Film Friday: Star Trek Beyond

Spock and McCoy are not the best of friends. Their bickering goes back a long way. But when the U.S.S. Enterprise is attacked by the evil Krall they find themselves marooned together on a hostile planet. Spock is injured in the escape from the beleaguered Enterprise but Dr McCoy fixes him up, and their differences are laid to one side. Now they find themselves about to be nuked by some ominous creatures in spiky spaceships. They are in a difficult situation, but at least they have each other…

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I once heard it said that the best thing about life is other people… and the worst thing about life? Other people. Just when McCoy thinks he’s got a friend Spock vanishes. ‘Typical,’ he says, although he is prejudging the situation a little. Some days life may seem full of people we don’t like much.

I wonder whether St Paul and St Peter were not the best of friends. Peter had been through thick and thin with Jesus, Paul had only had a brief glimpse of the Messiah on the road to Damascus. Peter got stuck into the church in Jerusalem, Paul was the new kid on the block tearing off to unknown shores, inviting all and sundry to come on board with this new sect. On one occasion Paul has the audacity to tell Peter off about his reluctance to mix with some of the folks that Paul is meeting every day. Different personalities, different gifts, different life experiences, different strengths and weaknesses. The body of Jesus on earth is made up of all kinds of people. The question is sometimes asked, ‘Do you need to go to church to be a Christian?’ Well, one answer to that might be something Jesus said, about remaining in his body. (John 15 v 5) His body is not an ethereal spiritual thing, floating somewhere in the clouds; but a bunch of muddling people on earth, empowered by God’s spirit and doing their best to be the presence of Jesus in day to day life. To follow Jesus is to become part of that body of strange believers, even if we might want to maroon a few of them on a far distant planet. And I often do! As I write this I’m acutely aware of my own hot-cold relationship with the established church, my own frustrations and struggles, anxieties and weariness. But what we can say is that the church as described by Jesus is the people, not a building or institution. What’s that old saying? You can choose your friends but you’re stuck with the family.

The first churches were full of people who had issues with one another. We know that because the prolific Paul had to keep writing to them to help them sort out their differences. Peter threw in a couple of letters too, as did John, and Jesus’s own brother Jude. The church has always been this collection of disparate folks, drawn together, not by their shared interests, but by their faith in the one who the Bible describes as ‘the Prince of Peace,’ the one in whom earthly divides are set aside. Not easy on those many days when we desperately want to nuke one another, but as Jesus said himself, by loving each other in spite of our differences we show other folks that we are his disciples. (See John 13 v 35)

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  1. derek wilson says:

    Quite right, of course, and people like you who have lived under the discipline of community know better than most, as Simon Barrington-Ward once said at LA, ‘Church is the community of the unlike’. But what do we do when community atrophies? As the old adage goes, ‘A mission becomes a movement; a movement becomes a model; a model becomes a monument; and a monument becomes a mausoleum’. How does a community member maintain his/her spiritual growth (or even sanity)? Individual relationships within the group should contribute to the dynamic of the whole but the whole also has its identity. The two are always impacting on each other. If the whole is in a state of stasis it brings to bear an influence on the individual which can be very powerful, suspicious of change, stifling of innovation, hostile to anything seen as threatening to the status quo. One escape route tried by members who resist retreating into unproductive isolation is to form or join another community of LIKE-MINDED believers. But all too often the old problems start again – differences emerge; the stronger personalities start to run the show; others become disenchanted; and off we go again! Small wonder that 30% of Christians are dechurched!

  2. davehopwoodauthor says:

    Totally with you on this Derek, I recall thinking that it’s fair enough using the adage of the piece of coal only staying hot if it remains in the fire, but what if the fire itself is dwindling away? I do think that ‘church’ covers a multitude of gatherings – your film evenings for me were one way of doing a gathered church. It’s shocking to think of that 30%, yet not surprising. The challenge facing Sunday meetings is to reconnect, as life keeps moving on, I think.

  3. derek wilson says:

    Like your reference to ‘Sunday meetings’. It puts things in the right perspective. We’ve narrowed ‘worship’ to a holy hour at the weekend (or, worse still, we use the word to mean singing banal lyrics set to tenth rate music). This is what we do because this is what we do. Praise God for those churches that buck this trend and experience the dynamic of living daily under the direction of the Holy Spirit (and that doesn’t just mean charismatic congregations).

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