This bible study series from Abingdon Press explores similar themes and parallels to the ones we have been discussing here. Looks great!
This bible study series from Abingdon Press explores similar themes and parallels to the ones we have been discussing here. Looks great!
On this eve of the twelfth Doctor’s advent (one sleep to go) I found myself recalling a scene from The Day of the Doctor. The War Doctor, the Warrior, has decided to end the Time War by triggering The Moment, a weapon of utter destruction that will end not just the Daleks but the Time Lords and all of Gallifrey itself.
But The Moment has become sentient and, sharing the Warrior’s struggle with his conscience, appears to him as his future companion, Rose Tyler (the Bad Wolf herself).
As the Warrior contemplates the consequences of pushing the Big Red Button, she says,
MOMENT: You know the sound the Tardis makes? That wheezing, groaning. That sound brings hope wherever it goes.
WARRIOR: Yes. Yes, I like to think it does.
So I was struck again by what it means to the Doctor’s companions and to all the peoples he saves and even to his enemies whenever he arrives in their particular moment of need, in their present. A man like us yet not like us, possessed of two natures, with two hearts and 2000 years old, steps into our lives and stands with us for our good. Knowing all that came before us and all that lies in store for us, knowing the worst of us, he chooses to continue his work of saving us from all our foolishness and to help us on our way, making us, as he always will, better for knowing him.
As a parable of Jesus, the Eternal Son of God, who stooped into Time from Eternity and took our nature into himself, took our Sin upon himself and experienced our own frail heartbeat alongside his own for a moment in time , this is helpful to me.
The One who said, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty, the first and the last, the beginning and the end’, becomes our eternal present, the most important Moment of our life, the one in whom, ‘we live and move and have our being’ and the one who says to us, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.’
I like to think that, in his humanity, in the days of his flesh, this was wisdom Jesus acquired through his contact with us, with his family in particular, but also with his companions and even his enemies; his understanding that we are prone to worry about our future most of all. We can recall our past and we may fret over it, or we may regret it or we might even puff ourselves up with pride over it, but we cannot see our future with anything like the same clarity. It is our present in which we are designed to live and in which, says C.S.Lewis, we have an experience analogous to the experience which God has of reality as a whole.
This begins to make sense to us in that moment when we find ourselves ‘in Christ’, inside the Eternal, wrapped up ‘in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord (our) God’. Finding ourselves living in the one who is the beginning and the end of everything (and so in whom all our own time line has been written beforehand) we begin to realize that all our tomorrows, our future, already exists and has always existed, eternally, in him. No wonder he tells us there is no need to worry and no wonder that we find it all so hard to grasp but, like the Doctor’s companions, we are not left alone in our present. We are blessed to know his presence with us and even though there are moments when we feel more as though he is absent, when we fail to live up to him, we find ourselves, in time, living better for knowing him.
C.S.Lewis writes about our experience of time in The Screwtape Letters when the demon Screwtape says, ‘The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present—either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.
Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time—for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.’
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.’
Matthew 6:34a ESV
It aimed to compare what it means for Christians to be ‘in Christ’, with the experience of the Doctor’s companions when they discover to their surprise and delight that his sentient time machine, the TARDIS, is, in fact, ‘bigger on the inside’.
Then, just the other day I picked up an old copy of C.S.Lewis’ final instalment of The Chronicles of Narnia, ‘The Last Battle’, and came across the explanation given by Lord Digory and Queen Lucy to Tirian, King of Narnia, who was troubled to discover that the space inside the stable was not a cramped and dangerous darkness, as he expected, but all, ‘blue sky overhead, and grassy country spreading as far as he could see in every direction’, because he had, in fact, entered into all of Aslan’s country.
“It seems, then,” said Tirian, smiling himself, “that the stable seen from within and the stable seen from without are two different places.”
“Yes,” said the Lord Digory, “Its inside is bigger than its outside.”
“Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”
Which reminded me of that other dimension of our experience in Christ; ‘Christ in us’.
‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’ Galatians 2:20 ESV
We, too, are created, ‘bigger on the inside’, for this particular purpose, that we may be filled with something ‘bigger than our whole world’! With someone bigger than ourselves!
‘For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.’ Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV
‘Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.’ Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4)
In “School Reunion” (series 2/3) Tennant’s Doctor Who certainly meets a devil of a temptation! Fortunately though he can rely on the help of old faithful companions, Sarah Jane Smith and K-9. The Doctor is posing as a teacher, Mr Smith, in a school inhabited by a race of shape-shifting, bat-like alien creatures, the Krillitane. Their leader, Headmaster Finch, is using the school children to help crack the ‘Skasis Paradigm’, an equation known as the “God Maker” which allows the one who possesses it to control the building blocks of the universe. Finch has accelerated the learning power of the children through the special oil used to cook the hot chips in the school canteen. (If only chips really had such benefits!) And it is with the power of this paradigm that Finch lures the Doctor to join him. Yet he offers him more than mere power – he offers him the avoidance of pain and parting and sorrow. (Which of these is more attractive to you?)
SARAH: But why use children? Can’t they use adults?
DOCTOR: No, it’s got to be children. The God maker needs imagination to crack it. They’re not just using the children’s brains to break the code, they’re using their souls. (The Headmaster has entered the room.)
FINCH: Let the lesson begin. Think of it, Doctor. With the Paradigm solved, reality becomes clay in our hands. We can shape the universe and improve it.
DOCTOR: Oh yeah? The whole of creation with the face of Mister Finch? Call me old fashioned, but I like things as they are.
FINCH: You act like such a radical, and yet all you want to do is preserve the old order? Think of the changes that could be made if this power was used for good.
DOCTOR: What, by someone like you?
FINCH: No, someone like you. The Paradigm gives us power, but you could give us wisdom. Become a God at my side. Imagine what you could do. Think of the civilisations you could save. Perganon, Assinta. Your own people, Doctor, standing tall. The Time Lords reborn.
SARAH: Doctor, don’t listen to him.
FINCH: And you could be with him throughout eternity. Young, fresh, never wither, never age, never die. Their lives are so fleeting. So many goodbyes. How lonely you must be, Doctor. Join us.
DOCTOR: I could save everyone.
DOCTOR: I could stop the war.
SARAH: No. The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it’s a world, or a relationship, everything has its time. And everything ends. (The Doctor throws a chair at the big screen, smashing it.)
The Doctor turns down this offer of ultimate power. Though he could save everyone and beat the mortality which takes away his friends he knows that Sarah-Jane is right. Everything ends, pain and loss are part of life and ultimately a higher being has sovereign control of the universe.
I’m sure you can see the parallels here with our One True Time Lord, Jesus. He faced a very similar temptation at the start of his earthly ministry. His choice was to follow the will of His Father, and follow the road to His death on the Cross for our sake, or accept what the devil had on offer….power over the splendour of creation!
Yet for the devil there is a sad irony: the road to the cross took Christ to an ultimate seat of power that cannot be shaken, ruling over not just this world but over all the unseen realms and powers. As Ephesians 1 says, it was God’s plan to bring all things toegther in unity under the rule of Christ:
“With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. . .
(God) seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
It is no wonder that we can trust Christ with every part of our lives, our hearts, our days, our past and future – because he has ultimate control. Nothing is beyond his power. Nothing! And he is completely good.
Now that the dust has settled on the excitement of the Day of the Doctor anniversary celebration, it’s time to ponder how this new epic plot twist affects the parable we have noted so far…..if indeed at all.
In the anniversary special the three Doctors managed not only to save the humans from shape shifting Zygons, he also saved his own people, changing the fate of the Time Lord empire. Nevermind that the plan took him 400 years to figure out, and that in all its timey-wimey (I don’t know where he gets this stuff?) brilliance the plan undoes a catastrophic event that has already happened.
This is what the Doctor is about. He is a rescuer, he saves and restores. He defeats the Daleks in the past Time war through the combined strength of 13 versions of himself working together. (Strangely, the mystery of the Trinity comes to mind here!) He freezes Gallifrey and its inhabitants safely in a pocket universe. And now he can embark on a journey to find it. Imagine if we had known this was where the story would lead, way back when Doctor #9 Eccleston arrived on the scene. All the sorrow which drove him and deepened his character would have seemed far less important and compelling as the story unfolded.
We know a similar Man of Sorrows, who is eternally victorious. The One True Time Lord, Jesus, has defeated our present foes (sin, death, the devil) in the past. This victory has ongoing consequences yet for us we seem to be still fighting the battle. Jesus has rescued a people for Himself. We are his reward! He has saved us, positioned us in our own ‘pocket universe’ (his hand!) until the time comes when he returns to take us to be with him. Unlike the people of Gallifrey, Jesus knows exactly where we are, who we are, and His Spirit is with us, empowering us to live for Him day by day as we wait.
At this time of Advent, we remember Christ’s first arrival on earth, wrapped in frail human flesh for our sake. We wait now for his return, for the fulfillment of all time and the full restoration of his people to himself.
Whilst you are also awaiting the Doctor Who Christmas Special ‘The Time of the Doctor’ (which will bring us the next incarnation of the Doctor) keep your eyes on the blessings that the Emmanuel Christ has brought us by his Incarnation, his life, his death, for us!
You can read more about Advent here.
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HAPPY 50TH ANNIVERSARY DOCTOR WHO!!
‘Anachronistic electricity, Keep Out signs, aggressive stares; has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?’
Ignoring the ‘Keep Out’ sign at the edge of a Town called Mercy (more a suggestion than an actual order; like, Dry Clean Only) the Doctor sets off down Main Street with the Ponds; Three Amigos with a Fistful of Dollars; first stop, the saloon; inside, the Man with No Name strolls to the bar and orders, ‘Tea. But the strong stuff. Leave the bag in’.
Of course there’s a reason for the aggressive stares, etc; it’s the same reason the good citizens of Mercy hope the gun-slinging cyborg called Kahler-Tek won’t spot the difference between one alien Doctor and another. You see, Mercy already has one alien Doctor; valued as much for his help in the time of cholera as for the Dodge-y electric lighting he installed. His name is Kahler-Jex and our Doctor is impressed; ‘I love the Kahler. They’re one of the most ingenious races in the galaxy. Seriously, they could build a spaceship out of Tupperware and moss.’
Well, I’d like to see that; but first there’s trouble in Mercy; by High Noon, Gunsmoke will fill the air and by sunset only Cowboys and Aliens with True Grit will still be riding Tall in the Saddle. Sorry.
Kahler-Jex created Tek, just one of an army of cyborgs, all men of Kahler, to become the brutal means to end nine years of war. Now Tek, the last cyborg, aims to execute the scientist for his crimes.
When our Doctor learns the truth he gives Jex up to justice, much to Amy’s disgust. ‘When did killing someone become an option?’ she asks. The Doctor relents, but when Jex suggests his service to the town merits mercy, he replies, ‘I see this reformation for what it really is. You committed an atrocity and chose this as your punishment. Don’t get me wrong, good choice. Civilised hours, lots of adulation, nice weather, but justice doesn’t work like that. You don’t get to decide when and how your debt is paid.’
In the end, Jex, goes to face the souls of those he wronged, saying, ‘Perhaps they will be kind,’ before setting his ship to self-destruct with him inside and leaving us to ask, ‘What is an acceptable sacrifice for our sins and is there nothing at all we can add to repentance and faith?’
The New Testament letter to the Hebrews answers both these questions.
First, in regard to God there is only one acceptable sacrifice for our sin and that is Christ; ‘But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God … for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.’ Hebrews 10:12-14 ESV
We have nothing we can add to the death of Christ to ‘pay our debt’ but some other sacrifices are pleasing to God, proof of the genuineness of our faith in his unmerited, forgiving grace.
‘Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.’ Hebrews 13:15-18
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