Sunday, March 29, 2015

Do You Think That I Care For You So Little?

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

The Clara Oswald we see in the recent Doctor Who episode called “Dark Water” is in a very dark place. Traumatic events in her life have caused her to lash out at the Doctor, seeking his help in the most destructive of ways. She tosses spare TARDIS keys one by one into the lava from the volcano she has convinced him to visit, thinking that the Doctor will never agree to her plan unless she threatens both of their lives.

She soon finds out, however, that she was wrong. There’s nothing the Doctor wants to do more than help her find her boyfriend. Clara still finds it hard to believe, after everything she did, that he would want to do anything other than take her home for good. “You're going to help me?” she asks, incredulously.
“Well, why wouldn't I help you?” replies the Doctor.
“Because of what I just did, I...”
“You betrayed me. You betrayed my trust, you betrayed our friendship, you betrayed everything that I've ever stood for. You let me down!”
“Then why are you helping me?” Clara finally asks.
“Why? Do you think that I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”

Peter, seemingly one of the strongest disciples, denied knowing Jesus, yet Jesus never stopped loving him or putting his trust in him as a leader of the fledgling Church, even going so far as to entrust him with the keys to heaven. Although none of the Gospel writers tell us about the first meeting between Peter and Jesus after the resurrection, I imagine the conversation went something like the one between Clara and the Doctor:
“Why are you even speaking to me after what I did?” Peter might have said.
“Do you think that I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”

It’s the same conversation I imagine each of us could probably have with Jesus, many times over, and praise the Lord that we would get the same response.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

If It Saves The Earth

Just as people are destined to die once, and and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

The plot of the Doctor Who episode “The Stolen Earth” is basically what is says on the tin: the Earth has been stolen, right out from under the TARDIS, by the Daleks. While the Doctor and Donna try to figure out where it has gone, the humans stolen along with their planet must deal with their new pepper-pot overlords and figure out how to get back to their rightful location in space and time.

Former Prime Minister Harriet Jones becomes the one who marshals the Doctor’s forces in his absence. She uses a piece of alien technology called the sub-wave network, which allows her to contact everyone who might be able to get in touch with his tenth incarnation: Captain Jack Harkness in the Torchwood hub, Sarah Jane Smith, Martha Jones, and Donna’s grandfather, Wilf, who just happens to have Rose Tyler with him. All efforts to reach the Doctor have thus far been unsuccessful, but together they concoct a plan to boost the signal and get all the phones in the world to call the Doctor’s number at the same time.

There’s a problem, however. All that signal-boosting and transmitting will make the sub-wave network visible to the Daleks, who will promptly find and exterminate them. Yes, Harriet acknowledges, they would see it, but they would trace the signal back to her, thus protecting the others. “But my life doesn’t matter,” she tells them, “not if it saves the earth.”

In the end, the Daleks do find and kill her, but the heroes’ plan is successful. The Doctor finds them, the Daleks are defeated, all of the stolen planets are returned to their rightful places, yada, yada, yada. Harriet Jones’s death helps to save the earth and the day.

At least Harriet Jones was killed by an actual, fearsome enemy, and not by the very humans her sacrifice was meant to save.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

He Chose to Die

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

John Smith, the slightly odd new teacher at the Farringham School for Boys, is not who he appears to be. He is actually the Doctor, but not just in any old disguise - in order to hide from some aliens chasing him and Martha Jones across space and time, he uses the chameleon arch to change himself into a human, single heart and all, with nothing left of the Time Lord but a fancy pocket watch and strange dreams about adventures in a magic blue box.

Despite these precautions, the aliens do find their way to England in 1913. When they threaten the school, Martha makes the crucial decision to tell Smith of his true identity and encourage him to revert back to his true self in order to save the day. There is only one complication: John Smith has fallen in love with the school’s nurse, Joan Redfern. He doesn’t remember anything about this Doctor character, but he’s pretty sure that his other self won’t have the same feelings.

As it turns out, the feeling is mutual. Joan doesn’t want this other man that John Smith has become, even though the Doctor assures her that John Smith’s essence is a part of him. She rejects his offer to become a companion because he is the one who brought death and destruction to Farringham - the school wouldn’t have needed saving at all if the Doctor had not tried to hide from the aliens in the first place. Instead of facing the threat and dealing with it, he hid from it, and Joan calls him on it: “He was braver than you, in the end, that ordinary man. You chose to change, but he chose to die.”

Jesus was braver than all of us. We choose to change our minds and hearts back and forth all the time to and from the right path. We choose to hide from the things we should do, and to do the things that bring death and destruction even when we have the best of intentions. He chose to die to make up for it.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

My Lord Gave His Life

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

The Doctor and Martha Jones spend most of the episode “Gridlock” in cars that are stuck on the motorway of New New York, where the traffic jam is endless and drivers spend decades literally going nowhere. Eventually, the Doctor learns that a virus wiped out the upper city and the  motorway and undercity were sealed off to save the people there from the same fate. He also discovers that the apparent savior of the undercity is none other than The Face of Boe, who has wired himself into the power system in order to keep the undercity’s automated systems going.

Although the people of the undercity were saved from the virus, their existance is not what you would call a good life. The Face of Boe, knowing that his death is at hand, asks the Doctor to help save the people once again by freeing them from the motorway. The only problem is that to unseal them would require much more power than what is available. Finally, in one last monumental effort, the Face of Boe pours out every ounce of energy he has left in order to open the gates and allow the cars into the sunny upper city at last. “My lord gave his life for the city,” remarks Novice Hame, the Face of Boe’s caretaker.

Lent is a time to reflect on sacrifices. Some people give up something for the forty-day period because it helps them remember Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice, which opened the doors that trapped us in our pointless, smog-filled existence away from God and let us out into the light. It also gives us cause to proclaim, “My Lord gave his life for the world.”

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Paved with Good Temptations

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:1-3)

The One Ring gives its bearer great power over everyone and everything in Middle Earth, so the central characters of Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring set out to destroy it once and for all before its evil creator, Sauron, can regain control of it. Frodo Baggins is the ring bearer, but not by his own choice. He has inherited the job from his Uncle Bilbo, and twice he attempts to give the ring to someone more powerful, more important, more fit for the job than he.

He first offers it to Gandalf, but the great and wise Wizard quickly and vehemently rejects the offer, saying, “The way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength.” He would use it with the intent to protect people like the Shire-folk and to keep evil at bay, but the very nature of the ring would give him too much power and ultimately make him no better than Sauron.

Frodo tries again later, just before the Fellowship leaves Lothlorien, to give it to the Lady Galadriel. She, too, admits that she is tempted to accept, and has in the past thought about what she might do if she were to obtain it. Like Gandalf, she recognizes that it would give her too much power and ultimately end just as badly for all concerned. When Sam tells her he wishes she’d take Frodo up on his offer, to “put things to rights” and “make some folk pay for their dirty work,” she recognizes the truth of the matter: “I would….That is how it would begin. But it would not stop with that, alas.”

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We want to do something, we want to help people, but we don’t always go about it the right way, or else our real motives are not as pure as they appear to be. We are tempted to take matters into our own hands, we are tempted to say something, we are tempted to take action without thinking ahead to all of the ramifications. Sometimes, like Jesus, we are tempted to take the quick fix for our hunger or the easy way out. When we are tempted by the seemingly good or innocuous path, may we, like Jesus, Gandalf, and Galadriel, be wise enough to recognize the consequences and strong enough to resist the temptation to be in control, in power, or in the spotlight.