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A video clip from the movie "Dead Man Walking" might give us a better understanding of what mercy really is.
In the video, Sister Helen Prejean sits with convicted killer Matthew Poncelet in his cell. When he confesses that he has indeed killed a man, Sister Prejean teaches him that he can become a child of God by asking for forgiveness of his sins and owning up to his responsibility—which he does, realizing that confession doesn’t negate what he’s done. The best he can do is wish the families peace. Poncelet is grateful for Sister Prejean’s compassion and love.* The video concludes with Poncelet telling Sister Prejean, "Thank you for loving me." (* Source: Videos That Teach, by Doug Fields and Eddie James)
For many people today the spiritual journey is filled with crushing burdens. I think of the character Rodrigo from the 1986 academy award winning movie The Mission. Rodrigo, played by Robert DeNiro, portrays a slave trader who kills his brother in a fit of rage. He’s filled with such terrible remorse and guilt that, to pay penance and get rid of his guilt he carries his armor through the jungle as a symbol of the crushing burden of his guilt.
Are you burdened like Rodrigo in your spiritual journey today? If so, I’ve got good news that you can lighten your load. It’s likely that many of us are carrying burdens today that don’t belong on the journey, burdens like the armor that Rodrigo was carrying on his journey. Today we’re going to look at how to lighten our load of four specific burdens that crush us in our spiritual journey.
One of the most disturbing and powerful films I have seen over the
last couple of years is Steven Spielberg’s movie, Saving Private
Ryan. The movie tells the story of an Army captain named John
Miller who having survived the carnage of the D-Day invasion at
Normandy Beach, portrayed in 28 minutes of intense, graphic and
gory detail, is ordered to find a solitary private among thousands of
displaced soldiers. He must return Private James F. Ryan home to
his mother, whose other three sons have just been killed in action.
However, due to some confusion in the invasion, it is not certain
where he is to be found; Private Ryan is a “needle in a stack of
needles”. The soldiers reluctantly set out on their daunting
mission. Almost immediately, they begin questioning the worth of
risking eight men’s lives in order to save one.
Captain Miller rationalises that each life lost in combat is supposed
to save 10 lives. Within that paradigm, how can their current
mission make any sense? The soldiers begin to detest their
mission to save Private Ryan, even hoping to find his name on one
of the dog tags taken from some dead soldiers.
Captain Miller and the small group of men assigned to him
successfully locate Ryan, but then are forced to defend a strategic
bridge against enemy tanks and troops. Captain Miller is fatally
wounded. In his dying moments, he reaches out to Private Ryan,
and with great emotion says, “Earn this! Earn this!”
Many years later as an old man, James Ryan stands in a military
cemetery tearfully looking at the small white cross that stands
where the man who saved his life is buried. He wonders aloud if he
has indeed earned the great gift he received.
In Les Misérables the antagonist is a police man named Javert. He is a pitiful man who believes in judgment alone and not mercy. Last week we saw the clip from the movie where Jean Valjean receives mercy from the Bishop and I told you that he lives the rest of his life trying to give the same mercy he received. Javert, on the other hand tries to live his life on the basis of justice and the rule of law – he says things like “once a thief, always a thief.” At one point of the movie he makes a mistake and requires the mayor to punish him – his justice must even apply to himself – but the mayor (Valjean in disguise) has mercy on him, finally ordering him to forgive himself, because the chief of police must obey an order from the Mayor. He is forever in pursuit of Valjean to bring him to justice. At one point in the story Valjean is given the chance to kill Javert, and be rid of his pursuer forever. Instead, he has mercy on him and sets him free. In the final scene, Javert and Valjean meet up again
Javert cannot live with the reality that Valjean has been redeemed, and is a better man than he is, when he catches up with Valjean in the end, he sets him free and kills himself because he cannot live with the mercy that was shown him and th...
I saw a movie recently titled “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” where three escaped criminals were on the run. One scene in this movie stands out to me more than any other.
While on the run they are involved in a baptismal scene at the river. Two of the criminals are baptized by the preacher and they immediately think that all of their past sin is gone and that they are now innocent again, and the law can’t touch them.
There was no repentance or change of heart, they only got wet, but they thought the “preacher had washed their sins away”. Nothing can do that but the Blood of Jesus Christ though repentance and acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior.
The only one who had any intelligence among the three spoke up and his statement makes the point that I want to emphasize. He said, “The Lord may have forgiven you and washed your sin away, but the State of Mississippi isn’t so forgiving and you still have a debt to pay.”
I don’t know how I feel about the Christmas Lexus commercials. Have you seen them? In a series of vignettes, a key to a new Lexus is given to a very surprised and very pleased wife or husband. IN one instance, the husband has the family dog take the ribbon holding the keys to his wife. In another, the husband and wife are decorating the tree, with the man handing his wife the ornaments who then hangs them on the tree. After handing her ornament after ornament, he hands her keys to a new Lexus. I don’t know how I feel about these commercials. To be honest, I love the expressions of delight and glee and surprise on the faces of the women. But part of me says, “Isn’t there something more to the Christmas spirit than tens of thousands of dollars of automobile?
I would much rather see the look of surprise on the face of a gangly adolescent opening a gift from our church through the Christmas angel project. It seems to me that something more of value in that than another expensive gift to another home that already has way more than they need. It seems to me that that is somehow closer to what Christmas is all about.
We need a better sense that we are temporary.
GOT IT COMIN'
Clint Eastwood Westerns are great movies. One of his later movies is titled “Unforgiven.” In the movie, Eastwood plays the part of an aging gunfighter who lost his taste for killing many years before. He and his old partner, played by Morgan Freeman, are lured by the rumor of a bounty of gold being offered for the arrest of some cowboys who had disfigured a young prostitute. Despite some misgivings, they set out to hunt for these men, joined by a young partner who is eager to show he is as good a gunfighter as any man. When they find the men they are hunting, the young man, who had earlier bragged of killing five men, admits after the confrontation that the man he killed was his first. As he sits talking to Eastwood afterward, it is easy to see that the memory of watching the man die is haunting him. He sits with a bottle of whiskey, taking quick drinks to help him face the moment. As he tries to convince himself there was nothing wrong with what he did, Clint simply says, “Take a drink, kid.” No telling how many times the older gunman had faced the same memories with a bottle. The young man takes a drink, and says, “Well, I guess he had it coming for what he did,” still trying to justify the killing to himself. Clint just pauses and reflects for a long moment, and finally replies, “We all got it coming, kid.”
The scene is a reminder of the verse: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” When it comes to God’s justice, we all “got it coming.”
Citation: "Unforgiven", 1992.
Miss Anne was not able to give Helen Keller her sight. But she was able to lead her into an understanding of the world around her that she had never experienced before. As you watch the closing moments in the movie we began earlier, The Miracle Worker, think about how marvelous that moment must have been for this man healed of his blindness in
John 9. Think about the gratitude and love he must have felt toward the Lord as he considered the marvelous thing Jesus had d...
Do you remember the feelings of disappointment Dorothy and her friends had when the Great and Magnificent Wizard of Oz was exposed behind the curtain? Do you remember that scene? The Wizard spoke with much sound and fury, but seemed to have little substance once the curtain was pulled back. Did Jesus turn out to be that way? No way – no one pulled the curtain back on him. In fact, he ripped in right in two. When Christ died, the curtain in the temple separating the people from the Most Holy Place, which represented the presence of the Lord was torn from top to bottom. God and His eternal love and forgiveness were made accessible to man in Christ!
What makes a hero? Webster’s defines a hero as a person “of distinguished courage, moral or physical; chief character in a play, novel, poem, etc.” One of my wife and my favorite movies is “The Princess Bride.” One character of the movie, Inigo Montoya, fits the definition of hero found in the dictionary. He has distinguished courage, which is physical at the heart. He is a sword fighter who has searched years to find the men who killed his father over the price of a sword. Over the years he has dreamt of what he would say to the man and came up with “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Near the end of the movie, he finds and fights the man who killed his father. They fight, and Inigo is winning, so his enemy begins to try and bargain for his own life by offering gold and silver to let him live. Inigo tells him to offer him whatever he asks, and the man replies, “I’ll give you anything you want.” And his request? “Bring back my father.” That was the sacrifice that would have saved this man’s life, but, of course, he could not bring Inigo’s father back to life. Because of his love for his father, Inigo gave up 20 years of his life in the search. That’s a sacrifice.