My favorite movie is set in the 16th century, and it won an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1966. "A Man For All Seasons" is the story of Sir Thomas More, who was beheaded for refusing to put allegiance to the king before his loyalty to the church.
I own this film on DVD. I have watched it so many times that my wife wonders aloud about my obsession. I've decided that More's story must affect me on some deeply personal level.
Near the end of the motion picture, More (played brilliantly by Paul Scofield) is on trial for high treason for refusing to take the popularly administered oath making King Henry VIII head of the church in England.
Having been condemned by the court and facing execution, an exasperated More tells the assembled crowd in the language of Old English: "I do none harm. I say none harm. I speak none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith, I long not to live."
By the time of his trial, at which he was convicted due to the perjury of the attorney general for Wales, Richard Rich, More was exhausted. He had spent many months in the Tower of London, shooing away rats, dealing daily with the cold and damp of the nearby Thames River, forbidden to see his family and deprived of intellectual stimulation. A lawyer-scholar, More's books had been removed in a last-ditch effort to win his capitulation. Yes, he was tired physically. But More was also weary in the mind.
That, more than anything, sticks with me as I watch the film. Over and over again I watch More's mental exhaustion.
When you get tired in the mind, what do you do? A vacation can help, certainly. But if you are employed or you have limited resources, vacations can only be of intermittent help.
Finding recreational outlets can also assist. These short blocks of time requiring far less expense can serve to divert your thoughts away from those things that sap your energy. All true.
I'd like to suggest a third way. To wit: the refreshment and renewal that comes from reading Holy Scripture.
OK, this is what you expect from a pastor, right? Hear me out. There are words, verses, embedded in the Bible that can rouse us, can move us from lethargy to action, from unexplainable mental torpor to inexpressible joy. These verses are like precious gems, buried in the biblical text for us to discover. For each person, a different verse or verses may bring that boost to the mind that each of us craves.
For me, the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians stand out this week: "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him." (I Corinthians 2:9)
I'd like to think those words may have sustained Thomas More as he was pushed to his limits. I know they sustain me.
Jeff Long is pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. Married with two daughters, he is of Scots and Swedish descent, loves movies and is a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. If you would like to receive frequent notes from him, contact Long at firstname.lastname@example.org.