The Faith of a Mockingbird: A Small Group Study Connecting Christ and Culture

The Faith of a Mockingbird: A Small Group Study Connecting Christ and Culture

by Matt Rawle

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Overview

The Faith of a Mockingbird: A Small Group Study Connecting Christ and Culture by Matt Rawle

Pastor and author Matt Rawle is on a mission. He sees Christ all around him—in books, movies, TV shows, rock music—and he wants to share what he sees. As Matt says, "God offers the raw ingredients, and
'culture' is whatever we cook up."

In The Faith of a Mockingbird, based on Harper Lee’s To Kill a
Mockingbird
, pastor and author Matt Rawle uses Lee’s beloved characters to explore Christian faith, theology, and ethics. Join Scout, Atticus
Finch, Boo Radley, and Tom Robinson in this four-week study considering
God’s world and what it all means.

The Faith of a Mockingbird is part of The Pop in Culture
Series of Bible studies in which Matt Rawle stirs up a tasty gumbo of insight, humor,
and inspiration based on some of your favorite pop culture classics. A
DVD featuring four sessions with the author, a full Leader Guide,
and a Worship Resources Flash Drive also are available for group study.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501803697
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Series: Pop in Culture Series
Pages: 112
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Matt Rawle is Lead Pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Bossier City, Louisiana. Matt is an international speaker who loves to tell an old story in a new way, especially at the intersection of pop culture and the church. He is the author of a new series of books titled The Pop in Culture Series. The series includes The Faith of a Mockingbird, Hollywood Jesus, The Salvation of Doctor Who and The Redemption of Scrooge.

Read an Excerpt

The Faith of a Mockingbird

A Small Group Study Connecting Christ and Culture


By Matt Rawle

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2015 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5018-0369-7



CHAPTER 1

Scout Finch

Telling Your Story


There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. – 1 Corinthians 12:4–6


Have you ever returned to your childhood elementary school and marveled at how everything is smaller than you remembered? When I was in the third grade, the cafeteria seemed wide as a great hall, the outside doors were as heavy as fortified castle walls, and the principal's desk was a grand altar. Of course, I see things differently now. When I go back there, the ceilings are lower, the doorways more narrow, the desks and sinks miniature versions of the real thing. I can hardly squeeze into the plastic cafeteria seats. Those fortified entry doors are now propped open with a small wooden triangle, allowing a new generation of children to invade the hallways. And the principal's desk ... well, okay, it still looks like an altar.

To Kill a Mockingbird is Scout's story, told through her childhood perspective of the world around her. Some of her memories are simple: steamy summer afternoons playing with friends, early evening dinners with family, classroom struggles with teachers who just don't understand. Other memories are more difficult: her father leaving home late at night to protect the prisoner inside the Maycomb jail, the seemingly ordained difference between blacks and whites, the way an innocent man such as Tom Robinson could be ruled guilty. Then there are the memories that are mysterious, memories that Scout seems almost reluctant to share, such as those involving the haunting figure of Boo Radley.

We too carry memories. Some are easy to recall, trivial, and superficial. Other memories lead us to consider an alternate reality, asking "What if?" Scout's story reminds us that, over time, our understanding of the world changes. The grade-school water fountains are not nearly so tall, and unrequited love doesn't bring about the end of the world. Scout has her story, we have ours, and both are changing as we grow.

Did you ever think that God has a story too? It's the story of life, and all of us are part of it — growing, changing, helping in our own small ways to determine what will happen next. In this book of reflections, we'll talk about the story Scout tells in To Kill a Mockingbird. If we pay attention, maybe we'll learn something about our own stories and, ultimately, about God's great story of faith, love, and sacrifice.


* * *

Scout's Story


"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow." HYPERLINK "note. – Scout


Whether or not you have read Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, or have seen the Academy Award–winning movie starring Gregory Peck, a brief overview of the story quickly reveals that it connects deeply at a heart level. It is the story of a young girl, Scout, and her older brother, Jem, growing up in the fictional Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama. Scout narrates her preadolescent journey through the difficulty of the Great Depression and the confusing and systemic racism pervasive in the Jim Crow South.

Much of Scout's story reflects characters and events from Lee's own history as a young girl growing up in Monroeville, Alabama. Lee's father was a lawyer, which offered her great insight in crafting the character of Scout's father, Atticus Finch. The climax of the story, the trial of Tom Robinson, is reminiscent of the 1931 trial of nine African American men in Scottsboro, Alabama, in which five of the nine men received lengthy prison terms that many suggested were the result of racial prejudice. Lee's own reflections about growing up in the 1930s South created the framework for Scout's narrative, a story that challenges each of us to reflect on our own stories. The various characters in To Kill a Mockingbird invite us to consider how we each understand our place in the world, how we play a role in God's story, and what it means to live out a hopeful faith in a broken world. The book begins with Scout recalling the time Jem broke his arm, though we don't find out how that actually happens until the final scenes of the book.

Brokenness frames the entire story of Mockingbird in much the same way that brokenness is central to the Christian faith — Jesus' body was broken on the cross for our sin, and it is through his life, suffering, death, and resurrection that we have access to God's grace. I was reminded of this one Sunday when, before our church's worship time, a woman met me in the back of the sanctuary. She confessed that she had lost hope because her failing body was causing her almost constant pain. After I invited her to sit, we held hands for prayer and briefly talked about how our church could meet her needs. Near the end of the service, during Holy Communion, this now-tearful woman came to our prayer station. We again held hands as she offered another confession. She said, "Forgive me. When you broke the bread at the table, I realized for the first time in my life that salvation is offered through a broken body, not one that is whole. Though my health is failing, my hope has been restored." Through Jesus' brokenness and resurrection, our severed relationship with God is mended and made whole.

Early in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout describes her father, Atticus, in simple and broad strokes, revealing him to be a man of great character and selflessness. As Scout's story grows, so do her memories of Atticus. We first experience Atticus through his profound parental poise, answering Scout's pointed questions with timeless wisdom about the importance of defending the defenseless and making an effort to really understand another person from his or her point of view. As the story continues, Atticus as a father figure gives way to Atticus the Civil Rights saint. Watching Tom Robinson's trial from the "Colored" balcony, Scout remembers Reverend Sykes asking her to stand in figurative salute with the rest of Maycomb's African American residents as Atticus walks the lonely aisle at the end of the trial.

It is interesting that Scout had to be encouraged to stand as a show of respect for Atticus, but then we remember that, from Scout's perspective, Atticus was simply her father; and it reminds me that the way we see the world affects the stories we tell. Consider the complementary pictures of God in the Bible's two creation accounts. In Genesis 1, God is revealed in his power. God speaks and things happen. Humanity is mentioned only briefly, which emphasizes God's almighty status. Genesis 2 reveals a more human creator, a God who kneels down in the dirt, fashions people from the clay, and walks with them in the garden. Those in the courthouse balcony stood with a kind of holy reverence toward Atticus; but Scout remained crouched, not out of irreverence, but because her Atticus was a bit more down-to-earth. He was someone who was a constant presence in her life, who loved her, disciplined her, and cared for her daily needs. She loved him not because of his noble courage, but because he was her father.

Though our God is the Creator of the universe, almighty and omnipotent and worthy of our reverent praise, he is also our ever-present Father, tenderly caring for us in our daily needs. And he is the One who takes our brokenness and redeems it, giving us a hope that only he can give and writing our stories as only he can.


Can you think of a time in your life where brokenness led to healing?


What does it mean to you that we can find wholeness through Jesus' brokenness?


How do you view your relationship with God the Father, who is at once both almighty and intimate? How has that contradiction colored your own story?

* * *

Four Portraits


Again, the high priest asked, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the blessed one?" – Mark 14:61b


We each understand our place in the world in different ways. If Jem were our Mockingbird narrator, the characters would look slightly different. Hope in the midst of brokenness would still be the narrative truth; but because of their life experiences, Jem and Scout would differ in how they understand brokenness. Instead of a broken arm, Jem's story might have begun with the death of his mother, a mother Scout hardly remembers. It is as fitting for Scout to diminish her mother's death as it would be for Jem to be consumed by it. Similarly, the person sitting across the table from you has a personal story with different peaks and valleys, affecting how he or she understands the world. But our stories are not so different that goodness is completely relative. For instance, we might disagree about which ice cream flavor is best — you might picture a scoop of vanilla and my cup might be filled with chocolate, or maybe your favorite flavor is pistachio because your grandmother made it during the holidays (surely the only reason someone would ever prefer it) — but we would probably all agree that ice cream is good.

Scripture offers us a foundation for appreciating the beauty and importance of differing perspectives. The New Testament, for example, provides at least four different portraits of Jesus. Mark, the oldest Gospel, presents a Jesus who is fast moving and mysterious. Jesus appears out of nowhere with no story of his birth, and he exits with only an empty tomb (sort of). If Mark's Jesus appears as a mysterious miracle worker, Matthew's Jesus looks a lot like Moses. Jesus travels in and out of Egypt to escape Herod's slaughter. Jesus preaches from the mountaintop and renarrates the law. Jesus' actions are loosely divided into five sections, reminding the reader of the five books of Moses. Luke, by contrast, presents a more Gentile-friendly Jesus. Jesus preaches not from a mountaintop but on a level place, suggesting a great passion for social justice. In Luke, Jesus describes the cup of wine at the Passover meal as the "new covenant," where Matthew and Mark show nothing new about it. And then John's picture of Jesus is altogether different and his actions follow a different timeline. Just as Jesus' humanity is emphasized in Luke, his divinity is portrayed in John, where Jesus dances with imagery and metaphor, exchanges bread and wine for a basin of water and dirty feet, and is crucified before the Passover meal instead of after, as described in the other three Gospels.


Did You Know?

To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960, was Harper Lee's only novel until 2015, when her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, was scheduled for release.


I'll never forget the time I realized all these different versions of the Gospels existed. It was Holy Week my junior year of high school when I started really reading the Bible for myself; and as I sat in my bedroom late one night, reading Mark's account of Jesus' trial, I read about when Caiaphas asked Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus replied, "I am," which seems to be a pretty straightforward answer. For fun I turned to Matthew to read his account of Jesus' trial and was surprised by what I found. In Matthew, Caiaphas asks the same question, but curiously Jesus responds differently: "You have said so." I sat thinking to myself, "Why has no one mentioned this to me?" I next turned to Luke's Gospel, which shows yet a third answer, and to John, whose account is altogether different. In that moment, Scripture became invitingly complex to me. The Gospels offered me four different windows into Jesus' identity, and I felt the Holy Spirit encouraging me to share my discovery with anyone who would listen.

So, whose Gospel picture of Jesus is the correct one? All of them! The key lies in perspective. Even though the Holy Spirit inspired all four of the Gospel authors, each had his own unique perspective. It reminds us that we each experience God in a unique way, and each of us plays a particular role in telling God's story. Is there a story from Jesus' life that resonates with you? Do his healings call you to serve the sick? Does his feeding of the five thousand call you to start a food ministry? Do his parables encourage you to become a teacher? If you look, you'll no doubt find yourself in the gospel story.

Our differing perspectives point us to the truth that can be found in the space between where my experience ends and yours begins. Scout's memory of Tom Robinson's trial, which occupies much of her story, shows us how elusive the truth can be. Is Tom really being honest? Is Bob Ewell trying to hide something? Does Atticus believe Tom is not guilty, or is he simply trying to win a case? Why does the jury unquestionably believe one person's word over another's?

In Scout's account, Atticus returns home after the trial to find the kitchen overflowing with food from Maycomb's appreciative black community. He has lost the trial, but his work is met with an abundance of thanksgiving. Is he a loser or a saint? The truth is in the space between. When our differing viewpoints with others make the truth difficult to see, the best response is thanksgiving for those places where we do find the truth — in the free gift of each breath, in the consistent beauty of a sunrise, in the power and grace of a handshake or a hug, in standing up for those who cannot stand.


Where or how do you see God's truth being revealed in your own life?


Is there a particular portrait of Jesus in the Bible that resonates with you? Why?


For what do you give thanks?

* * *

Finding Your Place


There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. – 1 Corinthians 12:4–6


Discovering and living out our place in God's story is a means of celebrating the truth, even if it is sometimes difficult to discern. Early in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout finds it difficult to fit in. Her new first grade teacher, Miss Caroline Fisher, doesn't understand her. Scout gets into fights on the playground. She asks adults difficult questions they don't want to answer. She doesn't mind her own business, and Maycomb doesn't know what to do with people who don't know their place. Little girls are to wear dresses and remain quiet. Little boys are to mind their fathers and stay out of trouble. Men go to work. Women stay at home, unless they choose to teach or nurse. White folk go here. Black folk stay there. Everyone has her or his neat and predictable place — and then there is Scout.

What do you consider to be your "place" in life? Were you told where to fit in, or were you invited into a particular role? All God's creatures have a place in the choir; the question is, "Who assigns the parts?" One thing I quickly learned when I became a parent was that my life was no longer my own. I could not believe the hospital let us go home with a new human being without some kind of instruction manual or professional assistant to guide us. The shift from spouse to parent is dramatic and swift. There were late-night feedings, early-morning diaper changes, the minivan purchase ... it was a very different way of life. "Parent" was a new and demanding role to play. The baby didn't put me in my place or tell me what I should or shouldn't be doing; rather parenthood was simply a new chapter of life. It is a blessing, though nowhere in Scripture does it say all blessings are easy to swallow! The same holds true when a child has to take care of an ailing parent, and the seemingly natural relationship roles are reversed. It can be difficult to understand one's new place in a new world. This is especially true in times of great loss. There is little way to prepare for the role of a childless parent or grieving spouse.

What daily role do you play? Is it constant or ever changing? Who assigned your part? Sometimes society assigns the roles we play, both for good and for ill. Even in small-town, Depression-era Maycomb, Alabama, there is a definitive line between those who are in and those who are out. During the first week of school, when Ms. Fisher notices that Walter Cunningham has no money for lunch, she tries to offer him a loan; but the young, terribly thin child refuses. Scout announces to Ms. Fisher that Walter is a Cunningham, thinking that knowledge of his name would offer a clue to his status. Ms. Fisher's confusion is the catalyst of Scout's explicit explanation that the Cunninghams are poor and will always be poor. Scout's helpful advice is met with a ruler rap to the back of the hand, so at the end of the day she decides to rub Walter's face in the dirt as payment. Seeing Walter's public shaming, Jem insists that Walter join them for dinner. Walter's dining habits are peculiar, and when Scout raises her voice in protest, Calpurnia, the Finches' housekeeper, reminds Scout that any guest at the table is "company," and in the South, there is no more-revered status.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Faith of a Mockingbird by Matt Rawle. Copyright © 2015 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction,
To Kill a Mockingbird: A Quick Refresher,
1. Scout Finch: Telling Your Story,
2. Atticus Finch: When Your Story Is Challenged,
3. Tom Robinson: When Challenge Is Defining,
4. Boo Radley: Defining a Mystery,
Notes,
Acknowledgments,

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