The Empire Will Strike Back
From the Pastor's Desk
Remember the fear you experienced watching Star Wars, when you first met Darth Vader – the heartless killing machine? Luke Skywalker was young and untrained, just naïve enough to not be daunted by the improbability of his success going up against vast imperial power. What a fool.
Vader’s boss, the evil emperor, didn’t value human life only his ultimate power. Resistors and innocents were brutally killed. Fear and control was the religion of the empire.
Into this violent world, a rag-tag bunch of misfits collected around Skywalker trying to save humanity and all other life forms. After some early successes, predictably, the empire struck back with a vengeance.
Unfortunately, such fiction resembles real life repeatedly. Black-clad Isis terrorists remind me of Vader wanna-bes; idolatrously seeking ultimate power and control, replacing Allah’s will with their own.
This is nothing new. Ancient Rome had plenty of “Caesars” assuming God’s role and trying to convince others of their ultimate divine blessings and power.
Some rag-tag bunch of misfits gathered round a young man named Jesus. What fools. They began training in non-violent forms of protest and spreading messages of love conquering hate. Jesus told them to not be afraid. Fear can lead to the dark side, not divine light and wisdom. Yet, Jesus wasn’t Pollyana, when he proclaimed:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)
Whoa. What kind of a fool would have courage to pick up a cross and follow Jesus? This sounds like a lot of trouble. I enjoy having fun – tuning out from all the crazy world violence that I can’t do anything about. It’s been a joy playing trumpet with my “Community Church E Street Band.” Literally, it was a blast at the Tehachapi Mountain Festival, making music with marching cellos, a ukulele, various other instruments, and lots of kazoos. If you’re interested, we need more cow bell.
Parades can remind us of a time of innocence – simple joy and laughter with good company. We need plenty of holy laughter and respites from the tragedies that engulf us. Skywalker would get recharged with his pals. Jesus and his friends went to the sea, and I’m sure they had some fun with each other. To me, Jesus’ word to “deny” self doesn’t mean not to take care of myself or have some fun – these are things I must do in order to help carry crosses. Rather, I believe Jesus was pointing out that we will lose ourselves, our very souls, if we simply turn away from challenging the evils that exist: violence, poverty, hunger, racism, disease, and injustices of many kinds. Some of these places of suffering, or “crosses” may be calling to you. If we consistently turn away out of convenience, saving our comfortable lives, we lose our souls. When we respond by choosing one of these crosses to help with, you can be sure, the empire will strike back. Forces of evil, powerful status quos, do not wish to be changed.
It will be a benefit to have a rag-tag bunch of misfits around us, helping us recharge with laughter for the daunting missions we confront. Let us hope there are others who are just naïve enough to be such fools. Remember, as in the final episode of the Star Wars trilogy and the beloved Easter story, love has the final word.
Find your allies, train for conquering various evils, and let the Force be with you.
Blessings, Pastor Nancy