Tuesday, July 19

Sermon 9ths Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 28:10-19a
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

In differing ways the texts for today are about eschatology about the end of the age, the fulfillment of all God is doing and has promised. They are also calls for us to wait. I don’t always like waiting, and especially when it comes to things surrounding the world as it should be or as it is presented in the Scriptures when it talks about the Kingdom of God, I don’t want to be told to sit and do nothing. Waiting is difficult waiting seems passive; waiting seems to let evil be.

As you know my wife Kate and I have been working on the film “Say Hello To Clive For Me”. We both have been working on it longer than the filming of the past six weeks. Kate was part of the pre-production as Art director for the Film and I have been working on it for more than a year and a half having written the screenplay with our director and two other writers. Making a film is an interesting process; it is a long process from screenplay to movie screen. In that process much changes, and one doesn’t have the film until the final cut and it is projected on a screen.

For me as a writer the film began with an idea a set of characters and a few pivotal events. These things have remained the same; the five main characters, the mobsters the five run up against, a failed burglary heist at a Currency Exchange and a shootout at the end of the film. Of course other things changed and as the screenplay was written initial ideas we had even the direction we thought the screenplay was going changed, often drastically. After about 9 months we had our final draft of the screenplay, and yet we still did not have a film. Yet we did have the film, we had its structure it’s ending (you’ll have to see the movie to know the ending other than that there is a shootout).

Then we moved into pre-production where the director the director of photography, Art director and Casting Director begin to visually interpret the screenplay. First the DP and the Director created a shooting script with the shots worked out with the camera angles, and from that storyboards were made. The film was coming to visual life. The art director and with the art department began bring ideas of costumes and location possibilities, and props. Finally casting gave faces and body types to the characters in the film. In all this process the film was coming together, and yet there was no film and yet there was. And things changed. As we chose the actors they began to bring their interpretation of the characters their interpretation of the script, and it wasn’t quite the same as I had envisioned and yet it was still the film I had written but I as a writer could not see all that the film would be.

On set things didn’t always work out as we had planned either the location we chose to use imposed their own demands and visuals and yet we had chosen them to work with the screenplay. Actors brought the characters to life and thus also brought nuances not found in the screenplay that I did not anticipate. The most dramatic was with the character Pete who was written just as standard Chicago guy, but whom the actor who played him decided he was Irish and spoke with an Irish accent, and so Pete is Irish in the film. And now we are one day away from our wrap and still we don’t yet have a film. And yet we have been filming the film.
Now we are days from entering postproduction. Editing of the footage, splicing together the shots we took, sound and music (some of which has been planned in pre-production) but now it is all put together. I as a writer will have little if anything to do with this stage and so I wait for the film. And I will wait several months before I will ever see it on the big screen final cut with sound and music, the film I have been waiting on for what will be two years before I see it in its final form.
All this time waiting for the final product the film project on the big screen and I am still waiting we are all still waiting to see what the final for of the film will be.

In a sense this is not unlike the picture our texts give us of God's work in the world and how the Kingdom is coming and is for us. This reality of having and not having at each stage has created tension for me as a writer. If I resisted this movement toward the final end of the film I would have often been frustrated. While in fact what I have seen through this process is how the film, the screenplay I wrote, has become visually alive on film (I have seen some of the footage I have often been next to the director at his monitor while filming). I don’t have any doubt that the film will be faithful to the screenplay and what we had seen the film to be even if many details it is different than what I had seen when I read the final draft of the screenplay. But for the film to become a film it had to develop, I had to admit as a writer that I couldn’t see the end product, and that in all my activity even in writing I was waiting to see what the film would be like in the end.
Our Genesis passage is about Jacob the son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham. In this passage god in a dream reaffirms the promise given to Abraham and which Jacob has received from Isaac. Jacob is heir to the promise; the land he is leaving to find a wife is the land promised to him the land Abraham and Isaac have lived the land Jacob has grown up in. Jacob has the promise and it is still promised, the fulfillment is still to come. And its fulfillment we know is far beyond what he could have known.
This promise to Abraham in the preaching of Jesus becomes the promise of the coming and presents Kingdom of God. In chapter 13 of Matthew we find a series of parables about the Kingdom of God. These parables are to illustrate (and perhaps hide) truths of the kingdom that is hidden from view, which while present seems far from present.
So Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like a field of a landowner who sow good wheat seed, only to find out as the wheat begins to grow that someone has also sown weeds in his field. His workers want to go in a tear out the weed right away, but the land owner says no wait for the harvest than you will be able to in fact distinguish, now is to early you could miss something you could remove what should have stayed, its in process.
Jesus explains that to separate before the harvest is to risk jeopardizing the final end, fu full revelation of the work of God in God’s people. We must wait Jesus says. Yes it is the kingdom and no it is not fulfilled. The Kingdom is and is coming. Like the film in progress like a field yet to be harvested.

Paul speaks of this waiting in a differing way. Our passage in Romans begins with an admonition to not live according to the flesh but the Sprit. Paul elsewhere speaks of this as living into the age to come and leaving behind the age that is passing away. To live in the Spirit is to live into what is coming, for what we, and the whole of creation, are groaning. Waiting isn’t easy, waiting for what we hope for what in some sense we have and yet have only a foretaste is to live in tension, to suffer, to groan. In some ways waiting for the film to come to its final cut has been difficult. Filming hasn’t been easy for any one on set. It has not been easy for me at all times to see changes to my screenplay, yet I know the end the final cut is coming. And all the suffering all the changes in the end will be worth it when I see it on the big screen. It’s something like that: Paul says that all the tensions of the reality of the process of the presence and coming of the Kingdom will be worth it when we final see all revealed.
In the meantime we are called to wait like we all have been waiting for the film to come to its final form, like I have had to wait and continue to wait as writer to see my film made, to see the end product.
The waiting we are called to, Paul reminds us, is not some passive waiting we are to live into the reality; that is coming, we are to live in the spirit not in the flesh which is passing away, that which will be tossed out, that footage that will not make the cut, that scene we trashed months ago. Yes this means tension, and discomfort and suffering that causes groaning in us. This is the reality we live in may we live in the Sprit anticipating the fulfillment of the promise that is here and is being fulfilled. Amen