Posts Tagged ‘Disney’

Sermon 08-14-16: “The Inside Out Gospel”

August 22, 2016


In the movie Inside Out, Riley’s mother—along with Riley’s emotion Joy acting as accomplice—encourages Riley to “put on a happy face,” even though Riley has good reason to be sad. We often feel like we have to fake it. As I point out in this sermon, however, the apostle Paul isn’t like us: When he describes the “fruit of the Spirit,” he’s isn’t talking about what people see on the outside; he’s talking about inward transformation—so that our outsides match our insides.

Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can provide this kind of transformation.

Sermon Text: Galatians 5:16-25

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

The first clip introduces us to the five emotions that drive Riley’s thoughts, words, and actions: Joy, Fear, Sadness, Disgust, and Anger. A confrontation between Riley and her parents at the dinner table shines a spotlight on the role that anger plays.


We were having dinner on Friday night at a Japanese steakhouse. And you know how you’re forced to socialize with strangers when you go to these places… Well, the gentleman sitting nearest to us at the hibachi was a Delta pilot. I said, “Oh, Delta had a bad week this week.” And he was like, “Delta had a terrible week!” As you probably heard the airline’s main computer network, which handles everything from flight dispatching to crew scheduling, passenger check-in, airport-departure information, ticket sales, and frequent-flier programs, went down, and caused unprecedented flight delays and cancelations. Delta has lost a ton of money.

The CEO of Delta told the public, “I apologize for the challenges this has created for you with your travel experience.” AJC columnist Bill Torpy took issue with these words. He particularly had a problem with the CEO’s use of the word “challenges.” He wrote:

I’m sure those stuck at the airport day after day, who paid unexpected hotel bills, who missed family events, business meetings, funerals or vacations might think of something stronger [than the word “challenges”].

A more correct, or honest, term might have been problem. Or predicament, hardship or plight. There’s also misery, mess or distress. He later did concede “inconvenience,” which is akin to having to open a garage door manually.

Torpy went on to lament all the jargon and buzzwords and euphemisms that people use to avoid “telling it like it is.” Corporations—and churches for that matter—don’t have “problems”; they have “challenges.” But there are plenty more examples. We speak of change agents who leverage their skill sets and drill down to a granular level to find a robust and sustainable solution for their stakeholders. You get the point.

But not so fast… I kind of like using the word “challenges” to describe the problems that Delta passengers faced last week. Why? Because everything that tempts us to get angry also creates a challenge—a challenge to our faith. As Jesus warns us, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

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Sermon 08-07-16: “The Gospel According to Monsters University

August 17, 2016


As I’ve done the past couple of summers, I’m preaching a sermon series using clips from Disney movies. This week’s sermon is based on the Pixar’s Monsters University. The movie is mostly about Mike Wazowski’s efforts to be someone he’s not. His struggle, as I discuss in this sermon, is not unlike our own. The good news is that God loves “losers” like us.

Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

The movie is set in a world inhabited by monsters, some of whom cross over into our human world at night and scare children as they sleep. In the opening clip, we see one aspiring “scarer,” Mike Wazowski, start his college career in the prestigious Scare School of Monsters University. Although Mike is a great student, he isn’t naturally scary, and we see him struggle for acceptance by his classmates.


As someone who is already plagued with nightmares of being back in school—of not fitting in, of failing to make the grade, of being embarrassed and humiliated in front of my classmates—I confess that this first clip hits rather close to home.

I remember, for example, my first day of high school. The year before, I played Pop Warner football, and I earned the nickname “Mad Dog” for my toughness, for my persistence. And one of my high school classmates on that first day of high school, Jonathan Pearson, was also on my football team back then—so he knew that my nickname was Mad Dog.

And on the first day of high school he proceeded to tell everyone—people who hadn’t yet even met me, who otherwise had no idea who I was, including all these cute girls—he said to them, “Hey, look, there’s Mad Dog. Hey, Mad Dog!” And pretty soon complete strangers were passing me in the hall, “Hey, Mad Dog!”

So my efforts to be cool on that first day of high school were doomed from the start.

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Sermon 08-16-15: “Heroic Love”

August 26, 2015

Disney Summer Drive-In

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” In the thrilling conclusion of “Big Hero 6,” we see Hiro and Baymax put their lives on the line to save another. In fact, the movie says a lot about “heroic” Christ-like love and other biblical themes, including vocation, prayer, and spiritual warfare. 

Sermon Text: John 15:12-17

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

In the following sermon, I showed a series of four video clips from the movie Big Hero 6. I describe the clips in italics below.


In this first scene, Hiro, having used his advanced engineering skill to design a killer robot, is caught trying to hustle a mobster in a back-alley “bot-fighting” match. His brother, Tadashi, rescues him on a motorcycle before he gets injured. Tadashi takes Hiro to his engineering college to meet Tadashi’s mentor, Professor Callaghan, whom Hiro recognizes as a world-renown scientist. Hiro decides he wants to go to the college, which he refers to as “nerd school.” He tells Tadashi, “Thank you for not giving up on me.”

Last month, the U.S. women’s soccer team defeated Japan to win the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Surprisingly, there were six players on this world-championship team who, at one time or another, failed to make their youth soccer league teams. At the age of 12, for instance, Morgan Brian, the youngest player, didn’t make Florida’s Olympic Developmental team. She said, “I definitely cried. I was so upset, so embarrassed—I remember just feeling like I must be the worst player on my team.” Carli Lloyd, the star of the final game who scored three goals was cut from her under-21 national team.

Then there’s Meghan Klingenberg, the outside back who played a key role in the U.S. victory over Sweden. She keeps a yellowed letter of rejection from a youth national team taped to her mirror. “It will never come down,” she said. “People said, you’re never going to be able to do it… But that [letter] is my reminder that you can persevere against the world.”

What about you? Do you believe you can “persevere against the world”? Or do you think you’ll never amount to much?

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Sermon 08-09-15: “Finding Nemo and Finding Peace”

August 13, 2015

Disney Summer Drive-In

Jesus tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Yet if there’s one command of Jesus that we often disregard without a second thought, surely it’s this one! In this first installment of our “Disney Summer Drive-In 2015” series, I use the movie Finding Nemo to explore this theme: How does Jesus set us free from worry?

Sermon Text: Matthew 6:25-34

[To listen on the go, download an MP3 by right-clicking here.]

The following is my original sermon manuscript. During the sermon itself, I showed four two-minute movie clips. I describe each clip below in italics. 

Finding Nemo begins with a young married couple, a clownfish named Marlin and his wife Coral. They’ve just moved into a new home on the Great Barrier Reef and started a family. They’re waiting for about a hundred eggs to hatch. They’re happy. Their dreams are about to come true. Then tragedy strikes: Marlin and his family are attacked by a barracuda. The only survivors are Marlin and one tiny egg.

In the first clip, Marlin holds the one remaining egg in his fins and says, “I’ll never let anything happen to you.” Then we see Nemo getting ready for school the first day. Nemo is enthusiastic for this new adventure. His father, meanwhile, is cautious and fearful. He reminds Nemo how dangerous the ocean is.

scene 1

We have a cat named Peanut. He’s a large cat—some might even accuse him of being fat. I prefer “big-boned.” But inasmuch as he is fat, it’s because he’s trained us to stop whatever we’re in the middle of, to go upstairs, and to fill his food bowl. Right away!

My cat, Peanut, obviously doesn't worry about much.

My cat, Peanut, obviously doesn’t worry about much.

He’s very manipulative about it, too: When the food bowl is empty, you see, that’s when he becomes most affectionate—constantly rubbing up against our legs, purring loudly, jumping in our laps, meowing. He’s learned that if he just acts like he loves and cares for us, we’ll give him what he wants. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 03-22-15: “King, Crown & Cross, Part 5: Passover Lamb”

March 31, 2015


During his Last Supper, Jesus used the Passover to help communicate the meaning of his death. Apart from Christ’s atoning death, all of us sinners deserve the deadly judgment that came upon the Egyptians—and worse, hell itself. The good news is that God sent his very self—Jesus, God the Son—to be our substitutionary sacrifice—our Passover lamb.

Sermon Text: Mark 14:22-31

[If you want to listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.

I was at home last Thursday afternoon when my son Townshend rushed in to tell me that Georgia State was making a game of it against the heavily favored Baylor in the opening round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. How is that possible? A 14-seed versus a three-seed? As you probably heard, Georgia State won the game. They were down by two with seconds left, when R.J. Hunter sank a very long three-pointer to put GSU over the top. A big upset! And the upsets continue. Yesterday, I saw the eight-seed N.C. State defeat number-one seed Villanova.


And this is why we love March Madness—because unexpected, even shocking victories can take place.

In today’s scripture, on this night of Jesus’ arrest by the temple guard, hours before he’s handed over to the Romans for his trial, his beating, his scourging, his mocking, followed by his crucifixion, Jesus is working on the biggest upset victory in history—a victory no one would have predicted. Everyone, including his closest friends and disciples, were caught off guard—first by Good Friday and then, especially, by Easter Sunday.

And in today’s scripture they were caught off guard—shocked, even—by Jesus’ words during this Passover meal, when he held up the bread and said, “This is my body.” And when he held up the wine and said, “This is my blood.” Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 07-06-14: “Disney Summer Drive-In, Part 1: Frozen”

July 10, 2014

Disney Summer Drive-In Image

The first film I look at in this summer series is Disney’s Frozen. In this movie, Elsa longs to be free of the fears that control her. Despite her best efforts, however, she remains enslaved—at least until her sister, Anna, shows her the true meaning of love.

Sermon Text: Matthew 11:25-30

The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.


After healing Anna, the chief troll warns the family of Elsa’s increasing powers.

[Show Clip #1. Elsa accidentally strikes Anna with her ice magic. Their parents take them to the chief troll, who heals Anna but warns Elsa and her parents about Elsa’s growing power.]

The chief troll asks Elsa’s father, the king, about Elsa’s power to create snow and ice. He asks, “Born with the powers or cursed?” The father responds, “Born.” But the truth is, for most of the movie we’re left wondering whether these powers with which Elsa is born are also, in fact, a curse. It certainly feels like a curse to Elsa as she’s growing up. Granted, her parents don’t help the situation by locking her away in her room—isolating her from everyone, including her beloved sister Anna. But it’s clear that for most of her early life, Elsa experienced this potentially great gift—this great blessingas a curse.

The truth is, so many things that happen to us in life—things we’re born with, or things over which we have little or no control—can be experienced by us as either blessings or curses. Contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Laura Story wrote her most popular song, “Blessings,” about this truth. It includes these lyrics in the chorus: “What if your blessings come through rain drops/ What if your healing comes through tears/ What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you’re near/ What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise?” Read the rest of this entry »