Sermon for January 25th, 2015

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Psalm 139:7-14

7Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 9If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. 11If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” 12even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

Hebrews 1:1-2

1Long ago God spoke to our fathers in many and various ways by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created all worlds.

Faith & Film III: The Lego Movie

Three Minute Film Summary

The film begins with a prophecy. The prophet (or wizard) Vitruvius attempts to stop the evil Lord Business from acquiring a super-weapon named "The Kragle." When Vitruvius fails to stop Lord Business, he prophesies that someday, a person called "the Special" will find the Piece of Resistance capable of stopping the Kragle.

Eight and a half years later, we meet a simple construction worker named Emmet Brickowski. There appears to be nothing "special" about Emmet, and like most people in Legoland, he leads an ordinary life, and loves to follow the instructions. Until one day at work on his contruction site, he falls down a hole and discovers the Piece of Resistance. Compelled to touch it, Emmet experiences vivid visions of "The Man Upstairs" and passes out. He awakens with the Piece of Resistance attached to his back in the custody of Bad Cop, Lord Business' henchman. There, Emmet learns of Lord Business' plans to freeze the world with the Kragle, (which is actually a tube of Krazy Glue with the label partially rubbed out).

Eventually, Emmet is rescued by a group of Master Builders, led by Vitruvius. Master Builders are lego characters capable of building anything they need without instruction manuals. They travel accross all the different Lego worlds, opposing Lord Business' attempts to suppress their creativity. And they are hopeful that Emmet might be the long awaited special. Hopeful, but also skeptical, and then disappointed when Emmet turns out to be about as ordinary as they come.

Nevertheless, after a few dramatic plot twists, Emmet comes up with a plan to infiltrate Business' headquarters and disarm the Kragle. His plan fails, he and his allies are captured, and Vitruvius is killed by Lord Business, who reveals to Emmet in his dying breaths that the prophecy was something he made up. At this point, just when defeat seems inevitable, Emmet makes a last, desperate sacrifice of his own life, saving his friends in the process.

He wakes up in the real world (our world), where the events of the story are being played out in a basement by a boy named Finn, on his father's Lego set. The father (who is revealed to be the "Man Upstairs") chastises his son for ruining his creations by mixing the different playsets, and making crazy things, and proceeds to permanently glue his perfect creations together with Krazy Glue (Hence, Lord Business' plans).

The boy Finn returns Emmet and the Piece of Resistance to the Lego universe, where Emmet now possesses the powers of a Master Builder and confronts Lord Business. Meanwhile, back in the real world Finn's father looks at his son's creations and realizes that Finn had based the villainous Lord Business on him. Finn's father reconciles with his son, which plays out as Business having a change of heart, capping the Kragle with the Piece of Resistance. Father and son proceed to play together, create together, laughing and enjoying each other...until the Father invites Finn's younger sister to join them, which is represented in the Lego world as strange aliens arriving to destroy the world.

Christ Type?

Emmet is a construction worker. That's the modern equivalent of a carpenter. He is described as both an "ordinary guy" and, later, as an "extraordinary guy." Christianity teaches that Jesus was completely human (ordinary guy) and yet completely divine (extraordinary guy). Emmet (אֱמֶת)is a Hebrew name: It means "Truth." Jesus tells us in John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Emmet's alter ego in the real world is the boy Finn, and it is only through Emmet/Finn that the characters have access to the Father, to the "Man Upstairs." Emmet is believed by his followers to be the long awaited "Special," the fulfillment of prophecy. He sacrifices his life for others, is taken out of his world, and then comes back in a more powerful form to save humanity. Or...Lego-manity?

But I hope you've realized the sticky problem this Christ type poses: If Emmet and Finn represent Jesus Christ, the son...then the Father and Lord Business have to represent...God. For most of the Film, Lord Business and the Father play the part of the bad guy. Is God the bad guy? There were certainly Christians in the second and third century who felt that way: They were called the Marcionites. They believed that the wrathful God of the Old Testament was the bad guy, and that Jesus came in order to liberate us from that God. Ultimately, this view was rejected, but you can still find plenty of Christians today who embrace the message of love and mercy proclaimed by Jesus, and struggle with the seemingly angry and judgmental God of the Old Testament.

So is this movie tyring to resurrect an ancient heresy? I don't think so. In fact, I think there's a better way to look at it, and that's through the eyes of the Lego characters themselves. They "percieve" Lord Business to be a bad guy, but that doesn't necessarily make him so. Sometimes my own children percieve me to be the bad guy, when I get angry with them, or don't let them do everything they want to do. It certainly doesn't mean that I don't love them.

Even in the New Testament, we read (in Romans) that "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Note that the wrath is not directed at men, but at their unrighteousness. At some point in our lives, we all act unrighteously. We all fall short of who we want to be, who God wants us to be. Hence the need for our "special" Jesus, who (we read again in Romans) sits at the right hand of God, interceding, pleading with God for us on our behalf. And that is exactly what Emmet/Finn does in this film. He steps in, interceding with the Father on behalf of the Lego world. The Father shows mercy, his anger turns to love--love for his son and for their creations.

Following the Instructions: Law & Grace

In the New Testament, there is a classic debate that plays out in the letters of Paul, between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles. Are we still bound to follow all the rules and regulations God gave to the Jews? Or are we free in Christ to do whatever we want? The answer is yes...and no.

This debate plays out in the Lego world as well. Remember I said that Emmet is a Jewish name? And remember that Jesus was also Jewish. Emmet comes from Bricktown, where everyone (including Emmet) delights in following the instructions.

The Master Builders, on the other hand, are Gentiles. They're all from other worlds, and they assemble together in "Cloud Cuckoo Land" where there are no instructions, and where anything goes.

Through the course of the story, Emmet teaches the Master Builders a greater appreciation for the instructions, and he in turn learns to be more creative--not abandoning the instructions, but rather internalizing them, using the principles the instructions teach, even while building new and innovative things not covered in the instructions. This is the same approach used by Jesus, who upheld the law, but challenged his audiences to go deeper, following the spirit of the law over and above the letter.

Made in God's Image: You Are Special

Far and away my favorite theme in The Lego Movie, and I believe its principal message, is that "You Are Special."

Throughout the film, people keep telling Emmet that he is the special: "The most important, most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe." And yet they certainly don't treat him (or each other) this way. But Emmet does treat everyone else that way--he is kind, encouraging, amazed at everything he sees and everyone he meets.

Likewise, we as Christians make a pretty big deal about how special Jesus is. We gather and pray in his name, we sing hymns and praise songs about how special he is, we (hopefully) tell people we meet about how special he is. And yet how often do we tear ourselves and each other down with harsh words? How often to we treat one another unkindly, sometimes in the same place and within minutes of talking or singing about how special Jesus is? Mahatma Gandhi was once asked what he thought of Christianity. He said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Jesus didn't talk much about how special he was. Instead he reminded us that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." He told us that if God watches over every sparrow and the lily of the field, how much more special to him are we, who are made in his image? In fact, Jesus reminds us in John 3:16 that his very presence among us, his very reason for existing is because "God so loved the world, that he sent his son."

Perhaps it's time for us to stop talking to each other about how special Jesus is, and start loving each other like he loved us.

You are the most important, most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, in God's own image. You are special.