The Founder

A couple of weeks ago I saw The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc. It's not playing here in Sherman; I saw it in Plano. It's the story of how Ray Kroc took a hamburger stand in California and make it a global phenomenon. Ray Kroc did not start McDonald's-- Dick and Mac McDonald did. But Ray was a visionary and saw its potential.

The movie starts with Ray as a traveling salesman in Ohio. He's driving to small restaurants and drive-ins, trying to convince them to buy his milkshake machine: it can make six at a time, instead of the usual one. He can't sell any to anyone. He calls the home office to check in, and the secretary tells him a place in California just placed an order for six. Assuming it's a mistake, Ray calls McDonald's. The owner says, "Yeah that was a mistake. Better make it eight." Ray decides to drive out to California to see this place. He is amazed at what he finds.

McDonald's a hamburger stand. It's not a drive-in, so there are no cars-- and no car hops. You have a choice of either a cheeseburger, fries and a drink, or a cheeseburger, fries and a drink. Or maybe the special: a cheeseburger, fries and a drink. No BBQ, chicken wings, etc. Everything is served in a paper bag. No knives and forks, no plates. Eat, and throw it away. The burgers are all made exactly the same way, and there is no waiting. Your order is ready in seconds.

He asks the brothers about the process. They tell the story of before the place even opened, before it was built, they gathered all the employees at a tennis court. As a conductor leads an orchestra, the McDonald brothers laid out the whole operation. Drawing with chalk on the court, the drink station was here; the grill over there; the window here. With a stopwatch they meticulously time each station so that everything runs smoothly and to exact expectations.

Ray sees the potential to spread McDonald's across the country, and the brothers agree to let Ray start selling franchises in the Midwest. They open restaurants everywhere, but Ray is not making any money. That's when a partner says they need to establish a corporation which owns the land. The individual franchisees own the business, McD's incorporated owns the land. Ray establishes this without the brothers' knowledge or consent. Soon he buys them out, and McDonald's becomes a multi-billion dollar industry, one of the largest landowners in the world. Ray was a great businessman-- not a great man, husband, or friend-- but a visionary. He could see reality in a way the McDonald brothers could not.

Jesus was a visionary too. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls his new disciples up to the mountain to teach them about the life they are beginning. This is Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Matthew. So in Chapters 1-4 we've had his birth, his baptism, his temptation, and the calling of the disciples. Matthew is very clear that Jesus calls the disciples to teach them-- others are listening, but the primary audience is the disciples. He begins the sermon with very comforting, affirming words.

 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 ‘You are the salt of the earth;  ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

 It all sounds wonderful. But he's not finished. He's just getting started. In verse 21 things get real, or as they say about preachers when sermons hit too close to home, "he's gone meddlin'." Now, Jesus was not from Texas, so I'm going to read it as if he was. The "you's" he says are plural: y'all.

‘Yall have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “Yall shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.” But I say to you that if yall are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement;  ‘Yall have heard that it was said, “Yall shall not commit adultery.” But I say to yall that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ‘Again, yall have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “Yall shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to yall, Do not swear at all."

So he takes classic teaching from the Ten Commandments and other common practices and makes them much, much harder. Yes, I know I should not murder. I can buy that. OK, I should not commit adultery. Easy. I should not swear a false oath. Got it. Jesus says not murdering isn't the standard at all; you shall not be angry with a brother or sister. Don't give your gift to the church until you have reconciled with someone you have hurt. That's hard. Forget adultery-- too easy. But how do you control lust? Or do not swear anything at all??

Paul wasn't from Texas either, but he goes to meddlin' with the Corinthians too:
"And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to yall as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed yall with milk, not solid food, for yall were not ready for solid food. Even now yall are still not ready, for yall are still of the flesh."

Following Jesus isn't easy-- sometimes in the church we make it too warm and fuzzy. It's messy; it's hard work. But the potential is there for transforming, new life. And Jesus wanted the disciples to be able to fully understand, and say yes: " Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one" (Matthew 5:37). Literally just this morning this verse was in my devotion: "If you choose, you can keep the commandments,
   and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice" (Ecclesiasticus 15:15).

Boom. That's really the issue. We can choose to follow Jesus and step into a new life. Or not. The disciples are just as free to return to their boats by the Sea of Galilee.

Ray Kroc was a visionary who saw the potential for McDonald's. The brothers didn't. Their answer was no. Ray bought them out and created a corporation known throughout the world. Jesus also shared a vision on the mountain. And we can choose to follow or not. What's your answer? In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.