Walt & Steve*

John 6:24-35 – the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for August 2, 2012

“So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?” (John 6:30)

Walt Kowalski growled at his priest . . .

You don’t know anything about life or death because you’re an over-educated twenty-seven year old virgin who holds the hands of superstitious old women and promises them eternity.

I wish I could say, it’s only a movie, only Clint Eastwood playing a cranky racist widower who’ll do most anything to insult his parish priest. But in 2008’s Gran Torino, Eastwood directed and starred in a movie striking close to the bone for me.

I saw the DVD not long ago. Walt’s pastor, a newly minted and “over-educated” Roman Catholic priest, reminded me of me. I was twenty-seven when I served my first church. Was I over-educated? Well . . . when I processed down the sanctuary’s middle aisle for my first worship service, I’d continuously attended school since kindergarten. I frequently (and foolishly) preached on the “eternal” issues of life and death. Yeah, I also held hands with older women. A virgin? No. I was divorced, so I guess the start of my real ministry scored a notch higher on the pain-and-experience scale compared to the reel priest.

Still, what did I know then? Or, more importantly, what did (and do) I believe?

If you haven’t seen Gran Torino, though the language and violence might unsettle some, I highly recommend a viewing. It depicts an authentic glimpse into Hmong culture, a difficult reminder of why families become dysfunctional, terrific action and unexpected humor. But I’d recommend the film because it’s a story that openly wrestles with the differences between actively engaging in faith versus safely believing from a distance.

What do you believe in? And is that as important as what you do in and with your faith?

In John’s Gospel, a crowd approached Jesus—the same crowd that had recently been miraculously fed—and wondered how they do the “work of God.” John has Jesus answer, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Did John mean we are to “believe” in Jesus? Okay, again . . . what does that mean for you? For me? Continue reading →