Terminator Salvation – What Would The Terminator Make Of Jesus?

Below is a rough script I used for a Christmas assembly at our local secondary school. I didn’t follow it exactly but used it as more of a springboard to jog my memory and keep track. Hope it entertains and enlightens.

“As Christmas approaches you’ve probably already heard or you will do soon, plenty of people saying something like “it’s important to remember the true meaning of Christmas.” People will say that “Christmas isn’t just about getting lots of presents and eating too much. It’s a time for family and friends, remembering all the great things we’ve got to be thankful for and things like that.”

Maybe some of you’ll go to a carol service at a church and someone will say something like “it’s important we remember the true meaning of Christmas. It isn’t just about getting lots of presents and eating too much or even just about family and friends and remembering all the great things we’ve got to be thankful for. No the real meaning of Christmas is to remember the birth of Jesus.” You’ve probably heard things like that plenty of times before.

But the problem with leaving it at that, is that it doesn’t really tell us why we should be bothered about that and so it’s easy for us to misunderstand why Jesus was born. I’m going to show you a video from the American series Mad TV, which is a parody of Terminator 2. And in the video, the Terminator has been sent back in time to the night of Jesus’ birth with orders to protect him.

In the video, the Terminator doesn’t understand why Jesus was born and so it does everything it can to protect Jesus from any harm, including shooting the Roman soldiers and killing Judas so that he won’t be able to  betray Jesus. And it doesn’t seem able to grasp the fact that Jesus is supposed to die to save his people from their sins, despite Jesus’ best efforts to try and make it understand.

And that kind of shows us why simply saying that Christmas is a time to remember the birth of Jesus isn’t really enough. If we don’t understand that Jesus came to die to save others, then we miss the point and Christmas doesn’t really make any sense. But often we don’t really think of the baby Jesus as the same Jesus who died on the cross all those years later. But the Bible is very clear from the beginning that Jesus is on a rescue mission. When an angel appears to Joseph he says “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

So right from the start, even from before Jesus was born, it was clear that he had come to save people. Even the name Jesus means “The Lord Saves.” And that’s why Christmas is important, because it’s the time that we remember that God has sent a rescuer into the world to save us.

Imagine that you’re climbing a mountain, isolated from anywhere else and miles and miles from anyone else. You’ve been climbing for ages and ages and you’re exhausted from the struggle of the climb. And as you take another step up the icy mountain, you lose your footing and you slip and you fall down the mountain, landing heavily on your leg a little way further back down cliff. After being dazed for a few seconds you try and stand but  as you do, excruciating pain shoots through your leg and you collapse. As you look down at your leg, you realise that it’s broken. You know this isn’t good as there’s no way you can get  down off the mountain by yourself. You fumble in your backpack for your phone and locating equipment but as you pull it out of your bag you see that all of it has been broken in the fall. You’ve got a flare but you’re in the middle of nowhere, and the chances of anyone seeing it are miniscule. It begins to get dark and you do your best to create a little snow hole, but in your weakened condition, it’s not really the best shelter you could have made and as the darkness sets in the cold really begins to bite. You have a little bit of food and water which you decide to ration, just in case, but you know that it won’t last you long, another day at most. Feeling hopeless, you drift in and out of sleep.

Bu then in the morning you’re woken by the sound of someone calling your name, not far from where you are. You cry out and moments later a man appears at the entrance to your snow hole, wearing a search and rescue jacket. He says “I knew you were out here, so when you didn’t come back I came to find you. I’ve searched every inch of this mountain but now I’ve found you.” You can’t describe how happy you feel. You were sure that you were going to die but now you know you’re going to be OK. And you cheer and shake the man’s hand and hug him. And with that the man picks you up and carries you back down the mountain to safety.

And we’re told that that’s what Jesus came to do. He came to rescue us because we couldn’t help ourselves. And that’s why we remember the birth of Jesus at Christmas, because it’s like that man appearing in the entrance to your snow hole. It’s the arrival of a rescuer when all hope seemed lost. And because he came to rescue us we want to welcome him with joy and celebration, just like we would the man on the mountain.

If you want to know what Christmas is really all about, it’s the first step in a rescue mission for all mankind, which is completed by Jesus’ death on the cross.

So this Christmas, why not try and find some time to think about how you might welcome your rescuer.”

Gain the World But Lose Your Soul

The church’s local secondary school recently asked me to do an assembly. The topic: reflections on the school year. This is a bizarre topic for someone who doesn’t work at the school to be asked to speak on. It’s also a slightly bizarre topic to ask a Christian speaker to come and speak on.

I met with one of the teachers in advance of the assembly to discuss what they were after and to pool ideas. The school were clearly after something to do with achievements. Look back over the year and get people to think about what they’ve achieved and give them a bit of a pat on the back. I said that ideally I’d like the assembly to have a slightly more Christian slant to it and luckily the school were very accommodating. So I went for a slightly different approach.

I chatted a bit about the things we achieve and how they’re things to be celebrated  but that ultimately they fade away and we move on to the next thing. But what happens when there isn’t anything left to move onto anymore? To make my point I showed the video for the Johnny Cash cover song “Hurt.” When Cash filmed the video, he was 71 years old, looking very frail and suffering from a form of Parkinson’s disease. The song wasn’t written about him but the words of the song take on a new meaning when he sings them and they’re heard alongside the images of the video which cuts between images Cash as a young and old man. The footage with the old Cash was filmed in the House of Cash Museum which had been damaged by flood waters and become derelict, which really serves to reinforce the idea that all of Cash’s achievements had now faded away. You can watch it below

The video shows lots of the achievements in Cash’s life, particularly his music where he achieved huge success. But the words show his feelings about what he achieved – you can have it all, my empire of dirt. All that fame, all that success, all those achievements he calls an Empire of Dirt. Worthless. A mere memory. Cash looks back on his younger self and doesn’t recognise himself anymore. That was someone else. He comments on the mortality of man, saying everyone he knows goes away in the end, a sentiment made all the more poignant by his own frailty.

So he looks back at all he achieved, all that success, but what does he have now? What’s he left with at the end of his life? Was everything worthless?

Well no, not everything was worthless. Near the end of the video we see images of Jesus’ crucifixion as well as Cash pouring out a cup of wine, symbolic of Jesus’ pouring out his blood on the cross. The video is just filled with religious imagery and reflects Cash’s own Christian faith.

Watching the video reminded me of what Jesus said to his disciples:

“What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”

Cash had gained the world. Success, money, possessions, fame. But as he approached death he looked back on all those things and knew that at the end of the day those things were worthless. They were great things, things to be celebrated and  thankful for but he knew he couldn’t take them with him. Cash’s ultimate achievement lay in knowing Jesus, something that would endure longer than the things he achieved in his career and was not worthless but was the ultimately the most valuable thing he had. He died 7 months after shooting this video but he knew where he was going.

My aim wasn’t to belittle the achievements of the students. In fact I went out of my way to say they should be celebrated. But I don’t think we can be doing the gospel justice if we shy away from telling people the reality of what the Bible says. All the things those young people have and will achieve are good things, but without Jesus, they are ultimately worthless.

They might gain the whole world, but what about their souls?

 

In or Out?

I’ve finally finished all of the lessons I was doing in our local secondary school. They were a completely mixed bag and I’m pleased to say that there were actually some more encouraging groups than the ones I mentioned in my previous entry, which is a good thing considering how appalled I was at some of those.

The best groups I had were actually the two lowest ability sets. The school had asked if I could do some shorter sessions with them as they would probably struggle to engage with the subject. The plan was to do 15-20 minutes with them and see how it went. It was the same teacher for both groups. Before the class began she mentioned that when she had told the group a Christian was coming in, they were threatening not to turn up. Tough crowd then! But they did turn up and it was a great experience. They knew that they were just going to have 15-20 minutes and if once that time was up they had lost interest, we’d call it a day.

I was in with both groups for the full hour. The questions just kept on coming and these kids really wrestled with the scenarios we were discussing, bringing in their own experiences, listening to each other and me and re-evaluating as they went along. They were the two easiest lessons I’d done and the most encouraging.

The teacher and the teaching assistant were made up. Apparently some of the kids in the group normally just give one word answers but during this lesson they really took off. It was a great feeling and a really fruitful day with three great consequences.

Firstly, the kids in both group said that I wasn’t what they had been expecting when they heard a Christian was coming in and that I was actually OK, even normal. So it’s great that their preconceived stereotypes have in some way been broken down.

Secondly, the teachers were really encouraged by the whole thing so this will hopefully open the door to be more involved in lessons at the school.

And thirdly, I got to explain the gospel and that’s really what it’s all about. Three birds, one stone!

I’ve also done two assemblies based around Easter. They were probably my most daring to date in terms of stating what the death and resurrection of Jesus means and I probably wasn’t quite as careful as I’m supposed to be in stating what I did. Schools tend to like it if you say something like, “as a Christian, I believe…” as opposed to “this is the way it is,” and I think there was definitely more of the latter. But it was a great chance to share the gospel and I was really pleased with how they went. One of the Christian teachers came up to me afterwards and asked to pray with me about what had been said and also about some things in her family life which was a real privilege. She said that next time I did an assembly it would be great to be prayed for up the front as she thinks it would be good for the kids to see. So in terms of schools work it’s been a good few weeks with plenty of encouragement. Maybe things aren’t quite as bleak as they could be.

Just before I did all these lessons, a man from church asked me how the work was going in the local secondary. I told him that it wasn’t that great generally and things were a bit of struggle there. What he said struck a chord with me. He said that it’s interesting that the apostles did the majority of the their ministry outside of the church, but yet we tend to do most of ours inside the church, with those who already believe. It got me thinking about where our priorities should lie in terms of our ministry. Should we be focusing on the ones we’ve got, building them up an encouraging them or should we be more outsider focused, realising that people are living in spiritual darkness and we need to tell them what Jesus has done? It’s more comfortable on the inside, but maybe the real work needs to be done outside.

 

Have Yourself a Merry Little Winter Festival

Christmas is fast approaching and along with it, all the various carol services, nativities and assemblies that this season is chock -a-block with.  But trying to slip a Christian message into this  “Christ-time” is not quite as easy as it used to be.

I had a secondary assembly this morning. If I’m honest I’m not a massive fan of doing assemblies. They’re quite impersonal and sporadic so it’s hard to build any real relationships through them and it quite often feels like I’m going in cold. On top of that, the theme was Christmas, which you would think is a gift of a topic. And in many ways it is, but it’s hard not to just do the same thing you do every year and end up being unoriginal. Anyway I had a crack.  Ignitermedia have some really great videos and resources knocking about and so I decided to use their “Retooning the Nativity” video, the idea being that whilst we all might think we know the Christmas story, most of the stuff that we see in our standard nativity play isn’t biblical at all.

So anyway I tried to show how we don’t really know the Christmas story and then linked it back to Luke 2:11:

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord

and used that to show that Christmas is about the birth of our Saviour, Messiah and Lord.

What really topped off the assembly for me though was the very end.

Me: So when you think about Christmas, remember that it’s really about someone who came to save you and can still save you now.

Teacher: Brilliant, thanks for that. And let’s just remember that Christmas is a time for coming together and enjoying yourself.

DOH! I’m not sure the message quite went in there.

Anyway I decided to lick my wounds by grabbing my free coffee and watching the nursery schools nativity in the church. Seriously, it made my day! Having just done an assembly about how we don’t really know the nativity story, I was shocked to discover that my own knowledge of the event was hugely incomplete. I particularly enjoyed the part when Santa and his reindeers came to visit the baby, closely followed by some Christmas puddings and mince pies (all to the accompaniment of “The Wheels on the Bus”). Not that I know who they came to visit. The mentions of Jesus were conspicuous by their absence.

It seems Jesus isn’t welcome at Christmas anymore.

On a separate note, how would people go about giving feedback to someone when you’re not sure you can say much that is positive? I was always told to say something positive before you said something negative and on the whole I agree, even though it occasionally smacks of insincerity. But what do you do if you aren’t sure there was much that was positive? Any ideas?