Fellow Passengers: This week’s Prophetic Passage* (Isaiah 9:1-7) transports me back 40 years to March, 1972, when we theater goers were first introduced to the trilogy of movies featuring the Corleones of New York City, led by the Don of the family, Vito, played by Marlon Brando, cheeks full of cotton balls. I’ve been thinking about these movies, particular Godfather II, with part of its storyline taking place in Cuba during the 1959 revolution, as we are preparing to pick up two friends from Cuba tomorrow. One of those friends, Nestor, born in ’59, is a veritable child of the Triumph of the Revolution. Back to the movies – they are fascinating look at the relationship between a father and his sons, with Sonny Corleone (James Caan) groomed to take over the family business, making his bones as a teenager and enthusiastically participating in all aspects of the mafia wars. When Sonny is gunned down, younger brother Michael (Al Pacino) reluctantly re-engages with the business. He had tried to escape the fate, going to Dartmouth and later enlisting in the Marines during WWII. The Corleone blood ran thick, though, and he couldn’t escape, becoming Don of the family after father Vito’s demise.
One of the prophet Isaiah’s most famous lines is in today’s passage: Unto us a child is born. . . and he shall be called. . . everlasting father. Most people read that with the music of Handel in mind. Not me. I hear the music of Nina Rota, composer of The Godfather soundtrack. I think about how God the Father is portrayed throughout the history of Israel, in the books of Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, I and II Kings. A pretty ruthless Don, when you think about it. The bloodbaths of New York City’s mafia wars were nothing compared to the bloodbaths in the conquest and control of Canaan land. But the prophet foresaw something new, a child of promise being born, a Sonny to take over the divine family business. The government would be upon his shoulders. This new divinely conceived Don would not govern in the ways his Father had, though. Instead of making his bones through violent conquest, this godchild would be a wonderful counselor, and a prince of peace. He would be called a Mighty God, but his might would be demonstrated in plowshares, not swords. And his authority would continually grow, until all the families came under his reign of endless peace.
My friend Nestor and I hit if off from our first encounter in 1997. We shared various disappointments and griefs, especially in losing our fathers. We shared more laughter than grief, though. I’m not sure what he gains from a friendship with me, but I know what I gain. I am grateful for friends like Nestor who help me see a different way of being in this world, other than conquest and dominion, which is the air we breath as U.S. citizens. Complying with a militaristic and materialistic hegemony sometimes seems hard to escape; it’s in our DNA, thick in our blood. So I need to be in friendship with people who breathe different air, who operate with a different cultural DNA. While the 1959 Triumph of the Revolution is a joke in many ways, given Cuba’s crumbling infrastructure and economy, there is a different triumph at work in Nestor and the other people I know there. There is a triumph of spirit, a spirit that understands the futility of putting trust in material gain, a spirit marked by a deeper understanding of peacemaking than I will ever hope to, a spirit that says no matter who happens to occupy the thrones of power at any given time, in reality, the government is on different shoulders, and the authority of this government, and the peace it offers, is endless. I think I’ll put Nina Rota on my Pandora while I read some more Isaiah.
How about you? Where does this Prophetic Passage take you on your journey of faith? Feel free to comment, and share with your friends on Google+, FB, Twitter, etc.