Sunday Aug 6, 2023
God in the Movies – Bruce Almighty
Come all you people, come and praise your Maker (3X)
Come now and worship your God.
© 1986 World Council of churches. Used by permission
Acknowledging the Territory
We acknowledge that, here in Yarmouth, we live work and worship in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) people first signed with the British Crown in 1725. By acknowledging this, we commit ourselves to live in Peace, Friendship and Respect.
Lighting the Christ Candle
As we light our Christ Candle, we remember that the light of Christ can only shine when it shines through us and others. And so let us shine for Christ.
Call to Worship
We gather here today because we have felt God’s call.
God calls us away from the drive for worldly success.
God calls us away from the desire to have as much or more than everyone else has.
God calls us away from greed, selfishness and the allure of power.
God calls us away from habits that waste the gifts and the time we have been given.
God calls us back to live in and with God’s loving presence.
God calls us into this time of worship.
Opening Prayer ~ written by Kate Compston
Our opening prayer this morning is a beautiful centering prayer written by Kate Compston. So, I invite you to close your eyes and breath deeply as we focus on the one who calls us here to worship together.
When nothing is right, when we are weary and lost, when clouds dull the sky,
help us to be still. When our cries are unheeded, when no effort bears fruit, when the sun sets, help us to be still. When love is over, when hope is gone, when darkness covers the land, help us to be still. For in being still, in refusing to panic or despair, we shall come to know that [you God are] there, suffering alongside and with us, waiting to show us stepping-stones through the swirling waters, and to help us sing a new song. Amen.
Let’s Sing Great God, We Sing that Mighty Hand #529
Our first reading this morning consists of 2 passages taken from the book of Psalms. The first, from Psalm 127, reminds us that without God’s help and guidance, the things we attempt to do really don’t matter. The second is from Psalm 107 and it reminds us that often the trouble we get into is our own doing, but that when we turn to God there is always hope.
Psalm 127:1-2 Psalm 107:17-22, 43 (New International Version)
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for God grants sleep to those God loves.
Some were fools, suffering because of their sins and because of their evil; they couldn’t stand the sight of food and were close to death. Then in their trouble they called to the Lord, and he saved them from their distress. He healed them with his command and saved them from the grave. They must thank the Lord for his constant love, for the wonderful things he did for them. They must thank him with sacrifices, and with songs of joy must tell all that he has done. May those who are wise think about these things; may they consider the Lord‘s constant love.
his life is misery and grief and God seems has been hidden from him, offering no peace or rest. It continues with God’s response to Job.
Job 3:20-26 Job 40:1-2, 10-14 (New International Version)
“Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For sighing has become my daily food; my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
The Lord said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”
Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor, and clothe yourself in honor and majesty. Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at all who are proud and bring them low, look at all who are proud and humble them, crush the wicked where they stand. Bury them all in the dust together; shroud their faces in the grave. Then I myself will admit to you that your own right hand can save you.
Favorite Hymn Request Creator God You Gave Us Life MV#27
God in the Movies – Bruce Almighty
I have to admit that Jim Carey is not my favorite actor. His over-the-top almost slapstick type of comedy for which he is most famous is not the type of humor that generally appeals to me. And yet Mr. Carey has starred in some of my favorite movies. The reason for this apparent contradiction is that many of the movies that Carey stars in use humour, not simply as a way of entertaining, but as a way to ask some deep questions and to give us something very serious to think about. And that is why Bruce Almighty is one of my favorite movies.
Morgan Freeman, on the other hand, is one of my favorite actors. His quiet, calm confidence and his gentle, thoughtful mannerisms seem to give him an aura of wisdom that plays extremely well in his portrayal of God in this movie.
Bruce Nolan is a self-absorbed television news reporter who believes he is unappreciated, undervalued, and overlooked. He feels his tremendous talent is wasted in his current job of reporting on public interest stories. What he really wants is to be the news anchor for his station. When the current anchorman retires, Bruce is convinced that he is the obvious choice to replace him.
Just as he is about to go on the air live with what he hopes will be his last feel-good story, he learns that the position of anchor has been given to his rival, Evan Baxter. Unable to accept this turn of events, Bruce’s anger and disappointment erupts into a rather vulgar on-air rant against Evan, the station and just about everyone and everything else that he blames for not allowing him the job which he believes he, and he alone, deserves. Needless to say, Bruce is fired.
Bruce blames everyone except himself for his misfortune and complains to his girlfriend Grace, that he hates his “mediocre life” which hurts Grace deeply. Eventually, with no one else left to blame, Bruce complains that “God is a mean kid sitting on an ant hill with a magnifying glass and [he/Bruce] is the ant.” He complains that God is doing a terrible job of running things and that he is completely ignoring Bruce and that God the one that should be fired.
Suddenly Bruce begins receiving messages on his pager, which lead him to an empty warehouse where he meets God in the form of Morgan Freeman. God tells Bruce that he is tired of his complaining and offers to give Bruce his Divine powers. Of course, at first Bruce doesn’t believe it but after accomplishing several “miraculous” deeds such as parting his tomato soup in the same manner Moses parted the Red Sea, Bruce is convinced. God reappears and explains to Bruce that he can use his power any way he chooses, but that he cannot tell anyone about it and he cannot alter free will.
Bruce immediately begins to use his powers for personal gains exacting revenge on a street gang that bullied him and trying to impressing Grace. At the same time, however, Bruce begins to hear voices in his head.
Next, Bruce sets out to get his job back by discovering Jimmy Hoffa’s body during the filming of a segment on police training and causing a meteor to land near a chili cook-off that he is covering, earning him the nickname ‘Mr. Exclusive’ and when Bruce causes Evan to mess up on-air, he is finally awarded the coveted anchor position that he has always wanted, and Evan is the one who gets fired.
But the voices in Bruce’s head are becoming louder and louder. God reappears and explains to Bruce the voices are prayers and that he must deal with them or they will simply become more and more persistent. After trying several ways to organize the prayers so that he doesn’t have to hear them constantly, Bruce creates a computerized email-like system to handle the prayers. When he finally checks the email, he is overwhelmed by the number. And each time he answers one prayer, hundreds more appear. Finally, he decides there is no way to handle them all individually so he simple hits, “Yes to all”.
Bruce then goes off to a party to celebrate his promotion to anchor. Grace at first refuses to accompany him, but later shows up just as Bruce’s co-anchor Susan gives him a very passionate kiss. Grace immediately turns around and leaves. Bruce follows and tries to convince her to stay. When she refuses, he tries to use his powers but he cannot influence Grace’s free will, and so she leaves.
But Grace’s departure is only one of the consequences of his behaviour that Bruce must now deal with. The meteor that Bruce caused to strike the earth had resulted in many people believing the Apocalypse had begun and chaos has descended on the city. To make things worst, because he answered yes to all prayers, a huge number of people who prayed the multi-million-dollar lottery all won and when the jackpot was divided up between them, each received approximately seventeen dollars. The entire city breaks down into rioting, looting and chaos. In desperation, Bruce begs God for help. When he explains that he was just giving everyone what they wanted, God replies, “Since when does anyone have a clue about what they really want?”
God then goes on to explain to Bruce that the real miracles of life are not magic. “A single mom who is working two jobs and still finds time to take her kid to soccer practice … that’s a miracle. A teenager who says no to drugs and yes to an education … that’s a miracle.” God then tells Bruce that if he wants to see a miracle, he needs to be the miracle.
Bruce takes God’s words to heart and begins to change the way he behaves, helping total strangers and even giving the anchor position back to Evan. Bruce also decides to unplug his prayer email and let people sort things out on their own. But then he reads on more prayer. This one is from Grace. She asks God to help her forget about Bruce because she still loves him but she doesn’t want to. Loving him simply hurts too much.
Feeling totally helpless, Bruce walks out into the rainy night praying that God will take back his power and that God will decide what is best for Bruce. Unfortunately, Bruce just happens to be praying while kneeling down in the middle of the road. He is hit by a truck.
This time when he faces God, God tells him, “You have a divine spark. You have a gift for bringing joy and laughter to the world. I know, I created you.” Bruce asks what he should do and God tells him to pray but to think about what is really important to him and pray about that.
Bruce prays for Grace, not to get her back, but that she will find someone who will love here the way he should have, someone who will see her, as he does now, through God’s eyes. Bruce wakes up in the hospital, with Grace beside him.
As the movie ends, Bruce has returned to his previous job covering “the lighter side of the news” but he does so with a new appreciation of the stories he tells and with a new joy, not only in life, but in sharing his life with others.
So, what are the lessons for us in this movie? Perhaps it is not so much a lesson to learn, as it is an image of God to explore. Everyone has their own unique understanding of who or what God is. One of the lines that I quoted from last week’s movie Oh God was the response that Jerry received to his question about why God had appeared to him in the form he had. The reply Jerry received was this, “If I appeared to you just as God, how I really am, what I really am, your mind couldn’t grasp it.”
This is why there are so many images of God, because none of could ever fully comprehend even the idea of God. We can only put our understanding of God into terms we are capable of understanding and that understanding come from our own personal experiences.
For me personally, of all the portrayals of God that we are looking at this summer, Morgan Freeman is undoubtedly my favorite. The God that Freeman reveals is not stern and angry, but loving and forgiving. He knows who Bruce is and despite Bruce’s obvious flaws, he loves him. He also has a fantastic sense of humour. This is not a God that jumps in and fixes things or that controls everything like a puppeteer. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know and care about what is going on. He tells Bruce he is getting tired of all the complaining that Bruce does and he’s really starting to get annoyed.
But rather than becoming angry and punishing Bruce, God finds a way to teach and influence Bruce while still allowing him the free will to choose how he will respond. Bruce quickly learns that choices have consequences and he must deal with the consequences of his own actions and the decisions he makes.
Perhaps the truth is that I can relate to Bruce a little more closely that I would like to admit. I know that, at times, the things I choose to do were because I wanted to, not because I believed in any way that they were the right thing to do. And yes, I have ended up paying the consequences for those decisions.
But I also know that when I asked for Divine inspiration to help me make a decision, when I asked for guidance and have chosen to follow that guidance, things always seem to work out better than I could ever have imagined. For me this is perhaps the greatest lesson I see revealed in Bruce Almighty. God is not going to fix things for me or for this world. But if we listen, if we find ways to open ourselves to that Divine Inspiration and that Divine Influence than we may just find things work out even better than we could ever have imagine.
Bruce had to learn to let go of what he wanted, to let go of his desire to be the center of attention, his desire for fame and recognition and all the wealth and status that would come with that. He had to learn to stop thinking only of his own happiness and to start thinking about what would bring the greatest happiness, not just to himself but to others as well. Bruce had to learn not only to trust in the God that he had come to know, but to allow God to help him change how he chose to live.
Like I said, I can relate to Bruce. Like Bruce, there are time I struggle, not only to trust God, but to know the God that I do trust. I struggle to avoid getting caught up in what I want and to remember to ask if the decisions I’m making are really the best decision, not just for me but for everyone. Perhaps this is why this is one of favorite movies.
And if what I have said doesn’t resonate with you don’t worry. There are as many images of God and as many understandings of who or what God is as there are people on this earth. If this image doesn’t work for you, keep searching, because you will find the image of God that truly does resonate with you and when you do, and when you commit yourself to listen for and to follow the inspiration of that image, you can not only change your own life, but you change the world around you. And that truly is an amazing thing to aspire to. Amen.
Let’s Sing Grateful MV#182
We Offer Our Gifts
Whoever we are and whatever we bring, God welcomes us. Whatever we have and whatever we share, God accepts. Here at Beacon we do not pass the offering plates but instead ask that, if you would like to support the work of this church with your financial contributions you place your gift on the plates in the entryway either on your way in or on your way out. You can also donate online or by pre-authorized remittance. And so, whatever gift you bring, financial or not, let us offer them to God.
Offertory Response MV#191
What can I do? What can I bring? What can I say? What can I sing?
I’ll sing with joy. I’ll say a prayer. I’ll bring my love. I’ll do my share.
© Paul Rumbolt and Michele McCarthy used by permission OneLicense #A723756
Divine One we know that we do not always appreciate all that we have been given. There are times we want more. Yet we also know that it is in giving of ourselves and what we have that we receive far more in return. As we offer these gifts to you now, bless us with the joy of knowing that, even if it is only is small ways, what we give matters. Bless us and bless these gifts, we pray. Amen
We Offer Our Prayers
As we offer our gifts, we also offer our prayers. Let us take a moment of silence to offer our own personal prayers for all those whose names have been placed in our prayer jar and all those who are on our own hearts and minds this day along with all those whose concerns and needs are known only to you … Amen
Minute for Mission Learning, Teaching, and Loving
Helping a newcomer transition into Canada is a life-changing experience for everyone involved. From helping someone access health services, to sourcing Halloween costumes, to registering children for school and camp, every little bit helps.
Donna Nelson is no stranger to the hard and rewarding work that comes with welcoming someone to Canada. In the late 1980s, she had recently become a member of The United Church of Canada when her friend Barb asked her to help host two young Vietnamese men through the Regina Open Door Society. “That was all it took to get me hooked,” Donna shares.
At the time, she was a single parent to her four-year-old daughter Vicki. Together, they celebrated birthdays with their new friends, shared meals, visited tourist attractions, and enjoyed good friendship until the men moved to another province.
Since then, Donna has helped host refugees from countries like Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, and Vietnam. Vicki and some newcomers learned Canadian geography together so the newcomers could pass the citizenship test. Donna even taught some newcomers to drive! At times life got busy, but Donna found herself called back to helping families.
Currently, Donna is actively involved with the refugee committee at Knox-Metropolitan United Church in Regina. She says, “The refugee ministry at Knox-Met is one of the most tangible and urgent ministries of welcome the congregation offers. We all benefit with the richness newcomers offer to our city and this community.
“United Churches are so well placed to support refugee families. We have both financial and community connections. It is a collaborative relationship—local congregations welcome families and provide the financial backing, and the national church helps with the bureaucracy. I am grateful to The United Church of Canada and Mission and Service for the support over the years.”
Your gifts to Mission and Service create opportunities for refugee families and church communities to work as partners. Thank you for your generosity.
Prayers of the People
Divine One, you call us to be people of faith, yet we are often people full of doubt.
We doubt that we are worthy of being loved. We hide away who we truly are and try to be what we think we should be, because we fear that if others saw us as we truly are they would walk away. We doubt that we are worthy of your love. We focus on all the things we have done wrong and do not even recognize the times we have allowed you to work through us to show your love to others …
We doubt that there is any real hope for our world. We see the war and violence in Ukraine, in Palestine, in Afghanistan, in Ethiopia, Somalia, Syria and so many other places in our world. We see hunger and starvation around the world, especially in many countries in Africa and in places like Haiti. We see the impoverished in our own country and in our own community who cannot afford fresh, healthy food and instead rely on cheaper, high calorie, low nutrition alternatives …
We worry for our own health and for the health of those we love. We think of the people who are still contracting Covid 19 and those who are suffering long-term effect. We think of those whose health has been affected by smoke from the many fires in our own county and around the world. We think of those dealing with water borne illnesses due to flooding. We think of those suffering from illnesses that could be easily cured if they only had access to medical care and we think of those whose illnesses cannot be cured …
We worry about the future. We worry whether of not our world will survive. We see the devastating effects of pollution, of habitat destruction, and the ongoing and increasing climate crisis. We wonder if it is already too late to save our planet …
Yet you call us to have hope. You call us to believe that we are loved and that we are capable of love. You call us to believe that, even in the midst of fear and violence we can find peaceful ways to decrease conflict, that we can become peace-makers, even if it is only in small ways. You also promise that our small efforts can sometime reap large results. You call us to believe that healing is always possible, even if sometimes that healing is not physical. You call us to believe that, even if it is something very different from what we imagine, there is hope for the future …
Great Mystery, beyond our understanding, you call us to have faith. Help us to do so. Amen.
Let’s Sing One More Step Along the World I Go #639
Who knows what we will find when we leave here today. Who knows where the future will lead us. But the one thing we do know, because we believe, is that no matter where we go or what we do, we are not alone. God is with us, Christ’s example teaches us how to live, and the Spirit that dwell with us and within us is there to guide, comfort and love us each step of the way. Go with God.
Choral Blessing #884
We shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth before you;
There’ll be shouts of joy and all the trees of the field
Will clap, will clap their hands!
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands,
The tress of the field will clap their hands,
The trees of the field will clap their hands
While we go out with joy.
© 1975Lillenas Publishing Company used with permission OneLicense #A723756