You are among us, LORD,and we bear your name
The Parables of Pixar! I don?t know about you, but I?ve been waiting for this series for a long time ? I?ve known it was coming for at least the past two years, and it?s finally here. I can?t wait to see what God teaches us through these stories, so let?s dive in.
The first Pixar computer-animated movie, in fact the first Pixar movie AND the first computer animated movie, was Toy Story. As such, it?s a classic. It tells the story of Woody and Buzz and their adventures during a pivotal week in the life of Andy, their owner. In this all-important week Andy has a birthday party and moves to a new home. The party is where Woody and Buzz first meet and the move is what gives them their adventure.
Woody is Andy?s favorite toy. You can tell because of Andy?s name, written in permanent marker on Woody?s shoe. And you can tell because all the other toys live in the toy chest, when they?re not thrown under the bed or snuggled up with one of Andy?s dirty socks or hiding out behind the trash can. But not Woody. Woody lives on Andy?s bed, he?s king of the room, propped up neatly on Andy?s pillow, where he gets his rest and relaxation until Andy is ready for that day?s fun. And as we said before, on one fateful day, the day of Andy?s birthday party, a new chapter begins in the lives of Andy?s toys, Buzz Lightyear comes into their lives. Buzz is the big present that year, and in the rush of the party, Woody is tossed onto the floor and Buzz takes his place as king of the toys. We meet Buzz at the same time Woody and the other toys do, when they crawl up onto the bed to see Buzz for the very first time:
Can! Buzz Lightyear, it seems, is different than all the other toys. And I really shouldn?t say "other toys?, because that would seem to indicate that Buzz Lightyear is one of the toys. He?s not. He?s not one of them. He?s different from them. He?s a Space Ranger. He can fly! He?s crash-landed here while on a mission to protect the Galaxy from the threat of invasion.
Well, one thing leads to another, Woody and Buzz suffer various mishaps and pull off some harrowing escapes, and in the course of their adventures they wind up in Andy?s neighbor?s house. Sid?s house. Mean angry Sid. Sid, who blows up toys for fun. Whose mean angry dog chews up toys and spits them out. They?ve got to get away or they?ll both wind up dead. In this scene Buzz is hiding out from the dog, when, of all things, he hears his name called by Star Command:
Talk about knocking the wind out of your sails. In a matter of a few seconds Buzz goes from being a Space Ranger, protecting the Galaxy from the threat of invasion ? to a toy. A dumb toy. T O Y. Toy. He goes from thinking he can fly ? to realizing that he can?t even fall with style. Truly his life is worthless.
This Pixar Parable, oh it sounds all light and fluffy in the advertisements. It sure does. But it?s actually dealing with the very darkest hours of life.
All you get is the text: "Don?t call me ever again.? Every time you open the screen, the words of the Bully knock you to the ground once again. You?re sitting in the hospital room waiting for the results of the biopsy, and the doctor walks in and says, "I?m sorry. It?s a Glioblastoma multiforme. Stage 4. There?s nothing we can do. I?m sorry.? Dad and Mom sit down the kids for a family discussion ? you?ve never had a family discussion before. This one starts out, "mom and dad still love you, but ?? and after that all you can hear is the smashing sound of your family crashing to bits all around you. The ultrasound technician goes out to get the doctor, and in that moment you go from the heights of joy to the depths of despair. You read the email left open on the screen by mistake, and in that moment your life is over. You?re broken. Lying on the floor. As good as dead.
We are not talking here about your average everyday setbacks. We?re not talking here about the stuff that you can recover from yourself, or that you think you can recover from yourself. No, that?s not what Buzz experienced. We?re talking about the stuff that you know you cannot recover from yourself. As a matter of fact, we?re talking about the stuff from which you know you cannot recover, period. Your life will never be the same. Many of you have been there. You know what I?m talking about. Some of you are there now. And the rest of you will be there at some time or other.
These things are overwhelming when they strike us. They knock us down and put us in a position from which it appears we will never recover. But I tell you, recovery is possible. Recovery can come. Oh, life won?t ever be the same again, but recovery is possible, and by God?s grace, new life can begin. And that recovery comes from the most interesting of all places ? if we can, let?s let Buzz Lightyear teach us. In this next scene Buzz and Woody are still trapped in evil Sid?s house. Buzz has a stick of dynamite strapped to his back - his days are just about over ? remember Sid loves nothing more than blowing up his toys. Thankfully a storm blows up; night falls. But day will surely come, and with the rising of the sun will come the end of Buzz ?
As it turns out, Buzz is not ONLY a toy. Buzz is Andy?s toy! His life has great meaning ? oh, he?s not the Space Ranger that he once thought he was, but better than that, he belongs to someone. His place in the universe is secure. Written in permanent marker. His former identify has crashed and burned. What he was, he is no longer. But he has discovered something new, something more, something better. He has discovered that he is Andy?s toy.
Hmmm. Now I?ve got to be honest here. When I compare being a "Space Ranger? to being "Andy?s toy?, well, especially at first glance I don?t see the good in being Andy?s toy. Being a Space Ranger sounds more glamorous, more ? adventurous, more ? fun. Being a Space Ranger sounds appealing, important. I mean, what would you rather be? Space Ranger? Andy?s toy? But Buzz Lightyear has some insight that we?d best pay attention to. Because by our very nature we are attracted to being a Space Ranger when in fact we should have our priorities in line with those of Buzz; we should value belonging to Someone above everything else. We should find our identity in Andy.
What do I mean by that? Just this: we, and I include me in this for sure, we tend to find our identity in a whole variety of earthly things. Who are you? I?m Jeff. I?m a Space Ranger! When I was 12 it was "I?m Jeff. I?m the star pitcher who?s headed for the big leagues.? Yeah, that worked out. That identity crashed and burned. 19 years old and I?m leading a band playing weekends in churches around the Midwest. Me??? Who?d have thunk it? Finally I know who I am! Yeah, that went well. Another identity gone. I?m married to Melinda. Oh yeah, well, that could be gone in a crash. I?m a pastor. Oh really ? that could be snatched away in a minute. I?m Jeff ? I?ve got a great dad ? surely parents last forever, right? I?m Jeff ? I?m a Space Ranger. Yeah, right! Better not ground your life in those things.
But now, this is what the LORD says "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
You are among us, LORD,and we bear your name;
There is only one thing, only one thing, that is permanent in this life. God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Who has imprinted His name on you in permanent marker. From my human perspective, this does not sound like much. This whole "I bear the name of God? thing. It sounds so simple, so simplistic. But I tell you that it is the one thing that really really counts. It is the one thing that can NEVER be taken away from you.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Consider the events of Jesus? life ? here is Someone who was not simply a Space Ranger, but he was the One who created space! As He was about to begin His earthly ministry, as He was about to do battle with Satan himself, God the Father came to Jesus at His baptism. God did not remind Jesus that He was the creator of space itself. He did not remind Jesus of how great He was. He did not remind Jesus of how powerful He was. As Jesus was about to do battle with the devil, at His baptism, God came to Jesus, and the Scripture says:
Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.?
You are my Son. You bear my name. That?s what counts. And again, as Jesus was about to head toward Jerusalem to be crucified, as Jesus was about to suffer excruciating pain, as Jesus was about to suffer hell itself, separation from His heavenly Father, again God the Father came to Him and spoke to Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. And once again He didn?t remind Jesus of power, greatness, or anything of the sort.
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!?
There it is once again. My Son. You bear my name. That?s what counts. These words are spoken to and about Jesus, that is true. But as a Christian the Scripture says that you are "in Christ?. That is a teaching with many nuances, but one of those nuances certainly is that when God says these words to Jesus, He is saying them to you. They are your words; they are assurances to you. You are God?s son. You are God?s daughter. His name is marked upon your heart.
When you go through the valley of the shadow of death, when all of life is coming apart at the seams, when you hurting so bad you are unable to even breathe ? you bear His name. He holds you in the palm of His hand. In your baptism the very name of God has been stamped in permanent marker upon your heart.
Friends, the teaching for us today from Toy Story is that we not find our identity in anything on this earth. That we not find security in anything which may seem permanent but in fact is passing away. Rather that we find our identity in Christ. That we find our identity in our baptism, where God has called us into His family and marked us with the sign of the cross upon our foreheads and over our hearts, as people redeemed by Jesus. And what can life become when you understand who you really are? Take a look:
Sermon Topics: Parable Preaching