Sermons

Summary: Third in a series based on the movie "John" released in 2003. Certain characteristics mark all true heroes. Jesus fits all of those descriptions, and more.

If you like the book, you’ll love the movie. Or is it the other way around? If you liked the movie, you’ll love the book.

The truth is that I loved the book (or books) when I read them for the first time in the 1970s. And I loved the movies (two so far) when they came out. Now I’m looking forward to The Return of the King, which will complete the trilogy that began with The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

If the movies we love feature a good story line (like I said two Sundays back), this is one epic story. And if good story lines are built on conflict, the tale of the ten who set out to save Middle Earth from the evil Lord Sauron is one intense read! His work being voted the Book of the Century speaks well of J. R. R. Tolkien’s ability to write in a most captivating manner.

Last Sunday I talked about the movies we love revealing character development. They can’t be just all action. The audience wants to identify with the main characters. To understand why they do what they do. To cheer them on in their struggles. And who doesn’t identify with the hobbits in this saga? As the story moves along we witness with great interest the growing up of Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee.

This Sunday let me add that many of the movies we love present us with bigger-than-life heroes. Take your pick in this trilogy I’ve been talking about. Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, Arwen—and hey, that’s just a start.

***

If you like the Gospel of John in the Bible, then you’ll love the new movie that’s out with that same title—The Gospel of John. Many of you have already gone to see it. If you haven’t, once again I urge you to do so this coming week. It’s playing at _________________.

Most of you have heard of Christopher Plummer, who narrates this film. He, of course, played Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. Plummer has actually been in more than 80 movies including, more recently, A Beautiful Mind.

In this production, his is a big job, because the script is a word-for-word rendering of John’s gospel as it appears in the American Bible Society’s Good News Bible. The contract states that to use this translation, not one word could be changed, or removed, or added—not even a “the” or an “and.” So again, the movie script is literally the Book of John, verbatim.

Not as well known, but a man who does an incredible job playing the part of Jesus, is Henry Ian Cusick. He is a classically trained stage actor with the world-renowned Royal Shakespeare Company. His long list of credits includes principal roles in Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Anthony and Cleopatra and Richard II.

Portraying Christ is not an easy assignment to take on. But I appreciate the way Cusick handles the role. He’s winsome, but still forceful. Compassionate, yet always totally in charge. I love the way he keeps referring to his father in heaven. The gospel of John almost takes on a warm and engaging father/son feel.

My personal response is that I can see myself following this kind of Christ. He knows who he is and what he had to do. Depicted here is great strength, but always under control. All in all, I find this Christ to be a most compelling personality. In fact, if we talk about the movies we love presenting “larger-than-life heroes,” I believe that’s a fitting way to describe how our Lord is presented.

***

The Great Books of the Western World 1973 Supplement featured a symposium on the topic of “The Hero and the Heroic Ideal.” Here it’s stated that certain characteristics mark all true heroes. That’s the case whether it’s someone out of the ancient world like Hercules, or a modern day comic book character such as Superman.

* To start with, the hero is capable of feats beyond the ability of ordinary individuals. Heroes pull the stronger bow or pack the more powerful punch. A hero can’t be himself or herself without special power. When that’s diminished, the reputation withers and somehow must be regained, as with the Samson story in scripture.

* There’s also a persistency factor. What heroes accomplish is not an isolated event. That could be just an accident or an anomaly. Heroes repeatedly display their power. Spiderman shows his prowess in numerous comic books, not just a single issue.

* Courage is another attribute. Heroes can be violent, self-serving, unjust, cruel, but they can’t be cowards. They must never despair, even in the face of hopeless odds.

* Finally, heroes face a certain aloneness or apartness. Sometimes they’re ridiculed or even disgraced. Average folk, like us, will never be able to appreciate fully what heroes must endure.

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