The local news had our state senator, Al Franken, as a feature the last time that I watch the news hosting a pot luck cook-off in Washington DC. I can still remember when Senator Franken was an actor on Saturday Night Live, playing a pathetic self-help guru with the catchphrase, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” The joke, of course was that the character Stuart Smalley was none of those things, and telling himself that over and over did nothing to change it.
One of the great joys of my week is to spend Saturday night, via the blessings of the internet, gaming with my distant friends. We are playing a Star Wars game, with the added measure of a God who is the Source behind the Force. Now, not everyone who gets this devotion will be as huge a Star Wars fan as I am, or my nephew who is giving me a run for my money, but in this story there are the Good Guys, the Jedi and the Bad Guys, who are called the Sith. Of course to make it easier for everyone to understand the good guys run around wearing earth tones and standing calmly about while the bad guys dress in black with flaming red laser swords.
“Wow, Bruce, Daylight Savings must really have scrambled your brains. Those two things have nothing to do with one another!”
The reality is, that they do. In the real world the bad guys don’t tend to dress up and wear signs. Most of the good guys don’t wear earth tones and parade about in some Zen Buddhist detachment, either. When we hold our lives up to the standard that God laid out for good and evil, it becomes pretty clear that we are all bad guys. Perhaps we aren’t all bad the way our neighbor is, or the guy in another country is! We may even be able to walk around dressed up as one of the good guys, but I challenge any of you to get through the Ten Commandments (they are in Exodus 20) or the Sermon on the Mount (Jesus lays down God’s actual standards of right and wrong in Matthew 5-7) and say that you have it down, you have done everything right and held back from all evil. If God were handing out laser swords based on our goodness, we would all have a red one to show that we don’t make the cut. In God’s eyes, based on what we have done, we are all Sith.
That is when the voices in the backs of our head take up the cry of that Stuart Smalley character. We want to tell ourselves that we are good people though by God’s standards we are not. We want to point to the obvious sins of others as if God graded on a curve so he would ignore the less obvious sins in our own lives. We want to blame the bad things we do on our upbringings, on the injustices of this fallen world, on anything but ourselves. But all our shouting does not change the message God’s Word quietly proclaims. Just like the character Stuart Smalley, all our chanting about our own goodness and righteousness hasn’t changed a thing. We have not been perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. We have not loved God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We have failed to love our neighbor as ourselves, to love our enemies as God loved us.
If God left it there it this would be a depressional and not a devotional, but God did not leave it there. We know from Ephesians chapter 1 that God has looked forward to our lives from before the first moments of creation. Romans 5:6-8 tells us that God loved us while we were still sinners. John 3:16 tells us that he loved us so much that he gave his only son to die the deaths that we deserved so that we could live forever with him!
That is the core of our faith, the reason that we have joy. When we with our faults and sins were Sith, Jesus did everything Jedi in our place. He was perfect when we could not be. He was faithful when we were not. Then, when he was perfect, he took our place out of love for us, so that we could be forgiven.
Now when God looks at us he does not see our Sith-y deeds and Sith-y failures, he sees Jesus’ deeds, Jesus’ death on the cross, and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead that guarantees eternal life for all who believe in him.
Isn’t this a wonderful day to believe in Jesus? If you don’t already, or are wavering, don’t worry! That is exactly where we were when he loved us in the first place, so you have lost no ground! Don’t delay! Believe! Live! Accept the light-colored robes and the Jedi swords that Jesus earned for us, thank him for it, and with his help out of gratitude do your best going forward. You won’t get it right. None of us do, but that just takes us right back to Jesus where our victory started in the first place!
So from one nerd to all his brothers and sisters in Christ, thank God for Jesus and what he’s done for us. Now go and enjoy the day!