“Courage, it couldn't come at a worse time.” The Tragically Hip wrote and sang these words in a song that was later used in a movie The Sweet Hereafter. That movie is a powerful reminder that having and living out courage comes at a cost.
In a nutshell the movie surrounds the outcome of a tragic bus accident and the death of many children and the profound effect this has on the parents and the community. Meanwhile, in the background there is a lawyer who is living with the addiction of his adult daughter and using a mercenary approach to lawsuits as a means of ongoing therapy. In essence this lawyer knows he cannot change his daughter so he places all of his rage and frustration through the prism of the lawsuit, making “someone” pay for the pain he is going through. In this case it is the manufacturer of the bus who is being sued is eager to settle and the community, from this horrible tragedy, will receive a handsome sum.
But in the community there are broken people whose lives are now even more broken. We learn of the pain they are living with and how they are holding out hope that this large sum of money will someone provide them with healing a new start. But it is clear that brokenness is not easy dealt with. Something else, other than the injection of wealth, will be required for healing to take root.
Enter the character played by Sarah Polley, who is left in a wheelchair as a result of the bus accident. Polley’s backstory includes sexual abuse and she has been keeping a secret. At a critical point in the film (spoiler alert) this character decides that the truth will set her free. She decides to be truthful about “everything”, which happens to include the fact that it was not the bus itself that caused the accident. Polley’s sworn testimony destroys the effort by the lawyer, on behalf of the community, to score a large settlement from the bus company. Thus as the character is about make her testimony we hear the haunting words of the Tragically Hip sung by Polley, “Courage, it couldn't come at a worse time”.
I was working my way through one of the lectionary readings for this Sunday, John 14:15-21, and I came across some verses that reminded me of this kind of courage. “If you love me, you will do as I command.” “The Spirit will show you what is true.” There is also talk of being sent an Advocate. In one commentary I read this week, Wes Howard-Brook’s Becoming Children of God: John’s Gospel and Radical Discipleship there was this, “It is very important to note that the assurance given in this text is given collectively, not individually.” Further, Bishop and Jesus scholar N.T. (Tom) Wright says of the text, “when Jesus defeats the power of death through his own death and resurrection, then all sorts of new possibilities will be opened.”
I believe that the Advocate and comforter that Jesus sends is courage, it is a sense that because of the resurrection that power of death and fear cannot hold up from the truth that the Spirit reveals. That doing the command, “love your neighbour” can only truly be lived out when we go the “extra mile” and do not live in fear but rather with courage of living the truth, no matter the consequences.
Courage is only courage when it comes at the wrong time. There is no easy time to live the truth. Thank God we are sent the Advocate to push us to courage and let us experience the Spirit of Truth. Amen.