If there's something strange In your neighborhood
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!
If there's something weird And it don't look good
Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!
So goes the theme song from the original Ghostbusters movie that was released in 1984. It was sung by Ray Parker Jr.
I heard the song the other day because it was sung during the credits of the latest Ghostbusters movie: Ghostbusters; Afterlife.
I thoroughly enjoyed the latest Ghostbusters movie and thought it was an appropriate movie to begin Advent with.
I mean after all just listen to verses 25 and.26 of Luke chapter 21
25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
There is something strange in the neighborhood.
In fact, in my lifetime this has been one of the strangest times, if not the strangest time in my life, in the neighborhood called planet earth.
We have seen in Canada some of the worst fires in the last year. We have seen some of the worst flooding in the last year.
We have a pandemic, and there are more conspiracy theories and ghosts on the internet, about what is right and wrong, and what is science and not science, and who is to blame for not handling it well, or whether we have freedom anymore, and who should be vaccinated, and should vaccinations be mandatory and so on.
In fact, there is a pandemic of Covid-19 but there is an equal pandemic of misinformation, conspiracy theories and suspicion.
Those are the ghosts we are fighting today.
And to tell you the truth while Ray Parker Jr. sings in the ghostbuster’s song; “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.”
I am a little afraid that the ghosts of misinformation around climate change, and around pandemics might keep us from acting wisely.
The latest version of Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the story of a daughter and two grandchildren of an original ghostbuster who move to their grandpa’s decrepit farm, after he dies, because they are broke and have nowhere to go and are hoping the farm might have some equity.
They grandchildren have not had a relationship with their grandfather and don’t know that he was a ghostbuster, and they begin to find ghostbuster paraphernalia in the broken-down house, barn and shed.
Of course, without really giving anything away, they will be called to try and save the world from evil apparitions and powers.
But the real beauty of the movie is that there is another redemption going on.
It is the story of daughter estranged from father and two grandchildren who don’t know their grandfather, and how they come to learn of him and how that is redeemed in the end.
It is the story of two children who are different and are trying to fit in and how they find a new home and new friends.
It is a film with the theme of redemption.
And that is part of the advent scripture too.
Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Let us set some context. Luke is writing this gospel roughly 50 years after the death of Jesus. But also, he is writing this gospel about 15 years after the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem and decimated the nation of Israel again.
When Mark wrote his gospel, scholars think it was around the time of that desolation of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. when the Roman General Titus besieged the city and after five months his troops were able to break through and win decisively, whereupon the temple and most of the city were destroyed.
And if you read Mark chapter 13 you will read these very poignant words:
14 “But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 15 the one on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; 16 the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 17 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 18 Pray that it may not be in winter. 19 For in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be.
Jesus talked about the coming Roman conflagration and basically said that violence would bring this down upon them.
And when Mark wrote his gospel this was a very recent and real thing, or it is possible that Mark wrote the gospel after the Jewish rebellion but before that actual destruction of Jerusalem, but Mark could see that writing on the wall and was expecting Rome to show up anytime in a very violent and destructive way.
And it is no wonder that a lot of Christians were looking Jesus to return in the clouds with power and glory and defeat the Romans or take them home to heaven out of the misery that had been inflicted upon them.
But Luke is writing 15 year or so after this event. He has taken a bit of Mark’s gospel, but it isn’t quite so passionate, quite so direct as for the people to flee the coming nightmare, because the nightmare happened fifteen years earlier.
Instead, it is more about reading the signs. It is more about being ready.
It is about watching and looking for the coming of the Christ.
That is what advent means after all. Advent means coming. And during advent we. look forward to Jesus coming as a baby, but really look at the ways Jesus comes to us and is present to us now.
And that is important.
When something’s strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?
The gospels say that you can call on Jesus….
That you can look to Jesus…
That Jesus comes to us in the here and now…
Much has been made of these scriptures to talk about Jesus coming back in the future with a literal bodily or physical appearance, to gather us all up together and save us from the dangers and tribulations of this earth…
And the church’s teaching is at the very end of time, whenever that may be, is that we will all be caught up into God’s love. Another word for “caught up” is actually “rapture.” And you may have heard that word referring to some imminent return of Jesus, taking the Christians away and leaving the rest behind. That is not our church’s teaching, but we do believe in the very end we will all be caught up into God’s love.
But what we are to do in the meantime is to look for Christ who comes to us here and now.
And what apocalyptic passages of scripture tell us is this:
There is something strange in the neighborhood, but God is here, and has always been here and always will be.
And while there are crazy powers at work in this world. Powers of evil. Powers of Government. Powers of Climate Change. Powers of the Pandemic. Floods, Fires. The ghosts of misinformation.
…that none of these power that seem to be in control in the world are really in control. The power that defines us as Christians and followers of Jesus, is the power of God and God’s love.
That is the power that defines us and defines who we are and what we choose to be in this world.
And while there are crazy powers in this world we are going to witness to a different power. The power of love, the power of forgiveness, the power of redemption, the power of inclusion, and the power of reconciliation.
Apocalyptic scripture says that in face of all the powers in the world that harm and destroy and manipulate and take…
That there is a different power. It is God’s power. It is Jesus’ power. It is the Spirit’s power…
… and it is the power of love.
It is the power that is not coercive or manipulative.
It is a power that seeks out the lost and liberates the bound.
It is power that regards the lowly and lifts up the overlooked.
It is a power that believes love and redemption are for all humans.
It may be dangerous to believe in this different power….this power of God…this power of Christ…
…this power of love.
It may be dangerous to practice unconditional love, and to preach universal love for all people.
It after all got Jesus killed, and I suspect that anyone who truly preaches the way Jesus preaches will face some opposition.
That love means lifting up the poor and lowly and practicing equity and justice.
That love empowers the powerless.
That love gives away what it has to those who have less.
That love includes love not only the good, the pure and the faithful, but love for the bad, the impure and the faithless.
That love sets free, prisoners, addicts, the poor, indigenous peoples, criminals, losers, the homeless and many whom our society has put down and kept down.
That is what redemption is all about. It is liberating people from whatever binds them and keeps them from being fully human.
And there are all kinds of things that bind and enslave and trap people.
Some people are economic slaves and can’t make enough to make ends meet or to provide adequate housing, food, clothing, medical care and education.
Some people are trapped by physical infirmities, old age or poor mental health.
Some are spiritually bound with sin, guilt, and living in their false selves instead of their true selves.
Some are imprisoned in unhealthy relationships and some like children have no option, and some don’t even realize how unhealthy their relationships are, and some don’t have the money, or energy or wherewithal to leave a bad relationship.
Some are locked into emotional patterns of disease or unhealth because of past trauma.
There are millions of people still on this earth who are actual slaves, with estimates as high as 40 million people. Sexual slavery, forced marriages, government imposed false imprisonment, child labour, force migrant labour and debt labour.
There are all kinds of ways people are trapped or imprisoned, and so there are all kinds of ways people are redeemed.
When I go to a movie, I often look at the movie and see where there is redemption in the movie.
When I watched Ghostbuster’s Afterlife I was particularly intrigued by the theme of family redemption.
Who is being saved in Ghostbuster’s Afterlife? Well, the world is being saved from evil spirits, but in so doing the characters of this one family are being saved, being redeemed, set free to love each other in a new way…Set free to be themselves.
And so, I invite you in the midst of the pandemic, in the midst of floods and fires and inflation and upheaval to look in the news, in your life, in movies, or in relationships for stories of redemption.
One such little story of redemption I saw on the news the other night. It was the story of a family who was trapped by the floods in B.C. there was no way for them to get saved unless they were rescued by a helicopter.
The problem was that they had a couple of horses, a big white gelding called Winter and a mini horse called Spicey, along with other animals. The RCMP found the only sling in B. C. capable of lifting large animals, and so they got a helicopter and slung the big animals to safety. It was interesting to see on tv. a big horse being carried away to safety in the sling.
Not only was the family rescued but from that area they rescued the two horses, a mule, a pregnant cow, nine puppies, two large dogs, three goats and several cats.
I thought that was a nice little story of redemption.
I can’t say that I was a huge Bob Marley fan, but the one song that he sang that really resonated with me, was the song Redemption Song.
One phrase in it is a quote from Marcus Garvey a black nationalist and Pan-African philosopher from a speech made in 1937:
Emancipate yourself from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our mind.
And the chorus is
Won't you help to sing These songs of freedom?
'Cause all I ever had Redemption songs
He wrote this in the last year of his life when he knew he was dying of cancer.
And I quote from an article by Ian McCann on the website usdiscovermusic.com
Fear not, the song said. Your existence is not defined by the world powers, by destructiveness, by evil; your purpose is not dictated to by the mighty, but by the Almighty. Your heroes may die, you may be oppressed, you may feel you can’t prevent the wrong things happening, but the universe is bigger than that. Join this song. You have the power to free your mind and soul. You can be redeemed.
Very powerful words indeed.
You can be redeemed.
Jesus said it this way: “Lift up your heads from your redemption is near.”
So, when there is something strange in your neighborhood, Jesus tells us to lift up our heads and look for redemption, but he doesn’t just mean look for him…
He doesn’t just mean look for stories and incidents of redemption….
He also means that we have a part to play in our redemption. Free our minds to truth and love.
And Jesus also means that we can be part of the redemption in our corner of the world in our neighborhood.
We can make a difference in people’s lives. Christ lives in us, so we can be Christ to others.
We can love other, help other, forgive other, reconcile with other. We can practice love, and tell the truth, and give to those in need.
We are not just the victims of the times, we can with Christ’s help, help others be liberated from whatever darkness enfolds them.
It is risky, it is even dangerous to face what is strange in the neighborhood.
But armed with love, with truth, with patience, with compassion, with forgiveness, with reconciliation and with Christ within us…
…we aren’t afraid of no ghosts. Amen.