Sunday, 19 May 2013

To boldly go

Sunday GospelJohn 20:19-23 

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

For people who have frequented the cinema recently, an image would be in their minds of Jesus beaming into the room a la James T Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew. Rearranging the atoms and molecules that created his resurrected body would have seemed no problem at all.

If you are intending to see the film - maybe skip the next bit. Although, I don't think I am giving too much away.

In the beginning of the new Star Trek film 'Into Darkness', Kirk and co are on a mission to 'observe' a planet, home to a race of humanoid people at the very beginning of developing a culture and faith. The planet is at risk from a grumbling volcano. So, despite the rules about non-involvement with other cultures, all hands come together to rescue the planet, part of which means the 'Enterprise' rising majestically, and supernaturally, from the depths of the ocean for the whole race of 'barely invented the wheel' people to see.

Back 'home' Kirk is removed from his captaincy -not for the first time nor the last - for disobeying the Prime Directive which is meant to keep the lives of other planets at 'arms reach'. What follows is a conversation regarding rules and regulations that should make its way into many a Situation Ethics lesson in the next few months (I can't find a clip at the moment) which asks how rules made in the safety and logic of a hypothetical scenario can be applied in the raw reality of a life and death situation.  Especially when the power of life or death is very much in your hands.

This is the beginning of James Tiberius Kirk's career, although his over-confidence and his raw humanity never wanes. He has been seen; he has been chosen; he has been converted; he has been challenged. He has his people and his mission. He never learns to obey anything other than his own internal moralty (with a little influence and a lot of support from his friends)  and he never keeps anyone at arms reach. He has too much to encounter and all of Space to discover.

In the Gospel, the frontier is a lot wider; the place to be explored is 'peace'. Not the peace of the disciples, who would maybe have preferred a return to fishing; friendship and family. A peace where people didn't turn they backs; throw stones; betray a friend. A peace that rewards the worry, the work and the frustation of trying to do the right thing. A quiet space, a place of welcome.

Jesus' peace is none of these things. Jesus' peace is also a place of discovery and encounter. Jesus' peace is in the utter giving over of who he is to the Father. Jesus' peace leaves no place for fear - his most common reassurance throughout the Gospels - the desire that we need not be afraid. The mission that he passes on to us.

What does differentiate the film from the tv series is the character development of the rest of the crew. The good ship, 'Enterprise' holds a body of people each with their own place in the creative imagination.

 Our roles aren't simply as support actors either; St Paul tells us that we are not just to follow Christ but to put on Christ; to be like Christ; to be the Body of Christ. Jesus offers us the peace that paradoxically leads to the restless heart of St Augustine; searching for the resting place of God's embrace.

Jesus' 'prime directive' does not take place at arms reach. We are not to leave anyone in darkness. We are to be courageous and carelessly compassionate. The Holy Spirit empowers us to forgive. To enter into the pain and guilt of our brothers and sisters; to reconcile and restore; to bring home those who are lost.

And the retention of sins? With Jesus' peace, our eyes are opened to the ills of the world; to the greed and the exploitation. It isn't for us to look the other way; to let the world suffer and destroy itself. The Holy Spirit gives us the confidence to name the darkness so that it can hide no longer.

Occasionally, you might see James T Kirk back on his ranch, maybe the disciples took a fishing trip now and again; sometimes we find a place of retreat from the world; but that is not where we are meant to be. We are part of God's mission. In spirit and in faith, we are asked to boldly go...

Apologies to those who are not Science Fiction fans - sometimes the Gospel meets me in the strangest of places.



Philip Wood said...

I take my life in my hands commenting on this post. What will people think if I'm revealed as a secret Trekkie. I've always been a fan over the various Trek inventions, though uncomfortable with the sanitised militarism. Despite the rubber alien costumes Kirk is really the only 'monster' on show.

Yes, that image of Enterprise rising is an iconic one. It's a scenario I recognize from the first series. Faced with the difficulty of comprehending God we are always in danger of manufacturing our own. The 'prime directive' could be a prohibition against idolatry.

Science Fiction has always fascinated me as a gift to the imagination. The pages of a book are a far safer place to try out a dystopia, than real life.

Lynda said...

There is never a need to apologize for seeing the Gospel anywhere - for we are called to see God in all things.

It is so true that when we are with Christ, we see the world with different eyes and the greed, poverty, etc. are so apparent in ways that they never were previously. We no longer are comfortable to ignore these ills in our society for we are called to look after Christ's sheep.

Gelli Ma said...

Ah Phil, what people think is the least of our problems :) The 'prime directive' makes a lot of sense in many ways but there are always exceptions - Kirk just finds a lot of exceptions. We always have to question our motives whether we choose to obey or disobey the rules. - Thanks

Lynda - thanks for reading. You are right. When we see a problem we have to accept that, if we choose to ignore it, we become part of the problem.