Star Wars, Ubisoft, and Waffles: The Mountaintop Reality (Luke 9:28-36)

There are certain things in life that are unwise to mess with, because they may upset the natural order of things in a way that you aren’t quite prepared for. For example, there is a certain wisdom in ordering WAFFLES when you go to Waffle House. It’s kind of their “thing”, and they have managed to build an entire house out of it, which is no small feat. If you go to Waffle House and order the flat-iron steak… well, I am just going to tell you that things will probably not go well with you in a certain digestive manner. You will not only likely be regretting that choice fairly quickly, but also regretting that they often only have one working bathroom. Which will be in SERIOUS use for the next, oh… several hours most likely. Also, rumor has it that they have the MOST single of single-ply toilet paper ever made. I would not encourage you to find that out the hard way.

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There is nothing wrong with Waffle House, but when I go I stick to what they are known for. International House of Pancakes? Yep, get me a pancake… or four, actually. Burger King? Let’s go with the burger. Steak and Shake? You know the drill. Denny’s? Hmmm. Actually, I’m not really sure what to do with that one. Just keep driving past it, I guess? But back to the point… there is not only a higher level of comfort, but often a large amount of REASON why the path less travelled is… you know… less travelled. We know where the other path leads, it is faithful to get us there in a predictable manner, and while it may not be terribly exciting, there is the good kind of exciting and there is the “Prime Rib at Waffle House” kind of exciting. I think you know where I stand on that by now.

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Over the last eight years the EXCLUSIVE rights to publish Star Wars games has belonged to EA Games, which has yielded some decent Battlefront games, a very solid original story in Jedi: Fallen Order, some less than stellar online efforts, and the recently released Star Wars Squadrons. Nothing that most of us would consider remarkable or incredibly memorable from a storied franchise that has boasted all-time greats such as Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Academy, and Rogue Squadron… but they have at least been consistent with their output. EA Games isn’t necessarily known for taking massive risks with their stable of licenses, but they haven’t become one of the largest gaming publishers in the world through LOSING money. Their Star Wars games may be somewhat predictable, but there is a comfort in their familiarity that insures that they will deliver the gaming equivalent of a Subway sandwich. Nothing special, nothing awful, and nothing you will be talking about later. It simply got you from point A to point B safely and efficiently. Enter Ubisoft…

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With the expiration date on the exclusivity deal with EA approaching, Ubisoft has announced that THEY are developing an open-world Star Wars game. In-house developer Massive Games, the studio responsible for both entries in “The Division” series, has been tapped to give the world their first taste of a Star Wars game by someone other than EA in a DECADE, which is fairly significant. Whether this is timed to release as soon as the clock expires on the EA contract in 2023 or will take longer, who can say. But one thing is for certain… the way we consume Star Wars games, for better or worse, is about to change in some very unpredictable ways. We can only hope that the force is with Ubisoft as they make some very tough decisions… do you chase the current trend and develop something set in the timeline of The Mandalorian and run the risk of being outdated when you arrive? Do you jump back into the Old Republic and create something entirely different and perhaps lose your target audience? Do you devote an entire game to figuring out why Kylo Ren throws temper tantrums like a two year old? Decisions, decisions…

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At its’ heart, the question goes even deeper than continuity vs. creativity, or even mere risk vs. reward. Even the most basic and mundane things can be strangely comforting in their own way, and a paradigm shift of this magnitude threatens that safe, if slightly ordinary, status quo. Sure, we can try out an episode of this new TV show that started this week… or we can just watch another episode of House Hunters and fall asleep while a couple (that somehow has a $3 million dollar budget) argues about whether walk-in closets or an open-floor plan that features a balcony for their cat is more important. We may say that we want an exciting new change, and we may believe we truly mean those words, but even in those moments there can be concerns that what we stand to gain may not necessarily be better than what we had. And in our walk with the Lord, things can often be the exact same way.

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When Jesus entered the lives of each of His disciples, it was certainly disruptive. These men left their jobs, their families, and everything that had previously known to follow Him everywhere He went. But as the weeks turned into months, and months into years… maybe things began to become a little formulaic. They would go to a town, Jesus would do some miracles, tell some parables, make some Pharisees want to kill Him, and then they would just keep on rolling to the next town. Lather, rinse, repeat. But as Christ began to pivot towards His date with destiny, He took His three closest friends to a mountaintop experience that is as difficult to process as any of the events of His earthly ministry…

Luke 9:28-36 Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone. But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen.

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WAIT. Hold on. Let’s just get this straight for a minute. Jesus goes up to the mountain to pray. Cool… cool… cool… He does that all the time. He brings Peter, James, and John with Him… yep, that checks out. Pretty standard operating procedure here. Peter and the guys fall asleep while they are praying… yep, they seem to do that from time to time. Moses and Elijah, who haven’t set foot on the earth in thousands of years, one of whom is DEAD and the other ascended up to heaven in a chariot… they are just chilling, talking, and hanging out with Jesus. THERE it is. That’s the part. What is even happening here?

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Clearly, this messed with Peter, and He starts talking about building some tents or something. Clearly this was not originally on the itinerary for their little prayer brunch. Jesus was just having His usual prayer meeting, brought His friends for support, and some serious stuff went down that they couldn’t even begin to comprehend. And after that, they went back down the mountain, and Jesus just went right back to the mission of miracles and preaching. You know… like He WASN’T just talking to Moses and Elijah and stuff. And the happy ending to our story is that Peter, James, and John were suddenly and profoundly changed from the inside out because of this incredible life-changing experience, instantly maturing into the followers of Christ that they were always meant to be. WAIT. No, that isn’t what happened either. Want to know what happened the VERY next day (Luke 9:37)? Take a look.

Luke 9:46 Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.

Well… that’s not a very good look. Certainly not the kind of spiritual growth one would hope for after such an incredible display of God’s power on the top of the mountain. But wait… there’s more…

Luke 9:49-50 Now John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.”

Looks like their theology wasn’t quite right yet either. You still want more? Fine. Shortly after that… in the SAME CHAPTER… we get THIS…

Luke 9:54-55 And when His disciples James and John saw this, (Jesus not being received by the Samaritans) they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.

So, let me get this straight. Peter, James, and John observe the transfiguration event and then go back down off of the mountain and engage in an argument with the rest of the disciples about who is the BEST? And then James and John get on their denominational high horse and try to reject some people… and then downright SLAUGHTER some others? They observed this incredible, remarkable, once in recorded history event in which Jesus, Moses, and Elijah all have a nice little conference on top of a mountain, and after that they go right back to being the same ol’ ornery guys that they were before? Hard to believe? Maybe not as much as it should be.

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Raise your hand if you have ever gotten into an argument on the way TO church, on the way back FROM church, and then while you are changing out of your church clothes that still SMELL like church. Who here has not said something, sent out a text, a tweet, or a social media posting and not IMMEDIATELY realized that was the completely wrong action to take? How many times have we observed the miracles of the Lord in our lives and then went right back to our ordinary way of doing things without allowing that event to impact us beyond its’ obvious implications? Are we really so different than Peter, James, and John? As a society we dance on the brink of annihilation through so many different means… and yet we continue to fight and argue over the semantics of who is on the left, who is on the right, who is in the wrong, and so on. We hold in our hands the book that brought Jesus, Moses, and Elijah together… and yet for all of our mountaintop experiences, we still come back down without allowing the change to actually PENETRATE our hearts and minds in a way that actually impacts us. And I can sadly raise my hand to each and every one of these.

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The truth about EA and Ubisoft making Star Wars games is that it doesn’t matter WHO is making the game if they are unwilling to take the risks necessary to make something bold and interesting enough to be worthy of the license. It will be just another game that could have existed in ANY other form with Star Wars stamped on top of the box. And here are the deep waters for us… all of the mountaintop experiences that God will take us on mean NOTHING if we leave them right there on top of the mountain. He is still the amazing, omnipotent, omniscient, omni-present God who can do beyond all we can think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He is STILL in the mountaintop business… HE hasn’t changed (Malachi 3:6). But are we ready and willing to allow Him to change us? That is the real question.

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The big things of God come with discomfort, sacrifices, risks, and work. The mountaintop does not come with an escalator, elevator, or a moving sidewalk. And being in proximity to the mountaintop, or even being ON the mountaintop doesn’t CHANGE anyone, no more than having the license to make a Star Wars game magically makes the game good. It is only when we are willing to take the risk of allowing that experience to consume us and to transform us… THAT is when we will change the way we see Him, His Word, and our responsibilities to the world around us. The truth is that asking the Lord for an external event to change us internally simply doesn’t work. It never has, and it never will. He changes us INTERNALLY so we handle the external events differently… both on the mountaintop as well as those painful walks down through the valley of the shadow of death. If we want something new and exciting from the Lord, we should be prepared for things to get a little messy, maybe a little weird, and a definitely a little uncomfortable. But none of those things will change US unless we choose to let Him do that work inside of us. The Lord has given us the license to act on His behalf every single day on this planet… it is up to us, each and every day, to go to those new places that His Spirit pushes us INTERNALLY that allow us to do the work worthy of our calling EXTERNALLY. Now… who is ready for some waffles?

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