Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sermon for Lent I

St Paul's, Pekin--Matthew 4:1-11, Romans 5:12-21, Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17, 25-3:7

One would have to be living under the proverbial rock to not know that the '60s television show Star Trek has become a major cultural phenomenon. The original show itself lasted only three years, but it has been many times more popular in death than it ever was in life.  First, it spun off a long series of feature-length movies, starring the cast from the original series. Then, a new TV series—with different characters but following the same theme—hit the airwaves in the late 80s. Eventually there are two spinoffs from the spinoff.  And now, in recent years, there have been more movies, featuring the original characters, but with younger actors playing the roles.

Well, since i can honestly lay claim to having been a Star Trek devotee from the very beginning, and since I'm … sort of ... a creative kind of guy—some of the time, at least—I thought, "Why not get into the act?" So I've gone ahead and sketched out my own idea for a Star Trek spinoff movie, and since I'm fortunate enough to have a job where I have a captive audience once a week, I thought I would run it by you all today and see if it flies. 

So here goes. 

Once upon a time, there was a special unit in Star Fleet Central Command that went by the designation RUST100—r-u-s-t 100. RUST100 was not what you would call an elite unit. They weren't commandos, they didn't use the latest weapons technology, they weren't based on a star ship like the Enterprise, or on a strategic space station at the edge of the galaxy. In fact, they were a completely non-combatant unit; they weren't supposed to fight at all. Their mission was to provide a very specific sort of logistical support. R-u-s-t stood for “replicator unit service technicians.” Replicators are the computerized devices that you can walk up to and say “mint cappucino, eight ounces, 130 degrees,” and out it comes. Occasionally, replicators can be put to serious use, like making blankets for a colony of refugees freezing on an asteroid, but their more frequent use it just to bring the morale-boosting comforts of Mom's home cooking to the lonely reaches of deep space. 

So RUST100 was essentially a collection of galactic Maytag repairmen. They roamed the galaxy, providing an eminently useful service, but it wasn't exactly a coveted assignment. RUST100's only claim to fame was that admiral Theos, the commander-in-chief of Star Fleet operations, had begun his career as a replicator unit service technician, and he always reserved a soft spot in his heart for the members of RUST100.  He felt a common bond with them, in the depths of his being, that he just didn't feel with other Star Fleet units, even though they were many times more glamorous and more visible and more apparently crucial than, as he affectionately called them, the “rusties.” 

Well, as was always the case, there was political and military tension along the frontier of the United Federation of Planets. They had made peace, successively, with the Klingons, the Romulans, and even the Cardascians, but now they squared off against the treacherous and power-hungry Hadesian empire. One day, the RUST100 unit was making its round of service calls near this border area, en route from a space station to a nearby starship. Crew members were doing whatever they could to relieve their boredom as their small vessel plowed its way on impulse power (that's "below the speed of light", for you non-trekkies) through the trackless wastes of space.

The first officer, Lt. Arboc, was fiddling with the ship's scanners—the 24th century equivalent of radar. Arboc was young and highly intelligent. He was an engineer by training, and he hoped that the time he put in on the RUST unit would do the same for him as it had for Admiral Theos. As he was casually and somewhat randomly trying out different electronic components and configurations in the scanning system, something very strange appeared on his monitor. To his horror, he saw a fleet of Hadesian warships arrayed in battle formation. When he checked the ship's main viewing screen, he saw nothing. In his puttering around, Arboc had apparently stumbled on a way of penetrating the Hadesian "stealth" technology that renders their vessels invisible to standard Star Fleet scanners. When there was time, he would have to figure out exactly what he had done, but the immediate question was what to do with the information he had discovered. 

Arboc went to commander Mada, the skipper of RUST100. "Commander, it looks like the Hadesians are on the verge of a massive invasion of Federation territory." 

"I agree with your assessment, Lieutenant, but I don't see that there's anything we can do.  We're travelling at top speed, but we're still two days away from the nearest other Star Fleet vessel. We're in full view of the Hadesians, who, no doubt, assume that we can't see them. But if we try to send out any warning, they'll intercept our message, know we're on to them, and destroy us immediately, still retaining the element of surprise for their attack, since it looks like they're ready to move at any moment. What do you recommend, Arboc?" 

The young lieutenant responded, "Sir, as you know, we are very lightly armed; this is not a combat vessel.  But ..." 

Arboc then went on to lay out an intricate and brilliantly conceived plan by which they would, with some minor modifications in their own communications system, turn the Hadesian stealth technology back on itself, throw them into confusion and, hopefully, cause them to de-cloak and expose their presence to all of Star Fleet. Commander Mada furrowed his brow.

"Do you think this will work, Lieutenant?" 

“Sir, i can't give you 100 percent odds, but if it does, I will guarantee you this: These Rusties will be instant heroes, and you'll be captain of a starship before you can say ‘James T. Kirk.’ We will have saved millions of lives and preserved the integrity of the federation.”

“You make a good case, Arboc, but have you forgotten who we are? We're service technicians! We have strict orders to actively avoid combat situations." 

"I'm aware of ‘who we are,’ Sir, but these are exceptional circumstances, the kind of circumstances on which Star Fleet careers are made or broken!" 

Commander Mada closed his eyes in concentration as he made the most agonizing decision of his career.

"Very well, Lieutenant, execute your plan." 

It was a disaster. 

The Hadesians detected Arboc's plan from the moment of its inception and blasted the Rusties into oblivion. What was unknown to Lt. Arboc  and Com. Mada was that the Federation was well aware of the Hadesian buildup along the border. The Hadesians were, in fact, falling into a very well-laid Federation trap that was almost, but not yet, ready to be sprung. By forcing the Hadesians to move prematurely, the "Rusties" had blown the whole operation, and enabled the Hadesian empire to gobble up one quarter of that quadrant of the galaxy, subjecting billions of creatures to their tyrannical rule. Shame and dishonor descended on all of Star Fleet. Admiral Theos was in agony that his own beloved RUST unit had behaved so rashly. If they had not been killed by the Hadesians, Arboc and Mada would certainly have been court-martialed. 

Many years later, Commander Ben Theos—yes, the son of Admiral Theos—finds himself the skipper of the RUST200 unit, making its round of service calls, as its ill-fated predecessor had, along the border between federation and Hadesian territory. This time, the first officer, Lt. Saduj, is attempting to relieve his boredom by loading a software program of his own invention onto the ship's computer. It's a program designed to de-cipher encoded messages. As he scans the airwaves, Saduj picks up a message on a channel frequently used by the Hadesians.  It's in code. He runs it through his software program, and, to his horror, learns that the Hadesians are once again planning a surprise attack on Federation territory. 

Saduj goes to Commander Theos. "Skipper, we've got to do something. If we fire all of our phaser banks at once ..." 

On this occasion, however, the commander of the RUST200 unit cut his first officer short. "Lieutenant, what you propose is tempting. But it's against orders. It's against our mission. It's not who we are!" 

An hour later, the federation sprang its trap, a trap of which the RUST200 crew had no knowledge, and the Hadesians were routed. Through one man's obedience, billions of souls were liberated from their oppressive power. 

Eve, God will be proud of you for having the courage to eat this fruit. Besides, it tastes so good!  Adam, God wants us to eat this fruit, and it sure tastes good. Go ahead, have a bite! 

Jesus, these are exceptional circumstances! You're hungry, and there's no food out here. Surely your Father will understand if you use a little divine power to feed yourself! 

"As one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous." 

In the words of the hymn by John Henry Newman:
                       
                        O loving wisdom of our Wod!
                         when all was sin and shame,
                        A second Adam to the fight
                         and to the rescue came.
                        O wisest love! That flesh and blood,
                         which did in Adam fail,
                        Should strive afresh against the foe,
                         should strive and should prevail.

Amen.

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