Sunday, April 20, 2008

Office, Baby, Office

Get Office straight, and everything else falls into place: from Office follows all other offices or vocations, and from that station. Office is, first of all, located in Christ. It is the keeping and living in the First Commandment, the First Article, and the First Petition. What do these have to do with Christ? No one comes to the Father except through Christ (Jn 14:6). When Christ is one’s Head, then living as one in the Body of Christ means that love toward neighbor is the habitus of daily living in one’s Baptism (1Co 11:4; Eph 5:23;). This is the lesson Jesus taught the young lawyer with the parable of the Good Samaritan when He turned his question around. It is not “Who is my neighbor?” but rather, “To whom am I a neighbor?” (Luke 10: 25-36).

Last night John and I watched Gone Baby Gone. Ben Affleck both co-wrote the screenplay and directed this film. His younger brother, Casey, was cast in the starring role. Ed Harris, Michelle Monaghan, Amy Madigan, and Morgan Freeman also star in this film of a little girl who was reported missing, and the young man who was hired to search for her. I will try not to reveal too much of the movie’s details for the sake of those who have not yet seen it.

The movie is a fascinating study of office and vocation. There are those who have God-given vocations, yet abandon them. Some take up vocations that are not properly theirs to have. Others are given offices into which they have been place with trust, yet through which they have been abusive. Another is like the last of the Old Testament faithful women, Anna, praying and fasting, faithful in her vocation. She lashes out in righteous anger, “You are an abomination!” Her pain stings the greatest, for she sacrifices all she has, and loses all in the end.

There is, too, a Christ-figure—one who sacrifices his own life so that another might live. Fascinatingly, there is also a hireling. The twist-ending allowing for “What would you have done?” questioning reveals who the hireling is, who the Christ-figure is. Christ said, “Feed My sheep” (Jn 21:17). Certainly the primary meaning of this is directed to the Office and the administration of the Mysteries, the Sacraments. Still, in Gone Baby Gone, we have the distinction between doing right because it feels right, and doing right because it is right.

“If you do this thing, I will hate you forever,” said the tempter in the movie. How many prayers have ascended to God in this way? And yet Joseph declared, “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Ge 50:20). A religion centered in the heart; a religion that does not rely solely on what God has done and gives for us; a religion that cannot be satisfied with Christ’s declaration, “It is finished!”; is a religion that can lead one to hating God when He does not give one the desires of one’s own heart. This is why we pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” When we pray these words, we literally ask God that He carry us away, even if it means into an early death rather than into even greater evil than we currently face.

Gone Baby Gone is not merely a fascinating movie; it is also a genuinely Lutheran movie. It gets Office straight, even if by demonstrating by way of the negative, and through instances of the positive through vocation. It’s a movie worth watching for the sake of its theme. This must be said with a great caveat: the language is very strong. Some might find that offensive due to the volume.

1 comment:

David Garner said...

We saw this one a few weeks back at the suggestion of a co-worker. You have correctly assessed the film and its themes.

GREAT movie, by the way.