Easter, Rick and Morty, Warm Bodies, and Asgard.
Just What IS Love, anyway?
Sometimes…what you really need is for someone else to pay a horrible price.
The clip above is from a Rick and Morty episode where Summer works for an independent business owner, at what is basically a vintage thrift store, “selling” items that grant the purchaser their deepest desires, while also cursing them. Needful Things.
Oh, and the shop owner is the Devil.
The idea is that Mr. Needful (the Devil) gives you what you truly want (or maybe…what you think you truly want), but makes you pay a horrible price for it.
The store’s only function and purpose is to curse people. And Summer, all the while aware of what’s truly going on and who Mr. Needful, her employer, truly is, is fine with it. Because, according to her logic, “Fast Food gives people diabetes and clothing stores have sweat shops. Is there a company hiring teenagers that isn’t evil? This is my first job and you’ve been nice to me. You respect me.”
Well at the end of the episode, Summer discovers she’s just another con, and the Devil really doesn’t care about her. So feeling used, angry, hurt, sad, taken advantage of, and with no way of getting back at the one who hurt inflicted all this upon her, she turns to her grandpa Rick for help.
And do what it takes to physically punish the one who has it coming to them.
And then others.
“Because sometimes…what you really need is for someone else to pay a horrible price.”
Now you might’ve been a little incensed at the language or steroid use-the content, but admit it: Didn’t part of you relish in the physical pummeling of those who “have it coming”?
Don’t you wish defeating your enemies could be a task so easy as beating them up?
Don’t you wish those enemies could suffer? Don’t you wish those that deserve it, could suffer?
Even just a little bit?
Well anyway, it’s Easter. And last time I wrote about a spiritual holiday, it ultimately posed the question, “What do we do when we don’t know the end of the story?” When all we have is the beginning—the unknown.
When all we have is new life.
And Easter kinda has that air of the end of life. Or…at least when you continue that theme of not knowing or understanding the whole story. The end of all you knew. All you hoped for.
The death of dreams.
The death of hope.
The death of connection.
The death of life.
And it’s a funny year, this year, to talk about death like this, because of all that’s going on in the world.
It kinda feels like death is all around us. Knocking at our door. And all we have been doing is walling ourselves off to the inevitable. Death.
We fight. We hate. We fear.
And we struggle. Struggle to survive. And hold on to any bit of power and control that we can.
All in a bid to stave off death for that much longer.
It really is like being in the start of one of those apocalypse films.
All of them have similar themes: a fight for survival, warding off death, and extreme “othering.”
I have to admit, I love a lot of those films. Be they post-apocalypse, like Mad Max: Fury Road, or vampire apocalypse, like Daybreakers, or zombie apocalypse, like Warm Bodies.
In fact, those are actually my three favorite for each category (let alone in general).
For those that don’t know, Warm Bodies is like a zombie apocalypse Romeo and Juliet story. In fact, the protagonist of the film is a zombie named “R”, because he doesn’t remember his name, who falls in love with one of the living named, “Julie.” (See how close they’re riffing?)
But Warm Bodies isn’t like other zombie films. Sure, zombies pose a threat, they are the undead, and they feast on the brains of the living. But in Warm Bodies, zombies seem to be a metaphor for how society already is. Factioned. Divided.
And with many now who already go through life like the living dead.
In Warm Bodies, zombies exist in this limbo state. Undead, but not yet all gone. You see, it seems the only fate for the undead in Warm Bodies is to become “bonies.” When they give up. And lose all hope.
But there’s another reason Warm Bodies is a different type of zombie film. You see, in Warm Bodies, the undead can come alive. Or rather, the living dead, become the living life. More alive than those that aren’t zombies in the first place.
In Warm Bodies, the dead come back to life. And not in the “Night of the Living Dead” sense, where the dead come back as undead.
In Warm Bodies, the zombies hearts start beating once again. They’re…born again. So to speak.
And the old paradigms that had sustained society: walled off cities, social division, fighting to survive, othering; all of it dies with death.
At the end of the film, R bleeds. And he becomes fully alive. And he isn’t the only one.
The film ends with a summary of what happens in the aftermath. R comments that from one perspective, getting shot in the chest hurts him, like a lot. But ultimately, for him, it felt good to bleed, to feel pain.
To feel love.
And for the rest of the zombies, they all learned how to live again. R comments that for a while, it seemed like everyone had forgotten what that meant: to live.
And the cure? The cure to death, to bring life?
R goes on to say how scary it was at first, painful even. But that every great thing starts out a little scary, and might even hurt to begin.
The final shot is of the massive dividing wall being destroyed, and collapsing.
No more walls. No more divisions. No more others.
All are one. In a new life. A new world.
A kingdom that’s conquered death.
“This is how the world was…exhumed.”
Many see Easter as the beginning of this new world. Or just like how they see Christmas through the lens of Easter, they view Easter through the lens of their dogma about a Second Coming.
“X gon’ give it to ya!”
And yet…all too often, they miss the bigger meaning.
Sometimes when you stare at something massive, you actually run the risk of oversimplification, and of missing the actual scope of it all. Seeing only half the picture.
And so for Easter, this new life, this new world, has turned into one that is to come. It’s removed, distant. A hope for some kingdom to come. A promise at the end of a long bridge.
A place far away from here, that death seemingly can never get to; never reach, never touch. There are those on the inside, and those on the outside. And each “deserves” what they get. “Those bad people? They had it coming. And now we’re safe away from them, and from death.” It provides comfort. Stability. Perhaps even an assurance that you did right, did good, and that you’re right where you should be. (Maybe that’s why we need others to suffer. It’s easier to see we’re the good guys then…)
But…when faced with the whole picture, well then it very often feels like all hope is dead. Because the place that you hoped in, that you kept thinking was someplace else. Behind walls. Protected. Safe.
Well now it’s threatened.
To discover the whole picture can feel like Death has infiltrated the Kingdom; infested the place. Corroded it.
It may even make you feel powerless.
Death is too strong.
And it can make you feel like nothing.
…Maybe the Cross makes you feel that way.
I would imagine it did for those in history, on that day. To see Him up on the Cross, it may have felt like Death itself had taken Heaven and…sundered it in two.
“Asgard is not a place, it never was.”
It’s a people.
Heaven (or the Kingdom of Heaven) is not a place, it’s a people.
And because it’s not a place, anywhere could be Heaven.
This could be Heaven. This could be the Kingdom.
But it might just take you being broken to see it.
A Kingdom here. Now. A new type of Kingdom.
A Kingdom of Life.
A Kingdom of Love.
It’s not a place. It’s people. And it’s here now. All around you.
Do you witness Heaven? Or do you fear Hell?
You see, it’s not the pain which ruins you, it’s what you do to avoid the pain.
If you’re afraid only of breaking, let yourself be broken.
Let spirit crack you open to discover (living) water springing forth like it did for Moses. Discover yourself being forged.
And discover that living water. Discover life.
Which can only come from the rock (of your hardened heart) being broken, its wall destroyed, collapsing.
I titled this message, “What is Love?” And I have to admit, I’m still trying to sort out a definition that sits well with me. What I can say is that I find myself in agreement with lyricists of the past as to what love is not.
“Love is not some victory march.”
“It’s not a cry that you hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.”
True love is precisely this:
Forsaking the promise of eternity itself for an imperfect individual.
Love is something that breaks you.
But it’s a good break. It breaks you TO LIFE.
Jesus was broken by love.
And I think on a certain level, that is what we really needed: For someone else to pay a horrible price.
Perhaps this time away from each other, isolated and alone, is a lot like being in a tomb. But there’s the other thing Easter promises:
The stone rolls away. Walls fall.
And when that happens in your life, may it lead to so much more.
Instead of looking to break others in the name of “protecting” life, be broken.
Let love break you this Easter Sunday.
Discover life. Feel your heart beat. (Perhaps even for the first time.)
And see how glorious it is to hurt in your chest.
How good it feels to hurt, to be pained, to bleed (into one another, even).
What I mean is, see how good it is to feel love.
Ultimately…see how glorious it is, when everything is new.