If you are from another church that is not able to host online worship, we would strongly encourage you give to YOUR church and support them. They no doubt need that support as much as we do. God bless you all for your generosity.
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” (Galatians 6:7 NLT)
“When the crypt doors creak and the tombstones quake, spooks come out for a singing wake. Happy haunts materialize and begin to vocalize. Grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize.” Thus the song, “Grim Grinning Ghosts”, kicks off as one is winding down from the roof of Walt Disney World’s “The Haunted Mansion”, to the graveyard below, filled with ghostly ghouls and whisping spirits flying through the night sky. As a huge Disney fan, who will be at the parks this summer as well, “The Haunted Mansion” is without doubt my all-time favorite ride.
As most people know, I love horror movies and, in particular, I love a good ghost tale. One of my more favorite ghost movies is an independent film called, “Gravedancers”. I am not sure how many people realize this or not, but it is a fact that this film was inspired by Disney’s “The Haunted Mansion”, which is the favorite ride of the director/writer of the film. He has loved that ride since he was a child and the frightful fancies it induced.
In fact, it is the song from the famous ride, “Grim Grinning Ghosts” that the director drew the most inspiration from when coming up with the ghosts that were going to be haunting his film. Perhaps, the word “haunt” is an understatement when it comes to these ghosts. Take a long, uncomfortable look at the ghost pictured above. They go beyond creepy, to downright making your skin crawl at first sight.
Like all horror films, there is a certainly immorality present in all of the characters that causes the horror they go through to manifest in their lives. The ghosts that haunt them, no doubt, do so because they disregard their own moral compasses and act selfishly, with little regard to others (including the dead) in the process. Their sins literally come back to haunt them in ways that are both horrifying and unforgettable. Like, the images literally are etched into one’s mind after seeing this film.
One of the main moral failures that he characters display in this film, is the utter and total disregard of others. The story starts off with a group of college friends reuniting years after they had graduated in order to attend the funeral of one of their former friends. Following the funeral, they all go out drinking and end up taking their party to a cemetery because, well, excessive alcohol intake leads to some pretty nonsensical and irrational decisions and deeds.
At the cemetery, they open up a letter in a black envelope that has a poem in it, which beckons them to dance on the graves of the dead. To most sober people, this would sound like a bad idea just out of respect for the dead and their living, grieving, loved ones. But these characters (to avoid using a more pejorative word) think this would be a great way to celebrate their lives. So they dance and, in doing so, desecrate the graves of the dead, awakening the rage of some pretty vengeful and malicious spirits.
There’s something in this story for us to pull from. How often do we go about our lives, merely thinking of ourselves and our own. We call ourselves Godly people because we, typically, care for those we love and those who love us back. We call ourselves “good” people because there are “far worse” people than us out there; however, we are, admittedly, “not as good” as we could be. We measure the merit of our lifestyles by how much gratification it gives us, with often little to no regard for whether our lifestyles are impedeing and/or harming others, and we fight to keep the status quo so that the powers that be, so-to-speak, favor us over and above others.
While we may not be dancing on the graves of the dead, we are often living our lives in a way that dances on the lives of others, thus sealing their fate in terms of their suffering. We often are dancing on the living graves of the oppressed in order to enjoy the benefits that are afforded to us but not to others. In doing so, we are also simultaneously conjuring up grim grinning ghosts that come to haunt us in ways we could have never imagined.
Just take a look at all of the chaos and woes of society, and you will see the grim grinning ghosts that have been unearthed by the sins of a people who have forgotten to live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. What can we do about it? We can choose to begin to fight for justice, for equality, and for the peaceable Kingdom of God in our households, our communities, and our world. Through standing up for such ideals, and through self-reflection and contemplation, we can be holy agents of change.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts.” – Italo Calvino
Lord, empower me to recognize the ghosts I have unleashed in my life, and in the lives of others. Help me to stand true in your light in order to remove them once and for all. Amen.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
I just returned from my family vacation in Walt Disney World down in sunny Orlando, Florida. Let me tell you, there is nothing like a Florida vacation when you are in the middle of a record-cold and snowy winter. The skies were blue and clear, the humidity was non-existent, the temperature was 75-80 degrees, and the people were as friendly as can be. Quite frankly, with temperatures like that, it’s hard not to be friendly.
Speaking of friendly, have you ever been to Walt Disney World? The people working there are always the nicest, most friendly people you’ll ever meet. They all have big, bright smiles on their faces. They all look genuinely happy to be at work. They all treat the park goers (aka the customers) as if they can do no wrong. Walt Disney World is certainly the HAPPIEST place on earth. If any of the “cast” members are having a bad day at work, no one would ever be able to tell.
While reflecting theologically on Walt Disney World, one can’t help but notice that the place is almost too happy. It’s almost too clean. I mean, one never finds a shred of paper, bubble gum, straw or trace of any kind of litter around the park at all. That is because they employ a whole host of “happy” helpers to sweep it up. When one enters Walt Disney World, it is as if they are leaving the real world and entering the greatest utopia ever (that is unless you hate to wait on lines…then you might not find it a utopia at all).
I have heard people muse that it would be awesome if the church took a clue from Walt Disney World. In other words, some people think that the church would be a whole lot more successful in its outreach and its growth if it would just put a smile on its face and show the world that the church is a happy, happy place. If churches would just be happy and distance themselves from fighting, bickering, power playing, and judging then it would only make sense that more people would want to go to church, right?
Yet, is that the answer for the church? To put on an act of happiness? Should the church turn itself into a clean, wholesome, happy-go-lucky, unlittered, perfect-in-every-way stage. Should church members become cast members who only show their good sides and are given no place to show any other side but their good sides? Would this church even be called “real”, should such a church exist?
The fact of the matter is that Jesus never called for a clean church; rather, Jesus calls us, the church, to get our hands dirty. We are called to be present in the lives of others. We are called to express ourselves honestly, we are called to present others with the opportunity to express themselves honestly. We are not called to be perfect, but are being called toward perfection.
The truth is that it would not be healthy for the church to model itself after Walt Disney World, as that is not true to what the church really is. The church is a mess that God continues to work in and through. It is because we are a mess that we are kept humble and that we are continually reminded of our need for God to guide us through! While it certainly wouldn’t hurt for our church to be cheerful and joyful, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt for church members to be as hospitable as the Disney Cast Members are taught to be, we are not called to be an escape from the real world, but the hope of God brought into the midst of a real and messy world. It’s time to get our hands dirty!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.” – St. Augustine of Hippo
Lord, rather than seeking to be perfect, I seek to be perfected by you. Show me where I err, and change me to what you will. Amen.
“Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.” (Psalm 71:3, 6).
This past weekend, my family and I went to see a high school production of Walt Disney’s Broadway play, Beauty and the Beast. We had been to see the production on Broadway and, to be honest, this high school production was just as good! They were all very professional on stage and we watched with delight as the story came to life before our very eyes.
Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my favorite fairy tales, and it is one of my favorite Disney movies. One of the reasons I love the film so much, is because I can totally relate with the Beast. And my guess is, so can many of us veterans of this comedy we call life.
When we were children, the world seemed big and bold and beautiful. Everything was colored by the lens of innocence and to us, as children, everything was perfect. But then, as we grew older we began to be tainted by the world. We became more knowledgeable about how harsh the world could be. Ever so slowly, we began to be changed by the surrounding world.
For those of us who were picked on, for those of us who never quite fit in, we began to grow bitter. We learned that we could not trust anyone and, in the process, we lost faith in ourselves. For those of us who have been cheated or abused, perhaps we began to mask ourselves with cold indifference, a defense-mechanism to shield us from being hurt anymore. For those of us who were popular, we began to realize the price of that popularity and felt as if we were imprisoned by it.
Regardless of what category we found ourselves in, we began to believe the images that other defined us as. We began to lose who we were created to be. We began to see something other than ourselves staring back at us in the mirror, and we despised what we saw. All we could see in the mirror was a beast glaring into our eyes.
But like the Beast, we are not meant to be prisoners. Like the Beast, we are not meant to be locked away in darkness, watching the pedals fall from what’s left of our lives. God did not create us to be depressed, cynical, angry, and stressed out. God did not create us to be successful, popular, clickish, aggressive, overly competitive or power-hungry. We let the world define who we are rather than listening to the One who truly knows us, who knew us before we were even formed in our mother’s womb.
God did not create a beast when God created you; rather, God created a beauty. Each one of us is unique, each one of us has something special to offer, and each one of us is beautiful. Look deep inside yourself, look for the beauty that is within you. Stop look at yourself through the lenses the world taught you to wear. Stop seeing yourself as worthless and recognize that God doesn’t create worthlessness. You are a child of God, made in the very image of God, and you are unconditionally…and I stress the word “unconditionally”…loved by God. Accept that love and be recreated in that love! Learn to love yourself, and learn to love others just as God loves you!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“We are made in the image of an imageless God” – Dr. Michael Kogan
Lord, strip me of all of the images the world has come to define me with. Show me who I truly am. Amen.