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Happily Ever After... By Pastor Thomas Engel

It has always been a topic of debate if art mimics life or life mimics art.

Henry James wrote that the novel is “a direct impression of life.”

But, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “Life is monstrous, infinite, illogical, abrupt and poignant; a work of art in comparison is neat, finite, self-contained, rational, flowing, and emasculate.”

I have to say that I agree more with Stevenson than James, but Stevenson did base the character, Long John Silver, in Treasure Island on a real person.

Here is the passage where Silver was introduced, “His left leg was cut off close by the hip, and under the left shoulder he carried a crutch, which he managed with wonderful dexterity, hopping about upon it like a bird. He was very tall and strong, with a face as big as a ham-plain and pale, but intelligent and smiling.”

The idea of Silver came from a man whom Stevenson knew, William Ernest Henley, the author of the famous poem "Invictus.”

Henley was large and impressive, who was vigorous although maimed, and remarkably stoical about the pain he was in much of the time.

It seems Stevenson broke his own rule about art and life with basing Silver on a real person.

But, Long John Silver wasn't a copy or impression. He and the world in which he lived were "artificially made," imagined in such a way as to "catch the ear." Like all successful literary characters, he comes alive as an abstract being who inhabits not the real world but the minds of those who read the story or see it as a movie.

As a kid growing up in a suburb, I wouldn’t say life was boring. Some of us boys got together to play baseball in the park, and we rode our bikes around town.

I guess we are a lot like the boys in the movie, Sandlot. But, in comparison, our “nice” neighborhood just didn’t have the makings for adventures like those kids had in Sandlot.

We didn’t have a neighbor with a big dog named Hercules, or a pool with a cute lifeguard.

And with no pirates around like in Treasure Island, I read lots of books, and in my mind, I was sailing with Long John Silver to find treasure chests of gold.

My uncle gave me all the books in the Hardy Boys series. During the summer, I read book a day. I couldn’t put the book down until the mystery was solved, and it was always solved.

No crime would go unsolved with Frank and Joe Hardy around.

As much as I am for reading, I wonder how reading made-up stories influenced me.

I would get caught up in the adventure, but after I put the book down, I was back to my life in Des Plaines with no port of sailing ships that would take me to far away places.

There were not even any mysteries to be solved.

I guess I should be glad of my “dull” routine and how Netflix can save me from boredom. A click on the latest release of a James Bond movie, and I’m with Bond in the opening scene jumping through explosions and driving high speeds in an expensive sports car escaping from the latest villain.

James Bond always escapes, always catches the villain, and always gets the beautiful girl.

As a kid reading all the Hardy Boys books, and as an adult watching all the James Bond movies, I’ve come to the conclusion that life isn’t like art.

To prove my point more, you know my mom likes the romance movies on the Hallmark Channel.

When I go to visit her, I’ve noticed in my little bit of watching that they all have the same basic formula.

Maybe I need to give them more of a chance and see one all the way through than see bits and pieces when I visit with my mom.

But, here is my critique. Two people who look like super models start out not liking each other, but circumstances keep them seeing each other. In a way, they are attracted to each other, but their egos keep getting in the way. As they go along, they work out their differences. At the end, and be sure to have a box of tissues at hand, they live happily ever after.

Definitely, not so true to life. Although, I admit we can always hope for true romance.

How about the family sitcom with TV shows like the Brady Bunch?

In thirty minutes with commercials, and again with a formula, the show starts with the family smoothly going along, then, the introduction of conflict, the building of conflict, tensions running high, and, at the end, all works out with Marsha and Jan closer then ever.

If the Brady Bunch can have problems and work them out, so can we in our families. Right?

And, we have to love Gilligan. At the beginning of the show, it looks like there is a way off the island. But, Gilligan messes it up every time. The professor, Mary Ann, and the rest are upset. Skipper says, “Oh Gilligan,” but the Skipper always takes Gilligan back as his little buddy.

So, what do you think?

Have I presented a convincing case that art does not mimic life?

If what we read in novels, see in TV shows, and watch in blockbuster movies, we all should be so happy.

But, we are not so happy.

In life, all problems don’t get solved, life for the most part is more towards dull than exciting at least in comparison to James Bond, and we don’t always forgive and forget in thirty minutes with commercials.

Am I just too much of a realist if I think a remake of the ending of Cinderella should go something like this?

When the prince puts on the shoe, Cinderella says, “I’m so glad I got my shoe back, and it was such a wonderful evening with you. But, after spending the last years doing nothing but cooking and scrubbing, I’m not quite ready for a serious relationship, yet. I need my space.”

Don’t you think that is more true to life than with the happily ever after ending of the fairy tale?

Taking a look at the world today, let’s go back and see again the quote by Stevenson, “Life is monstrous, infinite, illogical, abrupt, and poignant.”

We have to agree with Stevenson as we are seeing how war is looming, political conflict never seems to end, crime is increasing, inflation is rising, and we are divided over mandates.

I think I’ve been sadly convincing that our problems will not be finding answers in thirty minutes with commercials like our favorite sitcom.

But, before you are thinking that I’m so deep in reality that troubles are always here, I truly believe in happily ever after.

We have to believe in happily ever after. We need to keep wanting them, working for them, and hoping for them. We need to know that happily ever after is possible. We need to know happily ever after is waiting for us.

How about this thought?

If we are sure that all is going to work out, doesn’t that mean that whatever is happening now is good in a way because it’s going to a ending that is happily ever after?

Let’s talk about some more stories and see what happens with that thought.

In the Old Testament Reading, we heard part of a story that we all know from our Sunday School days.

The story is true, every word of it. It really happened like all the stories in Scripture are as true as can be.

Let’s do a quick summary of the family of twelve brothers.

Joseph was the second youngest of twelve brothers born to Jacob, who was called Israel. In Genesis 37:3–4 we read, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.”

Then, we can go on to read about the two dreams Joseph had that angered his brothers; the dreams indicated his brothers would someday bow to him. Joseph’s brothers also despised him due to their father’s overt favoritism toward him.

So, in their jealousy, they threw Joseph into a well and sold him off into slavery.

In keeping with our theme today of happily ever after, we need first to feel Joseph’s pain.

Joseph is grieving the loss of his family. He is thinking he will never see his father again or his innocent little brother.

Although he went from a slave to a high government official, he misses his family.

In the the Old Testament Reading, we are seeing the reunion of Joseph and his brothers.

We see Joseph forgiving his brothers for throwing him in a well and leaving him for dead.

After years of trials, we see a happily ever after ending in this family of twelve brothers who once had some real issues.

Also, on top of all the reconciliation, in a time of drought, when food is scarce, the family has all the food they need because of Joseph’s planning.

All is good, all are content, love is shared. We are seeing an ending that is about as happily ever after as it can get.

In this story of so many twists and turns from highs to lows to highs again, the most important line is when Joseph says this to his brothers, “So now it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

Did you hear that?

The brothers caused Joseph to go through an awful time, but he didn’t resent them.

For this family of twelve brothers, and for all the people in the land, Joseph believed God had a plan.

Again, this family experienced all kinds of lows and highs, but it was all for God’s purposes.

In the end, the twelve tribes of Israel would come from these twelve brothers.

This happily ever after ending for Joseph and his brothers began the next part of God’s plan for his people.

To say, there are a lot of parts to this plan that are detailed and would make better for a Bible study in the basement.

But, for our purposes now, a tracing of what happened to the twelve tribes would bring us to the coming of Jesus as the Messiah, the anointed one who would save people from their sins.

And as we are keeping with our theme for today, the happiest ever ending is we have all that we Jesus came to bring to the world by his death on the cross and his rising on the thrid day.

This morning, we are forgiven of every sin and have the gift of eternal life, which is truly as happily ever after as it can get.

So, what side are you on in the debate? Does life mimic art or art mimic life?

If you don’t mind, can I convince you at least as far as Bible stories go that art mimics life, for the stories in the Bible are as real as can be.

Every theme in these stories are our themes in our lives.

All the stories from Noah and the ark to David beating Goliath, and from Jonah getting swallowed by a whale to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walking through a fiery furnace are all true and have endings that could have been written with happily ever after.

The reason that all Bible stories could be written with a happily ever ending is because the whole point of the Bible is to tell the story of salvation.

And what is salvation? Happily ever after in heaven for all who believe in the one who came to bring salvation, Jesus, the Messiah, the annoited one, our Lord and Savior.

Here is that thought question that I asked earlier:

If we are sure that all is going to work out, doesn’t that mean that whatever is happening now is good in a way because it’s going to a ending that is happily ever after?

Faith in Jesus and all that he has done for us says, “Yes, all is good now because we are going to an ending that is happily ever after.”

And to be sure we know about this ending, I will use a little redundacy here, forever and ever, happily ever after.

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