Sermon for January 6th, 2019

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Luke 24:28-35

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Faith & Film VII: Green Book

[Film Clip #1 - Trailer]

Three Minute Film Summary

Green Book is a movie based on the true life friendship between two men: Dr. Don Shirley, an African-American classical pianist and musical prodigy, and Tony Vallelonga, an Italian-American bouncer from the Bronx, who went by the nickname "Tony Lip." The film takes place in 1962, with Shirley about to embark on an eight-week concert tour in the deep south. He interviews and hires Tony Lip to be his chauffeur and bodyguard on the trip, and just prior to the trip Tony is given a copy of the "Green Book" from which the film takes its name. To explain more about what the Green Book is:

Film Clip #2 - What Is the Green Book

Through the course of their travels, Doc Shirley and Tony Lip first learn just how different they are, and then after enduring many challenges and trials together--including much racism, violence, and a night spent in a county jail--they begin to appreciate each other, learn from each other, and ultimately see each other as family.

Who's Saving Whom?

One of the most interesting things about this film is all the controversy that it generated after its release. For a film that deals very carefully and candidly about race and discrimination, I was surprised when several prominent critics panned the film as just another "white savior" film. In case the label doesn't make it clear, a white savior film is one where a noble, enlightened white person heroically intervenes to "save" a poor, helpless black person. Yes, there are plenty of films like this, and they tend to be about as patronizing and distasteful as you would imagine.

But I can assure you, this is not that kind of film. I suspect the critics who used that label didn't really watch the film. Yes, Tony Lip protects and often "saves" Doc Shirley from danger. But throughout the film, Doc Shirley also goes out of his way to help Tony improve himself--helping him to write love letters to his wife, helping him understand classical music, and in this scene, helping him improve his diction:

Film Clip #3 - Diction

Regardless of the controversy, as a pastor, whenever I hear anyone use the word "savior" (white, black, whatever) my ears perk up. Words like savior, and salvation are inherently churchy words, even when used in a negative sense. And make no mistake, this IS a film about salvation and transformation. In the end, both of the main characters are "saved" from the demons that haunt them. Their eyes are opened to a new way of seeing, and their lives are transformed for the better.

But I don't think either Doc Shirley or Tony Lip are Christ types. Instead, they remind me of two other characters from the Biblical story, who also went on a road trip together that changed their lives and opened their eyes.

On the Road to Emmaus

Our scripture passage today is the story known as the "Walk to Emmaus." Two disciples of Jesus are traveling together, when they encounter a stranger on the road. He joins them on their journey, and the two are at first astounded and offended by the stranger's ignorance of current events (mostly the recent death of Jesus). We know, of course, that the stranger is Jesus, but we are told in verse 16 that "their eyes were kept from recognizing him."

Breaking Bread Together


[Film Clip #4 - Rock] Dignity Diction What do we do with the bones