Not in word only

“And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not stand on the wisdom of man, but on the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:4-5 (1st Century King James Version)

In this passage Saint Paul reminds the Corinthians how he acted when he first preached the Gospel among them. The Apostle preached the truths of Christ in their native dress, with plainness of speech. He laid down the doctrine as the Spirit delivered it; by his active ministry, and his internal influences on the hearts of men, to demonstrate the truth of it, and procure its reception. Paul’s ministry to the Corinthians provides a straightforward example about preaching the Gospel-which can be done without words. I can attest to the wisdom of the Apostle’s method of preaching the Gospel at Corinth because I’ve witnessed how Spirit can employ an online video platform to influence the hearts of my flock-not in word only.

Launched in May 2005, YouTube is an online video platform that allows billions of people to discover, watch and share originally-created videos, as well as post public domain collections of film, television and musical artists. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators as well as advertisers large and small. YouTube is becoming much more than an entertainment destination. It can also be a repository of unique points of view, ideas and inspiration. Film director and television actress, Penny Marshall perceptively acknowledged, “Look at YouTube, how many talented people there are. It’s a whole new world of how to express yourself. I don’t know how to work that world, but take advantage of it.”

Last Christmas USBN produced a series of videos selecting text from the lectionary readings of the 2015 Advent Season and then amplifying the reading with an appropriate video taken from YouTube. The series of 28 videos was entitled, “2015 Video Advent Calendar.” While producing the series, I discovered there was a wealth of YouTube videos that created unique commentary of the selected lectionary readings by drawing on original creations submitted from bloggers, or selections of television, movie, theater or music. We have followed the Advent Calendar with another series, “The Gospel of Lent as Seen on YouTube.” This is a series of 48 videos applying the Gospel reading selected from the lectionary reading of the 2016 Lenten Season with a video from YouTube creating a commentary for the lesson.

American actor, musician and singer, Mitchel Musso declared, “I don’t know why, but there’s something about YouTube that just makes it so awesome. You can go on there and find anything. There are actually really talented people on YouTube.” I must confess at first I was very intimidated with the idea of producing 48 video commentaries from the Lenten Gospel readings. It was a huge undertaking, but never did I feel overwhelmed or alone because Spirit was with me the entire time. I’m very thankful and feel blessed from the experience. She took me to places on YouTube that really inspired and amazed me. When I first read the text for February 22, (Matthew 16: 18-19) I was very interested where She was going to take me on that one. Where would I find something that would provide commentary for the “Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, The Apostle?” Spirit has such a sense of humor! (Note: You can view all of the YouTube Lenten Commentaries on Facebook at the Independent Sacramental Movement or Universal Spirit Broadcasting Network page.)

There were many, many times Spirit found videos on YouTube that were extraordinary. For instance March 8, was a good example. (John 5:1-9) I selected a video taken from a Steve Martin movie (“Leap of Faith”) that was recorded by Pattie LaBelle; however, Spirit led me to another performance by a community choir in Belfast, Ireland that knocked the movie version out of the park!! And there was the video commentary for March 9 . . . That one was a real kick in the head. (John 5:19-24) I love the video for Easter Sunday (March 27) because it carries the Resurrection story to another level. Dolly Parton really delivers an incredible sermon in song!

I was deeply moved by the Lenten video selection for March 3 (Luke 11:14-23) because it was taken from Judy Garland’s weekly television show in December 1963. She originally wanted to do a dedication show for President John F. Kennedy upon his assassination but CBS would not let her, so she performed a song in the December show without being able to mention his name. (Everyone in the audience knew the song was dedicated to President Kennedy.) Judy sang the hymn with such feeling and intensity that there wasn’t any question that Spirit was inspiring her with a powerful message. Judy was singing to a shocked and mourning Nation who were searching for answers and meaning during a time of national crisis. It was interesting that on the day I was producing the Judy Garland segment there was a great deal of commotion going on regarding political debates. Several times that day I heard or read news commentary asking, “Where is our country going?” Working on the video I felt reassurance from Judy’s singing and I decided then to rekindle the YouTube experience with another ongoing series of Gospel commentaries after the Lenten series ends on Easter Sunday.

Beginning on April 3, USBN will broadcast a weekly YouTube commentary of the Gospel reading. “The YouTube Gospel Platform” will continue to take up a different perspective of the Gospel reading with videos selected from bloggers, classic film, television, theater and music. I will be the program host, read the Gospel for the day, and introduce the video.

Saint Paul’s preaching of the Gospel to the Thessalonians was sometimes done without words, just as his preaching to the Corinthians had been. He writes, “For our Gospel came unto you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance, as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.” (1 Thessalonians 1:5) YouTube’s online video platform provides a creative way to preach the Gospel not in word only. The Gospel reading for February 15 was “When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink.” For the YouTube Lenten commentary I chose a commanding scene from the epic film, “Ben-Hur.” The underlying story of Jesus parallels the journey of Ben-Hur intersecting at two crucial points in the film. Film Director Wyler wisely does not show the face of Jesus. Instead, he shows people’s reactions to him. In the scene I selected, a Roman soldier is trying to prevent Ben-Hur (now a prisoner) from drinking water. After Jesus lets him drink the soldier tries to stop him (“I said no water for him.”). His silent reaction to the hidden face of Jesus is worth a thousand words.

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