Well, there’s another movie that has been on my mind that I would like to share about. The movie is called The Way, and stars Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez as father and son (who are father and son in real life as well). Emilio Estevez wrote the screenplay based on the book Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route Into Spain, by Jack Hitt.
In the movie, Daniel (Estevez) is pursuing a doctorate in cultural anthropology, but decides to quit the program at the dismay of his widowed father, Tom (Sheen). Daniel tells his father, a doctor, that he’s tired of reading and studying about cultures – he wants to get out and experience them. So he leaves to travel the world, with his father expressing his disappointment in him all the way to the airport. Father and son grow further apart as Daniel travels the world.
A few years later, Tom receives a disturbing phone call; his son has died in a hiking accident in France. Tom travels to France to take possession of his son and his belongings. While there, he learns that his son died during a sudden storm as he was embarking on a pilgrimage: the El Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St. James. It is explained that many people walk this trail beginning in France and ending in Spain for many reasons, many as a spiritual pilgrimage. The trail ends in Santiago de Compostela, where tradition holds that the remains of James the Apostle were carried and kept after his death.
Daniel’s main possession that Tom receives is his hiking gear: a large backpack with the essential tools to survive his pilgrimage. Tom sifts through them, obviously not familiar with their purposes. Tom then makes a dramatic decision: he decided to walk the El Camino de Santiago in place of his son. He decides to have Daniel cremated and takes him on the journey with him. At first, he is told that he is crazy. He is not prepared or equipped for the journey! Tom quickly replies that he has his son’s equipment, and that he was prepared for the journey. He completely trusts in his son’s provision for the journey ahead. As Tom walks the long trail, he stops and leaves portions of his son’s remains along the way. He meets others on the same journey and builds relationships with them. They stick together and support each other through tough and joyful times. While they all came to walk the trail for various reasons, their true motivations are revealed as they walk the path together.
As I watched this movie, I found it to be a beautiful picture of the mission of the church: to walk the path the Son would have walked if he had not died.
There certainly has been much scholarship, debate, and writing in the last decade on the mission of the church. While I have read some of it and truly appreciate all of the work and discussion, I wanted something that applies down in the trenches where groups of believers are following Christ and desiring to pour out his love, his life, his Spirit to the world around them.
Could the mission of the church in daily life be that simple? To go about doing what was in Christ’s heart when he was here, walking the Father’s way and according the Father’s heart?
Jesus said that he did only what he saw the Father doing, and that he spoke only what the Father spoke. Jesus knew the heart of the Father and he carried it out with unwavering determination.
As we, the church who is the body of the Son, walk by the Spirit, the very life of the Son, we can honor his heart’s desire:
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19)
As we move about in our daily lives, especially with other believers, we can have eyes to see the poor, the oppressed, the blind, and reach out to them with the heart of Jesus Christ. How do we do this? We do it with the Son’s equipment and his equipping. He has already given us everything we need!
And as Tom did with his son, we can leave a portion, a deposit, of the Son along the way.