"Beauty & the Beast"
I'm using the sermon starters written by
Mary Scifres for a fun little series called
the Gospel according to "Beauty and the
Beast." This is from last Sunday. I hope it
touches your heart.
"Beauty & the Beast"
You have come to ze village! It is a place of welcoming smiles and tasty bread. In the town we have characters such as the inventor, the book man, and handsome young man, Gaston. He has determined he will marry Belle, the inventor’s daughter.
There’s Belle now, being greeted by the grinning townsfolk as she walks with her nose in a book. Se
Our Belle, she is beautiful, no? She is, also, so peculiar!
And, Belle, she’s thinking “What more is there for me? Where’s my adventure?”
The only adventure being offered is Gaston, a brutish man who does not share her appreciation for books or conversation or anything for that matter.
Give me back my book and leave me alone, shouts and then sings: “there must be more than this provincial life!”
Ah, yes, the desire for something deeper than a gleeful greeting! The soul is not content with village play. It, rather, desires to be known and loved.
But how do we find our way there? Not through the instructions you might find in Cosmopolitan, of that I am sure. The crowd holds no answers. But the answer is there…there in the castle.
Be our guest! Welcome to the series on the gospel of Beauty and the Beast.
Both the townsfolk in Beauty and the Beast and the crowd in the Bible are most capricious creatures. In Jesus’ village of Nazareth, the crowd is, at first, excited about their hometown boy, interrupting him to cry out, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Well, Jesus just got done saying he’s the one Isaiah writes about so is quite a bit angered by the comment. “People of Nazareth….I’m so much more!” So, Jesus, goes into a lengthy rant against them, saying such things like “you are the lepers
who were not healed because, like the unhealed lepers, you do not believe.” Then the capricious crowd gathers and tries to toss him off the cliff…which is…wait for it…Overkill!
Likewise, the townspeople of Beauty and the Beast, with such friendly faces in the light, turn hostile when, one night, they see a picture of the Beast. Gaston, seeing a chance to be a hero, stokes the flames of fear. Not long after, he leads the crowd as they march into the night singing “kill the beast.” Fear casts out the light. Fear attaches to stereotypes and tropes. Fear clouds our ability to see what is peculiar.
The gospel takes root, not in conformity to crowds, but in the peculiarity of personhood.
Luke, the master storyteller, makes this point by not having a large crowd gather during the presentation of Jesus.
Contrast it to the picture of Simba in the Lion King where all the animals of the plain gather to watch Simba’s presentation. In the gospel of Luke, no giraffes bow to king Jesus. It is a shame because giraffes in Bethlehem would have been cool. “Away in the manger, we saw the giraffes head. Move out you donkeys, Jesus wants rhinos instead. Bless all the dear critters who come to his bed. See, Jesus lay smiling, there’s room in the shed.” It could have been a Christmas favorite, except no such menagerie, no crowd, greets Jesus.
He comes into the world, seen, and celebrated by a few shepherds.
And, when the time comes for his presentation, it happens inside, with a few peculiar people. There is Ana, a prophetess, who upon seeing Jesus starts announcing the
redemption of Israel has finally come. And there is Simeon, another temple resident, who dedicates Jesus and then announces his work on earth is done: “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace…for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples!” And, Simeon dances out of the room to die.
For Beauty to find her way, she has to get out of the village, away from the crowd. For Jesus to lead the way, he has to get out of Galilee. And, you…? Well likely you left your village behind long ago. But the voice of the village is still part of you, trying to push you this way and that, fit you into something they understand, and make you less peculiar.
We know that isn’t the way of Jesus.
Jesus calls people out: the disciples out of their boats, Zacchaeus out of his hiding place, and the woman at the well out of pretending to be normal. The call of these peculiar people was unexpected and swift. And, yet, like our Belle, the seeds of change had been planted long ago. I suspect the disciples were not happy tending to their father’s nets. Short Zacchaeus, is so unconcerned about his work, that he gives it no thought to climb up a tree to see Jesus! And, the woman at the well, when this strange man asks her to draw him some water, reveals she is sassy and smart. We start to see her. She knows she’s been seen for her evangelism is to “come and see the one who knew everything I did.”
How does Jesus call you out these days?
Belle is called out of the town when her loony father doesn’t come home. He gets caught up in a storm and enters the castle of the beast. The beast has been hiding for years and is angry that this old fool has “seen” him. So he puts him into prison.
Belle finds the castle, finds her father, and the beast appears.
Belle did not choose this adventure. She has only a moment to decide to give herself for her father’s freedom. She makes a decision of the heart. When she agrees to stay with the beast, the deal is sealed.
Her adventure begins in the confines of the castle. But there is a whole lot more in the castle than just an angry beast. There is another community motivated by love. At the center of the Beast’s quarters is a rose. It marks the time of the spell by falling petals. if Beast can love and be loved, he and his servants become human again. But, he must do so before the last petal falls. Love makes us human.
This peculiar community commits itself to helping Beast love and helping Belle see beyond the Beast. Inanimate objects come alive. The candlestick is the host. The alarm clock watches out for trouble. The tea kettle comforts the Beast and Belle.
They are like Anna and Simeon, those who await the one to redeem them. They see in Belle one who can change the Beast; one who can save them. Unlike Anna and Simeon, they don’t just dance out of the story. Instead, they commit themselves to separating the beast from his anger and shame so he can love. At the same time, they create a place of safety for Belle to move beyond her fear so she can open to love.
For those of us looking for more than smiling faces, who want to live a deeper life, it helps us to find safe community where we can open to love. What makes it safe? Well, when the Beast explodes, the animate objects don’t shame him. Instead, they encourage him to try again. When Belle is brought home after almost dying from the wolves in her attempt to escape, they welcome her home with tea, a fire, and tenderness. And, they keep believing, keep hope alive. When the Beast is ready to give up, they convince him to dress up. They provide the feast.
This is the kind of village that casts out anger and lets love bloom. It sees the individual and responds to their needs. It hopes, it encourages, it lifts up what is good in the expectation that an individual can be redeemed. They can choose a way that brings life, the way of love.
There are many a closed heart out there; people who have given up. They see the beast (debt, loss, an impossible situation) . Their lives feel dark and cold. They are afraid. For some, the shame inside makes them the beast they hate because they hurt.
In the story, both the Beast and the Beauty run from one another. The Beast, who wants more than anything to know love, pushes away with his anger. And, Belle, who wants more than false smiles runs away before her heart can get involved.
Do you identify with one more than the other? Do we have some beasts? Do we have some Belles?
The church is God’s community that allows you to give up the anger that makes you like the Beast; and the fears that make you like Belle. We could call Monica our alarm clock, and Jeannie our candlestick host, and Elnora our Angela Langsbury tea pot. You all have your place in God’s story of love.
If you feel like you are in a dark place, cold, and alone…stand still until your eyes adjust and you can see the glory that is all around.
If you are reacting out of frustration and anger ignited by a present event that touches a past hurt…replace the chattering village with songs of praise and the songs of God.
If you long to be seen and known and loved…follow where God leads—the metaphor of Disney is the heart. The heart doesn’t need to mean we act out of pure emotion.
That’s what the village does when they shout “kill the beast.” The heart is a symbol of connection, of deep love. God wants you to know that kind of love. So...let God lead. And the stars will shine brighter as the spells that keep us apart melt away and we will know love. . .