Way back in the good old days, the flush bubble years of the late 90s/early 00s, as I was studying business and thinking of how I’d spend my first million, one of my favorite movies was the 2000 Ben Younger film, Boiler Room. It started Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel (so it has to be good), and Nia Long, but what I remember most about it is the impassioned speeches by Ben Affleck’s character, Jim Young. Young was a manager/trainer in the crooked stock brokerage house whose task was to convince impressionable young men and women that the Almighty Dollar was more important than any laws of the Securities and Exchange Commission or Common Decency.
Some of the gems that Jim Young shares with his young charges are:
- Always be Closing – stolen, no doubt, from Wall Street
- Anybody who tells you money is the root of all evil doesn’t [expletive] have any
- There’s an important phrase that we use here, and think it’s time that you all learned it. Act as if. You understand what that means? Act as if you are the [expletive] President of this firm. Act as if you got a [expletive] [expletive]. Okay? Act as if.
Jim Young has been on my mind the past two days as I’ve been reading, listening, and praying about the lessons for Advent 3. It first came up yesterday as I listened to this week’s installment of WorkingPreacher’s Sermon Brainwave. In the course of the conversation, the scholars at Luther Seminary noted that all of the activities that JBap describes as “fruit worthy of repentance” are fully within our grasp. We are invited by God to take part in building his Kingdom in real and meaningful ways, by means of things we can do. This, they argue (and I am apt to agree), is good news. The Good News is that we are capable of acting as if the Kingdom of God is here.
Then this morning, TKT brought up the Herbert O’Driscoll classic Prayers for the Breaking of Bread and pointed out the reflection on Sunday’s Collect, affectionately referred to as “The Stirrup Prayer.” O’Driscoll uses two classic quotes to encourage the reader to take the Collect for Advent 3 as a call to “act as if.” First is “an old saying” that says “we should pray as if everything depended on God and act as if everything depended on ourselves.” A bit clunky, perhaps, but Saint Augustine clears things up in a quote that O’Driscoll finds so important he mentions it twice in two pages, “Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not.” This also is good news. The Good News is that we are invited by God to take part in his mundane miracles every day.
Maybe Jim Young can be redeemed. The call to “Act as if…” can be a holy one, and I believe it is our call this Advent 3 as we finalize the preparations for God’s indwelling presence in Jesus – the one who teaches us what “if” can look like.