Stories are told in many different ways. I can find stories on cave walls, 4k televisions, radio broadcasts, gigantic film screens, podcasts, novels, blogs,and the list goes on. There is no limit to the amount of stories we are willing to consume. Usually, this is because we want to be entertained. Oftentimes we view these stories through a lens of entertainment. We want to shut off the world for a little while, or a long-while if you’re binging 12 seasons of your favorite show on Netflix, and just drift into the world of this wonderful story. Beyond entertainment, we have a deep connection to story from extremely early on. When you ask a child to get a book to read before bed, they are going to bring about 15 books to you. When one ends they are going to ask for another. Why do we LOVE story so much? Why is it that a 5 year old brings back 15 books when they were asked to get one? Why are we willing to spend hours binging on TV shows and movie marathons?
Periodically, for the last 3 years, Katie and I have hosted movie nights with the youth. We eat snacks and turn on a movie. However, we don’t just watch a movie. Our goal is to show the students that every story that has ever been told reflects the Gospel in some way. Some films will intentionally reflect the Gospel. Others will do so unintentionally, but without question all will. This is what ultimately draws the human heart to stories. They reflect the deepest longing that we have; which is to be reunited with the God who created us. This doesn’t mean that christians should just watch anything and everything. Everyone should use discernment and wisdom in determining what content you will expose yourself to. What it does mean is that we can change the lens that we view stories through. No longer are they just tools for entertainment, but now they are tools for talking about the Gospel and in the process worshiping the God who put that great story in motion.
We are in the process of remodeling many areas of the church. The most visible of those areas is the children’s ministry. What you might not know, though, is that we also are hoping to remodel the youth room upstairs. Our goal is to essentially create a movie theater coffee house. Our goal is to use this space to do what I’ve mentioned above. Obviously, this is not without cost. On Sunday morning you will see several “left-over” CommUNITY Church t-shirts hanging in the main hallway. There will be a basket that you can place a donation in and take a shirt. There will also be a list of things that will be needed for the youth room. Please look at this list. If you have any of the things listed (even if they are old) and would like to donate them then please see me. I also want to use this blog to give you an example of the types of conversations that we might have ( and have had) when hosting a movie night using the great animated film, Finding Dory.
We first met Dory back in the early 2000s when a young curious, overly-confident fish named Nemo swam into theaters and enjoyed a 7-year reign as the king of Pixar box office smashes. It was knocked off it's throne in 2010 with the release of Toy Story 3. However, thanks to Dory's memory lapses, Nemo can say that he once again has a role in the top-earning Pixar movie of all time. Finding Dory now sits atop the list, earning nearly $500 million in North America alone. Aside from having the most lol-worthy sequence in Pixar history, this movie resonates on a very real level with the viewer. Dory, who has short-term memory issues, begins to remember details about being separated from her mom and dad. These memories motivate Dory to set out in an attempt to locate them so that she can be reunited with her parents. Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo, tells the story of a forgetful fish that retraces her life journey to find the family that she has long since lost but will always remember. Reuniting with family is a story that's been told in many different ways over the years, but still can have a deep connection with viewers when done well. Look no further than the countless viral videos that show soldiers coming home from active-duty. It's no secret that we long for reunification, even when its not possible. We could easily go into how that desire reveals a need deep within us that ultimately points us to Christ, but I would rather focus on a different aspect of this film.
The 3 R's
After Dory has been searching for quite awhile she finds herself drawn to a voice. She swims to the surface to hear the voice of Sigourney Weaver speaking over an intercom system of an aquarium. Dory gets scooped up and taken into the aquarium where fish are RESCUED, REHABILITATED, and RELEASED. This becomes a major focus of the film from the time it is introduced. Actually, it plays a huge part in that "most lol-worthy sequence." that I mentioned before. This is a place that takes in broken fish that are unable to live to their potential, then helps them get better, then releases them to the life they were always intended to live. If we look closely, these 3 R's reflect the story of the Gospel with the 3 S's.
The Gospel tells us that we are broken people who are unable to live up to our full potential because of SIN. At one time, however brief, we had a perfect relationship with our creator, but due to our disobedience that relationship has been broken. Sin takes many forms but is basically man looking to himself for fulfillment. This encompasses not just our thoughts but our actions too. Because of this disease, sin, we are on a path of eternal separation from our loving creator. We needed to be RESCUED. So God set in motion a plan the would result in man being reunited with him. The first step was to SAVE them through sending his Son (Jesus) to live and die on our behalf.
"For the wages of sin is death." - Romans 6:23.
4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— Ephesians 2:4-5
After being saved (Rescued) comes being sanctified (Rehabilitated). As I mentioned before, we have a sickness, sin, that keeps us from living the life we were always intended. After recognizing that Jesus is the rescuer that lived and died on our behalf, and choosing to follow and submit to him, we begin to be sanctified. There are many people that believe the work is done once we've been rescued. Something that Finding Dory obviously disagrees with. At the point of rescue our status is set. God always sees us complete in Christ, but rescue is only the beginning of a grand work of God that will progressively mold us into the image of Jesus. We become progressively more like him. Just like in Dory we are not responsible for own process of growth. Dory and the other sea creatures must trust their rescuers with the task of making the rehabilitation a reality. In the same way we must trust our rescuer with the task of sanctification. We must trust that he will complete the work that he also started in us.
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6
When the time is right the fish and other sea creatures are released to the life that they were always meant to live. They live free from whatever was holding them back. There will come a day when we experience something very similar.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
We will live completely separate from the very thing that holds us back from the life that we were meant for. Death shall be no more. If death is no more then sin shall be no more.
God himself RESCUES, REHABILITATES, and RELEASES.