Hallelujah Nathan!

January 18, 2001
by David Gellatly

Matthew 5:43-45 – You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy." But I say to you, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven." (NRSV)

One of my favourite "western" movies is John Ford's "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon". There is a scene in which the grizzled, soon-to-be-retired cavalry Captain Nathan Briddles, played by John Wayne, rides into the hostile Indian camp in an effort to head off the impending uprising. Amongst the angry young braves, he is greeted by the old chief, Pony that Walks, with the following words, "Hallelujah Nathan, I am a Christian, Hallelujah!" The chief commiserates with John Wayne upon the failure of his efforts to prevent the young braves from going on the warpath and the folly and futility of young men seeking glory in violence, and ends by inviting John Wayne to join him in drinking whiskey and hunting buffalo.

I am not sure whether John Ford intended Pony that Walks' role to be one of providing comic relief or as a very telling commentary on society, both back then and now. However, each time I see that scene it speaks to (rebukes) me in much the same way that Isaiah and the other prophets of Israel spoke to their wayward people. How often do we greet our truest friends, much less our enemies, with even a quiet profession of faith, much less shouting it out for the whole world to hear? How many of us are willing to even acknowledge in public the friendship of those who are unpopular? How often are we willing to freely offer our hand in friendship, without precondition or demand for an apology, to those who have done us one of the innumerable minor wrongs of day-to-day life, much less to our enemies who have threatened our very way of life? The answer, unfortunately, is: all too seldom.

Comic relief or not, in Pony That Walks, we have had set before us the true example of Christian brotherhood; an example we should all endeavour to follow, regardless of how it is perceived by those around us!

1 John 4:19-20 – We love because he first loved us. Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. (NRSV)

Prayer:

    We pray that someday an arrow will be broken,
    not in something or someone,
    but by each of mankind,
    to indicate peace, not violence.
    Someday, oneness with creation,
    rather than domination over creation,
    will be the goal to be respected.
    Someday fearlessness to love and make a difference
    will be experienced by all people.
    Then the eagle will carry our prayer for peace and love,
    and the peoples of the red, white, yellow, brown,
    and black communities
    can sit in the same circle together to communicate in love and
    experience the presence of the great mystery in their midst.
    Someday can be today for you and me.
        Amen.

    (
A Prayer of the Chippewa taken from the Book of Common Worship, Daily Prayer.)

About the author:

David Gellatly <gellatly@optonline.net>
South Orange, New Jersey, USA

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