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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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It’s hard to give a non-spoilery review of The Last Jedi, because I have so many thoughts and feelings about it that I almost have too much to say! It’s complex and multi-layered and tragic – and there’s so much going on beyond the surface level action. Watching it a second time was really useful in helping to untangle some of my thoughts and identify some key thematic beats that I’d missed the first time. I recommend a second viewing! The more I ponder the themes and characterisation in this movie the more I love it.

This is certainly a sad movie in many ways, but I found the darker, tragic themes compelling and moving. Kylo Ren is the most complex, interesting movie villain in a long time. All the characters experience significant challenges and heartbreak. When a favourite character explains that “failure is the greatest teacher” (paraphrasing) it’s clear that this is key to the whole story. How will we respond to failure? And how will we deal with the past? This story is about expectation, betrayal and loss – but also hope. The theme of hope occurs repeatedly throughout, in the mouths of different characters. Where is hope to be found? With a nod back to IV, who is “our only hope”? And will our hopes prove true? Or is hope lost? Some of the bigger questions are left to be answered in the next episode but, like these characters, the audience needs to have faith. “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe it when you see it you’ll never make it through the night.”

I love that Rian Johnson took such a fresh look at our favourite SW tropes – from heroism to mythology to battles to romance: “It’s not going to go the way you think!” He clearly loves these characters and loves this universe, but he’s not afraid to subvert our expectations and make us look at things in a new way. He throws things away and burns them up – but nothing is truly lost. It’s all still there – ready to be rediscovered by a new generation. All our young characters have lot of growing up to do in this movie – heroics, temper tantrums, running away, naïve expectations, slavish obedience, useless rebellion… Each one has something important to learn, some heartbreak to respond to. Like his characters, Rian forces us to question what it really means to be a hero. What – or who – should we fight for? And I love that there’s so much wisdom and strength in his female characters.

I loved all the characters in this – and some grew on me in the second watching. And the acting is superb. Adam Driver, Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley in particular are all fantastic. And of course the visuals and effects are stunning. Not only the classic SW ship interiors and battles, but Ahch-To and Crait are stunning and memorable.

So, anyway, a few of my favourite or most memorable things (in no particular order):

  • The chemistry between x and y
  • The humour (Hux, tickling, Chewie and the porgs…)
  • The tragic backstory
  • The cave
  • Hands hands hands
  • The anti-war theme
  • An old friend’s laughter and wise words
  • Forcetiming
  • Near-perfect examples of mansplaining from a certain hotshot pilot
  • THE FIGHT (woohoo!)
  • Rey’s compassion and courage
  • Rose’s joy while on the run
  • “You’re not alone.”
  • “Please.”
  • “…that piece of junk…” (about you know what!)
  • R2D2’s emotional manipulation
  • “Yes, say that.”
  • Twin suns
  • The angst and heartbreak
  • RED
  • “Save what you love…”
  • When one character shows us what it really means to let go of the past
  • The Millennium Falcon being awesome
  • Rey’s emotional parentage reveal
  • More than one amazing lightsaber moment
  • DJ’s parting line
  • “No one’s from nowhere
  • ”The spark(s)
  • “We have everything we need”

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Perhaps my favourite critical review: Slashfilm: ‘The Last Jedi’ Doesn’t Care What You Think About ‘Star Wars’ – And That’s Why It’s Great

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If you’re a small group leader or involved in leading prayer ministry, check out this excellent list of practical tips for leading prophetic prayer times.

Also, check out the helpful post on prophetic activation exercises.

A Servant God

The Lord said that he had come ‘not to be served but to serve’. Many people think of this as a temporary interruption of Jesus’ normal experience, which would be to receive service. In fact, serving is God’s business. …

Hawthorne writes that [reading Philippians 2:6 as ‘although he was God’] is to miss the essential point … In other words:

Your attitude should be same as that of Christ Jesus, who – precisely because he was in very nature God – did not consider equality with God to be grounds for grasping, but poured himself out, taking the very nature of a servant.

Jesus did not take on the ‘outward form’ of a servant. Paul uses the same term to describe both Jesus’ servanthood and his Godhood … When Jesus came in the form of a servant, he was not disguising who God is. He was revealing who God is.

I remember hearing a Christian speaker say once that pride is forbidden to human beings, but is okay in God because, after all, he is God. This is wrong. God is the Infinite Servant. God is the most humble being in all the universe. Jesus did not come as a servant in spite of the fact that he is God; he came precisely because of the fact that he is God.

From ‘The Life You’ve Always Wanted’ by John Ortberg (p.115) – italics original, bold mine.

This passage is from his chapter on pride and humility in which he helpfully describes humility as ‘healthy self-forgetfulness’.

We will know that we have begun to make progress in humility when we find that we get so enabled by the Holy Spirit to live in the moment that we cease to be preoccupied with ourselves, one way or the other. … humility involves a Copernican revolution of the soul, the realisation that the universe does not revolve around us.

He points out that pride is a ‘persistent problem for people who strive for spiritual growth … When I try to do something good, I am intensely aware of it. And I tend to think of other people who aren’t putting forth the same effort…’

One of the hardest things in the world is to stop being the prodigal son without turning into the elder brother.

He goes on to describe how the practice of Servanthood, as demonstrated by Jesus, is the only way to find true humility.

In his chapter ‘Refashioning the Clay’ Samuel Wells acknowledges the huge contribution the Big Bang and evolutionary theory have made to science, but cautions against turning them into theology, for “you get a single word answer: survival. The whole dynamic of history mutates into survival; and adaptation that enables survival is called progress. Conflict is at the heart of every encounter, and survival is the reward for those who win the battle.

“But Christianity has a very different answer.

“Christians believe the logic – the logos, or word – at the heart of the universe is not about survival. It’s about death and resurrection. The ultimate future doesn’t belong to those who have fought and prevailed, it belongs to those who have laid down their lives for others.

Samuel Wells, in Learning to Dream Again

AUGUSTINE on the Incarnation

Man’s maker was made man,
That He, Ruler of the stars,
Might nurse at His mother’s breast;
That the Bread might hunger,
The Fountain thirst,
The Light sleep,
The Way be tired on its journey;
That the Truth might be accused of false witness,
The Teacher be beaten with whips,
The Foundation be suspended on wood;
That Strength might grow weak;
That the Healer might be wounded;
That Life might die.

Adapted from Sermons 191.1 by Augustine of Hippo, author unknown.

And I like how this blogger continues:

…That the hungry may have bread,
The thirsty a fountain,
Those asleep, a light;
That the lost may find The Way,
The false may live in Truth,
The fools may astound the wise,
The worthless may find their worth;
That the weak may be strong;
That the wounded may be healed;
That the dead may live again.

Christmas Carol Mashup

Can you guess the 19 Christmas Carols in this mashup?

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Saviour.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant light
Born that man no more may die.

Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this
He hath ope’d the heav’nly door
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Guide us to Thy perfect light.

The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where he lay
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.
The angel of the Lord came down:
“Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
Let steeple bells be swungen,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.”

And all the souls on earth shall sing,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day,
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of His love.
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;
Born is the King of Israel!

Printable version


If you only had one prayer to pray, what would it be?

In the 19th century Russian tale ‘The Way of the Pilgrim‘ a pilgrim journeys across Russia, seeking to practise Paul’s command to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17) by constantly repeating the ‘Jesus Prayer‘,”Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner“, an ancient confessional long-revered in Eastern churches. More recently, evangelicals became enthusiastic about repeating daily the prayer of Jabez“Oh that you would bless me indeed and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from the evil one.” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).

Inspired by the pilgrim’s tale*, I pondered my own choices: if I had to choose a simple prayer to repeat constantly, what would it be? Not that I disliked the ‘Jesus Prayer’, but curiosity left me wondering if there was an even simpler option. Perhaps “Help me, God!” or “Come, Holy Spirit“? “Abba, father” or “Jesus, let your kingdom come“? What was the most basic, most fundamental prayer of my life? Certainly I would have rated all of these as fundamental at various times. But in musing on this question again recently, I came to a even simpler answer.

I want every prayer that I pray to acknowledge who God is and who I am. For I have authority and agency: what I do and say matters. Yet it is God who loves me, calls to me, rescues me, sets me on my feet, and sends me. It is his Spirit that gives me new life, his kingdom which compels me. How could a single prayer encompass so much? Was there a prayer that would reflect the most fundamental desires of my life: to live in agreement with how God has made me, and what he says about me, to be filled with the Spirit, and to submit my life to his purposes and kingdom rule? When I put it that way the answer seemed obvious: agreement and submission can be summed up in a single word.

I believe that the simplest, and most fundamental, prayer that I can pray is “Yes.”

“Yes” encompasses acceptance and invitation, agreement and obedience, triumph and celebration. It’s agreeing to try something new, and confirming a request. It’s answering the door, and accepting seconds of dessert. It’s admitting blame, and conceding defeat. It’s agreeing to marry! It’s the shout of victory, and the exclamation of an overflowing heart.

With a single word I can say so much. I want to say “Yes” to everything that God says about me; “Yes” to his love and his saving grace; “Yes” to the life of the Spirit and crucifying the old self; “Yes” when he calls my name and asks me to leave everything and follow him; “Yes” to everything he asks from me. I will declare “Yes” to Jesus as Lord and King, and a wholehearted “Yes” to every good thing he has for others. And along the way I want to celebrate everything that he has made and done and purposed with a resounding “Yes!”

Praying “Yes” acknowledges my authority and agency: God asks -not compels – me in all things. And yet by itself the word is meaningless – it is simply a response. In order to respond, there must be first a question or command. Thus with this simple prayer I can profess the reality of God as ultimate source and final question: all of creation must answer. My answer is “Yes.”

I am made to freely respond to God’s love. I am a free agent who finds peace only in surrender. I am an individual made for relationship. I have authority only in agreement. He loves me; I love him. He calls me; I answer. He sets me on my feet; I walk beside him. He gives me identity and purpose. Everything he says about me is true, everything he commands is because he loves me. I can only say “Yes” to him, because he first said “Yes” to me.

So, I was convinced. Simple, yet profound, “Yes” seemed a worthwhile prayer to spend time with – and the nervousness I sensed within me made me confident that it held plenty of potential for wrestling with deeper things. So, how would I go about using this simple prayer?

In a nod to the Russian pilgrim it’s my intention to use the prayer as a meditation during a pilgrimage of sorts. I am planning for this pilgrimage, which I expect to take some time, to take me on a journey through the various questions, statements and commands put before me in the Bible. As I consider each “Yes”, and I expect there to be many different kinds, it will be with the intention of understanding what God is saying or asking in a deeper way than before. As with the practice of the Jesus Prayer, my hope is to hear God’s voice. And I am certain that along the way I shall find many ways to say “Yes”.

Despite the simplicity of the words, and the familiarity of much of the territory I expect to cover, I don’t expect an easy journey – in fact I am sure it will be adventurous, challenging and occasionally scary. Though I remain confident of the value of an intentional journey with God, and in his capacity to surprise me.

Though on the face of it ‘Yes’ is an easy word, it’s often very hard to say. Submitting to authority can be hard; acknowledging responsibility is tough; following Jesus means leaving things behind. Part of me is deeply scared of this word. What parts of my heart are not in agreement with God? And what about all of the ways in which I’m not fully obedient to him? There’s no doubt about it: saying “Yes” to God requires trust. It’s not meant to be easy, but it requires a decision.

“Will you trust me?” he asks. It’s the first question. I take a deep breath. “Yes.”

 

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” JRR Tolkien, in the Lord of the Rings.

*I first came across this story – I think – in Philip Yancey’s ‘Prayer’.