Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Frederick Buechner

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is the novelist and theologian Frederick Buechner (pronounced Beek-ner): 

Buechner on Prayer

Grace

Buechner on Life

In the seventies, eighties and nineties, I spent a lot of my reading with theologians. I can hear the groans out there. But I was seriously trying to figure out something a lot of people had down pat. What kind of spirituality did I want to embrace?

This search led me in a lot of directions that included Catholicism, Pentecostalism, Evangelicalism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Taoism. I looked at a variety of practices outside the mainstream including certain new age practices, such as the tarot and reiki. For a while, I attended Quaker Meetings. I even dipped my toe into Jungian psychology. But, I have to tell you. My shadow scared the bejeezus out of me.

Each of these spiritualities offered something I could embrace. But none was completely satisfying. I kept thinking why did I have to choose? So I made my choice. I chose the way that Robert Frost called “The Road Not Taken”. I finally arrived at a point that I was not about to choose.

And I came to one conclusion about God. I was not an atheist or an agnostic. For me, there was only one God to believe in. That is the God, I-Don’t-Know.

In my search, the writers that impressed me were the theologians Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Buber, and Frederick Buechner as well as the novelists Graham Greene and Fyodor Dostoevsky. All of these showed me that the spiritual path is not an easy road.

So today I would like to honor Frederick Buechner and thank him for his insight. Both his essays and his novels have been enlightening. If you would like to know more about him, here’s a link to his website.

Police Brutality

It had been a long night for Jesus. First the Passover meal, then the praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, then a nice stroll around the Garden. Just as He was about to leave the Garden, this cop showed up.

“Gee, I was just out taking a walk,” Jesus said to the Roman cop.

“Don’t you know that this is a white rich guy neighborhood?” the cop said to Jesus.

“Isn’t it a free country?” Jesus said.

“Not for your kind,” the cop said to Jesus. “So are you going to go peacefully or are we going to call in the SWAT team for you and your boys over there?”

“You can’t do this,” Jesus said. “I know my rights.”

“Look, Buddy, the only right you got is to move along. If you don’t, we’re taking you to jail.”

“But—“ Jesus said

“Okay, Buddy,” the cop said and grabbed Jesus’ arm. “It’s jail for you.”

Jesus felt his sandal fall off. He went down to slip it back on. The cop pulled out his revolver and slammed Jesus over the head. “Hey, guys,” the cop shouted. “Resisting arrest.”

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week on Hold Today

On Mondays I usually post a Movie I give two thumbs up. In light of the tragic events Saturday night, I am not posting the film I had planned today. I am sending out my thoughts and prayers to those who were the victims of that tragedy.

I have lived long enough to see way too many acts of terrorism: The assassinations of President Kennedy, Malcolm X, Dr. King and Bobbie Kennedy; the murder of John Lennon; the attempted assassination of President Reagan; the Oklahoma City bombing; the Wisconsin Sikh Temple Massacre on August 5, 2012; the Sandy Hook shootings; the Columbine High School shootings; the Fort Hood shootings; and the Mother Emmanuel Church of Charlotte, SC massacre. And these are just a few that have occurred in the United States alone.

No major religion, not Islam, not Judaism, not Christianity, not Buddhism, not Hinduism, condones the murder of innocent men and women and children. All of these faiths call on us to do unto others as we would be done unto. We must recognize this Evil for what it is. It is a Cult of Violence that brainwashes the vulnerable, the alienated and the isolated into believing that their cause is righteous and that they have God’s approval for their horrendous acts.

It is my hope that something positive and good will come out of this tragedy. All I know is that we can do better than this. And we must try. That would be the best memorial to those who died so tragically Saturday night.

The house off the Via Dolorosa

Happy Easter to all my Christian friends.

It is a late afternoon in Jerusalem when I turn off the cobblestone Via Dolorosa onto a little side street and there it is. The smell of cooked meat from the animal sacrifices in the Temple fills the air. Soon I come to the door I’ve been searching for. A wooden door with the sign of a fish above it. The house behind that door is the home of the Mother of Jesus.

During Herod Agrippa’s recent persecutions, many of the faithful left Jerusalem. These included Mary. Though she wanted to stay in the City, the Apostle John, the disciple Jesus charged with her welfare, sent her away. In Nazareth, she had family and she would be safe there.

A week before the fifteenth anniversary of our Lord’s Crucifixion, our tribulations ended. Agrippa was dead. We faithful started returning to the city. This became obvious by the number who gathered on the Mount of Olives for the sunrise celebration of the Resurrection some weeks earlier. His Mother was one of them, and now her door is open again to her Son’s followers.

I knock. A small woman opens the door.

“Who is it, Salome?” a booming voice calls. Peter, a large, balding man, sits at a table across the room, surrounded by three other men. “Not a temple spy I hope. Caiphas and his prying eyes.” Then he laughs.

“Just a traveler,” I say, “seeking some good company and a place to shake the dust off my feet.”

“Enter, friend,” another calls over to me. His name is John and his eyes burn with the bright light of his Master’s love. “You are most welcome in this house.”

“Take off your shoes,” Salome says to me. “This is a holy place.”

I remove my sandals and set them by the door as the others have.

“Sit, friend,” another man says, looking over me with eyes that remember Emmaus. This large, burly man with the gruff voice is Cleopas, a former Zealot.

I join the four men, Peter and John, Cleopas and Cornelius, the Roman Centurion, at the table.

“Perhaps,” Cornelius says, hope in his eyes. “Perhaps this will be the year of His Return. On the anniversary of His Ascension?”

Mary, the one called Magdalen, walks over and pours me a drinking bowl of red wine. Suddenly I realize how thirsty I am. As I drink, Salome kneels and washes the dirt off my feet.

Across the room, I notice another woman dressed in blue, the woman I have come to see. Though her face and hands are wrinkled and her hair white, the woman in her mid-sixties has a calm peace on her face. And the room glows with her tranquility, her stillness. She is the Mother of Jesus. This coming summer she will pass from this earth and join her Son. But this late spring evening she is here, and I have a chance to enjoy the hospitality of her house as I eat her bread and sip her wine.

She sits in her chair, her hands resting on her lap, a gentleness on her face, gentle yet revealing all the suffering she has known. There she tells her stories and I am comforted.

“He who dwells,” she says, “in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. And I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust’….If you make the Most High your dwelling…no harm will befall you.” Then she folds herself inward and meditates upon all that she has known.

After a long pause, she ends the evening with these words: “Maranatha. Come, Lord, come again.”

Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: Is a Mini-Series

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. From time to time, a reflection on the movie will appear below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is the mini-series, “Jesus of Nazareth” (1977)

Ever so often some Hollywood producer gets a wild hair. He just has to do Jesus. Again. Even though the life of Jesus has been done over and over again. And I’ve seen a good many of them.

I’ve seen “King of Kings”. I’ve seen “Son of God”. I’ve seen “The Greatest Story Ever Told”. I’ve seen “The Passion of the Christ”.  I’ve seen Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “The Gospel According to St. Matthew”. I’ve seen “Godspell”. I’ve seen “Jesus Christ Superstar”. I’ve even seen “The Last Temptation of Christ”. I never could figure out why so many made such a big deal out of “The Last Temptation”. After all, Willem Dafoe portrayed a whiney, complaining Jesus. Who would follow this guy?

And I’ve read the four Gospels. Several times.No movie but one has done justice to the life of Jesus. Only Franco Zeffirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth”.

Yes, that Franco Zeffirelli. The director of the movies “Taming of the Shrew” (1967), “Romeo and Juliet” (1968), “Hamlet” (1990), “Tea With Mussolini” (1999)  and the best movie of the life of St. Francis “Brother Sun Sister Moon” (1972). “Jesus of Nazareth” is his masterpiece.

It was the heyday of the mini-series. The days of “Rich Man, Poor Man”, “Shogun”, “The Thorn Birds”, and “Roots”, of “Masterpiece Theater” just coming into its popularity. It was way before “John Adams”, “Game of Thrones” and “Orange is the new black”.

For over six hours, we watched “Jesus of Nazareth”. Some watched to see if Zeffirelli had been true to the script of the Gospels. He had. Others watched it and thought that this was great television. I belonged to that second group.

For the first time, I got all four Gospels in one film. Sure, there were some events missing, such as the Cana miracle. But that was to be expected for a six-hour dramatic presentation. I got a lot more than the films before and since have given me.

And I got to see all the usual suspects. Mary and Joseph, Herod and Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalen and Simon Peter, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, John the Baptist and the Magi, Judas Iscariot and Barabbas, and all the others I read about.in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And Robert Powell as Jesus knocked the ball out of the park as far as I am concerned. Unlike so many other portrayals of Jesus, his was a Jesus for whom I would give up everything and follow.

To all my Christian friends, may your Easter be a good one.