Sunday, March 11, 2007


D-day. June 6, 1944, Omaha Beach. In the beginning scene of horrific slaughter, Tom Hank’s character, John (Jack) H. Miller, utters the words “if you stay here you’re a dead man.” Those words in that setting seem so very obvious. The movie depicts the total senselessness of war graphically showing limbs being severed, heads decapitated and countless young men being mercilessly mowed down by machine gun fire.

The beach landing scene has some strange fabrications of steel strewn about it. These things are the only protection to be found. Why would anyone choose to hide behind a 6 inch wide piece of steel as if that was their best protection? Nevertheless it took the obvious statement of move or die to push the men forward into the unknown.

This movie is a great allegory about Jesus' church (ekklesia). When I consider the ideals of what I think God is saying to His church, what I sometimes see in reality is not much different than the insanity of hiding behind a 6 inch wide piece of steel with bombs and bullets flying all around. This story of senseless bloodshed and men laying down their lives for each others moves me mysteriously closer to understanding God’s call in my life.

John Miller is depicted at the beginning as a closed book, known for his raw determination to fulfill whatever mission is handed to him. He’s a man that gets the job done no matter the cost. Near the end of the movie we discover that his decisions have led to at least 94 deaths. He wants to rationalize this by hoping that in sending men to their destruction that many more men have been saved. But then he gets his next and last, tough assignment. Take 7 of his best men and scour war ravished Europe to save one man, Private Ryan. Ryan’s 3 brothers had been killed in action and the army feels that this is more than enough sacrifice for any mother and therefore Ryan is to be given a ticket home.

Jack, faithful to his duty gathers 7 men (ekklesia) whose only connection is a uniform and blood on their hands. They are not impressed with their marching orders. The only thing that allows them to go forward is the understanding of the acronym F.U.B.A.R. They all agree to this and head down a perilous path, unaware of the final outcome or mutual sacrifice that would be required.

An outsider, Corporal Upham,is brought into this fraternity. The reason for this invitation is that he speaks French and German. He has not been baptized in blood up to this point in the war and is therefore not trusted. He was simply a clerk working behind the frontlines. Nevertheless, without his agreement, he is thrust into this most improbable of missions.

As the movie takes us on this group’s journey of finding Ryan, it shows the challenge of taking 8 individuals and forging them into a bonded unit that eventually knows how to lay down their lives for each other. It actually goes out of its way to reveal the well known truth that men do not easily let other men into their lives.

Jack Miller’s strength is the mystery of his past life. What could such a cold hearted man have done prior to this insanity? In a pivotal scene when the group is disintegrating because of the senseless death of one of their group, Jack lets down his guard about his past. He tells them why it is important to go on with the mission of saving Private Ryan. “If saving Ryan earns me the right to get back home to my wife then it’s worth it.” Being cold hearted and unknown is not enough mystery to keep these men going. They needed to see something of value in the process itself, if they were going to continue on sacrificing their lives. The revealing of Jack’s heart rallies the troops to somehow push forward.

One of the few points of humour in this story of men going off to war is Cpl. Upham’s trying to understand the groups obvious understanding of F.U.B.A.R. He is kept out of the secret that seems to make everything make sense to this strange band of men. What right does he have to enter into the secrets of this elite group? Leading up to final climatic event he is finally let in on the secret. The man who was most closed to showing any feeling of humanity, gives Upham the secret code. (If you don’t know the code you’ll have to watch the movie) Ultimately the right to belong hinges upon the willingness to sacrifice oneself for another.

This is not a comfortable story of church but nevertheless it is church. In the final battle, Jack (Tom Hanks) is dying. He whispers something to Ryan. We find out what those words were through the voice of Ryan as an old man. “Don’t let our deaths be wasted.”

I believe this is the message of the cross. Church (ekklesia), if this is the message that your meetings produce then continue on. If you are hiding behind a 6 inch wide piece of steel or a beautiful box then go forward into the unknown because if you stay there you’re dead.


Jamie A. Grant said...

Welcome to my world, Pa!

Lori said...

Taken 4 Granted - good one.

Jamie A. Grant said...

Yeah, the name of this blog is great. I didn't even get the pun at first, 'cause the sentence fits by itself. Shame on me.