I heard an interview this week with Danny Boyle, the film director who made Slumdog Millionaire, Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and MIllions. Oh yes. And that little thing called the Olympic Opening Ceremony.
I had heard that he had wanted to be a priest when he was younger, but I had not known what he thought now about the faith. I was saddened to hear that he does not call himself a Christian these days. I’m always saddened and frustrated when I hear guys, especially guys, who once believed but have not been able, for many reasons, to continue. I don’t in any way mean to sound arrogant or condescending about this. I’m always interested in what people think or believe about life and its meaning. But I’m sad when yet again I hear of another good guy who gave up on Christianity. It surprises me with Mr Boyle because I think his movies smack of life and faith and hope. What he did do when asked about God was this – he quoted Billy Connelly, who apparently says, ‘I don’t believe in God, but I believe in people who do.’
That made me think. It’s what you might call a compliment with responsibility. In the movie Invictus Morgan Freeman, playing Nelson Mandela, says to his bodyguards something along the lines of, ‘When people see my bodyguards, they see me.’ And he therefore wants his bodyguards to reflect his views and approach to life.
It’s Palm Sunday today – one of the most misunderstood days in the Christian calendar (he said rather arrogantly). Jesus rides into Jerusalem and there is revolution in the air. People are desperate for an uprising, the place is swollen with pilgrims come for the festival. This is the perfect time to rise up and kill Romans. And today we celebrate it by handing out little palm crosses. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t seem to tell the full story somehow. This Galilean peasant threatening the might of Rome and the wealth of the Sadducees. I’d love to see Danny Boyle having a crack at it. One thing that does happen to palm crosses is that the boys in church start using them as swords. Now we’re onto something. That’s a little closer to the mindset of the crowd on that day when Jesus came into the city through one gate whilst Pilate rode in through the other. The prince of peace riding small and vulnerable through this world which continues to be full of huge turmoil and angst.
Does this blog have any coherence? I don’t know. You decide. Perhaps it’s like those bits of the Bible which don’t seem to offer a nice tidy thought for the day. We live in a world where thousands have become homeless in Syria. The church rages on about sexuality. Many of us in the west want to be rich and famous. And words like ‘bailout’ and ‘debt crisis’ are heard on the news way too often. And that’s just the start of it. A painful, mixed up planet, and the Bible is full of passages where people offer their painful, mixed up prayers to God. I’ll end with one.
6 We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth for someone else to spend.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.
8 Rescue me from my rebellion, for even fools mock me when I rebel.
9 I am silent before you; I won’t say a word. For my punishment is from you.
10 Please, don’t punish me anymore! I am exhausted by the blows from your hand.
11 When you discipline people for their sins, their lives can be crushed like the life of a moth. Human existence is as frail as breath.
12 Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cries for help! Don’t ignore my tears.
For I am your guest – a traveller passing through,
as my ancestors were before me. 13 Spare me so I can smile again
before I am gone and exist no more. (from the Psalm known as 39)