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The movie industry has made some pretty creative attempts at explaining conflict with god. For those of you that remember the movie “Caddyshack,” there is a scene toward the end of the movie in which a golfing enthusiast priest is playing the round of his life. As he makes his way around the links, the weather turns.
The movie depicts the scene as a battle between this priest in search of nirvana through a golf game and a insensitive and spiteful god that would thwart the priest’s quest for that perfect game. The scene ends with the priest defiantly raising his putter to the violent heavens and being struck down by a well-placed bolt of lighting.
I’m sure many of you have seen the movie “Forrest Gump.” Well, there is a scene in this movie about man’s conflict with god as well. In this movie, the character “Lt. Dan,” who lost both of his legs in a battle in a Vietnamese jungle, and was saved by none other than Forrest Gump, decides its time to have it out with god.
Forrest, by this time, is trying to make it on his own as a shrimp boat captain. Lt. Dan joins Forrest as his first mate. The two men manage only to salvage tires, license plates, and toilet seats from the ocean’s bottom. After several failed attempts, Lt. Dan asks Forrest, “Where’s this god of yours?”
As soon as Lt. Dan asked the question, god arrived in the form of a destructive hurricane. As the storm rages, we find Lt. Dan strapped to the top of the mast, next to an American flag, shaking his fist at god, daring god to try to destroy the boat, and cursing like a sailor. When the storm subsides, Lt. Dan and Forrest’s boat was the only one still afloat. Since no one else could harvest the shrimp, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company became a multi-million dollar industry. A few minutes later in the movie we find Lt. Dan at peace with the world. He had met god face to face, so the filmmaker would have us believe, and won.
Let me share with you one last example, one that I saw recently. The scene is found in the season finale of the popular television show “The West Wing.” President Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen, faces his major conflict with god.
The scene finds President Bartlett alone in the National Cathedral following the funeral of his secretary and long-time friend. The President orders his chief of staff to tell the Secret Service agents outside to secure the perimeter so he won’t be disturbed. After a moment or two of silence, Bartlett does battle with god.
Bartlett begins to curse god for, as he saw it, causing his friend to die in a car accident. He curses god and blames him for the other tragedies that have occurred up to this point, during his presidency. He defiantly lights a cigarette, takes a few puffs, and then tosses the cigarette to the floor, crushing it under his shoe as he gives god a dirty look.
The producers of the show set the scene the way they did in order to try to get the audience to feel sorry for Sheen’s character and respect his independence and defiance of god. It certainly didn’t work for me. In fact, I was so offended by the scene; I doubt I’ll watch the show again.
In all likelihood, and I think I’m on safe ground with this assumption, the producers of the shows I just described have spent little time studying James’ letter. From what we see often times in the media, conflict with god is portrayed as something god desires and causes.
More often than not, we find man as the hero in the conflict and god being the weak, unknowable force. In the media, when man comes to terms with god, it is more often than not due to man’s strength and god’s capitulation, not as a result of man’s submission to God’s will. Hollywood does not see conflict with God the same way James does, or the way we should.
If you go on-line and read the transcript of this portion of this morning’s message, you will see that when I describe these various scenes, I use a little “g” when I make mention of God. The reason is simple. In depicting man’s conflict with God, Hollywood shows quite brazenly that they have no idea who the God of the Bible is.
This morning, as we study God’s Word, we’re going to see what conflict with God looks like from God’s perspective, not man’s.
Last year, a particularly dark film came out entitled Children of Men. It is about the world in the year 2027 where no children have been born for 18 years. Imagine a world like that. A world with no need for toys. Churches with no children or youth. The doors of Kenyon College closing because no children are growing up to take the place of the current students. No children’s laughter or playgrounds. No hope for the future. But injected into this film, shot with grey and brown as primary colors, is a pregnant girl. Her name is Kee, and she is the key to the future of the world. The plot of the film is to get Kee and her baby out of the present world situation and onto a mysterious, and considered by many to be an purely mystical, ship owned by an organization known as “The Human Project.” The protagonist is interestingly named Theo, the word for “God.” Kee names her baby after Theo’s son, the metaphor being that he is the son of God. In the film, all who see Kee’s swollen belly are shocked and exclaim with surprise: “Jesus Christ!” Profanity turns to prophecy. The film ends with the Human Project’s ship pulling alongside the little rowboat where Kee is sitting holding her baby riding the waves, like Mary riding on a donkey. Theo is also in the boat, but he has been killed in his attempt to bring hope to the world. And we are left with only hope and anticipation of what this baby will mean to a barren and hopeless world and what will happen as a result — a symbol of Advent.
One of the things which makes the film interesting is that the two sides, which are fighting and killing off an already dying race, are each trying to use the baby for their own purposes. They want the baby so they can get the remaining masses to come over to their side. Neither are content to allow the baby to simply be a baby. If we had read just one more verse in our Gospel lesson for today, we would have heard Jesus say, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). The kingdom of God is often forcibly opposed by violent, hostile people. There are always those who want to use Christ for their own political purposes and ends. But nothing can hinder or hold back the kingdom of God. It would be like trying to stop the sunrise, trying to stifle Spring or hold back the harvest. As Isaiah said, the crocus will suddenly spring out of the icey mud, the desert will blossom, sorrow and sighing will flee away and everlasting joy shall be upon our heads. The Promise of Advent is on his way, and nothing in earth or hell will be able to stop his coming. The light shines in the world’s darkness, and all the world’s darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5).
J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.
In one of the biggest movies of the year, Talladega Nights, Will Ferrell who plays the race car driver Ricky Bobby is at the table getting ready to eat. And when he asks the blessing, he prays to “the baby Jesus.” But in the middle of his prayer in which he returns thanks for the bountiful harvest from dominoes pizza and taco bell, his wife interrupts him and tells him how she doesn’t like the fact that he always prays to the baby Jesus. She says, “Jesus did grow up, you know? You don’t always have to call him baby!” To which Ricky Bobby responds, “I like the Christmas Jesus best and I’m the one saying grace. When you say grace you can pray to grownup Jesus or teenage Jesus or bearded Jesus or whichever Jesus you like.” I think we all like the Christmas Jesus best.
In the film The Matrix, we are taken to the year 2199. The world has been taken over and is being run by AI: artificial intelligence. Harvested humans live in a computer generated dreamworld of artificial reality, never understanding that they are captives of an evil empire. But there are a few people still connected enough to reality who discover the Matrix. What they see is that there are two worlds now. One is evil, and it depends on control and deception. It is an unreal world. The other is the real world, even though it would not be seen as such by those caught up in the Matrix. There is a great deal of religious symbolism in the film, and it picks up on the biblical theme of the kingdom of God and its opposition to the kingdom of evil. In the movie, Morpheus tries to explain the Matrix and says to Neo: “Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?”
In the same way, we live in the real world while so many around us are living in a world of deception. Unable to wake from the dream, they only know what they see. They have never known anything different. Our responsibility is to never forget which is the real world and which is fantasy. We are also respon...
We’re too much like Jimmy Stewart’s character in the movie Shenondoah who prays to God concerning the food they are about to eat. "Lord we give thanks for this food, although we did all the planting, hoeing and harvesting."
ANGELS AND DEMONS
Talk about SUSPENSE AND INTRIGUE! Subatomic anti-matter threatens the existence of Vatican city in Rome. Key Cardinals from the Roman Catholic church vanish. And it all points to the ILLUMINATI, a secret society that has re-emerged from history. I watched the movie by Dan Brown called "Angels and Demons" a couple of nights ago. Throughout the movie there's a battle with science and religion.
The hero is Robert Langdon, a renowned symbologist, who has to follow a TRAIL OF CLUES left by the bad guys, the Illuminati, to find the kidnapped Cardinals and SAVE THEM from being executed each hour and stop an anti-matter bomb from wiping out Vatican City. In true suspense thriller style, no-one is who they seem to be.
In Matthew 12, the PLOT IS SIMILAR. I have been kidnapped by my legalistic thinking.
It all hinges on the question the Pharisees (Illuminati) ask Jesus "Is it lawful to harvest grain and heal on the Sabbath?" (Matthew 12:2,10) and Jesus uses their legalistic lack of compassion to give me the first clue.
FAITH LIKE A POTATO: DON'T GIVE UP HOPE
There is a movie called 'Faith Like a Potato'. It takes place in South Africa. Long story short a farmer w/an anger management issue is converted to a believer (follower) of the word. Needing to bring in money for his family, he decides to plant a crop of potatoes. The land is very dry. Most would think it was dead and no life could come from it. With no rain, he begins to question his decision to plant. So after a while of waiting, he and his farm hand decide to take a chance and dig, but first they pray.
As he begins to dig, what is revealed is astonishing. The seed yields crops twice the size of what is expected. How is that? He was looking for signs of rain, signs of growth above ground. All the while there was water running underneath the ground.
My point is this. In between seed time and harvest God is still doing his best work though you may not see it.
Don't give up on the harvest that is coming your way. Believe in God to meet your needs as Psalms 23 says. Believe he will multiply be he can do more than we ask or think. Continue to sow generously in all areas of your life where you want to see a harvest...
"Nothing we have is attributable to our own strengths and talents. People think so. It’s an attitude that was expressed very effectively by James Stewart’s character in the movie, “Shenandoah”. He was the patriarch of a large Southern family, running a very successful plantation when the Civil War broke out.
Early in the movie the family sat down for dinner, and as they all bowed their heads, this is what he prayed:
’Lord, we cleared this land, we plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway for this food we are about to eat. Amen’
Spoken or unspoken, I think that may be the attitude of far to...