A Sermon Inspired by The Leftovers

A Sermon Inspired by The Leftovers

When The Leftovers first aired, I began writing an article about the show's implications on faith and spirituality. As I wrote, I realized that my thoughts kept edging further and further towards creating a sermon, mostly because I think the show is one of the most important commentaries on spirituality and living I've ever seen.

So when I was asked to give a sermon at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Chicago, Illinois – where I'm a parishioner and member of the Vestry – I knew I had to include The Leftovers. The drama means many things to many people; for me, it's a wake up call to realize that this – this life, this journey, this panoply of relationships lovely and painful – could be over any moment. So, how might we live today?

What you'll read or listen to below, "Always Leftover," was presented, of course, in a Christian context. I think all sermons should, one way or another, illuminate the Gospel reading for any particular Sunday. In this case, the reading that day was Matthew 16:21-28 Though this was written for a Christian community, I hope readers of any faith tradition (or none at all, for that matter) will discover just how deeply this show has affected me – and how I hope it might affect everyone.

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5 Prodigal Sons in ‘The Prodigal Son Returns’

5 Prodigal Sons in ‘The Prodigal Son Returns’

In the Bible, Luke 15:11-32 tells the story of the prodigal son and his return to his family. The title of the season finale of The Leftovers, “The Prodigal Son Returns,” takes inspiration from this passage. As we’ve seen throughout the series, episode titles potentially contain multiple meanings…or in this case, multiple prodigal sons.

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Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette…

Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette…

The Leftovers is leaving many viewers with more questions than answers. Last Sunday’s episode, “The Garveys at Their Best,” certainly offered some solace for the bewildered by using flashbacks to Oct. 13 and the morning of Oct. 14 three years ago, just before the Departure. But the question of why the Guilty Remnant are incessantly puffing on cigarettes remains an enigma that’s tough to unravel.

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 Different Ways The Leftovers Challenges Our Sense of Purpose

Different Ways The Leftovers Challenges Our Sense of Purpose

Like a vacuum that implodes an object, the Departure seems to have crushed the details of each character, hardening them into more simplified shapes in keeping with whatever in them responds to their truest purpose. Prior to Episode 9, we saw the aftermath of several years of Post-Rapture Tribulation – Kevin Jr. seems to be coming apart psychologically, Patti was driven to suicide as a rhetorical device, Jill has joined the G.R., while Laurie ascends its ranks. Each of the main characters have been explored, and we finally got to see an informative glimpse into where they came from, revealing that the Rapture wasn’t the story of who disappeared (as Matt stubbornly insists), but what purpose they served in the next stage for those who remained. The show illustrates – in a more speculatively humanist, less dogmatically Christian way – a society, conspicuously similar to our own, that was already ripe for an unraveling.

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Mapleton and the Suburban Strange

Mapleton and the Suburban Strange

In a show with no shortage of compelling characters and metaphysical mysteries, it feels odd to admit that I’ve been thinking about its setting as much as anything else. And yet episode after episode, I’m drawn to that particular intersection of material reality and abstract experience. Yes, I mean Mapleton: The Leftovers’ repository of suburban sameness and hallucinatory dread in equal measure. In this piece, I’d like to explore Mapleton’s role in The Leftovers, and how it continues and enriches a tradition of suburban surreality in the arts.

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Multitasking Ourselves to Oblivion: The Parasitic Smartphones in The Leftovers

Multitasking Ourselves to Oblivion: The Parasitic Smartphones in The Leftovers

Objects – both symbolic and useful – play important roles in The Leftovers. For example, Kevin’s shirts illustrate the life he lives during his fugue states. The G.R.’s cigarettes suggest both the ridiculous circumstances of a commodity culture they resist and the willingness of the group to bodily self-destruct as a means of meditation. The National Geographic from Kevin Garvey, Sr. is a treasure trove of referential possibilities. Symbols and object relations are everywhere in the show and create a rich subtext operating concurrently with the rest of the story. They provide a kind of pastiche of references that, read together within the context of the show, provide a secondary narrative layer that might provide clues about what the show is trying to convey.

One such object that makes a conspicuous appearance throughout the season is the cell phone. It plays an important role in the lives of characters both before and after the Departure and suggests changing relationships between people, people and objects, and people and society. It shows up as a presence, lurking here and there as a distraction, a lifeline, or a doorway to an individual set of experiences that are simultaneously inclusionary (drawing individuals into relationships with vast, invisible communities) and exclusionary (in the way it supplants real relationships between people, families, and communities). It’s a timely subject, and one that the show treats in interesting ways.

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8 Essential Symbols in ‘The Garveys at Their Best’

8 Essential Symbols in ‘The Garveys at Their Best’

Though completely a flashback, “The Garveys at their Best” was full of symbolism and double meanings – much of concerning events to come. I’ve rounded up what I consider to be eight of the best of those symbols here with some explanation about why they’re so interesting. Note: These are all just observation and speculation, and I have not read the book (and don’t intend to).

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9 Excellent Reasons to Binge The Leftovers' 9 Episodes Before the Finale

9 Excellent Reasons to Binge The Leftovers' 9 Episodes Before the Finale

It’s time to binge on some Leftovers: On Sunday, Aug. 30, starting at noon, HBO2 will air the first nine episodes the series’ inaugural season back-to-back so that fans can re-watch or new folks can catch-up in advance of the drama’s Sept. 7 season finale. (Of course, you can binge anytime on HBO GO.)

To tee you up before the coming marathon, I assembled nine great reasons (warning: some are a tad cheeky) anyone – everyone! – should go back and watch The Leftovers’ first nine episodes again…or to binge watch and catch up on the show that’s gotten everyone else talking.

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Saint Hubertus: Holy Men, Deer and Dogs

Saint Hubertus: Holy Men, Deer and Dogs

“The Garveys at Their Best” opens with a bit of déjà vu, as Kevin is yet again face-to-face with one of the show’s most intriguing characters: a stag. We are unsure if Kevin keeps happening on the same deer resurrecting itself – or if it’s a different deer each time. Either way, there’s much we can speculate about the significance of the deer. There’s been a good deal of discussion about the role of animals in The Leftovers. What is significant and what isn’t has been debated over and again since the pilot episode. As the season has progressed, I’ve noticed a link between the deer and the dogs seen on the show. That link is Saint Hubertus.

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10 Things We Now Know About the Garveys

10 Things We Now Know About the Garveys

“The Garveys at Their Best” rewarded viewers in so many ways that it was easy to lose count: Motivations were revealed. Mysteries were explained. The nature of relationships came to light. While we could examine nearly every significant resident of the Mapleton community, the insight we were given into the Garvey family is perhaps most fascinating.

Below are the 10 things we now know about the Garveys that I found particularly interesting.

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