Real People, Real Faith

Today's meditation as I filled the pulpit for what is probably the next to last time.  (This a good means a pastor has been found!)

First Scripture reading:  Romans 5:  1-5
5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 5:2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  5:3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Second Scripture Reading:  1st Corinthians:  13:  4-13
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes,what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Meditation:  Real People, Real Faith

The result of having so many cable channels is that the same movies keep popping up over and over again.  If you miss part of a movie, you can always catch it again.  Or watching a movie again you may see something you didn't catch the first time (or even the second or third).  One movie that I stumbled on and have viewed several times is a film from 2007 called "Lars and the Real Girl."  Has anyone else here seen it?

Obviously it's a movie I like, as I've watched it several times and upon repeated viewings some things popped out at me.  A message of faith and caring.  And to share it with you I'm going to start at the end of the movie.  So I apologize in advance for the spoilers.

The movie comes to an end at Bianca's funeral.  The church is full and the minister points out how many different ways Bianca touched people. The large attendance is also a testament to Lars, who sits in the front of the sanctuary  mourning the passing of Bianca.  He is the one who brought her to church. There are so many different people there; people who are church members, people from work, people from the community.  When the minister says " Bianca touched us all in ways we could never imagined."  it is a stark contrast to the beginning of the movie in which Lars sets alone in the back of the church which is sparsely attended.  At that service the minister says to the congregation:  "But in all this world there is only one law.  We need not ask the Lord what should I do because the Lord has told us what to do:  Love one another.  That is the one true law.  Love is God in action."

The congregation, the community shows it's love and faith; it’s action,  to Lars throughout the movie.  This is especially noticeable when Lars' announces that Bianca is dying.  Upon stepping out on the front porch the morning after Bianca comes home from the hospital, there are cards, flowers and balloons, all for Bianca who has only been in their community for a few months.  Later that night, one of three women from church entreats Lars to come downstairs and let Bianca rest.  These three women have sent Lars' brother and very pregnant sister in law out to a movie, but have filled the house with food.  The encourage Lars to eat and simply sit there with him, knitting.  This scene touched me profusely.  These women show their love by just being.  Their mere presence is an action of caring love and nurturing kindness.  They are not doing anything specific, they just are there.   As one of them says, "We come over and sit.  That is what people do when tragedy strikes.  We come and sit."

I am reminded of the women who came to attend to the body of Jesus after his death.  As it says in Mark 16 “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.”  Just as the women of the Bible, these three women are present to take care of simple things. This is how they show their love for Lars, and for his family.  They stand by him; they do not judge.  They act on their faith by simply being.  It's that simple.

Or is it?  For those of you who have seen the movie (if you had seen the movie) you would know that I omitted one very large fact.  It is obvious from the outset that Lars is different, a social outsider who doesn't like or want to interact with people.  Perhaps it's the result of how he was raised  with a mother who has died shortly after his birth and a father who was remote, or maybe it is some sort of disorder, but Lars does not like to be touched.  While taking Bianca for one of her treatments he tells the doctor that being physically touched is painful.  It is no wonder he has isolated himself all his life.

This is why it is amazing  when he announces to his brother and sister-in-law that he has a girlfriend who has arrived from South America, does not speak much English and is in a wheelchair. They are thrilled and are happy to have her stay with them. But when they are introduced to Bianca, they see what we have known all along, that Lars' has a much more serious problem.  Bianca is a life size and lifelike anatomically correct doll.  But to Lars, she is real.

This fact makes the actions of the congregation all the more loving and caring.  As the scripture passage says:  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  These are not just words, but actions to them.  They should be actions that we follow by being patient and kind to our fellow man, even though that might not always be easy.

Of course in the beginning, church members are taken aback, to say the least, when Lars' brother and sister in law come to speak to a group of them to explain the situation.  One man says "he's worshipping a golden calf," to which one of the wise women of the group, and it is obvious that Lars' church, not unlike our church, is full of wise women, says "he's not worshipping her, he's just dating her."  It is pointed out (again by a woman) that everyone is imperfect,that everyone has their own oddities.  There is one member has a cousin who chases UFOs, another had a wife who was a kleptomaniac and so on.  No one there, or even here in this church, is perfect, but we are real people with real faith.   We should always remember John 8:  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap,in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared.   

How do we show our faith?  Do we judge or show compassion? Are we inclusive or exclusive?  As we said last week as part of our prayer of adoration and praise: “Sometimes, we see pride and prejudice in others, while we fail to see it in ourselves.  Forgive us for acting better than others, especially to those who are different from us.”   If we are to truly be the church of caring people that we proclaim ourselves to be we cannot condemn.  That does not mean we condone or ignore, but we must show our caring and compassion; we show this with words, music and ACTION.  The people of Lars' church did not shun him, they cared for him.  They did not ignore the problem, they worked WITH it.  They welcomed Bianca and in their own way, by being patient and kind,  helped him work through the problem.  Ignoring or outcasting Lars would have not only hurt Lars and his family, but would have hurt them as well. They would have lost much and gained nothing.  Again, the words the pastor says at Bianca’s funeral "Bianca touched us all in ways that we could never have imagined."  By acting on  God's love and following Christ's example of not condemning, not only has Lars been able to let go of his delusion, but the congregation and the community has grown in faith.  And it is also evident that the church has grown in numbers as well.

Now I realize that this is only a movie and that life doesn't wrap up itself up in a nice little package.  But I think it's important that we all realize that each and every one of us carries our own unique problems and issues.  As a church we can choose to ignore those problems or we can follow the path of love carved out by Christ.  We could choose to ignore each other.  We could opt to not try new things and embrace only the those we know.  Or we can stand by each other; in times of trouble and of joy and reach out to the community and welcome all, even if they are not "like us".  We can be, we ARE real people with real faith.  We show that not just by being in this place, but also by just being.

Several weeks ago the choir sang the anthem "Reach Out And Touch."  The final lines of the song say:  Reach out and give your love to the loveless.
Reach out and make a home for the homeless
Reach out and share God's light in the darkness
Reach out, and let the Smile of God touch through you.
As real people with real faith, we have the ability to reach out and act on God's love. Your presence here in this church, or sitting quietly alongside of someone during a difficult time is a sign of your faith, of your love for God.  We act on our faith by caring and not judging.  We show our faith by being inclusive and making all welcome.   Would we be a community of faith if we did not show patience and kindness? As a church, without a pastor on staff for nearly 3 years, have we not trusted, hoped and persevered? Do we realize that by doing just this we have shown our faith in the Lord?

We are a church of caring people.  And to paraphrase 1st Corinthians:   We are patient, we are  kind. We  do not envy, do not boast,  and are  not proud. We do not dishonor others, we are not self-seeking, and should not be easily angered, we  should  keep no record of wrongs. We do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth.  We as a church, always protect, always trust, always hope, and  always persevere.  Amen


  1. Wonderful message, Beth. I think you're terrific!


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