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Communion Meditations (2016)

Black Hat

Originally scheduled for October 2

It is a convention in the English language to call someone who is a villain, the bad guy, a “black hat.” The expression originates from the fact that until 1932, virtually all films were shot in black and white. Western motion pictures typically didn’t have a very large budget, but needed something cheap to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. White hats showed up much better in film than black hats, and it became a convention that the good guys got the white hats, and the bad guys got the black ones. This persisted until the introduction of Technicolor in 1932, and even after that it was common for the good guy to wear a white hat. It has passed into our language as a way of referring to people who are on the wrong side — at least by your own definition. It is quite an image.

The Western movie genre has a stock character for the black hats:

·         The man (have you ever noticed that it’s almost always a man?) goes around with a constant sneer — he is very irritating.

·         At some point in the film he will “kick the dog.” That is, he will perform some petty, vicious act to establish his evil character. That’s important. It’s the filmmaker’s way of letting you know that this man is not just someone with a grouchy disposition, but is genuinely evil. He’s not a fallen sinner; and that’s a feature, not a bug.

·         The only way to deal with such a man is to shoot him. He must be shot in the prescribed manner, by a “white hat” in a gunfight in the main street in town, accompanied by thrilling music.

This makes for a good motion picture. It’s not a very realistic picture of human beings, however. It’s a realistic picture of what we imagine other human beings to be. May I submit to you that the Christian approach to the black hat is exemplified in communion.

·         Communion proclaims God’s grace for one and all. There is no one so evil that the only way to deal with them is to shoot him. Indeed, we are told that God’s will is that none would perish but all would receive his grace.

·         Communion is not a cheap, throwaway ritual. It is something which cost Jesus Christ is very life, and therefore is quite expensive. It is God’s extravagance that provides us with his loving grace. God paid for it; he gives it to whosoever will.

·         Communion is a recurring approach to the sinful nature of man — whatever color of hat he wears. In it we are reminded to examine ourselves, repent and then partake.

Communion — black hats welcome

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