I wonder what your favourite film is, if indeed you have one. Or perhaps a movie that you’ve seen recently, or in the distant past which has stayed with you for some reason. I love stories, including those told through film, and I’ll always be grateful to the friend who suggested I start using film as a way of thinking about the Bible and retelling bits of it.
One of the most popular films of recent times is Shawshank Redemption, a tale of imprisonment, friendship and hope. When it first came out if didn’t do well, but word slowly spread and it has since become a much loved, meaningful movie for many. However, it doesn’t matter whether a film is considered a classic or not, you may love a story for all kinds of reasons. I recall the evening my wife and I sat around with friends in a pub discussing films. We ably trotted out many of the masterpieces and discussed them enthusiastically, yet when it came to naming our favourite films we picked others, movies which were not the big classics. Or the week I led on faith and film, and asked folks to write down their favourites. The list included Dirty Dancing 2. Brilliant. Not because the film is flawless, but because it meant something to someone.
Jesus loved stories, he grew up with them. In his culture stories were a way of teaching about life, its meaning, and the presence and ways of God. And stories formed a large part of the way he taught others. (Matthew 13 v 34) His tales drew on life and culture, and were memorable, intriguing, entertaining and engaging. They created conversation and interaction, in the same way that folks can now record their comments and opinions on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter; Jesus invited those with him to engage with his stories and discuss them. (Matthew 21 v 28) The last thing he wanted was for his hearers to smile, nod and say ‘This is the word of the Lord. Now, let’s sing hymn number 1,537.’ He expected his friends and followers to react to his stories, to see themselves in them, and to debate what they meant for everyday living. If Jesus was telling stories today he might well say things like, ‘The kingdom of God is like Mr Darcy falling for Lizzie Bennett… or Batman doing battle with Superman… or a Big Friendly Giant befriending a girl called Sophie… or a team of Spotlight journalists from the Boston Globe digging away to bring darkness out into the light…’ The stories go on, and the most unexpected ones may remind us of something about God, his ways, the world and its needs. Who knows what God might whisper next time you watch your favourite film?