I hear that there tend to be two fairly defined groups of viewers of the new HBO series, The Leftovers. There are those who have no interest in the drama or in the characters. And there are those who find the series’ theme with all its mysteries and accompanying storylines of the confused and coping remnant deeply compelling. My wife is among the former. I’m with the latter; I’m hooked.
The show is about the rapture, a theme whose portrayal I generally find agenda-ridden and distractingly out of sync with the more important matters of Christian faith. However, The Leftovers, is different. Two years after a portion of the world’s population vanished, the show focuses on the people who are left behind to cope with their loss and to find a sense of normalcy amidst the wreckage.
In a recent review Kathryn Reklis of Fordham University writes, “The task of survival is either to make meaning in some imperfect way or learn to live without it – which is not so different from the world we viewers live in, even without the Rapture.” The latest episode seems to bear this out in a confrontation between the police chief, who makes every effort to forget that fated day, and a leader of the “Guilty Remnant,” whose every thought and action is an effort to remember it.
Professor Relkis puts her finger on the show’s great appeal for me. Ultimately, it’s a show about finding meaning. It is about “making sense of life without perfect explanations.” It’s about living in a state of grace despite life’s great mysteries and uncertainties. And, I believe she is correct; I believe that’s our task too.
Sadly, the residents of Mapleton, where the show is set, don’t seem to have much of a church to rely upon. Without a worshipping witness to the eternal goodness and love of God, most of the characters cope strangely and in isolated and unhealthy ways. Mapleton reminds me of the great gift that the Church can be to the world. It reminds me that God calls us into fellowship with one another because together, albeit imperfectly, we not only seek meaning, but we find it. We not only seek God, but we find God. As we share our findings with one another and with others our sense of grace grows. Our God feels bigger, more present and more alive. Though questions arise and perhaps even grow, we journey with them with a faith and a trust that we are in God’s good hands. And, that faith, I believe, is the difference between hope and sadder states, such as resignation, isolation, meaninglessness and despair.
As I begin my first full program year with you I want to lift up my thanks for the fellowship God has given us and is creating among us. I’m excited to embrace the calling with you of becoming the body of Christ here at TCC.