Church,  Ministry

Being a Part of the (Toy) Story, Part 3

Just over two weeks ago a teaser trailer for the next Toy Story movie was released. On the day I saw it, I altered my scheduled posts because the words of the spork resonated so well with how many people feel about finding a church to call home (let alone find a place to serve within the church). The first post of this brief series spoke to that end a bit by recalling how Jessie had to forge her way into the group known as Andy’s toys (you may read that article here). After watching the trilogy again, I was prompted to list an attribute of how many of the primary (and even a few secondary) characters fit into the scope of the movies. This would be similar to how people “fit” within the context of a local church body. (You can read the second post here.) This week, I will conclude the series by talking about one more prominent group of toys that have yet to be mentioned and compare them to what I believe may happen in the upcoming movie which includes the spork.

If you have seen the first Toy Story movie, you might recall that Buzz begins to get the attention of Andy which takes the focus off of Woody. Woody gets jealous and through a series of events the two toys end up at Pizza Planet as Woody tries to rescue Buzz and get back to Andy. While at Pizza Planet the two toys end up in the machine with “The Claw.” Unfortunately, for them Sid, the “deranged” neighbor boy is proficient at the game and not only gets a martian but sees Buzz Lightyear and “wins” him (with Woody attached). Buzz and Woody end up in Sid’s room and are introduced to a group of mutant toys. Buzz is still disillusioned that he is THE Buzz Lightyear so he is not overly concerned, but Woody is frightened for fear of being deformed or even destroyed. It is the group of toys in Sid’s room that deserve our attention today.

These toys have been twisted and torn apart by Sid to form a new creation. One toy (“Legs”) has legs with a crane hook. Another has the head of a duck (“Ducky”), the body of a body-builder, and a base with a spring. A jack in the box has been altered by removing the jack and inserting a hand (“handinthebox”). The leader of these toys is doll-head of a baby (with one eye missing) which has been fixed onto the body of a spider made from an erector set (“Babyhead” or “SpiderBaby”). These mutant toys seemingly have no purpose other than to be abused and tortured by Sid. They hide when he comes, they fear for their “lives.” But, what we learn is that when they find a purpose, their unique-ness can serve a cause greater than they might have imagined. And, in the end, it is their humiliated selves that serve to reform Sid.

It was believed that any toy that entered Sid’s room was destined to be destroyed. It was frightening. It was helpless. It was hopeless. Until someone gave them a purpose. That someone was Woody who was also frightened – not only of Sid, but of the mutant toys as well. However, Woody overcame his fear to lead the toys to something better – even if only for a time. Sid’s toys do not appear in subsequent movies, but they were valuable for a period of time in a certain place. Why? Because someone believed in them and gave them a chance. As a church, we must do the same.

The creators of Toy Story are ingenious. Their imagination turns simple childhood pleasures into “living” characters. Their ability to capture their imaginative thoughts, to put them to paper, and to create plausible real-life actions and uses for each toy is simply amazing. But the writers can do this because they (the writers) were created in the image of God (as are all humans, Genesis 1.26-27). God imagined real-life actions and uses for each person – which is, in itself, even more amazing. But like the mutant toys in the first movie, someone must give them a purpose and opportunity to discover what that use might be. If not a person, perhaps a particular event propels someone to respond and discover their purpose. Either way, as the movies show, the creators (and Creator) has a purpose for each part of their (His) creation.

And that leads us to the spork. Again, I have no advance knowledge of Toy Story 4, but the teaser trailer shows the spork distraught because he is not a toy and therefore does not know why he is in the mix with the others. But something will happen that will require the unique-ness of a spoon/fork combo to not only save the day, but earn the respect of the others (many of whom will likely have dismissed him earlier). The creators of the story knew a certain character would be needed at a certain moment. Thus, the script was written to introduce the character. The script included a challenge that affected the characters in a way that the skills and abilities the others possessed would not be able to overcome the challenge. And thus, the spork becomes more than “mutant” or even “misfit.” My best guess is that he becomes a hero.

Again, when creative geniuses are involved, the possibilities are endless. The creators, writers, producers, animators, and the whole team at Pixar each have a critical role to create a story captivating enough to get some of the biggest stars in Hollywood to lend their talents and skills and fulfill their purpose in making audiences everywhere laugh or cry or share whatever emotion may be appropriate in the moment.

Likewise, when a creative genius is involved, the possibilities are endless. Jesus said He would build His church (Matthew 16.18). Paul wrote that we are God’s workmanship (a word that implies masterpiece) and the work for which we were created was established long ago (Ephesians 2.10). Like each toy in Andy’s room, Sid’s room, the Sunnyside Daycare, and even the Prospector from Toy Story 2, each follower of Christ has a place in His Church. That begins with the local church and extends to the Church at large. It may take time to discover that role. We may need help to understand our purpose. But with a Creator that made us for His purpose and His glory, we have an obligation to not only serve Him, but to help others find their way (their place, purpose, function, role, etc.) in serving Him as well.

Of course, we are not toys, but we were created to be a part of His story. But unlike Sid who deformed his toys, God reforms us to become more like Jesus. And He has every right to do so, not only as our Creator, but as our Redeemer as well.

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