Sermon 07-20-14: “Disney Summer Drive-In, Part 3: Toy Story”

July 28, 2014

Disney Summer Drive-In Image

We disciples of Jesus Christ can be confident that God loves us, that God never gives up on us, and that God can bring hope to hopeless situations. Our confidence springs from the fact that there is much more to reality than meets the eye. This sermon illustrates these themes using clips from the movie Toy Story.

Sermon Text: 2 Kings 6:8-17

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

[Show Clip #1 about the toys’ fear of rejection by Andy.]

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Recently, my boys and I have enjoyed throwing the Frisbee around. We haven’t had a real Frisbee… just a cheap knock-off with an insurance agent’s name on it. Well, I say cheap knock-off… The truth is, we’ve been playing with this Frisbee for a while, and we all thought that it was perfectly fine. Until… Until I saw on Amazon last week, the Cadillac of Frisbees: the Discraft Ultra-Star Ultimate 175-Gram SportDisc, made in the U.S.A. Eight dollars on Amazon. I ordered it because I will be joining my family at the beach after church today, and we’re going to throw the Frisbee there.

So I was excited to tell my son Townshend about the Discraft Ultra-Star Ultimate 175-Gram SportDisc. And I showed him the picture on Amazon, and he was like, “That’s awesome, Dad. What color did you get?” I said, “Black.” He said, “That’s cool… Oh, hey, look at this bright, multi-colored one. That one is beast!” And he was right: the bright multi-colored one was beast. And it was the one I was going to order originally, but it was $4 more, and I couldn’t justify it. But now that Townshend pointed out how awesome it looked, I immediately felt buyer’s remorse. Ugh! I went online to change my order but it was too late!

So now we’re stuck with the stupid, boring black Frisbee! [Sigh.]

My point is, based on my own experience, these toys in Andy’s room have good reason to be nervous and threatened by the prospect of shiny new toys like Buzz Lightyear. And we see that even Woody the Cowboy, who was previously Andy’s favorite toy, has been cast aside to make room for the new toy.

It reminds me of a story in Genesis about Hagar and her son Ishmael.

You might recall that God inaugurated his rescue plan for the world by calling Abraham to start a family and create a nation, Israel. The only problem was, Abraham was 75 years old. His wife Sarah was 65. Both of them were past the point of having children—and, oh by the way, they were unable to have kids when they were of childbearing age. But Abraham and Sarah trusted God that he would fulfill his promise and give them a son. At least they trusted for about 11 years, at which point they began to doubt that they would ever get pregnant. So they took matters into their own hands. Sarah’s idea was that Abraham could take her young, beautiful Egyptian slave-girl, Hagar, as a second wife, a concubine, and sleep with her, and have a child by her.

And Abraham’s like, “Ugh! O.K. If you say so, I’ll sleep with your beautiful, young Egyptian slave-girl! If I have too!” No, we don’t know how Abraham responded to Sarah’s suggestion, except he agreed to do it. And, well… that plan worked out about as well as you can imagine. Hagar, unlike Sarah, got pregnant right away. And Sarah, understandably, got jealous. Finally, when Sarah had her so, Isaac—well, they didn’t need Hagar and Ishmael anymore, so they sent them packing.

Like old, discarded toys, Hagar and Ishmael are rejected… discarded… abandoned. Wandering in the wilderness, homeless, without hope, dying of thirst.

Even worse than being rejected by Abraham and Sarah, Hagar must have also felt rejected by God! Abraham and Sarah were God’s people after all, and she was kicked out of the family. It’s heartbreaking!

But that wasn’t the end of the story for her and Ishmael. Scripture says that just when Hagar had given up hope, God opened her eyes, and showed her a well in the desert—with water. She and her son were saved. And scripture says that God blessed them and made Ishmael into a great nation.

Is there anyone around here who could use some hope? God will never abandon or reject those of us who have placed our faith in his Son Jesus. Jesus offers us living water, and he says that whoever drinks of this living water will never be thirsty again! We drink of the water that Christ offers and receive eternal life!

It’s true that we should be rejected by God… Because of our disobedience, our rebellion, our sin. But God’s Son Jesus came into the world and said, “Let me suffer rejection in your place, so that you won’t have to!”

The Bible says: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief… Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.”[1]

In this next scene, we see that Buzz has a problem. He thinks he’s really a Space Ranger, and not just a toy, until he finally realizes the painful truth.

[Show Clip #2. At first, Buzz thinks that he’s really a Space Ranger—only to discover the bitter truth.]

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Do you remember the first sin in human history? The serpent tempts Eve in the Garden of Eden to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He tells her that God doesn’t want her to eat of that tree because “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.” We human beings were made to live in complete trust and submission and obedience to God. But we don’t like that. So we rebel. We want to be little gods ourselves. “I’m in charge,” we say. “No one’s going to tell me what to do!”

So the first sin has to do with trying to be something that we’re not. We try to run our lives and run our world like we’re God, and all of human history tells the tragic tale of where that leads.

As you can see in this clip, Buzz tries to be something he’s not. He has an incredibly difficult time accepting the fact that he’s only a toy. He wants to be a Space Ranger. As hard as he tries, however, he can’t really fly. He can’t really shoot lasers. He doesn’t fight evil. He’s not stationed in the Gamma Quadrant of Section 4, and he’s not a member of the elite Universe Protection Unit of the Space Ranger Corps.

At the end of the clip he comes to grips with the fact that he’s isn’t a Space Ranger. But that sends him into a tailspin of depression. Because if he can’t be a Space Ranger, he wonders, what good is he?

Are we so different? Aren’t we often tempted to find our value and self-worth in something or someone other than God? I know I am!

For me, I’ve always wanted to be perceived by others as a professional success. At my sinful worst, I want other people to recognize me and appreciate me and love me for how good and competent and successful I am at my job. I want awards. I want recognition. I want praise. That was true when I was a student in college, it was true when I was in sales, it was true when I was an engineer, and it’s true even now that I’m a pastor. If I can’t be at the top of my class, or at the top of my field, or at the top of my profession, what good am I?

Your mileage may vary: maybe you’re tempted to find your value and self-worth in being financially successful and making lots of money; or in being popular and well-liked; or in being good-looking, or having a great body, or being a great athlete; or in being a great boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse; or in being a perfect parent…

The point is, we often try to fill up this God-shaped hole in our hearts with something other than God and what God offers us, and that’s a prescription for unhappiness.

Through a series of misadventures, Buzz and Woody get trapped at their next door neighbors’ house. A bully named Sid lives there. Sid enjoys breaking toys, torturing toys, blowing up toys, mangling toys. And unless Buzz and Woody escape, he’ll do the same to them.

[Show Clip #3. Buzz is depressed because he’s just a “stupid, little, insignificant toy.” Woody brings him to his senses.]

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Buzz says: “I’m just a toy, a stupid, little, insignificant toy.” And Woody says, “Being a toy is a lot better than being a space ranger… Look, over in that house is a kid who thinks you’re the greatest, and it’s not because you’re a Space Ranger, pal. It’s because you’re a toy. You are his toy!” And then Buzz looks at the bottom of his boot, where his owner, Andy, wrote his name on it.

Buzz realizes that his value, his worth, his identity doesn’t come from who he is; it comes from whose he is. His value comes from the one to whom he belongs.

And so it is with us… Belonging to God, being owned by God, being a child of God… That’s worth infinitely more than any kind of treasure we can find on earth!

Jesus tells a couple of short parables about this in Matthew’s Gospel: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

We are that treasure buried in the field for which the man sold everything he had to purchase! We are that precious pearl for which the merchant sold everything that he had to acquire! What does the apostle Paul say? “You were bought with a price.”[2] God himself paid everything he had to acquire us—because he bought us with his own precious life—God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, gave his life to save us!

And like Andy in the movie, God thinks we’re the greatest and wants us to come home and live with him for all eternity!

And when we give our lives to Jesus Christ, it’s not exactly like God writes his name on our foot, but he does the next best thing: Paul says that he puts his seal on us when he gives us the Holy Spirit. That means we belong to him!

In this final clip, Woody, in cooperation with all of Sid’s damaged, misfit toys, hatches a rescue plan to escape from Sid’s house.

[Show Clip #4. As Sid prepares to blow up Buzz, Woody, alongside Sid’s damaged and mangled toys, come to life, frightening Sid and “scaring him straight.”]

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There was a hit song when I was a teenager called “Small Town” by John Mellencamp. He talks about his childhood growing up in a small town in Indiana. Great song! One of the lines, however, said, “Educated in a small town/ Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town.” Taught the fear of Jesus. That line bothered me for years. I mean, how often does Jesus get mentioned in a Top Ten hit song, and here he is, getting mentioned in relation to fear? Why couldn’t Mellencamp have said, “Taught the love of Jesus in a small town.”

Truthfully, that line doesn’t bother me anymore. There’s a good and biblical kind of fear that we ought to have for our Lord, and, frankly, many people don’t. It’s the kind of fear that’s captured perfectly in the song “Amazing Grace”: “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear/ And grace my fears relieved…” Think about that: the same grace that teaches us to have this healthy kind of fear of the Lord is the same grace that relieves all those other, lesser fears. In other words, if we have the right kind of fear of the Lord, it helps us put all our other fears in perspective. Jesus made the same point: While most of us probably fear death more than anything else, Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”[3]

It’s good to have a healthy fear of the Lord! Besides, in the Bible, God often uses fear to get people’s attention, to wake us up, to turn their lives around. And that’s a good thing!

I’m thinking, for example, of a man named Balaam in the Book of Numbers. Balaam was a pagan priest and prophet who was commissioned by one of Israel’s enemies, King Balak, to call down curses upon Israel. And he’s on his way to do just that when the donkey he’s riding on stops suddenly. The donkey refuses to go any farther—no matter how hard Balaam abuses the animal!

Suddenly, like Woody in the movie clip, the donkey starts talking, telling Balaam not to mistreat her.

God was speaking through the donkey! Which goes to show that if God can do that, then he can surely speak through a jackass like me! Anyway… Then Balaam sees something that nearly scares him to death: the reason the donkey stopped moving in the first place was because, unlike Balaam, she saw an angel standing in front of them—and the angel was not one of those sweet little baby-like angels; no, he was carrying a sword and would have used it on Balaam had he gone any farther. So like Sid in the movie, Balaam sees this terrifying vision and repents of his sin.

Which goes to show that there’s a reality to our world that we can’t see—as today’s main scripture makes clear. The king of Syria sends his army to capture the prophet Elisha, because Elisha is always thwarting his plans to invade Israel. So the Syrian army is surrounding the city. Elisha’s servant is desperately afraid of them. But not Elisha. He’s calm, cool, and collected. Elisha tells his servant, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And suddenly the Lord “opened the eyes of the young man,” and he saw that the “mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

There’s a popular worship song by Chris Tomlin, which includes these words: “I know who goes before me/ I know who stands behind/ The God of angel armies/ Is always by my side.” That’s what this scripture is all about! As Elisha’s servant realized, we have a God who sends angel armies to protect us! Just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

And while it’s very likely that none of us will ever face enemy armies surrounding us, we do face our own trials and temptations—our own struggles with spiritual forces that we can’t see—challenges that test our faith, cause us to fear, cause us to doubt. When we do face those things, let’s hear this good news: “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with me are stronger and more powerful than anything that I’m facing.”

Don’t be afraid. Those who are with you are stronger and more powerful than whatever you’re facing!

We often don’t have the vision to see the many ways that God and his angel armies have delivered us from trouble. So instead we might say, “Whew! I got lucky! Dodged a bullet that time! I’m so glad the worst case scenario didn’t come to pass.” But wait a minute: this scripture challenges us to imagine that often that worst case scenario didn’t happen because God and his unseen angel armies were taking care of you, protecting you! Praise God!

[1] Isaiah 53:3a, 4a, 5

[2] 1 Corinthians 6:20

[3] Matthew 10:28

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