Le lesson to be learnt from Chocolat

Church Notes by Dr Bob RoxburghTransition leader, London Road Baptist ChurchTHE church, being marginalised in the society, has been given negative images, most of the caricatures are not true but perception wins the day.

Church Notes by Dr Bob Roxburgh

Transition leader, London Road Baptist Church

THE church, being marginalised in the society, has been given negative images, most of the caricatures are not true but perception wins the day. To reconnect with the post-modern culture various methods are invoked, many of which don't work. There is one that does and it is portrayed in the movie Chocolat.

The film is set in a small French village dominated by an austere traditionalism as championed by the Mayor (the Comte). He is controlling and frightening, unable to admit that his wife has left him. The town centre is barren; no trees, no warmth. The relationships of the townspeople are fractured and strained … all kinds of problems abound.

Into town one day, blown by a strange wind so to speak, comes Vianne Rocher and her daughter. She sets up a Chocolaterie (sweet shop). Unfortunately it is the Lenten season when the townspeople are pressed into abstinence and austerity and self-denial. Her store is stocked with all kinds of goodies and she begins to endear herself to the townspeople and enters into a huge conflict with the Comte.

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Instead of worrying about selling her chocolates she sets about building relationships. All is not easy and she faces many heartaches. She so often practices the kind of hospitality that is meant to be the mission of the church. It is a hospitality that has to be imbedded in peoples' lives where they are not where we hope them to be.

It is not that the Comte is not a well intentioned believer who tries to be moral but he is not free in his soul. He lives by rules and traditions and his idea of holiness is the creation of a dichotomy between the secular and the spiritual. His idea of community is conformity to cultural norms. He tries to clean up a wayward husband by putting him through the religious hoops. Instead Vianne offers the wayward husband's wife, a place to live with love acceptance and mercy. She offers grace to a troubled community. Her shop, and not the church, is a haven for the people. She celebrates life and invites others to the celebration.

Vianne's caring mindset is seen when a group of gypsies show up in their barges to the town wharf. The Comte has them declared as untouchables. Vianne goes among them and welcomes them. She throws a party for a dying woman and for the gypsies. They eventually leave but she stays despite incredible tensions to move. The Comte realises that he needs to be set free from his bondages and so eventually as Vianne stays she is accepted by the townspeople.

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