Preaching Sherlock

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On January 4th I’m going be preaching on the BBC’s Sherlock. If you’re a fan (and I know you are) I’d love to hear your response to the following questions;

1. What do you love most about the show?

2. What is it about Benedict Cumberbatch’s embodiment of Sherlock Holmes that you find most compelling?

3. What do you think God is saying about who he is through the co-creation of this little mystery parable (and all detective mysteries in general)?

7 thoughts on “Preaching Sherlock

  1. JVS Post author

    Michael… I’m the worst guy to ask about ‘application’ of sermonic truths! :- ) Most often I rely on God to make the application as required, in a just in time, personal way. The thing I strive for most in a sermon is that the listener has an ‘experience’ of God, from a new perspective, in a more numinous or transformative way. So for this Sherlock message, I guess I’m hoping that by identifying all of the ways Sherlock images God and by naming the desires that attract us to mystery-solvers like Sherlock (and how these yearnings are ultimately God’s and meant to find their full satiation in knowing God), and how human beings, by nature, are made to engage mystery (the ultimate manifestation of which IS God), people will have more with which to know God when engaging the mysteries of life – be they fictional or real. In a perfect world (new world?) I imagine people watching the new season and experiencing God in the watching, at every God-imaging moment.

  2. Michael

    I am glad to see that I communicated well enough. 🙂

    The word “love” kept coming to mind but I couldn’t put it together in my post. I think you were starting to get after it. Most wouldn’t consider Sherlock’s actions love but isn’t that what we would call it if a more humble person was doing them (righting injustices, etc.)?

    Thanks for adding and sharing your thoughts on my thoughts! I quite like the “healing” and “resurrection” comments. Spending time with God does make us “come more alive.”

    Now, the student in me wants to ask what the practical application is going to be at the end of a sermon like this. I can anticipate things like praying and developing your relationship with God but for me, I would say something more like “be the change you want to see in the world” (not sure who said that)… and what I mean by that is that it’s fine to want someone else (God) to inspire us to be better but if we all did that, we’d end up no where. If people act out their love, they can be the (hopefully humble) Sherlock in someone else’s story. The times that I’ve seen God the clearest, when I felt he was speaking to me, was through others’ words and actions.

  3. JVS Post author

    One more thought as I talk it through with Fran, Mike. In knowing a know-it-all Watson becomes more and more alive and excited and even healed (his leg in episode one). How cool is that? There is a healthy self-foregetfulness and self-awareness that comes from knowing one who knows it all!

  4. JVS Post author

    Thanks for the thoughts Mike. When you wrote about liking the arrogant side of Sherlock it made me wonder why (because I like it too). Is this a kind of arrogant-resonance thing – both of us like liking another arrogant guy? Or is there something more to it? There is something about knowing someone who knows it all. Again, making the theological jump; we are ‘made for’ and ‘meant to’ know One-who-knows-it-all. In the show we get to do a lot of our observing through John Watson – sharing his struggles with the bad side of arrogance, but also his awe at the brilliance of the man; awe that turns to a deep kind of love as the plot progresses. I suppose our love of the fact that Sherlock knows it all is iconic in this way (something we can look through to see God).

    Re: your intrigue re: the non-verbal part of Sherlock – it makes me think about a way of knowing that doesn’t always have to communicate that it knows. Again, God must live in this kind of place all the time. There’s an all-knowingness that doesn’t need to say a word… that’s embodied in being, that you can see when you look in God’s eyes. Hmmmm…

    LOVE the thought that Sherlock images a God who’s always, “helping people along”… so true. While BC clearly communicates the burdensome nature of that activity, at times he’s gentle and patient, and very much imaging his Maker – for whom “it’s just his nature”.

    “What makes it interesting then, is that as much as he knows and calculates everything, he can still be surprised by people.” << again, so image bearing!! And lastly... love the Jesus parallel you close with. Right on! And Sherlock even died and resurrected too! Great thought M... thanks

  5. Michael

    1. It’s hard to argue with Lucretia who has the insider’s edge but I’ll put a few ideas down here. Not far from what Lucretia said, I love that, as a TV show, it’s not your run-of-the-mill sitcom. They are doing something different. I keep saying to people that TV is the new Hollywood film. The comparison is almost easier to make when each episode lasts 90 minutes. But they are doing so many things really well. At the end of the day though, Sherlock’s character (and BC playing Sherlock) is very fun to watch. I think I mentioned this with Breaking Bad but there always seems to be a pull with lead characters who have a certain arrogance about them. I guess I’ll be getting more into that in #2. Finally, due to my living in London, I love the fact that the show takes place here. I enjoy seeing places I have been or places I should go!

    2. As previously mentioned, Sherlock’s character is very compelling! I think what I love most about BC’s embodiment is the non-verbal aspects… a little smirk, “thinking” eyes, etc. Now, compare this portrayal to Robert Downy Jr. Very different. Both smart but RDJ’s character was much more social and physical whereas BC’s character is a self-proclaimed sociopath (I think in an actual clinical sense he probably isn’t but its a nice hyperbole). I also loved BC as Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness, which has some similarities and so I guess he’s getting that arrogant (“all-knowing”) character down pat.

    3. I haven’t given this one a long thought but here are things that initially come to mind (often most relevant anyway). I think that Sherlock could be seen as a God-like character. I can imagine it would be hard to know so much more than everyone and to constantly needing to help them along.. sounds tiring! But I think that Sherlock doesn’t do what he does for any reward (love, money, etc.). It’s just his nature. What makes it interesting then, is that as much as he knows and calculates everything, he can still be surprised by people. I still remember my first Open Theology course and learning to figure out where God might fit on a spectrum of Omniscient but un-involved or involved but somehow then limited. Obviously we can’t put God on a spectrum like that, which leaves us with a bit of a paradox. Anyway, this was the first time that I thought that the God I learned in school and church was not the God I believed in. I believe in a God who interacts with the world… chooses to have a relationship with us and be involved in our lives. So, I start to see Sherlock as a story like that. Jesus came to Earth trying to spread a message because he knew better than we did and I am sure that must have been frustrating to see people not believe and so he would, in some cases, wow them with miracles but we can be very stubborn people. Sherlock is a bit more of a selfish character (or maybe inward focused) and so he is definitely not Jesus. But I can see some parallels as we want Sherlock to win over evil… help us with our troubles… right injustices. Isn’t that what the Israelites wanted from their Messiah? Seems like humanity maybe hasn’t changed all that much!

    Anyway, I hope didn’t ramble too much there. Hopefully you can string together my ideas. 🙂

  6. JVS Post author

    Nice Lucretia! When I read your observation about “his intelligence and hyper-attention to detail” it made me think about how he images a God who sees all things with perfect clarity, all of the time. We’re made to be impressed with a being that see this clearly, that’s this impressive, that doesn’t miss a thing! A question back to you now… what bible stories come to mind as you consider the ‘all seeing, all knowing’ nature of God? If a story comes to mind, hold that story in your mind alongside the story/character of Sherlock… let them talk to each other… listen in and see if there’s any co-illumination that happens.

    Your response to question #3 is brilliant (after the mind of PD James actually; “In turbulent times, she said, people turn to detective stories for reassurance as much as entertainment “because they do affirm the intelligibility of the universe, the moral norm, the sanctity of life.” “It seems to me,” she continued, “that the more we live in a society in which we feel our problems — be they international problems of war and peace, racial problems, problems of drugs, problems of violence — to be literally beyond our ability to solve, the more reassuring it is to read a popular form of fiction which itself has a problem at the heart of it. One which the reader knows will be solved by the end of the book.” (Globe and Mail obituary)

    Thanks for this… looking forward to your further response.

  7. Lucretia

    1. What I love most about the show is the overall quality of the production – the writing, the directing, the acting, the filming, the music, the editing – every single piece of it has been done with excellence and it shows! Having worked in the television industry for 7 years has given me somewhat of an insider’s perspective to TV and I tend to analyze TV shows that way. On one hand, TV has lost some of the magic for me, but on the other hand, when I see a show like Sherlock I get ridiculously giddy. It is SO well done, on every level.
    2. What I find compelling about Sherlock’s character is his intelligence and hyper-attention to detail. There is just so much going on in his brain at ALL times. He is very blunt and anti-social, but I think this simply has to do with the way he interacts with this surroundings – constantly analyzing and processing – people just get in the way of that. Every once in a while we see him break out of this computer-like character and the heart behind it shows a little. It’s wonderful when we get a glimpse into that part of him and I think the writers put those moments in there so we don’t forget that he’s actually human. Benedict Cumberbatch plays this character incredibly well!
    3. This is something I’d never really thought about before – but I think the human attraction to mysteries in general shows how God has created us to be ever-curious, always seeking a solution or resolution to problems. We like to have things “figured out”. What I love about fictional mysteries is that I know the solution is coming. The answer WILL be revealed. There is satisfaction in that.

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