The Rev. Rob Courtney & Mtr. Liz Embler-Beazley
Fr. Rob & Mtr. Liz are the fabulous clergy at St. Paul's Episcopal Church & School
We are screening the first season of The Chosen during this Season after the Epiphany. On Jan. 11 a group of us gathered to watch the second episode, "Shabbat."
"Murphy's Law" was in full effect for our screening of episode two this week. We had problems with sound and video. Fr. Rob had to get up on a ladder to fiddle with the projector, and then we had to put a microphone up to the laptop speaker in order to have sound. It was a whole thing. Fear not--it'll be fixed by next week. The subtitles got us through the show just fine.
The episode revolves around the newly healed Mary Magdalene hosting a shabbat (sabbath) meal for friends. This scene from Mary's life is not biblical, but it's an interesting idea that a newly healed Mary might want to engage more deeply in her tradition and share in it with others. Someone noted how implausible it is that a first-century, single, Jewish woman might host a dinner attended mostly by single men. Perhaps, though, it makes sense for a group living on the margins of society. Jesus ends up attending this meal, and even defers to Mary to lead the prayers at the table since it is her home. Knowing that Jesus hung out on the margins of society, and that he was inclusive of women, the characterization makes sense.
Fr. Rob noted what a nice touch it was that Mary was wearing red in this episode. Most icons and other depictions of Mary traditionally show her in red. Interestingly, the stained glass window behind the altar in our chapel is a scene of Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb--except she's wearing blue! We wondered if the artist made an error and conflated her with Mary the Mother of Jesus.
While Mary's meal is going on, across town Nicodemus and his wife are hosting a shabbat meal for other religious elites. One viewer noted the contrasts between these two meals. One is about wealth and extravagance as Nicodemus's fictional wife brags about their gold table settings, while the other is simple and intimate. The host at one is a religious elite who feels some doubts about his position in society and role as a teacher, while the other host does not know her traditions well, but is earnest and sincere in her observance of the meal. One is hosted by a man; the other by a woman. It's also notable which meal Jesus attends.
We've heard many critiques of The Chosen regarding how much of it is a character exploration that has very little to do with scripture. Some worry that if this is people's first exposure to Jesus and the gospels that they will come away with a false understanding of the Bible. That is certainly a concern, though that is why as clergy we have enjoyed the conversation. It's allowing us to offer clarifications and help develop some biblical literacy within the group. And people are asking great questions and making interesting observations! Reading the gospels is our preference, too, but if the show serves as an introduction that piques interest, we think that's a good thing.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and let's have a conversation! Next Wednesday we'll be back for episode 3. Maybe you can join us! Learn more about our Wednesdays at Church (W@tCh) program here. Hope to see you!