The Netflix original show Stranger Things has been everywhere the past two months. Especially this week, in response to the announcement that it would indeed return for a second season, this show which functions as an homage to all the great movies in the 1980’s has been the source of many discussions and Facebook posts. Watching all of this unfold, it’s clear that this show about kids on a life-or-death mysterious adventure has tapped into a cultural need that was previously not mined completely.
As someone who grew up in the 80’s and has a weighty fondness for kid coming-of-age movies like The Goonies, Stand by Me, and E.T. one of the things I love most about the show (and why I’m now sharing it with my kids) is how it reminds me of those stories, but most of all it feels like those movies and shows I loved. And one of the greatest ways it feels like those other stories, is that they share this idea that what people are most searching for is always just below them or next to them. There is an adventure, yes, but that adventure is always a reminder that the treasure or goal was closer than you imagined. The gold is just below the abandoned shack you rode past on your bike so often, the extra-terrestrial is in the room next to you and your greatest friends are walking side-by-side with you down the train tracks…one of the best things about kids adventure movies in the 80’s was the persistent reminder that what you’re searching for is actually closer than you could have ever guessed.
Stranger Things feels like these other movies because it continues that idea. [Spoiler Alert] The show quickly finds its direction in how the kids are trying to find and reach their lost friend who is actually just below them, beside them, next to them in the shadow realm. The real task then centers on the question of how do we get to someone or somewhere that is right here, but also seemingly far away? And so it turns out this is the 80’s era question that drives the show: “How do we both see and get to that which is already impossibly close?”
You know, I feel like every week when I read the Scriptures in preparation for Sunday’s message, that this is the same question which tugs on me. In fact, I feel like it is one of the most fundamental questions that Jesus wanted people to ask themselves about the Kingdom of God. It seems like Christ came into a world that had learned that God was far away, and as he stood in their midst his primary teaching was that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Over and over he taught and demonstrated that what people were searching for was among them and next to them…the Kingdom of God isn’t somewhere else, but is instead just under the surface of this existence and intentional gratitude and love for others is how we see what is literally right here. The treasure is in the field, so to speak, and so close that we stumble over it. (Matthew 13:44) This is a striking announcement. Who could have imagined that the Creator of the universe would come into the midst of our world to show us that God is already impossibly close? In a world of people searching for meaning and truth, this is a strange thing to declare indeed!
I’d like to invite you this week in preparation for Sunday, to again allow yourself to hear the strangeness in the words and action of Jesus. That as we get ready to meet and discuss our passage for this week, let the strangeness of Jesus’ actions and refusal to condemn the woman in the story strike you as strange. Listen and watch for the strange idea that what we are perhaps looking for the most…acceptance, forgiveness, love, and grace that these are just near us. And if we are willing to see them and participate in them, we too will see the strange love of God that is all around us.
See you on Sunday and if you’d like to read the passage before then, you can find it here: http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=336122144. See you then!