Monday, July 25, 2016

Okay, Group Hug! You Too Anger.

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

We continue in our series on the gospel in Pixar looking at the movie Inside Out.  Another film where the lead character is female, and really four of the main characters are all female.  The main lead is Riley, an 11-year-old girl who has recently moved from Minnesota to San Francisco where her father has gotten a new job. But while it’s about Riley, it’s also about a lot more than Riley because what we actually see going on for most of the movie is what’s going on in Riley’s head, and how her emotions function together and operate her life, and the lives of others around her as well.  Although we have many different emotions, for simplicity sake, the Pixar team narrowed it down to five. There is joy, who is designed to look like a star, sadness, who is designed to look like a teardrop, disgust, who looks like broccoli, and fear, who is tall and thin, supposed to be like a nerve, and my personal favorite, anger… These emotions live and work in the central complex, headquarters, pun intended I am sure, and control what is going on in everyone’s lives. Rather than trying to explain this to you, take a look at how this works….

As it turns out, Riley is miserable with the move, the moving truck hasn’t arrived with their stuff, and her dad’s job is not going well, but to make matters worse is what happens to joy and sadness.  As Riley has an experience, the memory comes into her mind as a round ball, and it is color coded according to what emotion is associated with it, red for anger, yellow for joy, blue for sadness, etc.  These balls then get moved into long-term storage at night where she can recall them and the emotions associated with them. But, it turns out, the emotions associated with them can also be changed, and so when sadness touches one of these memories, it changes from what it was to a memory of sadness. This of course makes joy very upset, and she seeks to try and control sadness, at one point drawing a circle for sadness to stand in so that she can’t touch anything or bring any more sadness to Riley, which is what Joy doesn’t want to happen.  In trying to keep sadness in her place, or where joy wants her to be, both joy and sadness get sucked into the brain where all the other memories are stored, leaving only anger, disgust and fear in control, which sends Riley’s life into turmoil leading to anger making the brilliant suggestion that Riley’s life was happy and great in Minnesota and so she decides, or they decide, that Riley should run away, while joy and sadness are desperately trying to get back to headquarters.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Speed. I Am Speed.

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Luke 10:38-42:

Today we continue in our series in the gospel in Pixar looking at the movie Cars. Cars tells the story of Lightning McQueen, whom we just say, a racecar who is trying to become the first rookie racer to ever win the Piston Cup (He did what in his cup?) In the last race of the season, McQueen has a huge lead on the last lap when his tires blow allowing the two main competitors Strip Weather, also known as The King, who is in his last season, and Chick Hicks, the racer who is in perpetual second place, to catch up and there is a three way tie to end the race. McQueen’s tires blow because he has fired three crew chiefs and refuses to listen to the rest of his team, because, as he says, he is a one-man show, which then causes the rest of the team to quit. It is decided that to resolve the tie that there will be a three car race in California the next week, but on the way to California, Lightning accidentally comes out of the truck he is riding in, and in his confusion, ends up in a small town by the name of Radiator Springs, the cutest little town in Carburetor County, along Route 66, and while being chased by the police for speeding ends up tearing up the main street, where he is then arrested and sentenced to pave the street before he will be allowed to leave. While in the town he encounters a strange collection of characters that includes another former piston cup racer who has become the town doctor, but who has hidden his true identity from everyone else.

Up to this point, McQueen has seen racing and life as a zero sum game, as he has just said, there is one winner and 42 losers. One person is at the top, and everyone else is a loser in both senses of that words, of not winning the race and also not winning at life. Lightning has confused the idea with winning with being a winner, the same mistake that Chick Hicks will make at the end of the film, and we often do the same thing. There are some things in life that really are races, but not many, or certainly not as many as we would like to make them, especially when we turn life into a race and want to declare winners and losers. Seth Godin has said, in a competition in which the point is to win, you’re not supposed to enjoy the ride, learn anything, make your community better, slow down for anything, you’re supposed to win. It also justifies the use of any means in order to reach that end, winning. And when we treat life as a race, with winners and losers, then we end of cheating, literally and figuratively, everyone, most especially ourselves.  And so what Lightning has to do is to come to the realization that that is what he is doing with his own life.  He has equated “I won the race” with “I am a winner,” and he realizes how he has treated everyone else in his life, that he doesn’t have any real friends, that everything and everyone is a means to an end, just as others, like his agent Harrv, only see him as a means to an end.  As a result he is rushing through life, and life is rushing by him, and he’s never getting the time or taking the time to stop and learn how to smell the roses, as it were.  This becomes clear to him when he has an afternoon off from paving the road, and Sally, the owner of the local motel, the Cozy Cone, takes him for a drive…

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mend The Bond Torn By Pride

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was Ephesians 4:25-5:2:

We continue today in our series on the gospel in Pixar looking at the movie Brave. This is the first Pixar film to star a female lead, a redheaded female at that, and it is also the first in which the entire story real centers on and focuses around two female characters, Merida and her mother Eleanor.  It is also the darkest of Pixar’s films, in that it resembles some of the fairy tales we all know, although Merida doesn’t need any gammy boy to come to her rescue, she can do things quite fine all by herself thank you very much.  Eleanor is trying to raise up Merida to be a proper princess who will be able to lead the kingdom along with her husband in strength, just as she has done. Merida, however, doesn’t want to be the person her mother wants her to be, this is another example of the sense of identity that runs throughout Pixar films. Eleanor invites the other clans and their first born sons to come and compete to claim Merida as a bride, but Merida has other plans, and first subverts the contest that is to decide who she will marry. Then she gets a witch to cast a spell to change her mother, which Merida hopes will convince her mother to change her mind on forcing Merida to get married, but instead gets her mother changed into a bear. Merida is then told that if her mother isn’t changed back to a human by sunrise of the second day that she will remain as a bear for the rest of her life. As it turns out this is not the first time this curse has been laid on the kingdom, and to overcome it, to change her fate, the witch tells Merida that she must “look inside, mend the bond torn by pride.”

I already told this story a few weeks ago, but at annual conference this year, Bishop Cynthia Feirro Harvey told a story about her husband. She kept telling him things, but he said he didn’t hear them, or was acting as if he didn’t hear them, and so, getting a little older decided to get his hearing checked out. At the end of the appointment the doctor asked him why he had come in and so he told her, and the doctor said, well you’re hearing is just fine so perhaps it’s not your hearing but your listening that’s not working. We hear but we don’t listen. Merida and her mother are encountering exactly the same problem in that instead of talking to each other, they are talking at, or around each other, or not even to each other…..  Does that seem like a familiar story? Each of them have something to say, each of them have reasons for doing what they are doing, but neither can express that to the other, perhaps because even if they do they think they won’t actually be listened to.  And there is that moment, when literally and metaphorically Merida feels like she is being stuffed into something that is too tight, that constrains her too much, that is not who she is, and for a brief moment both of them appear to let down their guards, and are going to be honest and open, but then Eleanor can’t do it, and Merida can’t do it, and they go right back to their own positions.

Monday, July 4, 2016

He's Loyal To The End

Here is my sermon from Sunday. The text was John 15:9-17:

Today we continue in our series on the gospel in Pixar, and a reminder it’s not the gospel of or according to Pixar, by looking at Toy Story 3. It’s very rare to have the third film in a series be as good as the original, especially if there was no plans to make a third film when the series began, but Toy Story 3 is one of those films.  This film also holds a special place not only because it was the first film we took our daughters to see in the theater, but also because it totally ruined me and fills me with guilt anytime we get rid of a toy, especially a broken toy that ends up in the trash.  But, Toy Story 3 tells the continuing story of Woody, a cowboy doll, and Buzz Lightyear, a space ranger action figure, and the toys they live with, although now diminished in numbers as Andy, their owner has grown up, and no longer plays with them. Andy is leaving for college, and in cleaning up his room, in a mistake by Andy’s mom, the toys, except Woody, end up out on the street as trash. Woody, who had been put into the box to go to college with Andy, knows the truth and risks himself to go out to save them, but they don’t believe what Woody has to say, and are happy to instead jump into a box of other toys to be delivered to Sunnyside Daycare.

When they arrive everything seems great, but they don’t know that the facility is actually run by a dictatorial toy, by the name of Lotso Hugging Bear, who smells like strawberries, but who controls things for his own interests and protection. Woody, still trying to get the other toys to understand that it’s a mistake that they belong to Andy, can’t convince them to go with him, so Woody leaves the daycare and ends up at the home of Bonnie, a little girl who loves to play with her toys, while the other toys remain and are ravaged by the toddlers who don’t know how to place with them nicely. As Woody is preparing to leave Bonnie’s house to go back home, he is told that Sunnyside is a place “ruin and despair,” and so Andy goes back to rescue his friends and bust them out in order to get them back to Andy’s house before Andy leaves for college, and in doing so Woody risks his own freedom, and perhaps his life in defense of his friends.