In The End We Are All Anakin - 1st John 1:5-10 (Wednesday Night Reflection)
By now, many of you know that we are Star Wars fans. I have to admit, that while I watched all the original Star Wars movies when they were released, I waited a long time to watch Episodes I-III. Yet it wasn’t until Joshua took an interest in Star Wars that we truly became hooked—and it wasn’t until I watched the two trilogies together than I began to realize that my thoughts on Star Wars had been all wrong. I always thought Star Wars was about Luke Skywalker. If you think it is, then I’m here to tell you that it is not…at least Episodes I-VI are not.
Last year Joshua declared that his favorite person in Star Wars was Darth Vader. Last October that is who Joshua decided he was going to dress up as. That bothered me. Part of the reason it bothered me was that Joshua claimed his disdain for my favorite character, Han Solo, and his ship, the Millennium Falcon. I think of Han Solo as the brother in Jesus’ parable that says he isn’t going to help his father, and then shows up anyway and gives it all he’s got. But that’s not the biggest reason that Joshua picking Darth Vader as his favorite bothered me. It was because Joshua is the preacher’s grandson and Darth Vader is the personification of evil—he’s the bad guy. What is the preacher’s grandson doing liking the villain of all people? I kept trying to convince him otherwise. What’s wrong with Luke? What’s wrong with R2D2, C3PO, Yoda, or any of the others? Nope…Vader remained his favorite. Then, last November, after watching Episodes I through IV in their story timeline rather than chronological release, it hit me. Star Wars is not about Luke Skywalker. It is not about the galaxy. Star Wars is about the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, who eventually becomes known as Darth Vader. With that knowledge, when Joshua said that this year he wanted to be Anakin, I didn’t try to talk him out of it, I actually went in search of an Anakin Skywalker costume.
It’s funny. The more I thought about Joshua being Anakin Skywalker and thought about those first six movies, and with the anticipation of the next installment of the series in December, I decided that I wanted to find an opportunity to preach a Star Wars message. And when Joshua’s costume came in and he put it on, it hit me, when it comes down to it, we are all Anakin Skywalker.
We may like to think we’re more like Luke, a humble unprepared servant thrust unexpectedly into service, and we go, struggling to do the right thing. We may think of ourselves as Han Solo, a care-free spirit with a tender heart hidden by a tough exterior. Some of us, particularly the lady folks, may consider ourselves Princess Leia, an adventurous royal tomboy. Those who are carriers of age-old wisdom or who are vertically challenged may see themselves as Yoda. However there are very few of us who would jump up and say, “I identify with Darth Vader. Yet the truth of the matter is, most of us, truly all of us, are Darth Vader, or at least are Anakin Skywalker.
You see, Anakin was a young man who felt torn between the light side of the force and the dark side…and we see this battle raging within him through the second, third, and sixth episodes. The dark side pulling at him, encouraging him to give in to the pull of anger, desires for vengeance, and the craving of power—all the while trying to make it look like the right thing to do; the light side pulling him to choose to do what is right, to choose loyalty, honor, and the preservation of life. Anakin succumbs to the pull of the dark side and its lies, and becomes Darth Vader…choosing to live in darkness.
My brothers and sisters, that is the pull that each of us faces. That is the pull that has tugged on the hearts and minds of humanity since the Garden of Eden. The serpent could be seen as an agent of the dark side, spinning its lies of wisdom and knowledge, pulling on our craving to be our own gods, and in doing so, lured Adam and Eve to choose sin over holiness. Scripture is filled with stories of God’s people struggling with the decision between the dark side and the light side…between sin and holiness.
Moses succumbed to that pull when he let anger take control and he struck the rock that God had commanded him to speak to in order to bring forth water.
David succumbed to that pull when he had Bathsheba brought to his palace.
Jonah succumbed to that pull when, after Nineveh fell, he went out of the city and pouted, because he had wanted to see his enemy destroyed.
Judas Iscariot succumbed to that pull, when he chose to betray his friend for thirty pieces of silver, possibly in an attempt to push Jesus to be the warrior-king that he felt Jesus should be.
We all face that pull…we all have darkness spinning it’s lies of power and prestige seeking to lure us to the dark side…all the while hearing God’s call to holiness and righteousness.
Paul offers images of choosing between living by the flesh or by the spirit…or, as in today’s reading, choosing between living under the power, or rule, of darkness or choosing to live as citizens of the Kingdom of light.
The Gospel of John offers us the image of Jesus as the Light of True Lights that has come into the dark world to offer a better way, a better choice—and yet, as the Gospel of John tells us, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.”[i]
Sadly, like Anakin, like Adam and Eve, like Moses, like David, like Jonah and Judas, we all give in to the pull of the dark side, we all give in to the pull of sin. If we arrogantly think we do not, then we lie to ourselves, we lie to others, and we lie to God. Paul reminds the Romans and reminds us, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”[ii]
And John says:
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
We all have sinned. If we claim that we are holy and have not sinned, John says that makes us liars…and according to Scripture, lying lips are an abomination to God. So in saying we have not sinned, we have created one of the most grievous of sins to God, we have lied. Again…we have all sinned…at some point or another in our lives, maybe at some point or another today, we have chosen the darkness…we have gone to the dark side…we have chosen to be Anakin.
Yet, thanks be to God, choosing the dark side does not leave us forevermore locked into living as a member of the dark side. As I said, Episodes I through IV are about the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Without giving away the key scene, let me just share that in multiple places Anakin/Vader are presented with the pull of either the dark side or the light…at any point Anakin/Vader can choose to walk out of the darkness and into the light…at any point he can redeem himself…and when it matters most, that’s exactly what he does.
God offers that same opportunity to each of us. We have, in each and every moment of our lives, the opportunity to choose to walk out of the darkness into the light. We cannot, like Vader, choose to redeem ourselves, but, as John’s letter tells us, the blood of Christ has already cleansed us from our sins, we have already been redeemed, we just have to choose whether we love the darkness and want to stay separated from God, as lost in our sin as Vader was to the dark side, or whether we are going to step out into the light of our Savior and surrender ourselves to the Light of the World. May we choose to grasp hold of the love of God. May we choose to let go of the lies that evil tells us. May we surrender our lives to the One who was tempted by the darkness in every way, just as we are, yet chose to remain in the Light; actually chose to remain The Light. May we let the force that is the undeniable power of the Holy Spirit join us to Christ and empower us to choose to live in the Light. Maybe, just maybe, when all is said and done, maybe we all should readily seek to identify with Anakin, who is Darth Vader…better yet…may we, in our surrender to the Light, choose to identify with the Light…who is Jesus.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.