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Communion Meditations (2018)


Academy Award

Originally scheduled for July 29

One of the more stunning desert landscapes in America lies along the border of Arizona and Utah. It is Monument Valley, home to some magnificent red sandstone buttes. Movie directors, especially John Ford, have been drawn to the location because of its masculine character. One of his movies was the classic John Wayne western, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Considered by many to be John Wayne’s best movie, it features a sequence in which the cavalry troop plods through a rainstorm.

The contrast is striking. Amidst a scene of lightning and rain which whispers of the power of God, the cavalry troop plods onward, dealing with the trivia that soldiers always have. Interestingly, the cinematographer who photographed the scene told John Ford that he was not at all certain he could get any pictures which would be any good. He felt that the storm made the lighting too dark. The cinematographer, one Winton Hoch, told Ford that he would do what he could with the camera but promised no results at all. The scene went through the rainstorm, and Winton Hoch won an Academy award for cinematography that year, largely on the strength of that one scene.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know the power that that scene has. It resonates even more deeply with those who have been soldiers. It’s almost a picture-perfect portrayal of military life. Here’s why that scene is so powerful:

·         Suffering. The soldiers have to get off their horses and lead them through the rainstorm. What’s the sense of being in the cavalry if you have to walk in front of the horse? It is the kind of petty suffering that soldiers become accustomed to.

·         Perseverance. You can see in their eyes and in their smiles the grim sense of perseverance — it’s inevitable were going to walk through this rainstorm so we might as well start walking.

·         Finality. There is no sense walking halfway through the rainstorm. The key to success is in completing the mission. And that is what they do.

Soldiers know that the right road always leads uphill.

Communion, in a sense, is a picture that is very similar to this scene. We see in communion the suffering of Christ represented in the cup and the bread. It is a horrible form of torture leading to death, but Christ evidently made no complaint. The suffering was required, and suffer He did. The perseverance that he exhibited is characterized by one statement: “not my will, but your will be done.” That determination to carry it all the way through led to the utter finality of the crucifixion: “it is finished.”

It is a simple depiction. If you will, Christ is at the head of the column — but we are soldiers marching behind. Every time we take communion we portray his death to the world, until he returns. May this symbolic meal strengthen you to face the march ahead. Examine yourself; take and eat. Then march on; your Lord leads the way.

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