The Rev. Liz Embler-Beazley
Mtr. Liz is the Associate for Congregational Development at St. Paul's Episcopal church and School
We are screening the first season of The Chosen during this Season after the Epiphany. On February 8, a group of us gathered to watch the sixth episode, "Indescribable Compassion".
We had another large group gather to watch the episode this week and this group was again intergenerational, making for great conversation after the episode. It gets better and better each week! If you've been wondering about whether or not you can join us now that we're more than half-way through season one, the answer is YES! You can catch up by watching all of the episodes for free here, or you can simply come and jump in wherever we are. The stories of our faith are familiar enough that it's easy to figure out what's going on as you watch. We hope you can join us!
In this week's episode, we watched Jesus continue to grow in his public ministry. We bear witness to him healing the leper and then later a paralyzed man who is lowered through the ceiling by his friends while Jesus is teaching a large group of people. His actions, both the healing and the teaching, attract the attention of the local religious leaders and Roman soldiers. Jesus' disciples are keenly aware of this kind of attention and it seems to create a deep anxiety in them. They know the more famous he becomes, the more danger he'll be in. But the people can't help but gather around Jesus and ask questions about his teachings. In this episode, we saw several people from previous episode show back up and it shows how encounters with Jesus, no matter how small, create a kind of staying power that causes people to seek him out again and again and again. We see the dinner guests that Mary Magdalene had at her table at her first Shabbat meal after her miraculous healing. We see the children Jesus taught in episode 3, "Jesus Loves The Little Children." And we see the parents of James and John who host the meal that causes Jesus to begin teaching and draw in the great crowd.
Our group appreciated the connection to Jesus' childhood in Egypt that the series creators made in this episode. Jesus comes across an Egyptian woman on the road to Capernaum. He comments on her attire and speaks to her in Egyptian with warmth and kindness. It's this interaction and the following healing of the leper, that spurs this Egyptian woman to bring her paralyzed friend for a healing as well.
One of the things we have frequently commented on is the tension between what is scriptural or not in this series. As we've gone along, it seems that there has been a growing appreciation for the careful artistic and creative additions to the stories of our faith. The ways in which the writers have fleshed out storylines and backstories to make the characters come alive have, for the most part, greatly added to the retelling of the gospels. We have also recognized where they have conflated the gospels (taken details from several gospels to tell one story), but that has also been done carefully and well, similarly to how many nativity stories conflate the infancy narratives found in Matthew and Luke. One member of our group said that he appreciated how the writers and creators were consistent in their commitment to the text and their careful embellishments in order to tell an engaging and meaningful story. All of this is true. We, your faithful clergy, just want to make sure that viewers do not walk away from The Chosen believing that all of it is scriptural, and so that requires viewers to watch the series with a decent amount of biblical literacy and awareness. Or, you can just watch it with a group like us and we'll discuss it all together!
What do you think? Is the series too scriptural or not enough? Should the writers have a warning at the beginning of every episode rather than only on episode 1 of the series? What do you appreciate about the ways the writers and creators are weaving scripture and creative storytelling together in this series? What do you wish they might do differently? Let us know in the comments below, and let's have a conversation! Next Wednesday, we'll be back for episode 7. We hope you can join us! Learn more about our Wednesdays at Church (W@tCh) program here. Hope to see you!