One of the things that I have missed during the past nine months is going to the cinema.
There is something unique about getting lost in a story of a film for a couple of hours or so.
This week I enjoyed the next best thing: the Netflix premiere of a new version of Rebecca, based on the Daphne Du Maurier novel of the same name.
The title refers to the first Mrs de Winter, who died at sea in mysterious circumstances. The second Mrs de Winter is the role played by the ubiquitous Lily James, who seems to have cornered the market on playing beautiful, upper-middle class women of the early 20th century, not mention the title role in Cinderella and the young Donna in Mama Mia: Here we Go Again. Lily James is a safe pair of hands who is combines the quality of the girl next door with genuine star quality.
One of the odd things about the story is that Lily James’s character is not referred to by her first name. That in itself is a mystery. The author Daphne du Maurier wrote, that it is “simple.” “I could not think of one, and it became a challenge in technique, the easier because I was writing in the first person.” It also increases the tension and the idea that Rebecca, although absent, still dominates the household.
The main challenge for this 2020 film is that it is a remake of previous iconic versions of the story. The tragic thriller is designed to be in black in white, in order to communicate effectively its brooding mystery and the menace of the plot.
This version is shot in colour which, along with the sunny disposition of Lily James, seems to lift the mood a notch or two.
The new version of Rebecca reminded me that preachers face the challenge every week of telling again a story that has been told many times before.
Fred Craddock wisely told preachers: “You can’t step into the same river twice.”
The river keeps flowing - we never can step into the same place again.
I once had a person in my congregation who would ask me, “What’s new?”
Some people like their stories on repeat, the same familiar telling every time. Others like the fresh angles of a remake.
Is there value in telling the same old story with a fresh contemporary slant?
How can we retell the story in a way that it does not appear to be the same old same old?
“I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ”(Ephesians 3:7–8).
Paul the preacher could not get over the privilege of being entrusted with the task of telling people about Jesus. The task is made easier because preachers have astonishing resources: “the boundless riches of Christ”.
Preachers can turn again and again to this bank of riches and never find themselves overdrawn. Later in this chapter Paul will talk about exploring with all God’s people:
“…how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…” (Ephesians 3:18–19)
Paul concludes Ephesians Chapter 3 with a prayer that reminds preachers and everyone else, that God’s work in preaching and life is not limited to our imagination.
When preachers allow themselves to be taken on a fresh journey through the biblical text, they will find transforming treasure to share with their hearers:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20–21).