In the first three Cafe services of the new year we're continuing to use movies to explore spiritual themes.
Last weekend we pondered on Groundhog Day, the excellent Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, an obnoxious weatherman, caught in a day that keeps repeating itself.
After his initial fear, frustration and depression at the never changing cycle of events, Phil first exploits the situation for his own ends, but then he is touched by the plight of an old gentleman who dies. Phil tries all he can to save the fellow, but to no avail, in doing so he learns about the needs of people in the town he's visiting, he then spends one of his days helping as many people as he can. It is this day that is the last one that he is trapped in, once again re-entering normal time and life.
Given the time constraints, and the fact that the majority of the audience hadn't seen it, we had to be selective in what we did. So we chose three scenes to help us think about making a new start.
We began by showing the first two waking up scenes, to illustrate that something strange is occurring, we got people to talk around their tables about the times they'd said "I can't believe this is happening again". Simon, my colleague, then taught a little about some of the Groundhog Day experiences that the apostle Peter had (three denials, three opportunities to reaffirm his love for Jesus, several sightings of a sheet spread with "unclean" food to teach him about inclusiveness).
We then used the clip where Phil robs a bank to think about a different kind of cyclical occurrence, and how good we were getting at being bad, and we remembered that God sees what is in our hearts, and that there is no place we can go to where we can hide from Him.
We then looked at two clips towards the end of the movie that showed the change that had taken place in Phil as he focussed on others rather than himself. I then spent a short time thinking aloud about what it might mean for God's love to be known as "new every morning" and asking what it is that God requires of us, that we act justly, show mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). Is it by serving others that we find meaning in the today, and freedom from our own hamster wheels?
In between this we used lot's of table discussion on the themes, encouraged people to text in ideas / questions / responses to what they were seeing, hearing and talking about, and we also used U2's Stuck in a Moment and Faithless' Nate's Tune to offer pauses for reflection and thought.
The feedback has been positive, especially from the people who came as family groups, bringing their children with them. We're now deciding on next month's theme, and what movie might help us explore that.
I'm enjoying using alternative stories to shed light on eternal truths. People's willingness to grapple with both movies and scriptures together is encouraging, and in seeing how the Bible speaks to the movie situations folks are discovering it speaking into their own experiences too. Several people spoke to us about how they felt God addressing issues in their lives in a very direct way as we spoke of repeating patterns of behaviour, the need for a fresh start, the love of Jesus that longs to bring peace and hope into our experience of being trapped or lost.