At The Movies - Polar Express

(My recommendation - just watch the movie - then read the sermon ;)

Here is this great discussion on the roof of the Polar Express between the main character and this bum-like-character who is also ghost-like, maybe even Holy Ghost like. He says the words that express what we all feel at one time or another when it comes to religion or the idea of God in general. We don’t want to be bamboozled. We don’t want to be led down the primrose path. If we’re going to hang our hat on something, especially as something as important as religion which has underpinnings and roots in every part of our lives, well, we want to know as much as we can know that what we believe is real.

Because belief has become a bad word – a scary word – at times, even a weapon. Belief has come to mean a crutch to some. To believe, means to many, that we surrender our intelligence and thoughtfulness. Believing does not fit with our scientific method – though that has not always been the case nor do all accept that premise. Still for others, belief has been used in religion to isolate and coral people. It has led some to say, “I don't fit in there” and “I don't want to go to that church.”

Before we follow the light down the roof of the Polar Express, I want alert everyone in here to an important reality in this sacred place today: Not everyone here believes the same. This church was begun to be a different kind of church. We have sought to be a place not by catagories or litmus tests but to help all on their journey to feel welcomed to connect to God through the Holy Spirit and become disciples of Jesus Christ.

Our journeys, like those of each kid on the Polar Express have been different and along that way, we've had our doubts. Maybe not about God but certainly about the Christian faith and the church. Some have given up and said so long to what they call, “organized religion.” You might be there or have been there. Look, I don't blame you. In your shoes or theirs, I might have found myself the same place.

Does that mean I've got some kind of evidence or iron clad proof to give you? No. Do I no longer have any doubts? No. Fact is as Pastor Chris Bryant noted - “With greater faith comes greater challenges to that faith.” Sounds kind of like Spiderman's Uncle Ben and the idea “with great power comes great responsibility.” I can't tell you how many conversations I have had with people who said they admired my faith – who talked about wishing they had the faith to step out and do something like start a new church. But the truth is, I don't see a great faith in me because surrounding me, day in and day out, are the doubts that have always haunted me. If my faith is somehow bigger than yours – you need to know, my doubts match the intensity.

READ Luke 1:5-20

I'm wondering why the angel give Zechariah such a hard time? I mean what did he do that was so bad that the angel says he can’t speak until the words that the angel said would come true? Well, maybe, in the same way the main character in the Polar Express can’t hear the bell, Zechariah can’t speak.

You see, both were presented with things their senses told them was real, but both had heart issues... and they struggled with believing in their heart and so struggled to move believing into having faith and so, acting. Maybe it doesn’t matter what God does or doesn’t do to some regard, because until we believe in our heart we’re deaf or blind or mute in some way to all that God is really up to.

THE POWER OF BELIEF… (Scene: boy at the North Pole, picks up the bell)
Belief can change everything… Belief affects everything. I do believe that belief is a doorway through which an entire new world is opened up to us. Can beliefs be wrong? Yes. Yes they can. If you saw my Facebook page this past week, quite a conversation began over a quote from a 17th century priest I posted. History tells us he made mistakes and was called on the carpet, suffered consequences, owned up to them and found the grace to live by faith.

That’s why I’m especially comfortable in a faith (Christian faith) and a particular strain within that faith (United Methodism) that encourages thinking and discussion and at times even debate. I’m willing to think and let think while I hang my hat on the essentials which is why the creeds of the church are so important.

Is your bell “muted” because of disbelief? May these bells be a reminder of a place where you can come, regardless of how much or how little belief you have and hopefully find welcome, find strength, find encouragement and maybe if you don’t have it now, someday also find belief.

(H/T to Pastor Chris Bryant at City On A Hill UMC for his work providing the foundation for this series.)


Ken L. Hagler said...

One thing that didn't fit in with the sermon but I just couldn't escape was the trinitarian imagery through the movie.

Don't take it too literally but it seemed to me to that the conductor represented Jesus, the bum/ghost was the Holy Spirit and Santa Claus represented God the Father.

Please note, I'm not saying that the conductor was the Christ as no sacrifice was given only that he is representation of the teachings and pattern of Jesus.

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