Exodus is Excusable

Exodus

—SPOILER ALERT—

And by Exodus I mean the film by Ridley Scott (starring Christian Bale as Moses), not the inspired history account of divine intervention by YHWH.

So I was very eager to see this film, and heard both criticism and awe in early reviews. I knew this was another film I had to see for myself. Here’s what I got:

—–1) Eh. For a 140 million dollar budget, I would’ve expected a story at least as engaging as the special effects. By leaving so much out (since nobody can cover Exodus entirely on film), what was left wasn’t portrayed creatively enough. I could sense myself actually getting bored during the movie! Everything felt too rushed. My eyes were in for a treat, but my soul was not impressed.

—–2) The soundtrack is forgettable. I don’t remember a single moment where I went: I gotta hunt this score down and put it on repeat ASAP!

—–3) Things missing include: Moses’ real mother, the pillar of fire, the staff’s importance, how angry God and Moses get with the golden calf, and that’s only what I can remember…

—–4) But there are good things too about the film: Moses must be humbled before God. The ways humility is taught and represented is interesting. In Moses’ first encounter with God’s messenger, he is stuck in quicksand up to his face. Nothing else is visible but Moses’ eyes, nose, mouth and cheeks: he is literally dirt and mud. And that’s the root word of humble: humus (Latin for earth, soil, etc.).

Being humble means being grounded in reality, close to the soil, because we are dust and will become dust again. We must remember our mortality and finitude, and let God be God. Moses in this film had to learn this, and for good reason since he was a spoiled prince of the ancient superpower called Egypt.

—–5) God’s messenger (aka: angel) is portrayed as a boy. I don’t see anything wrong about this. In fact, probably a good way to teach Moses more humility! A grown warrior prince humbled to obedience to a child who represents the Almighty.

MosesZipporah—–6) Perhaps one of the few best parts of this film was the emphasis on marriage and family, especially fatherhood. Moses and his wife, Zipporah, share beautiful vows together, and the respect they show for one another is a good example of marriage. Fatherhood is shown through how Moses cares for his son, and even in how Ramses loves his own.

—–7) Another part well done are the plagues. I enjoyed seeing how the plagues were set up to be more naturalistic, including the parting of the Red Sea. As the audience, we could relate easier to the doubting Egyptians and Pharaoh who brushed aside the calamities and pushed on with their goals and lives. They saw everything as explainable by nature, and we moviegoers could too… until the coincidences got so stretched that it could NOT be mere coincidence anymore: oh… the sea level just happened to lower when the Hebrews needed an escape? Oh… the fact that only Egyptian first born children died during the first Passover? Hmmm… something tells me this was all guided by an intelligence. Wonder who that could be…

—–8) All in all, Exodus: Gods and Kings failed to insult me, and also failed to impress me. I wish it actually did one or the other, because I’m glad I don’t have to write more about this because there ain’t much here other than superficial visuals. Go ahead and watch it, but don’t be surprised if it’s underwhelming. If you’re in a mood for a more intense version, check out the original in the Bible or even the Prince of Egypt, and you’ll wish Hollywood would’ve been more creative. We were promised an epic, but got eh… Wasted opportunity, I think.

ExodusRedSea

For what I think are good reviews, see here:

1) ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’: Theological Reflections

2) An Interview with Scott, Bale and Edgerton

Strawberries in Heaven

My beloved friends,

Guess what happened this weekend in Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska?
About 150 campers got to peek at the beauty of Heaven. Let me tell you more of what we experienced…

Every summer across the U.S., Catholic Vietnamese Americans criss-cross the interstates. This year in the Midwest, friends in states from Michigan to Kansas, from Minnesota to Ohio, and even from Washington and Georgia, converged in the Cornhusker State for 55 hours of learning, praying, practicing and discovering friendship with one another and with Christ.

And there it was: a chance to catch a preview of Heaven.

I once heard some people say that they were afraid of Heaven, “It’s gonna be so boring! Who wants to pray all day, every day, for all eternity? The same thing — forever… what a drag!”

But that’s not Heaven. Instead, Heaven is where He makes all things NEW. ALL things (Rev. 21:5).

strawberry-wallpaper
I love strawberries. I didn’t always love them as much as I do now, but I daydream sometimes about strawberries in Heaven… …

-Me: “Oh look, a strawberry! Don’t mind if I help myself!”

-Jesus: “So you like that strawberry, eh? Well… try THIS ONE!” (pulls out another berry from behind His back)

-Me: “Whoa… this one’s even better!”

-Jesus: “Yes, now try THIS ONE!!” (pulls out yet another berry)

-Me: “Whoa! This one is better than the last two combined!”

-Jesus: “Think so? Try THIS ONE!!!” (and this could go on FOREVER)

Christ. What a curious God He is. Who makes something that is already perfect, into something better… better than perfect! Always new! How could that ever get lame?!

It’s like the love we experience in this life: love makes every moment new, a new experience. The restaurant of your first date becomes special, not repetitive. The movie you first watched together, laughed through together, sniffled through together… that movie becomes a highlight, and  every time you watch that movie or visit that restaurant with your beloved, it’s something new: you’re both a little older than the previous time, both in a different state of mind than before, in a different life-situation.

Now let’s go deeper.

There is one thing people never get bored of doing. NEVER.
Yes, I will get bored of strawberries.
Yes, you will get bored of _____________.
But think a moment before reading on. What do people never bore of doing? What is never boring?

The answer: meeting new friends and strengthening friendships. Sure — we’ll get tired of talking, dancing, dining, traveling, camping, playing games, etc. But after the tiredness goes away, we’re back at it again! We can get “tired” of making and strengthening friendships, but we’ll never be BORED of it to the point of thinking: “No more! I’m so bored of friends! Having friends is so boring!”

Don’t know about you, but I’d rather be exhausted and annoyed with my family/friends rather than be energetic and have no family/friends at all.

So that’s what I saw happen again this past weekend. So many of us stank for lack of showering. So many were exhausted for lack of sleep. So many were cold for lack of a summer. But we were with our friends.

In Heaven, you make friends. And you will never lose a friend. You will meet new persons forever, doing whatever activities that make friendships flourish. Every person is so rich in their specific personality — after all, nobody is identical to another on earth, why would they be redundant in Heaven where ALL THINGS ARE MADE NEW?

And I specifically said “persons” because humans aren’t the only persons in Creation. Angels are persons too! Imagine that… meeting and making friends with the angels. I’d like Saint Michael to give me some jousting and samurai lessons, for sure!

And then, the ultimate person to meet… Holy God Himself.

THAT is the Communion of Saints. THAT is Heaven.

But remember, what I saw happen was only an itty preview: like merely being able to smell fresh baked cookies. But, in Heaven we will finally get to eat the cookies 🙂

vision-of-the-empyrean

[Now if that’s Heaven… then how is Hell like? Where all things are never new. Where you lose friends and are left to solitary confinement. Where time does not pass because there’s nothing that’s going to happen next anyway.]