My wife and I have been watching the documentary “Last Days in Vietnam,” which tells the story not only of the (bungled) American evacuation of Vietnam in April of 1975, but of the occasionally black-ops efforts of Americans to save their Vietnamese friends, family, and acquaintances from the advancing Vietcong. The story is tragic, and powerful, and features some real heroism. I highly recommend it.
Last night’s installment featured interviews with American servicemen and Embassy staff who recounted their memories about the process of deciding who to try to save. One of them said, “We should save the tailor.” And others agreed, and they went to collect the tailor, his wife and family. Another said, “We should save the cook,” and they went to collect the cooks, their wives, and their families. The Americans and Vietnamese alike knew that anyone who had worked closely with the Americans would be a target for the Vietcong when they arrived, and so on they went through a list of the people they knew and cared about, rescuing everyone they could.
Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with emotion. My mind had brought me to the parable of the Wedding Supper from Matthew 22 and Luke 14. There, a man prepares a banquet from which several of the invited guests explain their absence by means of unbelievable excuses (the biblical equivalent of “I can’t come because I’m washing my hair”). Finally, the master of the feast sends his servant into the streets to invite anyone and everyone to come so that his feast will be full.
Typically, when I read that parable, I focus attention on the feast, and on the poor excuses of the invited guests. I don’t spend a lot of time on the newly invited guests–but something about seeing an image of a truck, filled with Vietnamese, escaping a coming wrath, impacted me deeply. An invitation to the Wedding Supper, I realized, is not only an invitation to a great party–it’s also an invitation to escape wrath and destruction.
And that means that we ought to be clamoring to get our way onto God’s helicopters with as much intensity, fervor, and clarity of focus as the Vietnamese did in 1975.