4th Sunday After Pentecost

S. Pentecost 4.22 “The Resistance” Luke 10:1-20

C.S. Lewis says, in Mere Christianity: “real Christianity goes much nearer to Dualism than most people think.” Earlier in that chapter, Lewis had defined Dualism as the idea there is a Good Power and a Bad Power contending in the universe, on roughly equal terms (like the light and dark side of the Force, like Obi-Wan and Anakin/Darth Vader in Star Wars 😉 However, Lewis says Dualism will not work, though, he admits (quoting again):

“One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference [between Christianity and dualism] is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.

“Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.”

So far, Lewis. I would say this is why being a Christian in our world is like being in the French Resistance in WWII. We can’t just abandon our country, because we’re trapped, and besides: the dark shadow has covered the globe. Also, we are vastly outnumbered and materially at a huge disadvantage to the Nazis. We can’t make our own air force, armies, tanks, and wage a straight fight like David did against the Philistines, or Britain did against Nazi Germany. We can’t even make our own Google or Facebook and wage cyber-warfare effectively. We are outnumbered, outspent, and have no access to the levers of state power like the Dark Power does.

So we “surrender”; lay down our arms, and blend in. But we haven’t given up the fight, haven’t really surrendered—only outwardly. Like Bogie and Louie at the end of Casablanca, we are going to make life as difficult for the enemy as we can. We are going resist. We’ll give the transit papers to Victor Laszlo (even if he did steal our girlfriend, sorta—the enemy of our enemy is our friend. And there’s more fish in the sea. Though, I think Ingrid Bergman was far hotter than Lauren Bacal for whom Bogie eventually settled, as we all know). 

But, anyway: we will not bend the knee to the Dark Power. We’ll engage, as Lewis says, in a campaign of sabotage. We’ll gum up the works, dodge balls, throw wrenches into the machinery wherever we can, until we wear them down and more light gets through the darkness, or Bolsheviks (an enemy of our enemy that is also an enemy, maybe even a worser enemy) attack the Nazi flank and wear them down. And along the way, we might find beautiful new friendships in unlikely places, like Bogie and Louie. Oh, and we’ll shoot Major Strasser (Nazis; I hate those guys!) and not feel bad about it: (he was warned and drew first 😉

Alasdair MacIntyre (who was clearly much inspired by this picture Lewis painted in all his books) adds a couple important clarifications in his 1981 classic After Virtue, the biggest one being that: in America and Britain in the late 20th century, we usually still think we’re teetering on the edge of slipping into a new Dark Age, like Rome ca. 400, just before the barbarians invaded, or like Britain and France in 1939 just before the Nazis came storming in.

But MacIntyre says (in his famous conclusion to After Virtue) that the real problem is: we fail to recognize our predicament—we won’t see that we’ve been living in a very Dark Age, have been governed by godless, virtue-hating barbarians for at least 2 centuries. So, we aren’t in position to wage an open warfare to prevent the Dark Power from ruling our land. We’ve been ruled by Sauron, er, the Dark Power’s minions, for a couple centuries. They control most of the levers of state power, have us outnumbered, overpowered (outwardly, at least) and outgunned, materially speaking. 

MacIntyre says this is why he wrote his book: because our failure to see the Dark Power for what it really is, and the modern state as the willing (maybe sometimes unwitting?) tool in the Dark Power’s hands is what keeps us from joining the resistance campaign of sabotage, but instead keeps us (unwittingly?) on the Dark Side instead of the Light. In short: we won’t shoot Major Strasser (like Bogie does at the end of Casablanca, saving Ingrid Bergman and Victor). We’ll just put up our hands, surrender, because Strasser wears a badge. But Captain Renault’s eyes finally are open and he goes: “Major Strasser’s been shot! Round up the usual suspects!” (turning Louie from collaborator to hero). If you’re not following these Casablanca references, you need to go home and watch the film, immediately.

What does this have to do with our Gospel of Jesus sending out the 70, pastor? Everything! This is why I spent most of this homily on background, setting the stage, painting a picture. Because everything in this scene is the beginning of the true King’s resistance campaign of sabotage of the Dark Power’s insurrection. 

But, as Modern People are prone, we do not see the Devil mostly triumphant in controlling the levers of state and institutional ecclesiastical power. So, we don’t get the point of this Gospel at all, and fail to see when we’re like Captain Renault, collaborating with the Dark Celestial Nazi powers, instead of joining the Christian Resistance with Bogie, later Louie, Luther, Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Jesus sent out the 70 (and, in my opinion, the best Greek manuscripts are the ones that have 70 not 72 as in the ESV) exactly as secret agents operating behind enemy lines in a campaign of sabotage. They are told to go under cover, like lambs in the midst of wolves, like Indiana Jones and his dad, behind Nazi lines, carrying no moneybags, suitcases, and greeting no one along the way. 

The 70 go to the houses of Israel (synagogues, the ancient church) and give the code word “Peace be to this house”. And if they don’t return the countersign “and with your spirit, the Spirit of Christ” they’ll smile, play dumb, eat quickly, enjoy their hospitality and shake the dust off—because Major Strasser is on his way to arrest them!

You’ll recognize safe-houses because your peace sticks there, doesn’t bounce; so stay there, eating, drinking, worshiping in the Name. And when the 70 return they go: “Even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus retorts: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on the serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy (as agent provocateur/saboteurs!) and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

In other words, don’t try to make this world your kingdom, but pass through as beat Xn travelers. And don’t expect the modern state to be anything but an enemy keeping you from Christ.

Hmm… “how would I do that?” Well; by hearing the voice of Jesus calling (maybe not softly or tenderly 😉 but calling you by Word and Sacrament today, through faith in him alone, to join his resistance campaign of sabotage. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. 

About Pastor Martin

Pastor Kevin Martin has served six Lutheran congregations, beginning in 1986 as a field-worker in Trumbull, Connecticut, and vicarages in Arlington, Massachusetts and Belleville, Illinois. He has been pastor of congregations in Pembroke, Ontario and Akron, Ohio. Since 2000, he has served as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Raleigh. Pastor Martin is a lifelong (confessional!) Lutheran (even though) he holds degrees from Valparaiso, Yale, and Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He and his wife Bonnie have been (happily) married since 1988, and have two (awesome!) adult children, Bethany and Christopher. Bonnie is an elementary school teacher. The Martin family enjoy music festivals, travel, golf, and swimming. They are also avid readers and movie-goers.

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