May The Force Be With You

August marks year (7) seven for our shared Journey! Time has brought many changes. Where will the road take us from here?

STAR WARS, Baptism and a path to God’s preferred future for Rome First have a common thread....- It is hard to believe that the first Star Wars Movie was released 42 years ago, and yet the Star Wars Franchise continues to make history and impact culture far beyond the bounds of its cinematic and technological contributions to the craft of theatrical entertainment. The theological implications of the plots for all the movies/story lines in the franchise have the classic juxtaposition of good versus evil. “Star Wars” has powerful themes within a well-constructed galaxy and adventure narrative that appeals to the times. The story centers on the battle between the evil Empire and virtuous Rebellion, which appeals for its action as well as the injustice that is being fought. But the narrative moves beyond a conventional political and military fight to deeper considerations of character, friendship, technology, transcendence and redemption.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was no God. Or not at least the walking, talking God of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, who sorrows, warns, blesses, commands, promises, sees, hears and touches.

Instead of God, George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise speaks of “The Force”. Taken from Carlos Castaneda’s Tales of Power, the term nevertheless carries clear connections with more recognizable theology. For instance the blessing ‘May the Force be with you’ echoes an old Christian one of ‘May God be with you’. In addition the voice of the spectral Jedi Master Obi-Wan proclaims to young Luke Skywalker, “Remember, the Force will be with you always”, reflecting Jesus’ comforting of his disciples: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”. (Matthew 28:20)

The “Dark Side” of the FORCE or “evil” is an ever pervasive and almost inescapable inevitability in the ongoing unfolding saga of a galaxy far, far away. Unfortunately the pervasive presence of evil is not limited to a long time ago or even far, far away. We do not live a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but live in this present age.

Reflecting upon the “milestones” of my Faith Journey, I recall being baptized in August of 1970 at Brookhaven United Methodist Church. I remember the questions I was asked on that Sunday morning in Mid-August.

“Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?” “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” “Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?”

Remembering my baptism and reflecting on the call to live as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, I am convinced that as we enter our seventh year of shared ministry, we are called to confront evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves and to offer hope by engaging in ministries of reconciliation and transformation.

Rome First is uniquely gifted and presently positioned to “Serve Rome by Loving and Welcoming All as Partners in Transformation”. What shape will that take as we move towards the year 2020?

I pray we will continue to adapt current practices and structures to build a culture of welcome within the walls of Rome First UMC. I pray we will be transformed so that we intentionally build a welcoming culture within the walls of Rome First UMC that extends to building new relationships in the community.

In one of the articles I read as I reflected on ways that we might be faithful in our witness, I found two quotes that came from an article by John Stott entitled “Qualities of the Faithful I pray we will continue to adapt current practices and structures to build a culture of welcome I pray we will be Christian Communities”. I share these quotes to challenge us as we seek to “live into” God’s preferred future in this coming ministry year.

-“Every Christian should be both conservative and radical; conservative in preserving the faith and radical in applying it.”

-“These are the marks of the ideal Church: love, suffering, holiness, sound doctrine, genuineness, evangelism and humility. This is what Christ desires to find.”

Will you reaffirm the vows of your Baptism? If you “Do” reaffirm your faith
and remember your baptism and are thankful, then how will you join with other members of Rome First as we “Live into” God’s preferred vision for the future? How will we continue to expand our understanding of and application of - “Serve Rome by Loving and Welcoming All as Partners in Transformation”?

The Force (The Power of God’s Great Love) is with us always! The best of all is God is with us! Will you join me in our continuing faith journey together?

I’ll see you here in worship and out in the community “being the church”!

Shalom, Robert ><>