Monday, January 18, 2016

Star Wars, Stories, and the Gospel

The following reflection was written for our Redeemer Lutheran youth spaghetti dinner this past weekend, January 16th, 2016. The theme of the night, as you will notice, was Star Wars. I was asked to provide a few words of a meditation as part of the evening's events. Hope you enjoy. Feel free and add your comments or ideas in the comments section below.

Like many of you in this room, I grew up watching, playing, living, and breathing Star Wars. Though I was born in 1981, in between the theatrical release of The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi, these stories were a formative part of my child hood imagination. I was building Star Wars Lego sets long before they were marketable. And not a sick day home from school went by without watching the original trilogy – without all the graphic enhancement – at least once, if not more. No doubt we could each share similar memories of joy and delight, imagination and wonder, the captivating music of John Williams and the endearing characters around the galaxy far, far away.

And here lies a deeper, hidden truth. Stories bring us together. Star Wars is one story and many stories all at once. And even though it is a fictional story (yes, sorry to burst your bubbles), it does not cease to be a vehicle for truth. Far more than bringing people together, the best stories among us have the ability to delight and teach, to bring stabs of joy and a glimpses of truth, to be thrilling science fiction and yet give us foggy pictures of the greatest story of all time, the Gospel. After all this is both full of meaning and yet it is true.

For Jesus was not born in a galaxy far, far away, but in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Caesar Augustus, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. History and Story all at once.

So, here are just a few ways the good story of Star Wars, leads us the greatest story of all time.

Despite all the talk of balancing the Force, the movies tell a cosmic tale a battle between good and evil. In Star Wars this battle is fought and won but the war is never over. In our world, the real world, this battle is won, accomplished and fulfilled and in the most unexpected way – Jesus, the Light of the World is swallowed in darkness to save us.

In Episode IV, Obi Wan Kenobi lays down his life for his friends. Jesus lays down his life, not only for his disciples, but for rebels and enemies of God. For while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Many brave rebel pilots sacrificed themselves to save the universe from the tyranny of the empire and the threat of the dark side. Jesus sacrificed himself for the life of the world, to save us from sin, death, and darkness.

Yoda taught us the famous phrase, “Do or do not, there is no try”, a reminder that the Law cannot be done halfway and though we have done it not, saved we are. Jesus, done it for you he has.
The light and the dark contend for power and balance in the force, while Jesus the true Light of the World casts out the darkness by his death and resurrection for us.

Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon taught us not to overlook the things that look weak and foolish in the world for they are often the source of great victory.

The Jedi serve the galaxy with honor, justice, and on behalf of peace. They lived to serve others not themselves. And in this they are a picture of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.

Luke’s unrelenting quest to save his father Darth Vader is also a foggy picture of God’s unrelenting love for us, despite the fact that there was no good in us.

The Sith Lords promise deathlessness. Even the Jedi have a spirit-like resurrection. But neither can deliver what they promise. True defeat of death, and true resurrection of the body are given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And even though that story took place a long time ago, it was not in a galaxy far, far away, but this one. Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate for you. Jesus is the true Light of the World for you. Jesus does all this for you, not by the force by through his love.

And lastly, as good Lutheran nerds, Star Wars gave us yet another semi-liturgical response. May the Force be with you…


  1. Hello Sam.
    Very nice sermon. Inspiring as always.
    I think that it would be difficult to come up with a single definition of myth or story that would be acceptable to both scholars and laymen alike while being at the same time intelligible to the more senior of us and to young adults alike. One may also question as to whether it is even possible to find one definition that will cover all of the types and functions of these stories that we learn ourselves and tell each other in our various traditional, forward looking and archaic societies, Such stoeies as we tell are an extremely complex cultural reality that makes its presence felt in more than just our toy box and the stuff of adolesence but continues to fuel our imaginations and feed our dreams. Part of the joy od it is that it can be approached and interpreted from various and complementary viewpoints. Probably the most embracing definition of these stories would be that they narrate a sacred history, relating an even that took place in a galaxy far, far away and long, long ago or that just happened round the block and just the other day comparatively speaking but in primordial time, in the very beginning of something, a new stage of our existence, from freedom from the yoke of Empire or from being in darkness and fetters chained and how this was brought about, of how through the deeds of great persons and through their self sacrifice we were liberated and saved.

    1. George, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. I've always appreciated C.S. Lewis's definition of myth (which he learned from Tolkien), which is paraphrased something as follows: myth is both story and history, both factual events and narration, it's where reality and imagination meet. One of my favorite essays by Lewis is "Myth Became Fact" where he spells a lot of this out in much clearer detail than I.

  2. “Like many of you in this room, I grew up watching, playing, living, and breathing Star Wars.”
    "Living" a myth implies a genuinely "religious" experience, since it differs from the ordinary experience of everyday life. The "religiousness" of this experience is due to the fact that one re-enacts fabulous, exalting, significant events, one again witnesses the creative deeds of the Supernaturals; one ceases to exist in the everyday world and enters a transfigured, auroral world impregnated with the Supernaturals’ presence. What is involved is not a commemoration of mythical events but a reiteration of them. The protagonists of the myth are made present; one becomes their contemporary. This also implies that one is no longer living in chronological time, but in the primordial Time, the Time when the event first took place. This is why we can use the term the "strong time" of myth; it is the prodigious, "sacred" time when something new, strong, and significant was manifested. To re-experience that time, to re-enact it as often as possible, to witness again the spectacle of the divine works, to meet with the Supernaturals and relearn their creative lesson is the desire that runs like a pattern through all the ritual reiterations of myths. In short, myths reveal that the World, man, and life have a supernatural origin and history, and that this history is significant, precious, and exemplary.
    From a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away to the events that happened right around the corner and just the other day. relatively speaking. both young and old we all react out towards a reality that challenges us to "play".Very nice sermon master SAm, inspiring as always.
    George Smith.
    Rebel Alliance
    Expeditionary Forces