Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Needs of How Many?

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15: 4-7)

A major theme of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan revolves around Spock’s logical Vulcan mantra that “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Indeed, it is the driving force behind Spock’s ultimate sacrifice at the end of the movie, when he enters the radiation-filled chamber to repair the warp drive so that the Enterprise may escape the explosion that Khan sets off just before he dies. The way Spock sees it, his individual need to stay alive is not as important as the needs of the many Enterprise crew members to get away from the explosion and certain death, so he does the logical thing and takes a lethal dose of radiation to repair the ship.

On the surface, it seems like Jesus did a similar thing - he died on the cross so that every person who ever lived might have the chance to escape death. But is this actually the case? If we look deeper, we find that, in fact, Jesus didn’t die for everyone. He died for one person - you.

When Jesus told parables about seeking the lost, he spoke of the shepherd who left the rest of his flock to find the one sheep that had wandered off, and the woman who rejoiced when she found the one coin out of several that had fallen out of her purse. I’m sure Jesus thought it was wonderful when his disciples baptized thousands that first Pentecost, but not because of the overall number - because of each one that accepted him that day.

In our world of majority rule, it is easy to see the logic of Spock’s statement, yet even Spock’s friends reject it - in the next movie, subtitled “The Search for Spock,” they are laying their own lives on the line to find and rescue one person, causing Spock to comment on the illogicality of humans. It’s our nature, apparently - and since Jesus was human, it was in his nature, too. We are called to seek out the one we can help, the one who needs to hear the good news, the one we can feed, clothe, and visit. The needs of the many are irrelevant when we focus on meeting the needs of the one in front of us, because that one is the only one who matters.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

On one of Clara Oswald’s first trips through time and space with the Doctor, he takes her to an alien world with a bustling marketplace that is the Doctor Who equivalent of the Mos Eisley cantina. One unique feature of this world is that there is no currency made of “bits of paper” to trade back and forth. Instead, the people of Akhaten trade in items with sentimental value. According to the Doctor, the value comes from a sort of psychic stamp that the items gain from their owners, although Clara questions why people should have to give up things that are important to them, especially when she is the one asked to give up her late mother’s ring in order to rent a space-Vespa.

I wonder what would happen if we were suddenly required to put in the offering plate things of sentimental or emotional value to us instead of bits of paper and metal. Would it change the way we view the things we are attached to? Would it change our view of God, making us resentful for having to give up things we love?

Here’s the thing, though — isn’t that what God is already asking us to do? Not necessarily giving the church a family heirloom (although I recently read about the diamond rings and gold coins the Salvation Army occasionally finds in their kettles at Christmastime), but at the very least, making sure our priorities are in order and that we are willing to give up the tangible for the intangible, should it be asked of us.

You can’t take it with you, the saying goes, no matter how great a value you have psychically attached to it. Make sure your treasure, and your heart along with it, is in the right place.