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A. Todd Coget
["Mr. Holland’s Opus": Leaving a Legacy, Citation: Mr. Holland’s Opus, (Hollywood Pictures, 1995), rated PG, written by Patrick Sheane Duncan, directed by Stephen Herek; submitted by Greg Asimakoupoulos, Naperville, Illinois]
Mr. Holland’s Opus is a movie about a frustrated composer in Portland, Oregon, who takes a job as a high school band teacher in the 1960s.
Although diverted from his lifelong goal of achieving critical fame as a classical musician, Glenn Holland (played by Richard Dreyfuss) believes his school job is only temporary.
At first he maintains his determination to write an opus or a concerto by composing at his piano after putting in a full day with his students.
But, as family demands increase (including discovery that his infant son is deaf) and the pressures of his job multiply, Mr. Holland recognizes that his dream of leaving a lasting musical legacy is merely a dream.
At the end of the movie we find an aged Mr. Holland fighting in vain to keep his job.
The board has decided to reduce the operating budget by cutting the music and drama program.
No longer a reluctant band teacher, Mr. Holland believes in what he does and passionately defends the role of the arts in public education.
What began as a career detour became a 35-year mission, pouring his heart into the lives of young people.
Mr. Holland returns to his classroom to retrieve his belongings a few days after school has let out for summer vacation.
He has taught his final class.
With regret and sorrow, he fills a box with artifacts that represent the tools of his trade and memories of many meaningful classes.
His wife and son arrive to give him a hand.
As they leave the room and walk down the hall, Mr. Holland hears some noise in the auditorium.
Because school is out, he opens the door to see what the commotion is.
To his amazement he sees a capacity audience of former students and teaching colleagues and a banner that reads "Goodbye, Mr. Holland."
Those in attendance greet Mr. Holland with a standing ovation while a band (consisting of past and present members) plays songs they learned at his hand.
His wife, who was in on the surprise reception, approaches the podium and makes small talk until the master of ceremonies, the governor of Oregon, arrives.
The governor is none other than a student Mr. Holland helped to believe in herself his first year of teaching.
As she addresses the room of well-wishers, she speaks for the hundreds who fill the auditorium:
"Mr. Holland had a profound influence in my life (on a lot of lives, I know), and yet I get the feeling that he considers a great part of his life misspent.
Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his, and this was going to make him famous and rich (probably both).
But Mr. Holland isn’t rich and he isn’t famous.
At least not outside our little town.
So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure, but he’d be wrong.
Because I think he’s achieved a success far beyond riches and fame."
Looking at her former teacher the governor gestures with a sweeping hand and continues, "Look around you.
There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each one of us is a better person because of you.
We are your symphony, Mr. Holland.
We are the melodies and the notes of your opus.
And we are the music of your life."
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.
In the movie, A Few Good Men, a sergeant and a private stand on trial for killing a fellow marine. Their lawyer, played by Tom Cruise, attempts to demonstrate that the murder was actually the result of an order that the two marines had received from a higher-up. The order to help train the fellow marine ended up causing the death of that marine. When Tom Cruise begins to investigate, the prosecuting attorney quickly tries to strike a plea bargain, offering to reduce the sentence from 20 years down to six months.
Tom Cruise goes to tell his clients the good news, that in six months they would be home free. Harold, the marine sergeant, refuses the plea bargain and chooses instead to stand on trial. Tom Cruise is mortified. If the case went to trial, they would loose and likely spend a lifetime behind bars. In a powerful point in the movie, Tom Cruise looks Harold in the eye and asks him why he would be so stupid as to refuse a plea bargain of six months. Harold responds, “Unit, Core, God, Country.” Tom Cruise looks at him and says, “What?” He repeats, “Unit, Core, God, Country.” Harold explains that this is their code. The center of marine values is “Unit, Core, God, Country.” Harold had followed the code, and if following the code meant that he would spend the rest of his life in a military prison, then so be it.” So Tom Cruise tells him, “If you want to go to jail for the rest of your life, you go right ahead.”
I’m wondering if we aren’t sometimes like Tom Cruise in that movie. Instead of seeing our mission as a driving force behind all we do, we look at it as a nice slogan on a piece of paper. I find evidence of this when I see people putting their personal agendas ahead of our mission as a church. When we focus more on what the church can do for us rather than what we can do for the mission of the church, then our mission becomes irrelevant.
The movie King Arthur retells the legend of the great warrior king who ruled England in the dark ages. Arthur (Clive Owen) is a Christian of Roman origin, but his knights are all pagans who were forced into service at a young age. Arthur has won over their allegiance by his selfless leadership, but they have retained the religion of their youth.
In this scene, Arthur is preparing his supplies in a dimly lit stable. He’s about to lead his knights on their last perilous quest before they will each be granted their freedom. Arthur, who is yet be king, is frustrated that his superiors would send his knights on such a dangerous mission just before they are to be released from duty—so he takes his discouragement to God. He sets down the saddle he’s carrying and bows in prayer. Lancelot, emerging from the darkness, overhears him.
Lancelot asks, “Why do you always talk to God and not to me? Pray to whomever you p...
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.
How many of you have seen the modern-day Christmas classic, “A Christmas Story?” It’s a great movie about one family’s Christmas season and a little boy’s mission to receive the Cadillac of BB guns as a present. The Miano family watches this movie every year. Whenever I see the scene of Ralphie being forced to try on the bunny pajamas, I think of the purple turtleneck sweaters my grandmother would get me every year. I hated those sweaters—and I had to wear them whenever grandma came over.
The movie is filled with scenes that will take you back to the nostalgia of your childhood. Another such scene is one in which the tongue plays a prominent role. The scene involves Ralphie, whose adult counterpart narrates the entire movie, and Ralphie’s friends, Flick and Schwartz.
We find the three boys, along with a bunch of other kids, huddled around the school flagpole. It is a cold and snowy day, and everyone is bundled up like Eskimos. The scene begins with Schwartz trying to convince Flick that his tongue would stick to the flagpole. Flick told Schwartz he was “full of it.” Schwartz responds by issuing a “double-dog dare” to Flick. The camera pans to Ralphie and the group of kids who all gasp at the challenge.
Flick is momentarily taken aback by the challenge, but quickly smiles and says that it would be stupid for him to put his tongue on the flagpole. The narrator returns and explains the etiquette of the dare. He explains that proper form would be to follow his “double-dog dare” with a “triple-dare-you.” If this challenge was not met, then, and only then, should Schwartz go to the worst of the worst—“the triple-dog dare.”
But Schwartz, determined to see his friend’s tongue stuck to the flagpole, goes for the jugular and, with the authority of a nine-year-old, issues a “triple-dog dare.” You can see the panic on Flick’s face as he realizes that he has no choice but to place his tongue on the flagpole. To do otherwise, to refuse a “triple-dog dare” challenge, would be tantamount to playground cowardice.
So with some false bravado, and a lot of uncertainty, Flick sticks out his tongue and touches it to the flagpole. Any guesses as to what happened? Yep. It stuck like a bug on flypaper. Of course, Flick panicked and started to squeal like a little girl (no offense ladies). The school bell rang, which made it convenient for Flick’s good friends, Ralphie and Schwartz, along with all of the other kids, to scramble back to class, leaving Flick alone in his moment of shame and pain.
Pride got in the way of Flick making a wise decision. Pride caused Flick to say and do things he should not have done. The moral of the story is that the pride of the tongue, the pride of speech, if you will, can stick us with some very serious consequences. And this is what James addresses in verse one and the first half of verse two, in chapter three.
Have you ever seen the Walt Disney movie, Hercules? It’s a great movie. Zeus was the father of all the gods. That is god with a small “g.” Zeus had a son named Hercules. Hades who was the ruler of the underworld was angry with Zeus so he devised a plan to overthrow the gods and take over Mt. Olympus where they lived. He went to see a sorceress to see if there was anyone who could foil his plan. The sorceress told him that Hercules was the only one who stood between him and his goal. Hades sent two of his henchmen to steal the baby Hercules and feed him poison so that he would die. They abducted Hercules but their mission was interrupted and they did not make sure that Hercules drank all the poison. One drop was left so he didn’t die. He became a mortal but with extreme strength. Hercules was found by a human couple and raised as their own.
Many years later, Hercules was in the temple to Zeus when Zeus came to Hercules and let him know that he was his son. Zeus let him know that he could become a god again and come back to Mt. Olympus but he would have to become a true hero. So Hercules went into strict training to become a hero. After several years of training, Hercules finally got the chance to start proving his heroism. One day, the evil centaur Nessos was bugging a young lady named Megara, or Meg. Hercules took a few lumps but defeated Nessos. He went on to win numerous battles and go all over the world defeating innumerable enemies and saving many people. However, Hercules’ title of hero still eluded him, his heroism had not yet been stretched to its limits.
Finally, one day Hades unleashed his evil plan to take over Mt. Olympus but Hercules came and saved the day. In the melee, Meg, who Hercules had grown quite fond of, died. Hercules stormed through the gates of the underworld and made a deal with Hades. He said,
”You can get your revenge on my father, Zeus, by keeping me here in the underworld but you have to let Meg go.” Hades jumped at the chance but by that act of selflessness, Hercules was deemed a true hero and since gods can’t stay in the underworld, he too was allowed to go free. When Meg asked him why he did it he said, “People always do crazy things when they’re in love.”
Video Illustration: The Beginning of Mission Impossible when the agent accepts the Mission.
We look a video clip like this and we admire this man for accepting the mission and all the risks that go along with it. The truth is we envy this man because he is willing to live his life on the edge and seize the adventure. He is willing to take risks so he can be the hero who saves peoples lives from the enemy.
Truth is each of us here today can do the same for the Lord and the people around you...
Do we sometimes plough on with a project regardless, without any thought or concern for those people that the Lord has already given to us? It’s the Achilles heel of the evangelist, but Paul knows he cannot ignore the needs of his brothers and sisters who are already in Christ. Neither must we (neither must I) ignore them!
In the film ‘We Were Soldiers’ Mel Gibson is the tough battle hardened US Army Captain. He has a mission to complete, a mini great commission! However, before his men leave for Viet Nam he promises them and their families that he will be the first one to step on to enemy territory, and the last to step off it. He cannot promise that they will all return alive, but he promises that all 395 men will return, dead or alive. He has a mission, and he has plans, but he is always looking out for his men.
So too was Paul. He left Troas to search for Titus.
In the movie Saving Private Ryan, a group of Army Rangers receive a mission to go deep into enemy territory to save Private Ryan. They hit skirmish after skirmish, and some of them are killed along the way. They finally get to where Private Ryan is holed up, and they say, “Come with us. We’re here to save you.” He says, “I’m not going. I have to stay here because there’s a big battle coming up, and I’m not going to abandon my fellow soldiers.”
What do the Rangers do? They all stay and fight, and almost everyone dies except Private Ryan. At the end, one of the main characters—played by Tom Hanks—is sitting on the ground. He’s been shot and he’s dying. But the battle has been won.
Private Ryan leans over to him, and Tom Hanks whispers, “Earn this.” But it’s very unlikely that any Ranger would say, “Earn this.” Why? Because the Ranger motto for the past two hundred years has been “I chose this.” In other words, I volunteered for this. So, if Tom Hanks was really a Ranger, he would have said, “I chose this. You don’t have to earn this. I give up my life for you. That’s my job.”
And so, when you look at the cross and see Jesus hanging there, what you don’t hear is “Earn this.” What He says is “I chose this. You don’t have to pay anything for it” (adapted from Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion; citation: Tom Allen, Preaching Today #200).