By Rev. Matthew Kieswetter
I write this in the days following the release of the newest Star Wars movie: The Rise of Skywalker.
Let’s have some fun and see if some reflections on Star Wars might provide opportunities to think about Christian stewardship. And I mean “stewardship” comprehensively: generally meaning our care-taking of the gospel of reconciliation that has been entrusted to us.
And so we begin. (Imagine these points set to an epic John Williams score, in the style of the opening crawl that characterizes the movies of the Star Wars franchise.)
- In the mid 1970s George Lucas had gained some respect as a filmmaker, though he hardly had the reputation needed to helm a big budget, world-building, international production. Amazingly, the producers came to trust this visionary director, taking a big leap of faith. And in the end this paid off, when what they thought would be an idiosyncratic genre picture became a huge blockbuster. We might learn from this that there are times to take bold, audacious steps forward in our ministries. And times when we would do well to trust those that seem to possess a wise, unique vision.
- While many of us owe much childhood joy to George Lucas, we must also admit that he is a person of signifiant limitations. Following the success of the original Star Wars film he, perhaps having come to terms with his flaws as a writer and director, engaged the services of Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan, and Irvin Kershner. Knowing his limitations, Lucas collaborated with others, producing The Empire Strikes Back, which is universally understood as the best of the Star Wars films. Are we aware of our personal and congregational limitations? Do we know what people, organizations, or resources might help us transcend our constraints?
- Many years after Empire, Lucas would, for whatever reason, become oblivious to his artistic shortcomings. The result is the prequel trilogy from the early 2000s. With misplaced faith in himself and computer-generated effects, Lucas birthed three terrible movies that have permanently marred the franchise. We would do well to learn from this. Do we, as congregations, sometimes put too much faith in novelties (or our own selves)?
- The newest trilogy generally has been well-received by critics. However, the second entry, The Last Jedi, drew much vitriol from the Star Wars fanbase, with many angry internet-users feeling that it left questions unanswered and disrespected its heritage. As time passes, critical consensus seems to affirm the risks made by its director Rian Johnson. Are we, as congregations and individuals, able to weather criticism and bad behaviour that sometimes crops up when bold decisions (or changes) are made?
These are but a few thoughts from a much larger list. I hope that they lead to some deeper reflection on stewardship and congregational leadership. One thing that is certain is that Star Wars demonstrates the power of stories in our lives. May our proclamation be sincere and spirited. And may the Force be with us.
Rev. Matthew Kieswetter is the rector of the St. Andrew’s Memorial, Kitchener and a member of Diocesan Stewardship Committee.