From a sermon / May 2011
(…continued) And so, I do feel sorry for Clint Eastwood. You wouldn’t think anyone would need to feel sorry for him at all, with all that money, success, fame, and honor. But as you well know, a man of his age is on the verge of leaving every bit of that behind. I feel sorry for a man (or woman) 80 years old (or any age) who doesn’t know enough to give some thought to his or her eternal destiny. Clint Eastwood is fast approaching that day when no strength of personality, no piercing gaze, no ‘magnum force’ or physical toughness will be any help to him. He speaks of death with that same calm voice that he always used on the bad guys, and it sounds tough; but is that tough, or is that foolish? He is about to enter a realm where tough won’t help, and smart won’t help, and awards won’t matter, and where all the fame, wealth, and success in this temporary little world will be of no value.
Although I feel sorry for Clint Eastwood, I also envy him. You see part of my job has always been to be a communicator and a teacher, and I have always done that in small settings. So I get jealous of the huge platform that Clint Eastwood and all of Hollywood has to teach and to influence people; and I am saddened at how poorly that influence is so often used. This movie has absolutely nothing to offer by way of hope in the face of that mostly hopeless of all human prospects, and yet, for many people, this is the most they will ever hear on the subject.
I can’t make movies for the whole world to see, but I can talk to all of you folks here this morning, and I can tell you about something firm and solid and true and hopeful. I can tell you about Jesus Christ who died and lived again. And this was not ‘near’ death experience for a few minutes. Jesus was dead-as-a-doornail dead– whipped, beaten, nailed to a cross, stabbed with a spear, dead, and buried for 36 hours. Then, he came to life again. Can you think of anyone else who has managed that? For forty years I have had my antennas out. Unlike Clint Eastwood I am interested in this, and there is nothing in world history or any other religion like the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This is not a fairy tale and not a myth. You can find a lot of myths, fairy tales, and legends about people back from the dead. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ was an actual event in history that will stand up to historical investigation. And not only has Jesus risen from the dead to show that it can be done, he has said that he will do that for you.
In John 14:19 Jesus said to his disciples: “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; and because I live, you will live also.” ‘We will live also,’ Jesus says. Earlier in that same chapter he had said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms… and I am going there to prepare a place for you… and I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also… I am the way and the truth and the life.”
I realized already when I was in college that this is big deal. I was good at math back then, and I figured out one time that I was going to be dead a whole lot longer than I was going to be alive. So if there was something in the hereafter to be gained, I wanted to know about it; and if there was something in the hereafter to be avoided, I wanted to know enough to avoid it; and if there was something I needed to be doing or believing now to help me in the hereafter, I wanted to be doing and believing that right now.
I had heard about Jesus. I was raised in the church, and I knew about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, but I needed to know if that was a true story. I decided that if the story of Jesus Christ was not true, then I was not about to waste any part of my life on it. But if it was true, and a person could die and live again, I wanted to know that, and believe in it, and place my hope for life and death in Jesus. So for my first two years of college, along with my regular studies, I read every book I could get find on the resurrection of Christ, whether it argued for or against it, and I came to believe that Jesus did rise from the dead and the Christian faith is true. And everything I have seen and read since then has only served to affirm and strengthen that belief. We do not, like Clint Eastwood said, just have to ‘speculate along.’ We can look into the story of a man who died and came back from the dead, and who then promised that we too can live again. I want to know that man. This preaching, you see, isn’t just a job for me. There is also my own eternal destiny at stake here, and I wouldn’t be spending my weekends in church if I didn’t believe the Bible was true. But since it is true, and Jesus did rise from the dead, then there is no better place to be on a Sunday morning than in church worshipping this man who has won the victory over death and the grave.
In the movie Marie says, “I have been to that place beyond death where we are all one day going. How can you not be interested in that?” That is just a line in a movie, but Jesus did die and did return and did promise the same for all who believe in him. Believing, he said, that is the key, believing in Him. That is what the New Testament tells us again and again. “For God so loved the world,“ says that best known Bible verse of all, “that he gave his only begotten son, so that whosever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Shall not perish… Have eternal life… Why would anyone want to ignore so great a gift? As Marie says in the movie, “How can anyone not be interested in this?” One day soon you will need it. Believe in Jesus and you will be all right.
John 14:1-4 — (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
John 14:5-6 — Thomas said to him (Jesus), “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:19 — (Jesus said), “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”
O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
—Book of Common Prayer