Summary: This Ash Wednesday sermon uses a scene from "Fight Club" as its major illustration - it attempts to show that Christ doesn’t just give us a second chance, but that He puts us to death (while taking on our death) in Baptism and give us the empty tomb.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Three In One who makes our lives more beautiful than what they could ever be on their own.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
About ten years ago, a movie came out that just about everyone saw. It was called “Fight Club.” How many of you here were able to see Fight Club when it came out? Almost everyone? In that movie there were many scenes that were hard to watch. Many scenes that pushed the envelope farther than I wanted to be pushed. One scene in particular was hard for me to watch, but there was also something else to it. There was something strangely uplifting.
The scene begins with the narrator, played by Edward Norton, saying “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate of everyone drops to zero.” The next thing you know, you see Tyler, a character played by Brad Pitt dragging a man out of a convenience store into the alleyway, where Edward Norton is waiting.
Tyler, Brad Pitt’s character, has a gun. He pushes this man to his knees and we get our first real glimpses of the man. He’s probably in his mid or late twenties. Brad Pitt takes out the man’s wallet.
Tyler starts to look at the man’s wallet and calls him by name, “Raymond K. Hessel.” He reads off the address on his license. “Raymond,” he says, “you are going to die,” as he looks through his wallet. “Is that your mom and dad Raymond?” He stammers out a yes, between the tears and sobs that have already begun to fall. “Mom and dad are going to have to call up kindly doctor so-and-so to pick up your dental records, you wanna know why? ‘Cause there’s gonna be nothing left of your face.” Raymond continues to whimper in the background.
“What’s this?” says Tyler, “an expired community college student ID? What did you study, Raymond?”
“Stuff,” Raymond replies, “Stuff…”
“Stuff?” says Tyler, “Where the midterms hard? I asked you what you studied Raymond!”
“Biology,…biology mostly,” Raymond manages to get out. “Why?” says Brad Pitt
“I don’t know…” Raymond cries out.
“What did you want to be Raymond?” and he cocks the gun behind Raymond’s head.
“The question Raymond, what did you want to be?”
Ed Norton’s character breaks in, pleading with Raymond, “answer him Raymond.”
“Veterinarian” stammers Raymond, “Veterinarian.”
“That means that you need more schooling Raymond,” Tyler says.
“Too much schooling, too much schooling…” is Raymond’s only reply.
“Would you rather be dead?” says Tyler, “Would you rather die here on your knees in back of a convenience store?”
“No!” shouts Raymond, “No please…”
Tyler puts the gun away. He kneels next to Raymond and speaks into his ear. He says “I’m keeping your license. I’m going to check in on you. I know where you live. If you’re not on your way to becoming a veterinarian in 6 weeks, you will be dead. Now run on home.”
“I feel ill” says Edward Norton’s character who has been watching all of this. “Imagine how he feels,” says Tyler. “What was the point of all of that?” says Edward Norton. Tyler responds, “Tomorrow is going to be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast tomorrow will taste better than any meal that you or I have ever tasted.”
Tonight is Ash Wednesday. Tonight we gather together in this place. Tonight we receive ashes on our foreheads and hear the words that reverberated in the ears of Adam and Eve. We hear the words of God, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Tonight it is as if God is standing behind us with a gun and calling out our own mortality, “Jay Allen Winters, you are going to die. The wages of sin are death, Jay. It says here that you’re a pastor, Jay. What were you going to do with that? I wanted…I wanted to tell people about you. I wanted to explain your Love for people.” “You need to some things differently then, Jay…” “Too much…too much stuff to do…”
“Would you rather be dead? Would you rather die in your 29th year, in the first year of your ministry?”
That conversation probably goes a little differently in your life, but there is also something about that conversation that is your own. How does it go for you? What does God find in your pocket? In your wallet? What does He find in your life that you haven’t lived up to? Why did you fail? What are you doing since you failed?
The gun is at your head. You hear it cock. “What did you want to be?”
What do you need to do in order for that to happen? Do you need to give up some hatred or some fear? Do you need to take a class? Do you need to talk to someone?