And now for something completely different…
For the past couple of months or so, I have been watching the Netflix show Stranger Things. It first came out in 2017 and for some reason I didn’t get into it. I really should have been really excited to watch it as it checks a lot of boxes that match my interests. It is set in the mid-80s, the era of my childhood. It focuses on a group of friends who play Dungeons & Dragons together and do other nerdy things. There is a healthy dose of pre-teen and teen angst navigating the challenges of school, relationships and growing up.
Behind all of this is the fact the there is a government science lab running secret tests that result in some pretty fantastical stuff involving monsters, portals to other dimensions, missing friends and danger that could end the whole world. Of course, the kids who play Dungeons & Dragons who understand the world of fantasy are the only ones who can really figure out what is going on.
While I can see myself and my childhood in the kids in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, it is the adult characters that I identify with. I understand the sheer panic of Winona Ryder’s character, Joyce, when her son goes missing, and her determination to do anything to save him.
But it is the Chief of Police Jim Hopper whom I cannot help but identify with. He is a big shabby grump with a tragic back story, who ends up caring about the kids of Hawkins and Joyce more than he ever thinks possible. I can see that without Courtenay, Oscar and Maeve I might have found myself living a similarly grumpy and shabby life.
Now, what does this all have to do with church? Well, this week we are about to hear one of the most familiar parables of the bible, the Good Samaritan. A parable so common and whose image is so powerful that we encounter it frequently in culture, despite most biblical images falling out of the cultural awareness. (A metaphor that even Stranger things uses in on episode).
Though the Good Samaritan is story that we often think is about doing good works, caring for our neighbours even when it doesn’t benefit us, it isn’t really about that at all.
The Good Samaritan a parable Jesus uses to warn against the temptation to save or justify ourselves. To try and be the hero of our own stories, or take control of our lives and world and do it all alone.
This is where Stranger Things meets the Bible.
A common theme through the seasons of Stranger Things is that when one character thinks that they have to solve a problem, take on a mission alone or be the sole hero, they ultimately fail. It is always in team work that they succeed.
This Sunday, this is precisely what we are going to explore. Now how the Good Samaritan is an example of how to care for our neighbour, but in fact why this parable is telling us the truth that we cannot do it alone, that we cannot save ourselves, that we cannot justify ourselves.
The Good Samaritan is one of my favourite passages from the bible because when it is truly explored, it undoes our first thought about its meaning. And instead reveals to us what God is actually up to in our world and how God meets us right in the moments we are sure we don’t need God anymore.
Looking forward to Sunday.