Reflections on PSALM 23: For People With Cancer (2007)

reflections_on_psalm23Ever since he founded Vision Video (as Gateway Films in those pre-video days), Ken Curtis has brought dozens and dozens of films to the church, but I suspect none have involved him as personally and passionately as this latest Vision Video release. Not only is Dr. Curtis the on-screen host, speaking to us from the picturesque hills and towns of Palestine, but the entire project grew out of what he described in a note to this reviewer as “an intensely personal experience.”—a life-threatening bout with cancer in which he was given small chance of recovering. However, those who have not suffered from this dread disease should not let the title scare them away because this DVD is crammed with insights into the greatest of the psalms, plus moving experiences from the filmmaker‘s own life. As he says near the beginning of his narrative, he is also addressing “anyone else who cares to listen in.”

The DVD is divided into 13 meditations, each about eight minutes long, making it appropriate for an individual to use at home or, thanks to the availability now of portable DVD players, for a patient in a hospital bed. A creative teacher could easily get from 6 to 13 lessons for a Bible class, on Sunday mornings or during the week. Congregations whose deacons or elders visit the sick and the shut-in could take the tape to leave after their visits. Preachers will find illustrations and inspiration for a dozen or more sermons, and even for communion homilies. Because of the beautiful footage shot in Palestine, often featuring sheep and a shepherd, the video readily holds our attention—this is definitely not a talking head presentation. Dr. Curtis moves through the Psalm, verse and/or phrase by phrase, extracting life-lessons that will enrich the viewer’s faith and life. His cancer experience is brought in from time to time, but by no means dominates his narrative.

His basic premise is deeply Scriptural, especially when one calls to mind Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer or Paul‘s words in Romans in 8:28: Don’t ask “What did I do to deserve this, but what good can God bring out of all this? As he discovers, God can bring a lot of good even out of cancer. Curtis does not suggest that everyone with cancer will be healed—although his combination of traditional and alternative medicine plus this psalm did bring him remission, despite the prognosis of his doctors—but does emphasize the deepening of one’s faith in the face of death. The meditation on the “table before me” is especially profound, Dr. Curtis bringing in Jesus’ Last Supper at which the betrayer (the “enemy” in the psalm) was present, and I loved his use of Victor Frankl’s observation concerning his near-starvation in a Nazi concentration camp, that he regarded the ordeal as “just fasting,” rather than as being starved to death. The element of hope, both Curtis and Frankl assert, is absolutely crucial in fighting cancer, or any other situation deemed “hopeless.” This is a DVD I cannot recommend too highly. It is one that should not be allowed to sit on a shelf, but should be promoted or taken around throughout congregation and hospital.

DVD Catalogue #501093D. $19.99 from Vision Video. 610-584-3500, Website: www.visionvideo.com