fbpx

The Face of Evil, part 3

Read Romans 12:19-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NLT).”

Continuing on with the Halloween Franchise, we come up to a whole knew era of the Michael Myers Saga, where he gets a fresh new look from an metal icon turned film director, Rob Zombie. As was mentioned previously, Halloween was based on the film Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock, based off of the novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. In that film, we follow Norman Bates, a deranged, mentally ill man who murdered his mother and assumed her identity. It was scary, and Norman did monstrous things; however, you can’t help but pity him because he cannot help himself.

In Halloween, John Carpenter removes the sympathetic side of the killer out. The film starts with what we believe to be a human being…a six year old boy. We then find out that all humanity has left that little boy as he brutally murders his sister. When he finallyreturns to Haddonfield fifteen years later following an escape from a Mental Health facility, he is no longer a “human being.” Rather, he is a “shape”. The mask he wears is a ghostly shape of a face, and he lingers in the dark, awaiting for someone to pass by him in the shadows. In the original 1978 film, and subsequent sequels, Michael Myers is a rage-filled, unrelenting killing machine with no soul, no moral compass, and no awareness of self even. He is evil incarnate.

Rob Zombie, on the other hand, rebooted the original and took it into a different realm. Instead of dismissing the notion that evil is an evolution, Zombie challenges our understanding of what is evil and how it develops. In his film, we see a young Michael Myers, who is ten years old in this version. We see him at first playing with a rat and then we pan downstairs to see his mom ccoking dinner for her husband and kids. You can tell that they are a lower income, working class, and somewhat dysfunctional family.

When we see young Michael again, he’s washing blood off of his hands and a sharp instrument. He had killed the rat. Clearly, this young child is mentally ill. As we learn more about his home and school environment, it becomes clear that Michael’s behavior is a result of surviving abuse and neglect. His step father is abusive and his mother, who is also an exotic dancer, does her best, but that is not nearly enough for her children. Alcholism, sexual debauchery, and abuse exist in the Myers house.

At school, Michael is bullied and is constantly getting into trouble for writing and drawing distrubing things. The point is, the first third of the film were spent establishing Michael’s back story. The second third of the film is spent showing an adult Michael in the hospital as an adult, his eventual escape and his return to Haddonfield, the final third fo the film is spent the usual way, people running for their lives, blood, guts, mayhem and, eventually, Michael is defeated…but not really. There’s always a sequel, and there was a sequel for Zombie’s film.

In this, Rob Zombie is taking us beyond just sympathizing with a sick person and he is taking us beyond seeing evil as just this unpreventable, unstoppable force that we could never participate in or become; rather, Zombie is reminding us that, while evil does exist, human evil does not exist in a vacuum. Things aren’t always so black & white and, frankly, evil begets more evil. Had Michael grown up in a functional, loving, nurturing environment, his mental illness might not have taken the violent turn it did; what’s more, the household he lived in was so eroded by sin that evil was the natural result…and once evil is unleashed, it becomes a nearly unstoppable force that MUST be eradicated.

This should challenge us to not only avoid being so quick to make judgments, but it also should challenge us to really reflect on the ways we might be contributing to the sin and evil in the world. That is not to say that such mindfulness will result in nobody slipping through the cracks, but it would help us to ensure as few do as possible. Let us be a people who not only avoid being overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Let’s reverse EVIL and by turning to God and beginning to trust him to help us LIVE the lives we were created to live.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to avoid evil but also help me to confront and resist it when it presents itself. Give me the courage and the strength. Amen.

Episode 218 | ALL IN, part 2: Common Good

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-viks8-1110296

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance of putting the common good above our own self-interests, and the gifts God gives us to do just that.

EPISODE NOTES:

First UMC of Newton, NJ worship livestreams on Sundays at 9:00 a.m. (Contemporary) 10:30 a.m. (Traditional). Join us for worship in-person or on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig

October 17, 2021 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Service: 9 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Traditional Service: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Services for October 17. Today we learn the importance of and risk involved in going ALL IN for Jesus.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

Episode 218 | ALL IN, part 1: The Risk

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-bzuk3-1110283

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the importance of and risk involved in going ALL IN for Jesus.

EPISODE NOTES:

First UMC of Newton, NJ worship livestreams on Sundays at 9:00 a.m. (Contemporary) 10:30 a.m. (Traditional). Join us for worship in-person or on YouTube.

If you worship with us online and/or you would like to give to First UMC of Newton, your generosity will help us sustain with our mission and ministries during this COVID-19 pandemic. We are still paying our staff and we are still ministering to people in our community and beyond. Your support is vital to us being able to do so. Thank you for considering giving at https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc.

Sign up for bi-weekly devotions at Life-Giving Water.

Subscribe to Life-Giving Water Messages, also on iTunes and Google Play Music.

Subscribe to the Party on Johncast, co-hosted by Rev. Sal Seirmarco and Rev. Todd Lattig

A LOOK BACK: No One Can Judge

Read Romans 7:14-25

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1, NLT)

Annex - Lugosi, Bela (Dracula)_05

Every year, around this time, I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which is a tradition I have carried on since I was in high school. I absolutely love that tale, which is ultimately a tale about HOPE in the midst of darkness. There is one scene in the book that is absolutely striking to me. Mina Harker had recently been bitten by Count Dracula and, to make matters worse, had drank some of his blood. As we find out, this fuses Mina to him and begins to make her one of his. At one point, upon finding out that she drank Dracula’s blood (as she was in a trance when she did it), she cried out, “Unclean, unclean, God help me, I’m unclean!”

One can only imagine the absolute horror that Mina was going through. She had lived her life in a manner that was pure, always priding herself in her manners and behavior. She was a loyal person and loved her husband dearly, yet now she was tainted by this monster’s blood. She is absolutely revolted by the Count and horrified by what he as done to her; however, because she is spiritually bound to him, and as she begins to watch her humanity slowly fade away, she comes to a realization.

Looking up at her husband Jonathan, she asks that if she becomes like the count that he will put an end to her and put her soul at peace so that she may be with God. But her plea doesn’t end there. She also begs that he find the count and put an end to the monster so that the man trapped inside may find peace as well. Whoa! It is almost unfathomable for her husband Jonathan, but she makes him agree. He cannot understand how she could have even the remotest bit of sympathy for this savage beast, this wretched demon, this accursed vampire.

In Romans, Paul spent a good amount of time writing about the self-perpetuating cycle of sin. We know that certain things are good and often gravitate away from them. Conversely, we know that certain things are not good or healthy and yet we find ourselves doing those things anyway. No matter how hard we try, we often find ourselves stuck in the mire of our sins.

Paul knew, just as Mina came to realize, that there is a bit of monster in us all. We all let certain things get the better of us. We all are, to one extent or another, controlled by the negative things we allow into our lives. Perhaps some do more than others, but we all get caught up in things that God would otherwise wish to set us free from. Yet, we also tend to look at others as if they are worse than we are and, like Jonathan, we often get too caught up in our own self-righteousness to see that we are really in the same boat as the ones we judge.

Rather than being in the prison of our own judgements, we are called by God to be humble and to see the humanity in others, including ourselves. Even though we may not agree with the actions that people take, and even though we might even be forced to act against the evils that people perpetrate, we are still called to see the child of God beneath the sins that entrap them. We are all children of God, loved by God, and God wishes to free us all from our sins…in particular, the sin of judgment. All we have to do is be humble and let God guide us from the darkness of our judgments to the light of God’s unconditional love and grace.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The least amount of judging we can do the better off we are.” – Michael J. Fox


PRAYER
Lord, humble me so that I might not judge others. Open my eyes and my heart to your mercy, your love, and your grace. Amen.

UPDATE | October 21, 2021: Access to LIVE Party and Other Updates

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-hm5xx-110e821

Hello POJCasters,

This LIVE update for The Party On JohnCast covers how to access tomorrow night’s (Friday, October 22 at 8 p.m.) LIVE Halloween Party on YouTube, airing at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (GMT -400). You can access our channel by clicking the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJn93EL9-PfWdd95HYpnaRQ

It also covers other rocking information you don’t want to miss out on!

Keep being excellent to each other and don’t be a jerk,

Todd

The Rockin’ Reverend

A LOOK BACK: The Masks We Wear

Read Psalm 139

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

The Masks We WearAh, I can smell Halloween in the air! I love this time of year, the leaves are falling like heavy feathers from the trees. The crisp cool breeze rustling the leaves on the streets; the hollow rattling sound the trees make as they brace themselves for another wintry slumber. The smell of burning wood beginning to emanate from rooftops wafts to the noses of little ghouls and goblins as they dress up in their costumes and masks, getting ready for a night of being on the prowl for the world’s cheapest, and yet greatest, sugary delights. Yes, I love Halloween.

One of the things I always loved about Halloween was dressing up! I have been many things for the holiday over the years. I have been a hobo, Cousin It, Moses, Dracula, the wolf-man, Jack Skellington, a zombie and many, many other things. I always looked forward to being able to dress up and be whoever it was I had decided to be. Halloween was the one night, all year-long, where I didn’t have to be me…it was the one night, all year-long, that I could be whatever I wanted to be and not worry what others thought about it.

As a pastor, and previously a youth pastor, who has served in ministry over the past several years, I have come to recognize that the ritual of mask wearing extends far beyond the annual holiday of fun and goodies. Most people, if not all of them, put on masks every morning and don’t take them off until late at night as they are slumped over from another day in a year full of not being themselves. The kind of mask I am talking about is not one made of latex, or face paint, or any other kind of removable synthetic substance; rather, this mask is a metaphor that represents the reality that most hide who they really are and only display what they believe people want to see.

Perhaps you are wearing a mask. Perhaps every day you wake up and paint a smile on your face. Perhaps you dress your best and head off to work like you are at the top of the world, when deep in side you feel like a child who’s been lost in the darkness of the forest for hours. Perhaps you find yourself constantly seeking to please others, constantly trying to live up to the expectations that bosses, colleagues, friends and family members are placing on you. Perhaps, you are trying live up to the image that you think others have of you, and each day you wake up and put that mask on you feel further and further from who you really are.

If this is you, if you are a bearer of masks, if you wear a thousand fake faces in order to hide the real you, know that there is hope. There is a God who knows you. There is a God who loves you. There is a God who sees through your mask and accepts you for who you are regardless of what you have or have not done. There is a God who is calling you to remove your mask and enjoy the beauty of God’s handiwork. There is a God who has forgiven whatever it is you feel you might have done. There is a God who LOVES you unconditionally. There is a God who continues to give up everything just to be with you. And there is a community of God’s people that God is calling you to be a part of, a community of people that God is calling to be a part of you. Regardless of where you find yourself, know that God is calling you to be nothing more than who you are, and that you are already loved and accepted!

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

“It’s just better to be yourself than to try to be some version of what you think the other person wants.” – Matt Damon

PRAYER

Lord help me to see myself as you seem me. Remove my mask and help me to shine in the ways you created me to. Amen.

October 17, 2021 – Newton UMC – Sunday Worship Livestream

JOY Fellowship Service: 9 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 9:00 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Traditional Service: 10:30 a.m.

Worship service streams live at 10:30 a.m. EST (-500 GMT)

Welcome to our Sunday Worship Services for October 17. Today we learn the importance of and risk involved in going ALL IN for Jesus.

Please support us by giving online: https://tithe.ly/give?c=1377216 or https://paypal.me/newtonumc Your support is vital, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. You can also write and mail a check to First UMC of Newton, 111 Ryerson Ave., Newton, NJ 07860.

If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.

The Face of Evil, part 2

Read Romans 3:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:21 NLT)

Now that we’ve looked at Norman Bates in the movie Psycho, we move now to another person who is known as a face of evil. His name, of course, is Michael Myers and his movie franchise is the Halloween series, which was first written and directed by John Carpenter in 1978. For horror fans the world over, Michael Myers is one of the three most iconic slasher film villains of all time, along side Jason Vorhees and Freddy Krueger. For horror film fans, those three make up the unholy trinity of bloody mayhem and murder.

Michael, however, was the OG. He was the original. Both Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street Series came after and were influenced by John Carpenter’s Halloween. Also, as was mentioned in the last devotion, Halloween was heavily influenced by Psycho. That makes Psycho the granddaddy of slasher films, and Halloween the daddy of the genre. Halloween, in fact, was so influenced by Hitchcock’s film that Carpenter even named one of his main protagonists, Dr. Samuel Loomis off of Marion Crane’s boyfriend, in Psycho.

Halloween was a fan’s ode to Psycho, but it did change the direction of Hitchcock’s antagonist in order to fit the time within which the film was being written. By the end of the 1970s, the wishful dreaming of the flower power generation was an after thought. We had been through the Cuban Missile Crisis, assassinations, Vietnam, Richard Nixon, the Civil Rights Movement, and a host of other huge, earth shattering events. The generation that was born in the early to mid 60s, the beginnings of Generation X, would by the late 70s be much more cynical than their baby boomer predecessors.

So, as great as it was to view the killer as a human being, John Carpenter was directing his film in a different time than Hitchcock and took it in a bit of a different direction. In this film, Carpenter starts off by introducing us to little Michael Myers, a 6 year old boy, who is left home with his older sister on Halloween. We don’t know this yet, though. At first we think that his older sister is home alone with her boyfriend. They obviously have sex and then the boyfriend leaves. Meanwhile, a hand is shown reaching into the knife drawer. From this point on we are seeing this from a masked person’s point of view.

We see his (our) hand reaching down and pulling out a large kitchen knife, much like the one in Psycho. This killer (us…as this is in the first person perspective) stalks through the house, goes upstairs, and finds the teenage girl sitting naked at her vanity  brushing her hair. That is when she notices him and screams, “Michael”, as he repeated stabs her to death.

He (we) then run(s) outside and a car pulls up. A mom and a dad get out, say the name, “Michael” as they pull off his/our mask.  At that point we leave the first-person perspective and can see that his parents have pulled a mask off of their 6 year old boy, who is bloodied and holding a bloody knife. The screen goes black, the killer has been revealed and the stage set.

So, we start off with a human being, but we quickly learn that this dude ain’t human. He’s super human. He is the walking embodiment of evil. He is evil incarnate and there is literally NOTHING you can do to stop him. Dr. Loomis shot him 6 times and he still got up and was able to kill several more people in the sequel.

This switch in the killer’s identity from human to MONSTER, fueled the rest of the series and, honestly, makes perfect sense in the light of the late 70s and the 1980s. There was much cynicism to be had. The “Moral Majority” was on the rise, as were so-called family values as the Christian response to the counter-cultural movement of the 60s. Of course, the Church is always at least a decade behind the world anymore, and so alongside this Moral Majority comes these horror films that both affirm the family values, but also question the morality of the majority and their ability to really stop evil. After all, had religion stopped evil? Did church stop Hitler during World War II? What evil was thwarted by good? And even if it looks like good won out in the end, did it really. Evil seems to just keep coming back, and back, and back.

The point of this is that while the 60s aimed to tone down focusing on evil…or even deny the existence of evil at all, the 70s and 80s began to embrace the fact that evil exists. The Halloween series showed the moral failings of the previous generation, but also the moral and societal failings of all generations. It reminded the world that the Bible is right in the fact that EVIL EXISTS and it doesn’t have a face. Michael Myers was the human being, but that part of him died. Al that remains is faceless mask over a skulking body; he’s a SHAPE consumed by relentless evil.

The fact of the matter is that EVIL does not need a face to exist. It can exist in any one of us and, truth be told, it can consume and destroy anyone of us. The FACE OF EVIL in this case is a denial of the evil that exists within us. The Bible reminds us of that, which is why today’s Scripture is exactly the same as the last devotion. Michael Myers is not the cause of evil, but a symptom of it. We, too, can become a symptom of evil, or we can choose to turn to Jesus Christ for the cure. Faith in Christ, and his redeeming sacrifice for us on the cross, will certainly deliver us from evil.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
EVIL is LIVE backwards. Learn to LIVE FOR JESUS and AVOID EVIL.

PRAYER
Lord, lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Amen.

The Face of Evil, part 1

By Rev. Todd R. Lattig

Read Romans 3:1-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:21)

One of my all-time favorite horror films is John Carpenter’s Halloween, which was inspired by another one of my favorite horror films, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The two films have been monumentally impactful in the horror genre. What’s more, the two films are connected to each other because the two lead actresses are literally related to each other. That’s right, Janet Leigh, who starred in Psycho, is Halloween star, Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother. In fact, in 1998 for the 20th anniversary of Halloween, both Jamie Lee and Janet Leigh starred together in Halloween: H20.

Trivia aside, there’s a lot we can learn from Halloween; however, before we do, we need to look at it’s predecessor, Psycho. In that film, Anthony Perkins plays a seemingly kind but socially awkward motel owner who incidentally meets Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she stops for the night due to the rain being so bad. Seeing that the Bates Motel had vacancy, she pulls in and meets Norman (Anthony Perkins) who checks her in and offers her food.

What Norman doesn’t know is that Marion had stolen $40,000 from her employer’s client and was on the run. Her boyfriend didn’t know she was going to pull this off, nor did her sister. So, no one knows that Marion is at the Bates Motel, let alone where she might be. What Marion doesn’t know is that there’s more than meets the eye at the Bates motel and, as a matter of fact, we find out that not only is Norman a perverted peeping Tom, but his “mother” is super jealous of other women.

That last fact, sadly, cost Marion her life. While taking a shower, Norman’s “mother” came into the bathroom slowly and silently, ripped open the curtin and stabbed Marion to death with a large kitchen knife. The scene was more than memorable, it literally scarred some people enough that they refused to take a shower again. Of course, Hitchcock being the brilliant director he was, the scene was pulled off without ever showing the knife connect with the body and, in pure Hitchcock fashion, the blood shown going down the drain was actually Bosco Chocolate Syrup because Hitchcock discovered that it looked more red in the Black & White format. Even shooting in B&W was purposeful, as Technicolor was widely available at the time and Hitchcock chose not to shoot it that way.

Of course, I put the word “mother” in quotes because we learn that Norman’s mother is really dead. Norman was into taxidermy and, after poisoning her, he preserved her well and kept her in the basement. To compensate for the loss of his overbearing mother, Norman dressed up like her, imitated her voice and assumed her identity.

As it turned out, Norman was a very sick man who had Dissociative Identity (formerly known as Multiple Personality) Disorder. He was Norman some of the time, he was Mrs. Bates the rest of the time. As Norman, he was a frail, lonely, insecure, awkward boy in a man’s body. As Mrs. Bates, he was cold, demanding, cruel and, as we find out in the film, jealously murderous.

The beauty of this film is how forward thinking it was in terms of mental health. It’s shocking conclusion, with Norman completely gone and Mrs. Bates being completely the dominant personality, really forces the viewer to come face-to-face with mental illness. One cannot hate Norman at the end of the film. Sure, he horrifies you, but there is a level of pity you have for him. His victims should not have died, not even his cruel mom, but he is a victim in all of this too and he cannot help himself.

In our society, we often look at killers such as Norman Bates as being the “Face of Evil”, but Psycho challenges this. Was Norman evil? I mean, yes…what he did was evil, but was Norman Bates, the man, evil? Or was he a sick individual who slipped through the cracks only to turn up when it was brutally too late? Psycho was a very 1960s way of looking at what we call “evil” and trying to put the humanity back into it.

Overall, that is a great thing because, as easy as it would be to view Norman Bates as less than human or a monster, he really is not much different than you and I. The only difference is how his mind works and, truthfully, all of our minds work a bit differently. Norman Bates was a man who was created and loved by God. No, God did not wish for Norman’s life to go down the path it did; however, since when did that give us the permission to BE GOD and judge?

In fact, one of the many faces of evil is JUDGMENT. People who think they are God enough to pass judgment are putting on evil as their way of life. That does not make THEM evil, but their judgmental attitudes are evil for sure. So, before we start getting all self-righteous, we really do need to take a back seat to God. Let us remember that, no matter how awful a person may be acting, they are still a child of God and we are called to love everyone…not judge them.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Evil is as evil does.

PRAYER
Lord, lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Amen.

A biweekly devotional