THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO DISNEY #1
Buddy Hacket played Tennessee Steinmetz in the Disney movie The Love Bug said: “Jim, it’s happening right under our noses and we can’t see it. We take machines and we stuff ’em with information until they’re smarter than we are. Take a car. Most guys spread more love and time and money on their car in a week than they do on their wife and kids in a year. Pretty soon, you know what? The machine starts to think it *is* somebody.”
He was right we do pour all kinds of love into our vehicles and other objects as well, but especially our cars and trucks. How many of you have named your car or truck? It’s nothing to be ashamed of, we all do it. My old truck was Whitey and this one is Buck. I don’t know how many times when I’m passing somebody that I’ve said, “Come on Buck.” Or “Way to go Buck.” Just ask Mary.
This morning we start a series titled: The Gospel According to Disney. I’ll be using some of the titles of Disney Movies for sermon titles. And focus a little on what we can learn from Disney movies in general and how that pertains to our everyday life. But before we go any further, let’s pray.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (NRSV)
 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant
 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;
 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Our founder, John Wesley, believed that love was the most import and central aspect of the Gospel. He based all of his theology on the greatest of these: Love.
We talk about love all the time. We use the word almost indiscriminately in a variety of settings, with a variety of meanings. Love and the word love are a part of our everyday lives. And as we read the scripture, we find that LOVE is one of the key words of the New Testament. For many, the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians contains the most beautiful passage in the Bible. Why is that? What is it about the passage that makes it so meaningful?
I. OUR NEED:
A. Love is probably one of the most often expressed emotions we have. We write poems about it: “How do I love thee, let me count the ways.” We sing songs about it: “All you need is love. Love will keep us together. Honky talk love. Love me tender. Somewhere my love. How sweet it is to be loved by you. Love Divine. Love, Mercy and Grace.” We send cards and letters. And each of these express a certain aspect or philosophy of our love and loving.
And there are other ways that we express our love for each other. We do it in almost as many ways as there are people. We express our love for each other and our families: by sharing someone’s grief; by giving a hug when it’s needed; by baking a loaf of bread or a pie for someone special, just because they’re special; by missing an important meeting to watch the kids or grandkids play ball; by speaking out on an issue; by defending your little brother or sister; by extending a helping hand to a stranger down on their luck; by checking under the bed for monsters at night and turning a can of air freshener into monster repellant.
There are jillions of ways that we express our love for each other. In the intimacy of a relationship it might be a touch of the hand, a look across the room, the way he or she walks down the hall, a dozen roses, a special song, a word whispered or even just hands held in the dark. They’re all expressions of romantic love. Romantic love makes us feel warm all over and mushy on the inside. It makes our hands get sweaty and our stomach flutter. And it’s an important part of our relationship, at least for most of us.
A woman wrote that she and her husband were leaving a football game in a throng of people, and her husband, who never displays affection in public, took her hand. The woman said all kinds of romantic thoughts ran through her mind. She smiled from ear to ear. As they walked hand in hand out of the stadium, she looked up at her husband, smiled one of those intimate smiles and asked, “I guess you don’t want to lose me, huh?” And her husband replied, “No, I just don’t want to have to look for you.”
I imagine he wound up sleeping on the sofa that night or out in the garage with the dog. But even his remark was sort of an expression of love.
B. What is it then that causes us to seek relationships with others and causes us to group ourselves together and write silly songs and poems about the efficacy of love. What’s at the root of it all?
We have a basic need for love. Paul knew that, that’s one of the reasons why he wrote this passage. He knew that we have a very elemental and basic need to be loved and to love. It’s a part of how God created us. God created us to be in relationship, with Him and with one another. We are unhappy, unfulfilled, incomplete when we are alone. That doesn’t mean we need to be married. But we have a basic need for intimate friends who know us and care for us and love us just as we are, without the walls and defenses and masks that we create to get along in the world. We need to love and be loved.
When we know we’re loved, we have a sense of self-worth, a sense of identity beyond our own shallow experiences. When we know we are loved, we have acceptance and know that we are acceptable and then we are enabled to accept and love others.
Within each of us there is the drive to love and there’s the desire and need to be loved. We are strengthened physically, spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically when we know that we are loved.
II. CHRIST CAME TO FILL OUR NEED:
A. In Jeremiah 1:5 God reminds us that we are loved, even when we don’t know it. The Lord says to Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” That’s powerful stuff. Before we are even conceived God knows us and loves us. To me, that’s a powerful affirmation of God’s prevenient grace, and God’s continual love. It’s almost too good to be true. But it IS true. God does love us. And God loves us so much that God sent His only Son to prove that love.
B. During the Civil War, a farmer was drafted to be a soldier. He was very concerned about it, not because he was a coward, but because his wife had been dead for several years, and if he went to war, his children would have no one to look after them. The day before he was to report for duty, a young neighbor, Charles Duram, came to visit. “Farmer Blake,” he said, “I’ll go instead of you. I’ll go in your place.” That was allowed in those days. Well, it seemed too good to be true for the farmer, but he shook the young man’s hand and praised God for his good fortune.
The young man went, feeling that he was doing a high and noble deed, which he was. The whole town came out to see him off. Tragically, in the first battle he was shot and killed. When the farmer saw the name of Charles Duram on the “missing” list, he saddled up and rode to the battlefield. After searching for some time, he found the body of his young friend.
He brought it back to their home town, to the little churchyard, and there he buried Charles Duram, covering the grave with sod from his own garden. Then he went to the quarry up on the hill and cut a plain marble tablet, on which he carved the inscription with his own hand. It was roughly done, but with every blow of the chisel, tears fell. When he was finished he put the monument on the grave. It didn’t say much but it deeply touched everybody who read it: “Charles Duram – He died for me.”
Just like Charles Duram, Christ died for us. The Biblical witness is that we have made a mess of our lives and our relationships, especially our relationship with God our Author and Creator. We don’t love ourselves. We can’t find satisfaction in our jobs, we’re restless and listless. We can’t keep our promises. We can’t follow the rules. We try to do it all on our own instead of calling on the power of God. And the more we try the worse it seems to get. We continually blow it. We don’t deserve to be loved.
But the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Good News of the cross and the empty tomb is that GOD LOVES US. Despite all the garbage, GOD LOVES US! We don’t have to try to live life alone. There IS love; Love that sets us free to be all God wants us to be. Love enough for everyone, even for the one who seems the worst offender. The Son of God gave His life to show us just how much God loves us and just how much we are worth. We are worth God’s Son. We can point to the cross and empty tomb and say, “He died for me!” And the love which we experience will transform and empower our lives.
III. WE RESPOND BY LOVING:
A. It will empower our faith as well. Paul writes in the closing verse, “Faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The reason love is the greatest of the three, is that love is the motivating force of our hope. It is the active ingredient in our faith. It makes faith a reality and hope a verb. Without love, both faith and hope are shallow and nebulous.
William Barclay wrote: “Faith without love is cold, and hope without love is grim. Love is the fire which kindles faith and it is the light which turns hope into certainty.”
We respond to Christ’s love with an energizing of our lives. The love He gives empowers our lives with both faith and hope. We respond to the love of Christ with love for one another.
Christ’s love alive in our lives gives our lives flavor and it just naturally overflows to others. It allows us to go beyond ourselves.
Love gives feet to faith and hands to hope. It allows us to be the Church, not just a church, but The Church, the active living community of faith, a representative of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In life and especially in the life of a church, when love is allowed to go around sprinkling its own very special brand of seasoning, the church is transformed into a very special home; a very special home for very special people. Through love, the church becomes the community of faith, the family of God, the body of Christ. Because only love can furnish it with a feeling of home.
It’s like being a parent. Parental duty can pack an adequate lunch for your children but love decides to add the extra cookie or the hershey’s kiss. Obligation can cook a meal, but love turns pancakes into faces and animals. Duty writes letters but love adds the joke or the cartoon or the stick of gum. Obligation can pour the glass of milk, but love adds the chocolate.
Our faith and our discipleship are the same way. Duty gets the assigned task done. Love inspires us to go the second, third or even the fourth mile. Love sees the potential and future possibilities in a broken life where others only trouble.
The point is, love changes our attitude. It helps us see with new eyes. The love of Christ, the grace and forgiveness and the new direction which the Son of God gives to us through his death and resurrection, changes our attitudes toward life and each other.
Clement of Alexandria, one of the Early Church Fathers wrote: “For the sake of each of us he laid down his life — worth no less than the universe. He demands of us in return our lives for the sake of each other.”
We have a need to love and to be loved. And through Jesus Christ the Son of God we can experience both. Especially this morning as we have the symbols of God’s sacrificial love sitting on the altar. Simple elements of bread and wine remind us of God’s deep love for us. And once we partake of these elements, once we share this meal with our Savior we can experience God’s love for us again. But more importantly, these elements with strengthen us to live a life of love, a life that reflects the love of God in Christ. Plus it empowers us to help others experience the very same love.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.