Archive for May, 2012

The Wilderness Journey

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

February 26, 2012

Contemporary Testimony:  I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended. – Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

 Biblical Testimony:  Mark 1:9-15

9In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

The Wilderness Journery: This morning we begin our Lenten journey the same way we do every year.  The Season of Lent always begins with Jesus sitting in the wilderness being tempted.

This year we begin our Lenten journey on the last Sunday of Black History month.  And so we have the words of Sojourner Truth ringing in our ears.  We have the light-shining story of Amistad stirring in our hearts and we bring those words and those stories to the Lenten wilderness with us today.

Maybe that’s why, when I read the words of Nelson Mandela, from our contemporary reading, I could imagine them being spoken by Sojourner Truth and Cinque and countless folks in countless ages.  Can’t you hear Sojourners saying and with brother Mandela, “Ain’t I a woman who’s walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way.”  Can’t you hear Cinque, after the long Amistad trial saying, “I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come.”  Can’t you hear Jesus saying, after emerging dusty, and hungry from the desert, “I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities.   Repent.”

How’s your wilderness Journey?

I had a terrible time writing today’s sermon.  Nothing I wrote rang true and I finally figured out why last night.  My wilderness wanderings, compared to those of Sojourner Truth and Cinque and Nelson Mandela, seem trite.

Every time I’ve entered a wilderness it wasn’t for freedom.  It wasn’t a matter of life and death.  It was for purely selfish reasons.  It was a matter of personal identity.   You know those treks.  You grab a backpack and a friend and head out on the Appalachian Trail to discover who you are and what ya got.

I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail through New York state.  I was turning 33 in 2002.  I thought there must be something significant in all those double numbers so I wanted to celebrate in a significant way.  When I learned that there were 88 miles (more double numbers) of AT running through New York I thought this wilderness journey was the perfect way to celebrate.  I thought, huh, I’ll learn a lot about myself.

Sojourner’s Truth’s wilderness journey wasn’t about getting in touch with herself.  She knew who she was and she knew who she wasn’t.  She knew who she wanted her children to be.  Her wilderness wasn’t about finding herself.  She knew she was a child of God, loved and cherished.  Her wilderness was about telling the world what it meant to live like a child of God.

My wilderness journey seems trivial next to that.  Every time I’ve entered a wilderness it was only for a few days.  My fears haven’t been about life and death, freedom or slavery.  My fears have been about camping in the dark.  When I started planning that 88 mile trek through New York I decided that it would just be me and my dog.  Until one day I was sitting in my hammock reading.  It was just a few days before I left.   I closed my, and imagined myself on the trail.  In my tent at night.  That squirrel, in the woods, snapping twigs – what would I imagine it to be?  The harmless thing it is or something much worse?  A bear?  A serial killer?  I called my friend Clare  five minutes later to see if she’d like to join me on my wilderness journey.

Cique’s wilderness journey wasn’t like that.  He wasn’t afraid of sleeping in the dark.  He was scared of real monsters who knew no mercy.  And he knew exactly who he was in the face of those monsters.  He was man with dignity and pride who would not bow down.  His wilderness was telling the world that the empire of slavery would not own him.    His wilderness was about telling the world what it meant to live in dignity and freedom.

Several years about Bill and I decided to visit Glacier National Park and do some wilderness hiking.  Leading up to our time there I was courted by fear again.  I became obsessed with how to survive bear attacks.  While looking online for this handy information I found the story of the Night of the Grizzly.  On August 13, 1967, two young women were separately attacked and killed in Glacier National Park, by different grizzly bears.  I memorized every detail of the story and cataloged every possible way I could call down special powers to save me from the same fate.

Nelson Mandela’s wilderness wasn’t filled with fear of bears.  It was filled with fears of another kind.  But he did not waste one single minute on calling down special powers to save to him from certain death.  Do you know what he did?  He focused on compassion, love and forgiveness.  Mandela said, “I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred; he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not truly free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.”

To live in the prison wilderness of hatred and emerge knowing that you are a child of God, love and cherished and wanting to show the world what that means, what that looks like is miraculous.

I had a terrible time writing this sermon.  My wilderness fears seem trivial in comparison.   But I have known fear and I have known temptation and I have found that I am a child of God.

Jesus already knew who he was when he entered his wilderness.  According to Mark the heavens had just been torn open, and that spirit descending like a dove told Jesus loud and clear who he was, You are my beloved child.”  Jesus knew he was.  He didn’t need a wilderness trek to find out.

My wilderness wandering may seem silly compared to Jesus’ but I have known fear.  I have known temptation.    I have felt the devil “nipping at your heels.”   And in some miraculous ways those wilderness journeys have helped me face my fears about who I am and what it means.  How about you?

If you have known fear and temptation, then you know something about the wilderness, and I bet one of the things you know is how much you can wonder where is God when you have been stranded there for awhile. Why doesn’t God send a rescue team, or at least send a raven with some bread? Why doesn’t God give you the power to rear up and roar so loud that fear and temptation runs away and never comes back? (Barbara Brown Taylor, Bread of Angels, pages 36-40)

Mark doesn’t tell us the details of the temptation conversation.  You remember the story, though, right.  You remember the devil’s temptations don’t you? First he tempted him to practice magic; command these stones to become loaves of bread.  Next he tempted Jesus to call on God for special protection; throw yourself down from the temple.  Finally he tempted him to take control of all the kingdoms of the world; all these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.

That last one was an empire temptation.  Why bother with the little people when you could have it all?   “Why should the son of God… be subject to Caesar when Caesar should be subject to him?”

This is the story in which we find out what being the son of God really means.  This is the story in which Jesus proves who he is not by seizing power, but by turning it down.  God’s Beloved will not practice magic.  He will not ask for special protection to seek political power.  As much as it may surprise everyone, including him, he will remain human, accepting all the usual risks.  It is, after all, the only way humans will ever learn what “son of God really means.  A son of God is not someone who is related to god by rising out of his humanity, but someone who is beloved by God for sinking into it, even when he is famished, even when he is taunted by fear and temptation.  It is someone who can listen to every good reason in the world for becoming God’s rival and remain God’s child instead. (Barbara Brown Taylor, Bread of Angels, pages 36-40)

This is a story about who Jesus is.  But this is also a story about who we are as beloved children of God.  Sojourner Truth knew the story.  Cinque knew the story.  Nelson Mandela knows the story.  Do you?   There are plenty of times when we too enter the Wilderness Journeys and are dogged by fear, tempted to forget our true identity and grab the things of empire.  “That devilish voice in our heads says thing like, ‘if you are a child of God, wouldn’t you have it all?’”  Freedom and revenge?  Freedom and wealth?

You know what to say back now, right?

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities.  The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

New Steps

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

February 5, 2012

Contemporary Testimony: Excerpt from Maya Angelou’s Inaugural Poem, January 20, 1993
The River sings and sings on. There is a true yearning to respond to The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher. They hear. They all hear The speaking of the Tree.
Today, the first and last of every Tree Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River. Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am the Tree planted by the River, Which will not be moved. I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree I am yours–your Passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced With courage, need not be lived again.
Lift up your eyes upon The day breaking for you. Give birth again To the dream. Women, children, men, Take it into the palms of your hands. Mold it into the shape of your most Private need. Sculpt it into The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts Each new hour holds new chances For new beginnings. Do not be wedded forever To fear, yoked eternally To brutishness.
The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change. Here, on the pulse of this fine day You may have the courage To look up and out upon me, the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country. No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.
Here on the pulse of this new day You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into Your brother’s face, your country And say simply Very simply With hope Good morning

Biblical Testimony: Isaiah 40:21-31
Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught,
and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.
Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power,
not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; God’s understanding is unsearchable. God gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

New Steps: This morning’s biblical testimony is the continuation of a text we considered during our Advent Journey together. At that time I shared with you a little historical context. And I think it was that sermon that sealed my fate as the anti- Empire pastor.

You remember this text, the first part of Isaiah 40,
Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the LORD;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.

… when this poetic voice begins to ring in their ears, the children of Israel had been living in exile in Babylon for a life time. They had learned a new language. They had children, watched their children grow, watched them get married and have children of their own. And during that time they settled. They started businesses. Engaged in trade. Got to know their neighbors. They assimilated.
By the time Isaiah came on the scene many of them had forgotten the old country. The old customs. The second generation had forgotten their mother tongue. Some of them had forgotten Yahweh.

They were living in the midst of the Babylonian Empire. And then Isaiah shows up, saying, I know you’re tired, I know you’re weary, but don’t you remember who God is, you were told at the very beginning. So, what happened? Have you not heard that “The horizon leans forward, Offering you space to place new steps of change. New steps out of empire, away from bondage and slavery. Here on the pulse of this new day you may have the grace to look up and out and into your sister’s eyes, into your brother’s face, your country and say simply Very simply with hope Good morning.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? Have you not heard?

I overheard a conversation once. You’ve probably heard the same conversation. It was between a father and his young son who was maybe five years old. The father said in a frustrated tone, although he wore a sympathetic smile, “Son, are you listening?” The young boy replied, “What did you say, Dad?” The father’s smile widened as he said, “Yes, precisely! Perhaps we should get your ears checked.”

These words ring in my ears. I heard the conversation loud and clear, and it sounded familiar. You remember this conversation, don’t you? My dad had it with me. Your father had it with you. And you’ve had it with your children, your nieces, your nephews, your godchildren. “Are you listening? This is important!”

Why is it so hard to listen? We’ve all met people who don’t seem to hear us. It’s like they’re just waiting for you to stop talking, to take a breath, so that they can talk. You know they’re not listening to you; they’re too busy planning their next sentence or more likely, paragraph. I’ve done it.

Listening is not just about hearing the other person, the other voice. It’s bigger. It’s about respect for the other person, the other voice. It’s about awareness and understanding. It’s about sharing in a meaningful exchange, living life in community. Listening is huge.

So why don’t we listen? Why do have blockages? Well, it’s probably because of fear. Some of us have lived our whole lives being silenced. We fear that if we try one more time to be heard, if we open our mouths, we’ll be overpowered. We stop speaking and we stop listening to the oppressive, silencing voices. Some of us don’t listen for fear of what we may hear. After all, who wants to be told what to do? Who wants to be told that they’re wrong? Who wants to be corrected? Some of us don’t listen for fear that we may hear nothing at all. Our loved ones may have stopped talking. God may be silent. The goodness in the world may have been overpowered.

And then Maya Angelou shows up and reminds us that The River sings and sings on. There is a true yearning to respond to the singing River and the wise Rock. So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew so say, The African and Native American, the Sioux, The Catholic, so say the Muslim, the French, the Greek The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, the privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.

Some of us don’t listen for fear of what they have to say. After all, who wants to hear that we have wronged them? Who wants to hear that our steps are the ones that must be changed?

And then Isaiah shows up. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

Are you listening? And then the horizon leans forward, offering you stories of new steps of change.

One powerful story of new steps of change comes from the Associated Press, Washington desk. The story is told this way:
“Elwin Wilson was an unabashed racist, the sort who once hung a black doll from a noose outside his home. John Lewis was a young civil rights leader bent on changing laws, if not hearts and minds, even if it cost him his life. They faced each other at a South Carolina bus station during a protest in 1961. Wilson joined a white gang that jeered Lewis, attacked him and left him bloodied on the ground.

“Forty-eight years later, the men met again – this time so Wilson could apologize to Lewis and express regret for his hatred. Lewis, now a congressman from Atlanta, greeted his former tormentor at his Capitol Hill office. ‘I just told him that I was sorry,’ Wilson, 72, said in a telephone interview Wednesday as he traveled home to Rock Hill, S.C. For years, he said, he tried to block the incident out of his mind ‘and couldn’t do it.’

“Lewis said Wilson is the first person involved in the dozens of attacks against him during the civil rights era to step forward and apologize. When they met Tuesday, Lewis offered forgiveness without hesitation. ‘I was very moved,’ said Lewis. ‘He was very, very sincere, and I think it takes a lot of raw courage to be willing to come forward the way he did. … I think it will lead to a great deal of healing.’

“Wilson said he had felt an urge to voice his remorse for years. He talked about his past activities a few weeks ago with a friend, and the friend asked him where he thought he might go if he died. ‘I said probably hell,’ Wilson said. ‘He said, ‘Well, you don’t have to.’”

Perhaps Wilson’s imagined hell, the hell of racism and the hell of exile that the Hebrew people faced are one and the same. The exhaustion of fear, the exhaustion of history with its wrenching pain. And then the horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change. New steps out of exile toward home. But it doesn’t end with those steps toward home. Wilson might have taken the step. But Lewis, Lewis offered forgiveness without hesitation.

History, despite its wrenching pain, Cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, need not be lived again. Lewis gave birth again to the dream. Lewis chose not be wedded forever to fear, yoked eternally to brutishness. The horizon leaned forward, offering him space to place new steps of change. And God lifted him on eagle’s wings, to run and not be weary, to walk and not faint.

Our Hero’s Journey

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Rev. Dr. Melanie Miller

January 29, 2012

Contemporary Testimony: experts from The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
This first stage of the mythological journey – which we have designated the “call to adventure” – signifies the destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented; as a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight.
But whether small or great, and no matter what the stage or grade of life, the call rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration – a rite, or moment, of spiritual passage, which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a birth. The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals, and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand.

Ancient Testimony: Mark 1:21-28
21They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,24and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Our Hero’s Journey: Our Ancient Testamony this morning makes me a little nervous. What do we do with unclean spirits like the one that Jesus casts out of the man in the synoagogue? Am I the only who finds this text puzzling. Is my modern mind the only one that fights to hear these gospel words?

Let’s consider the story for a moment in the context of Jesus larger ministry. This morning in our ancient testimony we find, Jesus, in Capernaum. He’s already accepted the call. He’s been baptized, initiated. He’s been tempted in the wilderness by Satan. Last Sunday we heard that he called Simon and Andrew, James and John. And now he heads into town with his new posse. He wows the crowd with his preaching and teaching and then he goes toe to toe with supernatural powers. Any of this sound familiar? And I’m not talking about the other gospel.

Joseph Campell called it the monomyth or the hero’s journey. He asserted that the same story patterns could be found around the world. Karl Jung said the patterns of the hero are part of the collective unconscious. This morning’s ancient testimony follows the patterns of all ancient hero stories. The “call rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration… The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals, and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand.” Jesus has accepted the “call to adventure” and has “transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown… a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings.” He has crossed the threshold to and has entered the zone of challenges. Sound familiar. (The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell)

Jesus is on the same journey, the same adventure that called Odysseus and Luke Skywalker. And a wonderful journey it is.

My colleague Tim Ives, used to make the confirmation class watch the Music Man every year. You could argue that Harold Hill is a kind of hero. There is certainly evil or trouble rather in the narrative: “with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool”. Tim loved the redemption and faith, of both Marion and Harold, and the new life offered to Marion’s brother. BUT the confirmation class hated watching it. Hated watching it. It was like pulling teeth. Every year the same thing. How can Harold Hill compete with Saw? I mean come on. AND the movie is over 2 and half hours long! That’s a long time to listen to tortured 8th graders. So one year, I said Tim, “I can’t do it. As much as I love to sing along with Pick a Little, Talk a Little, I just can’t sit through the complaining and the whining. Can we please pick another movie?” Tim hemmed and hawed and finally said, if you can think of movie that has similar themes we’ll try it. Are you kidding me? Can I find a movie with similar themes? Of course I can! I didn’t think twice. I knew which movie I would show.

Now Bill would have picked Star Wars. He has a Star Wars kind of, “May the Force Be With You”, theology. It’s a magnificent monomyth. The hero, the Christ figure, is called to do something that no one else can. Luke Skywalker answers the call and goes forth from his comfortable world to a new world of supernatural powers and great evil. Yoda and Obi Wan are the mystical helpers who show up on the way to impart knowledge or special weapons. Leia and Han Solo are part of the posse that helps Luke along the way as he takes on the Empire. But I didn’t pick Star Wars, although I love George Lucas’s wonderful tale.

Now you might think that I would have picked Harry Potter. That’s a good guess. But all those kids had read the books and seen the movie and I wanted something they weren’t already familiar. Sometimes if we’ve seen something one way it’s hard to shift your view of it. It’s hard to see it with new eyes. Harry as the hero, yes. Harry answering the call and going forth from his tired one dimensional world to a new world of supernatural powers and great evil. Dumbeldore and Hagrid are the mystical helpers who show up on the way to impart knowledge or special weapons. Hermione and Ron are part of the posse that helps Harry along the way as he takes on He Who Will Not be Named. But I didn’t want to try to sell Harry as the Christ figure to a bunch of kids who already had Harry in their pocket.

What would you have picked? I am Legend, Cowboys and Aliens?

I picked …The Matrix! How many of you have seen this movie? It’s wonderful and full, FULL, of religious language and symbols. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend you put it on your netflix queue today!

For those of you who haven’t seen it in a nut shell, Neo, the Christ figure and the narrative’s hero, comes to save the world from an empire of machines that use humans for fuel. Neo’s hero call is to free humanity from the illusion, the matrix, the false reality that surrounds them. Neo accepts the call to venture forth from his comfortable matrix into a hidden world of oppression and evil.

The movie was released on Easter weekend 1999. The story was full of Easter language.

Two of the main characters are Morpheus and Trinity, both part of Neo’s posse. Morpheus – metamorphesis is the character that first believes that Neo is the one who will rescue humanity. Trinity is the first to contact Neo and is filled with undying faith and devotion.

The Oracle is the wise goddess who guides liberated minds in the Matrix.
Graet stuff for a confirmation class!

Nebuchadnezzar is the space ship. I’ve always wondered if the name of the Babylonian emperor was used as the ship’s name to show that a machine, something that the empire used and control could be used for good. Isaiah, over and over again, tells of God using the things of Empire.

Zion is the last human city left on the earth. It is the Promised Land. This Holy City is place of hope for the chosen people. In the second movie, the council of Zion is gathered and Cornell West, a wonderful and colorful theologian, is part of the council of Zion!

C’mon. The Matrix or the Music Man? Is there even a contest?

But it doesn’t end there. “On the plaque of Morpheus’s Nebuchadnezzar, for example, as part of its identifying numbers, is the notation Mark III, No. 11.” You guessed it! It’s a reference to Mark chapter 3, verse 11: Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, ‘You are the Son of God. Hmmm… sound familiar.

One more? “Just before Agent Smith’s first appearance in The Matrix Reloaded, (agent Smith is the bad guy, he who should not be named) we see the license plate on the luxury car he drives, IS 5416.” Isaiah 54:16, which reads, “See, it is I who have created the smith who blows the fire of coals, and produces a weapon fit for its purpose; I have also created the ravager to destroy.” God is reminding the people of Israel that the Promised Land, Zion, will prevail. That even weapons created from the steel of Empire will not win.

Too much for a confirmation class to take in?

This is really all they need to know: The hero’s name is Neo, and it means the One. Neo, the Christ figure, is called to do something that no one else can. Neo answers the call and goes forth from his comfortable world to a new world of supernatural powers and great evil. The Oracle is the mystical helper who shows up on the way to impart knowledge or special weapons. Morpheus and Trinity are part of the posse that helps Neo along the way as he takes on the Empire.

It’s called the Hero’s journey. It’s always been the same journey. It always makes us a little nervous; the passion, the myth, the call. It always makes us nervous to be reminded that there is evil in the world. That we might be called on to participate in the naming of evil and the confrontation of it.

The hero’s name is Jesus. The Christ figure is called to do something that no one else can. Jesus answers the call and goes forth from his comfortable world to a new world of supernatural powers and empire. Simon, Andrew, James and John, are part of the posse that helps Jesus along the way as he takes on the Empire, as he takes on the scribes as he takes on unclean spirits, evil.

There is no denying that evil is real. And as nervous the unclean spirit in our ancient testimony makes me, he is there to remind me that no matter what time, no matter what empire, there is evil – both spiritual and material, both personal and corporate. And that we are called to be a part of the hero’s journey, part of the posse, that names, challenges and silences evil. It is part of the monomyth, it is part of the gospel, it is part of the story. The familiar life horizon has been outgrown; the old concepts, ideals, and emotional patterns no longer fit; the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand.