Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

Reflection: Death has no dominion

This is the reflection I gave yesterday at the Second Annual Sci Fi and Fantasy-Friendly Service, aka the second service of the Church of Latter-Day Geeks. As you can see, the vid just made the reflection. I owe the creator big time!

On his last night with his disciples, the writer of the Gospel according to John tells us, Jesus told them that ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’(John 15:13) Somewhere in this somewhat self-centred, all-about-me, society of ours is a commitment to this at least as an idea, because it turns up all the time in pop culture.  People face death, and even die, in defence of their friends. We see it in everything from cop-buddy movies to stories about asteroids crashing into earth. We hear about true versions of that story in the middle of wars and disasters and campaigns for justice. We honour the people willing to be imprisoned and to risk assassination because of what they believe is right, and when they’re killed, we remember people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King and Oscar Romero as martyrs.

So, what makes fantasy and sci fi stories so special? They’re not unique in showing us people willing to face death out of love for friends, family, people they don’t know, and sometimes even for their enemies. Why focus on fantasy and sci fi stories today?

At every funeral the church conducts, every time we bury someone or commit their body to be cremated we say that we’re doing this in ‘the sure and certain hope of the resurrection’. I’ve had discussions with people about whether it’s possible to have a ‘sure or certain hope’ or whether that’s an oxymoron, but I think it makes sense. It’s a hope because we don’t have scientific proof of life after death in way that would satisfy Richard Dawkins, but it’s sure and certain because the victory of life over death is at the heart of the Christian faith. The church is currently in the season of Easter, when we celebrate the resurrection, the victory of life over death seen when God raised Christ from death. And as the Apostle Paul wrote: ‘Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.’ (Romans 6:3-5.)

One of the reasons that I love sci fi and fantasy stories is that they don’t just show us sacrificial death – they can show us the other side of death. Not in any way that is factually, scientifically true, but in a way that demonstrates the sure and certain hope we have that death is not the end, that ultimately life is stronger than death. We see Aslan and Gandalf and Mr Spock and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter all willingly going to their death to protect others – and then we see that their deaths didn’t end their stories. Realism can’t show us that, but sci fi and fantasy can.

People might argue that that’s all just fantasy, in the sense of it being lies or wish-fulfilment. But I prefer to go with C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia series, who described stories like these as human myths, and said that in some way they reflected God’s myth; all of them were ways that God was reflecting Godself, only in the story of Jesus God was expressing Godself ‘through what we call real things’. That argument actually contributed to Lewis’ conversion to Christianity when J. R. R. Tolkien made it to him during a long night talk.

One of the reasons that I enjoy sci fi and fantasy is that I see reflections in them of God’s myth. They tell us that death is not the end, that life is stronger than death, and remind us of the sure and certain hope that we have in the resurrection. We’re about to see some examples of that from films and TV, and I need to warn you that there’s going to be a lot of death in this video – and then there’s going to be an awful lot of hugging. So if you have problems with either death or hugs you might want to look the other way now.

The Vid

Paul wrote: “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” In Christ, death no longer has dominion over us, either, and we rejoice.

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April 23, 2012 - Posted by | Ministry, Pop Culture, Slightly Higher Culture | , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. When I look at the video I only see a car ad. Maybe because I’m in another country? If anyone else has this problem, try this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYkAvylXVzM

    That is the second bad YouTube link I’ve fixed for friends in the last hour! YouTube should be paying me. Well, actually…

    Comment by Paul | April 23, 2012 | Reply

    • Paul, can you check it now and see if the link works?

      Comment by avrilhj | April 23, 2012 | Reply

      • I’ve checked and I realize that the link “The Vid” always worked, but there was an ad directly under the Paul quote so it looked like the video ad was the video that went with the sermon. When I load the page now I don’t see that ad. So if you have removed the ad then thanks because I found it confusing. If you didn’t remove it, then I don’t know where it went because I’ve done all I could to try and bring it back — reload the page, log in and out of wordpress, but I can’t bring that ad back. Fortunately I still have the window open with the ad so I know it was there and I’m not going crazy.

        Comment by Paul | April 23, 2012

  2. So, should Youtube be docking your pay instead …?

    Comment by avrilhj | April 23, 2012 | Reply


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