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I’ve only seen the trailer, and I’ve only read one review, but I can’t wait to see it. Schrader is haunted by a world that I’ve been grafted in to. I’m a Lutheran by birth, a Scandinavian by name, and Reformed by choice. I could tell you the long convoluted story about how I ended up here, but let’s just say it’s all well orchestrated chance. Now, I stand in the pulpit of First (Christian) Reformed most Sundays. Not in a clerical collar, but a suit, which is close enough.

I read somewhere that this is the film Schrader never thought he’d make, or at least the film he hoped he wouldn’t make. A return of sorts to his Dutch Reformed roots. Not in some sappy nostalgia—from the looks of it he still takes issue with a few things—but in a “blessing our demons” sort of way. I’m curious to see what unfolds. Will I recognize anyone? Will I see my own community, the people I work with, the neighbors I am called to love?

How do we continue to live in a world so full of hatred and violence? How do our religious communities intentionally and unintentionally contribute to the carnage? Why is it we talk about love, forgiveness, and grace, but never let ourselves go there? This morning I have more questions than I do insights. So here’s to good films that push us to see beyond the thin veneer of so called reality. To good stories that re-interpret the world and open our eyes to what we refuse to see. And to the prodigals—those who get kicked out so they can spend a lifetime slowly working their way back.

Jason Lief

Jason Lief teaches Practical Theology at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. He served as editor of Reformed Journal for many years and was one of the original bloggers on the RJ blog. You can find more of his writing at


  • Daniel Bos says:

    Thank you for your encouragement for all of us to see the film.
    I would also like to hear the long convoluted story, somehow well orchestrated, about how you ended up here.

  • Marge Vander Wagen says:

    Dear Jason, I appreciated your last statement about the people who work their way back.
    When I went to seminary, the classis candidate care pastor told me, “I’ll make this a easy as possible.” Since I was attending a Presbyterian seminary, I needed to go through the MFCA program to be ordained in the RCA. All went well until after the classis ordained me. Then the very same pastor asked me what I wanted to do in my home church. I replied, “Preach once per quarter, do pastoral care and have something to do with the Sunday morning worship service.” The candidate care pastor was now lead pastor at my home church of which I had been a member for 40 years. The pastor and consistory’s reply was: “NO, NO, NO.” Stunned and shocked that I was being denied a chance. Also the lead pastor asked “What story shall we tell?” I thought the truth was a good idea, but he didn’t think so. I volunteered with a jail ministry, a grief support group and did weekly pulpit supply. Three years later, I am being offered a contract to preach every week, do pastoral care and attend to church business. Funny how God works to reposition you into a place where your gifts are used and appreciated.

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