Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Days of Future Past

Another superhero event hit our cinema screens this weekend as the X-Men (and women) fight to save the annihilation of the human race by re-writing history. 

Not wishing to be a 'spoiler' - you can read after you have seen - the basic premise is that the fear of the unknown and still largely unseen 'mutants' has inspired the development of hunter robots. Not only can they 'scent' the mutant gene in humans but, thanks to a captured mutant, they have the ability to mutate themselves to overpower anything they come up against. As they become better at what they do, they begin to anticipate the genetic possiblities in pretty well anyone they meet. So, yet again,  humankind are under threat from the very devices that were meant to protect them. How tempting to reflect on how self-destructive we seem to be. Not only passing control of our bodies and minds to hi-technology and doomsday peddlars but insisting on the sense that the enemy is always the 'other' and the 'other' is always to be feared.

The last of the mutants, some of whom had been sworn enemies, gather in a remote temple. From the gifted ones that are left standing, the only hope is to send Wolverine back to the 1970's to prevent the capture of the mutant, Mystique, so sticking an spanner in the works of this particularly destructive thread of time. Unfortunately, none of the players were on good terms in the 70's and Wolverine is certainly not famed for his sensitivity or diplomacy. With no other option, and no guarantees, Wolverine heads back to a time before he reached his adamantium best - to do what he can to heal hurts and hearts, to build a future where hope still has a chance.

During their attempt to change events, Hank, one of the mutants, refers to the early twentieth century philosophical theory that Time was immanent. That in the great stream of Time, our actions and experiences are no more than the ripple of a pebble. That despite everything, we are helpless, in the flow of something greater. 

That's as far as I am taking the plot - because it is this sense of how the past affects us that resonates with the Good News that Jesus tries to teach us. 

On the way to the cinema, we had been talking about a contemporary theory that the lives we live now are imminent. That the world encourages life 'in the moment', judged only on what is now, on the brink of what is next. The past - and future - are nothing we have control over. So why should they concern us? Except they do.

The Good News comes at the beginning of the most imminent of Gospels. 

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. 
Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15

As imminent people we have trouble with the need to repent. Can't we just believe the good news? If we get that right won't the rest just follow?

Yet there are few days that pass without a conversation about resentments and  bitterness about events and encounters from the past. Conversations in work, school, in church, over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee. The recent Lenten Reconciliation brought memories of 'what if's' and 'if only's' back racing back to the surface demanding attention. I wonder how many people truly found peace of heart this year. Or, more likely, continued to imagine the life they  could have had, carrying the memories to beat themselves and each other. 

Repentance correctly translates as metanioa - change of Mind, a change in the action of the whole inner nature, intellectual, affectional and moral. The change in humankind that has to take place to reach the Kingdom. In its way a mutation, towards the good, of who we truly are. 

Part of this has to be dealing with the past. 

Revisiting -  not to change, but to accept and forgive. 

Revisiting -  not to blame, but to offer compassion to our brokeness

Revisiting - not to condemn, but to free us in the journey of life.

Free to live in the stream of God's Time, loved, beloved and loving. In the life we live, in the people we live with, in the world we live in. Compelled in our hearts by the words that Jesus teaches most of all - 'Do not be afraid'.

Professor Xavier, the younger, answers Hank's immanent theory with his own. That our paths are not set, that our efforts are not worthless. 

That, whoever we are, we are bound to stumble. But that is not the end. Our stumbling leads to recovery, leads to new strengths, leads to new paths. 

Leads to hope. 

Why ever should our past deny us hope?


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