Cosmic Battle: A Sermon by Pastor Bob

“No matter how enlightened we become, how educated, how affluent, how socially aware and self-reflective, we must, if we are honest with ourselves, admit that there is something wrong with us. We can’t seem to get past hurting ourselves and this planet. Is this brokenness, this sin, this evil . . . is it personified? Is there really some personified evil, and even an ultimate higher power who embodies evil itself?”

Cosmic Battle

A sermon by Pastor Bob

March 11, 2012

Text: Genesis 3:1-7

Genesis 3:1-7

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

–Star Wars.

–I had the flu a few months ago and I watched the Star Wars movies.

–I had seen all of the movies before, so I asked myself:

–“Do I want to start from the first movie that was actually made which is really towards the end of the series, or do I want to start with the movie in which the story chronologically begins?”

–These are the kind of heavy-duty questions one asks oneself when sick in bed.

–My first impulse was to start with the order that the movies were made.

–Something inside of me liked the simplicity of the first movie.

–I mean, everything is straightforward.

–Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, c3PO, R2D2, Chubakka, and (most of the time) Han Solo and the rebel alliance are the good guys.

–While Darth Vader and crew are the bad guys.

–Luke Skywalker swings from ropes saving the princesses, while Darth Vader kills everyone who displeases him.

–The rebel alliance seeks to save worlds, while the evil empire seeks to destroy worlds.

–You’re either working with the good side of the “Force,” or you are on the “Dark side.”

–Good, bad—everything is clear for the first Star Wars movie.

–But then things get more complicated.

–In the following movie, the possibility arises that Darth Vader is really Luke Skywalker’s father.

–Is Darth Vader good or evil?

–Will he spare his son’s life or will he kill him?

–The next set of movies that are made then go back in time to try and make sense of this mess.

–Darth Vader starts out good, and then becomes kind of bad, and then really bad.

–And in the midst of these movies, although there is clarity as to who to root for, the shades of gray between those who are good and those who are bad set in.

 

–This is the nature of good and evil, and our discernment of it.

–We of course always perceive ourselves as being on the good side, and someone else is on the other side, the bad or evil side.

–We hear this language used freely by politicians and the press and we hear it in our own relationships.

–Countries are declared evil, spouses in the midst of divorce are decried as bad, and in the subtle and not so subtle ways, we consciously and unconsciously label people as either being for us, or against us.

–Essentially good or evil.

–Yet evil does not seem content to be wholly in something or someone.

–Evil seems always partial, always entangled and enticing.

–Like forbidden fruit.

–We hear this in Genesis story of the Garden.

–God creates two trees:

–The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

–The tree of eternal life.

–It is in this Garden that the first temptation that we know about comes through a serpent:

–To know good and evil is to be like God.

–This is the temptation that the serpent offers.

–To “know” evil is to have intimacy with it.

–To allow it to become a part of us.

–And this is truly the reality we live in.

–Not only do we live in a broken world—one of disease, death and selfishness.

–But, somehow it is part of us.

–Now, whether you call it original sin, or some other label, it seems to be a part of our human condition.

–No matter how enlightened we become, how educated, how affluent, how socially aware and self-reflective…

–If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that there is something wrong with us.

–We can’t seem to get past hurting ourselves and this planet.

–Now here is the tricky part.

–Is this brokenness, this sin, this evil…is it personified?

–Is there really some personified evil and even an ultimate higher power who embodies evil itself?

–The Bible certainly speaks of a Tempter named Satan or the Devil.

–And if you carefully read through your Bible, this presence takes many forms, from a slithering serpent in Genesis, to a kind of accusative attorney in the book of Job, to the antithesis of Christ in the New Testament and your worst nightmare in the book of Revelation.

–Certainly, Martin Luther took this personification seriously.

–Luther viewed the world in terms of a type of “cosmic battle” with God and the Devil contending for our souls.

–God “wins” in Christ

–But we live in the in-between

–Temptation is alive and well, and the Tempter is alive and active in this world.

–So what do we do with all this?

–Do we simply go home and hide under the bed?

–Sometimes we might feel like doing just that.

–Like our world has collapsed underneath us.

–Or worse yet, we may feel that we are the cause of its collapse.

–Some people unfortunately prey upon our fears.

–They break into our sense of security and self-worth as they seek to gain power and aggrandize themselves.

–Their greatest tool is our own fears.

–And they brilliantly use this potent weapon to channel our fears into hatred of the other.

–It is a bedeviling strategy.

–If you simply hate the Irish, the Italians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Whites, the African Americans, the Gays, the Democrats, the Republicans.

–If you can simply label someone else as “other,” then you can attach all of your fears and all of your problems to those “others.”

–And if you can justify someone else as “other,” the next step of dehumanizing them is not far behind.

–Hitler used this against the Jews.

–So what can we do?

–Our reality does not seem to be as simple as a Stars Wars episode, as much as we would like it to be.

–Our reality is more messy than that.

–In our Lenten journey together, we witness that our God would not only step into this messy world, but would do so even to the point of the death of Jesus.

–That God would give God’s whole self to us in Christ Jesus.

–That God would take on our brokenness, our sinfulness, and the evil and temptations that warp our own sense of the world.

–God would in Jesus take these onto a cross and ultimately leave them in an empty tomb.

 

–I think that Luther’s language of us all being Saint and Sinner fits our reality as well as anything.

–Luther said that we are both saint and sinner simultaneously.

–It is not that we go back and forth between being good and being bad, like some cosmic game of ping-pong.

–Rather, we by faith know that though we are broken, God sees us as whole.

–We are good and bad, saint and sinner.

–Ironically, it is because of faith that we can begin to see our own brokenness and at the same time, know that we are loved by God for who we are.

–So this morning, rather than saying “The “Force be with you”

–I declare to you, “God be with you.”

–May you know a gracious God who loves you more than you could ever know.

–May you know such a love that shatters the evil of this world with one Word, a living Word, a light that the darkness could not over come.

–God bless you in this season of Lent.

***************************

Every Sunday morning you will find published here notes for the sermon my friend Pastor Bob will that morning be giving at the church he serves in San Diego.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Jim

    “May you know a gracious God who loves you more than you could ever know.”

    – Pastor Bob

    And what if you (as a Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, etc.) don’t… whose fault is that?

    “No one can know the Father unless the Son chooses to reveal Him.”

    – The Son of God

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      “Jim, stop being such a boorish dipshit.”
      – The Son of Norman Shore

      • Melody

        BOOM!! Love it.

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    I wonder if the way Star Wars went was because of demands of the time. The prequel movies were made in the 90′s, which was a time when people demanded less “black and white” in media. That’s kind of a trend in media – more of a trend toward ambiguity and moral gray. There are still idealistic “black and white” things out there, but there’s a bit of a bent these days towards “graying” even with these.

    I have my own story of fiction getting me to think about real life black and white thinking, a little piece on my blog, here: http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com/2011/12/of-monsters-and-human-beings.html – I did finish that game by the way, and there is a “good monster” in it – a sweetheart of a giant demon who loves children and is very rich and gives you reawards in the mini-quest to help him become human.

    • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

      Darn lack of edit feature – I kind of wanted to warn anyone here if they do play “Skyward Sword” – one of the main villains is a “stereotypical creepy queer guy” so, it’s not perfect, but it is overall a really good game.

  • otter

    Jim, You might actually LEARN something from how Buddhists regard evil…if you open your mind. Many paths to the same light, in my view.

    • Jim

      I do know how Buddhists regard evil… and agree with them. And I agree with you that there are many paths to the same light. Unfortunately most Christians don’t agree, and that was exactly my point in the comment.

      • DR

        You mean, your question. Right?

      • LSS

        There are whole posts ABOUT evil at this blog. suggested reading, for your curiosity.

  • Gary

    Thank you Pastor Bob, love it.

    And Jim…sigh…yeah what John said.

  • Jim

    Gee, sorry folks. I was simply asking a question that is never addressed by any pastor, and certainly not Pastor Bob in his sermon. The typical Christian sermon simply paints a pretty picture of all the good things that will come to you IF you are good enough to deserve them, and as such has nothing to do with the grace of God.

    And John, I have every right to be a boorish dipshit if that’s the way God made me.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Not here you don’t.

      • Jim

        Please don’t worry, I don’t hold it against you since you really know nothing about me, but it’s interesting how you attack me by calling me a “boorish dipshit” and do not even address my original question.

        What say you John… whose fault is it if an atheist believes as he does – that he does not believe in God (and as Christians would say, that he does not “know” God)? Is it a moral or spiritual failure on his part? Or the absence of divine revelation? Just what is your opinion, and what does scripture say?

        • DR

          Your “original question” wasn’t a question, it was commentary that you wanted to offer in the form of a question. Which is a typical, passive-aggressive move by people with an axe to grind who have no genuine curiosity in any kind of dialogue. You just want to say things. How about doing so using your words and then a “.” instead of a “?”. A lot less manipulative that way.

        • Diana A.

          Speaking strictly for myself and no one else:

          1) “Fault” is such a terrible word. I’m not going to use it. Is the atheist responsible for his/her own viewpoint? Yes. We are all responsible for our own viewpoints. At the same time, part of the joy of life is that we get to grow and change and our viewpoints grow and change with us. So, if you’re an atheist, you have a good reason to be atheist and you should be an atheist until you’re no longer an atheist. Likewise for those of us who are theists, agnostics, etc.

          2) Re: divine revelation or lack thereof. God is also free (assuming s/he exists) and may be deliberately leaving you alone until such time as you actually want to hear from him/her. If you’re not receiving divine revelation, do the best you can without it. When you need it, it will come.

          3) As for what scripture says (assuming that scripture matters to you), that you will need to judge for yourself by reading it for yourself. Some translations are better than others, so pick your favorite and read it. Most can be accessed for free on-line, which saves money.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kelly-Withee/100001922106189 Kelly Withee via Facebook

    Fantastic! Thank you.:-)

  • Jim

    My sincerest apologies for inflaming such a good group of people (and I do sincerely mean that) with one simple question. I will do you all a favor and bid you adieu. And I will even respond to this, my own final comment, so that you can all think it if you wish, but not have to say it.

    “Good riddance.”

    God bless you all.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Jim: I don’t think you “inflamed” anybody. I thought your first question was pretty dickish—but, really, I didn’t actually have any idea what you were asking: it just sounded snarky. Sorry if I mistook your tone on that; perhaps I was too eager to defend my friend Pastor Bob.

      Anyway, you leave a lot of good comments here on the blog. If you leave I, for one, won’t think of it as “Good riddance.” And I doubt anyone else will, either. This recent little thing wasn’t really much of a snarl-up, from what I could see. Anyway, sorry again if I bit you too hard.

  • vj

    Wonderfully inspiring, as always.

    And (somewhat off topic), while reading Pastor Bob’s sermon I suddenly made the connection between Martin LUTHER and the LUTHERan Church. I always knew they had German origins, but until now did not make the connection between the man and the name of the denomination… duh!

  • Philip Healey

    Dominus Vobiscum. As old as the hills. Deo Gratias!


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