Episode seven continues the epic battle, out there in that far, far away galaxy, in that time long, long ago. Parallels with the battles of life are not difficult to make. This is an epic conflict between darkness and light, good and evil, set against incredible backdrops with a fistful of warmhearted throwbacks to the first Star Wars film. It’s thirty years since we first wandered into that world and yet the struggles continue on a daily basis. The heroes are still flawed and reluctant. Not that different to this planet earth, here, here and now, now. There is a moment in episode seven when the ageing Han Solo, still fast talking and quick quipping (the thing I always loved about Star Wars), bumps into the bad guy, Kylo Ren, on a bridge. The bad guy, in true Darth Vader fashion, wears a big black helmet, the kind he’d be asked to remove if he went into Bideford Tescos. When Han asks him to take it off he says, ‘What do you expect to see when I remove this mask?’ Mr Solo replies, ‘The face of my son.’
Apologies for this slight spoiler, though the information is revealed fairly early on in the story. But it was this moment that leapt out at me when watching. Ren is Han’s son, but he claims not to be, he believes that that boy is long gone. He has lost touch with his identity, shelved himself and become something else. Han calls him back, with raw compassion. He has not stopped loving him, he has not stopped seeing him as his own son. Even if Ren has long ditched that idea.
We all wear masks to get through the day, they may not be big and black and make us look like Lord Vader, but we put on personas to help us deal with life. However, God sees through them, knowing us as the children he loves, calling us back to that identity. It’s hard not to cover up, like Ren we create our new selves, and cling to these masks. Life without them can be too frightening, too hard. When Jesus met folks he often unmasked them, not to embarrass them, but to set them free. When an ostracized woman (in Luke 8 v 43) reached for him in a crowd Jesus wouldn’t let her slip away. He called to her, waited until she was ready to step up, and then he looked her full in the face, and showed her honour and respect. And no doubt a smile too. Han Solo asked his son to remove the mask, reminding him who he was and assuring him that he still loved him. Isaiah chapter 43 begins with the line ‘But now, O Israel, the LORD who created you says: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”’ This is the promise of God, he knows us, he calls us by name and in offering his son he has paid for us to be set free.