King of the Wild Things
What are the things that we put our trust and hope in? Where do we look towards for our happiness and satisfaction?
In the sermon from Sunday, we take a look at this, and contemplate where we can truly find "happiness".
One of Pastor Leanne's favorite childhood books makes an appearance, as does the movie based on that book.
King of the Wild Things
Rev. Leanne Masters
Southern Heights Presbyterian Church
November 17th, 2013
A couple of years ago, a movie version of that great childhood picture story book came out: Where the Wild Things Are. I went to see the movie because I loved that book when I was a kid, the story of Max and his imaginative journey to the land where the wild things lived in chaos, the story of wild rumpuses, the story of a parent’s love that overshadowed the unruly behavior of a child. I went to the movie because I was curious to see how they could take a book with ten or so pages, mostly pictures, and turn it into a movie that ran over an hour and a half.
What I encountered was not quite what I was expecting, or even hoping for, but it was a very good movie that was filled with symbolism and meaning and depth.
What was particularly interesting was how they expanded the idea of the wild things, and gave them each a personality that stemmed from emotions and feelings that the main character, Max had. Feelings of anger and rage at things that he had no control over, feelings of inadequacy, feelings of being looked over and ignored by those around him, feelings of loneliness and isolation, feelings of abandonment. Each of these feelings is given a face in the Wild Things, and each of the Wild Things act out these feelings and emotions in hurtful and destructive ways.
When Max first arrives on the island where the Wild Things live, he encounters chaos. Of course, since he is among Wild Things, one of the very first things that happens is that they all gather around him, threatening to Eat Him Up.
In order to not be eaten up, he declares himself to be a king, with a great, unimaginable power. And, the Wild Things are in Awe. They’ve never been in the presence of such a great King before, and so they declare him to be King of the Wild Things, and ask him if, as King, he would keep all the sadness out.
Basically, the Wild Things make Max their King in order for him to take away all the bad feelings, and make them feel good again.
At first, things are pretty good. Max declares a Wild Rumpus, and he and the Wild Things Rumpus all through the night, and fall asleep giggling and content. He runs and he plays with the Wild Things, and everyone seems to be happy. But, the truth is that Max isn’t a very good king. He isn’t able to take away the feelings of jealousy and insecurity and loneliness. His solution to these things only make bad things worse. He declares that in order for the Wild Things to feel more like a strong group, they should build a fort that would keep any outsiders out, which only further isolates some of the Wild Things as one of them seeks to include different creatures into the group. His solution to disagreements and arguments within the group is to have a “dirt clod” war, which only intensifies the arguments as some of the Wild Things take things too far, and further hurt and injure each other.
As King, he is a bit of a failure, and all the bad things in the kingdom of the Wild Things get worse and threaten to destroy them all.
In the end, Max admits that he’s no king, and that he just wants to go home. Some of the Wild Things are angry and hurt by this…because they had put their trust in him, believed in him, and depended on him to make their world right again, which, of course, he couldn’t do.
I think that most people who watch the movie would be able to identify with many of the Wild Things. We, like them, are consumed by our feelings and our emotions, especially the negative ones. We are jealous and angry, we are fearful and sad, we are nervous and anxious, we are lonely. We are consumed by these emotions, and we often act out because of them, hurting and destroying the things and the people around us.
And we, too, look for Kings in our lives to make it all right again. Oh, we don’t look for actual Kings, not in the way that we think of Kings per se, rulers of old, of myth and of legend. But we look for Kings like the Wild Things were looking for, ones that we think can take away the sadness and the loneliness and make us happy again.
These Kings can take the form of people, but they also can take the forms of things or institutions. These Kings are those things that we look to for all of our answers, those things that we put all of our trust in, those things that we look to to make it all better again.
And so we fill our lives with these things. We champion one King after another, whether it’s a political figure or a religious one, a scientific ideal or a social one, a technological advancement or a cultural one. We trust in these things, we believe in them, we depend on them to make our worlds right again, to bring us peace and order in our lives, to help us make sense of the craziness around us, to make us feel happy and content.
But, like Max, these things turn out to be very bad Kings, indeed. They fail us as Kings, because they, of course, are no Kings at all. They cannot do all the things that we have entrusted to them, they cannot make our worlds right, they cannot change those feelings and those emotions that lay deep within us, because they have no real power over these things. They cannot take away the fear and the worry and the loneliness and the sadness…they can, perhaps, only distract us from them for a short while.
However, as Christians, we believe that there is, indeed, a true King that can do all of these things, and more. A true King that has true power over all the things in this world that are not good and not right. A true King that can take away all the sadness and the fear and the worry, not just distract us from them.
And we believe that this King is building his Kingdom, on this earth.
In fact, each Sunday, as we gather together as a community, we pray a certain prayer, that Christians have been praying for centuries. During this prayer, we pray for this Kingdom to come to this earth, for his will and his purpose to be known and to be done on this earth. For his peace to be known, for his love to be shown, for his power to reign over all the earth.
We have been promised that this time is coming, and that it will happen. For now, we know that, while it is not yet here, he has the power to do it all.
Let us stop putting our total trust and dependence in the Kings in this world to make things right, and instead, let us put our total trust and dependence in the one true King who has the power to make things right. Let us pledge our devotion to this King, and promise to love and to serve him, and no others.