Lame Movie Plot Devices
Friday night Barry Junior joined me watching a movie that Barry Senior had brought up after I did my sermon, "Heaven…This is Heaven." For those who caught that, you may recall my mention of the Valkyries (val-`keer-ees)…babes on white horses who collected those who died on the battle field. Barry Senior remembered a movie with Valkyries…one called "Max Payne"—a policeman living a tortured existence as he continues to search for the third man who was involved in killing Max's his wife and infant child.
The movie begins showing Max Payne slowly floating toward the bottom of the river, clearly on the edge of death. After the film made clear how precarious his state was (and how likely it was he would not get out of it), it leveraged a plot device often used in movies and TV shows…
"One week earlier."
To which I immediately told Barry Junior know just how much I hate that plot device.
And in the spirit of human inconsistency, I am now going to use the same approach as a sermon device.
[ These are quick sermon notes...not cleaned-up...and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
If I was a movie director, I would stage this opening scene with ominous dark clouds creeping in quickly, and equally ominous music playing in the background. Before us are two cowering humans hiding in the bushes…trying to conceal themselves from the voice of One who only hours before they would have run out to meet.
And that voice from above has harsh words for the pair as captured in Genesis 3:16-19:
16 To the woman he said,
"I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you."
17 And to Adam he said,
"Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,'
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return."
Just like Max Payne seemed to have no hope only feet from the bottom of the river, our original parents appear to have been given nothing to be optimistic about. Because of their sin their life would be hard and miserable, followed by a sure death…"for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
As I mentioned below, I am going to use my hated movie and TV plot device, and now at this terrible moment we cut back to the past. How far back would you suggest we go?
If you were the director, what point in previous history would you switch to? Would you go to Adam's creation…moving forward from there? Or where God gave Adam his greatest gift, a beautiful "help meet" (to quote the King James Version)…the love of his life…a companion to experience the joys of the perfect Garden he was created to inhabit and to manage?
Or maybe you wouldn't even go that far back? We don't know how long it was from God's command not to eat from that cursed tree to the moment Eve picked its fruit, raised it to her lips, and took a bite…but I could see heading to the moment they were told, "Thou shalt not" and then capturing their lives until we reach the point Adam is told he will return to the dust he came from.
But, this is a sermon titled, "What Went Wrong," so our hypothetical movie will need to make sure we choose to go back far enough to figure out what actually went wrong.
For us self-centered humans it would be very easy to then think all we have to do is choose the right time within Adam and Eve's lives…to a point that would give context to their tragic decision.
But, we would be very, very wrong to do that.
Because sin did not start here….it did not start with Adam and Eve…
When There Was No Sin
Instead, to get that context that we…as good directors…want to have we have to go back to the moment there was no sin. It is a time where we don't exist, nor any of our ancestors. The Bible doesn't speak about it directly…but we can imagine that after the Godhead did their first bit of creating…
Was it angels?
Was it other creature alluded to in the pages of Revelation?
Regardless of what other beings existing in our universe before we entered its confines…there was a time where sin was unknown and joy and happiness ruled instead of grief and death. No theatrical CGI could probably do justice to the amazing scenes that existed at the beginning of time…but we would spend very little of our movie showing that because, after we've given our viewers the contextualization required, we would zoom to a moment.
The moment where on one side of time was perfection and the other evil never before known.
Let's fire up our camera and film those scenes by going to Ezekiel 28:11-18:
11 Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me: 12 "Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD:
"You were the signet of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone was your covering,
sardius, topaz, and diamond,
beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
and crafted in gold were your settings
and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
they were prepared.
14 You were an anointed guardian cherub.
I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
15 You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created,
till unrighteousness was found in you.
16 In the abundance of your trade
you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub,
from the midst of the stones of fire.
17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I exposed you before kings,
to feast their eyes on you.
18 By the multitude of your iniquities,
in the unrighteousness of your trade
you profaned your sanctuaries;
so I brought fire out from your midst;
it consumed you,
and I turned you to ashes on the earth
in the sight of all who saw you.
Although there are those who disagree, I personally believe those disastrous words in Ezekiel can be illuminated by 4 more verses in Isaiah:
12 "How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
13 You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.'
15 But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the far reaches of the pit (Isaiah 14:12-15).
I have been blessed greatly by God by being brought to this congregation, and in the short time I've been here I have also been blessed by learning more about the lives of some of you. Perhaps what I am about to ask you to imagine actually happened to some of you sitting here before me.
Imagine you have the most beautiful child in the world…handsome if a son.
You know, boys aren't beautiful, they are handsome.
Your gift from God has been a model child. She or he gets great grades. She or he can sing like an angel. She or he is kind to everyone, rich or poor, popular or outcast. She or he is liked by everyone, is a tremendous athlete, and is at the top of her or his class in school.
You couldn't be prouder, and you have every reason to be.
But none of that compares to the love you feel for your daughter or son and the love she or he feels back.
However, one day that changes. She or he suddenly becomes distant, confrontational, untrustworthy.
Not only that, but your child has turned against you…telling lies to whoever will listen about how terrible you are.
Horrible stories. Stories that are convincing in their content, but empty in their truth.
But none of that compares to the fact that the love you feel for your daughter or son is no longer returned.
How would you feel?
How do you think God felt when His "signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty" suddenly decided he would "ascend above the heights of the clouds" and would "make [himself] like the Most High"?
Yes, God cannot be surprised like we parents can…but even if you knew your hypothetical child was going to turn on you, would it negate the pain you would feel having the love you once received replaced with hate?
Replaced with disdain?
Replaced with open warfare?
And causing some of your other children to transform their love into hate too?
After I'd written down these thoughts in my sermon prep notes, I read this from an article by Graham Maxwell called "How God Won His Case (Perceptions of a ‘Juror')":
What would it mean for God to win this war? His enemies are His own children. To destroy them would be no victory for a loving Father, but an agonizing loss. Think of the eternal void Lucifer will leave in God's infinite memory!
If the conflict were merely over power, how easily God could demonstrate His superiority. But even the demons already acknowledge this, and in their distrust of so powerful a God they “tremble with fear” (James 2:19, GNB).
The controversy is over a far more subtle issue: Who is telling the truth, God or the brilliant leader of His Angels?1
What Went Wrong
What originally went wrong…went wrong at the point "unrighteousness was found" in the Devil…the point at which he became proud because of his beauty…and suddenly felt that he had a right to be "like the Most High."
How do we know for sure sin started with him? Mostly it is indicated by the pages of Scripture, but 1 John 3:8 also makes a very interesting statement:
8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
"For the devil has been sinning from the beginning."
And we know Satan's sin was pride.
He thought he somehow deserved to be equal to God…and by the time Jesus arrives he even tries to get God incarnate to worship him (see Matthew 4:8-10).
Would it be fair to say that sinful pride is trusting oneself more than is warranted? Trusting in self more than in God?
What went wrong was "not God" thought he was equal to God and got a bunch of his angelic siblings to trust him instead of our Lord.
It's an Issue of Trust
Now, just like a director has a limited amount of time and has to cut scenes out and leave them on the editing room floor, as we move back toward the scene that started our film we've got to leave a lot out.
We won't take a look at the open warfare that was discussed in today's Scripture (Revelation 12:7-12)…but I think we can do well to remember it's final words:
But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short! (Revelation 12:12b)
And we've read before just how Satan fooled our parents in the Garden:
He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1b)
And after Eve's response:
But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:4-5).
First he got Eve to mentally question God…and then…even more incredibly…fall for his same prideful sin of desiring equality with the Most High.
Don't let anyone fool you. What went wrong in the Garden wasn't that Adam and Eve broke some arbitrary commandment.
What went wrong was that they lost trust in their creator.
Don't believe me?
How did our hypothetical movie start off?
With our earthly parents hiding in the Garden:
And [Adam] said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself" (Genesis 3:10).
Does that sound like trust to you?
And if you think about how the Devil's deceptive words had that effect on Adam and Eve, doesn't it add some interesting light on James' statement in James 2:19 that Graham Maxwell also mentioned?:
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
The lie in the Garden led to Adam and Eve losing trust in God and developing fear…and the lies in heaven made it so that those who once were in His presence now shudder at the thought of their creator.
And we know "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18a).
God did not change. His perfect love did not change.
There was a breakdown in trust.
First one angel's trust in God.
Then some other angels' trust of God.
Then our trust of God.
And until we reach the third sermon in this series, "What Finally Worked"…we have to remember that the issue wasn't a single, foolish act.
The issue was a breakdown of trust.
One More Movie Device
Since I already abused one movie device…let me exploit one more. The Avengers movie just came into theaters, and anyone who saw all the prequels (about individual characters) knows that if you waited around after the credits with some of the films you were rewarded with a little hors d'oeuvre…a taste that Iron Man, or Captain America, or…
A taste that they were going to be followed by something even better, even more epic.
We ended our movie at a very horrible spot. After our initial scene we discover that God's pronouncement was implemented, and our family was barred from the Garden of Eden…with one of the non-deceived angels having a flaming sword to make sure we didn't sneak back in (Genesis 3:23-24).
However, after the credits we learn that our original parents weren't left with just bad news. Instead we are returned to that original scene to catch God's words to the being everything originally went wrong with. The one that deceived other angels…the one that deceived us…the one that still deceives us.
14 The LORD God said to the serpent,
"Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:14-15).
Those words are known as the "protoevangelium"…the first gospel…because within there you hear the first promise of a savior..the woman's offspring who will bruise the deceiver's head.
This movie has a sequel.
The sequel is far more epic than the sins that preceded it.
And we leave the theater knowing it is coming.
1Maxwell, G. (1987). How God Won His Case (Perceptions of a "Juror"). Pine Knoll Publications. Retrieved May 5, 2012, from http://www.pineknoll.org/all-writings/1211