Monday, 28 September 2015

True Hospitality; True Compassion

Last night Lorna and I watched Saving Private Ryan—with interruptions to watch the lunar eclipse which was fascinating.  It was one of our VHS tape finds at Value Village in Charlottetown this year.    The movie was just as engaging as the first time we saw it.  This morning Lorna made a very interesting and insightful comment.  It would have been an even more interesting movie if Spielberg had given it a dark twist and it turned out that Private Ryan had lived and completely unredeemable life after being saved by the group of heroic U.S. soldiers who all gave their lives in the effort.  The ending has the Private Ryan character—played by Matt Damon—visiting the military cemetery in France in the present day and tearfully asking this wife to affirm that he had lived a good life i.e. one worthy of the sacrifice that had been made by those soldiers who died ‘Saving’ him.  They were sent to bring Ryan to safety and to be discharged as he was the sole surviving son in a family—his three brothers having been killed in action. 

As I reflected on that insight I thought about it in the context of my sermon yesterday.  The subject of the sermon was the miracle performed by Jesus curing the man with dropsy at the home of the Chief Pharisee (Luke 14: 1-11).  This act of compassion was done by Jesus on the Sabbath and had been a set up by the religious authorities to catch Jesus in the sin of doing work on the Sabbath i.e. healing the man.  Jesus teaches them a lesson in true hospitality which, of course, the religious leaders did not show Jesus inviting him to dinner for nefarious purposes.

The connection between the Gospel lesson and the movie is related, I believe, to true hospitality.  Jesus did not determine if the man with dropsy deserved to be healed.  He acted out of compassion for the man.  The act of compassion by the military to save Private Ryan and spare his mother further tragedy would not have been lessened if Ryan had turned out to live a completely selfish or even evil life.  In the same way we do not know what kind of a life was lived by the man with dropsy.  He may have been moved to give his life to the glory of God like the one healed leper who returned to thank Jesus; however, he may not have.  That doesn’t change the nature of the act. 

There was one element of the movie that dealt with this quandary.  The band of brothers who were rescuing Ryan set a German soldier they had captured free.  He later reappears as a central character fighting against the U.S. soldiers who are defending a bridge.  He ends killing a number of the soldiers who rescue Ryan including the commanding officer played by Tom Hanks.  Lorna’s imagined ending to the movie would have truly made the viewer reflect more deeply on the nature of compassion and hospitality rather than having a Hollywood ending.  But then it was truly a Hollywood movie; a good one none-the-less.

In closing I can pose this question for all of us.  How do we show true hospitality and compassion to others?  I believe we do not do that by sitting back and turning our backs on the refugee crisis.  That is the issue facing us today.  There are, of course, ongoing ones we have to wrestle with every day.  Peace.  

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