Sermon Ideas For Luke 4:21-30 Part 3
Toys is one of those sublime films that didn't get much notice because it defied categorization. It wasn't exactly a comedy, or a drama, or a romance, or a farce, but more like an explosion of creativity that is best understood as parable, and most often misunderstood as hyperbole.
In a sense, the life of Jesus of Nazareth could be viewed the same way. He, too, defied categorization. He was a prophet, but also a fulfillment of prophecy. He was a Teacher of truth, but also was himself the Truth. He healed people from physical ailments, but his primary purpose was to heal in a spiritual sense. He is not known for romance, but he preached a Gospel that is love.
Toys is Robin Williams unleashed. He portrays a bundle of all child, open and honest and easily distracted, playful and accepting. He forms strong loyalties and easily fantasizes. He trusts implicitly and says exactly what he feels. He constantly wants to play, and wants others to play with him.
Jesus is the Spirit of God unleashed. Jesus is a jumbled bundle of superhuman power and an incredible reticence to use it. Jesus is the hot breath of righteousness and the cool breeze of forgiveness. Jesus is the leniency with the weak and ignorant and sick and the stringency with the teachers and leaders and anyone who dares to speak in the name of the Lord.
The story of Toys is that Robin Williams is the son of a wealthy toy company owner, who dies suddenly, but his will stipulates that since his fun-loving son (Williams) seems too irresponsible to handle the company, his older brother would be retired from the military in order to take over the family business. The old warhorse immediately shows everyone who's in charge, and in the name of marketing new products proceeds to squeeze out all production that is not concerned with making war toys. Suddenly a company that was known for the fun it generated is a participant in the culture of violence. Robin Williams, as the hero, tries valiantly to call the present order to repentance, but to no avail. He eventually has to forsake the old company and start over again.
Jesus, too, inherited a company of people that began as a chosen nation of peace, but became instead a country of violence, eager to play in the arena of control and power and destruction, and choosing to interpret its value system in the form of rigid law and strict moral code, with the underlying values really being about the leadership's domination. Jesus tries valiantly to call the present order to repentance, but they would not, and he ends up, instead of inheriting the old order, being the first representative of the new.
The parable in Toys is that we are all part of the same family, both the playful and the violent. we are in a constant wrangle over how we will allocate our common resources. It is up to us to decide if the watchwords will be security, top secret, ounterintelligence and weapons technology, or if the vocabulary will be fellowship, harmony, cooperation and partnership. We must choose if we will be about creating products that bring people together rather than teaching them how to wage war with one another more skillfully.
The critical issue in following Jesus is whether we will serve God or mammon; whether we will devote our time and energies to the things of this world or the things of the next; whether we will speak the language of peace and reconciliation and compassion, or if the words of isolation and estrangement and indifference will be on our lips. Evil is not so much personified outside ourselves as it is characterized in the urge within ourselves to desire too much power over others, and too much control over our environment, and to have too little concern for the little ones in our midst.
Toys is a movie without a wide audience, because it does not conform to the normative vision: the sets are stark and bare, the colors are all bright and primary, and the characters seem to be operating from a motivation that is not always abundantly evident.
The practice of Christianity does not have a wide audience, either, in modern American culture, because it is difficult to make it conform to contemporary expectations. Its heroes are too unlovely, its message is too complex to understand in a quick sound byte, its places of gathering are not attractively opulent, and its leaders seem to be people whose humanity shows either too clearly or not clearly enough.
Just as in Toys, the owner's son was not accepted in his own company, so also Jesus was not accepted in his own hometown. When they contemptuously doubted his expertise because of their familiarity with him, he attempted to point out to them how God's chosen people were not always to be found in their midst. Then, they were so angry they were ready to kill him, and their violent response only reinforced the correctness of his assessment of them. Anyone from our midst who tries to broaden our vision of what is both within us and beyond us will always meet with fierce resistance, but if that person passes through the madding throng unscathed, it could be that we have seen the prophet, the chosen one of God, whom we ourselves have refused to recognize.