A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …
Written against the blackness of space, these words pop up at the beginning of every Star Wars movie. They signify that we are about to see and hear a story that transcends time and space. They first appeared in 1977, when the original Star Wars film hit the screen. I still remember that spine-tingling moment the first time I saw those words crawl across the big screen with John Williams score playing behind it.
So, let’s take a closer look at some of the themes and characters in Star Wars.
I don’t want to get into the theology of Star Wars, but it’s fair to say that running through every Star Wars film is the natural and supernatural struggle between darkness and light: ‘The Force’. It speaks to me of Ephesians 6, which reminds us that we are involved in a spiritual battle between ‘good and evil.’ Plus they have really cool light sabres and a Wookie.
‘The Force’ is overseen by a Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi – a bit like an Old Testament prophet or a New Testament John the Baptist!!
The Force is what give a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together. The Force has a light side and a dark side, and can be used for good or for evil.
In the Gospel of Luke (of course) the writer speaks of a force that appears when John the Baptist speaks to the crowds that came to be baptized by him in the River Jordan. John wants the people to focus on doing good instead of evil, which doesn’t come easily.
It reminds us that the greatest evil is the evil that comes from within, not the evil that attacks us from outside. Obi-Wan Kenobi:
Fear, anger, aggression, hatred … in a world as broken as ours these emotions often come to us unbidden. Any one of us – even the best of us, if we’re not vigilant – can allow these powerful emotions to blur our vision, and cause us to embrace our darker selves.
What an interesting observation on our world today.
Obi-Wan Kenobi wants them to avoid the fate of Darth Vader, who fell from grace because he forgot that goodness is expressed through love for others. But Darth Vader wasn’t always this way; he started out as Anakin Skywalker – a generous, loyal, compassionate boy, so powerful in the Force that many thought he was “The Chosen One” of ancient prophecy. Anakin used the Force to do good as he grew up, fighting for peace and justice while protecting the innocent and opposing the wicked. Obi-Wan Kenobi:
But Anakin lost his way. He became so powerful, he began to feel like he could do anything, save anyone, correct any wrong. Over time, he became so obsessed with his passions and his fears, his anger at injustice, that they ended up taking him over completely, and erasing his empathy and concern for others. Anakin came to think of himself as the wisest, the strongest, and the purest man in the world; and finally he allowed his own ambitions to make things right to justify truly terrible actions against others.
Anakin always saw himself as the Good Guy, but in the end he failed to bear good fruit. He became the evil Darth Vader.
May The Force Be With You
When God’s force awakens in us, we are challenged to channel it into concrete acts of justice, care and compassion. But at the same time, we cannot trust ourselves to remain in the light of God at all times. Each of us is a sinful, fallible human being, as inclined to sin as Anakin Skywalker was on the path to becoming Darth Vader. Each of us needs a powerful and godly leader to guide us in his way and save us when we stray – and we have one in Jesus.
Each of us needs to be filled with this Spirit if we are going to follow Jesus and act as his disciples in the world. But we need a power greater than ourselves. Luke Skywalker realizes this when he suffers, in an earlier film, a monumental shock and discovers that Darth Vader is his father. He sees that he is cut from the same cloth and he struggles with how good and evil can exist in the same family. This is why he says:
The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it.
Luke is told by his mentors that the only way to defeat Darth Vader is to confront and destroy him. But what does Luke do? Obi-Wan Kenobi:
Instead of relying on violence to defeat violence as his father did, Luke reacts with compassion for Vader — he responds with love. This was not an abstract or ceremonial love, but a concrete, self-sacrificial love for the human being that Darth Vader is, even with all his faults and sins. This love is the essence of the light side, and how the Force was ultimately restored into balance.
Luke and Jesus!
At this point in the Star Wars series, Luke Skywalker becomes Christ-like and the Force becomes a truly Christian power. Like Jesus, Luke cares more about real people than he does about abstract ideals. Like Jesus, Luke shows sacrificial love for his friends, his sister, and especially his father Darth Vader. Luke’s readiness to die for them is the key to the defeat of ultimate evil. Just like Jesus did on the cross. Obi-Wan:
There has been an awakening. Have you felt it? The dark side, and the light?
In Luke’s Gospel there is an awakening as well. God’s force comes into human life and offers examples of what it means to act with compassion and justice. The force of God is uplifting and hopeful, inspiring and challenging. This force is not trapped in a galaxy far, far away, but is with us here: transforming the world we live in, making us more caring and compassionate, selfless and sacrificial. This force is at work today: in our homes, our schools, our community. Obi-Wan:
It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.
And as Luke Skywalker reminds us, and Jesus in John 17: “You have that power too.”
Now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all – or in geek speak: “May the Force be with you.” Amen.
Did You Know?
The expression “May the Force be with you” has achieved cult status and is symbolic of the Star Wars legacy. The line has been said in some form by at least one character in each of the Star Wars movies. In 2005, the line was chosen as number 8 on the American Film Institute list of 100 Movie Quotes. If you are wondering what the other seven were, four of them were: “Go ahead make my day” “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” And of course the number one movie quote was Rhett Butler’s line in Gone with the Wind: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”