Hello, big thinkers and movie goers. Thank you for subscribing to R-Rated Movie Club. In 2022, you signed up so you’d be with us from the very beginning and to you, I can’t say “thank you” enough! If you’re reading this in the archives, hey, you’re cool, too! To all of you: your support is what gets this newsletter going. So let’s get going!
Let’s start with big news: we hit our goal of starting with 50 subscribers!
Back in June 2022, I started ideating on a creative project to do in my spare time. Something to put my three degrees to work, something to have fun, something worth sharing. And now after seven months of ideation, organization, and creation, R-Rated Movie Club has arrived. Going into this, I didn’t know exactly how many people would want to give my project a shot, but you’re here, and I’m so glad for your support to get this newsletter going. In fact, some of you helped grow the newsletter and shared it with your friends last fall, that was very kind of you. We surpassed our subscriber launch goal and R-Rated Movie Club, THANK YOU!
Without further ado, it’s Coming Attractions with a preview of the first-ever R-Rated Movie Club Feature Presentation, ooh-la-la!
Coming Attractions: Feature Presentation Preview
Next week’s first-ever Feature Presentation is set to debut on January 10 and it’s all about the first R-rated movie that I ever saw, the 1980 musical classic The Blues Brothers. It didn’t take me long at all to decide this would be my first deep-dive. This remains one of my top ten films of all time and it’s been a joy to write about it. You might consider watching the movie at least once before reading the essay to get the most out of it. Here’s a preview from the current draft, looking at the pivotal scene when Jake Blues (John Belushi) realizes he needs to put the band back together:
[Rev. Cleophus James] concludes his sermon, “Don’t be lost when your time comes! For the day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night!” Okay, this one I do know. In Matthew 24:36-44, Jesus warns to “keep awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” He gives an analogy: a homeowner doesn’t know when a thief comes in the night, so he stays awake so his house isn’t broken into, he remains diligent. Rev. Cleophus James is saying don’t live like it’s too late. Make the change now. I like how he uses this Biblical image of God coming like a thief in the night to Jake, a thief in the church, to open him to what God wants him to see.
The Old Landmark is a hymn by Rev. WH Brewster and it’s the first song performed in the #2 film at the box office when it debuted June 6, 1980. You’ve gotta love that. The lyrics hit Jake. “Let us all (all go back!) to the old (old landmark!)” He starts to shake. (“And we’ll stay in the service of the Lord!”) He’s having a spiritual awakening. Then something right out of the Bible happens: God shows Jake a vision. Literally, the clouds part, a beam of sunlight shines down to penetrate the church building and descend upon Jake. It recalls Isaiah’s vision to step up as a prophet for God (Isaiah 6:1-13). It has a vibe like the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:9-11). It makes someone turn from one way to another with a bright, light-filled vision like for Saul who becomes Paul (Acts of the Apostles 9:1-22). This is Jake’s conversion moment. High-energy, very musical, and super-duper glowing blue.
Read the full newsletter issue on January 10. Paid subscribers will receive early access podcast audio of the essay and a bonus essay on January 24.
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About Quotes With Notes
Beginning next Sunday, Teaser Trailers include Quotes With Notes - a pair of scripture and movie quotes to compare, contrast, and/or compliment. You’ll get the setup, the quotes, and commentary. Typically, the commentary shows how the movie can illustrate the major themes of the scripture text.
I’m the kind of person who always has a movie quote at the ready.
I’m trying to be the kind of person who always has a Bible quote at the ready, too.
I’ve read the Bible. Even the weird parts. But I didn’t become the kind of person who sits down to read the Bible until later in life (I don’t know that starting earlier would’ve helped any with the weird parts). Yes, I knew many of the “big” stories from Sunday School, Confirmation, worship, etc., but only in broad strokes and with plenty of gaps. For me, it took seminary to jump in the pool, sermon writing to dive deep, and personal reading to swim with wonder.
For much of my life, however, I’ve been the kind of person who sits down to watch movies over and over. I’m a movie fan, and that means when I write sermons I sometimes use movie analogies. I know clergy who rarely watch movies but love all kinds of sports and uses sports analogies in their preaching, so it all evens out. Not every movie is for every person and that means I need to be mindful in which movies I use in my preaching in my full-time ministry work so people don’t think I’m tacitly endorsing a movie for all audiences. Hey, you try writing a sermon where you know a scene from Clerks is the perfect illustration while hoping nobody think you mean they should get the whole family together to watch it!
The weekly Quotes With Notes is a way for me to use movies that aren’t appropriate for all audiences as a way to illustrate scripture. If you end up using it in your next dinner conversation, let me know how it goes. If you’re a preacher and you find a way to use these in your sermons, good for you! Let me know how it goes (and a citation would be appreciated, thank you).
How I Select Scripture Quotes:
Scriptures for 2023 are pulled from the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), a tool for preachers and worship leaders to select the scripture that inspires sermons, liturgy, and music for worship services. Each Sunday has a Hebrew Bible / Older Testament reading, a Psalm, a Gospel reading, and Christian New Testament epistle reading. The RCL has three annual cycles, Years A, B, and C, and we just started Year A, focusing on the Gospel of Matthew.
I subscribe to a few excellent faith-based Substack newsletters that also have content that follows the lectionary. Some are posted the Sunday when the scripture text would be preached. Others are posted later in the week. All of these newsletters are great, but as someone who is always looking for good ideas to enhance my work, I get bummed receiving brilliance mere minutes before I’m off to preach the same scripture without the benefit of reading what they have to say first. Therefore, I’m taking a different approach. Scripture will be from two weeks prior to its RCL appearance. This is a win-win-win because by writing ahead…
I’m thinking about the scripture text for my own preaching (a.k.a. the main gig).
preacher subscribers may actually make use of the material.
people who regularly attend worship services will get a taste of the scripture text ahead of worship so they have at least some background with it.
If you’re not any of those three (especially #1, because that’s me and that would be weird) then none of what I just wrote matters to you. But I’m sure you can appreciate the effort, right? Right!
How I Select Movie Quotes:
There are a ton of ways to track what movies you’ve seen. Online databases come and go. So do the dozens of ticket stubs in my wallet that I dropped on the county fairgrounds when I was twelve. These days, I’m using Letterboxd to track my movie viewing, especially my R-rated movies for this project (600+ and counting, as I remember them and watch new movies!). I try to quote from movies in this order:
It should be rated R. Like, you know.
Ideally, I’ve seen this movie.
If I haven’t seen it, I know the essential context around the quote.
That’s it. Seems like fairly reasonable criteria to me.
It’s very likely that along the way there will be a movie quote from a character that’s 100% the opposite of a Biblical figure in the scripture passage and that’s okay. I will rarely be trying to say, “Oh, this character is just like this person in the Bible,” and it’s more of a “Oh, I can see how what’s happening in this movie can illustrate what’s happening in this Bible passage.” Put another way, I’m not saying The Blues Brothers are Jesus. I’m saying the situations the Blues Brothers find themselves in remind me of some of what Jesus is teaching through his life, actions, and preaching.
I hope that context helps you know what to expect and my approach. I’m excited to bring it your way starting with one of my favorite scriptures paired with one of my least favorite movies!
A Word of Encouragement
On this first Sunday morning of the new year, I offer a word of hope. Blessings, friends, have an excellent day. May your life’s journey meet the heart of God in ways you can recognize and that are meaningful. And to today’s preachers, may worship be a blessing for you personally and may your sermon and prayers remind everyone that God loves all people. See you at the movies.
Thanks for reading!
Wow, okay! That was my first newsletter EVER. That was FUN!
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I'm looking very forward to the Feature Presentation! Should I start popping popcorn now?