Saint Paul Returns to the Movies by Robert Jewett
A. Telling time.
B. Summary of the movie
II. The Biblical Approach to Time
A. Time is going somewhere because God intended it.
In the world as God intended it, we do not go on planting a crop day after day, or cultivating and weeding day after day. Rather, planting is followed by cultivating, then nurturing, and finally harvesting.
B. Chronos—cyclical time with the same hour appearing each day. Routine. To live according to the flesh is to be stuck in chronos, to repeat the same mistakes day after day, to face the same defeat time after time. Living on a treadmill. Romans 7
C. Kairos [kairov”) –“significant time”, “proper time”, the “time of fulfillment” (Rom 5:6; 1 Cor 7:29; 2 Cor 6:2). The present is the decisive moment in which sides must be taken. To live according to the spirit, in response to the love of Christ, is to enter the realm of kairos, to find fulfillment in the midst of daily routines.
D. Christ is the one who ushers in a new time; salvation moves believers off the treadmill. NOW is the time of salvation.
E. The Pauline understanding of time culminates in the interpretation of the future determined by the present . . . [and] the present determined by the future. In Paul’s view, the way people respond to life in the present shapes the kind of future they will have. By placing their faith in Christ, they grasp the significance of the present routine because it leads to a future called “eternal life.”
F. “Flesh” deceives us, deludes us, keeps us thinking that our attitudes and actions have no consequences.
III. The Deadly Deception of the flesh
A. V7-8–Paul evidently fears that they will interpret their baptism as a sign that their future is assured and that therefore it no longer matters how they behave or think. Paul warns that such illusions will have deadly consequences.
B. We receive signals on every side that we should just “do it” because consequences can always be fixed. Life is a comedy with happy endings if we just work the system is the thinking today. Bill Murray thinks his time trap paradoxically affords him perfect freedom.
C. Instead, Murray’s character Phil is sowing to the flesh, and the film simply depicts its consequences.
IV. “Reaping Corruption” as a Step Toward Redemption
A. We have seen that Phil’s obsession with gaining honor for himself and reaping dishonor on others locks him into chronos, into a deadly repetition of futility.
B. “Corruption” here is eternal damnation and Paul is warning the congregation before it is too late. Paul very much wants them to avoid the kind of final judgment that continued mocking of God and reliance on the arrogant impulses of the flesh will produce.
C. Phil’s spiral of corruption was four stages: one—living as if no consequences—pigging out. Second—seduction of women. Third—suicidal self-destruction. Four—mocking God and claiming to be “immortal.”
D. Phil is transformed when Rita, his love aspiration gives him unconditional grace and his shame is overcome. He grasps the message of grace.
E. It is only when Bill Murray’s character gives up the illusion of godly powers and discovers that love is unconditional that he can begin, Paul’s words, “working for the good of all.”
V. The “Harvest” of “Working for the Good of All”
A. Murray’s character finally gives up on the cycle of manipulation by means of the flesh and begins to help other people. He discovers that “self-centeredness is actually less rewarding than generosity.
B. Paul’s idea that “we shall reap a harvest if we do not give up” is partially embodied in a vocational sense by Phil’s discovery of mature broadcasting skills at the end of the film.
C. Paul was afraid the Galatians were turning from living in the Spirit and turning to self.
D. V10 Paul focused on doing good locally, to care for the members of their small households of faith.
E. Environmentalist’s motto is very theologically sound: Think Globally, Act Locally
F. Phil’s selfish orientation has changed because of grace. He finishes the movie asking Rita, “Is there anything I can do for you today?”
A. It is Christ ordered time and NOW is the day of salvation. There is an urgency to our time and all we have is the present.
B. We now have the ability to do that which we know we ought to do.
C. The Spirit leads Christians off the treadmill while we maintain our daily routines of work and family care. Christ frees us from our culturally shaped compulsions to embrace selfish love.