By Rev. Dr. Mike Graves serves as our Scholar in Residence
When I was still teaching at the seminary, I wrote an article about preaching in which I compared the creative process to making a movie. Lots of scholars have borrowed various metaphors over the years to get at what putting a sermon together is like. I chose movies for lots of reasons, not the least of which was how not everything gets included, something gets left on the cutting room floor. And let’s be clear, that’s quite painful for preachers.
But the thing about what gets omitted is that it could be meaningful for those who listen as well. So, as I’ve done previously in a newsletter article, I’m sharing here some material that didn’t make the cut this past Sunday, a sermon in our series on movies that we’re calling Reel Faith. The movies (plural) this week were Barbie and Oppenheimer, with a decidedly feminist take on both. If you didn’t get a chance to hear it, HERE’S THE LINK, the sermon begins around minute 26. Here’s some of what I left out:
The meditation on the bulletin cover was a quote from Marie Shear, “Feminism is the radical notion women are people.” Such a great line. I read another quote last week that stopped me in my tracks, a line by Margaret Atwood, “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”
I did tell some stories from Sue Monk Kidd’s incredibly powerful memoir, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, but there are so many other wonderful moments in that book. Like the time she was driving by a Baptist church, the kind that had wounded her feminine spirit as a little girl. Nearby wild daffodils were blooming. She formed a bouquet as best she could and placed them at the church’s door, a sign of making peace.
There’s always more that could be done with the biblical text, this time around the story of Mary and Martha welcoming Jesus into their home (Luke 10:38-42). It’s a troubling text, the two pitted against each other. The one listens, which is a good thing in Luke’s Gospel, usually accompanied by doing; the other is serving, which is also a good thing in that Gospel, but apparently not this time. Maybe there’s something in the story you wonder about.
Saint Augustine has to be one of the most influential voices in the history of Christian thought, including many teachings downplaying women. He went so far as to suggest that while men are made in God’s image, not so for women. Seriously?
Because sermons deal with ancient texts as well as modern times, it hit me hard last week hearing stories on the two-year anniversary of the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan after US withdrawal. They had promised progress for women, but at present, only a few women are allowed to work (with heads properly covered of course) and girls banned entirely from secondary education in schools.
I didn’t do nearly enough with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, except to note yet more patriarchy. But there’s a whole lot more to the story of the brilliant minds that set out to stop Nazi Germany and eventually Japanese aggression. Apart from the male patriarchy that I did mention, the scene that sticks with me most powerfully is a dialogue between Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein. As the scientists began to imagine how a chain reaction might lead to a more powerful bomb, Oppenheimer and the others wondered if it might never stop, that the world could be blown up. That didn’t happen, of course. But in the end, Oppenheimer believes that perhaps in a way it did happen, that it could happen someday.
That is some of what’s been on my mind, but not in the sermon. What’s on yours?