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Star Wars Themes: Sharing Our Faith

On a recent Sunday, I had the opportunity to lead a presentation for adults and youth on “The Spiritual Dimensions of Star Wars.”Much of the content has been published here in blog format. After the session, one of the adults texted me with this comment: “I always enjoy any chance to tie pop culture to Christian faith and beliefs, and I know it helps me find new ways to witness in conversations not directly faith-related.”
This was a great insight.  Those of us who call ourselves “moderate Baptists” often struggle with the term “evangelism,” but my friend had discovered one of the most effective ways we can engage with the culture in order to communicate our faith.
There are three levels to the Star Wars films or what we now call the Skywalker Saga.
First, there is the Commercial/Entertainment/Pop Culture level.  The studios continue to make these movies because they make money, but George Lucas made the first film because he wanted to tap into the adventure and excitement of the old mov…
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Coaching is More than a Skill

When we promote coach training, we often refer to the process as “an additional tool in your ministry toolbox.”As I talked with a ministry leader this week about coach training for his denomination, I realized that coaching is much more than simply a skill.
First, it is a biblical approach to developing disciples.  We believe that each person is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and is unique in the sight of God.  Because of this, each of us has a special calling, one that can be discerned through interaction with a coach.  As believers we are also commanded to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18, NIV).  Entering into the life of faith is just the beginning because we are invited into a process of lifelong learning and serving.   This journey can be facilitated through a relationship with a Christian coach.
Second, coaching is a way of knowing.  When we come into a new environment with questions and anticipation of unlocking…

Star Wars Themes: The Force and the Spirit

The Star Wars films gave us a new pop-culture phrase: “May the Force be with you.”  Christians should not jump to the conclusion that this greeting is equivalent to, “God with you.”  This is one place that that Star Ways mythology and Christian theology do not intersect.
In A New Hope (Episode four) viewers of the Skywalker Saga are introduced to the Force.  In the original trilogy, the Force is a spiritual, almost magical, power that the Jedi use to control objects and manipulate minds.  Although others may experience the Force in some ways, Jedi are called to become masters of the Force and use it for benevolent purposes.
When the prequel series was developed, creator George Lucas felt it necessary to provide a physical and biological explanation for the Force.  Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn explains to young Anakin Skywalker:
"Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force. …

Star Wars Themes: Fall and Redemption

(Many spoilers here.)
Perhaps the theme in the Skywalker Saga that finds the most resonance with the Christian faith is the theme of fall and redemption. The Book of Genesis recounts the fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden and the destruction of the world due to humanity’s rebellion as well as the first steps toward redemption through the call of Abram to be the father of a great nation. Of course, this process of redemption only comes to fruition in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Like most humans, key characters in the Skywalker Saga are flawed people who fail and seek redemption. Anakin Skywalker is “the chosen one” who is meant to bring balance the Force.  In Attack of Clones (Episode two), Anakin has become a prideful, petulant teen-ager who thinks he knows everything.  According to Christian writer C. S. Lewis, pride was the original sin of humanity, thinking that the creature could attain equal status with the Creator.  Anakin discovers that he is not all …

Star Wars Themes: A Cloud of Witnesses

(Spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker are included.)
A friend once said, “In science fiction, no one is ever really dead.”  Through various plot twists and unique manipulation of natural laws, writers always find ways for deceased characters to return.  The Christian faith affirms that we are physical beings with an eternal spirit.  Christians affirm that those who have gone on before us not only live in our memories, but they are eternal beings who abide now with God.
Even though George Lucas was not attempting to reflect Christian belief in his original Star Wars trilogy, in several instances those who have passed are still present and manifest themselves to the living when necessary.  The first to show himself was Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope, but in subsequent films Yoda and Anakin Skywalker appear to our protagonists. These are called “force spirits” or “force ghosts.”
In Star Wars, force spirits are individuals who gained immortality through the preservation of their consciousness af…

Star Wars Themes: Family

(Some spoilers for Star Wars:The Rise of Skywalker here.)
When he designed the original Star Wars trilogy, George Lucas included a number of themes that speak to the basic concerns of humanity.  Although set “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,” the protagonists are human beings dealing with universal human concerns.  One of these is family.
In a similar way, the Bible tells the story of family--a biological family as well as the family of God.  Starting out with Abram and Sarai, we learn the stories of a very dysfunctional family.  They have problems with procreation, brother fights against brother, brothers sell a brother into slavery, and brother redeems and forgives.  The book of Genesis might well be titled “Observations of a Dysfunctional Family.”  The contention of sibling against sibling as well as rebellion against the Heavenly Father fills the rest of the Hebrew Bible.
The Star Wars saga provides a similar picture that begins with the prequels or “first three episodes.”…

What can we learn from Zechariah and Elizabeth?

Although Bible commentators suggest that Luke was probably writing his gospel for a Gentile audience, the first chapter of the gospel links directly with the Hebrew Bible and prophecy.  Zechariah and Elizabeth are a righteous couple from priestly lineage who represent the best of that tradition.  There is a bit of humor in Zechariah’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel, his voice being silenced due to his doubt, and an older couple finding themselves pregnant, but the task they receive is serious--they will give birth to and nurture the new Elijah, forerunner of the Messiah.
Elizabeth and her husband represent several things that we should take seriously as we consider the role of senior adults in the church today.
First, they represent communal memory.  They remind us from where we have come. Senior adults today provide link to the rich heritage of faith not only of the Hebrew tradition but now the 20 centuries of Christian faith and practice.
Second, they represent giftedness and a c…