“But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” —Jesus

Ever notice how sometimes there’s more gospel in movies than in the typical sermon (including mine)? Up to now, my favorite on that score has been Chocolat. But the new candidate is the current animated film Ratatouille.

The main character, Remy, has an intuitive ability in the kitchen. He’s imaginative, going beyond the standard recipes to create dishes that satisfy the most discriminating palate. He’s been inspired by a famous, now deceased, chef whose motto was “anyone can cook.” Surely Remy belongs at the stove in a fine restaurant.

Trouble is, Remy is a rat. You get the picture. Rat. Restaurant. Not two words that should occur in the same sentence. The chef search committee would take one look at his furry little snout and curly tail and put him on the “D” list. Whatever his gifts, a rat doesn’t belong in the kitchen.

There are all kinds of wonderful messages in the film. But for me, Remy’s story is a parable about how church and society make decisions about who can and should be in leadership. How often do we see gifts, ability, imagination, and intuition get trumped by prejudice, suspicion, and/or rules made by the dominant group on the basis of hoary and unchallenged tradition? Typically in my context (the church) we hear: “You’re a (insert name of favorite maligned or despised group here), you can’t hold a position among us.” Variations: “You’re too young, what can you know? You’re too old, your day is over. You don’t dress correctly or live in the right part of town, your leadership would be an embarrassment to us.”

But the gospel way is different. I imagine Jesus sitting with some friends, talking over cappuccino after seeing Ratatouille. He’s smiling, remembering especially the last scene (no, I’m not going to spoil the ending), then he observes: “Good flick. Reminds me of something I’ve said more than once.”

And all the people said “Amen.”

© 2007 by Tom Cheatham

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