by The Rev. Rich Heinz
I am bummed. Moses died this past Saturday.
I can still remember as a child, every Palm Sunday evening, one of the major networks would air The Ten Commandments. Even then, in the 1970’s, I knew the film was old. Not understanding the “magic” of stage make-up, I thought the actor might already be dead. I was happy to discover my misunderstanding.
Charlton Heston was a man who was not afraid to stand up for his beliefs. He is well-known for performing in biblically themed films such as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, The Greatest Story Ever Told (as John the Baptist), and narrating the Scriptures in Charlton Heston Presents the Bible.
A great epic actor for great epic films, Heston set a standard. On his blog this week, Gene Edward Veith comments that attempts by others to portray the Exodus and life of Moses only served to make Heston’s work look even greater.
He also was not afraid to stand up for his political beliefs, which won him many friends, and lost him others. Run-ins with the Screen Actors’ Guild and those who opposed his work with the NRA were a part of his life in this past decade.
Yet for all his accomplishments, even for the great witness of the Gospel that may spring forth from some of his movies, none of his work could save him. Nothing he could do or say could relieve any physical ailments, prevent death, or bring him everlasting life. No. By himself, Moses cannot save you. Even more so the actor playing Moses! The Lord alone does that!
But Charlton Heston knew that. It is reported by Dr. Ted Baehr, a film critic, that during the filming of The Ten Commandments, director Cecil B. De Mille fell off a four-foot ladder. He was injured enough that some predicted he would not be able to finish the film. The next day he returned to the set, letting everyone know that the Lord healed him, and passing out New Testaments. This event and the ongoing witness of De Mille’s faith had an impact on Heston. He grew in his awareness of the faith the Holy Spirit had given.
The Risen Lord who fulfilled and completed Moses has now brought this portrayer of Moses to his rest. The Good Shepherd has gathered another lamb into the heavenly fold, a home worth infinitely more than all the gold and power of Egypt. We rejoice this Eastertide for Charlton, for The Prophet “like [Moses]” has gathered him unto Himself!
The Rev. Rich Heinz is senior pastor of Saint John’s Ev. Lutheran Church & School in Lanesville, IN. He still remembers finding a large stick or broom handle to be his “staff” while playing Moses on many a Holy Monday in his childhood.