At The Movies Week One - "James Bond - Spectre"

This week we are launching a new sermon series for the month of July--and if it sounds a bit familiar, you would be correct in assuming we've done something like this before.  I say like this, because this is actually the second year in a row that we have scheduled the sermon series "At The Movies" during the month of July. 

We did this for a couple of good reasons:  First, July typically is the worst month of the year for church attendance and so most churches just fold it up for the entire month.  But not us.  We decided to ramp up this month for the most interactive, creative sermon series of the year. 

The second reason why we are doing At The Movies again, is because as Christians we need to learn a powerful lesson about the universe:  Everything is Spiritual.  We need to be able to look at the world around us, at culture, at art, at theater, music and even movies and be able to find the spiritual core at the center of it all.  

We need to learn to look at the world through a Jesus-shaped lens.  So, each week we are going to be taking on a new topic, illustrated by some of the biggest movies of the year.  I used to have this coach that would tell us that you play like you practice--so let's practice using those Jesus-shaped lenses. 

This week we'll be using the newest James Bond movie Spectre as our illustration for a conversation on leaving our past behind, and embracing the grace and forgiveness of God. 

But first, I need to ask you a couple of questions just to get the ball rolling... 

What's your favorite James Bond movie?  I have to tell you that I have a couple of categories here.  My favorite old school Bond movie has to be Goldfinger, but my favorite all time Bond movie is Casino Royale with Daniel Craig.  

Second question.  What's your favorite James Bond movie theme?  Each movie has it's own theme song, as you probably know and many of them have become huge hits.  I'm kind of torn here, too.  I really love the classic original theme, but "For Your Eyes Only" has sentimental value for me, which I'll keep to myself. 

Okay... I had a huge crush on Lynn Holly Johnson who was in the movie. So there. 

Here's the most important question.  Who's your favorite James Bond?  I think running away Sean Connery was the coolest classic Bond, but Daniel Craig is easily my favorite overall.  The dude is just so stinking cool. 

Let's watch a quick trailer for Spectre the latest Bond movie. 

So in this particular film, the writers and director reach into the past and bring the stories from some of the original movies into the future.  We get a bit of the origin story of Blofeld, who was one of the most famous Bond villains from the old movies in the 60's.  And what we discover about Blofeld, and the organization he founded--named Spectre--is that at one time he was James Bond's foster brother, who became twisted by jealousy and hatred.  

The main theme of this film is that we are sometimes confronted with our past, and it can feel like we never really stop paying for the sins we committed, or the sins committed against us.  For many of us, it can feel like those sins from our past always find us.  They haunt us.  They never stop hounding us. 

I have a friend who struggles with addiction.  He's done some despicable things in his life. And although he knows that he has been forgiven, although his family loves him--there are times when the demons come to him and whisper in his ear that he forgets all of that and can only remember what he's done, what he's been...  

Some of you may understand what that feels like at least in some way.  Maybe you're not an addict, but you have done things or things have been done to you that you have let define you for a very long time.  

There's this passage of Scripture in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures that speaks straight into this very thing.  Let me read it to you: 

14-15 God, your Redeemer,
    The Holy of Israel, says:
“Just for you, I will march on Babylon.
    I’ll turn the tables on the Babylonians.
Instead of whooping it up,
    they’ll be wailing.
I am God, your Holy One,
    Creator of Israel, your King.”
16-21 This is what God says,
    the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
    who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
    they lie down and then can’t get up;
    they’re snuffed out like so many candles:
“Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
    —the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
    rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
    the people I made especially for myself,
    a people custom-made to praise me.
22-24 “But you didn’t pay a bit of attention to me, Jacob.
    You so quickly tired of me, Israel.
You wouldn’t even bring sheep for offerings in worship.
    You couldn’t be bothered with sacrifices.
It wasn’t that I asked that much from you.
    I didn’t expect expensive presents.
But you didn’t even do the minimum—
    so stingy with me, so closefisted.
Yet you haven’t been stingy with your sins.
    You’ve been plenty generous with them—and I’m fed up.
25 “But I, yes I, am the one
    who takes care of your sins—that’s what I do.

    I don’t keep a list of your sins.

Just so you have some of the context here.  This portion of the prophet Isaiah was written during the Babylonian captivity of the people of Israel.  The Babylonians conquered the region, and destroyed Jerusalem including the Temple around 598 BCE.  They took a large number of Jews back to Babylon where they remained in exile for a generation.  

These people had grown to accept their fate.  There would be no return to their homeland, no hope of change.  This, they had come to believe, was the "new normal."  Where have we heard that kind of thing before?  

Not only do we basically embrace that notion in our own lives when we are living with guilt and shame from our past, but we have also begun to hear it in our culture with all of the violence and hatred that dominates our news lately.  

In this passage of Scripture, God tells them to forget the past, even though he reminds them of part of it--the good part, the part where God rescued his people in the past.  And then the prophet tells them, "God wants to tell you--'You think that was awesome?  Just you wait.'"

What God wants them to understand is that there is a way of remembering the past without being defined by it.  And what God was going to do in the future was even more amazing, even more fantastic than anything God had done before. 

There's an important lesson for us in this text.  Yes, our past is our past.  What we have done, left undone or what has been done to us is part of who we are.  But the sins of our past need not define us.  God did a brand new thing two thousand years ago when Jesus went willingly to the Cross and was raised bodily from the tomb.  

Because Jesus is risen.  You are set free.  You are not what you once were.  You are not defined by your past.  

Let me ask you a question.  What is the biggest excuse people give as to why thy won't embrace living for Jesus?  

You got it.  "I'm not good enough."  

Listen.  And I want you to hear this very clearly.  It's time to stop paying for the sins of your past.  They've already been paid for.  You are not only good enough, you are made completely in the right by God through Christ.  

This is more than just an absence of guilt.  The absence of guilt doesn't do justice to what you should be feeling because of the Resurrection.  

A man walked into a bar and ordered a beer.  The bartender poured it and then handed it over.  The man tossed the entire beer into the bartender's face.  The bartender just about punched the guy in the face, shouting at him, "Why did you do that?"  The man said, I can't help it, I have a compulsion.  I need professional help.  A few weeks later the man came back in.  "I've been seeing a shrink," he told the bartender, and then ordered a beer.  The bartender tentatively poured a beer and gave it to him.  The man tossed it in the bartender's face again.  "What the heck man?" the bartender spluttered.  "I thought you said you went to a shrink."  "I did," the man said.  "I still can't stop throwing beer in people's faces, but now I don't feel guilty about it."  

This is more than just an absence of guilt, being set free by the new thing God is doing to re-frame your past.  This is the presence of peace.  It's an affirmation that the old truly has gone, you are not defined by the person you once were--that person has been transformed. 

A couple of years ago, I received a message from a friend of mine from my old wild, wanton days when I worked at Disney World as a young man.  I hadn't heard from this guy in almost thirty years.  He told me that he was commemorating the anniversary of his father's death and remembered the day he called in to work to say he wasn't going to make it in that day because his dad had just died.  I was his boss at the time, and I answered the phone.  This friend told me that I was the first person that he told about his dad, and the way I talked to him that day comforted him, and overwhelmed him with gratitude.  

"I am not surprised that your life turned out the way it did," he told me.  "I am not surprised you are a pastor.  The evidence of what you were going to be was present even then."  

For a guy who lived his life selfishly, and filled with bad choices back then--I was the one who was overwhelmed to hear the words of my friend.  I had lived with the guilt and the shame of so many of my choices from that time in my life.  It was wonderful to remember how God was working on my rescue even then. 

What "sin" from your past has been hounding you?  What has been haunting you?  How have you let it define you?  

In 1 John chapter 2:1-2 we have this great passage:  

1-2 I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s.

In one translation it reads, "We have an advocate..."  someone who is on our side, speaking for us and to us.  It is through Jesus that those of us who call ourselves Christians find our identity.  Because of Jesus the problem of our past is solved for good--for you, for me, for all of us.  

It's time to stop paying for the sins of your past, they have already been paid for. 


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