work of theology to deepen our understanding. It takes work and effort to think through ethical matters and biblical understanding. We need an integrative approach to keep seeking truth. And it’s a great reminder that integrative theology affects how we do business, runs companies, and do life together.

Sermon On the Mount – More of God

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%205&version=MSG;NIV

It reminds me of the first step in AA – “We admitted we were powerless”. There are a few times I’ve been at the end of my rope. And in many of these cases, it’s been my doing. I overcommit and try to take on too many things. This causes undue stress and I end up not doing anything well.

Admitting that I’m limited with scope, time, and talent is a relief. I can’t do every single thing I think about or want to do. Life is a season of ebbs and flows. There are times when I have bandwidth to try new things. But mostly, I’m a father and husband who is also a corporate chaplain. I have limits to my time and abilities.

Being at the end of my rope has caused me to say “I’m powerless”. I need help. I don’t know what to do but I’m open to there being less of me and more of God’s rule and reign.

I long to trust Abba (heavenly father) for the sake of trusting. Less of me and my own issues, and more of God’s rule and reign is a good thing in my life.

Narrative Theology: Understanding the Big Picture

The Bible has a big picture story that is tantamount when trying to understand the small tidbits.  I remember reading a rabbi who said that you could understand the whole of the Bible by reading the first 3 chapters of Genesis.  There’s creation, fall/sin, redemption, and a new thing (renewal, consummation).  These are really big themes and they help when we’re trying to understand the small things.

I’ve needed help trying to wrap my mind around who Jesus is and why He matters.  Some say to keep it simple and maybe it is.  But it doesn’t seem simple to me to ask the questions and seek answers.

I still struggle to understand why Jesus died for our sins; meaning why it took death.  I know all the scriptures and have heard all the statements regarding the topic.  But I still wrestle with why it had to be this way.

NT Wright, a historian and theologian from England, has helped me understand some of the big pictures themes.  I’m currently reading “Simply Jesus:  A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters”.

He’s asking questions like who did Jesus think He was when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey?  Or that in some ways, the current culture is asking, “Who do YOU say that you are, Jesus?”

I grew up in church and I’m still asking, “Are you who they (gospel writers) say you really you are?”  If He is, there are deep implications for this.  For one, the Bible says that sin and death are defeated.  This implies that is some sense, sin and death don’t have the last words in our life.  That implies that you and I are immortal!  Think about that one for a moment.  What this looks like, I’m not completely sure.  But NT Wright keeps saying to look at the resurrected life of Jesus for hints.  It seems Jesus’ body is glorified and He then must ascend to the Father.  I often tell people who are grieving that in my faith tradition, we say that death doesn’t have the final say; that while it hurts to lose our loved ones and that death seems to be winning, it doesn’t have the final say.

As I discern next steps in my calling and ministry work, I’m faced with the question of who Jesus really is.  My calling and ministry work are in some ways forcing me to ask.  If I’m going to continue to devote the rest of my life to following Jesus and helping others follow him (and in some instances, trying to persuade others to follow Jesus), I need to keep digging into this question of who Jesus thought he was.  My life, career, way of being is at stake.

These next few weeks, you’ll see some posts related to the book I’m reading and how it’s impacting my thinking and living.

Engaging Culture and Common Good

I had to save this short post by Dr. Richard Mouw. His work on public theology and common good has helped me engage the world and see God’s goodness rather than pick sides or create “insider-outsider” dynamics.

Several good folks are offering excellent responses to the recent declaration by John MacArthur and company condemning those of us who advocate for “social justice.” No need for me to add to the well-stated critiques (such as Mike Gerson’s latest in the Washington Post). But I am a bit concerned about those who defend social justice advocacy as long as it draws only on “the Bible itself.” This ties in with those who accuse some of us for being too “accommodating” to “secular culture” on some justice issues–such as gender concerns and the anti-racism cause.

One of the memorable sermons I have heard was from a Grand Rapids preacher, Clarence Boomsma, back in the 1970s, on Jonah on the ship threatened by a storm. He said there was a dispute there between two parties: a prophet of the true God and a bunch of pagan sailors. If that is all the information we had, he said, and we had to choose sides, we would obviously put our money on the prophet. But in this case, he noted, the pagan sailors were speaking truth when they told the prophet he was putting them in danger by his own disobedience. Boomsma’s memorable punchline: sometimes the world preaches important messages to the church. I am happy, then, not simply to reject out of hand what secular activists have to say to us on gender and race matters. It is important to listen carefully lest we miss some good sermons.

– Richard Mouw

We must have a Catholic view of sin which, “produces a more systematic program for advancement in the spiritual life” and a Reformation view which views, “the conception of sin as a radical evil that fundamentally alters our relationship with God.

We must have a Catholic view of sin which, “produces a more systematic program for advancement in the spiritual life” and a Reformation view which views, “the conception of sin as a radical evil that fundamentally alters our relationship with God.
Simon Chan