you came to take us
to recreate us
Back when the Lutherans were first just getting a hold of me; our theology prof. invited a bunch of us students to a movie…
He said it was all about Luther’s theology that he had been trying to teach us…
And the movie he chose was, “Little Miss Sunshine.”
Has anyone here seen it???
Anyway, this was back when lutherans -who called themselves Christians, for heaven’s sake- were totally shocking me with their lack of stuffy, self-righteousness.
And this movie did not disappoint…
I thought, since our professor said the movie was about Luther’s theology, the movie would be about finding religion and then getting your life in order…
But all the characters in this movie were a total mess!
-The grandfather is foul-mouthed, among other things.
-The brother-in-law has to stay with the family because he’s on a 24/7 suicide watch.
-The eldest child can’t stand his family, and in protest refuses to speak.
And that’s just that start of it!
In fact, I’m sugar-coating it.
*Look, just, if you rent the movie, don’t say your pastor didn’t warn you. Okay?
Well, the movie begins with what the family thinks is just an inconvenience. The youngest child, Olive, while she was away with her cousins, inadvertently won, one of those child beauty contests.
And, well, Olive isn’t exactly the most likely candidate for a beauty contest…
But when she hears the news, that she gets to go on to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine contest, she’s beyond herself with excitement.
As the family tries to get her ready, things go from bad to worse. And slowly it dawns on everyone else, Olive has no chance. Only Olive seems to be the only one who doesn’t catch on…
From not-so gracefully suggesting a healthier diet to trying to talk her out of competing altogether, the family tries to manage the upcoming disaster.
All to no avail.
Olive has her heart set on going to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest…
It’s certainly a goofy and outlandish plot, isn’t it? But life can feel that way sometimes, can’t it?
You try to do everything right, but it never seems to be enough to avoid the pending disaster.
;-) *Although, I must say; you’ve all pulled it off nicely this morning. Here you are, dressed to the nines…
I won’t ask how you pulled it off, though, if there were any missteps along the way. Any short tempers as you tried to get everything ready in time for the service…
…Because that’s how it was for the women at the tomb that first Easter Sunday, you know.
They had done everything right. But, they had nothing to show for it.
They had kept the commandments, resting on the sabbath; although they had a to-do list long enough to put the rest of ours to shame. And, they had made all the arrangements to give Jesus the funeral he deserved.
But when they got to the tomb, at the crack of dawn no less, everything was in shambles!
The tomb had been ransacked. The body, the one thing they needed for the funeral, wasn’t anywhere to be found! The tomb was empty…
For all that they had done, they had nothing to show for it.
While they’re trying to wrap their minds around what had happened, two guys in white robes show up.
And scold them for all their efforts!
“What are you doing here, like this,” they ask.
“Don’t you remember? That’s not the way it works with Jesus. He didn’t die trying to do the right thing. He died, and was raised, to do what you couldn’t do for yourselves!”
Hearing the messengers words; the women remember Jesus’ witness, and know it’s true…
…And you, you who are here this morning doing all you can to hold everything together, that’s what you need to hear, too: Jesus didn’t come to get you to finally get your life into shape. Jesus came to do what you can’t. Save you.
…Well, in Little Miss Sunshine, when they finally make it to the contest, in a broken-down, Volkswagen minibus with a horn that constantly blares; the son who refuses to speak, sees all too clearly what’s about to happen.
His little sister is going to be laughed off the stage.
Unable to cope, he runs off.
His uncle -the one on suicide watch- goes to find him.
On a pier not far from the convention center, he finds Olive’s brother. And there, the two of them have a revelation I can’t repeat here. But it boils down to the sentiment, “No more beauty contests.”
That life is a never-ending series of beauty contests. And even if you manage to pull off the “W” one day, all you have to look forward to is another beauty contest the next. It never ends!
It turns out, the only way to break free isn’t to compete more, but to opt out.
No more beauty contests!
The two of them run back to the convention center to share this news.
But by the time they get there, it’s too late…
Olive is already taking the stage…
She tells the host her talent is dance.
And she proceeds to preform a number her and her grandfather came up with… To the song, “Brick House,” by Rick James… Yeah…
Well, needless to say, that’s not what anyone was expecting.
Not her family. Not the other contestants. Not the audience. And, certainly not the host.
As Olive does her silly routine, what everyone feared begins to happen. The crowd starts to laugh at her. And the host even tries to pull her off the stage.
Before that can happen, though. Suddenly, her brother jumps on stage! He starts awkwardly jumping around with his little sister.
Then(!) her uncle joins them, too!
Seeing the spectacle, her parents have the revelation their son and uncle had on the pier. And they too, jump on the stage!
Freed from what they had all been so afraid of, from having to compete in yet another beauty contest, they all dance together. Finally, they have what they’d been looking for all along. And in their newfound freedom, they’re remade.
And that’s how it was for the women at the tomb that first Easter.
And, it’s how it is for you on this one.
And, it’s how it is for you on this one.
…Because if Jesus’ body were in the tomb that Sunday morning, Little Miss Sunshine would be nothing more than wishful thinking.
But, on that Sunday morning, while the women had been inside trying to keep all the rules, Jesus had been out there breaking them. Getting to work, instead of resting on the sabbath. Doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves, saving us from the never-ending series of beauty contests.
The tomb was already empty by the time the women showed up. When they got there, there was nothing for them to do. Jesus had done it all!
And that’s how it is for you today, too. Jesus has done it all for you. There’s nothing left.
So leave that tomb. No more beauty contests!
There isn’t anything more you need to do with any of that old life. You’re freed from it!
Go home and blare a little Rick James, if that’s your thing. Amanda and I are looking forward to a beer and some lamb.
Sin boldly as our guy Luther would say…
…Well, the women that first Easter got two guys in white robes. Unfortunately for you, you only get one. And that’s me.
But let me give you a reminder.
Don’t you remember? Jesus didn’t come to get you to shape-up. Jesus came to save you. To empty your tomb. To raise you from the dead. To break the law so you can finally keep it. To give you a promise to rest in.
There’s nothing more you need to do. You’re free. Totally free. No strings attached. Jesus died and was raised for you.
He didn’t come to make you into a better beauty contestant. He came to free you from that.
You really are free this morning…
You don’t have to prove yourself to God. There are no more contests. Beauty or otherwise. The tomb is empty. You are free.
Don’t you remember? Jesus told you this is how it is going to be. “It is finished,” he said from the cross.
And so did the Apostle Paul, “For freedom, Christ has set you free.” And so did the pastor when you were baptized. “You belong to Christ in whom you have been baptized,” they said after the deed was done.
Leave the tomb.