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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.
Brian La Croix
A few years ago there was a series of commercials featuring a man wearing a flannel shirt and jeans who would be telling people how much he cared for them, often getting teary-eyed as he said with all the emotion he could muster, “I love you, man!”
And the person he was speaking to in that particular commercial, whether it was a girl, his dad, or whoever, would say, “You’re not getting my Bud Light.”
The commercials were funny, but they serve to illustrate the fact that these people could see through this guy’s self-serving talk.
He wasn’t interested in love, he was only interested in their beer, but he was willing to say anything to get it.
Several years ago in the movie Hoosiers, Gene Hackman played the part of Norman Dale, a former college coach with a tainted past who was hired to coach a rural high-school basketball team from Hickory, Indiana. Coach Dale leads the team all the way to the state finals. On the day of the semifinals, the team arrives at Butler Field House, the huge inner-city arena where they will play in just a couple of hours. When the players enter the arena, their jaws fall slack and their eyes open wide. Gawking at the seats, the stand-alone goals, the suspended scoreboard, and the lights, they are awestruck and intimidated.
Coach Dale instructs one of his players to take a tape measure and determine the distance between the free-throw line and the goal.
“What’s the distance?” he asks.
“Fifteen feet,” the player says.
The coach then tells the smallest player on the team to climb on the shoulders of the taller player so they can measure the goal. “How high is it?” he asks.
“Ten feet,” the player says.
Coach Dale says, “I believe you’ll find these are the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory.”
The team members nervously laugh and everybody begins to relax. As they exit the gym, Coach Dale turns to his assistant and whispers, “Sure is big isn’t it!”
The challenges that lay ahead for the church in the 21st century are big as well.
It is important to remember that when measured by the rule of God’s Word, weather in a large metropolitan city or a small rural community the ministry and purpose of the church has not changed.
The movie King Arthur retells the legend of the great warrior king who ruled England in the dark ages. Arthur (Clive Owen) is a Christian of Roman origin, but his knights are all pagans who were forced into service at a young age. Arthur has won over their allegiance by his selfless leadership, but they have retained the religion of their youth.
In this scene, Arthur is preparing his supplies in a dimly lit stable. He’s about to lead his knights on their last perilous quest before they will each be granted their freedom. Arthur, who is yet be king, is frustrated that his superiors would send his knights on such a dangerous mission just before they are to be released from duty—so he takes his discouragement to God. He sets down the saddle he’s carrying and bows in prayer. Lancelot, emerging from the darkness, overhears him.
Lancelot asks, “Why do you always talk to God and not to me? Pray to whomever you p...
Remember the movie, The Field of Dreams. A farmer made a baseball field in a Iowa cornfield. And one of the scenes of the movie shows cars lined up coming to the field.
Isaiah picture people from every nation streaming to the Light of Israel, which is Jesus Christ. The Lord address spiritual Israel and says, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look about you; All assemble and come to you.”
“He led them up the steep slope out of the river valley and then slightly to the right apparently by the very same route which they had used that afternoon in coming from the hill of the stone table.
On and on he lead them into dark shadows out into pale moonlight. Getting their feet wet with the heavy dew he looked somehow different from the Aslan they knew. His tail and his head hung low and he walked slowly as if he were very, very tired. Then when they were crossing a wide open place where there were no shadows for them to hide in he stopped and looked around. It was no good trying to run away so they came towards him. When they were closer he said,
“Oh children, children why are you following me?” “We couldn’t sleep,” said Lucy. And then felt sure that she say no more and that Aslan knew all they had been thinking.
“Please may we come with you wherever you’re going,” asked Susan. “Well-” said Alsan and seemed to be thinking. Then he said, “I should be glad of company to-night. Yes, you may come, if you will promise to stop when I tell you, and after that leave me to go alone.”
“Oh thank you, thank you” and “We will,” said the two girls.
Forward they went again and one of the girls walked on each side of the Lion. But how slowly he walked! And his great, royal head drooped so that his nose nearly touched the grass. Presently he stumbled and gave a low moan.
“Aslan! Dear Aslan! SaidLucy, “what is wrong? Can’t you tell us?
“Are you ill, dear Aslan?” asked Susan.
“No,” said Aslan. “I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.”
And so the girls did what they would never have dared to do without his permission, but hat they had longed to do ever since they first saw him- buried their cold hands in the beautiful sea of fir and stroked it and, in so doing, walked with him. And presently they saw that they were going with him up the slope of the hill on which the stone table stood. They went up at the side where the trees came furthest up, and when they got to the last tree (it was one that had some bushes about it) Alsan stopped and said,
“Oh children, children. Here you must stop. And whatever happens, do not let yourselves be seen. Fairwell.”
A great crowd of people where standing all around the stone table. And though the moon was shining many of them carried torches which burned with evil-looking red flames and black smoke. But such people! Ogres with monsterous teeth, and wolves, and bull-headed men; spirits of evil trees and poisonous plants; and other creatures who I won’t describe because if I did the grown-ups would probably not let your read this book- Cruels and Hags and Incubuses, and Wraiths, Horrors, Efreets, Sprites, Orknies, Wooses and Ettins. In fact here were all those who were on the witches side and whom the Wolf had summoned at her command. And right in the middle, standing by the table, was the Witch herself.
A howl and a gibber of dismay went up from the creatures when they first saw the great Lion pacing towards them, and for a moment even the Witch seemed to be struck with fear. Then she recovered herself and gave a wild fierce laugh.
“The fool, she cried. The fool has come. Bind him fast.”
Lucy and Susan held their breath waiting for Aslan’s roar and his spring upon his enemies. But it never came. Four hags, grinning at leering, yet also (at first) hanging back and half afraid of what they had to do, had approached him. “Bind him, I say!” repeated the White Witch. The hags made a dart at him and shrieked with triumph when they found that he made no resistance at all. Then others- evil dwarfs and apes- rushed in to help them and between them they rolled the huge Lion round on his back and tied all his four paws together. Shouting and cheering as if they had done something brave, though, had the Lion chosen, one of those paws could have been death of them all. But he made no noise, even when the enemies, straining and tugging, pulled the cords so tight that they cut into his flesh. Then they began to drag him towards the Stone Table.
“Stop,” said the witch, “Let him first be shaved.”
Another roar of mean laughter went up from her followers as an ogre with a pair of shears came forward and squatted down by Aslan’s head. Snip-snip-snip went the shears and masses of curling glod began to fall to the ground. Then the ogre stood back and the children watching from their hiding-place, could see the face of Aslan looking all small and different without his mane. The enemies saw the difference.
“Why he is only a great cat after all!” cried one.
Is that what we were afraid of?” said another
And they surged around him jeering at him. Saying things like “Puss Puss! Pour pussy,” and “How many mice have you caught today, Cat? And would you like a saucer of milk Pussums?”
“Oh how can they?” said Lucy, tears streaming down her cheeks. “The brutes, the brutes!” For now that the first shock was over, the shorn face of Aslan looked to her braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever.
“Muzzle him!” said the Witch. And even now, as they worked about his face putting on the muzzle, one bite from his jaws would have cost two of three of them their hands. But he never moved. And this seemed to enrage all that rabble. Everyone was at him now. Those who had been afraid to come near him even after he was bound began to find thire courage, and for a few minutes the two girls coud not even see him- so thickly was he surrounded by the whole crowd of creatures kicking him, hitting him, and spitting on him jeering at him.
At last the rabble had had enough of this. They began to drag the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone Table, some pulling and some pushing. He was so huge that even when they got him there it took all their efforts to hoist him on to the surface of it. Then there was more tying and tightening of cords.
“The cowards! The cowards!” sobbed Susan. Are they still afraid of him even now?”
When once Aslan had been tied (and tied so that he was really a mass of cords) on the flat stone, a hush fell on the crowd. Four hags holding four torches, stood at the corners of Table. The Witch bared her arms as she had bared them the previous night when it had been Edmund instead of Aslan. The she began to whet her knife. It looked to the children, when the gleam of the torchlight fell on it, as if the knife were made of stone not steel and it was of a strange evil shape.
At last she drew near. She stood by Aslan’s head. Her face was working and twitching with passion, but looked up at the sky, still quiet, neither angry nor afraid, but a little sad. Then, just before she gave the blow, she stooped down and said in a quivering voice,
“And now, who has won? Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you and instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeased. But when you are dead what will prevent me from killing him as well? And who will take him our of my hand then? Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his. In that knowledge, despair and die.”
The children did not see the actual moment of the killing. They couldn’t bear to look and had covered their eyes.
The story doesn’t end there just as the Christmas story is only the beginning of the Christ story.
(From chapter 15):
As soon as the wood was silent again Susan crept out into the open hill-top. The moon was getting low and the thin clouds were passing across it, but still they could see the shape of the lion laying dead in his bonds. And down they both knelt and kissed his cold face and stroked his beautiful fir, what was left of it and cried till the could cry no more. And then they looked at each other and held each others hands for lonliness and cried again. And then again were silent. At last Lucy said,
“I can’t bear to look at that horrible muzzle. I wonder if I could take it off?”
So they tried. And after a lot of working at it, (for their fingers were cold and it was now the darkest part of the night) they succeeded. And when they saw his face without it they burst out crying again and kissed it and fondled it and wiped away the blood and foam as well as they could. And it was all the more lonely and hopeless and horrid than I know how to describe.
“I wonder, could we untie him as well? Said Susan presently. But the enemies out pure spitefulness had drawn the cords so tight that the girls could make nothing of the knots.
I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been- if you’ve been up all night, and cried til you have no more tears left in you- you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing is ever going to happen again. At any rate that was how it felt to these two. Hours and hours seemed to go by in this dead clam, and they hardly noticed that they were getting colder and colder. But at last Lucy noticed two other things. One was that the sky on the East side of the hill was a little less dark than it had been an hour ago. The other was some tiny movement going on in the grass at her feet. At first she took no interest in this. What did it matter? Nothing mattered now! But at last she saw what whatever-it-was that had begun to move up the upright stones of the Stone Table. And now whatever-they-were were moving about on Aslan’s body. She peered closer. They were little grey things.
“Ugh!” said Susan from the other side of the table. “How beastly! They are horrid little mice crawling all over him. Go away you little beasts!” And she raised her hand to frighten them away. “Wait!” said Lucy who had been looking at them more closely still, can you see what they are doing?”
Both girls bent down and stared.
“I do believe!” said Susan. “But how queer! They ’re nibbling away at the cords.”
“That’s what I thought,” said Lucy. “I think they’re friendly mice. Poor little things- they don’t realize he’s dead. They think it’ll do some good untying him.”
It was quite definitely lighter by now. Each of the girls noticed for the first time the white face of the other. They could see the mice nibbling away; dozens and dozens, even hundreds of little field mice. And at last, one by one, the ropes were all gnawed through.
The sky in the East was whitish by now and the stars were getting fainter- all except the very big one low down on the eastern horizon. They felt colder than they had been all night. The mice crept away again.
The girls cleared away the remains of gnawed ropes. Aslan looked more like himself without them. Every moment his dead faced looked nobler, as the light grew and they could see it better.
In the wood behind them a bird gave a chuckling sound. It had been so still for hours and hours that it startled them. Then another bird answered it. Soon there were birds singing all over the place.
It was quite definitely early morning now, not late night.
“I am so cold,” said Lucy.
“So am I said Susan. Let’s walk about a bit.”
“What’s that? Said Lucy clutching Susan’s arm.
“I – I feel afraid to turn around,” said Susan something awful is happening.
“They’re doing something worse to him,” said Lucy. “Come on!” And she turned pulling Susan around with her.
The rising of the sun had made everything looked so different- all the colors and shadows were changed- that for a moment they didn’t see the important thing. Then they did. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.
“Oh, oh, oh!” cried the tow girls rushing back to the table.
“Oh, it’s too bad, sobbed Lucy; “they might have left the body alone.”
“Who has done it?” Susan cried. “What does it mean? Is it magic?”
“Yes!” said a great voice behind their backs. “It is more magic.” They looked around. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
“Oh Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad.
“Aren’t you dead then,” said Lucy.
“Not now,” said Aslan.
“You not- not a-? asked Susan in a shaky voice. She couldn’t bring herself to say the word ghost.
Aslan stooped his golden head and licked her forhead. The warmth of his breath and a rich sort of smell that seemed to hang about his hair came over her.
“Do I look it?” he said.
“Oh you’re real, you’re real Oh Aslan!” cried Lucy, and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.
“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were something calmer.
“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic there’s magic deeper still that she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back into stillness darkenss before time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”
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).
As I was growing up one of my favourite books was ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.’ I can’t wait for 9 December 2005 when the new film hits our screens! (UK)
Early on in the book I remember that Lucy finds her way to a fantasy world called Narnia. She meets a fawn called Tumnus, and while Lucy and Tumnus talk in his cave, Tumnus explains that the reason it’s so cold and dreary is because of the evil Queen.
“Who is she?” asks Lucy.
Tumnus replies: “Why, it is she that has got all Narnia under her thumb. It’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter and never Christmas; think of that!”
But there is Good News! All is not lost! Aslan (the Lion who created Narnia) returns to fight for the land and the people he loves. Aslan returns to Narnia to set free the people who live there.
It’s a great story! I loved the book and I can’t wait for the film!
But why did C.S. Lewis write it? He once said that it “is the best art form for something you have to say.”
I know lots of people for whom life seems cold and dreary, always winter and never Christmas.
…people for whom life see...
Video Illustration: Ghost – Toward the end of the movie Sam the departed soul battles his friend who is trying to kill his wife. The man ends up killing himself in the battle and discovers he has made a wrong choice and he is hauled away into torment and darkness by demonic spirits. Sam tells his love when the Light of Heaven appears that the Love inside is what you take with you when you go to Heaven. This scene paints the picture that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but principalities and powers.
In 1971 Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland starred together in a movie named “Klute”. It was about a small town detective who had come to the big city in search of a killer, who coincidentally was stalking Jane Fonda’s character. At one point in the movie Donald Sutherland’s character, Detective Klute, was hot on the trail of this mad killer and chased him to a spot where there was an open cellar door.
The music, lighting, and the chase all served to build suspense to a chest-constricting level. As Klute approached the cellar door, revolver drawn, and looked down into the darkness, I think everyone in the theater was holding their breath. That is, until my friend, sitting next to me, said out loud, “If he goes down there he deserves what he gets”.
The theatre audience burst out laughing and the tension was released, at least momentarily.
The Apostle Paul is continuing his theme of light vs. darkness in our text verses today. He is warning against entering into; participating in deeds of darkness, for they are unfruitful, disgraceful, and we are rather to expose them.
Those who are of the world and still in darkness cannot help themselves. But based on what I see the Apostle telling us in this chapter, the Christian is light and therefore if he enters deliberately into the darkness for the sake of participation, he deserves what he gets.