In the Office: Lightning McQueen and Holy Succession

My family and I went to the local cinema to see “Cars 3” last night. I can’t commend it as one of the best films I’ve seen this year, but it’s message does provide an interesting point of contact for today’s readings in the Daily Office. “Cars 3” writes the next chapter in the ongoing story of Lightning McQueen — an aging race car who learns that fulfillment need not come exclusively through his own accomplishment; but can be found instead by nurturing the next generation so that key lessons and experiences can be passed along, and so that they can build on the achievements of those who have gone before them.

 

Cars3

Scripture, of course, speaks frequently of such transitions. And today’s readings offer two examples — one negative and one positive — to invite our consideration. On the negative side, the Old Testament reading tells the tale of Eli’s sons, who were “scoundrels and had no regard for the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:12). Raised with a sense of entitlement, they feel free to pursue their own ends with complete disregard for holiness and compassion. On the positive side, today’s psalm suggests the testimony of up-and-coming leaders whose training in God’s Word has allowed them build upon and surpass the attainments of their teachers:

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long…
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts. (Psalm 119:97; 99-100)

The difference between these two outcomes, of course, has a lot to do with the way in which the older generation does or doesn’t “pass the torch” to the younger one. We talk quite a bit in Christian circles about the importance of our young people and how “they’re the future of the church” — and I think we mean it! But does this conviction lead us to do the things that lead to “holy succession”? Are we praying regularly for our young people and their growth in Christ? More challenging, are we building the kind of relationships with them that allow us to enter their lives and become true encouragers? And most challenging of all, are we “making way” for them and blessing them with opportunities for ministry and leadership that allow them to experience first-hand the empowering (and forgiving) presence of God?

In “Cars 3,” Lightning McQueen is able to embrace his role as a mentor and to coach his protege in a way that enables her to achieve victories he can no longer attain. May we prove to be as faithful with the riches in Christ that have been entrusted to us.

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