May the Force Be With You.

May 4, 2014

May the Force Be With You. 

Today is Star Wars Sunday, and that’s kind of special
because it only happens every seven years or so, and for some of you, you know
exactly what I’m talking about and for the rest of you when I explain it will
simply diminish me in your eyes.
Today’s date is May the Fourth, May the Fourth Be With
You.  Get it?   Actually the first time the phrase was used
it was less geeky, maybe. 
The reference was first used on May 4, 1979 when Margaret
Thatcher’s political party placed an advertisement in The London Evening News after
she took office as Prime Minister the ad simply said  “May
the Fourth Be with You, Maggie. Congratulations.”
But it wasn’t until 2011 that people really began to connect
the dots when the first organized Star Wars Day took place in Toronto, in 2012
the event happened again and geeks around the world embraced the day. 
So what does that have to do with Sunday, and church and
Denn’s message?  Glad you asked. 
For those of who have never seen any of the Star Wars
movies, what’s wrong with you?  Sorry
that was judgemental. 

Most of you understand that the story was set A long time ago, in a galaxy far,
far away…..  I still remember how I
felt the first time I saw that crawl across the big screen with John Williams
score playing behind it.

And I don’t want to get into the theology of Star Wars, but
let if be suffice to say that the original movie and all that have come after tell
the story of good and evil and the conflicts of human nature.  Plus they have really cool light sabres and a
wookie. 
But after six films the entire franchise is still identified
with the words; “May the force be with you.” 
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, AFI’s 100 Years… 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. 
And you are thinking, “So what?”  What does that have to do with anything?  And that’s a good question, one you should
ask every time you hear someone speak into your life.
Well here’s the back story, in the quest of good and evil
the Empire is Evil and the Rebels are Good, it comes down to a show down where
Luke Skywalker and others need to destroy the Death Star.  Their military leaders gather them together
for one last locker room pep talk. 
The famous line is actually said by General Dodonna after
explaining the Death Star attack plan to the Rebel pilots and then it is said
again by Han Solo to Luke, right before the attack on the Death Star battle
station
For those who missed the movie or have forgotten the scene
here it is.  (Video Clip)
1) The Reality is Defined
2) A Vision is Cast       
3) The Victory is Placed in the Hands of a Higher Power 
And again you are wondering “So What?”   Let’s go back to the scripture that was read
for us earlier. 
2
Corinthians 13:7
We pray to God that you will not do what is wrong by refusing our
correction. I hope we won’t need to demonstrate our authority when we arrive.
Do the right thing before we come—even if that makes it look like we have
failed to demonstrate our authority.
1) Reality is Defined  Sometimes you will hear someone say they
wish the church was more like the New Testament Church, or when someone is
starting a new church they will say that their church will be a New Testament
Church.  Seriously?  When people say that I wonder if they have
actually read the New Testament?  If they
even know what the New Testament church was like? 
For those of you who are familiar with the two letters in
the bible that are written to the church in Corinth, the church was a
mess.  I have received letters through
the years challenging the way we do things at Cornerstone and sometimes the way
we’ve handled a situation.  But if I had
of got a letter like the first letter that Paul sent to the church in Corinth I
would have gotten a blankie, gone and curled up in bed and never come out. 
This was the church that Paul had started, it was his baby,
and now he was writing them because of divisions in the church, spiritual
pride, substance abuse, Christians suing Christians, sexual sin, divorce and
remarriage, issues around how they viewed idols, problems with how they related
together as believers, their worship service, their lack of love for one
another, denying the resurrection of Christ. 
He even had to talk about money, not once, not twice but  multiple times.
This wasn’t a model church, although as my father used to
tell me “Everyone is good for something, even if
it’s being a bad example.”
When Paul
was challenging the Corinthians about their behaviour he said 1
Corinthians 6:9-10
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong
will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge
in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male
prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or
drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the
Kingdom of God.
He wasn’t being nasty he was simply defining the reality of
the church.  Just as General Dodonna was
simply defining the reality of the death star.
And when people got all bristly
and said “Don’t judge me”  Paul responded
by saying 1 Corinthians 5:12 It
isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your
responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.
And while it’s easy to condemn the Corinthian church and
call it the “carnal church” aren’t those the same issues that people still
struggle with in their Christian walk 2000 years later?   Divisions, sexual sin, substance abuse, bad
theology?
And it would be easy to write off those who struggle with
sin, but don’t we all struggle with sin, of some kind?
And maybe Paul realized the reality of what William Cowper wrote “No
one was ever scolded out of their sins.” 
Because in 2 Corinthians the tone of Paul’s letter changes and we
read words of encouragement such as 2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore,
since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. 
It was Robert Louis Stevenson who wrote “The
saints are the sinners who keep on trying.”  Which is why Paul encourages the believers by
writing 2
Corinthians 4:8-9
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are
perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned
by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
But Paul
doesn’t let them off the hook, he doesn’t nod and smile and say that’s ok, you
can’t help yourself so don’t worry about changing.  Sometime we fall into that trap and never
challenge people to be more than they are, never challenge their behaviour.
It’s easy to
excuse sin, Bill Maher quipped one time that “Everything that used to be a sin, is now a disease.”
But Paul
recognized it as behaviour that needed to be corrected. And so at the end of 2
Corinthians Paul writes 2 Corinthians 13:7 We pray to God that you will not do what
is wrong by refusing our correction. I hope we won’t need to demonstrate our
authority when we arrive. Do the right thing before we come—even if that makes
it look like we have failed to demonstrate our authority.   You
know what Paul was saying?  The same
thing that every parent who has ever gone for an extended drive with their kids
say at one point or another, “Don’t make me come back there.”
And so Paul
talks about the reality of what was happening with the church in Corinth but he
doesn’t just leave it there. 
Which leads
us to our next point where Paul writes,  2
Corinthians 13:11-12
Dear brothers and sisters, I close my
letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each
other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with
you. Greet each other with Christian love.
2) A Vision is Cast  If we go back to the original Star Wars
analogy the General defines the reality of the Death Star but then he casts a
vision for what could happen.  How in the
face of overwhelming odds that they could be victorious. 
I love the “What could be”. 
I am an optimist, a Pollyanna if you will.  I want you to see the preferred future, to
move beyond whatever it might be that you feel that you are ensnared by.

That’s what Paul was saying, you don’t have to be caught in the struggle of
sin, instead he says be joyful in your victory. 
You don’t have to be divisive and caught up in disputes and arguments instead
he says you can live in harmony and peace. 
You don’t have to remain immature, you can grow up in your faith and all
of this can be done in and with Christian love.

The story is told that one Sunday evening during a church
service an elderly woman stood up and testified saying, “I ain’t what I oughta
be, and I ain’t what I’m gonna be, but praise God I ain’t what I used to be.”
You can’t just get stuck in a rut of sinful behaviour,
saying “I can’t change, I will never be any different, I’ll just rely on the
grace of God to keep forgiving me, because he understands.” 
That’s not what his word says.   We all love the story of how Jesus treated
the woman who had been caught in adultery. 
How he stood up to her accusers and challenged them to throw the first
stone, only if they were without sin. 
And how they all backed down and walked away.  People love when Jesus reached down and
helped the woman to her feet and says, “Neither do I condemn you.”  But people forget the challenge he makes to
her when he said, “Go and sin no more.”
Paul puts away the Grace
argument when he tells us in Romans 6:1-2 Well
then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his
wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue
to live in it?
The Bible talks about the
reality of sin, it doesn’t deny our sinful nature, but over and over again we
are challenged to move beyond what we are and become what God wants us to
become. 
I don’t know what you struggle
with, but God wants to help you move beyond that.  We’ve talked about this before, those things
that the Bible defines as sin, or the acts of the sinful nature are things that
ultimately will harm you and your life. 
Maybe they don’t feel bad right now, they might even feel like the right
thing.  The bible talks about the
“Pleasures of Sin” but it tells us that those pleasures only last for a
season.  And if we continue to follow our
sinful nature God’s word tells us that ultimately we pay a price, physically,
emotionally and eternally.  That means a
separation from God. 
In the book of Galatians Paul
lists what he calls the acts of the sinful nature.  And he begins by saying “The acts of the
sinful nature are obvious”  They knew
what they were, we know what they are, we might try to deny it but we know what
is right behaviour and what is wrong behaviour. But in case they missed the
obvious Paul lists the acts of the sinful nature, not an exhaustive list but
enough that they get the picture.  And he
finishes by saying those who live that way, meaning they continue in that life
style, will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 
They will not receive all that God offers them.  But then he offers them hope, he tells them Galatians
5:22-23
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of
fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these
things!   Remember, after the but
comes the truth.  And Paul is telling us
we don’t have to be stuck in our sinful nature. 
There is a better way.
And understand that if we
decide that we want to be stuck in our sinful nature, there is a price to be
paid.  Kara
Defria wrote “These days, the wages of sin
depend on what kind of deal you make with the devil.”  But the reality is that is doesn’t
matter what type of deal you’ve struck with the devil, we are told in the word
of God, Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is
death, and while that sounds hopeless the verse continues to say but
the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Which takes us to the next
point.  Paul has spent the best part of
two letters warning the Corinthians about their behaviour and the consequences
of that behaviour, then he casts the vision for what could be.  But how do you get from what is to what could
be? 
Well, in the movie General
Dodonna pronounces a quasi-benediction over his troops when he says “May the
Force be with you”  Whatever the Force
was, Dodonna was asking for it to assist the troops are they sought to overcome
the forces of evil.

In the passage we
started with this morning Paul does the same thing when he leaves the Christ
Followers in the Corinthian church with these words:  2 Corinthians
13:14
May the grace of the Lord Jesus
Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
It’s here we discover that Paul was from the South when he refers
to the church as “You All”.

3) The Victory is
Placed in the Hands of a Higher Power 
I
am not trying to develop a theology for Star Wars and trying to deify the
Force, whatever the force may be.  Some
of you need to repeat after me: It is just a movie.  Or as William Shatner once said in regards to
Star Trek Fans “Get a Life”
But the reality for us as Christ Followers is that we will
never be all that we could or should be in our own power.  But the promise is that we don’t have to do
it in our own power.  And so Paul takes
the struggle for spiritual maturity out of the hands of the Corinthians and
gives it to God.  And I love the way the
character of the Trinity is defined here. 
And this is in no way an exhaustive discussion of the Trinity, after all
it was Augustine who said “If you deny the Trinity, you lose your soul; if you try
to explain the Trinity, you lose your mind.” 
 
But here Paul asks for three specific things for those who
chose to follow Jesus.  He asked for the
Grace of Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit. 
Remember, grace means getting what we don’t deserve.  It was only through the sacrificial death and
resurrection of Christ that we are offered forgiveness, salvation and eternal
life.  Nothing we have done, and
everything he has done.  We don’t deserve
it, we can’t earn it but ultimately it is offered to us.  The majority of the letters in the New
Testament take the time to remind their readers of the Grace of Jesus. 
And why is that grace offered
to us?  Because of God’s love.  It all goes back to John
3:16
“For God loved the world so much that he
gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish
but have eternal life.”  And if we
missed it there are verses like 1 John 4:10 This
is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a
sacrifice to take away our sins.   God
loves you, and he loves you so much that He was willing to make the ultimate
sacrifice for you. 
And finally Paul reminds us not
only of God’s grace and God’s love but he reminds us of God’s presence when he
says, may the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.  Sometimes we feel all alone in our Christian
walk, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. 
When Jesus got close to the end
of his earthly ministry and told his followers that the end was near they were
upset, and we really can’t blame them. 
But Jesus makes them this promise John 14:26 But
when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy
Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have
told you. And the result of that is spelled out in the next verse John
14:27
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of
mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t
be troubled or afraid.
Where does the peace of mind and heart come from?  From the presence or fellowship of the Holy
Spirit.  But the Holy Spirit will only be
present in our life when we allow him to be, goes back to the concept of Free
Will.  Holy Spirit will not be where he’s
not welcome.  When I first began
preaching we used to sing a chorus that said “Come Holy Spirit I need
you.”  And that should be the prayer of
our heart every morning.  If we are going
to see the benefits of the grace and love of God worked out in our lives it
will only be when we allow God, the Holy Spirit to have control of our lives.
Paul believed that God wanted  the
very best for the Corinthians and he believed that the Corinthians could
achieve what God wanted them to achieve, because in spite of our their failures
listen to how he addresses them,  1
Corinthians 1:2
I am writing to God’s church in Corinth,
to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy
by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
Let me read it for you this way
1 Corinthians 1:2 I am writing to God’s
church at Cornerstone, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy
people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all
people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and
ours.
And let me pray for you, And now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of
God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  Or in geek speak, May the Force be With you.