Coming Soon To A Theater Near You

The bucket of popcorn is already halfway empty, the buttery hands leaving a trail up your shirt that will remain unnoticed until standing to leave after the feature film is finished. But there is a pause, a silencing in the theater as the lights dim, and the screen flashes up some something that is meant to awaken your imagination, create a curiosity, and wet an appetite for more.

It’s the movie trailers.

They’re not the reason you came, but they may very well be the reason you come back. They take the best scenes of a movie, give you enough of the storyline without, hopefully, giving away too much of the plot. It’s an invitation to come see the real thing, enough of the story where you will not be satisfied with just the teaser. You have to see the movie when it come’s out.

They’re meant to illicit a response from you, and those you’re with. A good response is squeezing the knee of the person next to you in an affirming way that says “We’re going!”. It’s a glance over at the other person’s face to see if they’re “getting it” like you are. It’s an elbow to their shoulder that says “Let’s talk about this later, because I don’t want to miss that one!” Normally there is one that stands out from the others, and these days it’s not unusual to see 5 or more (thus the half-empty bucket of popcorn), so they’re even competing against each other for your attention.

And for your heart.

To be sure, there are ones that cause you to roll your eyes, or to turn away in disgust and boredom. There are ones so bland that you may even use it as an excuse to get your refill, or to use the bathroom one more time before the main attraction starts. There is nothing about the plot, the storyline, the actors, or the production that catches the eye, much less the heart. And out of the 871 new movies released in the U.S. and Canada last year alone, the truth is, very few actually stir the soul. Indeed, they tend to just add to the noise that threaten to crowd out the few good stories that are released. Most are forgettable.

I wonder, what type of trailers our lives are? I mean, as followers of Jesus, I wonder if we’re more inclined to cause elbow jabs, or initiate eye rolling? Do we awaken curiosity of the bigger story, the real story, or do we offer excuses for others to tune out?

There is a verse in Acts that describes two other followers of Jesus. It says “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) Translation? They were awesome trailers for an epic story. It forced the people observing them to slam some elbows into their friends’ shoulders to make sure they were watching this. It invited them into a bigger story, because they in themselves were not the whole story, being uneducated and common men. There was a Hero being unveiled, if you will, that made it so astonishing. People recognized that they had been with Jesus.

They didn’t just see it in their lives. They heard it from their mouths as well. The two verses right before this has them declaring “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12) They saw their role as being ones who both display and declare a greater story of the Hero who literally saves the world. Sometimes the crowds mistook them for the main story, like thinking they were greek gods, but they were quick to correct that. Elsewhere they were described as “these men who have turned the world upside down”, and yet it was because they stayed true to their role, making much of the story of the true Hero.

Peter would write years later to those who were scattered throughout the empire due to persecution this encouragement: “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at he expense of your soul. (in other words, don’t make this movie about yourself) Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” (1 Peter 2:11-12 MSG) He’s telling us to live our lives in such a way where there is interest in the who, where, what, why, and when of the grander story. Because when people encounter Jesus, it’s life changing.

And that’s fun to watch.

I’ll buy the popcorn.