By: Cliff Johnson
This weekend is the start of our new series, Kensington Goes to the Movies. We’re hunting for truths in the year’s most popular films. Here’s a glimpse:
The Apostle Paul: The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi tells the continuing story of the war between the Rebellion and The First Order. Luke Skywalker has been located and Rey reaches out to him to help the cause, only to have the former hero reject the offer and admit he has lost heart. His past haunts him and he feels disqualified and disinterested in engaging again because of it. The Apostle Paul reached a similar point of discouragement and disappointment in his ministry – to the point of him desiring to “…depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (Phil. 1:23). Paul had experienced so much violence, persecution, and hatred that he longed to be done on earth. But, he found the courage to finish strong for the sake of friends and followers. He explains this in Philippians 1:24-25, “…but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.” In The Last Jedi, when all hope is lost and the Rebellion is on the precipice of annihilation, what does Luke do?! He rises to the challenge because he cannot turn his back on the family and friends that so urgently need him. Paul and Luke both finished strong – will we?
Jesus’ Disciples: Wonder
In Wonder, Auggie Pullman is a boy who has been different since the day he was born. His face reveals the 27 surgeries that have allowed him to function normally, but he looks anything but normal. Auggie’s family decides it is time to end his homeschooling in order for him to engage with peers at school. He faces bullying and cruelty, but one boy sees what others don’t and becomes his best friend. Likewise, the twelve disciples were “unschooled and ordinary” (Acts 4:13) but Jesus saw something in them that no one else saw. People saw a hated tax collector, a feared zealot, several uneducated fishermen – most from the under-resourced and looked-down-upon region of Galilee. Jesus chose these men for a reason, and their courage and love changed the world. Auggie Pullman went on to impact an entire school with his kind heart. Will we choose to see what no one else sees?
The Church: Black Panther
In Black Panther, the Wakanda are a truly remarkable people. Although they have the best technology in the world, they choose to be hidden in plain sight. They’re seemingly unaffected by the suffering and pain happening in the world around them because they choose to further their own way of life without getting involved. After his father dies, T’Challa assumes the throne and has to make the decision to continue to keep the Wakanda separated from the world, or to engage and alleviate the suffering around them. There is a strong correlation between the Wakandan people with their incredible resources and the Church. The Wakanda have the ability and technology to help people but historically have declined to do so. And what about the church? In Jesus’ day, the Zealots wanted to overthrow their Roman oppressors by force, but Jesus preached a message of humility and love. And today, the Church has the resources to help a desperate world. Will we remain hidden in plain sight, or will we choose to engage and share the resources we have with the world around us?
The Prodigal Son: The Greatest Showman
In The Greatest Showman, PT Barnum had big ambitions his entire life. Although he grew up in abject poverty, he never stopped working to achieve his dreams and change his identity. The more fame and fortune he acquired, the more he realized that there was a deep hole that nothing could fill. In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a young man desperate to get away from his home and go out and make it on his own. When he loses everything, he walks back home offering to simply work in his father’s fields as a hired hand. To his great surprise, his father instead reminds him that his true identity is as a son and heir, not a bankrupt failure. Likewise, when Barnum loses everything he has worked for, he realizes that the most important things were his family and friends, and in their eyes, he was far from a failure. His community reminds him who he truly is, and he is inspired to get back up and change the world. What identity will we choose to live out?
– Cliff Johnson | Kensington Birmingham, Lead Pastor