Sometimes the sermon comes alive while it is being preached. My mind is an adrenalin rush while preaching. For me it is where the Holy Spirit takes the skeletons of my thoughts on paper and brings them alive in the actual preach. Sometimes I tell Janice that this week’s sermon is disappointing on paper but once preached she is asking me what I was talking about!
Also, there are times, with me many times, when a song, a book, a film throw up illustrations that crack the nut of the Biblical text.
It was a film that cracked Zechariah’s song at the end of Luke 1: 76-79 -
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.
So, as Zechariah waited for the Messiah he prophecies about how his son John The Baptist will prepare the way for that Messiah. He economically rolls out the benefits of Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection. Knowledge of salvation, forgiveness of sins, the tender mercy of God, path of peace…
As I preached I was drawn to the forgiveness of sins. It seems an obvious every Sunday idea. Yet, a film cracked a nut.
The film was The Keeper, a true story of the life of Bert Trautmann, a German prisoner of war in England who fell in love with a woman and football and stayed after the war ended. He became a hero playing for Manchester City in the 1956 FA Cup Final, playing the last 20 minutes with a broken neck. There are a few nut crackers in there for reconciliation in a post war society but that’s for another sermon and blog.
There is a scene in the movie where Bert is doing his first press interview after signing for Manchester City. The journalists are dragging up his German army past and it comes to light that he had won an Iron Cross medal. What exactly had he done?
Margaret, now Bert’s wife, is angry that Bert hasn’t told her everything he did during the war. She’s his wife. There should be no secrets. He turns and looks her in the eye and asks, “What is the worst thing you have ever done?”
Margaret is knocked back. When it is put like that we all have secrets. There are things that we have done that we do not even want to tell those who love us the most.
For Bert Trautmann what he had been involved in was not only something that he didn’t want to share but brought with it a guilt that lingered with him. It haunts him throughout the movie.
Trautmann’s story and these scenes cracked something open about “the forgiveness of sins” that Zechariah sings about in Luke 1.
I think that we preach so often on daily sins and weekly sins that we have reduced sin to petty little habits or little moments of bad decision making causing us to do something selfish or not do something we should have done.
The Keeper film goes to the very depths of the very worst of us. Deep rooted guilt lies in all of our lives. It can haunt us like ghosts. It can eat away at any goodness in our souls. It can paralyse us and lead us into all kinds of mental ill health. It can keep us from God and stop us living a full life and doing amazing things.
Zachariah reminds us that Jesus came to deal with these festering secrets. Zachariah’s father would declare Jesus, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. My most haunting sin. The worst thing Bert Trautmann ever did. Guilt free. Atoned for. Imagine the rebirth. The freedom. The new possibilities.