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Acting Lessons

The Rev. Joseph Winston

March 9, 2011

Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus
It sometimes seems that everyone loves a good show. Whether it is live theater
here in our own community or some place else out of town, people enjoy watching
acting. “Phantom of the Opera,” “The Lion King,” and “Wicked” are currently the
top three shows on Broadway. The money these three bring in to this country is
absolutely staggering. Since they opened several years ago, these powerhouses
have raked in more than two billion (That is billion with a “B.”) dollars. Movies
have not done poorly for themselves either. Last year, “Americans” purchased a
little less than one billion tickets. This poured almost seven and one half billion
dollars into the world’s economy.
The titles for the most popular movies for the past ten years are revealing. In
2010, we went to see “Toy Story 3” and the year before it was “Transformers.” The
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians
1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3.

hit in 2008 was “Dark Knight” and in 2007 “Spider-Man 3.” 2006 brought another
entry in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series and 2005 continued the theme with
yet another franchise with “The Revenge of the Sith.” Obviously, 2004 did not
want to be left out of the action and it gave us the second movie with Shrek as the
leading actor. Its clever title was “Shrek 2.” We watched “Finding Nemo” in 2003,
the first “Spider-Man” movie in 2002, and “Harry Potter” in 2001.
Besides our obvious passion for reoccurring actors in familiar roles, all of
these hit movies along with the Broadway plays share own common feature. We
want to watch fantasies. Yes, some fall into the subcategory of drama or action-
adventure, but the same basic fact remains. Overwhelmingly, we like indulging
our imaginations.
We all know what parts of our body this type of show touches. When the going
gets tough for the hero or heroine, we become worried or even scared. We feel this
emotion (Where?) in our heart. Love happens in the same place. Our hearts hope
that everything works out for the best. Sadness is no different than before. Our
hearts break when things do not turn out as they should. If some character must
reason their way out of a situation, they use their brain to find a solution to the
problem facing them.
It is only natural for us to think (in our heads) that everyone who ever lived
acted or even thought just like us. Unfortunately, that is not true. Not every civi-
lization on the earth uses their brain (up here) to resolve issues. The people during
the time of the Bible considered the place where all reasoning happens is (right
here) in the heart. The head for the Jews was the seat of self-control. An absolutely

accurate description of what is wrong with our society is that we no longer have
a place for our conscience. Emotions in our worldview happen in our hearts. For
the Jews and other cultures of the time, feelings live down in your guts. We still
retain a part of this idea. We sometimes say that when you are nervous, you have
butterflies in your stomach.
With that understanding that the head is your guide for life, your heart is where
you think, and your stomach moves with your feelings, it is time to turn to the Old
Testament lesson.
It would not be far from the truth to say that the people of God described here
were very upset and they could feel it since their stomachs were upset. They had
been warned in advance. An attack to end all attacks is coming their way. And if
that is not enough distress for anyone to face, consider this fact. God is in charge
of this foreign army.
Before you have a chance to discount this aggressive strike force by saying it
is nothing more than a plague of locusts, keep this in mind (in your heart). Israel
is an agricultural community and this many locusts will completely wipe out all
the grass in the country. There will be no pastures for horses, cattle, goats, or
even sheep. They will starve and then die. This directly hurts the all people. These
animals will not be able to provide protection, food to eat, and clothes to wear.
Green fields of grass are not the only plant product that locusts eat. They will
consume the wheat in the field and the barn, the grapes along with the vines, and
all of the olive tree. For the nation, hunger will be a constant companion. In turn,
malnutrition means people will die. This is the reality they must face.

With the sentinels warning the people, the prophet of God tells them they
have a choice. Either they can do something to minimize the damage this army
will cause or they can do something else altogether. The prophet expects Israel
to select the second option, so he tells them what they must do. Give up eating
is the first demand. On the surface, this is a crazy idea. A battle is near and you
need every bit of your energy to fight. But the prophet says no. By fasting, you
have more time to pray. This is the second part of the plan. Call everyone together.
Remind them this is not a time of celebration. Rather, what faces the people is a
time of reflection. They need to ask, “Why is God doing this?” The old, the young,
the babies, and even the newly married must answer this question.2
Two famous actors, Groucho Marx and George Burns, were reported to say
something like this, “If you can fake sincerity, then you have it made.” There is a
lot of truth to that quote that nobody knows who really said it first. Accurately pro-
jecting your feelings across the stage or the screen to your audience wins awards
for both actors and actresses. If you happen to find that right mixture of subject,
director, and cast, you can make lots of money. We saw that played out last year
in nine point five billion dollar taken in by shows of all kinds.
The same saying of acting for an audience holds true in real life. We all know
God has already provided all the people of Israel with the reason why He is sending this
plague on the people. They have left the L ORD. So, the prophet first tells them to come back “with
all your heart (Joel 2:12).” This is not a plea for them to put aside feelings for God. Instead, when
your heart is where you think, the L ORD wants the people to start remembering their actions and
how this has caused God to react. Next, Joel commands, “end your hearts and not your clothing
(Joel 2:13).” Tearing your heart into two is not about being heartbroken over what might occur if
the worst possible thing happens. Making a clean break with the past is what this phrase really

people who play along to get along. When everyone is in the same room, they are
all on the same page but when backs are turned, different opinions start to come
out. We see this happening in office meetings and around the dinner table.
It should come as no surprise that what happens out there occurs in churches
all over the world. Divisions between groups harden when we say one thing but
do another. Maybe that is why the prophet Joel asks the people to have a heart for
In our day and age, when we hear that you should have a heart for God, your
mind almost instinctively tells you exactly what this means. You need to possess
the proper emotions that would include sadness for what you have down wrong
and happiness because Jesus loves you. While there is nothing wrong with these
feelings that all Christians have to one degree or another, but there is a serious
problem with the assumption that the whole world is just like us. It is not. The
heart for the people of the Bible is the place where you think. A heart for God then
is a person who uses their God given intellect in a way that pleases the L ORD.
Alarms of all sorts should be flashing in your head (or is that heart) about right
now. Here is the reason why. Feeling happy or sad, loved or rejected, or any of
the countless range of emotions that humans possess is something you do. This
cannot be the Good News because it requires an action on your part. Thinking,
reasoning, or any of the other synonyms for what you do in your head (or is that
heart) fails the same test. It is a work that you perform.
Even if you will not accept the truth that feelings and thoughts are something
that happen through your own power, consider this. What is the color of your

heart? Is it pure white or does it have a little stain some place where no one else
can see? I am willing to bet that your heart is just like mine. It is dirty from all the
bad choices that I made.
Who would want a heart like this? Who would take me as I am but would not
be content to leave me here? Who would give me another chance? Jesus is His
That is the reason you are here today/tonight. Jesus came into your life. He
took your heart, washed it clean, and then set you on the path of life. If anyone else
just one time would help you like this, it would be a miracle worth celebrating.
Twice would be unheard of. Thrice never happens in the real world. Yet, you
believe, because you have seen it with your own eyes, that Jesus does this not
once, not twice, not even three times but constantly helps you by removing the
stains you gave yourself and then points you one more time to what brings real
With Jesus doing all of this work for you, you no longer have to act as before.
You now have time for others. You can pray for them. You can help them. You can
keep the discipline of Lent. All these things and even more you do because Jesus
frees you from the future you chose for yourself.
Take a long look at the box office receipts and you will know we are a nation
that loves to watch acting. Look a little closer at the titles of the blockbusters and
you will soon realize that we are a country that likes to escape the harsh realities
of life.
Followers of Jesus do not have that luxury of leaving the real world. God called

each of you to be disciples of Christ. The L ORD brought you to this place known
as Zion Lutheran Church. Jesus gave you a task. Go, teach, make new people fall
in love with Jesus, and welcome them into the church.
This work is not easy. It was not for the Son of God and it will be the same
for you. You take this assignment from God with gladness because it means you
can share something very precious with others. You can give the life first given to
“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and
minds through Christ Jesus.”3

Philippians 4:7.

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