The Gospel According to Ferris Bueller (And Why I Still Love My Landline)

For the past week, I've been on an 80s movies' kick. Thanks to instant streaming, with the punch of a button I've accessed Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Pretty In Pink, Footloose, and much more. They make for great background noise (and music) while working around the house or while winding down. Then last Saturday I came upon John Hughes' classic, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, on the Comedy Central station.


There's a lot to glean from this story of a high school student who wants a break from the tedium of spiral notebooks and No. 2 pencils. There are probably many who have blogged about lessons learned from various scenes. Some may blame Ferris for giving teenagers wild ideas, and others may praise his boldness to resist the warden-like principal of his high school. As I was partly watching, partly reading, and partly cooking, what caught my attention was a scene towards the beginning of the movie. A car-less Ferris calls his best friend, Cameron, in search of wheels to make his day-off dreams come true. Ferris is sitting by the swimming pool, talking on a cordless phone, complete with lightweight, wobbly antennae. Cameron answers from a "speaker phone" (oooo.. modern technology!) that probably weighs more than my dog. Ferris makes some demands, Cameron refuses, and both hang up. Eventually, Cameron comes through for his best friend. It's not the funniest or most memorable scene in the movie. But it raised this question for me: what would Ferris Bueller's Day Off be now, 25+ years later, with cell phones instead of landlines?

While I appreciate its conveniences, the cell phone is not my favorite device. When people ask for my mobile number, I always respond with, "Let me give you my landline number instead." Puzzled, they sometimes ask, "You still have a landline? Why?" There are a few reasons, but after really watching this scene, I can now articulate why:

The landline is a healthy connection. It's used to communicate with one another by voice--not by email, not by text, not by Twitter, not by Facebook. We leave it behind when we go out to do our work or to enjoy God's creation. We are not distracted by it when driving. It provides communication with boundaries. There's a sense of privacy to the conversation when a cord binds us to a certain space.

In Matthew 6:6, Jesus teaches his disciples: "whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (New Revised Standard Version). Many of us pray while we're on-the-go, as needs arise. Some of us pray throughout the day. While these ongoing prayers are wonderful, we also need to heed Jesus' words to pull away and pray in private. We need to reconnect with God through landline (in a private place) in an increasingly mobile world. How wonderful that we serve a God who travels with us and hears us in all times & places. He is also a God who desires us to connect intentionally without distraction, to pay attention to the Voice on the other end of the line. With Cameron, Ferris, Mr. Rooney, Grace, and the other corded-phone talkers of 1980s films, let us focus on the conversation right in front of us. Let us listen to his grace.

And if you need to reach this pastor -- call my landline.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian