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Vol. 81 - No. 8
Aug 2010

WORD FROM THE PASTOR:             

"Inception" and the Work of the Holy Spirit

As I write this, Christopher Nolanís new film Inception is basking in the glow of a historic opening box office: it made more money in its first weekend than any other Leonardo DiCaprio movie, including Titanic. I doubt that it will beat Titanicís overall box officeĖbut still, a lot of people are going to this movie.

The film is about a team of international thieves who steal, not property, but thoughts.

They sneak into other peopleís minds to uncover their secrets. Their route into the mind is through dreamsĖby entering your dreams, they enter your subconscious. A wealthy executive hires them to carry out the ultimate challenge: inception. This means not just discovering a persons deepest thoughtsĖbut planting thoughts in the mind. Their client wants them to put ideas in the mind of his chief competitor. Most of the film follows their attempt to create thoughts in the competitorís mind by inducing dreams.

Reviewers have called the film "intelligent"Ėwhich is usually another way of saying "confusing". And indeed, it demands a lot more concentration than your typical "summer movie". The funniest line (in a rather humorless movie) comes when Ariadne, an architectural student hired to create dreamworlds, gets confused about whatís going on and asks the very question that the audience is wondering about at that moment. (Thatís Nolanís way of saying to the audience: Donít worry if youíre a little lost in the plotĖeven the characters in the movie canít quite figure out whatís going on!) On the positive side, there is no sexuality and almost no profanityĖalthough there is a lot of violence (especially in a dreamworld ski patrol shootout that reminded me of Where Eagles Dare). The film bears some resemblance to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but is much heavier in tone.

The whole idea of entering someoneís subconscious mind and planting an idea thereĖso that they actually think the idea is theirsĖreally grabbed my attention. Because in Lutheran Christianity, we believe thatís what the Holy Spirit does. The Spirit is the master of inception. Take our faith as an example. When we come to believe in Jesus as our Saviour, itís the Spirit who plants that faith in our hearts. Sometimes it feels like itís our decision to believe, itís our idea, itís our work. Thereís even a song: "I have decided to follow Jesus". But in reality, the Spirit is the one who speaks in our hearts, telling us: Believe in Jesus. Scripture says,

No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:3)

And Blessed Martin Luther says in the Small Catechism, in explaining the Third Article of the Creed:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord,

or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me

with His gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith...

Itís the Holy Spirit, then, who implants deep in our minds the idea of believing in Jesus. (Unlike Leonardo Dicaprio, the Spirit doesnít use dreams to get into our mindsĖHe enters our lives through the Gospel message of Christís death and resurrection, and through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism). So when Iím counting the blessings God has given me, I want to mention my faithĖbecause the "inception" of my faith comes from the Spirit who caused me to believe.

As Christians, we also believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Bible. As they were writing, He placed in their minds what He wanted them to write:

No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of oneís own interpretation, because no

prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit

spoke from God. (II Peter 1:20-21).

I donít know if the writers of Scripture were always aware of thisĖI suspect that Luke and Paul

and Peter didnít realize that they were being used by the Spirit to write the Word of God. Again, "inception"Ėthe Spirit works deep within a person, so that sometimes the Spiritís ideas feel like the personís own ideas. But in the case of the writers of Scripture, the ideas they wrote were definitely Godís ideas; the words they wrote were definitely Godís Word. So we can approach the Bible as a trustworthy and reliable guide to faith and life.

Another example of the Spirit working on a deep level of our hearts and minds is when we pray. A verse from Scripture that gives me continual comfort is this:

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought,

but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And He

who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, for the Spirit

intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

God sees deep into the core of my lifeĖmy subconscious mind, my heartĖand He knows what I need. Even if I get the words wrong in my prayersĖif I ask for the wrong thing, if I ask for something that isnít Godís will for meĖthe Spirit makes it right. Heís in the depths of my life, interceding for me, sending up prayers on my behalf that are perfect. So I donít have to be consumed with worry about the imperfection of my prayersĖbecause my feeble prayers are made strong and perfect by the power of the Spirit.

Iím still trying to figure our whether I really liked Inception as a movie. But I deeply value the insight that the movie gave me into the Holy Spiritís work. For DiCaprio and his associates, "inception" was next to impossible. Entering someoneís mind and planting ideas there was the ultimate challenge. But the Holy Spirit excels in that challenge. He has entered our subconscious, our hearts. He is working there to create and sustain our faith in the crucified and risen Jesus, and to enable our prayers to rise pure and perfect before the throne of God.

God loves you and so do I!

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