Well, that was weird!
This summer our theme is “A Few of my Favourite Things.” And the preaching team is preaching some of their favourite messages from years gone by.
This message goes back to September 2001. My theme for the first few weeks of the fall was “BCC Prime Time. BCC is what we often called Bedford Community Church, and the prime time was that we were using the top TV shows of that season as our springboard.
So, we did “Who wants to be a Millionaire, A matter of Greed” “The Weakest Link, A matter of Perspective”, “The Simpsons, A Matter of Respect.” And at a Bedford Days meeting that I was chairing I mentioned the series and one of our members said, “If you preached on Buffy the vampire slayer, I’d come to the service.” And so I did, and she didn’t.
The message was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a Matter of Good vs Evil.”
The interesting thing is that I preached the message on September 16, 2001. The Sunday after September 11th.
Let’s take it from the top. First of all, we need to darken things down a bit, So, here we go, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer, A Matter of Good vs Evil” (Video again)
I’ve got bad news Buffy; one slayer isn’t going to be enough.
If we are going to stand against the forces of darkness it is going to take more than one slayer.
September 11th, 2001, showed the world a new face of evil, but it certainly doesn’t register as the most horrific event in the history of the world.
Even in the years since, there have been a number of events which have eclipsed by many times the death toll of September 11, but this happened so close to home. I’m sure that significance of it happening on that date was more than coincidence, and in the western world 9-1-1 will have a very different meaning then it had on September 10, 2001
If evil had a face, what would it be? In Buffy’s case it might look a little bit like this, in the days following 911 popular opinion decreed that it looks like this. In the past it probably looked a little bit like this.
Unless you’ve watched the show at least a couple of times, you probably haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about. And considering it was 20 years ago, even if you watched the show, you may have forgotten the highlights. And if you are interested, the series is now on Disney Plus.
So here’s a quick synopsis: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” is an appropriate title, considering it’s about a young lady named Buffy who is a Vampire Slayer. Buffy Summers is a high school student with major problems, problems much bigger than simply no date for the prom or skin problems.
Fate has decreed that she should be “the Slayer,” a girl with special powers to rid the world of the vampires and demons that she regularly encounters. Unfortunately, this special gift got her into so much trouble at her old school that she was expelled. She was forced to move to Sunnydale, California.
What she doesn’t know when she arrives is the quaint town of Sunnydale is actually “the Hellmouth.” In other words, it’s where most of the supernatural action is going to be found.
On top of this unasked-for job, Buffy must face the everyday pressures that every teenager encounters in their lives.
Not only does she have to worry about her SAT’s and her driver’s test, but she also has to deal with the issue of fitting in.
Because she is so distracted with her slaying job, everybody thinks she’s kind of weird. And as a teenager it’s no fun for people to think you’re weird.
Finally, she finds a few people (the class outcasts, to a degree,) who accept her position in life. From there on all three of them manage to get themselves into weekly mishaps. And believe it or not, Buffy and her friends have saved the world more than once. So, what can we learn from Buffy the Vampire slayer?
The Battle is Real. Evil is nothing new, and the battle against the forces of Darkness is nothing new. It didn’t start with Buffy the Vampire Slayer the Movie nor with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer the TV series. The battle against the forces of Darkness is as old as time itself.
It all began when the first man and first woman decided that they had no need of God or his regulations. No need of God and his direction. When they deliberately chose to disobey God, they stepped from light into darkness and darkness became a force within this world.
In the scripture that was read this morning we hear David asking why is there evil? Why aren’t wicked people punished? And those are questions that are still being asked today. I’m sure those questions occupied the thoughts of people around the world on September 11th. Why God? Why?
Sometimes we forget the extent of evil, we forget how wicked mankind can really be. Society tells us that evil doesn’t really exist, and if it does exist it’s because of bad parenting, or social ills, but suddenly evil became a reality when CNN played the images of airplanes crashing into the World Trade centre over and over again.
Giles, Buffy’s watcher once made a statement to Buffy, that summed it up. Giles said, “Just because the paranormal has been more normal and less.. para lately, is no excuse for tardiness or letting your guard down.”
The battle is as real today as it was when Paul wrote to the believers in the early Church telling them, Ephesians 6:12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
I often find that Christians err on one of two sides when it comes to the supernatural. One is to dismiss it out of hand. “If I can’t see it or if I can’t explain it, then I won’t believe it.” The other error is to see a demon in everything and the supernatural under every rock.
We need to understand that evil is real, and there is a battle, but that isn’t all there is to life. And sometimes bad things happen because people make bad choices, and sometimes evil happens because there are evil people in the world.
With that in mind, I know it’s a bit of a stretch, but what can we learn from Buffy if we are going to win the battle?
First of all, We Need our Watcher. Early in the first episode of the series we discover that Buffy and her mother have moved to Sunnydale and that in the move Buffy has hoped to put behind her the unwelcome discovery that she is a chosen one, a slayer. She just wants to meet some new friends and fit it.
That hope is dashed as she meets the new Librarian of Sunnydale High School, Rupert Giles. Much to her consternation she discovers that he has been assigned as her new watcher. And while Buffy in her 16-year-old wisdom looks upon her watcher with disdain it soon becomes evident that she needs everything that Giles can bring to the table.
As Christians we have a watcher as well. And he’s not a British Librarian.
It was the day before Christ was to be crucified, and he had gathered his disciples together in an upstairs room in Jerusalem. It wouldn’t be long, and he knew it. For three years he had taught throughout Israel. For three years he had healed the sick and fed the hungry. For three years he had pointed people to the Kingdom of God, but the time was coming. It wouldn’t be long now, and he knew it.
The end was in sight, and it was time for the chapter to close on his earthly ministry. But how would he explain it to his friends? How would he explain to them that he was leaving? Would they feel deserted and betrayed? Would they be able to see that there was a much bigger plan and a much longer story then they could presently see?
It was just hours before the arrest of Christ, the group had eaten what we now call “the Last Supper”. Jesus and the disciples had posed for the picture, hey guys if you want to be in the picture you have to be on this side of the table, and now Jesus was explaining the events that were about to happen.
I’m sure that Jesus was trying I’m sure to ease their fears, to let them know that whatever happened that he was still in control and that it was all part of the plan.
But they are devastated. He’s their friend, their teacher, their mentor and they can’t even begin to comprehend what life will be like without Jesus as a part of it.
And so, he tells them in John 14:16–17 Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”
As Christians the Holy Spirit is our Watcher. He’s with us all the time, to guide and to protect, He’s the one that gives us direction and he’s the one who convicts us about our behaviour. And after the crucifixion had happened, and after Jesus has been raised from the dead, and after he had taught throughout Palestine for forty days, he makes an incredible promise to his followers.
A promise that’s just as real today as it was on that hilltop 2000 years ago. This is what he promised his followers then and his followers now, Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Power, what an incredible concept. Power. For everyone who thinks that they don’t have what it takes to live the life that Christ expects of them. For everyone who thinks they don’t have what it takes to stand against the forces of darkness, let me tell you this: You’re right, you don’t. But cheer up because the Holy Spirit has buckets of what it takes, and he wants you to have it.
This is one of my favourite scriptures. I love the very concept of the promise that when the Holy Spirit has control of our life you will receive power. Not you might receive power, or you may receive power or there’s a chance you will receive power, but you will receive power. And not just a little bit of power, but wonderful, incredible, dynamic world changing power.
The power you need to conquer bad habits. The power you need to start good habits. The power you need to tell others about Jesus. The power you need to be everything that God wants you to be. The power you need to stand against evil. God doesn’t expect you to do it alone. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t want you to do it alone. He wants to help you to do whatever it is you have to do.
Do you realize that if you are a Christ follower then you have the infinite power of the almighty God in your life? That is His promise to you today. He’s telling each one of us, “Let me come into your life and you will have a life of power.”
But Buffy doesn’t just have a watcher. The second thing we learn from Miss Summers is that We Need Our Friends. Within the first couple of episodes Buffy’s identity and mission are discovered by two of her classmates, Alexander Harris, or Xander and Willow Rosenberg.
Now Buffy tries to protect her friends by leaving them out of the equation but soon discovers that she really does need others. More than once, it is only through the help of her friends who call themselves the “Scooby Gang” or the “Scoobies”, after the cast of Scooby Doo, is Buffy able to do the whole standing against evil thing.
Christianity was never meant to be a solitary religion. From its very inception it involved a group of people. Why? Because God knows that we need each other. Go back to the beginning, Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”
Solomon tells us in, Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
In the bible, God’s word, we are told to pray for one another. And we are told to care for one another, and we are told to love one another. We are told to help carry one another’s burdens. There’s kind of a common theme there don’t you think?
If the church is God’s instrument for change in this world, and it is, then we need to realize that the church is made up of people. Throughout the New Testament we see the church described as a body, or as a family. Both of which are multi cell, nowhere is our Christian life ever described as a solitary or monastic existence.
We need our friends. We need our fellow believers. We need each other. I think of different times when someone has told me that the church wasn’t meeting their needs. But if you are waiting for someone to meet your needs, what are you doing to meet the needs of those around you?
Our third lesson is We Need the Book. Often times when Buffy and Giles get stumped they pull out the book, the book of Vampyr, which has all kinds of helpful hints on dispatching vampires. Kind of a Martha Stewart meets Dracula.
As Christians we need the Book. And that book is the Bible, the word of God. When Paul talks about the spiritual battle going on around us, he makes this statement in Ephesians 6:17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The interesting thing is that as he talks about the various pieces of armor that a Christian needs, he talks about the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the shoes of the gospel, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, which are all defensive armour.
The only offensive weapon that he talks about is the word of God. That thought is reiterated in Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
But the book is only effective if we know what’s in the book. Paul wrote to the young preacher Timothy and told him this, 2 Timothy 3:15–17 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
And the only way we’ll know what’s in the book is if we read the book. Soren Kierkegaard the philosopher said, “When you read God’s Word, you must constantly be saying to yourself, ‘It is talking to me, and about me.’’”
Don’t be afraid of the bible, it won’t bite you. Find a translation that you enjoy and read it. It’s full of mystery, intrigue, espionage, romance there’s something there for everyone. And don’t worry if you don’t understand all of it, Mark Twain said “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”
The fourth thing that we learn from Buffy is that We Need the Cross. In the first episode, Buffy is given a cross necklace which saves her life when she is attacked by a vampire later in that show, and she wears it through most of the series. And when Buffy is getting ready for a night’s adventure, getting ready to stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness! She makes sure that she has her “Slayer Bag.”
It’s her tool kit with all kinds of nifty things like garlic and steak, no not that kind of steak you eat, a wooden stake. And other neat stuff, that one should have on hand. And in her bag, she carries a cross, which of course we are all familiar with. As a matter of fact, even the biggest pagan out there knows that vampires hate crosses.
In the show there is no mention of what the cross stands for or why it is so effective in repealing vampires. In fiction the power of the cross is in its symbolism. In fact, the power of the cross has nothing to do with the cross, and lots to do with what happened on the cross.
You see it was on the cross that the ultimate battle between good and evil was fought and won, and it was a battle that was fought for you. Paul writes
Colossians 2:13–15 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
And Peter reminded believers in the early church in 1 Peter 2:24–25 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.
The power that the cross has isn’t the power to repel vampires; it’s the power to change lives.
The Hymn writer penned these words
On a hill far away
Stood an old rugged cross;
The emblem of suffering and shame.
And I love that old cross
Where the dearest and best,
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
Do you cherish the old rugged cross? Have you embraced the power of the cross to wipe away your sins and to give you the power to start a new life? If not, I’d like to pray with you and for you this morning.
As we close this morning let me leave you with a thought from that great American Philosopher George Carlin who said “May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house.”