When the temperature dipped below -30 last Christmas, Kathy and I decided it would be a good day to head out to the local Theatre. Star Wars: The Last Jedi was showing. Heading out to a Star Wars movie brought back some memories. Back in the first years of our marriage a friend had convinced us to give the first of the Star Wars movies a look. Neither of us were much for science fiction, so were reluctant participants. But we found that the special effects were amazing and the story itself was engaging.
This evening, as the opening credits rolled, the incredible development of technical expertise in the last forty years was on display. We marveled at the audio that filled the room rocketing from one side of the theatre to the other. The video images racing across the huge screen were spell-binding. It was obvious. When Hollywood decides to tell a story, what an array of resources they can bring to the table.
Oddly as I watched the movie I began to feel discouraged about our lives in the faith community. What resources do we have to bring to the story we tell? We have a piano or an organ and hymnals and we have people who sing together. We have altars and lecterns. We have paraments and vestments. We might have a single painting of Jesus on the reredos behind the altar, perhaps with a lamb in his arms. Or we may display near the back of the church, recent drawings by Sunday school children or a banner by the youth group. As I watched, I wondered: how can we ever compete with the amazing resource power of the story-tellers in Hollywood?
But just before the movie ended I was struck in quite another way by a little scene in the movie. The movie ended with a massive battle culminating with Jedi knight Luke Skywalker standing alone in front of the full might of the empire. Storm troopers manning huge armored tanks stand facing Skywalker who stands alone against the violent force of the Empire. But just as the battle ends (in case you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll leave that part of the story untold!), the movie moves to a distant time and to a distant place in the galaxy. Here is the little scene.
A small boy and girl are in a room playing with toys. They have placed their toys—the armored tanks of the Empire—in a line. In front of the line they have placed the tiny figure of Luke Skywalker standing alone against impossible odds. They begin to cheer. But while the girl and boy cheer, a huge frightening looking oppressor bursts into the room and drives the children away. The next scene shows the small girl and boy standing outside under the night sky. But they are not afraid. They have hope in their eyes. The story someone had told them; the story that they had told each other, had held.
Do you get the picture? Do faith communities not gather at a time far from the Passion of Jesus and in a place far removed and remember the story? Do we not gather, as children of God and open the book and simply tell the story? Do we not gather and enact the story of Jesus, placing the paraments on the altar and lectern? Do we not gather round the table and remember that “in the night in which he was betrayed our Lord Jesus took bread. . .” And whether we tell the story in a cathedral with a pipe organ, or in a small gathering of women and men, boys and girls, do we not step out from the place of worship, and know hope?
Heading home that night, walking beneath the stars of that cold Saskatchewan night, I found myself grateful for all the children of God who gather in places big and small “all over the galaxy” and together, with whatever resources they have at hand, tell the story of Jesus standing against all the forces that would bring us down.
I wonder. Can anyone begin to imagine how important that is?