Tag Archives: The Force

The Inner Skeptic

Read Psalm 14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering.” (Jude 1:22)

chirrut-imwe-and-jyn-ersoEveryone knows that I am a HUGE fan of Star Wars. Recently, the latest film in the Star Wars Universe was released, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”. The film follows a series of mostly new characters who are on a mission to get the blueprint plans of “The Death Star” from the evil Galactic Empire. If they succeed, it is possible that they can find a weakness that will help them destroy a weapon so powerful that it can eliminate entire planets in a matter of seconds.

Without spoiling the story for you (as I run a strict, no spoiler, ship), the characters of Jyn and Cassian are the unlikely leaders of a slim-to-none chance to infiltrate the enemy base and steal the plans of the dreaded battle station, “The Death Star.” All throughout the film, the characters are constantly being tested in their abilities, in their trust of one another, and in their faith.

In fact, wrestling with faith is a MAJOR theme in this film. Each of the characters, in their own way, find themselves wrestling with their faith in the existence of the force. One of the characters, Chirrut Îmwe, is a member of the Guardian of the Whills, which is a religious order that at one time were protectors of the Temple. Following the Temple being raided by the Galactic Empire, the Guardians remained true to their beliefs and sat out in the streets preaching about the Force.

What’s important to note is that thought the age of the Jedi and their use of the force, are not far removed from the time period that this takes place, many question the existence of such a “Force”. The Jedi themselves are quickly fading into mythological obscurity. How quickly hope fades, how quickly people fall from faith into the hopless state of despair. This is, honestly, the human condition.

When Jyn runs into Chirrut, he asked her if she knew what she was wearing around her neck. The crystals she was wearing were what the Empire had come to the Temple to raid, they were what powered the lightsabers. Chirrut sees it as a sign that the Force was alive and well. In fact, throughout the film, this monk kept reciting a powerful mantra, “I am one with the Force,  the Force is with me.”

Throughout the film, there are many skeptics who question this monk’s devotion to what they see as nothing more than a fairytale. Yet, his unwavering faith to the Force witnesses to these people and causes them to see beyond the inner skeptic within them. One by one, each of them is confronted with the choice between placing their faith in the Force or in continuing to deny the Force that is within them and all around them.

What I want to make clear is this, today’s Scripture is NOT calling the one who wrestles with his/her faith a fool. Everyone should be wrestling with their faith in God. It is was makes that faith real and it is how one grows in faith; however, the Scripture is stating that the one who concludes, absolutely and definitively that THERE IS NO GOD is foolish. Such an absolute proclamation leads nowhere but placing oneself in the place of God.

To make that proclamation is to shut oneself off from the discovery of the divine. There is not a single human being that can definitively know Ultimate Reality and, therefore, it is ultimately foolish for them to shut themselves off to the possibility of God based off of whatever limited “evidence” they may think they have. Not one of us can possibly have ALL of the evidence to make any conclusive and definitive proclamation.

We all operate on faith. We operate on the faith that there is a God or we operate on the faith that there is no God. Skepticism is good and healthy; however, it only gets us so far. The question for us is this, can we silence the  inner skeptic? Can we get to the place where we move beyond skepticism and acknowledge the faith that we are already operating on? If so, we can continue to wrestle with our faith and grow in it. I pray that, if you are struggling with your faith, this devotion may be your inner Chirrut Îmwe, reminding you that you are one with the Force (aka God) and that the Force/God is with you. I pray that you choose to move beyond faith in “no God” to faith in the God who is wanting to work miracles in you and through you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER
Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief. Amen.

The Sermon, Part 28: God’s Will

Read Matthew 7:24-27

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.’” (Genesis 6:13-14, NRSV)

shii-choblastdeflectI can only imagine that what you are thinking right now is the following question: “What kind of fool builds a house in such a vulnerable place?” I mean, even a moron would know to pick rock over sand to build a house upon. This parable itself almost seems so outrageous that one has to wonder why Jesus told it in the first place. To whom could be likened to the fool of this parable? The Pharisees? The Sadducees? Jesus’ followers? We know it could not be the Herodians, so named because they were supporters and court members of King Herod Antipas, whose father built marvelous and enduring structures. Heck, even the common peasant would know better than to build their house on sand.

So, who would be so foolish as to pick a vulnerable spot to build their home? While the parable itself might seem foolish, when one thinks about it, people build their homes in vulnerable places all the time. Look at the city of Pompeii at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius? Or how about all the lovely beach homes down in Florida. Or the city of New Orleans built in a bowl-shaped depression that sits below the sea level? Or those living in the Mid-West, also known as Tornado Alley. Of course, one cannot forget Californian cities, such as Los Angeles, which lie upon (or above) two humungous, shifting rocks (known as tectonic plates).

Though I think this should be obvious, I feel compelled to point out that the purpose of this building analogy is not to give instruction on the best practices. Nor is to state that building on “the rock” is without its faults (pun intended); however, the point transcends all of that. The point that Jesus is making has little to do with construction and more to do with foresight and discernment. The question is this: do you have enough foresight to see the signs of the times and build your life appropriately?

Before we go further, I would like to pull in one of my favorite film series into this: Star Wars. There is a scene in the original film (now titled, Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope) where Luke is being trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi to use the Force. In it, a Jedi training device is floating around a blind-folded Luke Skywalker’s head and it is shooting small blaster beams at him. They are not powerful enough to do any real damage, but Luke can feel them every time he gets zapped.

The idea of this is that Luke is supposed to use his light saber to deflect the blaster rays and avoid getting zapped, but he isn’t succeeding. How can he deflect something he cannot see. For Master Obi-Wan, the answer is simple: “Use the Force”. In other words, if Luke could just tap into the force and feel what stirs with in it, he would have the foresight to know where those blaster beams are about to strike.

Eventually, Luke does master that training and is able to use the force. I use this scene in the film as an analogy for what Jesus is trying to teach. The builders aren’t smart or foolish based off of their skills, but based off of their foresight, or lack thereof. In ancient Palestine, if one built a house in the dry season, the hard, sandy ground would not seem like a bad place to build a home; however, anyone with foresight would know that when the rain comes…it really comes…and that hard sandy floor turns to a torrent of mud and grit that would wipe the home right out of existence. If the builder had enough foresight to see the potential of what could lie ahead, then he or she would build that house on solid rock, raised above the hard, dried, sandy land. Or, sometimes, like Noah one needs the foresight to forego building a house and start building a rather large boat!

The question for us is this, do we have the foresight to see and understand the will of God? Can we, to use the Star Wars terminology, sense and feel the force within us? Can we see its direction and understand what path it is guiding us down? Can we feel the Creator of the universe, the Lord of all Creation, with in us and do we have a sense of what God wills for us? If so, our faith is founded on the rock and we will have the foresight to do what God is willing for us. If not, our faith is founded on the sand and when the times meet up with the signs, we will not survive the flood. Like Luke, like Noah, like Abraham, and all of the people guided by their faith, we too can have such foresight and be a part of what God is doing in the world.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future…the past. Old friends long gone.” – Jedi Master Yoda

PRAYER
Lord, I open myself up to your will. Give me the foresight to sense it and act upon it. Amen.

The Force Awakens

Read Luke 1:5-20

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The father instantly cried out, ‘I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!’”

Yoda-LukeSo, this is a pretty awesome week and today is the reason it is awesome. Some of you, no doubt, know exactly why today is awesome. Others of you might be scratching your heads. Today is the day that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released in theaters. I am a huge Star Wars fan and am so glad to see Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) all reunited on the screen in a battle to save the galaxy from the evil Galactic Empire. Yes, this pretty much constitutes me as a nerd, and I am laying claim on it! Star wars is where it is at!

In anticipation of the new film, I have rewatched the Star Wars Saga, starting with Episode 1 and concluding with Episode 6. As I was watching them, I once again became enthralled with and in awe of Master Yoda’s philosophical and, if I may be completely honest, theological teachings. Yes, Star Wars is theological at its very core and, truth be told, are faith-based movies if I have ever seen any. The only difference between these and the films we know to be “faith-based” films produced by Christians, is that George Lucas and the writers of Star Wars use subtlety and allow the theological and philosophical components impact you as they do. They let the theological and faith elements speak for themselves, if you will.

One such example is, and one of my all-time favorite Yoda moments, is when he is teaching young Luke Skywalker while in exile on the planet Dagobah. He is teaching the young apprentice that if he is going to be a Jedi, he is going to need to confront the darkest parts of his life and conquer himself. If he doesn’t, those darkest parts will conquer him and lead him to the dark side. He needs to conquer and move beyond his fears, his anger, and is lack of faith in in the force, as well as in himself. But this, obviously, is no easy task.

In this scene, Luke sees his ship sink into a swamp, where he accidentally landed it, and he instantly loses hope. Yoda challenges him to use the force in order to bring the ship back up and onto dry land. Luke is doubtful he can do it. “It’s to big for me!” he exclaims. “Size matters not,” Yoda snaps back. He tells the Yoda that the force is in all things and transcends all things. He tells him, in essence, that there is nothing too big or too small for anyone of faith to handle. He then challenges him again to use the force in order to lift the X-Wing plane out of the swamp.

“I’ll try,” a doubtful Luke said. “No!” Yoda exclaimed. “Do. Or Do not. There is no try.” But Luke doesn’t get it. He still thinks the plane is too big FOR HIM to lift it out of the swamp; therefore, he only TRIES to lift it out, rather than just believing and doing what his master is trying to teach him. After failing in his attempt to lift the X-Wing, Yoda shakes his head in frustration and then proceeds to lift the plane out of the swamp through the power of the force. “I cannot believe it,” Luke exclaims. Yoda responds, looking Luke resolutely in the eyes, “That is why you fail.”

How true that is, not just in the intergalactic Star Wars universe, but in our lives as well. We claim to be people of faith, we claim that God has the power to build heaven on earth, to bring justice to the oppressed, to bring freedom to the poor, to bring release for the captive and bring hope, healing and wholeness, peace and tranformation to a world desperately in need of it. Yet, what are we doing? Not trying to do…but what are we doing to bring this about? Do we really believe or, like Luke, are we deflated by our own doubt and our own lack of faith? Do we really believe, or will we have the honesty that finally rose up in Luke to admit that we simply can’t believe? For it is that lack of belief that is the real reason we are failing to see any transformation in our lives…let alone in our world. Just as that acknowledgement didn’t mean Luke was hopeless, neither are we. Luke did eventually come to believe, and we can too; the choice is ultimately ours. Choose to build your faith up in God and allow God to work that tranformation in you and in the world around you.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“My success isn’t a result of arrogance – it’s a result of belief.” – Conor McGregor
PRAYER
Lord, help me in my unbelief so that I may fulfill all that it is that you created me for. Amen.

The Path to the Dark Side

Read 2 Timothy 1:6-8

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31 CEB)

yoda-jedi-councilOne of my favorite film series of all times is the Star Wars saga. I grew up watching the original series of films, “Star Wars”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, and “The Return of the Jedi”. While many people criticized the newer films, finding them to be more about special effects and less to do with plot and character development, I actually disagree with that. The Phantom Menace for example, which was my least favorite of the films, was still filled with the same story and character development as the others. And we find great wisdom in it as well.

In it we come across a young Anakin Skywalker who, as all fans know right from the get-go, will one day become Darth Vader. With that said, he wasn’t always bad and, in fact, a Jedi comes to see great hope in his abilities to naturally tap into the force and so he decides to train him. In order for Anakin to be trained, however, he would have to leave his mom (both he and his mom were slaves) as the Jedi could only secure his release. As it would any 9-year-old boy, having to leave his mother behind devastates and distresses him and he vows to come back and free her one day.

Yet, before any future Jedi can be trained, the council has to approve the person to be trained. Thus, the Jedi brings Anakin before the council to be questioned and, hopefully, approved. While they are impressed with Anakin’s natural ability to sense and use the force, Yoda (who is the head of the council) is concerned for this young boy as well. He states that he senses fear in Anakin. “You have much fear in you. You fear the loss of your mother, don’t you?” Yoda interrogated. Anakin replied defensively, “What’s that have to do with anything?”

Yoda’s face turned even more concerned. “Everything,” he exlaimed back! “Fear is the path that leads to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hatred. Hatred leads to suffering.” What Yoda is trying to convey to young Anakin is that, while fear is a natural part of life, if we allow it to control us it will lead us to dark and, often, deadly places. This is a profound truth and we don’t have to think far or wide in order to reach it. Look at post-World War I Germany. It lost a major world war, had been dumped with the expenses of that war by those who fought against them, and they had fallen into a terrible depression. Along came a young man, who was a former soldier, and would-be leader, who sensed the fear of the people, drummed up that fear, and used that fear to scapegoat groups of people as being the ones holding Germany down. Ultimately, Adolph Hitler’s personal fears, as well as the fears of Germany which he preyed upon, led to the rising up of one of the greatest evils in modern human history. Yes, fear is the path that leads to the dark side.

We live in such a fear-driven world right now. We are a people who are fearful of each other, we’re fearful of our leaders, we’re fearful of people with different politcial viewpoints, we’re fearful of people from other countries, we’re fearful of people from other religions, and we’re fearful of terrorism and a very real existenital threat to our lives and to our way of life. All of these things strike fear into the hearts of people; however, it is in that fear that I hear people suggesting all sorts of things that, in another time and place, they would be horrified at hearing others even suggest.

For us, the question is not whether or not we will experience fear. We will! The question should be for us, in the voice of Yoda, is this: “What, to fear, will your response be? Hmmmm?” Will you succumb to your fears and place your faith wildly in the winds of rapid response? Or will you place your faith in force…rather, in the presence of God? Will you let your fears drive you, or will you let your God guide you? The one way leads to the dark side (e.g. anger, hatred, and suffering), the other way leads to forgiveness, mercy, compassion, hope, love, joy and peace. Yours to make, young padiwan, the choice is.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“To him who is in fear everything rustles.” – Sophocles
PRAYER
Lord, drive my fears far from me, for they are not of you. Fill me, rather, with faith and hope and love. Amen.