August 23, 2005 | 9 Comments

I’ve become addicted to Alias I think. I had always heard what a great show it was, but had never watched until a few months ago. I started watching the 4th season with a friend I was living with, and since I have gone back and watched all of season 1 and most of season 2 to catch up on the story. To be honest, I’m not really that compelled with each individual story, and usually have it on in the background while I am doing other things. Much moreso, I’m interested in how each week ties together in a larger narrative of the story. Each week leaves us hanging between as the greater plot is developed through each episode. (Though I can’t find his original entry, I need to give Will Samson a nod for sharing this idea some months ago.)

We are too fascinated with the idea of a clean finish I think. We want to tie up loose ends and be done with things. Sometimes this can be useful, but sometimes it can be harmful. TV show writers understand that…they want the story to somehow pull you forward to next week, so that you know you are not finished with it. (Of course, even as I type this, my two week old daughter is fussing, and I am torn between comforting her and trying to finish this post — it’s hard to leave things unfinished!)

Scot McKnight posted some suggestions on how to write a few days ago. One of his suggestions was along the same lines. When you are done with one writing project, don’t stop. Go ahead and at least start the next project. This helps you to not feel like you have the big hurdle of the start ahead of you, but that you can just come back and pick up where you left up.

What if we brought this into play in how we did gatherings, whether large or small, in our Jesus communities? We like to think of gatherings as neat little packages that have a nice start and a neat finish. Sometimes we think this way about sermons, and sometimes we think this way about entire worship services. What if we scrapped this whole idea?
What if we stopped with a start and began with an ending?
What if we began each gathering by reflecting on how last weeks’ theme/topic was present with us that week?
What if people had a chance to share how it played out for them?
What if our teaching was devoted not to presenting a nice little package of truth that was neatly wrapped up in a cute outline?
What if people were presented with something compelling to live with and wrestle with all week?
What if we were all left hanging each time we gathered?

Wouldn’t this better reflect to all of us that following Jesus is about how we live?
It’s not about sitting a worship service every week. It’s not about what our doctrine is. I need to be reminded of that. Don’t you?

One more thought along this line, although this one isn’t finished…finish it on your own. 🙂 The Jewish concept of the day was not the same as ours. For us the day begins not at midnight, or, practically speaking, when we wake up in the morning. But for Jews, the day began when the sun went down. So that means Wednesday is starting for me right about now. How could thinking of our days in this way be useful for this concept of unresolution?

And one final thought…earlier, when Ellie was fussing, I decided to

  • decided to what?

    And I love Alias. I have seen every episode, and I love Rambaldi.

  • I really hope that Adam is being facetious about that. John, what a great thought. I think this really ties in to what we have talked about with consumerism in America, and in Christianity. Meaning, we have really fallen into the, “package” idea. “What can church give me today? I hope it is a nice little package that will make me feel better, and then I will be on my way.” Instead I think we need to be more like you suggested, and have times when we are left hanging, mulling over concepts and truly thinking about and applying messages to our daily lives. Don’t know if this made any sense, and I can’t think of a way to finish, so, take luck.

  • Great thought and I love Alias.

  • Yes, I was attempting to be silly.

  • Josh,
    Great thoughts. You took this thinking further in a way I really like.

    Sarge, (and anyone else)
    Thanks. If you figure out how to make this thought play out, please share ideas.

  • john, i’ve been wrestling with similiar issues with some of my own projects …. both writing and ministry. thanks for sharing your perspective.

  • Dan

    Hey John,

    You know I’m bored at work when I start reading your blog every day.

    Just wanted to say that it doesn’t matter if the church, (building, programs, staff…) markets itself by serving a nice neat package, or a cliffhanger, or some other product. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Mega-Church or House Church, people will still be saying “What is the church going to give me today”. We are selfish people. So the product is a neat package or a cliffhanger, what is the difference? Jesus taught to over 5,000 people on one day then teaches by drawing in the sand and asking for volunteers to throw the first stone. I suggest one is a mega church setting, the other a bit of a cliffhanger.

    You stated “following Jesus is about how we live”. We do not grasp how profound that statement is. The Church (the people) will only make a differnce in society when they decide to start serving, and loving on a personal level, spending more time in the trenches and less time on blogs (Well you know what I mean)

    Hope you are well.

  • Hey Dan!
    Makes me happy to know that my blog is relegated to the most boring times of your life. 😉

    I, of course, agree with your comments. I’m just really hopeful right now. I think there is a general, grassroots movement to return to an understanding “following Jesus is how we live” happening in a lot of different contexts.

  • Dan

    Just wanted to say that at least yours is the only blog I ever read. We enjoy getting the updates of your journey. Please tell Sherri we said hello. And the next time you see ol Harry and Doris make sure you give them a big hug from me! Good Times.

    Talk to you in another 5 years.