I fell in love with Frank Capra’s movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the first time I saw it. The characters were simple, but powerful and the theme called George and the viewers from darkness to hope and celebration. I loved the movie, but the musical version that Bruce and Keith Ferguson put together make the message even more meaningful to me. When I think about the laughter and cheers, applause and tears I witnessed in the audiences over the past two nights, it is obvious that I am not alone in my perception. The incredible music brought the nature of the characters to life and gave tune to their emotions. Nowhere was that more clear than George’s prayer of desperation sung from the iconic image of the old steel bridge.
(First George solo from the bridge.)
This prayer in song captures the pain of wondering if his life had meaning; if his life brought more joy than pain to those around him. The weight of responsibility, expectations, and broken dreams seems more than he can bear. You know people like George; in fact many of you are probably a lot like him. People knew that they could count on George. He is dependable. He is someone you could share your struggle with, the kind of guy that you can go to when things seem dark and difficult. George is a fixer. Give him a problem or a task and he is on his way to addressing the issue – to fix the problem – to address the injustice – to be a voice for the little guy – before you have even finished explaining the situation to him. He has a big heart and broad shoulders. He seem to care about other people more than he does himself; and will give you the shirt of his back, even if he does not have another shirt. We like people like George.
But if they are not careful – if we are not careful – there is a dark side to the story. It creates moments like the one of the bridge. You see, the temptation for George – and for many gathered in this room this morning – is that we try to do it on our own. We become the center of the story and our hard work, our quick wit, or gifts and our skills are supposed to be enough. We are struggle to juggle all the balls in the air and try to make sure that we do not drop any of them. We work as hard as we can, as long as we can, trying to fix the problem – to come up with the solution – to address the issue – until that moment of darkness comes. We are out of energy, out of solutions, out of ideas, out…..of everything and on the edge of crashing. I have to confess that sometimes I struggle with being a George –putting too much weight on my shoulders – claiming too much of the pain and struggle of story as mine. But this really is not the way God has planned for us.
I Peter 2:9-10 tell us; But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…….that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light……Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God….once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. God’s plan is to turn our cry of desperation and isolation into a song of celebration.
Peter claims the language of choseness, or priesthood, of being a holy nation to make it clear that our story is supposed to be immersed in God’s story. He tells us that we are God’s special possession. What an incredible phrase! It means that God is not our fall back plan when we cannot do it on our own, but instead God is supposed to be our primary plan. We belong to God all the time and are valued and special to God all the time. It is easy to be fooled into believing that God loves us and sees us as special when we are doing something heroic or grand. But the reality is that God claims us and calls us special in our moments of grandeur and our moments of utter failure.
Peter says it this way, that we are claimed as God’s special possession or people so that we/you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. God’s plan is to love us so that the darkness of desperation and isolation will be stripped away and be replaced with the God’s redeeming and sustaining light. We are not meant for moments like George’s on the bridge. We get to those places on our own. We get to those places where we depend on ourselves. We get to those places when we make the story our story. We get to those places of darkness and desperation and God calls us out. As sure as Clarence lead’s George through the town to show him what it would have looked like without him so that George could find joy again, God leads us out of the darkness into the light. He does this by making us one of His. Peter cries out, Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. God does this by binding up our woundedness, by forgiving our sin, by redeeming our lives, by filling us with His mercy. Peter cries out, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. God’s mercy rains down – lifting us up and setting us back on our feet. Hear the good news, we can care for others – we can be a shoulder that they can cry on – we can become a voice for the little guy – we can be a good and faithful friend – but we do not have to do it on our own strengthen – but rather we serve and we care out of the bounty of our relationship with God. It is God who moves the mountains. It is God who brings light into the darkness. It is God who brings mercy. It is God who helps a way for those on the outside – those living in darkness, distress, and despair – to become whole again – to be special possession of God – a child of God. The way to a wonderful life is trusting God, even in the difficult moments.
George has a second moment on the bridge when his prayer turns from despair to celebration. Hear what he says to God. (Second George solo from bridge)
Are you ready to claim the wonderful life that God has in store for you? Are you ready to trust God with every part of your life and let God work in you and through you to change your story – and the story of those you touch – to a song of celebration? But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…….that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light……Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God….once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. An incredible life with God awaits you.