Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pentecost Sermon 2016: Titanic, Hollywood, Holy Spirit

There’s this Slovenian author, 

scholar, philosopher, psychoanalyst (etc.—he does a lot of things,)…

and his name is Slavoj Žižek.

And in addition to being a really great writer, 

(with a really great name) 

he also occasionally stars in films.

In one of his films,  [called Pervert’s Guide to Ideology

he spends a lot of time talking about movies and how those movies relate to or 

interact with ideology, and philosophy, 

and so on. 

This kind of thing is part of what he’s 

famous for. 

And in this one film, one of the 

movies that he talks about is Titanic. 

Have you seen Titanic

Well, in Žižek’s analysis of the movie, 

the movie kind of runs like this: 

In the movie,

the main character is this rich young woman

with (like) really nice, fancy, clothing, 

straight white teeth, 

fancy dresses, all of that, right? 

Diamonds… Whatever…

Very presented.

Looks matter.

presentation matters.

Things on the surface matter.

(like they do to some degree for all of us…) 

[point to my own dress-up clothes and red stole

And at some point in the movie, early on…

this main character has some sort of crisis (right?)

She has a crisis of meaning. 

She feels a sort of nausea. 

She’s sick, something’s missing in her life… 

A void—whatever. 

Surrounded by the yawning upper classes, 

dining on upper decks, 

Stared at judging-ly by her peers,  

fanning themselves vainly, 

saying this like “I say, old chap!” 

And “Darrrrling! Isn’t this lobster exquisite?” 

very much like the Howell’s in Gilligan’s Island; 

presenting themselves to one another 

in high fashion 

as high society.

(The sort of Hollywood stereotypical portrayal of the elite, right?)  

This is her context in the movie. 

In that context, the main character has her crisis. 

It all seems meaningless, superficial, phony, and so on…

There must be something more to life than this giant sinking ship…


And so Rose, (her name is Rose) 

in her quest for something more

descends from her upper deck of the boat,

downward, (right?)

into the depths of the boat, 

into the lower levels, 

among the lower classes 

(among “the People”). 

And there, she learns to dance and to laugh 

and she even has a little romance with 

“The Poor.” (right?)

(That super famous scene with

Leonardo Dicaprio, with the car and 

the window and the hand and all of 

that stuff) 


In biblical language, we might say she was pushed by the Spirit out of her locked 


out of her secure environment, off of the upper deck, 

into a place where languages, food, music, 

community all carried a different sense…  

Where she discovered new meaning, new possibility, 


she heard things in a new way (right?)

We could interpret this biblically if we wanted to. 

Confronted with the other/Other, her Neighbor, in a crossing from the top to the 

bottom of the ship, 

she learned to think, and love, and to feel anew…

(a sort of born again experience, right?) 

Or so it seems 

at first 

in the movie…

But eventually the movie comes to an end. 

The Titanic sinks.

It hits an iceberg. 

People are shouting. 

The orchestra is playing. 

And then it’s finished. 

It ends in tragedy. 

People die. 

The credits role. 



The thing is though, 

at the end of the movie, 

after the sinking and the loss, after the tragedy, 

the main character, Rose, 

is sitting there, in her comfy chair, reflecting back.

She shares her memories of the time on the ship. 

Memories of meaning and joy from her experience, 

memories of her romance, 

after which she survived

 and returned to a privileged life. 

[Žižek calls this “Hollywood Marxism”] 

In the end, “The Poor” 

(though they welcomed her in, fed her, showed hospitality and so on), 

were still really remembered by Rose only as “her” helpers, 

her saviors, those people that she escaped into, 

on something of a vacation, 

an immersion experience, 

and from which she emerged with memories meaningful to her (but to her alone). 


She wasn't transformed by love or compassion, 

She wasn’t ignited with any fire or outrage that such people were forced to the 

bottom of the ship and deemed dispensable, She wasn’t outraged that they were 

the first to be sacrificed when the ship went down.

No compassion at all, right? 

Somehow, in her crossing, in her encounter, 

She didn’t learn that the class/caste system which she observed on the ship 

(a super obvious visible and marked segregated hierarchy), 

(like they were literally all on different levels, from top to bottom)

through which she could travel downward, but through which the poor could not 

ascend, was simply a snapshot of the world she comfortably returned to. 

She was personally changed, (perhaps she even had a warm, fuzzy, God-feeling), 

but it didn’t do anyone else any darn good. 

Her experience felt meaningful, but in reality it was meaningless to any cause 

bigger than her scrapbook. 

Said again: 

As meaningful as it may have felt, this crossing/encounter

was, in the end, 

just another example of the poor being exploited, 

used as tools for the benefit of Rose, 

something to talk about at the next cocktail party, 

an adventure to be recalled. 

A profile picture put up on facebook, 

Someone else’s story of great tragedy, for Rose was just a story about a romanic 

fling, an adventure… 

Rose failed to be transformed by the crossing. 

She looked but she did not see.

She listened but she didn’t hear.  

Something in her mind blinded her to the humanity of the people she danced 

with. There was no genuine encounter. 

And in the end, she returned to her locked up room on the upper decks, safe and 



It’s Pentecost again! 

Happy Pentecost! (Happy Pentecost!)

Remember, Pentecost is the day when the Spirit broke into the room where the 

disciples were locked for fear, and pushed them into the public square, where 

they spoke prophetically in languages everyone could understand.

(even if some did not yet have ears to hear, accusing them all of being drunk)… 

Like Rose, in Titanic

The disciples experienced a crossing. 

But their crossing, instigated by the Holy Spirit,  

didn’t leave them untouched, or untransformed. 

Rather, scripture says, thousands became a part of the same Body that day—

brothers and sisters!—

no matter their language or tribe, caste or class, 

people from all over the world, 

divided by tongue, (as in the artwork you see—divided tongues!

were now one in the Spirit, (the flame they share)

as Jesus had prayed. 

They were immediately incorporated (not just included, but in-corporated—em-

bodied) into this group of disciples

no questions asked, no screening, background checks, fingerprints…

They shared their belongings with one another, 

giving to each according to his or her need, 

and they gathered around a meal, 

remembering Christ, and the Reign of God that he proclaimed, 

hoping, praying, singing that it would soon happen

that the lowly would be lifted, the last would be first and everyone would be able to 


They gathered together to eat and to hope.

They gathered together as one. 

And this is what differentiates Pentecost from the Titanic, right? 

Rose (God rest her soul), was on a personal journey, and as a result, any “answer” or clue or help she received along the way was “for her.” Everyone she encountered was at her service, there to solve her riddle. It was all about her. 

And her alone. 

But for the disciples, afraid, but desiring God’s promised Reign with their whole heart, souls, minds, and strength—with their whole bodies—the journey was not solitary. 

(Lonely sometimes, but not alone).

No one was in this alone. 

They hid in fear together. 

And they were liberated by the Spirit together. 

And they ate and they prayed together. 

Because they had to!

They were constantly getting harassed, 

singled out, 

thrown in jail! 

Their leader Jesus, had just been killed a month and a half ago, right? 

And just by sharing his name, 

[mark cross on your forehead, and make sign of the cross to the congregation]

they were all also at risk. 

But it was worth the risk, because in their community of hope, and of sharing, 

they saw one another in a new way—

not as buyers or sellers or consumers

not as weird neighbors with loud dogs

or someone I’m not supposed to talk to… 

Not as “Cretans or Arabs" or "Jews or Greeks" or Catholics or Methodists or Muslims… 

Rather, they called one another “sister” and “brother,” 

and they aspired to treat one another as 

Children of God. 

Like Rose, the disciples, by the power of the Holy Spirit, had a crossing

In the crossing, the scales fell from their eyes, 

and they could finally see.

And when they looked, 

They saw in one another


The Savior. 

And they responded accordingly. 


Holy Spirit, free us from rooms of fear.

Help us to see one another,

to love one another, to be transformed, 

and to live in communion with you and all of your creation. 


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