In our preaching this week we’re looking at the movie Spotlight, the story of how reporters at the Boston Globe uncovered widespread child molestation in the Catholic Church. How could such injustice exist in the church? How could the church abandon the most vulnerable? There are no easy answers, especially when the effects of abuse are so widespread and devastating.

Perhaps the place to begin is here: Why do we believe it’s wrong for the strong to oppress the weak? After all, some cultures believe that might makes right; the weak are there to serve the needs of the strong. It is largely because of the teachings of Jesus Christ, who lived among the most vulnerable, that we believe that every person is of infinite value. In other words, it is the Christian faith which teaches us that abuse is wrong. For example, it was Christians who led the fight to end slavery in the 19th century, even though many Christians owned slaves.

When we’re forsaken; when we see the vulnerable being abandoned, we should remember the last words of Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus stuck with his plan for redemption knowing that the only way to end injustice, without ending us in the process, was for Jesus to be abandoned.

When it comes to moral goodness, church leaders often fail. The church is at its best only to the extent that it takes part in the suffering of Christ.


“The wolf will live with the lamb….”  Isaiah 11:6

This is actually the premise of Zootopia, the animated Disney film released last spring. In the animal world of Zootopia, predators no longer eat prey. Everyone gets along.

Has the prophecy of Isaiah finally come true?

Not quite.

Prey may not be getting eaten, but discrimination and bigotry are alive and well. When the hero, a bunny cop named Judy Hopps, casually mentions that predators may be reverting back to their “natural state,” she causes fear to spread across Zootopia. The fragile peace between predators and prey is threatened.

I was surprised at how un-politically correct this movie was; the characters constantly label each other with negative stereotypes. But when you get beneath the stereotypes, you discover that lambs are not so innocent and foxes are not all bad.

I hate to speak so seriously about a fun movie, but lately it seems like every day brings another story about the tragic divisions in our country. Every day, well-meaning people of all races call on us all to get along. But how? On our own, we can’t will away our differences any more that a leopard can change its spots.

But what if something happened that was of such cosmic significance, it made our differences pale in comparison? This is the claim of the magnificent Christ hymn of Colossians 1:15-20. The one who created us, became one of us, died for us, and came back from the dead for us.

The most creative minds in the entertainment industry could never dream up a story like this. It’s the only thing which can bring us together.

The Force Awakens

Force Awakens

I grew up on western movies.

Western movie plots were almost always variations on the same theme: a great injustice has occurred; the people are afraid, their homes are threatened; a mysterious stranger rides in to set things right.

Westerns fell out of favor in the latter part of the 20th century, but not their basic theme. We still love the story of the mysterious stranger who, against all odds, comes to set things right.

That’s basically what Star Wars: The Force Awakens is about.

An evil force called the First Order threatens the peace of a faraway galaxy. The search is on for Luke Skywalker, a long-lost Jedi master who, it is hoped, can raise up a new generation of Jedi who will bring peace again to the galaxy.

The Force Awakens has earned over two billion dollars to date, making it the third-highest grossing film of all time. Of course there are lots of reasons, such as great marketing and special effects, but I think the real reason behind the movie’s success is that it connects with us on a very basic level. We all have the sense that we’re away from our true home. At some level, we’re all afraid. We all long for someone to come to our rescue and set things right.

But what if all the heroes of fiction and fantasy, myth and legend, have their source in something real and true? What if there once really was a mysterious stranger who came from far off to set things right? What if that mysterious stranger was Jesus Christ?

I was a cold warrior

The Cold War was the period of tension between the Western powers and the Soviet Union which threatened the world with nuclear annihilation. It lasted from the end of World War II to the early 1990’s. People who were born in the last thirty years have no meaningful memory of the Cold War, but it consumed much of my life.

My first job in the Air Force was to be a crewmember on B-52 bombers armed with nuclear weapons. We were on alert, ready to strike the Soviet Union on orders from the President. It was boring duty punctuated by moments of terror. When the alert horn sounded we would dash to our aircraft and decode the message. Thank God the alerts always turned out to be practice. I never had to break into the “go-codes” that would send us to war.

The movie Bridge of Spies is set early in the Cold War. The CIA captured a Soviet spy and asked lawyer James Donovan, played by Tom Hanks, to defend him. Donovan reluctantly agreed, knowing that defending a spy would be unpopular. When the spy was convicted, Donovan convinced the judge to spare him the death penalty. It was likely that the Soviets would one day capture one of our spies, and when that happened, it would be good to have someone to trade. That’s just what happened. When the Soviets shot down one of our planes and captured pilot Francis Gary Powers, the CIA asked Donovan to negotiate the release.

Bridge of Spies asks, “What would you do to bring someone home?” James Donovan risked his livelihood, his reputation, and the safety of his family to bring his captured countryman home.

I enjoyed the movie partly because it depicted a time in our history and a part of my life I was so familiar with. As I watched, I found myself wondering, “What did it cost Jesus to bring us all home?”