September 24th, 2017
Today’s sermon was inspired by a movie. And not by a movie one would normally think could inspire a sermon. This movie, however disturbing to some, contains a message that is powerful, and that I hope those who view it will take with them, instead of just being entertained, or scared, by the awesome job that the actors, producers, and crew did in making it, or Stephen King did in writing the original story. In case, you haven’t guessed, the movie I went to see is simply titled “IT”.
‘Humbling’ is the word Warner Bros. Pictures president and chief content officer Toby Emmerich used to describe watching the box-office returns for ‘IT’ that poured in over its first weekend. This movie broke box-office records. But can God use a horror movie to reach people? I believe God can use any and all means to reach people, and in today’s world, that incorporates a wide variety. Even back in the apostle Paul’s day, he said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22). As I said, “IT” contains a powerful message which Emmerich himself stated is “That if we stick together and friendship is true and real, we can defeat evil.”
I can relate to the children in this movie, the ones that joined together in what they called the “Losers’ Club”. Each was a social outcast for one reason or another. Each was bullied at school. Each had trouble at home. And each was attacked in whatever form it was that they were most afraid of. While their fears differed from each other, they all came to life and were used against them as a weapon by the same shape-shifting demon. Individually they were panic-stricken and powerless against their fear.
As a child, I would often have horrible nightmares. I was scared of the bully that used to torment me when I walked to school. My ‘rite of passage’ into adulthood came in a forced manner when I was 14 years old. And although I had faith in God, my fears would often get the better of me and made life a not very fun place to be. I would have fit right into the movie’s Losers’ Club.
Billy, the leader of the club in the movie, stuttered when he spoke. The demonic entity in “IT” killed his little brother, whom he loved dearly. But as the movie progresses, and the losers band together to defeat this shape-shifting demon, Billy grows stronger and starts to speak without stuttering. One by one, each child faces their personal fears and ultimately overcomes them. And together they send the demon wounded and defeated (at least temporarily) back to his place of hiding. And this victory, and how it was achieved, is summed up beautifully on the cast on the broken arm of one of the children, Eddie, on which the only kid at school that ever signed it wrote ‘LOSER’, but we see it later in the movie where the S has a large red V written over it, so now it says ‘LOVER’.
Indeed, the way to overcome being a loser is through love. And the only true and lasting way to defeat both fear and evil is through love. Love is stronger than fear. The Bible says in 1 John chapter 4 that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). The same chapter also declares that God is love (vs 8), and since we as Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, we possess that perfect love. Unfortunately we may suppress it at times, but it is there. And we must always remember that it – love - (not Stephen King’s “IT”) is the most powerful force in the universe. For we are also reminded in that same chapter that the demons cannot stand against us, as John says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
And if each individual Christian possesses the extraordinary power of love through the Holy Spirit, just imagine the immense power we possess when we are together! Beverly, the only female member of the group, realized the tactic of “IT”, when she exclaimed, “It wants to divide us!” And Billy tells the group, “If we stick together, all of us, we’ll win.” How true that is in our Christian life. The enemy, Satan and his demons, know that if they can divide us, if they can separate the weak ones from the herd, they will have an easier target. But if we stick together as a church, if we love each other as Christ loves us, if we help each other through our fears, our weaknesses, and our trials in this life, we will be a formidable adversary to the forces of evil that hate our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore hate us as well. We will rise above everything and everyone that tries to tear us down, that speaks falsehoods both to us and about us, and that has the ultimate goal of destroying us entirely. No matter what shape the demons take in our personal lives, having the Holy Spirit within us, and our friends around us - praying for us, encouraging us, and standing with us - will get us through this life unscathed, and into the next one with our faith intact, our hope undaunted, and our love victorious.
So let us put aside any minor differences, petty disputes, and grievances we might bear, and band together as the Lord’s army in this world, battling the forces of evil that wage war on our souls, and that do all in their power to keep as many as possible out of the Kingdom of God to instead share in their suffering and despair for all eternity. Amen.
Each child's biggest fear was written on a red balloon (in "IT", a red balloon announced the presence of the demon), and they popped it with a pin to destroy their fear. They were also given the following poem:
With Jesus I'm never a loser,
With Him I am never alone,
Christian brothers and sisters stand with me,
We cannot fight on our own.
Evil is all around us,
But we aren't afraid anymore,
Because we are stronger together,
And together we will win the war!