Tag Archives: Michael Corleone

A Confession

A Confession (CaD Jud 16) Wayfarer

Then the Philistines seized [Samson], gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison. But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.
Judges 16:21-22 (NIV)

There is an incredibly powerful scene in The Godfather Part III that seems largely forgotten among the many memorable moments in the epic trilogy. Michael Corleone visits a Cardinal in the Vatican, seeking assistance with a business deal he’s trying to make with the Vatican bank. Michael’s health isn’t good. Between stress and Diabetes, he’s suffering. The Cardinal, however, sees that what is really torturing Michael is the spiritual consequences of a life of violence, crime, deceit, and vanity. He urges Michael to confess.

Over the past couple of weeks, our local gathering of Jesus’ followers has been focused on James 5:16: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” In my experience, confession is rarely discussed, and I find this tragic. Anyone who has made the spiritual journey of The Twelve Steps knows that it begins with admitting we are powerless over our addictions. That’s why every person in a Twelve Step meeting introduces themselves by confessing that they are an addict.

Today’s chapter is the climactic finale of Samson’s story. Samson’s tragic flaw, his perpetual lust for Philistine women, finally catches up with him in his love for Delilah. His blind devotion to her, despite the fact that she seems bent on learning the source of his strength for nefarious reasons, results in his tragic fall and the physical blindness that came with his capture and captivity.

In yesterday’s post/podcast, I unpacked the fact that Samson’s story is the story of the Hebrews. The parallels continue to the very end, and the events of today’s chapter prophetically foreshadow the future history of Israel. They will continue to chase after foreign gods, which will lead to their captivity and exile in Assyria and Babylon. The fact that God redeems Samson’s fall and uses it for His purposes foreshadows the redemption and return of the Israelites. Samson’s blindness foreshadows Israel’s own spiritual blindness to the Messiah who will be sent for their ultimate redemption.

In the quiet this morning, this leads me back to my own life, and my own story. I, like every other human being who has ever lived, have my own sins, flaws, and weaknesses. Left unchecked, my story would be far more tragic than it’s already been. Samson’s story is a reminder to me of two very important truths:

First, the path of Jesus, like The Twelve Steps, is one that begins with a choice to own my flaws, confess, repent, and follow in Jesus’ footsteps…every day. Without that, my own tragic shortcomings will eventually lead me to very unpleasant places, just like Samson.

Second, God is not about condemnation. God is about redemption. He ultimately redeemed Samson’s flaws. He ultimately brought His exiled people home. He ultimately, through Jesus, graciously provided a Way of forgiveness and redemption for any and all who will follow.

I have been a follower, a disciple, of Jesus for over 40 years. I confess to you that I’m not perfect, and admit to you that I’m still working on my own tragic flaws. Despite this fact, I’ve found God to be gracious, merciful, and faithful; God is about redemption. And so, I’m stepping out and pressing on today, one more day in the journey.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Two Paths

Two Paths (CaD Jud 9) Wayfarer

Abimelek son of [Gideon] went to his mother’s brothers in Shechem and said to them and to all his mother’s clan, “Ask all the citizens of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you: to have all seventy of Jerub-Baal’s sons rule over you, or just one man?’ Remember, I am your flesh and blood.”
Judges 9:1-2 (NIV)

I still have vivid memories of the bully. I remember his name. I can see his face in my memory along with the bathroom at Woodlawn Elementary school where it happened. I was in second grade and he was a year older than me. He was bigger than me. He was mean and intimidating. He demanded that I give him my lunch money, but I didn’t have any. I brought my lunch to school. This made him mad and he feigned that he was going to hit me. He then told me that after school he would find me and was going to beat me up. The two-and-a-half block walk home was sheer terror, but I managed to walk with my neighbor who was two years older and that gave me some comfort.

That was my first experience with a bully, and it obviously left a strong impression on me. History is filled with those who use threats, violence, and intimidation for personal gain. What begins as bullying on the school playground can easily become a way of life that in adulthood turns into gangs, organized crime, and rackets. The same tactics of power and intimidation get “cleaned up” but still fuel political parties, corporate boardrooms, and union organizations. I’ve also experienced the same basic bully tactics from powerful individuals in churches.

The stories of Gideon and his son Abimelek form the center of the book of Judges. Ancient Hebrew writers, poets, and lyricists commonly used a literary device and placed the central theme of their work smack-dab in the middle. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that one of the central themes of the book of Judges is the tension the Hebrew tribes were experiencing as they tried to be a theocracy and follow God as their ultimate King and the reality they were experiencing with their enemies of what a powerful leader/king could do for a city or region. At the center of the book are two contrasting examples of this very tension. Gideon and his son take two very different paths to power and end up in very different places.

The story of Gideon provides the example of a powerful leader who humbly refuses to be made king, and he calls on his fellow Hebrews to recognize God as their only true leader. In today’s chapter, Abimelek provides a contrasting example. He takes the path of the power-hungry individual who will stop at nothing to seize and maintain his power.

Beneath the story of Abimelek are other subtle themes that were crucial in their time, and they still resonate today. Abimelek was one of some seventy sons of Gideon, the offspring of Gideon and a Canaanite slave. It’s likely that the biracial son of a slave was treated as less-than by his pure Hebrew half-brothers, the sons of Gideon’s legitimate wives. Abimelek uses his Canaanite blood, and his position of relative power as Gideon’s son, to convince the Canaanite people of the city of Shechem to appoint him their king. He then goes all Michael Corleone and “settles accounts” with all the potential threats to his power, his brothers, by killing them all (with the exception of the youngest brother, who escapes).

Chaos, political intrigue, violence, vengeance, and the continuous struggle for power follow Abimelek through the entire chapter. The Godfather epic is an apt parallel. Once he stepped down the path of power by violence and vengeance, Michael Corleone could tragically never escape the consequences of where it led. Abimelek found himself on the same tragic path.

In the quiet this morning, I said a prayer for my elementary school bully. I hope God led him to find a better path in life. He taught me a lesson that day. He provided me an example of the person I never wanted to become. I’m grateful for that.

I also find myself pondering the simple contrast between Gideon and his son, Abimelek. Gideon wasn’t perfect, but his deference to God’s power and authority kept him from the tragic ends experienced by his son.

I’ve learned along my life journey that whatever positions of earthly power and/or leadership I might find myself should come because I am led to them, not because I seized them for myself. As a follower of Jesus, I am called to the path of humility and service to others. Looking back from my current waypoint on Life’s road, I can tell you that it is a path that has always led, not always to easy places, but ultimately to good places.

I think I’ll stick to this path.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Beginner’s Guide to the Great Story (Part 3)

In this episode, we’re going to talk about some of the “meta-themes” in the Great Story and, since all good stories are a reflection of the Great Story, we’ll look at some examples of the meta-themes we find in our favorite movies and epic stories.

Wayfarer Podcast Episode 10: A Beginner’s Guide to the Great Story (Part 3)

You can subscribe to the Wayfarer podcast through Apple iTunes and Google Play.

The Ultimate Question

The church I attended every week as a child.
The church I attended every week as a child.

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Luke 9:18-20a (NIV)

Growing up, my family attended church regularly. I sang in the children’s choir, put on my robe each week, and walked in processional up the center aisle and into the choir loft. In the summer I went to Vacation Bible School. In the fall I and my went to the church’s Christmas bazaar (usually because my mother was a volunteer). Every Easter week our family attended the Maunday Thursday communion service. Every Christmas week our family attended the Christmas Eve candlelight service. Every year or two I went to the Father/Son banquet with my dad. At the age of twelve I dutifully attended the confirmation class required by our denomination, and at the end of that year I put on my white robe and was accepted as a member of the church. I got a certificate for my pains and a box of envelopes with my name on it for my weekly offerings.

Michael Corleone
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All of these activities and events made me and my family good, religious people. We observed all of the right things. They did not, however, make us believers in Jesus. Like Michael Corleone standing at the baptismal fount dutifully renouncing Satan while his orders to assassinate all of his enemies was carried out, the rituals and religious trappings had no real relationship with what was going on inside my heart and soul. All of the religious activity really didn’t affect my motives, thoughts, words, or actions on a daily basis.

In today’s chapter, Jesus confronts his followers with two questions:

“Who do the crowds say that I am?”

Simple. There are many answers to this question. We can spend all day going through the options. Some say this, and some say that. Good teacher, Son of God, messiah, prophet, wise man, looney tunes, charlatan, or huckster.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Now that’s a direct question. That’s a very personal question. It’s an important question. In fact, it’s the ultimate question. The answer to that question makes all the difference.  C.S. Lewis famously wrote that there are three logical answers to Jesus’ question:

  1. Liar. Jesus knew He was not God, but told everyone He was. If Jesus lied then He was morally corrupt and a deceiver. In which case, there is no point in believing in Him or following Him.
  2. Lunatic. Jesus claimed to be God, but was not. In which case, despite all of the nice sayings and good deeds, Jesus was actually crazy and should have been locked up in the psych ward with all of the other lunatics claiming to be God. Again, there is no point in giving Him much thought.
  3. Lord. Jesus was, in fact, who He claimed to be, in which case we much choose to accept Him or reject Him.

When I was 14, in a moment that had nothing to do with my family, church, denomination, or confirmation I found my spirit confronted with the ultimate question:

“But what about you?” came the question deep from in my soul“Who do you say I am?”

“I believe you are, indeed, who you say you are,” my spirit replied to His spirit. “Come into my heart, and be Lord of my life.”

And, that made all the difference.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 32

When I refused to confess my sin,
    my body wasted away,
    and I groaned all day long.
Psalm 32:3 (NLT)

Like many, I’m a fan of The Godfather saga. The first two films in the trilogy undoubtedly rank among the greatest stories ever told on film. I’m also not alone in my belief that the third film of the series, while an okay film, does not come close to the quality of first two. Nevertheless, The Godfather III has moments of brilliance, and one of them came to mind this morning as I read today’s chapter.

In the film, an aged and unhealthy Michael Corleone seeks out one of the Cardinals in the Vatican to elicit his help with corruption that is taking place in the Holy See’s upper ranks. The stress of the situation is too much and in the moment of their meeting Michael suffers the beginnings of a diabetic seizure. The Cardinal, recognizing the spiritual agony as well as physical ailments Michael suffers, explains that when the soul is in agony the body cries out. He encourages Michael to unburden his soul in confession, something that Michael has not done since childhood. A lifetime of sin and corruption clogs his heart, but the Cardinal slowly urges Michael to let it out. It is one of the most poignant moments in the entire story arc of the three films.

Holding tight to our guilt and sin in an effort to keep it secret is holding on to spiritual cancer. It may not be noticeable at first, but slowly it begins to eat away at our heart, mind and spirit. Symptomatic effects begin to show up in our relationships, our thoughts, our emotions and even our bodies.

Confession is not only good for the soul, but it gives way to an inflow of Life that can bring healing in a myriad of ways.

Today is a good day for confession. Let it go.

Chapter-a-Day 1 Kings 2

It's not personal. It's strictly business. The king then gave orders to Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he went out and struck Shimei dead. The kingdom was now securely in Solomon's grasp. 1 Kings 2:46 (MSG)

All great stories are a reflection of God's great story. That's what my wife consistently reminds me, and she is correct. That's why, when I read the Old Testament historical books, like Kings and Chronicles, I'm constantly reminded of stories, plays and movies that reflect the same biblical themes wrapped in the language of the present culture.

We read in today's chapter about Solomon, the youngest son, and his succession to his father's throne. We read about his "settling accounts" with the enemies of his father and the contract killings of Joab and Shimei. We read of the killing of his own brother who betrayed him. 

How could I not help but think of Michael Corleone, the youngest son, and his succession in the family business, his bloody settling of accounts, and the killing of his own brother who betrayed him?

All great stories are reflections of the Great Story.