Strange New Worlds
July 24, 2022
First Christian Church
I’m just going to tell you right now that this sermon is going to be full of pop culture references, especially Star Trek. Just want you to be warned.
This year a new series started called Star Trek Strange New Worlds. It is wildly popular. This series is actually a prequel to the original Trek that debuted in 1966. It includes some of the characters from the old series like Spock, Uhura, Nurse Chapel, and if you can include a starship as a character, the Enterprise. But maybe the one reason the show works so well is because of the ship’s Captain, Christopher Pike played by Anson Mount. If you are an avid fan, you know of Pike. He showed up as the captain in the first pilot of Star Trek back in 1965. That pilot was not loved by NBC, so after some retooling, another pilot was made. By that point the captain was different. Christopher Pike was gone, and in his place was James T. Kirk. Interestingly that abandoned pilot was repurposed later in the first season and we are given more information about Pike. The new series starts with Pike coming to terms with a vision he experienced before the series starts. He is given a chance to see into his future. Side note: if someone gives you the opportunity to see your future, don’t do it.
But Pike did and he would soon regret it. In a decade, he will lead cadets on a training mission. When an accident occurs, Pike rushes to save as many cadets as possible. Several of them are saved but at a price. He is severely injured and has to end up in a 23rd-century version of a wheelchair. His face is scarred by radiation burns. He is only able to communicate through the chair itself.
Seeing such a horror haunts Pike. It is the background theme throughout the first season of the show. Everywhere where he goes he is haunted by this future image of himself and he is burdened with this knowledge.
What do you do when you know how your life might turn out? Would you live your life differently? Or would you withdraw because you’re shaken by the news?
Let’s put in our context: what do you do when the organization you are a part of seems fragile and where the future doesn’t seem so certain? Do you live helping others or do you pull in?
In the text, the disciples are freaked out. I’ve never been in a boat during a storm, so I can’t totally relate. But I’ve been in storms while driving and that can be quite scary. I remember this time last year being in Michigan and driving back to the hotel in Flint after visiting relatives in Detroit. The rain came down in sheets and the wind howled. It was so bad I had to pull over and hope the storm would pass. The disciples had to feel a sense of feeling helpless and alone and they were just mad that Jesus is sleeping through it all! All that Jesus has to do is to speak to the storm and it stops! They are flabbergasted.
I think in the life of this church we have gone through storms as people have left and budgets have shrunk. You have to wonder, does God care? Why is God so silent? Well, God did answer; by finding a buyer. God does care! We now have some cash flow and we have the opportunity to start again. So, everything is a happy ending, right?
There is a scene from the Simpsons where Ned Flanders, the goody two shoes is trapped in a pen with some very angry monkeys. Reverend Lovejoy (who is neither) takes charge, grabs the toy train that winds its way around the zoo, and saves Ned from the angry monkeys. Ned is saved, until the train heads right back into the cage of angry monkeys.
I need to thank Rev. Elizabeth “Libby” Shannon for her insight into this passage from Mark, especially this part. The disciples were saved from the storms, but it wasn’t smooth sailing after that. Instead, they get to the other side and who is there to welcome them? A demon-possessed guy that calls himself legion. The disciples are starting to think that maybe being in a storm wasn’t so bad. God through Jesus saved the disciples from ruin, but that didn’t mean life was smooth sailing after that. People still need healing. Demons needed to be cast out. Mission still continued. All the while, Jesus is saved from the storm, but he knows where he’s headed. He knows the cross and his death looms larger and larger.
The interesting thing about Captain Pike is that even though he knows what is going to happen to him down the road, he still does his work. He fiercely stands up for his crew and works to help others in need. He saves a world that is on the brink of civil war. He works to help a crew member dealing with PTSD. He keeps doing what he can to make the galaxy a better place from the captain’s chair. Matthew Rossi, the author of the article about Captain Pike says that he’s living his life knowing his fate is a sign of hope. He talks about how different Pike is from the well-known Captain Kirk. This is what he says,” Where Kirk was a daredevil risk taker who inspired his crew with idealism and heroics, Pike is more of a firm, brave and steadfast enabler while also containing plenty of both heroism and idealism.
It’s a very different message from the original series but it serves as a lovely counterpoint to it. It says that yes, life isn’t fair. You might not get the life you want. You might end up suffering, and it won’t be right, and it won’t be just. You won’t deserve it. But even if it happens, and even if you can’t possibly stop it from happening, how you face it can itself be a victory. There is always the hope of possibly helping someone, somewhere see a better future, even if you won’t be here for it.”
One of the ways people have described this congregation right now i that we are fragile and I would agree with that. I can’t tell you that we will survive in the near future. I’m not saying all is lost, I’m being honest. I do want us to survive and thrive. We’ve already had two local Disciple congregations close recently and I don’t want us to be the third. Here in Minnesota, there need to be congregations like ours, ones that are strong in the classic Christian faith and also welcoming of diversity, especially LGBTQ people. There need to be Disciple congregations that want to keep everyone at the communion table in a time when we are so tribal. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, there needs to be a Disciples congregation that is diverse and seeks to bring people of different races and ethnicities together.
At some point, congregations end their visible ministries. I hope ours is decades down the road, but we aren’t promised this. But the fact of the matter is that it will end. And our own lives will end as well. How will we live our lives both separately and corporately? What will we do with the time we have. How will we live?
I want us to live with the hope of helping others. I want people to see our witness and seek to join us in this long-shot journey of hope. I want us to live by growing in our faith and then making a difference in the world so that regardless of how things turn out, people we don’t even know can say, “That group of people made a difference in my life through their love of God and one another.”
So, dear friends, as we say goodbye to 650 Wildwood Road, and also say goodbye to some of the storms that have been faced. We will meet challenges just as Jesus and his disciples faced. As we enter a new phase that is still murky, let’s do what we are called to do: preach the gospel, make disciples, and pursue God’s justice. God is calling us forward, so let’s go. Let us enter this Strange New World. Thanks be to God. Amen.