By now some of you will have seen the teaser trailer for the next Toy Story movie which is due out next summer. If you have not seen the new trailer, click the link here to go to youtube.
Frankly, I knew nothing about the story-line (and now know just next-to-nothing), but the first thing that went through my mind was how much the spork reminds me of the church. Apparently, the story will center around the spork trying to find his identity because, after all, he is not a toy. (More on the spork next week.) The toys within the movie are all well-known to us, and well-known to one another. But remember when Jessie (Buzz’s girlfriend, for those unfamiliar with the movies thus far) was an outsider. At one point she was new to the story as well. Should we like her? Can we trust her? Of course, the toys had the same thoughts (and, thus, influenced ours). It certainly appeared that she was going to prevent Woody from returning to his friends even after they sacrificed so much to try to rescue him. But once we learned her backstory, our emotions changed. She had been a part of something special before and simply wanted to experience that closeness again. But, over time she had been forgotten by those who were once her friends.
If you have urges to go back and watch Toy Story 2 now, don’t feel bad, I do too!
Isn’t that the way it happens within the church too often. Someone takes a risk by coming to a church. And it is a risk – a huge risk. Many people will come if they are invited, but still, the culture of the church is strange. Of course, if we have been in a church for a long-time, we do not even consider the culture. But think about it, sometimes people stand to sing, sometimes they sit. Some churches have people stand for Scripture reading, others don’t. Some have times of greeting and others do not. Different people get up and go the platform (can we please stop calling it a stage – we are not performers! Or, at least, we should not be!) at different times. Sometimes they receive an applause (performance-based understanding of the congregation!) and others do not. Why? Did they not do as good a job at what their task was? And most churches still pass some sort of means to collect offering. Am I supposed to pay? I mean if I go to a movie, I pay before I go into the theater. I could go on, but hopefully you get the point – the culture of the church is well understood by those who go, and can be extremely confusing for those who do not.
So, it does take a risk to go. And then, like Jessie, some face the questions. Well, we all do, but let’s face it, some are more guilty than others. WHAT?!? I am sorry, the Bible tells me that I am a sinner too! Someone may need to earn a deep level of trust, but can we not give others the benefit of the doubt or have we forgotten that we have been saved by grace!?! I am not going to tell a stranger my innermost thoughts about myself or life, but I can certainly have a conversation with someone, and particularly someone who has taken the risk to come to church. (Yes, I know that church is not someplace we go, it is something we are, but appease me, please.)
So, like Jessie, people get lost for all kinds of reasons. Maybe it is a decision they made. Maybe it was a mistake or an offense towards someone in a church. Maybe the church did something unconscionable towards them. Maybe the incident was not as bad as it seemed, but perspective matters (on all sides). But, like Woody, we can be gracious and learn the backstory of people. When we do, we may even begin to like them and ultimately, perhaps a true friendship is born. That’s what happened to Woody and Jessie. And, being a good friend, Woody then helped Jessie become friends with his friends. Now, Jessie was able to feel that something special again with a new set of friends.
But one thing remained. How would Jessie fit into the structure of this new set of long-time friends? I am not referring to some sort of hierarchy of friendships; rather, would Jessie have a part to play in the story. What could she do that would add to the overall group? Did she have a special talent or ability that could be used to make this particular group of toys more complete?
Next week, in Part 2, I will try to answer that question by looking more at the spork than at Jessie. I believe that may be the principle for the movie. But I know that understanding that principle of involvement (church culture check, let’s use the church word “assimilation”) is what the church should be doing. Some may think this principle a bad thing, but for those who are followers of Jesus, we are the Body of Christ. And every part of the Body of Christ has function just like every part of the human body does (1 Corinthians 12). We may not always know the exact purpose (like the appendix), but a God of purpose definitely has a purpose for it, even if it is beyond our understanding. Therefore, what is true for a spork in an animated movie is true for everyone in the church who is truly a child of God.