Monday, August 13, 2007

God @ the Movies: A Good Year

We do this series to see God in the ordinary and through contemporary culture--as well as the Bible and allow it to fill us with wonder & astonishment.

What are your top five all-time movies?

They are obviously very personal- they become a part of our lives, often meaning so much because of where we are in life at the particular time we see it, or because of our past experiences. A movie I love you may despise, as many do with one of my favorites, Castaway!

Holiday reflections- college & career days; mission trips, vacations with a purpose. Holidays as pilgrimages. And yes I did lose round 2 of our family mini-golf championship! I certainly went down swinging, mind you, many times over! Perhaps I tapped into this movie that features a French estate with a winery because of all the wine in the Okanogan area.

Scene 1 Movie trailer

What Matters? What really matters?

This movie opens up with a young Max, played by Russell Crowe, being taught by his uncle at the uncle’s estate in France. In this scene we’ll see Max is playing chess with his uncle, and has cheated by moving a chess piece to his own favor. His uncle knows it, but Max doesn’t know that his uncle knows it. Let’s watch:

Scene 2 chapter 1 3.10- 3.56

Aren’t we so competitive at a young age to win at all costs? Meanwhile our parents and other figures are trying to teach us what really matters.

John Ortberg and It All Goes Back in the Box.

What matters? What really matters?

Let’s see what life can look like when we haven’t figured out this important lesson:

Scene 3 chapter 2 4.26- 7.00

Watching that scene from a London exchange reminded me of when my friend Norm went to Columbia University, an Ivy League school for law. He interned at a Wall Street firm. When he was shown his office it appeared the carpet was stained behind the desk. Upon asking what that was about the secretary said, ‘Oh, that’s where the last guy slept.’

It wasn’t working to live it was living to work!

Max is now a very obviously hard driving, win at all costs, take no prisoners jerk of a man. He awakes one day to find that his uncle has died and he has inherited the old estate. He needs to take a day or two out of his busy schedule to take care of some legality in France. Trouble starts when he gets a SMART car to drive- not befitting of a man of his stature. Here we see him arriving at the place where he vacationed as a young lad. He begins to unwind and his memories speak to him:

Scene 4 chapter 5 17.35- 20.50

I love the lyrics of the song, ‘The world is changing, rearranging, always changing.’ And then he sees a doorway, a staircase, and an invitation. A real vacation beckons us to that.

In this next scene poor Max has been very rushed getting the paperwork in order to sell the estate and make some more money. He needs to take a few pictures for the real estate listing and get back to London for a special meeting with his boss. Let’s watch what happens while he’s snapping shots of the pool:

Scene 5 31.00- 31.50

What a metaphor for our spiritual lives, when God wants to speak to us, the phone ringing, and we can’t get to it because the circumstances of our life, the choices we’ve made, the habits we’ve developed keep us caged.

Has God been saying anything to you over the summer?

Since Max missed his important meeting his weekend at the estate has now turned into a full-blown vacation because he’s suspended from work. He does begin to wrestle in his spirit with life and what matters. In this scene he’s become romantically involved with a beautiful French woman, and is trying to lure her to leave her life in France and move to England with him. Watch what she says:

Scene 6 chapter 18 90.28- 91.08

This place doesn’t suit my life. No, your life doesn’t suit this place.

It all comes down to money for Max. Let’s watch as his ‘best friend’ helps him make the right decision:

Scene 7 chapter 19 91.50- 92.41

God created a system of rest for us called Sabbath. He decreed it is good to work, to accomplish things, but even better to rest on the seventh day, to savor life, to enjoy our blessings, to remember what really matters in life.

It is meant to recreate us inside. We need to slow ourselves down, slow our RPM’s so that we can tap into deep rest, to listen for God, to ask yourself what really matters.

He further instructed the ancient Israelites that they were to rest the land one in seven years from crops and animals. He even created a system that at the end of seven, seven year cycles there ought to be a year of Jubilee where all debts are forgiven and property restored to it’s rightful owner. Prisoners and slaves would be set free. That concept is in part what is motivating Bono to move for third world debt relief and forgiveness.

We all need a readjustment at times about what matters most to God and to us.

In the movie, Max meets a young woman named Christie who claims to be his uncle’s unknown daughter from an affair. As such she should be the rightful owner. In a stunning Jubilee move Max arranges to have her get the estate.

He quits his job and marries his French love. And the ‘peasant’ winery worker gets to stay on the estate and make new wine. Jubilee!

Running alongside the story is the subplot that the once great wine from the estate has now turned into crap- literally. Chicken manure is used as a fertilizer, and it is not pleasant. The vine isn’t producing what it should. The vineyard is in disarray.

Isaiah 5:1-7
The Song of the Vineyard
I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.

"Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?

Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it."

The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

When the land is out of kilter it doesn’t produce what it should. When we are out of kilter we don’t produce what we were created for.

Luke 13:6-9
"A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'
" 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "

God isn’t really fond of orchards in disarray. Jesus isn’t fond of trees that produce no fruit. He is, though, always giving more chances to produce fruit that lasts.

What really matters?

John 15:1-17
The Vine and the Branches
"I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn't bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

"Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can't bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can't bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

"I've loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you'll remain intimately at home in my love. That's what I've done—kept my Father's commands and made myself at home in his love.

"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father.

"You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

"But remember the root command: Love one another.

Are you attached to the vine that is Jesus Christ? As we gather around Communion, the wine, our juice is symbolic that he gives us new life, refocuses us on what really matters. He recenters us.

As we move to celebrate together, listen to Russell Crowe and his band, The Ordinary Fear of God sing about ONE GOOD YEAR:

It’s New Years Day just like the day before
Same old skies of grey, same empty bottles on the floor
Another years gone by, and I was thinking once again
How can I take this losing hand and somehow win

Just give me One Good Year. To get my feet back on the ground
I’ve been chasing grace. Grace ain’t so easily found
One bad hand can devil a man, chase him and carry him down
I’ve got to get out of here, just give me One Good Year

I’m burning oil, engine’s running rough
I drive from job to job, but it’s never enough
I can’t find the will to just up and get away
Some kind of chain is holding me down and making me stay

It’s a bitter wind in your face every day
It’s the little sins that wear your soul away
When you start giving in, where do the promises all go
Will your darkest hour write a blank check on your soul

Writes Russell Crowe, "This song is important to me because it contains two of the great single lyric lines I have ever heard; one of which is "I've been chasing grace, grace ain't so easily found". The other is, "Will your darkest hour write a blank cheque on your soul"."

Because of Jesus Christ, we know where to find grace. And He makes it possible that our darkest hour will not soil our soul forever. Come.


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