A myHT Fortress

Monday, September 1, 2014

15 Movies That Have Stayed WIth You




Thank you, Rick Arndt, for nominating me to list 15 Movies That Have Stayed With You!  We are kindred spirits with the enjoyment of many of the movies you listed, and yet, I will go off on some different tangents.

I will nominate Matt Pahnke, Jacob Tomaw, Mark Zanders, Sr., and Ben Heinz.

Naming the best film ever, or even limiting the list, has always been difficult for me, as well.  I have so many, and for just as wide a variety of factors.  So here we go…

1. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.  What do you get when you bring George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Harrison Ford together in one film?  Absolute magnificence!  This thrilling adventure was amazing.  I still remember the moms of our 6th grade class dropping us off at the theatre that May, and a group of us feeling all grown up watching this action-packed classic unfold!

Other Action Films

2. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.  I actually love all six.  Yes, prequel haters can hate me, but I must confess I even enjoyed Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan more than Sir Alec Guiness.  But this is where it all began.  This is where modern cinema was revived, and science fiction grew up into a legitimate category of film.  From the very first moments of “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a great adventure took place” scrolling up the screen, this entire mythology was absorbed into my imagination!

3. Batman Begins (or again, the whole Christopher Nolan trilogy) is brilliant!  Christian Bale has become the consummate Batman.  Michael Caine simply IS Alfred.  The story swept us into a believably corrupt Gotham, with a hero who is greater than we deserved.

4. Inception.  Along with the Dark Knight films, this displays Nolan’s extreme talent in directing.  With each layer of dreaming, I felt sucked in more.  The intensity is amazing!  The effects marvelous.  The cast tremendous!  You will feel tired when the film is finished, since your heart has been pounding the entire time.  And yet, you cannot fall asleep.  Not because you are scared to do so, but because your mind is racing, trying to analyze what happened at what level of dream, and what *really* became of each member of the team.  Does the top keep spinning, or no?!

5. Pirates of the Caribbean.  This is a film that Kristi and I left the theatre saying, “We will own this one!”  Non-stop action.  Great comedic timing.  Fun storyline.  And a soundtrack that I could listen to for days!  Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow is one of the most amazingly “stick with you” characters ever developed, and he plays him magnificently!

Three honorable mentions need to be made here in the “Action” category.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  This film drew me into the Star Trek universe.  I became a fan of 2,3, and 4, and then The Next Generation even more so. 

Star Trek IV: Save the Whales.  Okay, that wasn’t its real name.  And it definitely is not one of the strongest of those films.  Yet the comedic one-liners have definitely “stuck with me.”  Spock’s use of “colorful metaphors” are full of laughs.  The old lady giddy in her wheel chair in the hospital, after Bones has helped her: “Doctor gave me a pill and I grew a new kidney!!!”  And Scotty, dealing with the primitive 1980’s computer, talking into the mouse: “Computer?  Hello, Computer!?”  “Just use the keyboard.”  “A keyboard! How quaint.”

Super 8.  Perhaps because the boys in this film are the age I would have been in that era.  This was a fabulous story of creativity and imagination, as well as helping something unknown, while pulling together to help your neighbors.

Romances

For those who are secure enough in their masculinity, guys can admit that they like some romantic comedies or dramas.

6. The Princess Bride.  Inconceivable? It’s the consummate quotable film.  Every quote you’ll ever need, packed into one movie.  It is an action film, as well.  Sword fights, magic, and love.  True love.

7. Sleepless in Seattle.  “You don’t want to be in love; you want to be in love in the movies.”  Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan tug at your own heart as you root for this pair who keep crossing paths without meeting, and yet you *know* they belong together.

8. The Notebook.  There.  I said it.  This is a touching film about love and devotion across the years.  Perhaps it is the Alzheimer’s in my own family that makes this strike a chord.  But it is well done, nevertheless.

Comedy

I love comedies.  I enjoy them, laugh at them, and would watch them repeatedly.  But many don’t make their way onto such a list of greats.  Except…maybe... one.

9. Young Frankenstein.  Mel Brooks directs a hilarious, but irreverent reboot of the Frankenstein story.  Gene Wilder, Madeline Khan, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, and many others come together with splendid humor, lines, timing, and a classic black-and-white filming that lend to the power of this humorous tale.

Classics
I love classic films.  There are no two ways about it.

10. Aladdin.  Disney films have so many classics among them.  And I love so many of them!  I guess Aladdin appeals to me as one of the few Disney animated films with a male lead.  Being authentic to who you really are, and people loving the real person, not the phony façade, is at the heart of this movie’s message.

11. Casablanca is one of the greatest ever!  Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman give splendid portrayals of this would-be couple in the Second World War.  The ensemble cast with Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre draw your eyes and ears to each line and minute detail.  True love and the sacrifices it makes, especially in wartime, are well played throughout.

12. Holiday Inn.  This is another “oldie but goodie.”  Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire pair up for one of the greatest song and dance films of the 1940’s.  A year full of “red letter” days is portrayed at the inn. Maybe this is even more special than some other Bing Crosby greats, since I stole my first kiss with Kristi during “Thanksgiving” the first time we watched it together. 

13. It’s a Wonderful Life.  I love Jimmy Stewart!  He is the most awesome “everyman.”  This tale of love and loss, dreams that are dashed, and finally realizing the amazing qualities of “ordinary” things in life, will touch you.

14. The Ten Commandments.  This great epic, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, is the greatest old-time biblical epic.  Charleton Heston will always be the image burned in my mind for Moses.  The cheesy lines and artistic liberties do add some caution in taking this as biblical history, and the special effects are SO dated, but it’s a beautifully portrayed film, and will always be dear to me.

15. I Confess.  This gem of film noir is one of the best kept secrets of Alfred Hitchcock’s career.  The tale is of a Roman Catholic priest in Quebec in the 1950’s.  By doing the right thing and keeping the seal of the confessional, he ends up being the chief suspect in a murder.  Will he die for another man’s sins, or not?  True to form, Hitchcock provides twists and turns to the very end!  I show this in every year’s catechism class, as we talk about individual confession!

There are so many others!  But since Rick’s challenge was to list 15, I will stop.

And they lived happily ever after….The End.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Merciful Steward: A Homily on Luke 16:1-13



Luke 16:1-13
9th Sunday after Trinity                                                                      
17 August 2014
St. John’s, Chicago, IL

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Ponder for a moment the passages from Scripture that you hear about rich men, as Saint Luke records:  The prodigal son wastes his wealth immorally, the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Zacchaeus—a rich tax collector, even in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, we hear the Blessed Virgin Mary praising God that “the rich He has sent empty away.”  There are many other examples, most of which do not paint a pretty picture for the wealthy.  Attempting to get great riches would not, then, appear to be the virtuous lesson.

And yet, that is the goal of our world.  In this era, students are often selecting careers, not on the basis that they have talents and abilities for them, or that these careers are fulfilling vocations, but on the basis of what makes the most money.
  
Guidance counselors, friends, and teachers will promote this attitude, often telling those who choose vocations of service that they are “wasting” their intelligence and abilities.  Students are making huge mistakes according to some professors and leaders if they choose to be counselors or therapists, work in the field of child care, or choose to work in a vocation of serving that will never produce much of a salary.

Riches also make the divorces of the wealthy and famous far more nasty than others.  Even our entertainment encourages a pursuit of wealth, both for the actor or athlete, as well as the message they send to their spectators.  And yet, we see the tragedy of comedian Robin Williams this week, and are mindful that for all the wealth he had received, it could not relieve depression and free him from despair.  A sad reminder to pray for those who seem to “have it all,” that they may receive God’ peace and mercy. 

So how is it that this rich man commends the unjust steward—the dishonest manager?  And who are these men?  Too often we read ourselves into parables, and try to twist them into lessons on “how to behave.”  In reality, this story is one of Jesus describing the saving Gospel coming to us, His lowly debtors.

Yes, you and I are the poor people with gigantic bills.  We owe the Lord more than we can ever pay Him.  We are the ones who have their bills slashed. And in spite of the unfavorable image that our Lord paints of the often unbelieving rich, the rich man here represents our Heavenly Father.  Those who are indebted to Him are all people.  And, believe it or not, JESUS is the Unjust Stewardthe Dishonest Manager. 
  
What?  Jesus – dishonest?  Jesus – unjust?  But wait.  Don’t get hung up on that.  He is called unjust.  Accused of being wasteful. However the better title would be “the Merciful Steward.”  Note also that the Rich Man (God the Father) is not the one bringing charges – He simply has heard the charges.
 
Think about it.  The scribes and Pharisees, religious leaders of the Jews, were accusing Jesus of wastefulness.  He wasted His time and energy, and even Table Fellowship (!) with public sinners.  Jesus would teach and eat with tax collectors, adulterers, and others who had bad reputations.  He welcomed them, in order to preach and teach God’s Law and Gospel.  He was (and is) the Steward tearing up their bills and freeing them of their eternal indebtedness.

Yes, Our Lord Jesus is the unjust steward, who has been accused of wasting his time, energy, talents, on those "sinners."  [The Jewish leaders] want to take away from him his authority to teach, since they believe that He is not tending to those who deserve His time and teaching.  They consider Jesus to be contaminating Himself by associating with lowlifes who are so indebted to God that they can never earn His favor.  However, Jesus has a rather unique solution: “You think I wasted before, just wait!  I'll show you some genuine waste!  I'm going to waste everything I've been given on these sinners.” 

Of course, knowing the generosity of our Great Merciful Steward, we still cannot plan to take advantage of Him.  “Oh, I know that Jesus makes up for my faults and failures.  He pays my true debts.   Besides, we have how many other members here – let them take some responsibility!  So I can just keep on racking up earthly debt, and give a little less to God—He’ll understand.” Thinking and saying such thoughts is a shameful sin in itself.

Vacationing, and then conveniently “forgetting” to present our scheduled tithe or offering to the Lord is poor stewardship on our part.  Or thinking that we are punishing only certain individuals, pastors, or church bureaucrats by withholding gifts from God, simply because we disagree with His servants, or dare to push our own earthly standards of success on the Lord, is also poor stewardship on our part.  And the selfishness that often accompanies such supposed lapses of memory or expectations of the Holy Spirit regarding His work, is harmful to our souls.

Another shameful sin is refusing to admit that we are hopelessly indebted to God, and deserve nothing but the debtors prison of hell.  In our society we are used to the idea of large debts. We don’t see the downfall of such bondage.  And when it carries over to matters spiritual, we don’t see the comparison.

You and I are poor, miserable sinners.  We have racked up astronomical debt of sin and rebellion against our rich master, our Heavenly Father.  But thanks be to God!  He does not want us rotting in prison.  He praises His Steward who has taken our bill and actually paid it in full.

When He bore the scourge of the whip and the piercing of the nails, when He quietly suffered the punctures of the crown of thorns, when He endured the hanging and slow, cruel death on the cross, He was taking your bill, and marking itnot simply a reduction in what you owe, but signing it as paid in full! 
 
Jesus, our Great Steward, has indeed been faithful in delivering to you “unrighteous wealth.”  That is to say, you have received wealth that does not belong to you through your own work and investing.   Dr. Luther had it “Right on the money,” so to speak, when he teaches us to confess, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him…”

Without the burden of the work and the time and wisdom needed for investing, you have received wealth from the Lord that belongs to Him, and is given to you on account of the work of this Great Steward Jesus Christ!

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.  This unrighteous wealth – wealth that does not belong to you, but is freely given to you by the Great Merciful Steward Jesus – is a joyous gift.  It’s a tremendous gift that urges us to share.  We mimic our Lord Steward, making friends by means of this Gospel, that we may see them in the Lord’s eternal dwellings of heaven! 

Take opportunities to let your friends of this world hear the Message of heavenly wealth.  Speak the encouragement of Christ, who has paid your eternal debts, to your family and loved ones.  Call those who are not with you this morning, and let them know that you missed them, and that the Great Steward wants to cancel their debts, and desires their presence around His pulpit and altar. 

Will you be a good steward of such responsibilities?  Perhaps you will try, as each one of us should, but not one of us will do it perfectly.  And that will go onto our bills of debt before the Lord.

But thanks and praise be to our Loving Lord Jesus, the Great Merciful Steward who tears up those bills, and frees us from indebtedness, praising us for the righteousness that He Himself has placed upon us!

My dear friends in Christ, rejoice!  Your debt is paid!  Now come and receive the pledge of that forgiveness, tasting the body broken and blood shed to make that payment, all out of His immeasurable love for you!  Amen.



Reference

Just, Arthur A. (1997). Luke 9:51--24:53 (pp. 612-621). Saint Louis: Concordia Publ. House.