Reflections on the Movie, “Coco”
So, all this month, we are looking at popular movies and are finding ways that faith is intersecting the culture. In this week’s movie, “Coco,” a young boy is pursuing his dream of becoming a famous musician even though music has been banned from his family. His family held on to perceived hurt when one of the family patriarchs left his family, turning his back on his family, to pursue his own musical career. He never came back. In order to deal with the abandonment they felt, music became “outlawed” in the family.
While there are several topics I could have dealt with like what happens to a person who passes from this life into the next, and while the movie has some theologically concerning elements regarding eternal life and ghosts and spirit guides who supposedly take people on journeys between the realm of the living and the dead, the film does open the door for some powerful conversations about family and how we will be remembered.
Just one short clip will help reveal the tenderness of our topic this morning. In this scene, the main character is singing to his great-grandmother, someone whose memory is all but gone. Let this ninety-second clip give you pause for thought regarding how you will be remembered one day when you leave this life.
We could look at several different Bible characters to discuss how we might want to be remembered, but for today, I chose to look at Joseph. Joseph was a faith-filled person. His family would have remembered him that way.
Are you a faith-filled person?
Hebrews 11:22-By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.
Let’s look back at Genesis 50 and unpack this a little more. We know that last words are very important. The last words of a loved one are the words we lean in to listen to and remember. They are the words we often tell to others. I was with Sue Ragland and Doug Walters shortly after their mother passed on Friday, and they were telling me not only how much she made the EMT’S laugh in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, but that in a moment of lucidity, something that had been rare for her during these last years, Ruby said to Doug and Sue, “You have both been great parents, and I am so proud of you” to which Doug replied, “Well, mother, we had a very good example in you.”
What a special moment. What a gift to her children in those final moments. God knew what they needed to hear, and I believe he enabled her to share that with them. But it had to have been in her heart in the first place, which it was. That was the kind of person she was. She loved her family and was proud of them. You see, last words reveal a lot about the kind of people we truly are in our heart of hearts. And at the heart of Joseph’s life was his absolute faith in God and in God’s promises and plans.
Genesis 50:24-25 24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”
Joseph had believed God’s promise to the Israelite patriarchs down through the years. Abraham had been promised by God that there would be a relocation of the Israelites to the Promised Land. He never saw it completely fulfilled. That didn’t mean God didn’t fulfill His promise. He simply didn’t fulfill it in Abraham’s lifetime. The promise was reiterated to Isaac. He also died without seeing the fulfillment of the promise. That didn’t mean God was a liar. It just means his timetable didn’t coincide with Isaac’s earthly timetable. Jacob received the same promise, and he died in Egypt. Does that mean that God wasn’t faithful? No, it means God was working through generations and in His time to bring about the fulfillment of His promise. Every passing day was a day forward in the promise-keeping of God. Joseph had the same promise, but he died in Egypt. However, he knew, he knew, he believed by faith, that one day, God’s people would be moved to that promised place, and when it happened, he wanted his bones to be there!
Listen, Faith says, “God’s promises are even bigger than me and my little lifetime.”
God had done a work in and through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph’s lifetimes that was securing a blessing for future generations. Listen, when God makes a promise to you, it isn’t always for you. Sometimes it will be for those who come after you, but in order for them to experience it later, you need to hold on to it now!
Joseph held on to the promises of God even to the very end. Psalm 100:5 is so precious because it add validity to our faith. “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
What you believe now by faith will absolutely impact what your children, grandchildren and their children and grandchildren will not only think, but what they will experience. What kind of faith do you possess? How is it expressed? Do people see your faith? How will you be remembered? Joseph was full of faith to the end. What a gift that in his dying moments, he was pointing his family to God and was pointing them forward to the destiny He was preparing for them!
The second thing that comes to my mind as I think about Joseph’s life, is that he was a family man. Do you know that God is pro family? God created the family. He created marriage and ordained that husbands and wives would have children. Family is God’s idea. God is cool like that. I am so glad God created the family. I love all things family. I love memes about family. I get so excited when I hear about one of our church members who is expecting a baby. I think family traditions are neat, and I love the inside stories/jokes families can share.
One of the main scenes in the movie, “Coco” was the scene in the family home where the mantle was filled with the pictures of loved ones who had passed on. They put the photos there to remember their family members and to talk about them with one another. I love seeing people’s family pictures whether it is a vacation trip or a holiday picture. I enjoy seeing families out doing things together. My favorite memories are memories with my family, hands down. My husband and kids are the dearest things on earth to me. They are treasures. The thought of sending our daughter to college in OH on August 18th is a hard topic to meditate on right now.
In the movie, Coco, the entire family had become bitter because of the actions of one person. The whole family shut out the joy of music because one family member was perceived as betraying the family. He left his family in pursuit of his dream, and although you find out in the course of the movie, that he had decided to return to his family, his life tragically ended before he could. His family, and not his dream, had won after all.
Will you be remembered as a family person? Will you be viewed as someone who put their family first? Not first in front of God, but first after that. Could that be said of you? Are you a family person? Allow me to explain why I think of Joseph in this way.
Genesis 50:15-21 15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Even after Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery and had told their father he had been killed by wild animals, even after that horrendous betrayal and all Joseph suffered for years after that before God elevated Joseph through a series of events to second in command in Egypt…(It was probably 22-24 years before Joseph reunited with his family)…even after all of that time and the hateful, murderous things they had done to him, he STILL had them in his heart. He still loved his family. He still wanted to help them and provide for them when they fell on hard times. Most people would probably have found some satisfaction in their family’s suffering as if somehow they were now getting what they deserved, but not Joseph. He was compassionate and kind, generous and forgiving, helpful and loving.
Every family has challenges. Every family has issues. There is no perfect family. Each family will only be as healthy and strong and impacting as each person’s commitment to it. Will you be remembered as someone who was “all in” for your family? As someone who prayed for and protected your family? As someone who spent time investing in relationship and support, in teaching and in developing your family?
I feel strongly that we need to get fierce about our families. Making sure we are plugged in and building up our family members is important. Getting off of the phone when someone is speaking, sharing meals together, celebrating special events in the lives of our family members, being there for each other in times of need, developing a commitment to stay together, serve together, and share life together no matter what—it is critical. Joseph had that mindset. There is no other way he could have served his family after they had done him so wrong.
One of the greatest things I think families can do is worship together as these moments can build the foundation for everything else that happens throughout the week. I want to say something very specific to the young families here. Being here is important for the well-being of your family. I can say some things that can reinforce what you are hopefully teaching at home. Being here regularly will expose your kids to a variety of Bible topics to ensure they get the whole picture and not just the Christmas and Easter stories. Those are big for sure, foundational for sure, but there is a whole lot more they need to know in order to get grounded in the truth.
Besides that, your kids need to see you worship. They need to see you at the altar. They need to watch you volunteer and serve in the life of the church. You can’t pass on to them what they don’t see modeled in your life. You can only pass on what you possess and what you do with what you possess. I urge you to find a way to cultivate a culture of faith in your family that says, “We’re going to church. No matter what we did Saturday night or how hard we have worked during the week or what other offers for fun come our way, we are going to church because it is important for the success of our family.” There are no guarantees, but I do believe that commitment to worshiping as a family from the time your kids are young can help you navigate some of the challenges that are sure to come your way and will help you avoid some of the pitfalls that come when you take a haphazard approach to faith with your kids.
Whether it is worship or recreation, family life cannot be cultivated without the investment of time. One idea I try to slip into my parenting is that it is my desire for our kids to be engaged in our lives even when they get married and have a family of their own. I am planting those seeds now for our desired family life in ten years and beyond.
Some of you have been hurt by your family of origin. I get it. Unless all members come together around responsibility for their actions, it is hard to think about wanting to be together, but I would say this: Never close the door on the possibility that God could reunite you with certain family members and pray for ways for it to happen. That might mean you need to pray for God to also make a way for you to forgive family members who have hurt you. Whatever you do, don’t become that person who vows you will never speak to so and so again. If Joseph can find a way to forgive and move on with his family, then I would say 9 times out of 10, so could we. That may not always be God’s plan, but just in case it might be, ask God now to bless each member of your family and put the kind of heart in them that they would need to possess in order to reunite with you and ask God to put the heart in you that would make it possible.
Will people remember you as a family person one day when you enter into eternity?
Finally, I would say of Joseph that he was a fruitful person. In fact, his very name means, “Fruitful Vine.” When you hear that someone was a fruitful person, you might think their success came easy, that doors just kept opening for them, that they were super talented, were given a wonderful start or that they didn’t have to struggle so much, that they were just blessed to enjoy success. Perhaps that is occasionally the case, but most often, people who are considered fruitful are people who refuse to give up, people who are determined to make something out of their lives, regardless of what happens to them. That was the life Joseph lived.
There was nothing easy about his ascent to second in command in Egypt. It started with the awful betrayal by his brothers. He entered public service as a slave. Talk about working your way up, right? He had nowhere to go but up, but the climb wasn’t easy. He worked for an influential man who promoted him to the head of his house, but after false accusations were made against him, he landed in prison. Scripture tells us God was with him and he was promoted to the head of the jail. When it looked like things were looking up and he might even get to get out of jail, he was done wrong again, and it created more jail time for him.
He had every right to be bitter. He had every right to blame God. He had every right to hate people. But instead, he made the choice to work hard, to “bloom where he was planted.” He kept a long-term perspective in spite of whatever his current circumstances were, and God, over the course of twenty-some years, made him fruitful. He was fruitful because he had faith in God, and he was fruitful because he had the right attitude regarding his circumstances.
Look at Genesis 41:51-52 that detail how he chose the names for his two sons: Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
Surely Joseph hadn’t forgotten all of the horrible childhood stuff he went through. What was he really saying? He was saying that God brought healing to him from those atrocities and therefore, he wasn’t damaged by or defined by them. The second statement is even more telling. Joseph said that God made him fruitful IN THE LAND OF HIS SUFFERING. It’s one thing to be fruitful when the doors swing open wide and everyone extends a hand and a warm welcome and all of the competition stands down and everyone waves signs with your name on them and cheers for you every time you walk through the door. It is entirely another thing to dwell in a place of suffering for decades and to be able to maintain your faith, your hope, your sanity, and your passion to keep working and keep striving to become what God had in mind all along. Joseph didn’t give up on the dreams God had given to him. That is why we remember his today as a fruitful person. He lived up to his name! He lived up to God’s plans.
Will you be remembered as a fruitful person? Will you live up to God’s plans? Will you be remembered as someone who wouldn’t give up no matter what? Will you be remembered as someone that even though you had to go through tough times, you emerged stronger? Will you be thought of as a person with an enduring spirit and persevering heart? Or will it be said of you that you were only good to go if everything went your way, if everything went according to your plan? Or, when it is all said and done, will people say, “In spite of everything she went through, she was determined to be God’s woman or in spite of every challenge he faced, he was determined to claim his Divine destiny? If we give up when life is hard we will never become fruitful.
We have become some consumed with things that are instant. Google it and have instant answers, right? We may not even care if they are the right answers as long as they are immediate, right? We take a pill and we expect instant relief even though the doctor says it will take 30-60 days to make a difference, and we get discouraged and throw in the towel when it doesn’t work by day three. We go out on three dates with someone who makes our hearts flutter, and all of the sudden they are the man or woman of our dreams and we are head over heels in love. I’m not saying that it can’t happen that way, but most solid things take time, right? Time? “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” At least that is what Kimberly Sweet Brown Wilkins from Oklahoma City declared in 2012 and it is now what our culture thinks. That is the wrong perspective. God works IN time, and on HIS timetable which sometimes, like in the case of Joseph, is over two decades.
I understand that no sane person would choose suffering, but what I am suggesting is that no fruitful person becomes fruitful without a dose of it. It is often through the deep waters, through the fiery trials of life, where we are tested, refined, shaped, and re-purposed for greater things. I’m not asking you to embrace trial, but I am encouraging you to stay faithful even in the fire, because when you are faithful in the fire, there will be fruit to show for it.
No one could could look at Joseph’s life and say he was lazy, apathetic or a victim of his circumstances. He chose to make the most out of every situation he found himself in, and for the most part, they were awful situations. Joseph’s life is proof that even though life isn’t fair, you can still live fruitful!
Will you be remembered as a fruitful person?
Live today the way you want to be remembered when this life is over.
Joseph is remembered as a faith-filled person, as a family person, and as a fruitful person. Could there be a better legacy?