The other night, 3/31/13 (yes, Easter Sunday) the season finale of the Walking Dead aired. I am a fanatic. I can’t get enough of it. I have watched every episode with all the excitement of a 12 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. During the show, when the Governor entered the prison to annihilate Rick and the people we have come to know and love; he happened into the cell where Hershel left his bible. When the governor picked up the bible to look at it the camera focused on a highlighted passage. The passage was:
And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life;
and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:29)
Now, I am not that much of a King James Version bible-person. I prefer a different version. But that is the one they used. Essentially this passage is talking about resurrection. It basically says those who believe, live in faith; have resurrected life in Jesus the Christ.
To live otherwise, is to be spiritually dead. You see, Jesus in this passage (according to John) was declaring that he is the Messiah – the One sent by God to redeem the world. He was not only declaring that he can judge people but that he can raise them from the dead. This to those listening was a very challenging claim. It not only was blasphemous but it stunk of a power the ruling elite could not tolerate.
Nevertheless, Jesus was talking about the spiritually dead. According to William Barclay, “when you reach a conclusion you’re dead.” He means that when our minds become so shut that we cannot accept any new truths, we are mentally and spiritually dead. It is that day our desire to learn leaves us. It is then that new truths, new ways, new methods, new thoughts become simply a disturbance to us. We simply cannot be bothered. This is the day of our spiritual death. And when, and if that day comes, we have stopped repenting. We are no longer searching, we assume to know all there is, to have all there is to have – we are closed down, shut off from wonder and mystery. Notice here, implied is a new or broader meaning of repent. It is more than mere turning away from transgressions but from stopping a closed mind.
We all know of times in our or in the lives of others around us that have or are living spiritually dead. It can be as simple as stop trying – a failure to carry out a continued hope, a trust that God is here, a continuing to love in the face of life’s difficulties. It can be a complete turn away, choosing instead to continue our lives outside of God, rejecting or denying God or that we have an inner spirit – a longing to be connected. May I dare say, we are in need of repentance any time we think we can go it alone; anytime we alienate ourselves and others such that we believe and act as though we are all that matter?
I think Jesus, in John’s Gospel is also telling us that Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection belong together. One does not exist without the other. When we encounter Christ along the road of our life, when we come to see and embrace the grace and love that is meant for us; we step into a new life – our resurrected lives. Our life moves from one of anxiety to hope – something begins to bloom in our lives; we become transformed – we become spiritually alive.
So what does any of this have to do with the Walking Dead?
What possibly could the Walking Dead tell us of our faith journey? Perhaps and despite the TV Mature show’s rating it offers an enduring hope? Isn’t that what we are connected to? Sure we like the decapitations, the edge-of-your-seat scenes and the character twists and turns….But perhaps there is something more we seek and relate to in the characters, in their relationships as they survive.
Weekly as we watch, the people persevere, holding together what little remains of normalcy. Their hope for safety and survival becomes our hopes. Their struggles – fears, anxieties, suffering – become ours; we can identify with the characters and we watch them hope. They continue to demonstrate to us something we easily lose sight of; they remind us often – “you can’t do this alone.”
They show us they need each other, that they belong together – that their lives depend on it. In our world it is easy to lose sight of this. We come to think we all are self-made men (and women); that all we need is ourselves. We don’t need anyone else. This show tells us something else.
Every week we watch as they tightly pull together, working to survive. We even watch some fall in love while others hold onto love and memories of people, places and times that made more sense and were, seemingly, more in their control. Weekly we watch, as new life bonds, new dreams are born. We watch all of this in the face of their imminent destruction and death.
The highlighted reminds us to move from a life of anxiety to one of hope – to resurrect our thinking, to resurrect our life. The passage says hope in the face of adversity, hope in the face of destruction, and hope in the face of alienation. Oddly then, the Walking Dead is a life story. It is a story reminding us how to live. Live in hope. Live in community – we can’t do this alone. When we watch the Walking Dead, we are watching them hope and when we do, we are hoping with them. Because….
If you keep hope alive, it will keep you alive.