Tuesday, August 03, 2010

August 1 Sermon: Brought to Life

this sermon begins a new series (during August) called "Summer at the Movies." The preacher will use themes from popular movies that resonate with aspects of our faith life.

Sermon texts:
Genesis 2: 7-9, 15-17
John 20: 19-22

Spent a day this past week at Disneyland. One thing that being married to a woman who worked at Disneyworld has afforded me is that I have a source for some of the trade secrets of Disney. One of those secrets is that all around Disney parks, there are “hidden Mickeys” in the architecture, sidewalks, all sorts of things. If you look closely enough, you’ll find a little mouse ears shape in all sorts of places, even the bathrooms!

I like this concept, you see, it’s how I approach my life of faith too. It is spiritually satisfying to me to find clues to my faith in symbols from our culture and art, and especially in the movies.

Pinocchio illustrates what so many of us have found about our own spiritual lives, and what is a major theme in Wesleyan theology: Grace comes with responsibility. The blue fairy tells Pinocchio when he asks if he’s been made into a real boy, “No, Pinocchio. To make Geppetto’s wish come true will be entirely up to you. Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish and someday you will be a real boy“.

One of those movies that is chock full of spiritual symbols is the story of a little wooden puppet who is brought to life by a magical fairy, and who struggles with the freedom and temptations that comes with such a gift: Pinocchio.

IN the scriptures, people being given the gift of life and freedom is inevitably followed by people struggling with temptation and usually falling victim to it. The flow of scripture is a series of Creation-Temptation/Struggle-Covenant.

In the first scripture we heard, the story of the creation of Adam, we hear of Adam receiving the breath of life and becoming a living being, much like the puppet Pinocchio receives the gift of life, but he is not completely a “real boy.” He must first prove himself worthy by facing tests—which he fails but is then propped up again to start over.

Adam receives the breath of life and then the scriptures turn directly to the source of his temptation and fall—the fruit of the tree. Adam will fail the tests too, but he will be propped up again to have another chance. Adam and Eve are God’s creation, and God isn’t going to give up on them just because they fail.

In our own lives, we find that new opportunities, new breaths of life, are most often times quickly followed by new temptations, new ways to exploit or abuse our new opportunities. We are selfish and self deceiving. And if we’re not, then there are selfish and deceiving forces in the world that are quick to take advantage.

We are so often lured off course by the John Worthington Foulfellows of the world, who promise us the easy street instead of the path that our Father has laid out before us.

Pinocchio’s story also reminds us that salvation is a gradual process. No sooner than Pinocchio is rescued from the clutches of the evil puppeteer Stromboli, that he’s right back with the fox and the cat again, headed for another misadventure on Pleasure island.

Being “brought to life” is something that takes time. We are brought to life as a baby, and we celebrate that gift with baptism. Then we are brought to new life again when we become aware of our own salvation, and we mark that occurrence with the profession of faith. Afterwards, we are brought to life again and again through all the myriad ways that we find our lives weaving. Salvation is a dynamic process that we are involved in our whole lives.

At the end of Pinocchio, when he finally escapes from Pleasure Island before he completely turns into a donkey, and makes it home only to find that Gepetto has gone looking for him and his been swallowed by a great whale named Monstro (yet another symbol from our holy scriptures) Pinocchio has the idea that they should burn their boat in order to make the whale sneeze them out. When I was watching this recently, it occurred to me that this too was an act of faith. Gepetto had pulled Pinocchio into the boat without realizing that he was even there, because he was so delighted with the amazing haul of fish that he is taking in. They are imprisoned in the belly of the whale, and now that they’ve finally found some kind of sustenance inside this prison, they must burn it all and leave it all behind in order to follow the revelation that Pinocchio has been given. They must abandon the trust they put in the material things they have just secured, and risk danger (“ohh, that will make him MAD!” says Gepetto when Pinocchio starts piling on the wood) in order to obtain freedom.

Real and true freedom isn’t obtained without a price. Our faith tradition says that the freedom that led to our adoption as “real boys and girls,” as true and light filled children of God, came at the price of Jesus giving his life for us.

In order to claim that inheritance, we must let go of everything else and hold on to that life-raft with all our might. Claiming that gift isn’t the end to our troubles. If we are really and truly living a Christ redeemed life, that might put us in the stormy waters inhabited by Monstro. And it makes him mad!

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