by Ken McIntosh
This year, the world is celebrating a very special season, in a very special way. Evidence of the unique meaning of this time is a phrase that we hear repeated, in some cases daily.
“May the Force be with you!”
It really is very appropriate for this season, when many of the world’s religions celebrate the battle between the dark side and the light…the winter solstice could perhaps be regarded as one epic lightsaber duel… the annual return of the Jedi. For Christ-followers, it is the time of the year when we choose to celebrate the Force coming to live among us.
John’s Gospel begins with a word of enormous importance…a somewhat mysterious word…and that word is… ‘the Word.’ “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That’s some ‘Word!’
Oceans of ink have been poured out trying to explain and understand ‘the Word.’ In Greek the word is ‘Logos.’ It has survived and transmuted into our language today whenever we speak of a brand ‘logo.’ The Word ‘Logos’ was used outside of the Bible—used a lot, in fact, for centuries. It had meaning for Jews, Greeks and Romans. And it was still somewhat mysterious.
Jews associated the Divine Logos with the Hebrew word ‘Amar,’ = “to speak, to utter”…as in Genesis 1, “In the Beginning… God spoke, saying let there be…and there was…and it was good.” The first words of John’s Gospel echoes Genesis, “In the Beginning was the Word…”
The Greeks also spoke much of the Word. The Logos was the ordering principle, or the cosmic pattern, that underlay all things. Heraclitus spoke of the Word as the rational and divine intelligence that controlled the universe. In fact, for the Greeks the Word was what made the universe the UNIverse (as opposed to a disordered omni-verse); the Word was the single unifying factor shared by a vast number of diverse phenomenon in the cosmos.
I am sure that if ancient sages could speak to us at the end of 2015 they would readily affirm—“In the beginning was the Force!” Remember Obi Wan’s first description of the force, from the original 1977 Star Wars? “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power… It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” That sounds an awful lot like the Greek philosopher Heraclitus!
So the thinkers and mystics of the ancient world knew the Word the same way that people now know the Force. They could protest, like Han Solo protests in the first movie “There’s no mystical energy field controls my destiny!” Or give benedictions like a Jedi “May the Force be with you!”
But there are things they could not know about the Word…not until “the Word became flesh and made his home among us.”
They could not know that the Word would look at humanity through eyes filled with compassion.
They could not know that the Word would challenge a lynch mob telling them “Whoever is without sin, let them cast the first stone,” and then assure a shamed woman, “Neither do I condemn you.”
They could not know that the Word would weep, shedding tears at the death of a friend.
They could not know that the Word would shed tears again, thinking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem, and say to the women of Palestine “I have longed to gather you, like a hen gathering her chicks under her wings.”
They could not possibly imagine that the Word would rasp out a phrase, over and over, from the cross, “Abba, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” “Abba, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
The Force was strong in that One.
Christians have gotten their theology backward, over the centuries. They have sometimes proclaimed “Jesus is like God…Jesus does what God does.” But in fact it’s the reverse. In fact, “God is like Jesus…God does what Jesus does.”
Yes, the Force was in Jesus of Nazareth… and the Force is with us still. Not just a fact of history, but a reality today.
We can feel the Force within us, and…the Force is still speaking.
And that’s Good News for 2016, because the power of the Dark Side still entices us.
In 2016 we need to heed well the words of that ancient prophet of the Word, Master Yoda. “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Fear-talk abounds: be afraid of terrorism, be afraid of refugees, be afraid of people with darker skin, be afraid of people who follow other religions, be afraid of your neighbor, be afraid of the future…be afraid, leading to anger, leading to hate, leading to suffering.”
Jesus still speaks, saying “In this world you will have many troubles, but do not give in to fear, for I have overcome the world!”
God is love.
The Force is love.
Be strong in the Force, and may the Force be with you.