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“Faith on Film: The Princess Bride”

“Faith on Film: The Princess Bride”

July 17, 2022 - Cobleskill United Methodist Church , Pastor Anna Blinn Cole

1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Romans 8:35-38

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Romans 8:35-39

Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, We are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter. But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.

It is so good to be back with you all this Sunday after being on a big family and friend reunion trip to Kansas and Michigan for the past two Sundays. I was talking with someone yesterday about weeks when we don’t get to be here in church. We both agreed that it feels like something is just missing in our week when we can’t begin it in worship here with our church family. I truly am glad to be back in this space and in your company as worship God together today. I am grateful to John for his leadership here two weeks ago and to the Rev. Beth Quick who preached last week and led one of her beautiful sung communion liturgies. God is good.

And so here we are already in the middle of July. The summer is in full swing and we are diving into a new summer worship series. One of the things I love about summer is the chance to do something a little bit more light-hearted in worship. And so this week we are starting a “Summer at the Movies” series for two reasons. #1 It’s fun to watch movies together on the lawn every Friday night, am I right? But because this is church we have a second, more serious reason, too. Our “Summer at the Movies” series is a chance to test a theory I like to call: God can be found everywhere if we just look.

It goes like this: we take popular, well-known movies that on the surface have absolutely nothing to do with God or Jesus or Christianity or anything overtly religious and we watch them together with new eyes, kind of like we’re code-breakers…. Looking for messages about life that God might be teaching us through an ordinary thing like a movie. Just like we talked about with the stool a moment ago, God can use lots of ways to talk to us. Yeah, a lot of times it’s through Bible stories, but other times God might be speaking to us through more ordinary, everyday ways, like songs on the radio, lessons we learn in school about science or social studies, revelations we have while on a hike in the woods, or in the stories our grandparents pass down to us. God can be found everywhere because God is in everything. But are we paying attention?

So let’s be code-breakers and see what kind of message God might be trying to be get through in a movie like… The Princess Bride. I admit, I had not seen this 1980s classic until Friday night when we showed it out on the lawn and it was, well, it was apparent why it has become known as both a classic and a cult classic. It has some enchanting characters and highly quotable dialogues.

In fact, if you know and love a person from Generation X, you’ve probably heard one of them quote this movie even if you didn’t realize it at the time. From, “Inconceivable!” to “Have fun stormin’ the castle!” to “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” this movie has a lot of memorable sayings that made so much more sense to me now having seen the movie. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a preacher begin a wedding rehearsal with the famous line, “Mah-wage! Mah-wage!” just like the priest in the movie.

But it’s not just a bunch of great one-liners, The Princess Bride is a classic tale of good versus evil and a quest for true love. If, like me, you have somehow made it through most of your life without seeing the movie, I’ll give you a brief recap.

The story begins is this boy who’s probably 10 or 11. He’s stuck inside while being sick and his grandfather visits to read him a fairytale that has been passed down from his grandfather to his father to him, and he passed it down to his son and now he’s passing it down to his grandson. The fairy tale is a story about fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love and miracles as farm boy Westley returns from years at sea to find his true love, Buttercup, in an arranged marriage the mean and evil Prince Humperdink. Westley tries to rescue Buttercup from this marriage arrangement, but keeps running into… obstacles. Finally, with the help of an unlikely group of bandits, Westley rescues Buttercup just in the nick of time and… they all live happily ever after.

Okay, so one thing you have to understand is that the movie is a parody of sorts. It takes common fairytale themes and exaggerates them to be funny almost to the point of absurdity. But even in the midst of the humor, there seem to be three salient, more serious Truths with a capitol T. In other words, I found at least three messages that connect to God and remind me of what’s most important in our lives.

The first one:

Old Stories and The People who tell them matter

One of the things that makes this exaggerated fairytale even remotely relatable, is the way it’s being narrated by the grandfather. At the beginning, the grandson is not very excited about hearing a “fairytale” when we could be watching sports on TV. But this was great because at all the parts where I myself was about to roll my eyes at the silliness of the fairytale, the grandson interrupts the story with skepticism, taking the words right out of my mouth. “Hold it, Hold it, Hold it. When does this get good?” But what happens as the story goes on is that the grandson gets more and more interested in the story and attached to the characters, even to the point of being anxious when the main character appears to have died. That’s the power of a good story, and the grandpa knew it.

Our parents and grandparents have a lot to teach us, if we let them. Stay connected with your family. Hear the stories they have to tell. Listen to their advice. You might find it more interesting than you first imagined. And more than likely, they are using stories as a way of saying they love you. If you have someone like this in your life, let them know how grateful you are for them.

The second message from God that can be decoded from The Princess Bride is that

Life isn’t fair.

Time after time in this fairytale, things don’t go as planned. Two young people in love are separated at the beginning of the movie. One of them is presumed dead. The other, even though she feels like she can never love again, gets put into an arranged marriage because she feels like she has no options. And when the young man does actually return for the woman, so many things go wrong as he tries to free her from the arranged marriage. There are sword fights, fire swamps, rodents of unusual size, torture chambers, and so on so forth. For me this theme is an important one in the movie because it mimics real life. I mean, we don’t have rodents of unusual size, but know what it’s like to feel like life isn’t fair. We have our own obstacles that make it feel hard to keep going. And so that’s why this next and last point is the best one.

The third message from God that can be decoded is this:

God’s love will always find a way.

One of my favorite scenes in this movie is when Westley and Buttercup have just been reunited. Their future is far from settled at this point, but for one moment they are simply happy to be alive and together.

Westley: I told you I would always come for you. Why didn't you wait for me?

Buttercup: Well... you were dead.

Westley: Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.

Buttercup: I will never doubt again.

Westley: There will never be a need.

Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while. This line struck me as a strong message from and about God. In fact, we even hear it echoed in our scripture reading today. What can stop true love? What can separate us from God’s true love? “Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created.” For this reason, we are encouraged to keep the faith, even when hard things happen in our life and obstacles keep blocking our path. God’s love will always find a way.

Like we see with Jesus, not only did death not his stop true love, his death was the ultimate act of true love. And because even death couldn’t stop God’s love, we have no need to ever doubt.

No matter the depths of despair this life might drag us through, no matter the trials of the heartbreak, we too can go from saying, “I will never love again,” to, “I will never need to doubt again.” That’s true “wove,” as the priest would say. That’s the love God has for us. A love that, even if it may look or feel like it’s gone, never has left and never will.

So, where do turn when we want to know about God’s Truth in our lives? Do we turn to movies alone? Definitely not. But can the stories we tell and the experiences we have in life add to what we already know from the Bible and our tradition and reinforce what we do know about God? Absolutely. I hope you’ll remember from today that old stories and the people who tell them are important. I hope you’ll remember that life will have its fair share of unpleasantries, but that in the midst of it all God’s love for you is true and that nothing, not death, or pain, or doubt, or rodents of any size, can ever separate you from that love. God is always chasing after us, following us into every fire swamp, and loving us back from the brink each and every time.

Let us pray.

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