Sunday, February 21, 2016

Jesus' Lightsaber

This post is adapted from a sermon I preached on the first Sunday in Lent this year. It is based on Luke 4:1-13 and Romans 10:8b-13.

Jesus – full of the Holy Spirit – is led into the wilderness. Jesus is leading a new exodus – and thus it is only fitting that it begins in the wilderness. The Hebrews were led out of slavery into the wilderness – their path to freedom – but they lose their way (spiritually speaking). They are tempted and tried in the wilderness – and they turn away from God. Jesus is tempted and tried in the wilderness but he doesn’t turn away from God’s path. He resists the lure of self-centered use of his power for material needs and gain. He resists the use of his authority without sacrifice. He resists taking the easy way out.

Jesus fights off the temptations of the evil one with his weapon. It is a weapon that can be both used for defense and attack, a weapon that functions as a shield as well for offense, a weapon that shines light on the situation. When I thought of these things I of course thought of a Lightsaber.

In Star Wars Episode IV – the movie that introduced the lightsaber to the world (when I was still a teenager!) Luke Skywalker in introduced to this weapon of the Jedi. He first learns its defensive capabilities, practicing warding off attacks from a training droid aboard the Millennium Falcon. Later he learns of its awful power when Darth Vader uses it to strike down Obi Wan Kenobi.

A Lightsaber can be used to deflect attacks from an enemy, or to strike at that enemy, to drive the enemy back. So what weapon does Jesus in his struggle against the devil in the wilderness that has such power and versatility? What is it that I consider like a Lightsaber?

Jesus' Lightsaber is Scripture – Jesus uses scripture to fend off the temptations of the devil. For every temptation attack Jesus counters with a scripture passage – and that is enough to force the devil to try a different approach.

What gives scripture such power? Why is it a force to be reckoned with? I would suggest this power comes from the covenantal relationship between God and the descendants of Abraham and Sarah. Scripture derives its power from its ability to remember the relationship between God and God’s people. The power of scripture is not in the words but rather in the relationship the words point to.

But there is a danger with scripture for can also be misused. Like any powerful tool it can be used for good of for ill. In the Star Wars saga we learn that both the good side (the Jedi) and the dark side (the Sith) use Lightsabers. Notice too, in the story of Jesus in the wilderness the devil also quotes scripture – the tempter attempts to use God’s word against God’s Son.

This should be a warning to us that not everyone who quotes scripture is in line with God’s will. There are many who quote the Bible to justify their judgmental attitudes, their hatred of others, their selfish and lavish lifestyles, and so forth. The Bible in untrained hands can be destructive and damaging.

So too does the Bible require great skill and training to use properly. Thus the importance of hearing scripture expounded on in sermons and explored in Bible study. I believe the best way to learn the proper use of scripture is in a faith community – such as a Bible Study group.  Group discussion allows the Spirit of God to reveal through conversation and reflection a fuller meaning of these ancient words.

 The Apostle Paul encourages Christians to take hold of this weapon. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul encourages his readers to put on the whole armour of God, which includes “the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.” (Ephesians 6:10-18) The scriptures are like a light that brings insight into the darkness and confusion of our lives. The scriptures can deepen our relationship with God, and it is that relationship that will keep us from giving in to temptation.

God equipped the Apostle Paul to bring the Gospel into a hostile world. Paul knew well how to wield the power of the Lightsaber called Scripture. In his letter to the Romans Paul quotes scripture to give encouragement and guidance to the Christians in Rome. These same scripture quotations I leave with you, as a weapon against despair and fear, against temptation and struggles.

Let the light of these ancient words blaze into your world today, sustaining you in the days and weeks to come:
“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.”
“All who have faith in him won’t be put to shame.”
“All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved.”

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