Holy Ship: Four Ways the Church is like the Millennium Falcon

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When I was a kid, I loved the Millennium Falcon. Okay, so it’s not just when I was a kid. I still love the Millennium Falcon, and I’ve always held a special place in my heart for the Corellian freighter. In fact, a friend sent me off from my last job with a poster of the ship, and I wear my Millennium Falcon T-shirt at least once a week (much to my spouse’s chagrin). But it wasn’t until I watched The Force Awakens that I began to see the resonance with my love for the Falcon and my love for the Church.

So in honor of the recent release of The Force Awakens on DVD here are four ways the Millennium Falcon is like the church:


1. The Hunk of Junk. The Falcon looks like an old and busted piece of garbage with no hope of flying or of being any use to anyone with any real needs. At least to those who have never flown in it. In The Force Awakens, Rey blows past the Falcon, calling it garbage, before having to pilot it as a last resort for escape. Pretty much everyone who encounters the Falcon for the first time greets it with outright skepticism, if not scorn. And it’s not without merit. It’s certainly not a perfect ship, and even those who love it admit that it’s definitely not much to look at. Even after riding along, the skepticism about the ship’s capabilities don’t fade quickly. It takes more than one battle fought, more than one quest to convince folks of the ship’s magic. In way, it reminds me of where the Church is right now. Many people right now look at the Church and see a busted-up bucket of bolts, outdated hunk of junk, a piece of garbage easily passed up for something a little better looking. But just like the Falcon‘s passengers, those of us who have journeyed in it, found our salvation in it, forged friendships with unlikely people who will risk everything for you, it’s the only ship worth searching the entire galaxy for. It reminds me of what St. Paul says to the Corinthians about the cross — to many it’s purely foolishness, but to those of us who have been saved by it, it is the power of God. In other words, it might seem like a long shot, but never, ever tell me the odds.

2. The Ragtag Crew. The Falcon always seems to bring together the most unlikely of people to do the most impossible of tasks against insurmountable odds. That actually wouldn’t be a terrible definition of the Church. Scruffy, nerfherding scoundrels fly alongside royalty. Ardent believers join together with diehard skeptics. New converts hoping to change the world ride in the same space as refugees hoping to escape it. It’s a place to hide, to recover, to heal, and maybe to find a place, even if reluctantly. Few of the passengers are experts or have the exact right training, but together they come together, discover hidden talents that are put to use for the common good. The Falcon always requires a team effort, unlike an X-wing where there’s only enough room for a pilot who makes all the decisions. The Falcon is at its best with too many people crammed in the cockpit, voicing their doubts and their certainty, confessing their guilt and their mistakes, discovering the ability to do things they only remotely thought were possible. It’s a place where people come fully alive to their mission and their purpose, a place where they find direction.

3. The Temporary ‘Owners.’ No one really owns the Falcon, and its exact origins are something of a mystery. The ship has belonged to Lando, Han, Unkar, Rey, and probably countless others. These “owners” are better understood as stewards of the ship’s historic legacy. Some of them do a better job of it than others. At times, the Falcon has been employed for less than noble reasons, out of selfishness or greed. Other times, it is employed for good, in the fight against oppression and Empire. But, good or bad, it’s still the Falcon, steered by the flawed who are at times holy or heroic. And sometimes, after years of flying with the Falcon, you lose the ship, in the midst of a tragedy or a gambit, and you might spend the rest of your life searching for it, because even if you think it belongs to you, really the uncanny draw toward it is because you belong to it. When you find it, you’re home, because it’s where you come alive, where you find meaning, and and where you are reminded, like Lando and later like Han, your story with the ship isn’t quite finished yet.

4.  The Frequent Malfunctions. It breaks, and it fails. In fact, if there’s one sure thing about the Falcon, it’s that it will always break. It won’t always work the way you think it should. In other words, despite being a vehicle of salvation for so many, it’s still imperfect, and it will always be a work in progress with many hands working on it, trying to help it fly straight, and true, and fast. Because, deep down, we know what it’s capable of. We know it can make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs and believe it can do it again, even if to folks on the outside it looks like little more than a hunk of junk.

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