by Robert Earl Houston
It is very rare that you sit in a movie theater and hear people – both men and women – openly weep. Tonight we went to see “Fruitvale Station” which struck an extraordinary chord on the heels of the George Zimmerman verdict.
This movie written and directed by Ryan Coogler, a first-time filmmaker, is the true story of Oscar Grant, III (“The Wire’s” Michael B. Jordan) a 22 year old young man who was murdered by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day in 2009. Oscar was coming home from enjoying the New Year’s Eve celebration with his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), (who he was considering marrying). Oscar’s mother is powerfully played by Octavia Spencer, who carries the weight of the screenplay on her face.
As the movie opens, the actual cell phone filming of his murder opens the movie and the remainder of the movie takes us back to Oscar’s last 36 hours of life. As the movie showed his murder by BART Police, there literally was not a dry eye in the house – from audience members – black and white.
This movie won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and should be required viewing for all young people. Oscar’s struggle with his past and his decision to make the new year a time for a new start.
I’ve read some of the reviews tonight, especially those from Geoff Berkshire of Variety and Scott Tobias of The Dissolve and it reinforces the fact that the so-called reviewing professionals may have been in too many dark theaters and miss what ordinary folk (such as myself) look for in a movie. This movie is not for entertainment alone – it’s for information, inspiration and it retells a story that many of us as African-Americans have heard too often – a loss of a young black man, with his whole life ahead of himself. This young man was not in the position that should have resulted in his death – but a police officer snuffed out the life of this young man, young father, and potential husband.
Sadly, many of us who wept in the theater wept knowing that our young men are in an era where many of them won’t see full adulthood. They won’t see marriage and family and life . . . because they have a greater chance of being mowed down – whether it’s because of police action or community patrolman action or even by someone who looks like themselves. It’s a sad reminder that young black men who make it to 25 should be celebrated, make it to 30 should be applauded, and make it to 40 should be honored in these critical times.
I encourage you to see this movie. When I left the theater I told my wife, “I felt like I’m leaving a funeral.” Profound movie.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.
by Robert Earl Houston
Recently I was made aware of a “movement” by some ministers following the tragic miscarriage of justice in the George Zimmerman case. Believe me, I am outraged, angered, shocked, as is most (not all) Americans. However, the stage and platform for the protest honestly has me scratching my head.
The “protest” that is planned is to replace the traditional bread and wine (or grape juice) implements of the Lord’s Supper with Skittles and Iced Tea (or Arizona watermelon juice cocktail, which is what Trayvon Martin actually purchased) and serve it to the congregants of the church on first Sunday (or whenever communion is served in that local congregation). There is a video online (which I will not post here) that shows a pastor leading his congregation in such a communion.
I have problems with this.
First, and I need to confess I am a Baptist minister – this goes against everything I’ve been taught since my first exposure as a child. The Lord’s supper is one of two ordinances of the church (the other being baptism). An ordinance is a law, or a specific command, which Jesus Himself instituted.
Mark 14:22-25 (on the evening before His betrayal):
22 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake [it], and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.
23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave [it] to them: and they all drank of it.
24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
Jesus clearly instituted this as an ordinance (law) and he prescribed the manner of it. He symbolically references the wine/fruit of the vine as His blood. He symbolically references bread as His body. Therefore bread = body and wine = blood. It is a law that even Paul says was passed down to him.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26:
23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the [same] night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake [it], and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also [he took] the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink [it], in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
Again, the emphasis on bread and wine and the law – we are to replicate this law until He returns.
Secondly, the Lord’s Supper is not a protest. It’s a period of reflection and renewal of our relationship with the Lord.
The Lord’s Supper is no more salvific than Baptism. Neither of these laws or ordinances create or cause salvation. However, the law is not for the unsaved, it’s for the saved. And the purpose of it is that we might remember and celebrate the sacrifice that was made for us by Jesus Christ.
No one should misappropriate or diminish that sacrifice and The Lamb that was sacrificed for our salvation. I cannot celebrate at the Lord’s table, anyone else other than Jesus Christ. That’s why we don’t celebrate Paul, John, John Mark, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Eve, Adam – or any other past biblical character nor any past historical or present celebrity – because this is a sacrifice that only Jesus Christ Himself made on behalf of humanity.
The Lord’s Supper is THE LORD’s The Lord’s Supper. It has His blood-stained fingerprints upon it. It has His agony and sweat upon it. It has His pain upon it. It belongs to Him.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Ralph Abernathy, and other civil rights icons did their protesting in the streets, not at the Lord’s Table. They met in sanctuaries to plan and execute plans, but they never misappropriated the use of the Lord’s table in such a manner that would leave any doubt as to who’s legacy we are focused upon and celebrating.
The Lord’s Supper is not a protest piece nor is it speaking truth to power. It should be left alone. If you want to protest, do it at the ballot box. Do it in City Council meetings. Do it when it’s your turn to do jury duty and you accept it instead of weaseling out of it. Do it when it’s time to vote instead of not voting. But don’t create a manufactured protest out of that which is holy (set apart).
Finally, I believe in the three factor. I believe that every Pastor needs to surround him (or her) self with three other ministers – one older than him, one contemporary, and one younger – for wisdom, fellowship, and to dialogue.
I spoke with my younger factor and we’ve been dialoguing on this issue and his words struck me. He suggests that there is a missing link in how ministers are trained today, especially in the seminary setting. There’s a local pastor here in Frankfort that teaches in seminary and I will never forget him saying “many of the guys in seminary don’t even go to church anymore. They hang out in their dorms, they don’t want to preach.”
Maybe the reason why Paul’s explanation of the Lord’s Supper is not being implemented is that a generation of preachers/pastors exist out there now that have never submitted themselves to or have rejected mentoring. A term that was used in my younger days was “father in the ministry” and ministry, as my young factor suggested, was more of submission, instruction and of an apprenticeship. Now there are words used like “coverings” which suggest that if I can put on a cover, I can take it off as well.
There are some things in the faith (I’m not talking about whooping or sermonic presentation) – but the tenents of the faith, the “mysteries of the faith” that have to be not only passed down, but respected. Maybe I’ve become a dinosaur in this new age, but I still believe that on a hill, far away, stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame. I still believe that He was laid on a cross and nails were hammered into his arms and feet. I still believe that He was lifted up between two thieves and that He was the sacrificial Lamb and that my sins were upon His shoulders. I still believe that He died for my sins. I still believe that He was buried in a borrowed tomb and early Sunday morning, He got up with all power in His hand. I still believe that the Word is true. I still believe that the Lord’s Supper is sacred and that Baptism is reserved for those who have expressed a hope in Christ Jesus.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED.