I’m a sucker for cartoons; truly. Maybe it’s because I never really grew up. Of course nowadays I can use my kids as an excuse, but I do love animation. And all cards on the table I love Disney and Pixar movies the most. There’s just something about their ability to tell a story. Whether it’s an old man embracing his sense of wonder and adventure again with a floating house or a young adolescent struggling to make sense of her emotions after her family moves cross country or even the loss of innocence told through the eyes of toys, you find yourself caught up in the magic of storytelling and imagination. I can’t really say if I have a favorite or not, but I love certain scenes in all of them. One of my favorite scenes comes from the 1994 hit “The Lion King”. Simba (the protagonist) has run away from his pride and his responsibilities for fear of repercussions from an accident that resulted in the death of his father Mufasa in his early childhood. The scene opens with him being confronted by the old wise baboon Rafiki. After some weird dialog and pestering from the baboon Rafiki says to Simba, “You don’t even know who you are!” SImba’s response, “Oh, and I suppose you know?” “Sure do. You’re Mufasa’s boy!”
Wow! I don’t know if you caught that or not, but I find myself having God moments in movies all the time. And this is one of the best. Rafiki doesn’t tell Simba that he is lost or that he is running away from responsibilities, or that he needs to step up to the plate. No! He tells him, “I know who you are. You are a child of the King!” I think we all to often forget that. So let me remind you of something today.
You are redeemed.
You are priceless.
You are a child of God.
Your Father is the one who spoke everything into existence.
You are the beloved of God.
You are a child of Abraham.
You are a royal priesthood.
You are a holy nation.
You have been set apart, called out and been made new.
You are chosen.
You are friend of the Divine.
You are salt and light.
You have been bought with a price.
You are treasured.
You are God’s pleasure.
You are favored.
You are the bride who waits with expectation for the return of the bridegroom.
The Spirit that gives life to all that is loves you with an undying, never fading, forever enduring love that defeats sin, death and hell and will stop at nothing to show you how much you are worth. You are a daughter of the King. You are a son of the Most High. And not just you, but everyone who steps upon the face of this earth and has the breath of God in their lungs. So let us live into that promise and realize who we truly are. For that changes everything.
Once upon a time this morning…
At least that’s how I would like for it to begin. As is sometimes the case my daughter and I began the breaking of the day with the viewing of a Disney Princess movie. However today was unlike any other because she had made up her mind that she wanted to watch it differently. She did not want to watch all of the adversity and drama, but rather skip to the very end when the bad guy is beat (Mother Gothel) and Rapunzel and Eugene get to live happily ever after. She said the bad person would give her nightmares (although this has never happened) and she just wanted to see her “get beat”. And of course I found an excellent opportunity to argue with my 3-yr-old about the reward of seeing adversity overcome and the persistence to chase after your dreams whatever hardships come your way, but I got the feeling it was falling on deft ears. Yet I think we all kind of share my daughter’s sentiments. We all want a happy ending and if it’s all the same we would like a happy beginning and middle as well. The problem is this isn’t really life.
One of my favorite versus of scripture to see quoted is Jeremiah 29:11. And a lot of people quote it, “ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And this is great. It speaks of hope, “a future”…in essence a happy ending. But if you’ve ever read the rest of the book of Jeremiah you realize that this verse is the exception rather than the rule. You see, Jeremiah’s prophecy to Judah was of destruction. Babylon is coming and they are going to destroy you. Life for you will literally become hell on earth. And yet in the midst of all of this there is this silver lining. God promises that even though all of this tragedy is coming there way that he will never forsake them. So it kind of looks weird when we live off of the promise alone and don’t understand the circumstances out of which it was spoken.
Life is hard. Look around you. There are people dying from cancer, war, disease, hunger, etc. every day. There is poverty, violence, oppression, slavery, injustice like there has never been before. And yet, God has not abandoned us. He is actually with us in the midst of all of this. I read a quote today from Dr. King’s sermon A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart , “God is neither hardhearted nor soft-minded. He is tough-minded enough to transcend the world; He is tenderhearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.” That is the God in the midst with us. Powerful enough to give us a hope and a future and compassionate enough to walk through the tragic with us.
I hope for a happy ending. I hope for a happy beginning and middle as well. But I take comfort in the fact that even if the beginning and middle are rife with life’s difficulties that I have a God who walks with me in order to bring me into His glorious future.
I am reluctant to write this post. But sometimes when you experience something your eyes are opened to greater truth. And I feel that this truth I recently encountered is something that we in the church need to hear. I think our behavior, as in those of us who call ourselves the church, as of late can best be classified as ‘unchristian’. Don’t worry, I am not jumping on some political rant or some evangelical bashing bandwagon in order to prove a point. Let me give you some context.
Recently my wife and I attended a party. I was both nervous and excited about the party because it was thrown by some friends of ours. However these friends of ours, although they are dearly loved, live a different lifestyle than us. And a majority of the party attendees would also fit into that category. I love meeting people, but this was going to be a unique scenario as I was afraid as to what many of the people might think when they learned what I did for a living (As a side note, this often takes people by surprise…I guess I need more sweater vests). But the party actually went swimmingly. And there was never any judgment levied against me for who I was and everyone was super friendly. In fact, I made some new friends.
A couple of days later I begin to think a bit about Jesus and the people he was often seen with. Luke 7:34 has Jesus depicting himself in the following fashion per the religious gossip, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Jesus was accused of hanging out with people with whom he had very little in common. In fact, he was sometimes viewed as less because of it.
Now back to my original thought. Christian, at it’s core, was originally a slanderous term calling followers of the way “little Jesus'”. Their actions and lifestyles were completely modeled after Jesus. And although this was originally meant to carry negative connotations, for many of us who follow Christ it is now filled with honor and pride. But sometimes in the culture and media around us it once again has become a slanderous term. But I don’t think it is necessarily because our lifestyles always reflect that of Jesus. Let me explain way by terms of Confession…I don’t have too many friends who aren’t part of the church. In fact, my life is characterized by the fact that I surround myself for the most with other Christians. I don’t think if anyone looked at my life from the outside that they would accuse Andrew of being, ‘a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’. And this troubles me. Am I, by my very associations with Christians and not so much with others, being unchristian?
Just a thought….