Chuck knows . . . .
It 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.
A 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.
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of guest posts from Bailey Scholars at Randolph-Macon College. Rev. Adam Kelchner graduated from R-MC in 2009, then studied at Vanderbilt University, and now serves at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville.
When I was 12 years old I experienced the joy and blessing of leading worship at my home church in Richmond, Virginia. It was after that experience that I began sensing and discerning a call to ministry. This discernment lasted for several years and coincided with the decision on where I would apply to and subsequently attend college. My orientation was toward ministry though I did not know at the time whether I would serve in the local church or beyond it. Honestly, I did not know whether ordination was a part of my life’s calling to serve in the name of Jesus Christ.
Now that I’m writing a guest blog post for Jason Stanley, I’m reminded how thankful I am for his previous ministry with young people at Lebanon UMC. I found refuge in that ministry as a young person and it was Jason’s encouragement that led me to the A. Purnell Bailey Scholar program at Randolph-Macon College.
In mid-January 2005, I knew where I was going to college the following Fall. I knew that a generous portion (which I doubt I could ever repay) of my educational expenses were covered. I eagerly awaited the start of my undergraduate studies at Randolph-Macon College. I understood that the ensuing four years were for the purpose of shaping my mind and spirit as the foundations for a lifetime of ministry.
So looking back now, from my vantage point in an appointment in a vital local church and urban campus ministry setting, what do I see in the Bailey Scholar program? One of my colleagues, Kelly Conner, suggested that the Bailey program offers community-it does! I also want to suggest that the program offers intentionality. The scholarship is structured in such a way that academic formation, spiritual formation, and a call to ministry (present and future) are woven together.
To me, an exam on the writings of Paul was more than an academic exercise. It was preparation for teaching and preaching regularly in my parish setting. A writing exercise on Holocaust literature for Dr. Breitenberg was more than an academic exercise-it was mental and spiritual preparation for a Fellowship at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics. An internship at the Virginia Annual Conference Office or with Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction Office planted deep roots for my present ministry leading mission teams abroad and guiding campus ministry at Belmont University.
I trace a long arc of intentionality through the structure and content of the Bailey Scholar program, my academic formation at Randolph-Macon College, professional internships with church programs, my theological education at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, and my movement into commissioned ministry of the church. Above all, the Bailey Scholar program reminds me of the power of God’s generosity and free grace that transforms our lives.
Rev. Adam Kelchner
The Christian season of Lent is a forty-day period, excluding Sundays, in which Christ followers join Jesus on his forty-day fast, spiritually walking in his footsteps. Lent is a season of repentance and spiritual self-examination. It is a time to draw near to Christ, and a time when we recall our brokenness and mortality. This allows us to appreciate the blessings that come on Good Friday and Easter, when Christ dies for us and then is raised to life. (Adam Hamilton, The Way)
Editor’s Note: This post is written by Kelly Conner, currently a student at Duke Divinity and a graduate of Randolph-Macon College. She writes about what it meant to her to be a Bailey Scholar.
My name is Kelly Conner, and I am a first year MDiv student at Duke Divinity School. I really view it as God’s leading and influence in my life that I have been afforded the opportunity to be here at Duke, and every day when I set foot on campus, it defies belief that I could possibly be so lucky to be learning in this environment.
During my first semester here, it became obvious that my time at Randolph-Macon (both in class and as a Bailey Scholar) prepared me well for my classes here. Because I was a Religious Studies major, I had already been exposed to theological language and I had already begun to do some deep thinking about the nature of God, Scriptural interpretation, and spiritual disciplines. That part, the academic part, was obvious to me: I didn’t struggle in the same way that some of my friends did over words like “eschatology” that Duke professors automatically assumed students would already know; I knew to read the Old Testament like a continuous narrative and that its organization and progression were already familiar to me; I had already been introduced to some Church history so that I could conceptualize some basics about what we were discussing in class. That part was easy to see. But what I am just starting to realize is that the Bailey Scholarship program itself gave me just as much preparation as the academic side of Randolph-Macon did.
The Bailey Program is not simply a scholarship; yes, we receive tuition funds, but what is equally important is the community we have as “Baileys.” We come together once a week to share a meal and reflect. We also study Scripture during this time and hear about important ministries which are taking place on campus and in the lives of our fellow Baileys. From the other students, I learned what it means to be in community. We prayed for one another and discussed problems of a theological and a daily nature. We genuinely cared for another and encouraged one another in the face of difficulty. We learned how to join one another in ministry and came to one another for advice. This gave me more preparation than I realized, especially when I arrived at Duke Divinity School and encountered an academic community of gracious, kind, prayerful, contemplative, often stressed, and yet merciful professors and students. If my classmates know I’m having a rough week, they will stop and pray for me in the hall. If a classmate is struggling, they always find a hug and a listening ear. We have formed for ourselves accountability groups and conversations that offer reflection, commentary on class material, and, occasionally, an outlet for frustration. This reminds me of my time in the Bailey Program with my fellow Baileys.
Despite being at Duke, a place of academic rigor, all I really seem to find is more questions. I’ve been told that this is a common, normal experience; after all, only God knows all the answers. I suppose I could say that I am learning to appreciate God’s mystery more and more, because the more I learn about theology and Christian thought, the more I realize that God is too big to be contained in these principles. Ultimately, it is up to us to participate in a community of believers, like a church or our fellow Bailey students, and discuss how we see God moving and what we think the truth is. Sometimes, we learn more from one another than we could in any classroom.
For more information about the Bailey Scholarship program at Randolph-Macon, visit their website. Or click email and we’ll send you information.
10. Guest Post: Park View Community Mission. Lee Ann Powers, an member of Christ Community United Methodist Church in Lynchburg wrote about the mission of Park View Community Mission, a Lynchburg District mission. Lee Ann writes passionately about this ministry and links this work to the work of the early Christians as evident in Acts. Lee Ann is a student of Eastern Mennonite Seminary and is on the deacon track.
9. Waiting is Hard. This was my only Advent post for 2011, but it was viewed a bunch of times this year. I write about not passively waiting, but waiting while actively being about kingdom work. The disciples felt asleep, are we falling asleep as well?
8. Sex in Heaven? The title, I’m sure, is what made this one get so many views. A friend shared a story about what a question raised in a Bible study with older adults. I thought it was worth sharing.
7. Religious Respect? I wrote this after a news story came out that US military personnel burned copies of the Koran. Why do we disrespect one religion by using another? This post also received the most comments in 2012.
6. Wedding Planning: the invitation. I’m actually surprised there weren’t more wedding planning posts in this list. But a lot of them were posted in 2011 and seen then. Megan and I were married in April of 2012, and a lot of people were keeping up with our plans via our blog.
5. Looking through a . . . peephole? This was a quote shared with me by one of my former youth group students. I came across it randomly one day.
4. Team Snoopy. I have been writing for Hollywood Jesus.com, and one of the perks is I am sent DVDs to review for the site. This was one of those reviews. In the review I draw a connection between Charlie Brown and Habakkuk and the lessons we can learn from both.
3. Faith Fumes. This was a devotion I had written in early 2012. In it, I compare our spiritual life running on fumes, like we tend to do with our gas tanks. In fact, I was doing that this morning. I share the General Rules from John Wesley that help us keep our tank full.
2. Empty Pages. I wrote this post back in May of 2011. I found some old journals I had kept one day and after looking through them, I reflected on the empty (and not so empty) pages in those journals. Journal writing has been an important element of my spirituality.
1. How to Care for Introverts. I stumbled upon this graphic on Facebook. It is so true! As an introvert, I agree with each of these 12 points. Someone has randomly posted this on Pintrist, so I welcome all those who find me through Pintrist.
- I am no longer my own, but thine.
- Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
- Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
- Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
- exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
- Let me be full, let me be empty.
- Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
- I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
- And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
- thou art mine, and I am thine.
- So be it.
- And the covenant which I have made on earth,
- let it be ratified in heaven.
as used in the Book of Offices of the British Methodist Church, 1936
Linus recites Luke 2:8-14:
Sometimes, we can feel like Charlie Brown. We get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas and wonder, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus, much like the angels on that first Christmas, remind us what Christmas is all about.
“Peace and goodwill toward men.”
Peace and goodwill is hard to come by these days, as it was that first Christmas. Charles Campbell reminds us, “The political powers, in both Jesus’ day and our own, play on fear to get their way – whether it be the fear of the emperor, the fear of terrorists, the fear of the ‘other’ (the immigrant), or the fear of death.”
Government mandated oppression.
Discrimination against those were different than them.
The poor were kept poor.
People suffered from hunger.
Violence was evident on the streets daily.
But, that was in “those days.”
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7, NRSV).
The arrival of Jesus brought with it a “new day.” There is no longer need for fear, only joy. There is no longer need for corruption, only freedom. There is no longer need for hunger, only feasting. There is no longer need for occupation, only liberation. There is no longer need for war, only peace.
And yet, we struggle to see this “new day.”
Political parties inspire fear of the other party.
Hatred and bullying of someone, anyone, who is different from us is rampant.
The great divide between the have’s and the have-not’s gets wider and wider.
People suffer from hunger.
Violence is evident on our streets and in our schools.
And there is something deep inside of us that wants to cry out like Charlie Brown, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is about?” Sure, we get all these warm fuzzies at this time of year that make us feel so good. It’s great giving and receiving gifts. It’s great going to parties. It’s great having family and friends around.
But, at least for me, there is something hard to swallow about Christmas. That is with all the joy, there is grieving and hopelessness. And I don’t mean to be a damper on things. From Central America and back, I have seen suffering at the hands of poverty, addictions, and violence. And while we try to not think about these things at Christmas, we have to remember this is why the baby boy was born. This poverty, these addictions, and this violence is the reason God became man. This suffering is the reason that Jesus was born.
Jesus is not just the reason for the season. Jesus is the greatest gift of all. In that lowly manger sits hands of grace that bring healing and hope into our hopelessness.
John’s gospel talks about Jesus’ birth as a great Light that penetrates the darkness of the world. Matthew quotes Jesus telling the disciples that “You are the Light of the World.” This is just one of the many commissioning sayings of Jesus. God sent Jesus as the Light, we are the light-bearers. It is now our responsibility to carry that Light into the dark crevices of the world. Because we claim Jesus Christ, we now become a gift to the word.
Taking the Light to the oppressed.
Taking the Light to the poor and the hungry.
Taking the Light to the bullied and the bullies.
Taking the Light into the violent streets.
It is us who must act. It is us who must bring peace and goodwill to all. It is our gift to give.
Eternal God, by the birth of Jesus Christ you gave yourself to the world. Grant that, being born in our hearts, he may save us from all our sins, and restore within us the image and likeness of our Creator, to whom be everlasting praise and glory, world without end. Amen.
From the United Methodist Hymnal, number 231.
Read Luke 1:39-45.
Here we have two women. One young, the other old. Both pregnant. Both marginalized by society. Mary because she is unwed and pregnant. Elizabeth has been disgraced by her community because she is old and barren. Both of their lives are changing. One bears the messenger, and the other bears the Message.
During this visit, Elizabeth is the first to declare Jesus “Lord.” Luke does not tell us what Mary does, if anything, between the angel’s visit and Mary’s visit with Elizabeth. What prompted this visit? What was the motivating force behind her actions?
The short answer is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that calls to us to act, to move, or to change. It is the force that gives us our power to do good. It is the motivator that causes us to seek out wisdom guides or mentors along our journey. Elizabeth is such a person for Mary. A mentor, a wisdom guide, a prayer partner.
Who has the Holy Spirit led you to as a faith mentor? Who is your wisdom guide? Who is your prayer partner?