Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, November 3, 2017

Gospel in Disney: Pocahontas

Children's Address

The story of Pocahontas is different to The Lion King and Aladdin, because Pocahontas was a real historical figure. She was born in 1595 and was 12 years old when she met John Smith. She didn't marry John Smith, she married a tobacco farmer named John Rolfe. She died when she was 22 and is buried in Kent, in England.
Let's watch our first clip

We are going to look at 3 Gospel lessons the story of Pocahontas teaches us.

The first is that we all have times in our lives when we face a fork in the road and we have to make a choice; the second is that, as Christians, we are called to reach out our hands to people who are different from us; and the third is that we mustn't be afraid of loving our enemies. 

Let's look at times in our lives when we face a fork in the road and we have to make a choice:

We all face crossroads moments ... times when we have to make decision: Do I confront that person ... what must I do when I finish school ... do I change jobs ... do I move to another house, another city, another country.

Our first reading had a wonderful promise from God:
This is what the LORD says:
‘Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls.

Now, when Pocahontas needs guidance she goes to Grandmother Willow. God says when we need guidance, we can go to Him. On another occasion in the Bible, God says this: 
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ Is 30:21

Now that is good news, isn't it? We're not left on our own when we have to make difficult decisions. God guides us, and I'm going to be looking more at how we learn to hear God's voice with the grown-ups when you leave, so ask them when you go home. 

We also learn from Pocahontas that the right way, the right choice, isn't always the easiest way ... the decision she takes makes her life much more difficult, but that doesn't stop her taking it.

Now, to the slightly older children who'll also be leaving us in a few moments: Pocahontas' Dad has her whole life planned out for her, he's even decided who she must marry. Sometimes parents can have it all planned out for us ... exactly how we should live, what career we must follow, who our girlfriend or boyfriend should be. What must you do if you don't agree with them? You must keep on praying ... and then tell them you are praying ... they will (eventually) calm down, and the way will open up ... but if it's bathed in prayer, things will always go better than if we don't pray.

That's enough for now: please remember this ... God guides us.

Adults Address

Well, as I said to the children, God guides us. On June 5, 2016, during our series on Acts, I first placed before you a way of remembering how God guides us. I used the word GUIDE as a guide:

Go to the Lord
Understand His ways
Investigate your options
Discuss it with others
Exercise your freedom

Since then we've looked at a number of these in more detail. Just last week in the evening service, we looked at different ways of "Going to the Lord" ... Prayer, Studying Scripture, through the Sacraments, through Fellowshipping (like this) and through Fasting. There isn't time to go into each of the other, in fact a series on this subject with a week devoted to each of these would be a good way forward. Suffice it for now to reiterate the truth that all of us, when living in the Spirit, can learn to discern God's clear guidance. Also, when we go to the trouble of GUIDE, there is no bad decision, because God can and does make good, what we, in faithfulness, get wrong.

Let's get to the next two Gospel lessons from this Disney movie.As Christians, we are called to reach out our hands to people who are different from us; and we mustn't be afraid of loving our enemies. 

Our next clip

Pocahontas and John Smith each reached out to someone very different from themselves and the result changed them and changed the world. History records that because of her, the first English settlers survived a winter that would have killed them for lack of food ... she reached out to and fed the stranger in her midst; and because of both of them and the peace that followed their willingness to lay down their lives for each other, the colonisation at that particular time and place, proceeded peacefully ... they decided to love their enemy.
The gospel message I want to lift is this: Don’t be afraid of extending your hand to someone different to you. It will change you and it will change your immediate world ... and let this start in the church ... today ... with you. And while “enemy” is a strong word ... too many of us in this fellowship harbour strong feelings towards other members of the fellowship, feelings that are far removed from love. I spoke recently in a very different context of the terrible triplets: anger, bitterness and resentment. They are ugly and they make you and I ugly when we give them room in our inner being. You have received notice of our Fellowship Meeting in a week’s time. Please don’t approach that meeting like the two armies at the beginning of that clip ... us and them. Again, in a very different context, we recently had a sermon theme Us and Them and we saw that there is no room for such divisions in the Kingdom of God and His church. Like any church anywhere in the world, including in the New Testament church recorded for us in Acts and in the Epistles, Christians are sometimes very nasty to each other, argue with each other and hurt each other.

This is what our Lord went through, sometimes from people closest to Him, sometimes from the religious leaders of the day. We are not above our Teacher ... don’t be surprised if they happen to you, but don’t let them bring out the worst in you either. As I’ve said, hate is perhaps too strong a word, but Jesus said: If people hate you, remember they hated me first (John 15:18) ... and ... Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me (Mt 5:11) ... and later Jesus’ brother James says ... Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2).

 Pocahontas (and of course, the Bible) teaches us to not be afraid of extending your hand to someone who sees things differently to you. She sings a beautiful song:
You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You'll learn things you never knew, you never knew

Can I encourage you, in all situations, everywhere, wherever people think differently to you: try and understand, make a supreme effort to try and understand why they feel the way they do ... and you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew. It will help you to reach out to them, it’ll help you to love them.

So, in conclusion, we learn the following Gospel themes from Pocahontas:
We all face forks in the road ... listen for God’s voice;
Don’t be afraid of extending your hand to someone you disagree with ... it’ll change you, it’ll change the immediate situation; and
Don’t be afraid of your enemies ... love them.

Is it hard to do the things with which Jesus illustrates the kingdom heart of love? Or the things that Paul says love does? It is very hard if you have not been, as we looked at last Sunday evening, reformed in the depths of your being, in your thoughts, feelings, assurances, and personal beliefs, in such a way that you are permeated with love. Once that happens, then it is not hard. What would be hard is to act the way you acted before.

When Jesus hung on the cross and prayed, “Father, forgive them because they do not understand what they are doing,” that was not hard for him. What would have been hard for him would have been to curse his enemies and spew forth vileness and evil upon everyone, as those crucified with him did, at least for a while. He has called us to Himself to impart Himself to us. He does not call us to do what he did, but to be as He was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what He did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in Him.

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