I have a bad feeling about this.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a great disturbance in the force for supporters and critics alike. The film ends a 42-year-old story arc spanning nine primary movies, two side films, multiple TV shows, and endless supporting books. That doesn’t even count all the imaginary games we’ve all played with plastic light sabers, action figures and ships that go “pew-pew.” Now we get to decide if director J.J. Abrams effectively gives enduring fans what they want without it feeling like a “fan film.”
You know, kind of like how we feel serving others in what we do.
I saw the film opening night with an intergenerational group of students, parents, and friends. When Rey appeared on-screen, one of our eighth-grade guys blew kisses to her. As an original trilogy character emerged, the men in our group cheered like he was an old buddy. During key “easter egg” moments, familiar music mentally teleported everyone into fond moments from previous Star Wars films.
It felt like Abrams was tying a big bow on our childhood. I wondered if we wanted him to…
Leaders of all ages get this. Here I’ll highlight 10 things “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” teaches us about community.
1. Overlap Your Circles
Every major character does what they think is the most important thing in the universe. That is, until they realize they’re better together than apart. In ministry, we sometimes believe we can’t slow down for peer friendships because no one understands the weight of our responsibilities. The truth is that community is possible we you seize it, versus merely expecting it to seize us. Live in your circle, but see who your circle overlaps with… and let it overlap.
“Bear one another’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2a)
2. Redeem Someone’s History
The new droid in this film has a past, which Rey notices as she greets it and it cautiously pulls back: “Someone treated you badly,” she replies. “It’s alright. You’re with us now.” She then gently cleans the droid up and attends to its squeak. Soon it changes its posture, putting trust in her. Who’s the squeaky wheel around you that needs five minutes of your time to experience a new hope?
“Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:4)
3. Flip Fear Together
The First Order continues its terror by stealing, killing, and destroying (sound familiar?). One character observes: “They win by making you think you’re alone.” The Resistance responds by pushing back on fear-filled situations with courage and faith—a truth that fuels good parenting, ministry, and any core calling. When you don’t know how to have faith in a larger, intangible mission, there is power in knowing someone next to you has faith in you.
“Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24)
When you don’t know how to have faith in a larger, intangible mission, there is power in knowing someone next to you has faith in you.Click to tweet
4. Share Your Testimony
Finn shares about the Force with another character (just as Han Solo once shared with him): “It’s real. I wasn’t sure then, but I am now.” Others own their shady pasts out loud to recognize how who they are today isn’t who they were in the past. As the New Yorker observes, Star Wars has traditionally been “a movie of grownups desperately tangled up in mommy and daddy issues a long time ago, before psychologists, artists, and even personality were invented.” There is power in finding a new story by confessing our old story.
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
5. Make A Sacrifice: Multiple times in the film a key character makes what appears to be the ultimate sacrifice, not knowing if they’ll make it on the other side. Each takes a half-second pause prior to it to recognize why and what must be done. In a world where everyone is trying to avoid becoming the next meme, we show the Life in life through what we choose to die for.
“The sacrifice God desires is a humble spirit.” (Psalm 51:17)
6. Endure The Weariness
Some scenes in the film seem ongoing—every light-saber clash between Rey and Kylo Ren reminds us that this isn’t their first battle. Each looks tired, about to fall over in exhaustion. Fatigue is a reality that only Truth can give context to.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
7. Step Up Anyway
No one really knows what they’re doing, especially on the first day. Lando shares this with Poe, daring him into a swaggering attitude through community. “We had each other,” he muses about his own past, adding, “that’s how we made it.” Poe translates this by calling others into action: “This is your fight now… we are not alone. Good people will fight if we lead them. We are all in this until the end.” We’ve heard that before, haven’t we?
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Like the Star Wars saga, we start out in ministry quite playfully, only to realize the real stakes at play.Click to tweet
8. Name Your Equal
When Poe becomes a general, he quickly names Finn as his partner. It’s one of those Jonathan-and-David-friendships that makes and ordinary friendship legendary. Iron only sharpens iron when a humble, open person invites another into this kind of metaling/meddling relationship.
“Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.” (1 Samuel 18:4)
9. Question Your Legacy
Who defines who you are? That’s a key question for every person in this film and every person watching it, for we all are protagonists struggling between our daily duties and personal identities. There are also cultural hurdles we have to discern (even within this film, such as the much talked about lesbian kiss). Don’t merely assume what someone hands you must be held.
“Put everything to the test. Accept what is good and don’t have anything to do with evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)
10. Embrace Your Witnesses
Both Rey and Kylo Ren have dead predecessors with “voices” they wrestle with. We feel this when we consider our own forerunners, either feeling haunted or empowered based on if they lived destructively or proactively. The key climax in the movie’s plot embraces this as we get to hear a slice of every Jedi speaking life into Rey, adding, “We stand with you.” It’s a reminder that what we do today is linked to what others did in the past. Whether we choose to continue in the positive legacy we’ve been handed or course-correct onto a new path, we are “all of them” and yet completely ourselves.
“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Like the Star Wars saga, we start out in ministry quite playfully, only to realize the real stakes at play. Soon something that seemed clear grows blurry with all the new “directors” around us. Ever felt like what you signed up to do at a church on day one isn’t what you’re doing on day 100 (or 1,000)?
Consider what draws people into theaters on opening nights. It isn’t the fandom nor the formula, but the familiar. We’re yearning for a brief moment to return to our childhood, only to realize we can only get nostalgic glimpses of it. Rather than resent this constant back-and-forth between feeling wide-eyed versus red-eyed, maybe the next responsible thing we’re supposed to do is an opportunity to uncover a group of people we get to experience this with.
Perhaps it’s best to hold onto great things with an open hand versus a closed grip… for in doing so we can grab a friend’s hand and forge community along the way. It’s what we do with Jesus, and what Jesus calls us to do with each other.
You are not alone. We’re here with you, and want to know how to pray for you and with you. Let us know how, and maybe we can thank the Maker in the process.
I have a good feeling about this.
Photo by Cade Roberts on Unsplash