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The Matrix
Matthew 21:1-17



In 1999, Warner Bros. unleashed a movie entitled The Matrix, a movie that, quite frankly, I hope you've not seen.


The plot is simple enough. According to the Warner Bros. summary of the movie, Thomas Anderson is known in the hacker world as Neo. He is pulled from the life he has always known and shown that, in actuality, it is the year 2199, not 1999.


Freed from his pod, Neo is brought aboard the hovercraft Nebuchadnezzar, where he learns the truth of reality. Humankind has lost a war with their artificial intelligence computers.


Now, humanity is held unconsciously, is grown in pods by the computers of bio-electrical energy, and the world that Neo has lived in is simply a virtual reality designed to keep the cultured humans viable.


Neo joins those who woke him and becomes an integral part of the resistance. Through building awareness and choice, Neo awakens his potential and is able to overcome the seemingly invincible enemy.


In The Matrix Reloaded, Warner Bros. told us that the machines have found the last human city, Zion, located in the Earth's core, and an army of Squiddies is sent to destroy it. Neo must race to beat them there and then launch a final battle pitting the last remaining unplugged humans against the machines.


Of course, it ends in a cliffhanger, setting up the finale, The Matrix Revolutions. The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions are make-believe. But there is a Matrix that it real.


The real Matrix is life itself. The word "matrix" means a "situation in which something develops." For you and me today, that situation is life.


Think with me for a few minutes about this: Life is a M-A-T-R-I-X. I've found that if I can make an acrostic for something, I can remember it far longer than if I don't.


       M - Life is maturing. And that works both ways: life matures us and maturing, or growing, is a part of life.


       A - Life's an adventure.


       T - Life's temporary.


       R - Life's rewarding.


       I - Life's intriguing.


       X - "X" stands for unknown. The "X" in Matrix is like the "X" in Algebra: it's an unknown; it has yet to be discovered;
              it has to be worked out. In short, life's what you make it, or in some cases, what you make it for others.


About 10 years ago, I ran across the story of Teddy Stoddard. All of these points are illustrated in that story.

"This is the story of an elementary teacher from many years ago. Her name was Mrs. Thompson. And as she stood in front of her 5th grade class on her very first day of school, she told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. But that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.


Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he didn't play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.


At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.


Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners... he is a joy to be around."


His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."


His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."


Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class."


By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag.


Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume.


But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to." After the children left she cried for at least an hour.


On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one her "teacher's pets."


A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.


Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had in his whole life.


Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had, but now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.


The story doesn't end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he'd met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the place at the wedding that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.


Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together. They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."


Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."1


You see, the "X" in matrix is, perhaps, the most important letter in our acrostic. For some of us, we were Teddy Stoddard and God sent someone into our lives to encourage us, help us along, and strengthen us. We took their encouragement, and with God's help, worked hard to turn our lives around and to turn that "X" into a wonderful life, full of hope, promise, and happiness.


For others of us, we will not so much be a Teddy Stoddard as we will be a Mrs. Thompson. Everyone of us is incredible, talented, gifted, and has so much to offer. But when faced with the Teddy Stoddards in life, we have to decide what we're going to do. Suddenly, we're faced with an "X", with a matrix, with the opportunity to make a difference.


What will we do? Will we laugh at the Teddy's God brings into our lives, as did his classmates, or will we recognize God's goodness to us and reach out to help and encourage the Teddy's of life? The choice is ours.


The Matrix is…life. Oh, we will make a difference for a lot of people in life. We just have to decide if it's a difference worth making.


In John 15:13, Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this,
that he lay down his life for his friends."


When faced with the "X's" of your life, choose well. Your world is what you make it.


1 Teddy Stoddard (author unknown)













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