At The Movies - Week Four: (Jurassic World)

This week we are concluding the sermon series that we've been working on for the past several weeks--a sermon series entitled "At The Movies."  Each week we have been using hit movies from the past year to serve as our inspiration and illustrations.  

This week we will be relying on this summer's biggest hit, Jurassic World to help us in our efforts to develop skills to experience God in the world around us.  I know.  That sounds like a tall order, doesn't it?  The fact of the matter is that God is all around us, and is still speaking and creating.  We just need to have eyes that are opened to the reality of God in the world.  

Our little weekly conversations throughout this month have been exercises on how to practice opening our eyes.  If you can find the spiritual center of a movie, connect it to Scripture and then again to how you can live a life more fully integrated into the kingdom of God...  then you are on your way to be fully awake to God all around you. 

In case you have no idea what Jurassic World is all about--nor any idea where the whole Jurassic movie franchise came from... I highly suggest you read Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park, which launched the whole thing.  Essentially, all four movies based on the book are centered around the idea that scientists discover a way to genetically reproduce dinosaurs, and then try to make money off of the idea by way of an amusement park.  When things go wrong because of corporate greed and human frailty---the dinos get loose and start eating people.  

Jurassic World takes place many years after the first failed attempts at an amusement part and the synopsis of the movie is simply this: 

Located off the coast of Costa Rica, the Jurassic World luxury resort provides a habitat for an array of genetically engineered dinosaurs, including the vicious and intelligent Indominus rex. When the massive creature escapes, it sets off a chain reaction that causes the other dinos to run amok. Now, it's up to a former military man and animal expert (Chris Pratt) to use his special skills to save two young brothers and the rest of the tourists from an all-out, prehistoric assault.

Or you can watch this movie trailer if you like: 

Most movies like Jurassic World often tap into general anxieties that are prevalent in culture.  During the Cold War, for example, there were scores of movies that often created metaphors both obvious and subtle to muse about the struggle between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R..  Jurassic World and all of the movies in the franchise actually reflect the anxiety over our increasing reliance on technology, rapid advancements in genetic engineering and manipulation and all of the ethical issues surrounding scientific discoveries that allow us to circumvent nature.

I've heard the way scientists approach these kinds of advancements as a kind of "Promethean thrill."  Prometheus was the god in Greek mythology who introduced humans to technology.  He gave humans fire and helped them advance in power and self-reliance.  He was punished by Zeus for this, a facet of the story that tells us a great deal about humanity's relationship to technology throughout history.  The tower of Babel story in the Bible is actually a story about how the technology of the brick brought about a new age of power and pride for humans.  

So essentially new discoveries and technologies bring a thrill to those who discover or invent them as they "gift" them to humankind.  But there is always a bit of anxiety surrounding not only how these technologies affect humans, but how those who discover them might also be consumed in the process.  

Jurassic World is full of themes of humans trying to control nature and scientific outcomes, and how human elements like greed and power subvert control over how technology and knowledge is disseminated and used.  

In addition there is also a warning in each film about how dangerous it is to have a lack of respect for nature and Science in it's "purest" form, which is devoid of greed, ambition, and centered on the greater good. 

I think that there are deeper anxieties that these movies tap into, however.  It's not enough that they reflect a general sense of disquiet in society at large, I think they unsettle something in each of us.  What they seem to be saying is this:  "There is something greater at work here, and you better not mess with it."

None of these movies acknowledge the "something greater" as God, though.  But I think that's exactly what's at work.  You see deeper still, there is a story that is embedded in each of us that Jurassic World resonates with more than just a little.  The story that I am referring to is the story of "the Fall" of humankind as outlined in Genesis 3.  

In Genesis 3 the first man and woman are told not to eat of a particular tree--the Tree of Knowledge.  The serpent comes to the woman in the story and tells her that the reason why God doesn't want her eating the fruit is because it will give her the power to judge, to be like God.  So naturally, the man and the woman eat the fruit and all hell breaks loose.  

The basic statement that eating from the forbidden fruit asserts is: "God is not in control--I am."  This is what you and I say almost every single day of our lives in one way or another.  And so we still take a bite of the fruit.  

The one word that sums up everything that is wrong in this story is a simple one and it is the word that we are circling around today:  Pride.  

Just like pride went before the fall of humankind, pride goes before all of the moments in our lives where we stumble and fall flat on our faces.  Which brings me to this week's little rhyme which will help us put our minds around all of this:  

The hardest lesson of all is that pride goes before a fall. 

I heard this story about two ducks and a frog who all lived in a pond and were friends--as they would be.  Anyway the pond dried up and they could no longer stay there.  The ducks told the frog of a pond nearby where they could fly, but they had no way to bring him.  The frog thought for a moment and then suggested that the ducks find a stick that they could hold between their beaks, stretched between the two of them.  The frog would then grab the stick in his mouth and they could fly him out.  They all agreed and got a stick.  The frog latched on and the ducks flew away.  They were high in the air almost to the pond when a farmer below them exclaimed loudly, "Well I'll be!  I wonder which one of them thought of such an ingenious plan."  The frog glanced down and then proudly announced, "I did!"  

The hardest lesson of all is that pride goes before a fall. 

In 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 25 we have this interesting verse from Paul's letter to the church at Corinth: 

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

I love this verse because it uses some very Jewish humor and Greek hyperbole to get the point across that when it comes to wisdom and strength--God is in a whole other category than you.  In fact, your wisdom is flat idiotic when compared to God's wisdom, and what you perceive to be strength is laughable when compared to God's strength.  This isn't meant to make you feel bad, it's meant so you can keep it real. 

Think about the best advice you ever got.  Who gave it to you?  Think about them, too.  Now, here comes the kicker.  Did you take that advice?  If not, how did that work out for you?  I am thinking if you are anything like me, it did not work out all that well.  In fact, if you went back to that moment when you decided not to take that good advice, you probably felt a sense of pride that made you think, "What do they know?  I got this."  

Several years ago I purchased some bookshelves from Ikea.  If you have ever bought any furniture from Ikea, you know that everything they sell requires assembly and that the instructions are cryptic at best. Still not to follow them leads to despair as I discovered.  About halfway through my first bookshelf, I realized I had not followed the instructions and had to completely re-do it.  Even after putting together several of these shelves, I tried to not look at the instructions, and ended up making mistakes.  I thought I had it.  I thought I was smarter than the Swedish dude who designed the thing and created the step-by-step on how to build it.  I wasn't. 

The hardest lesson of all is that pride goes before a fall. 

C.S. Lewis called pride "the great sin" and that all other sins were "flea bites" in comparison to it.  It was, in his understanding, the sin from which all sins originates.  That makes sense when you realize how deeply Genesis 3 is embedded within us.  

So what an we learn from Jurassic World about pride and how not to let it run our lives?  

First, we learn that "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  That is a line from the famous poem by Robert Burns, the great Scots poet.  It's rumored that Burns thought of this poem when he was plowing in a field and ran over a nest that a family of mice had built to help them survive for the winter.  The nest was destroyed and the mice scattered in terror.  

Burns realized how absolutely uncertain life is, and how pride in our own plans and efforts is absolute folly.  

Pride in certainty seems to be the ultimate virtue in our culture nowadays.  All the evidence you need for this is found on cable news shows that pit people with opposing views against one another for fun and profit.  It doesn't matter the topic, people on the news will fight about it.  And just wait.  Next year is an election year.  There will be more than a few people on TV who will be apoplectic with what seems like rage at those who disagree with them, but who are really just proud of the certainty of their own position.  I can't wait. 

Christians aren't immune to pride in certainty, either.  In fact, I feel like sometimes we invented it.  We are so proud of the certainty of our doctrine, our beliefs, our ideas on salvation, our interpretation of the Bible... but as I said, Pride in certainty isn't the ultimate virtue, especially for Christians.  

The ultimate virtue for Christians is surrender: surrender to God's will, to following Christ, to serving others... Jesus exemplified this surrender when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was crucified and said to God, "Not my will, but yours be done..."  

Second, we learn from Jurassic World that when you are in control, you are not really in control.  One of the themes that permeated Michael Crichton's original story Jurassic Park is how even though the universe seems orderly, it isn't. And any attempts by human beings to create order will be subverted by the unpredictability of the universe itself.  This is referred to as "Chaos Theory."  

Quantum physicists have been exploring things like chaos theory for the past seventy years or more--but the ideas behind them are very, very old.  

In the book of Genesis chapter one we read that "God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form, and full of void." Which was another way of saying, "Everything was chaos."  The symbol for chaos in the ancient world was water, more specifically the sea.  Which is why when we read in Genesis one that "The spirit of God hovered above the waters," it's so significant. 

The ancients were trying described something that you and I need to embrace:  Only God can take the chaos of the universe and make it orderly, make sense of it all.  When you and I try to do it--we create a false sense of order that is bound to fall apart.  Our pride sometimes keeps us from acknowledging that we have no idea what is really going on--and just how much we need God to sort it all out.  

Third, we learn from Jurassic World that our worth is not measured in our accomplishments, it's measured in relationships, with God and with others.  I love how Chris Pratt's character in Jurassic World describes his relationship with the Raptors.  These incredibly dangerous creatures respond to him because he has a relationship with them.  In fact, he says "it's not about control, it's about a relationship."  

In fact, the main reason why the villainous Indominus Rex in Jurassic World breaks out and wreaks havoc on the whole joint is because the scientists and company executives did not see it as a creature, but as an object.  They saw it only as a means to end, that they thought they could control.  They didn't care about a relationship. 

In the end, the only relationship that matters to us when we are lying on our death bed is the one we have with the Creator who first breathed life into us.  

Our worth in the eyes of our culture is measured only in what we do, which leads ultimately to pride and to a fall.  But our worth in the eyes of God is measured in the distance between--as a popular Christian song describes--"one scarred hand and the other."  

There's a video circulating around the internet of a collegiate track event where a talented runner was so far in front of everyone else as he approached the finish line that he actually slowed down and started working the crowd in triumph.  Then this happened:  


This guy thought he had the race won.  He started celebrating, and then out of no where he got run down and lost.  

Maybe you are sitting here today and you've been wrestling with God for control over your life for a very long time.  You seem like you have it all together, perhaps.  I would wager that at some level you know this isn't true, but still--you might be faking it enough to make it.  

The danger of thinking you have it all figured out, that you've got things covered and in control all on your own without God in your life, without surrendering to God's will and God's way is when your plans get shattered, chaos happens and everything you measured your worth by is suddenly... gone.

The hardest lesson of all is that pride goes before a fall. 

Don't let your pride get in the way of living the life that God has always dreamed for you to live.  Open your heart, open your will, open your life to the unbelievable joy that comes from fully following Jesus.  Imagine what your life could be like if you surrendered to the One who loves you beyond all love and who wants the very best for you both in this life and the next.  


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