I’m not a huge movie fan but when I find a movie that sounds intriguing, I try to get out to see it before it falls into the category of “I’ll see it when it becomes available on demand”. (That never seems to come soon enough.) It so happens that there are now 3 or 4 movies that I really want to see and last night, Ellen and I went to see the one that was first on my list: “Saving Mr. Banks“.
Having grown up in the era of the film: “Mary Poppins” and still, to this day, being able to sing most of the songs by heart, I couldn’t wait to see the movie. Actually, I should mention here that not only can I sing the songs in English but I can also sing some of them in Hebrew as our division put the play on in Hebrew at Camp Ramah in New England in 1980. I had forgotten much of the story- and that was unfortunate since remembering the story a bit better would have helped at the film last evening- but the songs are unforgettable and made me anxious to see the new film.
I’m not going to “review” the movie here. I don’t know how to do that without revealing the plot but I can only say that I found the movie to be everything I expected it to be- and more. In fact, truthfully, I didn’t expect it to be anywhere near the emotional experience it was. Go see it and, when you do, make sure you stay until the end of the credits.
But, I can tell you the basic premise of the movie without revealing any of the details. The story is about how Walt Disney convinced the author of Mary Poppins, P.L.Travers, to allow the movie to be made. As it turns out, there is so much behind the story of Mary Poppins and in the process of cooperating in the production of the film, the author is forced to confront much of the pain and sadness in her life through the story she had written. I’ll leave the rest up for you to find out for yourself- except to quickly add that the tears were shed during the movie Were both tears of sadness and happiness.
But, I want to point out one aspect of the movie that has motivated so much of my thinking about my writing, especially the sermons I write.
I believe that a sermon provides two functions, one much more important than the other. The first and the more important of the two, is to impart some information, inspiration or thought provoking material to the congregation. But, the other relates more to the writer than to the congregation.
I find that many of the sermons I write are inspired by stories that happened to me or conflicts I find within me and that the process of writing the sermon actually helps me find meaning in the stories or even, God willing, resolve some of the conflicts. Just as Mrs. Travers discovered about her book and Walt Disney helped her to see in the process of the production of the film, the sermons sometimes serve as a release or as an opportunity to write a different ending to something that is disturbing or just incomplete in my life.
I think this is true of anyone who delivers a sermon and I think it is what makes the whole process of writing such material so fascinating and so vital for those of us who have chosen this career or for those given the opportunity to deliver a d’var Torah or any kind of meaningful presentation.
I am hoping to soon complete a project I have been working on for several years: a book which will contain some of the stories of my life and the sermons that those stories inspired. The connections are sometimes obvious, sometimes more subtle but any writer writes from his or her heart and his or her experience but then tries to make the material stemming from those experiences meaningful to those who listen to his or her words.
Go see the movie Saving Mr. Banks and you will realize what a wonderful process it is to write from the heart.