<<<This Friday post contains information regarding this coming Sunday’s sermon; updates on the Medina Children’s Home fundraiser, Legacy worship center construction, and the Four Horsemen; two of the greatest running backs in the history of football; and an homage to The Simpsons>>>
“The Simpsons is a situation comedy about modern life that includes a significant spiritual dimension; because of that, it more accurately reflects the faith lives of Americans than any other show in the medium.” ~Mark I. Pinsky, Christianity Today
“It is not the be-all and end-all of theology on TV, but the most consistent and intelligent treatment of religion on TV is on The Simpsons.” ~David Landry, New Testament professor, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN
“There is more spiritual wisdom in one episode of The Simpsons than there is in an entire season of Touched By An Angel.” ~ The Door
“70-percent of The Simpsons episodes contain at least one religious reference. Ten percent of the show’s plots are constructed entirely around religious themes.” ~ John Heeren, California State University
“As satires go, The Simpsons is not overly harsh; indeed, most Christians would find much truth in it. If this is a show with attractive Christian characters, where good always triumphs and evil always fails, where the family virtues are always affirmed in the end, why are Christians put off by it? If you’re a mature Christian and you get all the jokes, you should watch it.” ~ Gerry Bowler, professor of philosophy, Canadian Nazarene College, Calgary
“The Simpsons proves it is possible to produce a profitable, respected program that credits religion as a part of the American lived experience. In an industry where spirituality is either absent or merely glossed over for a cheap, dispensable laugh, this cartoon proves religion can be featured as a theme without isolating the audience.” ~ Jim Trammell, professor of journalism, University of Georgia
“It doesn’t compare just with other television programs, but with the very best of American humor. Will Rogers, Mark Twain, and The Simpsons can happily occupy the same stratosphere of respect in the annals of American humor.” ~ Robert Thompson, founding director of Center for Study of Popular Television, Syracuse University
“The Simpsons is smarter, sharper, and more allusive than any other show on television.” ~ Kurt Anderson, New Yorker Magazine
“One shouldn’t think The Simpsons is a sociological tome on the best in American religious life. But, on the other hand, it does provide a pretty good picture of our religious thinking and behavior without the sometimes heavy jargon of social scientists.” ~ Tony Campolo, professor of sociology, Eastern College, St. David’s, PA
“I see in The Simpsons goodness galore — intelligence, hilarious writing, insight, telling social criticism and commentary, and plenty of helpful hints for spiritually challenged people like me.” ~ Robert L. Short, author of The Gospel According to Peanuts
“Bristling with humor and laced with keen observations, The Simpsons explores, seemingly with every episode, our fabric of faith and spirituality.” ~ William Romanowski, author of Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture
“No home should be Simpsons-less.” ~ Dr. Keith Stanglin, professor of Bible, Harding University
When the church leaders in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to investigate the Greeks there who were “turning to the Lord,” Acts 11:23 tells us that, when Barnabas arrived, he “saw the evidence of the grace of God.” What in the world did he see? What was the visible proof that God was working in and among those Gentiles in Antioch?
That’s what we’re going to consider together at Legacy Sunday morning. The Scriptures are clear, I think, about what Barnabas saw. And those lessons and examples are valuable to us in the church today. But there’s another rabbit trail tangeant in there I want to explore in this space today.
Earlier in that same chapter of Acts, the church leaders in Jerusalem got in Peter’s face and criticized him for eating with Gentiles. Now these leaders hear that Greeks are claiming Jesus as Lord and worshiping God in the third largest city in the Roman Empire. And they send Barnabas to check it out. What was the attitude of the church leaders? Were they excited about the new converts in Antioch or where they suspicious? Were they glad about the news that Greeks were repenting and becoming disciples or were they skeptical? What were they looking for? What did they expect Barnabas to find? It’s all speculation, of course. But based on the background, it’s obvious their feelings were at least mixed.
When Barnabas arrived in Antioch I’m certain he found them worshiping differently than what he was used to in Jerusalem. I’m sure they acted differently, dressed differently, maybe kneeling for prayers instead of standing, probably singing songs Barnabas had never heard. He must have seen many weaknesses and excesses of religious enthusiasm that would have shocked most of the church leaders in Jerusalem.
But Barnabas just looks and listens. He sees and hears. And he experiences the grace of God among these Greeks. And that has everything to do with Barnabas’ spiritual mindset and godly vision. It’s his attitude that allows him to be glad and encouraged by the new Church in Antioch.
Two Christians can look at the exact same thing and come up with two very different conclusions based solely on their own bias and prejudice. The very news that fills a generous spirit with joy fills a sectarian with jealousy. Gentiles are receiving the Word of God! Fantastic! How could anyone think otherwise? But to the sectarian, any change is appalling if it threatens to break down the fences of the sect and force him to widen the extent of his fellowship.
This Acts 11 incident was a watershed moment, a crossroads in history, especially for us Gentile Christians. The report and advice from Barnabas was going to be taken very seriously by the church in Jerusalem. Praise God that Barnabas was a “good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.”
There are 34 more days left until football season begins. And today’s #34 in the countdown is Walter Payton. Out of little bitty Jackson State, “Sweetness” finished 4th in the Heisman voting in 1974 after a college career that saw him gain over 3,500 yards and score 66 touchdowns. He spent 13 seasons in Chicago after the Bears made him their number one pick and retired following the 1987 season as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards. Payton was named the NFL’s Player of the Year twice, he went to nine Pro Bowls, and ran for over a hundred yards 77 times. He rushed for 275 yards in a single game against the Vikings in 1977. He was a more exciting runner and had more moves than Barry Sanders. And he was as tough as a Larry Csonka. Even with his “Roos” headband and shoes, Payton was certainly the essence of class and cool in the ’70s and ’80s. Herschel Walker gets an honorable mention for what he did at Georgia. But Payton is hands-down without debate the best to ever wear #34.
Tomorrow’s #33 is another great running back, one I’d put in the top ten all-time in both college and the pros. Tony Dorsett won the Heisman Trophy at Pittsburgh while helping the Panthers win the National Championship in 1976. He racked up 202 yards rushing, a Sugar Bowl record, against Georgia in the title game. And when he left school, he was college football’s all-time leading rusher. Dorsett was a four-time All-America and the first ever player to rush for a thousand yards in all four seasons.
The Dallas Cowboys stole Dorsett from the expansion Seattle Seahawks in exchange for three early picks in 1977. And in his 11 years in Dallas, the Cowboys rode him to five NFC Championship Games and two Super Bowls. He was the NFL Rookie of the Year in ’77 and he’s still the NFL’s fifth all-time leading rusher with 12,739 yards. And his 99-yard run against the Vikings on a Monday night in 1983 is a record that can only be tied.
Someday when I have more time and space I’ll rehash my chasing Dorsett down in a Sears parking lot for his autograph. I was ten. He refused. I cried. He signed.
And when I had him as a guest on my talk show in the end zone at St. Edward’s University in 1994 following the news conference announcing his induction into the Cowboys Ring of Honor I retold the story. He claimed, nearly 20 years and a Hall of Fame career later, to remember it.
I just found out this week that the big dinner at the Fairmont in Dallas last month with Avery Johnson raised $368,000 for Medina Children’s Home! Thank you so much to everyone who attended, everyone who bought something at the auction, and everyone who’s given of their time and money to support that wonderful work. Jeff Powers, a dear friend in Mesquite, was the evening’s official photographer and his pics are posted on this site. The pictures of me praying are on pages 2 & 3. Yes, my eyes are closed.
There are tons of stakes now out on the west lawn at the Legacy Church campus. They must be getting close. Hurry.
The Four Horsemen ride again this afternoon. Every fourth Friday. My time with Jason, Kevin, and Dan always leaves me uplifted, recharged, and amazed at how our God is so active in our lives. They encourage me so much. And I’m thankful to our Lord for putting them in my path.
Have a great weekend,