The movie ends as it began, on a Sunday. The church choir sings “Blessed Assurance.” The minister reads “the Love Chapter” or 1 Corinthians 13.
As the elements of communion move from person to person, we see that people in conflict have reconciled, and are together again. The man who cheated on her and then left his wife has had a change of heart.
As the camera moves along the rows, we see people in church here that aren’t typically present in a Texas congregation in 1935. Moze, the black man who helped the widow save her farm, but who was driven off by the KKK – Moze is back.
And there are others who are not the typical church going types – the band from the honky tonk, the bar flies, and others. Something strange is going on. And when we see people who’ve died in the movie reunited with their families, we realize suddenly: this is heaven.
As the movie concludes, we see the widow served communion by her children, and then she turns to serve her husband, the sheriff, who is killed in the opening scenes of the movie, by accident, by a drunken black teenager showing off with a gun. Then he turns and serves communion to the young man, Wylie, who killed him and brought such harm to his family. The last words of the film are spoken by Wylie to the sheriff, very quietly, as he receives communion: Peace of God.
This is heaven, where we find grace and a powerful forgiveness that is so much more scarce in this life here. And as we pray so frequently, may we have that experience of heaven here and now: Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
The scene described can be viewed on YouTube.com at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wK_JuaX7SKY It is entitled “In The Garden” if you need to search for it.
Wikipedia has a good outline of the plot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Places_in_the_heart