In 1994, when the animated movie The Lion King was released, many at Disney Studios were not counting on it being much of a hit. For one thing, it was their first feature length animated film based on an original story (although it very loosely draws on Hamlet), and nobody was sure if this lack of public familiarity would be readily accepted. So, according to Mental Floss the movie was actually made by the “B-Team” animators since the “A-Team” elected to work on a film with more potential: Pocahontas (1995).
The Lion King,, however, soon became king of the box office, and even today it is the highest grossing hand drawn animated film in history. Until Frozen came along, it was the highest grossing animated film ever. It seems that nobody realized just how much potential a movie like this could have, and this is interesting, since The Lion King is all about potential. Specifically it’s about Simba the lion cub growing up to realize and embrace his potential to lead his people, and then standing up to the dark side, and restoring balance to the force.
(Well, maybe I have confused this last bit with another movie but after all, James Earl Jones, the voice of Simba’s father Mufasa was also the voice of Darth Vader, and both Mufasa and Vader did appear to their sons after they had died.)
This tendency to miss potential is not a new thing. You find it all through the Bible. Few people realized the shepherd boy David had the potential to become king of Israel. Who knew that Jesus, crucified would be Christ risen? As the New Testament describes this turn of events, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner." Most people wouldn’t have guessed that Peter, an ordinary fisherman, and Paul, a persecutor of Christians, would both become leaders in the faith as it swept the world. There is potential all over the place that only God can see.
The Lion King took off, netting Disney a billion dollars in merchandising its first year alone, and it has shaped the lives of the many children who grew up watching it with the tune to “Hakuna Matata” stuck in their heads. Nobody realized the potential of such a movie about potential.
The movie had so much potential it grew into a hit Broadway musical, which eventually was adapted for young people. And now here in Terre Haute a group of talented young actors are playing the roles and singing the songs. They have worked hard on this production, and I think you’ll agree that it shows. And if you look closely at them as they’re on the stage you’ll see something that some folk are good at missing. You’ll see potential all over the place. They have amazing potential, and knowing them gives me a sense of confidence and pride. I hope you feel the same way.
So in a show about potential, a show in which everyone missed it’s potential, there is a stage full of potential. And maybe there is also an audience full of potential, all taking place through a congregation full of potential.
The potential is there. It’s filling the streets of Terre Haute. It’s even in you. May God breathe it into life, and may we never stop striving to reach it.
In God’s Peace;