Saturday, February 2, 2008

god's thirteen

As a youth pastor, I'm always looking for illustrations of the gospel. If I can somehow use a story that my kids have already latched onto to infiltrate their worldview and then use the story to short-circuit their thinking and implant the gospel virus into their minds, I have achieved success. I am of the opinion that this is what gospel communication involves: the evangelist infiltrates, deconstructs, and plants. And yes, the order of those three things can be rearranged.

Tonight I watched a great illustration of the gospel message, although I'm sure it was not intended to be that. I finally saw Ocean's Thirteen. My fiance and I rented it (yes, rented) on iTunes. It was a fabulous movie. I especially enjoyed the retro cinematography, the eccentric characters, the action, and the witty subplots. However, I also saw the movie as doing something more than just titillating me.

The whole movie seemed to me to be a parable of gospel subversion.

I think it will serve as a great illustration. You probably saw the movie a long time ago, so I won't belabor the details too much. But consider the setting: we join Danny Ocean in the casino world, a place ruled by tyrannous tycoons. These men are above the law, and they live to prey on those whom they lure into their casinos with promises of big winnings and "the good life." The only thing these guys care about is their bank accounts. Everything else, whether family, friends, or otherwise, is only a means to that end. It seems like a fitting parallel to the actual world that we live in: Satan, whom the Bible calls "the god of this world" is a deceiver who is able to put up a facade as attractive as anything the Las Vegas strip has on offer. And as many of us know, the house always wins.

But check out the "gospel" that is Ocean's Thirteen. These men are experts in subversion. Like Robin Hood and his merry men they know how to steal from the rich and give to the poor. They know how to fight for what matters; Ocean's marriage, Saul's life, higher wages for Mexican workers, and a home for orphans. They know the enemy's schemes and they are committed to thwarting him, no matter what it takes. It makes me think of God's Thirteen: Jesus and his twelve disciples (who, by the way, become a paradigm for all of us). Jesus was an expert in subversion and inversion: he exposed the facades of the devil, showed us how to take the house, and didn't fight on his own behalf, but instead fought on behalf of others. The pinnacle of Jesus' subversive ministry was the cross. It was here, when Satan could sniff ultimate victory, that Jesus was actually bringing about the beginning of the end for the kingdom of darkness.

As St. John writes: "And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it."--John 1:5

May we all remember our subversive King, and may we live subversive lives. The way to subversion is, as Jesus said, to "take up your cross and follow me." Point people to the Cross by taking up your own.

Matt

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