Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: human-rights

O Come, O Come Emmanuel*

nativity_13156bcOne of my favorite Advent hymns is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.  We sang a few verses the other Sunday (July 14) in worship.  I know it seems strange to be singing a Christmas carol in the middle of July.  But, hey, why not?

We sing it during Advent and Christmas because we are awaiting the arrival of the Christ-child to be born in our midst.  The Christ-child who was born in a barn, with no fanfare likely deserved for the One who will save all of humanity.  Much like Clark Kent, Jesus’ birth and arrival on planet Earth, went mostly unnoticed.  And yet, the hymn is calling for God to dwell among humanity.

I once heard a trio sing it at a concert acapella, which is when I paid so much more attention to the words.  Ever since then it has been one of my favorites.  When we sing this hymn we are asking for Emmanuel – God With Us – Jesus Christ – to “ransom captive” those in “lonely exile” and to “disperse the gloomy clouds of night.”

There are individuals and families right here in Lynchburg who are not able to meet the basic needs for their families, put a basic meal together, or have seasonally appropriate clothing.   They are “captive” to poverty, living in “lonely exile” and in the midst of “gloomy clouds.” Peakland partners with ministries like Lynchburg Daily Bread, Rivermont Food Pantry, and Park View Community Mission (and others!) who are working to release the captive, feed the hungry, and shine on the gloomy clouds.

My hope is that your prayer – our prayer – will be “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  Come, God With Us, and dwell among us as we strive to love others, release the captive, feed the hungry, and shine Light on the gloomy clouds.  Amen.

*This first appeared as a From the Deacon column at Peakland United Methodist. 

The Great Escape (1963)

the-great-escape-movie-poster-1963-1020415948It is 1943. Europe is now five years into what will be known as the  Second World War. Germany establishes a number of prison camps to house the growing number of war prisoners. At the same time, there is a growing number of escaped prisoners of war. Germany responds by opening its first maximum security prison camp. Built on the promises of no prisoner escaping, officials send the most known escape artists.

One of these prisoners if Captain Hilts (Steve McQueen), who is also known as “The Cooler King,” for all the time he spent in the solidarity confinement (the “cooler”) as punishment for escape attempts. Escape, in fact, is the first thing on Hilts’ mind when he arrives at the camp. He closely investigates the fence line and guard booths, searching for a blind spot.

And Hilts is not the only one with escape on the brain. There is a whole cast of characters who are longing for escape. They see is a part of their vocational duty as military men. Among them is Hendly (James Garner) who can unearth any item you need, Danny (Charles Bronson) who is the digging champ, and Sedgwick (James Coburn) the manufacturer.

The climate on the camp changes when Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough) arrives. Roger is a legend of sorts among the prisoners. They all see Roger as their leader, all expect Hilts. At least not at first. Roger empowers the men to use their skills in a huge exodus of the prisoners.

The film, released in 1963 before the country was engulfed by the conflict in Vietnam, is not like most war films. It is not as dark and gritty as most war films, like Apocalypse Now (1979) or Full Metal Jacket (1987), These post-Vietnam films, we could argue, were colored by the events that changed the world and how we viewed it.

The Great Escape has more of a light-hearted, comical tone to it for a war film. You chuckle a little bit when Hilts walks back to the cooler or when his prison-mates hand him his baseball and glove, the only two things that will accompany him. There are other similar moments, along with the kindness of the Nazis, which you do not expect. In fact, I wasn’t sure who the Nazis were when the film first started, because they were portrayed in a more kinder fashion.

World events like war remind us that we are all prisoners of sin. Our own personal sin, but also corporate, communal sin. The sins of establishment, institutions, governments, or cliques. These sins imprison us, with hopes to paralyze us. We long for escape and freedom. We work together to make escape and freedom a reality. It becomes our mission and purpose.

the-great-escape-richard-attenborough-steve-mcqueen-1963A handfull of the prisoners manage to escape through a tunnel they dug, through a hole they created, into the woods. Most of them were either captured again by the Nazis or killed. At first, it is striking to see this happen. Where is the happy ending to this true story? They worked together for a common goal and we rejoiced. They managed to trick the well-trained Nazi guards and we rejoiced. Some escaped and we rejoiced. But death? Recaptured? That wasn’t on the back of the Blu-ray cover!

And maybe that’s the reality. The return to sin, personal or corporate, is never foretold. We never see it coming, and yet it happens. Does it mean we should not attempt escape? Hilts and the others in The Great Escape would plead that we do not. We should not cease to escape from sin’s prison camps.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)

Pirates reminds us why we love British comedies. The film, one of the best stop-action animation films I’ve seen, is absurd in all the best ways. Just imagine the best of Monty Python in a stop-action animated film minus the dirty jokes.

The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) sets out to win the Pirate of the Year Award. All he wants is some recognition from his peers that he is good at what he does. This sets him out to find the largest booty (insert PG jokes here), but always landing on the wrong ships; a ghost ship, a ship of school children on a field trip, a ship of lepers, and a ship of nudist. Finally, he attacks the ship carrying Charles Darwin (David Tennant), yep you read that correctly. Charles Darwin.

Darwin is journalling about his ship-filled scientific discoveries. Upon meeting Pirate Captain and his Polly, which is really the only surviving dodo bird, Darwin (whom Pirate Captain starts calling Chuck) convinces the pirate to go to London to present the bird at a scientific gathering to win the prize money. Darwin is seeking not so much recognition by his peers, but recognition by Queen Victoria. Pirate Captain is blinded by the deceit because of his own ambition to receive recognition from his peers.

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Guest Post: Park View Community Mission

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Lee Ann Powers, a candidate for ministry on the deacon track and a student at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Lee Ann lives and worships in Lynchburg, Virginia.

What is Park View Community Mission (PVCM) on Memorial Ave /Wadsworth St in Lynchburg? Please read and become a part of God’s love and shalom.

Park View’s mission is to offer help to people for their present life, offer hope for a better life and offer Christ for eternal life.

A relationship with Jesus, as the parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates, is defined not by being a neighbor in the passive sense but by finding ways to cross boundaries and to be a neighbor to the impoverished and broken in ways that will enhance their success. It’s about working to make practical improvements in the lives of individuals, families and communities.

PVCM is following Jesus in the most basic way – by loving and caring for the economically disadvantaged, the excluded, the outcast, the unwashed and the unwanted. These ‘unwanted’ are men and women with drug and alcohol addictions; without homes or stable housing; non-English speaking immigrants; the unemployed and those working several low-income paying jobs; the elderly on fixed incomes; multi-generational families raising kids whose parents are no longer in their life due to jail, death or desertion; and those who have just made bad choices in their lives. These are not statistics but real people who are a part of our community and are struggling daily just to survive.

PVCM strives to model hospitality, compassion, love, forgiveness, the power of acceptance and a faith without conventional church walls. For struggling households, PVCM is an extended household that comes together for worship and meals. For kids from dysfunctional homes and drug infested neighborhoods, PVCM is a sanctuary and a place to learn alternatives so they can grow and thrive. PVCM is hearing the cries of those suffering in our community just as we hear the Word of the Lord as a summons to make the world better by making known more fully the Gospel as Good News for our community.

The early Christians defined themselves by a faith that aligned them with the sick, the hungry, the excluded, and the broken, moving across every ethnic and cultural barrier to bring healing and hope. In the book of Acts we read that when the church shared its life and possessions, thus demonstrating that God’s Spirit was in their midst, the result was dramatic: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The early church grew dramatically because its members reached out to others in love and compassion. The costly demands of the Gospel were related to their understanding of a merciful God. The church shaped by the Spirit must always extend itself in sharing and caring beyond its ‘membership.’

The church and its belief in God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, reconciliation and a new world provide the basis for people to believe that things can change in both their personal life and within their community. PVCM’s presence and spiritual commitment to the community makes it a true leader for this change. It provides the support people need to keep going, the inspiration for courage that is essential to moving forward, and the structure through which to accomplish it.

PVCM is not about ‘having or being a ministry’ so much as it is a community of people who worship and read scripture together, who share in the hope of the Gospel and who share joys, tragedies and resources in Christ. There is ‘one Lord’ and we are all ‘one people’ celebrating the Gospel in this broken and divided world. Reconciliation, as well as forgiveness and grace, are a gift from God. As recipients of God’s grace, PVCM strives to promote hope and healing, and to patiently nurture reconciliation by being incarnational within the community it is blessed to be a part of.

Shalom (peace) is God putting back together a broken people and a broken world. Embody Christ and be personally transformed by helping PVCM offer shalom to individuals and the community by:

  • offering help for the present life (food, hot meals, clothes, funds, tangible goods; yourself thru servantship, leadership),
  • offering hope for a better life (love, acceptance, grace and mercy) and
  • offering Christ for eternal life (the Gospel in word and deed).

To learn more about the Park View Community Mission, click here.

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