By Scott Taylor
Beh-reh-SHEET ba-RA e-lo-HEEM.
These ancient Hebrew words could be translated, roughly, as “Once upon a time.” Perhaps, they could even mean, “Long ago, in a galaxy far away.” Most often, they have been translated as, “In the beginning, God…” All of Judaism, Christianity and Islam is launched by these words. Only after these words can other stories in our faith be told – stories that have their own unique words.
“Go and build you an ark!”
“Let my people go!”
“In the days of Caesar Augustus, a decree went out…”
“There was a man who had two sons.”
Our Bible, and our faith, is filled with stories. In fact, stories may be the most often used method of communicating faith to the next generation or to the non-believer. Christ, when faced with crowds of Jewish believers and/or Gentiles who just didn’t seem to be able to get it, created stories – parables – about lost coins, sheep, fig trees, sons, wedding feasts, seeds, and Samaritans.
But stories are much older than Christ’s parables; even in the Old Testament we find stories. Remember Jonah sitting in the belly of the whale. Or perhaps Job caught in the middle of a cosmic battle of good and evil. Or Esther speaking peace to power. Scholars tell us that it is highly unlikely that any of these people ever existed. Rather, these stories were created and told and retold to each generation not for their historical authenticity, but for the meaning they convey.
In the month of May, we are going to tell some stories that are not real. These stories were created in the 1970s during a Cold War by a film maker named George Lucas who describes himself (and this is true) as a “Buddhist Methodist.” Perhaps you know the stories, perhaps you don’t. Either way, we are going to tell these stories because stories are meant to be told – especially in the church.
In the end, why did the ancient Jews tell the story of Jonah or Job or Esther? Was it because of the miracle of being swallowed by a big fish and living to tell the tale? Was it because of the outlandish hardships that Job had to face or the ascension of Jewish woman to be Queen of the Persian Empire? Or was it to remind us, since we tend to forget so easily, that we believe in a God whose providence and mercy is over all people?
Why are we telling these Star Wars stories? Is it just a gimmick? Is it just a chance for me to wear a lightsaber with my robe? Or, is it possible that somewhere, hidden beneath the fantasy and adventure and computer generated creatures, there is a truth. A simple truth that we need to remember because we forget so easily. A simple truth that hope is the force that annihilates fear. Lord knows, we need that force to be with us today.