Answering God’s Call—Family, Tribe and Community
Summer Series – God on Broadway
The Lion King
I Samuel 3:1-9
August 9, 2015
Rev. Cynthia Cochran-Carney,
Willow Grove Presbyterian Church,
Scotch Plains, New Jersey
1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. 2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6 The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ ” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. ( I Samuel 3:1-9)
The Lion King. Like most parents, we bought the VHS of the movie and watched it many times with the boys. One of the greatest experiences we had as a family was going to see The Lion King on Broadway in 2008. We knew the boys would enjoy it because they knew the story. I was so moved by the production – the costumes, the puppetry for the animals, the sets. It was magical. After intermission actors came into the audience with beautiful bird kites on long poles and the birds flew above us. I think I will work on creating that for Pentecost Sunday for next year!
Opening song: Circle of Life… Baptism
The opening scene of the movie and musical is rich with Christian symbolism. I see an expression of Baptism. An anointing of a child. The child is presented, the clouds open reminding us of the story of Jesus’ Baptism where the heavens open and the voice of God speaks; “this is my son, my beloved.” That’s how we come into the community of faith. The community celebrating and giving thanks for the gift of this child.
Clip – Opening Scene https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zLx_JtcQVI
It is the story of paradise. That is what the savannah is at the beginning of this movie. The order of everything is as it should be. It is the story of a father and a son. In one of the opening scenes, the protagonist Mufassa (the Lion King) tells his son that, as the future King, he will have limitations and responsibilities. Mufassa is shaping his son…his identity, his awareness of his calling to be the next Lion King of the Pridelands.
The goal of a parent and as a church family is to help our children know they are loved, and to let them know they are children of God and loved by their God. We shape them. We teach them will have limitations and responsibilities. And we help them discover their calling, their purpose. For some the calling may be clear. Most of us need to discover our callings.
Samuel was called by God. He was called by God to be a priest. To serve in the temple. He was only a boy. Not really expecting this word from God so early.
Paul said he was called by God. He is not a leader because of his ego or popularity
But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being ( Galatians 1:15-16)
Sometimes we looking ahead to a future hope and dream and calling. Sometimes only by looking back can we see how God called us. Role, sometimes work, sometimes a way to use our gifts.
As the story unfolds, Simba is excited about being king. He can’t wait. He is called. Simba was anxious. Even bragging.
Song – Just Can’t Wait to be King https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdZTLR4pvBY
Mufassa tells the young cub, Simba, there are some things to do and some things not to do. And what does Simba do? Exactly what his father tells him not to do. A familiar story in the Bible and life.
Scar tells Simba of the elephant graveyard…
Scar tells Simba of the elephant graveyard. Simba was told by his parents never to go there, but he goes. Scar represents the shadow side. He is jealous, has a lust for power and control. He wants to be king and he will pursue at any cost. Maybe he is meant to show us a little bit of ourselves…what happens to us when our desires are not checked by God’s call to love Him and love others. Scar is tempter, the evil one, the one who tricks and deceives.
There is some guidance for us in I Peter 5:8-9. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” Resist, stand firm in the faith. Are we being alert? Are we resisting forces that lead us away from God? How does Scar show up in our lives?
Mufasa is upset and angry that Simba disobeyed him. Simba says that he was only trying to be brave like his father. Mufasa explains that he is only brave when he has to be, and that bravery does not mean recklessly seeking out danger. Simba asks whether he and his father will always be together, causing Mufasa to look up to the night sky and tell Simba about the Great Kings of the Past and how they guide and watch over everything. Mufasa tells Simba that he will always be there for him.
Song – They Live in You https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB0luULiZRk
As Christians, we remember the image of the Cloud of Witnesses – those brothers and sisters in Christ that have gone before us. A sense of their influence. We are not alone. We draw from their wisdom and faith.
The situation is set up where Scar plans to kill his brother and Simba and become king himself. Scar begins a stampede of wildebeest. Simba is almost killed. Mufassa is killed in the stampede.
Death of Mufassa…
The Father gives his life for his son. Scar says to Simba, “You did it…..it’s your fault. Run away. What would you say to your mother? You can never be forgiven.”
Simba runs into two characters, a Warthog and a Meerkat who give Simba a new way of looking a life. Don’t worry….be happy. Forget your responsibilities. A bit like the prodigal son. There is a song: “Hakuna mattata”… They sing about just be happy, a worry-free philosophy. Worrying is not good for us, but maybe these are not such great friends. Never take responsibility. Don’t worry about anything. Do worry about your calling. Just live today.
Eventually like the prodigal son, Simba, comes to his senses.
Then he Remembers – Scene with father…
The story is about the maturing of Simba, the young prince . In a crucial conversion scene, he realizes his negligence and chooses to return and face his fate. The conversion scene is brilliant. When Simba is confronted with his father’s ghost, he isn’t convicted of any specific wrongdoing. Instead, Mufasa confronts Simba with the state of their relationship. Adult Simba is alone at night.
Adult Simba: Father?
Mufasa’s ghost: [appears among the stars] Simba, you have forgotten me.
Adult Simba: No. How could I?
Mufasa’s ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.
Adult Simba: How can I go back? I’m not who I used to be.
Mufasa’s Ghost: [Now fully formed in the sky] Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king. Remember who you are.
Remember who you are – made in the image of God. Baptized. We were made to be God’s sons and daughters, and when we act from that identity, we act in accord with who we were made to be. Simba’s greatest failing is not that he fled, but that in doing so he failed his father and turned his back on who his father shaped him to be.
Simba’s character echoes biblical characters
Moses – Both Simba and Moses run away, they run away into a desert like area, and then they both return to save their people.
Samuel – They are both called. They both have a higher purpose of leadership. God speaks to Samuel at night. Simba – his father speaks to him at night.
Jesus -In some ways Simba is a hero, even savior. His community is suffering. Their communities are on the wrong path. He comes back to show them life and hope and to lead them.
Finale of Lion King
Scar wanted Simba to live with guilt and regret. Scar represents the Evil One whose job is the accuser……..he accuses us too….you are unredeemable, unforgivable. But that’s not what God says. God says your worth is immeasurable and forgiveness is yours when you ask for it.
Simba comes back home and takes his place, fulfills his calling and restores life for his community. The mystery of Circle of Life continues.
Clip – Closing scene from stage version
In the church when we gather on Sundays and live each day, we can be aware of God’s presence and power, comfort and challenge.
We help the children and young people know God’s love and calling.
We discover and rediscover our callings.
Remember who you are.
Be careful who your friends are. Your tribe.
Know that leaders who are courageous, compassionate and wise are to be valued.
Pay attention to what are you being urged, called, or summoned to do that builds up a person and our community of faith of Willow Grove.
Being called by God, a God who knows our name, is a mystery. One thing I know about the human psyche: we don’t know what to do with mystery.
Much of the last five hundred years, we have lived through a continuing effort to remove all mystery from human life. We analyze everything scientifically. We work to remove all ambiguity. We develop technology that we can put in our cell phones, to know precisely where we are located and how long it will take to drive to Trexlertown, PA, or wherever else we want to go. In some ways it has been a vain attempt to control life, and overlook the truth that life is largely uncontrollable. (1)
But our faith and the arts, shows like the Lion King, point us toward mystery and awe. When I listen to people, I sense all have a deep hunger and thirst for holy mystery, a longing for a living experience of God in their lives.
Jesus speaks in metaphors and stories that point to the mystery and power of God’s love and God’s invitation to abundant life.
The heart of the matter is that Jesus Christ is our life. He is risen and alive, for God is alive. His invitation is to take part in his life. It’s what he calls “the life of eternity.” (zoe aionios) in John’s Gospel.
A lot of times we translate this phrase as “eternal life.” I believe that is a flat translation. That, for many people, is a life that goes on and on forever. When a lot of folks hear about “eternal life,” they think only about the next life, about heaven.
As my friend and colleague Rev. Bill Carter wrote – Jesus spoke of something far greater. He is speaking about this life, the only life we get. When he points to “the life of eternity,” it’s a way of referring to “the life that God lives” or “the life of the Risen Christ.” It’s a way of being and doing, serving and loving, forgiving and rejoicing, here and now. Certainly it continues into the future for into God’s eternity. But it starts here and now. (2)
The scene at the beginning of The Lion King reminds me of baptism. We are going to baptize Libby in September. When we baptize a child in worship we are saying she belongs to the Risen Christ today and forever. His love embraces her and her family. His justice sets a plumb line for her life.
In the years to come, if we all work together to tell her what the mystery of Christ is all about, she can be shaped in his image. She will not grow up to be a racist or be swayed by demeaning strereotypes. She will never walk by a hungry neighbor. She won’t ever demean somebody with whom she disagrees. She will find her strength in the living words of God.
That is the life of eternity. Let’s imagine Jesus calling each one of us to that life as we sing “Circle of Life.”
Sing Circle of Life
From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There’s more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There’s far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round
It’s the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle, The Circle of Life
1) Rev. William G. Carter, Wonder Bread and the Life of Eternity, August 9, 2015. The Sermons of Bill Carter http://billcartersermons.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2015-01-01T00:00:00-05:00&updated-max=2016-01-01T00:00:00-05:00&max-results=29