Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Jesus is even better than Star Wars!


I like Star Wars. It’s full of adventure and excitement. There are brave rescues and self-sacrificing heroes. There are fun characters and cool spaceships. George Lucas has also infused it with a powerful spirituality that motivates and inspires his characters (and many of the viewers too). As Christian viewers, what are we to make of this world that has so many good aspects to it but ultimately is at odds with our beliefs about God and the world we live in? I think it’s OK to be inspired and excited but then we can also allow these imperfect ideas to point us to the amazing truths of the gospel. So here are four reasons that real life as a follower of Jesus is even better than Star Wars!

A greater adventure

As the Star Wars adventure begins, Luke Skywalker’s life is lifted above the hum drum existence. He finds that he has a purpose and a destiny. Princess Leia needs his help. Obi Wan Kenobi calls him to take up his Father’s lightsaber and opens his eyes to ‘the force’, a spiritual reality (in the world of Star Wars) that will transform the way he lives his life. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a great purpose and a higher calling; to be involved in brave deeds that save lives and change the world? Jesus calls us to a life of adventure that is even better than Luke’s! When Jesus met his first followers on the beach he called them to leave behind their hum drum lives as fishermen and take up the challenge to ‘fish’ for people instead. (Matthew 4:18-22) He invited them, and us, to be part of his great mission of saving people! Even in the midst of our ordinary lives at work, school or home we are part of a cosmic adventure in which we battle against evil discover our true purpose and lay down our lives for others. (Matthew 16:24-25)

A more elegant weapon
Ok, so lightsabers are cool! Obi Wan recognises that as he tells Luke they are, “the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster, an elegant weapon for a more civilized age... the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.”  These dangerous and powerful weapons helped the Jedi in their struggle for peace and Justice. Christians have a powerful and elegant weapon too; one that we can wield for peace and Justice as we live out our cosmic destiny.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 Yes, the word of God, the bible is a weapon with which we are to fight the good fight. It’s more than a collection of stories or a list of rules! It’s not for fighting against other people but for fighting the real, spiritual battle. See (2 Corinthians 10:1-6 and Ephesians6:17) The bible is a cool weapon and an amazing thing, plus (in the UK at least) you won’t get arrested for carrying it around in your bag!

A more loving God!
‘God’ isn’t mentioned in Star Wars. Instead, George Lucas pulls in ideas from eastern religions and philosophies such as Taoism to create ‘the force’. This spiritual force is in everything and can be used for good or evil. Those in whom the force is strong, like Luke and Darth Vader can manipulate it for their own ends. Ordinary people, with weak minds can be easily controlled by those who have mastered the force. “These are not the droids you are looking for.”
But the bible teaches us that God not part of the universe. He is separate from it; he made it! The force that powers the world is a person. He actually loves it and relates to it and is involved in it. We do have access to his cosmic power but it’s not something we can master or manipulate. His power is never separate from his person. In a galaxy far, far away, the force doesn’t care what happens to you; it’s a force! It seeks balance, like water finding its level. In the real world, the force behind creation loves us! (Romans 8:38) He doesn’t seek balance, he works for good! (Romans 8:28)

A better hero
Star Wars is full of heroes. Each of them struggles to battle for good but they also have to battle their own fear and failures. Some even go over to the dark side. However brave or good or they are, they are all part of the world and ‘the force’ they seek is just a part of the world too. But in Jesus we have a hero who enters our world from outside. Here is the God who made the universe stepping in to it. When he died on the cross he defeated the powers of evil once and for all.(Colossians 2:14,15) He’s our leader, saviour and friend. Obi Wan, Han, Luke, R2 D2, Leia and the others all rolled into one can only give us a tiny hint of the greatness of the one hero we really need!


Monday, 7 December 2015

The Bethlehem Experience



The Bethlehem Experience saw around four hundred people taking a tour through the story of the first Christmas. It took place over  Friday 4th and Saturday 5th December at St Mary's Church.





Classes from Radipole, St John's, Westfield and Thornlow schools were among the visitors. They were able to chat with Isaiah about his prophecies, listen to a Cow and a Donkey tell of the baby born in their manger and meet a rather scary King Herod. They also saw a video featuring the Monday youth group and delivered their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Mary and Jesus.



All the actors and tour guides came from many different churches around Weymouth.

Comments from children included, "Can I come again next year?" and "I've had the best day ever"


You can watch the Shepherds in action here:




Saturday, 7 November 2015

Jurassic world - “You are not in control here”

November's Film & Faith movie was Jurassic world. Here are some thoughts about some of the themes in the film and how we, as Christians, might view them. (May contain Spoilers)



More teeth
The plot of Jurassic World sees scary dinosaurs being developed in response to the public’s need for ever bigger and bloodier spectacle.  It’s easy to agree with the character of Owen in this exchange:
Claire: Corporate felt genetic modification would up the wow factor
Owen: They are Dinosaurs, wow enough
The special effects were excellent, the courage of the characters praiseworthy and the warnings about messing with ‘nature’ were admirable. But it’s worth asking if we are sometimes too keen to demand ‘more teeth’ from the TV, movies and games we enjoy.


But what about us? In our film and TV watching are we always looking for bigger, scarier ‘darker’ entertainment.  The trend for remaking old films almost always delivers films that are ‘darker’ or ‘edgier’ and therefore, we assume, better. Jurassic world itself more violent, faster moving and has ‘more teeth’ than the original ‘Jurassic Park’ film. We need to ask ourselves what we look for in a movie or a game.

Paul encouraged the Christian in Philippi to fill their minds with good things:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.Philippians 4:8


Who’s in control?
“the key to a happy life is to accept you are never in control.” Says Dr Masrani. His own lack of control over Jurassic world is demonstrated as, later in the film, he plunges to a fiery death in his damaged helicopter.
This recognition of the power and chaos of the natural (or unnatural) world is a key theme in Jurassic World

“Jurassic world exists to remind us how very small we are” we are told early in the film. Claire’s continual desire to keep tight control on things and ultimate failure to do so becomes very clear. She crossly tells Owen, “You are not in control here” but neither is she as it happens!

The world can be a fearful place. Nature itself sometimes seems chaotic and cruel. In the ancient world this chaos was particularly recognised in the danger and power of the sea. Jesus demonstrated divine power over the chaos of nature when he calmed the storm.
“[Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:39

 Like Owen who asserts his authority over the ‘raptors with just a few words and a look, Jesus was able to assert his authority over a raging storm.  He’s not just in charge of nice, calm things like flowers and birds. At the cross he battled and won against the chaos that afflicts the world and the sin that spoils our lives.
We are small and the world is chaotic and dangerous but we are loved by the One who is in control and who knows and responds to our deepest needs.

Avengers Assemble - Freedom, Faith and Friendship

The second film in our Film and Fatih series was Avengers Assemble. Here are some thoughts about some of the themes in the film. (Again, Spoiler Alert, obviously)

Not alone but part of something bigger

Individual Avengers only become effective as they learn to work together:
Loki: "What have I to fear?"
Tony Stark: "The Avengers. It's what we call ourselves, it's sort of like a team. Earth's mightiest heroes, that type of thing..."

Being a Christian means being part of an incredible team and learning to value and work with people who are different to us:
1 Corinthians 12: Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it... If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.



A God worth our worship

Loki demands submission but doesn’t deserve it:
Loki: Kneel before me. I said…KNEEL!!! [Scares the crowd into submission]
Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It is the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life's joy in a mad scramble for power; for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.
Old German Man: [stands up] Not to men like you.
Loki: There are no men like me.
Old German Man: There are always men like you.

Jesus deserves our worship because he has given himself for us:
Revelation 5:9: And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

An unnecessary God?

The film suggests that humans are too complex and clever to be ruled. We don’t need gods:
The Other (in mid-credits scene): Humans. They are not the cowering wretches we were promised. They are unruly and therefore cannot be ruled. To challenge them…is to court death.

The bible tells us that our cleverness can sometimes blind us to our need for the real God:
Romans 1: For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images...

False gods and evil people can make us feel disillusioned but...
Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Natasha Romanoff: These guys come from legend. They're basically gods.

Steve Rogers: There's only one God, ma'am. And I'm pretty sure He doesn't dress like that.