Summary: Part of a series at our church entitled "High Definition." It is a segemented narrative sermon focused on hope.
LIVING LIFE IN HD: HOPE
SEGMENTED ILLUSTRATION 1: The Shawshank Redemption (www.ozsermonillustrations.com/frames/hope_frameset.htm)
The Shawshank Redemption is one of the best modern films made in my opinion. It has drama and suspense and turns your heart and stomach upside down. It is a film that will make a grown man cry… not that I would know about such things. I enjoy Morgan Freeman as an actor and so I was drawn to see this film as he is a co-star in the movie… maybe you have seen it. Set in 1940’s America it tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a gentle, quietly spoken banker who is falsely convicted of his wife’s murder and sent to prison. The prison is governed by the harsh and uncompromising Warden Norton. Life inside is even harsher. Red, a life prisoner who befriends Andy, puts it like this: "The first night’s the toughest, no doubt about it. They march you in naked as the day you were born, skin burning and half blind, and when they put you in that cell... and those bars slam home...that’s when you know it’s for real. A whole life blown away in the blink of an eye. Nothing left but all the time in the world to think about it."
And so Andy is subjected to the harsh realities of prison life. Yet he’s also very intelligent. Andy is co-opted by the warden to handle his accounts, including monies gained through corrupt and illegal activities. He develops careful and elaborate schemes to launder the money for the warden. And in return Andy is able to get some concessions for himself and the other prisoners - a library and basic educational services, a record player, and beer while on a prison chain gang. These concessions are like little tastes of heaven. When Red hears an Italian opera on Andy’s record player he says: "I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are better left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can’t expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was as if some beautiful bird had flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free."
I can imagine that being sentenced to prison for life is a situation that seems so dark and so terrible. Were you or I in such a situation, especially if we were falsely accused, we would be full of fear and any hope that we would have had for our life would have went down the drain… lost and washed out to sea. We would have such anguish and fear and uncertainty. I starting thinking about this and realized that there are many situations in life (it doesn’t have to be a prison sentence in Shawshank Prison) that would create these same feelings of hopelessness, fear, worry, and doubt.
Life is full of situations that test us beyond what we can bear and stretches our strength, faith, and hope to its very breaking point. We place our hope and trust in situations and people and they fall short. Let me give you some examples that you might identify with:
* We place our hopes in our finances. We put trust and money behind funds and businesses, but at times those fail and stocks are certainly unpredictable. One bad day in the stock market and some peoples’ whole livelihood is gone in an instant. The news is full of companies that did not make profits and whose employees are without pensions and 401Ks. We put our money in our home and then it is destroyed by a storm. Bad things happen and money can just seem to slip away. I heard this week that in Cape Coral, Florida that 1 in 80 homes is in foreclosure and that foreclosed homes is on the rise around our nation. Our society tells us that money makes the world go ‘round and when money goes away… our lives fall apart. Money fails.
* We place our hope in good health. There is no worse feeling than sitting next to a hospital bed of someone you love and their health is failing or they are sick. The person you love is in pain. They are in need of surgery because something in their body is making them unhealthy. You feel powerless. You feel inadequate to help them. You are hoping that medicine and doctors and nurses can heal. It is also stressful, difficult, and agonizing when you yourself are ill. We place such hope on good health so that we can work and play and do what we wish… but our health and the health of those around us can sometimes fail. You can take a look at our church prayer list and see dozens of families that are going through something like this because of illness, surgery, medical tests, or disease. Health fails.