May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit
Man Movies. People, I’ve got to tell you this so that you can rejoice. Last Sunday was Father’s Day. Now normally Father’s Day is a low Sunday for attendance – normally Mother’s Day is a high Sunday. There’s a message there, and it’s not good. But last Sunday we had 100 more people in worship than we had on Mother’s Day this year! That is stunning! So my heartfelt thanks to all you guys who are endeavoring to follow Jesus, who are bringing your families along with you. And guys, let me tell you, one of the things a woman wants is a man who will lead her to Christ. As your pastor, I’m proud of you, and rightly so. Way to go, guys!
DISCLAIMER ON SCREEN ONLY: Please use discretion in watching any of the movies we use in Room211, as they have been edited specifically for worship. The Shawshank Redemption is rated R for language and violence, and is not for family viewing.
Last Sunday we visited the boxing ring; this Sunday we’re headed inside a prison. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. That’s the title of Stephen King’s book. Wouldn’t fit on the movie poster, and so they shortened it to "The Shawshank Redemption”. We don’t typically do R rated movies in Room211 because we want families to be able to watch the movies we discuss, but in this case the movie has become a classic, and we know that many of you have seen it. In addition, and most importantly, it’s a great parable with lots to teach us about the gritty realities of our life with Christ.
The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of Red and Andy. When we meet them, Red’s been in prison for 20 years already; Andy’s just gettin’ started. Red’s found himself a nitch in the prison: he gets things for people. And Andy needs something, namely, a rock hammer. He’s an amateur geologist, or at least he was on the outside, and so he’d like to get a rock hammer.
It’s apparent that Andy’s got something that the other guys don’t have. And because of whatever that is, he walks around as if he didn’t have a care in the world. He talks differently. He works differently. He thinks differently. Come to think of it, he just plain old IS different. Something in his being is different.
There are various scenes which give us a hint of what that difference is. Let me set up one of the more prominent: Andy’s gotten a job in the prison library, and has begun writing letters to the state government asking for more funds for the library. Eventually his persistence pays off, and he winds up with not only some cash, but with "castoff books and other sundry items” from various libraries around the state. Among the castoff items is a recording of Mozart’s "Marriage of Figaro”:
Andy, you see, doesn’t live in the prison. I mean, he lives there, physically, his body is there, but HE is not there. He lives somewhere else. He lives in a land of beauty, a land of soaring mountains and wide oceans, a land of colors too numerous to number, a land of literature and music and art. That is what makes him different. He’s not from here and he doesn’t belong here. Although imprisoned, he is not imprisoned. And that makes the warden and his minions angry, because they know that although they’ve got him locked down, Andy’s flying free. And with every second that that music continues, every prisoner in the prison is tasting freedom. That’s why that music has got to stop. That’s why Andy gets two weeks in solitary confinement for pulling that stunt. Two weeks later, he finally gets to sit down to lunch with the guys.
Who’s right here? Red, who’s lived on the inside, in prison, now for over 20 years, who’s been denied parole and watched most every other prisoner be denied parole, who has the years of experience to understand that if you spend all your days hoping for something more, something better, that all you’ll do is drive yourself insane? Is Red right? Is hope a dangerous thing that should be suppressed at all costs?
Or is Andy right? Is hope something to be held onto even when everything else is stripped away? Should you always hold onto hope, even when things seem hopeless? Should you always seek beauty, even in the midst of ugliness? Is prison the very best place to play the harmonica? Should you always try to get a glimpse of goodness, even when the world is going mad? Should you always seek out humanity, even in the midst of a world filled with inhumanity? Should you always risk hope?
At this point in the story I can’t really tell if Red’s right or Andy’s right, if Red is teaching us wisdom, or if Mr. Andy Dufresne is doing so. I like the Andy Dufresne way of life, the idea of living with hope, I like the smile that it brings to Andy’s face, the contentment that it brings to his soul, but I can’t yet tell if that hope is a real thing … or actually a deceptive thing. A good thing or a dangerous thing. If hope is really just an illusion. If hopeful living is just a monstrous farce. I just can’t tell. Not yet. I need more facts. Well, Andy’s about to give us more facts; one more fact, to be exact. And that fact is located inside his prison cell. Sort of.
Christ is Risen! And Andy Dufresne is a free man! Hallelujah! Hope, as it turns out, is not a dangerous thing; hope is the most crucial thing. Without hope …
Now I know the answer! Now I know that hope is indeed the most important thing. Now I know what the parable is teaching me!
I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
St. Paul says in Romans 7 that our life is lived out in a prison, the prison of this world. The prison of sin. Dull. Grey. Drab. Locked in these walls. St. Paul writes about these walls in Romans 7; says that we are prisoners of the sin that lives inside of us. Prisoners are unable to get out, unable to get free.
Red was such a man. He lived in that prison for 40 years, and he could no more free himself after 40 years than he could after 1 day. He lived in that prison and got so used to life in that prison that he frankly had no idea how to live outside of prison. Much like we get used to living in sin and falling to temptation and get so used to the messed up sinful orientation of our hearts that after a while being in prison is the only life we know. We can’t even imagine life differently. We throw away our harmonicas and we simply hunker down and make the best of a horrible life lived under lock and key. The rest of the world, everybody else we know, lives the same way. Nobody knows any better.
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
Until one day God sent his Son. Andy. I mean, Jesus. Jesus, who was different. Who wasn’t from here. Who was free, even though He shared our chains. Jesus, who claimed that there was something more. Who claimed that we had fallen so far from the Garden. Who claimed that there was beauty, and who talked as if He Himself could see it. But we could not. It sounded so unlikely, so impossible. Freedom? Possible?
Jesus, who as He began His ministry to us, reading from Isaiah the prophet, claiming these words were about Him:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,because the LORD has anointed meto proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.
That’s us! Jesus, who taught about another land, outside the walls of our prison. A place where there are no memories, where the past is forgotten, where there is no more mourning or sadness or crying or tears, for the old order of things has passed away. But is it true? Could such a place exist? Is it possible to ever get out of these walls, to ever set sin aside, to ever live life the way it was intended to be lived?
The only way to know if such things are possible is for someone to go before us, for someone to prove that it is possible, that life outside of the walls of our prison does exist. And so He did.
I Corinthians 15:19-20
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Christ is Risen! If He had not risen, we would have only empty hope and of all people we would be most pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. He has escaped the bonds of this prison! It turns out that not only is hope important, but actually what is even more important is to what or whom that hope is directed. It is important that we have hope, and it is even more important that our hope be directed toward Someone who has proven Himself trustworthy.
If Red were to have put his hope in what Andy had said, and in the end Andy had died within the prison walls, we would have pitied Red more than every other man in the prison. But when Andy made his escape, when his prison cell became but an empty shell that could never hold him, then he knew. Then Red knew that no matter what the future would hold, no matter whether it appeared to others that he was still in prison or whether he ever got paroled, Red knew then, no matter what, he was free. Just like Andy before him. Turns out that he got paroled, in large part because of what he learned from Andy. No surprise there really, because of Andy, Red goes free. Because of Jesus, we go free as well.
Are you free? Is this your life: the free life? It should be. For Christ Jesus has burst the bonds of death; He has broken free of this prison. When you think of eternal glory, are you so excited that you can barely sit still or hold a thought in your head? It’s the excitement that only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey. [looking up] I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my Friend and shake His hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Sermon Topics: Parable Preaching