Posts Tagged ‘Michael Scott’

Sermon 05-19-19: “Jesus the Good Samaritan”

May 22, 2019

The Parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25-37, isn’t primarily about what we need to do. If it were, given how far short of this standard of love that we usually fall, we would all be in trouble. No, more than anything the parable is about what Christ has done for us. He is our Good Samaritan, and he continues to be.

Sermon Text: Luke 10:25-37

When you get to know me, you’ll learn that my all-time favorite TV show is The Office. And one of my favorite episodes on this, my all-time favorite TV show, is episode 14 of season five, entitled “Stress Relief.” And it’s great in part because of the “CPR Training” scene. You can google it and watch it on YouTube. In this scene, an instructor from the Red Cross is teaching the office employees how to do CPR—using one of those CPR dummies to demonstrate techniques for chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. And Michael Scott, the boss of the office, is the first volunteer to practice CPR on the dummy. 

At first, he’s doing chest compressions too quickly. So the instructor tells him that one rule of thumb is to do the compressions to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive,” by the Bee Gees. So Michael is singing, “Ah-ah-ah-ah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive” [mimic compressions]” And Andy, another office worker, starts singing the verse. And Kelly jumps up and starts dancing. Pretty soon, everyone in the conference room is singing and dancing… and then Michael stops doing compressions and joins them—oblivious to the fact that if this were an actual human being, he or she would now be dead.

It’s funny… And helpful! Because earlier this year, this episode literally saved someone’s life. 

It happened in Tuscon, Arizona. A young man named Cross Scott was working at a tire shop. He had replaced and balanced tires on a vehicle and was taking it out for a test drive. He noticed a sedan on the side of the road with its hazard lights on. He stopped to see if he could help. He came close and saw a woman slumped over in the front seat, unconscious. The doors were locked. So he broke open the window with a rock, checked for a pulse—no pulse. She wasn’t breathing. He called 9-1-1 and started administering CPR.

The only thing is… he’d never been trained to do CPR. But he did watch The Office. So he did chest compressions while singing “Stayin’ Alive”! About a minute into it, the woman came to! The paramedics arrived, took her to the hospital. And she’s fine! One paramedic interviewed for the story said that the man’s heroic intervention probably saved the woman’s life. 

We have a name for people like this who go out of their way to rescue or save someone else. We call them “good Samaritans,” and they are true heroes. But… I would argue that most people we call good Samaritans don’t come close to measuring up to the actual Good Samaritan that Jesus describes in today’s scripture. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons in leadership, Michael Scott-style

May 24, 2014
Pam (Jenna Fischer) listens to Michael's pep talk.

Pam (Jenna Fischer) listens to Michael’s pep talk.

I happened to re-watch this Season 5 episode of The Office entitled “Dream Team” last week. In the previous episode, Michael Scott quits Dunder-Mifflin and decides to start his own paper company. In a Jerry Maguire moment, he asks for volunteers to join him in his new venture. Impulsively, Pam, bored with being a receptionist, does so.

The clip below takes place the next day. Pam shows up at Michael’s house ready to get to work. Michael, however, is still in his bathrobe—depressed and filled with self-doubt. Pam encourages him. That afternoon, however, after failing to accomplish any of the goals they set for themselves—including convincing Michael’s grandmother to invest in his company—Pam is now the one with second thoughts. And Michael gives her a not-half-bad pep talk. (The acting is terrific. Especially watch Jenna Fischer’s face as Michael talks to her through the window.)

These are always my favorite moments in The Office—when Michael, despite his many deficiencies as a leader, rises to the occasion in spite of himself.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a crash course on leadership. I’ve been the pastor in charge at Hampton UMC for nearly a year. Now, with the strong endorsement of our church council, I’m making my first real changes to church life. While I believe these changes are good, necessary—and even exciting—they’re also hard. I’d be lying if said I couldn’t relate to Michael or Pam in this video.

I called an old clergy friend last week and said, “Remember when we were associate pastors and everything was easy?”

Of course, being an associate pastor didn’t seem easy at the time, but you know what I mean: it’s a lot harder when the buck stops with you!

I’ve said, half-jokingly, that while I have faith in the Lord, I’d prefer not to have to use it. Well, I’m now in a season in which I don’t have a choice—which is a great place to be. Thank you, Jesus!

The myth of being who we are

May 2, 2011

Pam defies TSA regulations to say goodbye to Michael

Unlike many of you, I found myself strangely unsentimental about last week’s episode of The Office. I’m not sure why. I thought the farewell scene between Jim and Michael was very effective, but I couldn’t suspend my disbelief over the final scene at the airport. I was distracted by the thought that Pam couldn’t have made it through security without buying a plane ticket!

Still, this has been a strong season of The Office overall—perhaps the best since Season 3. And I’m intrigued by the “competition” to replace Michael. One candidate (if we believe the network hype) is none other than Ricky Gervais, who co-created the BBC Office series on which the American series is based and played David Brent, the boss on that show. (Gervais has an executive producer’s credit on the American show, along with co-creator Stephen Merchant.)

One of my friends said that Gervais would be perfect for the role because, after all, “he’s the same character.” That’s exactly wrong—as anyone who’s seen the BBC series can attest. There are similarities, of course. Both characters are incompetent as managers and often act wildly inappropriately. But their chief character flaws are drastically different.

Gervais’s character is desperately insecure. He craves other people’s approval and affection. And he is often made painfully aware of how other people (accurately) perceive him. He resents them for it and consequently has a massive chip on his shoulder.

Michael, by contrast, enjoys a complete lack of self-awareness. No matter how disastrous his decisions, no matter how buffoonish his behavior, he believes everyone basically loves and approves of him. In fact, the most painful moments on the show were those mercifully rare occasions when self-awareness began to dawn on him. I’m thinking of the Dundee Awards episode from Season 2, when patrons at Chili’s yelled insults at him.

As someone who tends to be overly self-conscious and has often struggled with self-esteem, I find much to admire in Michael. Here is someone, after all, who never worries about what other people think of him. He never fails to be optimistic. No matter what life throws him, he never doubts his ability to land on his feet. He is, for better or worse, his own person. He is true to himself.

But of course that can’t be right—not from a Christian perspective. Humanity’s problem, after all, is that we are unable to be ourselves. We are unable to be who we truly are—which is to say, unable to be who God created us to be. In fact, as David Mills points out in this excellent First Things article, there was exactly one person in history who was able to be completely himself—who “was perfectly who he was”—and we killed him on Good Friday.

Remember the temptation in the Garden. The serpent didn’t say, “Eat this fruit and become who you truly are.” He said, “Eat this fruit and become like God.” This is profoundly insightful. Human history tells the tragic story of our efforts to be someone—or Someone—we are not. The truth is, we are not any good at being gods. As my systematic theology professor once said, “We can know Jesus was God because he was the only person who ever lived who didn’t act like God.”

No wonder Jesus taught that the path to authentic personhood and true living was self-denial; taking up our cross and essentially killing ourselves—that is, our false selves. This seems so contrary to the spirit of our times, but there’s no other way to find lasting happiness. Michael Scott seems happier than most people simply because he’s unaware of how far short he falls of the person he might otherwise want to be.

I like this quote from Mills:

Christ reveals man to himself, not just generically but particularly. He reveals you to yourself. If you truly want to know who you are, look at Jesus, and imitate him as best you can. Any small effort to do what he did makes you a tiny bit more ourselves and removes a little piece of whatever vesture you’ve put on. Taking up your cross, following him, losing your life for his sake: all modes of self-knowledge.