Monday, October 24, 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth

Thoughts on the Sabbath School lesson dated 10.29.2011

Where is the happiest place on earth?  I know a place that claims to be.  If you are a person of a certain age, you have grown up with the “knowledge” that the happiest place on earth is somewhere with the name Disney in the title.  If the advertising is to be believed, any place “Disney” is where people go to celebrate victories, for birthdays and anniversaries, for family reunions…or just because.  Just recently I have noticed that it’s a big deal to video the moment when someone learns he or she is going to some place Disney.  The person, adult or child, usually explodes with screams and/or dissolves into tears.  I guess I just don’t get it.  I went to Disneyland and, well, just never felt the magic, I guess.

Anyway, Disney[fill in the blank] is supposed to be the happiest place on earth; so happy, in fact, that Disney designed a town based on “Disney values.” 
“It was supposed to be the ‘perfect’ town. After all, it was planned by Disney itself. The town of Celebration, Florida, a 16-acre utopian community just ten minutes from Walt Disney World, was developed in order to promote ‘Disney values.’ Disney designed the buildings, as well as its education and health policies. Most homes look identical, even with the same plants in the front garden. During winter evenings, the town even gets a gentle dusting of artificial snow every hour on the hour. (If you're familiar with the movie The Truman Show, you probably get the idea).”[1]
Okay, so my question is, what exactly are “Disney values?”  Where does a person learn what they are – by watching Disney movies?  Are they written down anywhere?  Are they concrete enough to live by?  Well, I’m thinking not, because the article quoted above, goes on:
“But this carefully planned, picture-perfect world was shattered in 2010 by two violent deaths: a murder and a suicide. Matteo Giovanditto, aged 58, was the victim of the town's first murder. Just three days later, Craig Foushee, distraught over his impending divorce and bankruptcy, barricaded himself in his home and started firing shots. After a tense standoff with authorities, Mr. Foushee eventually shot and killed himself.”[2]
Heartbreaking!  I can understand wanting to live in a perfect place, with perfect weather and perfect people, but we live on a fallen planet with sinful people.  We can pretend that it snows politely in Florida, but can we pretend that highly impolite hurricanes don’t hit Florida from time to time?  Can we pretend that tragic things don’t happen?

That’s kind of like trying to save ourselves through our own works.  We might be able to fool ourselves for a little while, but eventually most of us are going to have to admit that we’re fighting a losing battle.  We can’t pretend that we’re perfect, forever.  

Paul had to get pretty harsh with the church members in Galatia because they had forgotten that faith in Jesus was their only hope for justification.
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? … For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ … Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”  Galatians 13:1-3,10-11,13-15
Paul pointed to Abraham quite a bit; whenever he wants his readers to understand what real faith is, Paul mentions Abraham.  Why do you think that is? 

I think it’s because Abraham didn’t give up on God.  That sounds strange, but we know that God would never have given up on Abraham.  So many times through Abraham’s lifetime, he could have said, “You know what, God; this just isn’t working for me.  I’m done.” 

Abraham could have refused to move away from his family’s land in the first place or given up on the promise of a son, or walked away when God asked him to sacrifice that son.  Abraham could have walked away from God at any time, but he didn’t.  He kept on believing when the believing seemed impossible. 
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”  Hebrews 11:8-13 
Abraham (along with everybody else listed in Hebrews 11) knew something we all need to learn about what real happiness, joy, success, wealth, peace, and salvation come from.  Those things don’t come by pretending life is just a Disney-esque adventure with scheduled snowfall and assured of a happy ending.  Those things only come when we have learned to walk and talk with our Savior and Redeemer.
“It was no light test that was thus brought upon Abraham, no small sacrifice that was required of him. There were strong ties to bind him to his country, his kindred, and his home. But he did not hesitate to obey the call. He had no question to ask concerning the land of promise—whether the soil was fertile and the climate healthful; whether the country afforded agreeable surroundings and would afford opportunities for amassing wealth. God has spoken, and His servant must obey; the happiest place on earth for him was the place where God would have him to be.”[3]

[1] Matt Woodley, managing editor,; sources: Mark Mynell, "Quaerentia," (12-7-10); Jon Swaine, "Murder and suicide in Celebration, the perfect town built by Disney," The Telegraph, (12-3-10)
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 126

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