Just look up!
Hey, it’s a Friday! I only realised this when I opened my Gmail account to find an email from Alexia, reminding me of all the wonderful things she can do for me. Each Friday. Oops. So here goes. We watched a great movie last night from Netflix, Don’t look up. It’s a “We-are-about-to-be wiped-out-by-a-comet” film, not my normal genre. In fact, I well recall watching Armageddon, the 1998 American science fiction disaster film. I had no choice – it was the in-flight move on Monarch airlines. So along with my fellow passengers from Tel-Aviv we saw how the space shuttle crashlands on the asteroid, its wings being torn off and its fuselage ripped apart, watching at some 38000 feet! However, what drew me to Don’t look up was its stellar cast list: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett (who in character is unrecognisable), Meryl Streep and especially Mark Rylance. If Rylance is in it, it must be worth watching. Now I don’t want to give anything away, except for its genre – which you will soon establish within the first five minutes. It is dark comedy, a satirical take on contemporary US culture. If you liked Fargo and especially Dr Strangelove, you will love this! The film features two astronomers who are trying to warn the US president and the public about an approaching comet set to destroy our planet within six months. Just think climate change. The reactions to this impending disaster are the same as being hit by comet Dibiasky. As one reviewer observed: “Every disaster movie starts with the government ignoring a scientist.” Not just the government, sadly, but popular culture refusing to face up to the facts – which, of course, are disputed. This refusal to respond to warnings of a calamitous future is a key theme of the Bible. Take Jeremiah, the Hebrew prophet who over forty years did his best to warn the people of Israel of the consequences of failing to keep their side of the covenant with the Lord God of Israel. He failed So beginning in about 626 BC, in the thirteenth year of Josiah, king of Judah Jeremiah proclaims: “‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt— you have rebelled against the Lord your God, you have scattered your favours to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,’” declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 3:12f) No one took any notice – and Jeremiah paid for his steadfast refusal to abandon his prophetic calling. Such was the resistance to God’s word in the life of the people of Israel that some prophets took to extreme measures to gain people’s attention. Ezekiel has to be the leading candidate. So God tells him to lay on his left side for 390 days, the same number as the years of his people’s sins against God. (Ezekiel 4:4). Less demanding but no less strange in cutting off his hair to burn one third of it, chop one third and scattering to the wind the final third. (Ezekiel 5:1-4). In other words, do anything to get the people just to listen, as the character played by Jennifer Lawrence is seen, like Ezekiel, with a serious bi-polar disorder. However, it is Jesus above all who does his best to warn the people of their need to return to the Lord their God. How often does he speak of ‘this generation’, those who are to witness the final and most urgent appeal of God to turn to him. So Jesus speaks: “Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:36f) The big question, which arguably is the main theme for the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, is “Why do people choose to ignore God’s warnings, his pleas for them to change their way of thinking and trust him?" I guess the simple answer is “That’s human nature, it’s what we do.” We prefer to hold on to the familiar, even if we’re told the familiar is about to pass away; we find radical change difficult, we avoid thinking too hard about the future in case it impinges upon our present. Hence the clear message of Don’t look up is the urgent need to look up. So as we begin a new year, a resolve – at least for ourselves as individuals. So as Paul writes to the Colossians, he writes to us: “Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.” (Colossians 3:1f, the Message translation, of course)