Last Friday evening Sarah and I headed for the newly opened Odeon Cinema in Trowbridge to catch the film Gravity. It's taken me until vow to write this up. The movie centres on astronauts Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and their work aboard the Space Shuttle Explorer. The cinematography is stunning. In the opening sequence the astronauts are shown spacewalking as they maintain the shuttle. In the background the earth in all its sun-illuminated beauty stands out as an enormous blue globe against the star-punctuated blackness of space.
The astronauts look tiny and vulnerable as they float around in a dark ocean of inhospitable vastness. The sense of looming danger is justified. A cloud of debris smashes into the Explorer, ripping the shuttle apart, sending Stone and Kowalski careering into space. Their only hope is jet-pack their way to the International Space Station, some 60 miles away so they can board an escape module and return to earth.
I won't spoil the plot, but although Stone manages to deploy an escape capsule, it seems that all is lost as the vessel's thrusters have no fuel. The astronaut faces a lonely death. Trying desperately to send out an SOS message, Stone manages to pick up a radio signal from earth, locating an Inuit Fisherman. He knows no English and cannot raise an alarm. Stone nevertheless strikes up a conversation with the man and asks him to pray for her, "No one will pray for my soul...Will you pray for me? I mean I'd pray for myself, but I've never prayed—nobody ever taught me how."
At that moment Stone begins to cry. In the weightlessness of space her tears form into tiny droplets of water and float around the capsule. It is a moment of poignant beauty in the film, as the astronaut contemplates death without hope. It made me reflect on Paul's words in Romans 10:14-15, where he asks,
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”Whether intentionally or not the film was a reminder of the urgency of the evangelistic task of the church. It's our mission to teach people to call upon the name of the Lord that they may be able to face death with hope in their hearts, (Romans 10:13). No one had taught Dr. Stone how to pray. Unless we do that, who will?