A sermon preached
Readings: Ps 22, Matthew 7:7-12
For more on “Bruce Almighty” see:
Internet Movie Database (IMDB)
Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb)
This is the third in our series of evening
including theological reflection on novels or films.
Tonight’s movie is called “Bruce Almighty” –
it is a light hearted comedy about God.
I gather that the movie has been banned in Egypt
on account of its “sacrilegious content”
But I think that through the humour
(and God is in favour of wholesome laughter)
there is plenty of good theology
which might lead us to a better understanding of God.
We can laugh at and with Bruce –
but his journey is in many ways ours also…
The hero of the movie is played by Jim Carey
and is called Bruce -
at the start of the story
he is having a real hard time,
losing his job,
getting beaten up trying to help a homeless man,
arguing with his girl friend.
Bruce is quite a lot like Job –
turning on God, he says – Why do you hate me?”
In the course of the movie Bruce comes to learn
that God loves him –
and God’s love is still there on the dark days
even when Bruce cannot see it.
Bruce goes for
a drive and asks God for a signal.
Along the way he sees signs--
CAUTION AHEAD, WRONG WAY,
STOP, YIELD, DEAD END—
He ignores them all -
before finally crashing into a light pole.
Why doesn’t God speak to us and guide us??
He does – but so often we simply fail to see the signs…
getting mysterious messages
which finally lead him to the Omni Presents Building –
where he meets with God.
God is a Trinitarian God who appears
sometimes as the Boss of the Company,
sometimes as the Janitor washing the floor
(inviting Bruce to help him)
then as the electrician
(who comments “People spend their lives
in the dark trying to hide from me”).
So, to cut a long story
Bruce meets up with God who offers Bruce his job –
all his powers whilst God goes on vacation –
he can do anything he like apart from meddling with human free will.
See if you can do any better, says God.
course God doesn’t actually put us in charge of creation –
but the story of the ascension does speak of God
choosing to work and through his spirit filled people –
so in one sense we are all given God’s job to do….
Take up your cross, Go into the world,
make disciples, receive the Spirit…
How does Bruce get on??
He goes through 3 phases –
(a) Using his God given
power for selfish and frivolous ends –
Moses parted the Red Sea,
Bruce has tomato soup in the diner
and parts the soup down the middle.
He has a dog who is not properly house trained –
now he uses his powers to get the dog
to use the toilet in the bathroom –
indeed we see the dog sat on the loo reading the newspaper….
may smile – but how many of God’s gifts –
be they our talents and abilities, our finances and possessions,
or our position of power in society -
do we use simply in frivolous and selfish ways?
I wonder how our use of our God given powers
looks from God’s perspective??
(b) Then Bruce decides to use his powers for good
which turns out to be harder than he expected –
He logs onto his computer to receive a message
“You’ve got 3,152,036 unread prayers”
Failing to deal with this, he decides simply
to give people what they want – simple and helpful.
So he types in “Answer All” and then the word “Yes”
Next we discover someone
mightily disgruntled – s
he has won the big lottery but so have 433 000 other people –
its a miniscule payout – no one is happy,
Bruce goes to talk with God
by now he is helping God clean the floor in the building -
What happened? Says Bruce -
I gave everyone what they wanted.
God sets the mops down.
“Since when does anyone have a clue about what they want?”
God shows Bruce the people
to whom he has given superficial worldly gratification –
but who have lost their spiritual direction in the process…
that boy being bullied at school
who you gave super muscles? Says God -
He would have become a great poet
exploring suffering and vulnerability –
instead because you answered his prayer in the way he wanted,
he has become a bully himself
and instead he will now become a loutish professional wrestler…
We are all called to love our neighbour
God uses us to answer the prayers of those in need –
Answering needs wisdom as well as love.
So to a key part of the story –
Bruce is losing his girlfriend
(played by Jennifer Aniston and is significantly called Grace) –
Bruce uses his powers to give her a wonderful mansion to live in
(not to mention a rather more ample bust measurement).
But still he is losing grace….
realises that he needs her love –
so he summons up his God given power
and says to her “Love me”
just laughs at him,
says he is stupid and leaves….
Bruce talks to God “Grace left me”, he says.
“I know”, says God. “She'll take me back”, says Bruce,
then less certainly, “Will she take me back?”
“Would you take you back?” asks God.
Bruce mulls this over, then says
“How do you make someone love you
when you can't effect free will?”
”Welcome to my world, son.
You come up with an answer to that one,
you let me know.”
So Bruce learns something about what it means to be God.
And by the same token he also learns
what it means
to be God’s person and to walk and work in God’s way.
At one level Bruce Almighty is a silly
about a man becoming God and walking on water –
but at another level it is quite a serious movie
about how God works,
and how he seeks to use us to help him in that work –
There is a line in the movie where God says,
"Everyone's problem is that they keep on looking up."
In an interview the Director was asked what that meant.
“The key word in that sentence is "you keep looking up."
I think looking up is essential.
Humility and looking to God,
looking to this Divine Creative Force, is essential. ….
However, to keep looking up means
that we depend on God to do everything for us.
There is a story about a nun who went to God and said,
"Why, God, don't you do something about the people
that are hungry and sick?"
And God said, "I did, I made you."
Well by the end of the movie Bruce is
back as human Bruce again –
but much wiser about using God’s power…
and I’ll leave you to guess whether in the end he gets the girl ……
So what about us –
· Do we see the signs?
· Do we recognize God in our midst?
· Do we help him wash the floor and feet of others?
· Do we help bring light to those who prefer the dark?
· Do we seek for others what they need not what they want?
· Do we use the gifts God has given us wisely and lovingly?
we love and care in such a way
that we evoke the free response of love in others?
Well God made you and me a little lower
than the angels –
not almighty but called to share in God’s Almighty work.
Let us seek God’s power and guidance to do it.