Notes on Breaking Bad (Ways of Being) “Hocus Focus.” In the conclusion to his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul calls the faithful to “rejoice in the Lord, always.” He stressed this call by repeating it, “and again I say rejoice.” Rejoicing is the default way of being for disciples of Christ. Rejoicing is the action the faithful are called to offer in the midst of living regardless of whether life breaks good or bad.
Such actions, such a state, is hard and contrary to worldly human nature, yet it is possible and necessary for kingdom people and disciples of Christ. It is contrary to human emotion and reactions yet it is in line with the way of being in God’s kingdom, empowered by God, and received by faith. Even in the midst of a diagnosis of cancer there is the possibilty, and indeed a call, to rejoice. Paul called the faithful of Philippi to search for all things honorable, true, just, and pleasing in their lives and focus on these things. At the very least, although nothing is greater, disicples can focus on the love and presence of God. Paul calls the faithful to focus on Christ, on serving, being, and lifting the body of Christ, “hoc est corpus meum” which the worldly might consider magic (hocus pocus,) but to the faithful is God’s presence and love in the world. Such focus allows one to rejoice, such living allows one to lift up concerns to God and not live in a state of, a slave to, worry or fear.
Walter White, in responding to his cancer diagnosis in fear rather than faith acted contrary to Paul’s call, made rejoicing impossible and indeed led to decisions and actions that led to the destruction of his spirit and the decay of his, and his family member’s soul.
Rejoicing in response to life breaking bad is not easy because it is against human experience and worldly ways of being. Rejoicing when life breaks bad requires training through spiritual disciplines, many of which Jesus teaches as mandatory for disciples in Luke 12 and throughout the Gospels. Such practiced discipline, such focusing on the body of Christ and the transformation Christ offers, allows disciples to be able to rejoice always because of the fact, and perhaps only because of the fact, that the Lord and God of peace is always near, and therefore the peace of God is always near to guard their hearts, minds, and spirit regardless of how life breaks.
Notes on “Breaking Bad (Ways of Being): Wait Till the Midnight Hour.” Jesus cautions his disciples to remain alert and prepared for his return and the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God through the parable of the unwatchful servants. As disciples we are called to maintain our state of discipleship and kingdom readiness. In the parable, faithful servants were described as being able to answer when the master knocks at the door following his wedding regardless of the time of his arrival. For a servant, such is the acceptable way of being. Like the unfaithful servants in the parable, disciples unwilling to remain awake and ready not only dishonor their Lord, they also take on worldly behaviors and practices that are contrary to Kingdom life and living.
As with the servants who fell asleep and, assuming the role of a master, deciding how to treat fellow servants, Walter White participates in increasingly destructive behavior as he assumes the authority and lethality of the drug lord he used to serve. His destructive and fear-fueled transformation is complete with his famous declaration to his fearful wife, “I am the danger, I am the one who knocks.”
While Walter White believes mistakenly that he is the one who brings danger and knocks, disciples know it is Christ who knocks on our door bringing judgement of salvation or exile. Faith practices and habits such as worship, prayer, service, and fellowship are ways disciples can maintain alertness and preparedness and avoid the temptation to live by worldly ways of thinking and being.
Notes on “Breaking Bad (Ways of Being) Life in the Crawl Space.” The second sermon uses the program to illustrate Jesus’s parable of the rich fool. In this parable, Jesus teaches the disciples and other followers to seek heavenly, or true, treasures and resist the temptation to see earthly riches as treasure to be stored and relied upon as a source of contentment and security. While the rich fool sought to store his treasure in barns, Walter White stored his treasure, drug money, in the crawl space of his house. As with Jesus’s teaching, Walter was foolish in thinking his treasure was safe from decay or thieves, in his case his wife Skylar who took most of the money in an effort to cleanse her own deceitful doings, cooking her bosses books. As it ends up Walter, unlike the rich fool, is able to prevail temporarily against those who came for his life, Drug King Gus and his soldiers. Yet even as he wins against his enemies, Walter continues to break badly and his life and his soul recede further into decay. Most notably and tragically, the family, for whom he broke bad to protect, is decaying and breaking with, and because of him, his fear and his failures.
Notes on Breaking Bad: “Fillet of Soul.” The first sermon in the Breaking Bad sermon series was “Fillet of Soul.” In John 12:1-7, Jesus teaches the disciples not to fear what kills the body but fear what kills the soul. Walter’s breaking bad was his breaking toward fear rather than faith when life broke bad for him. He was so focussed and fearful of the impact his death would have on his family that he ignored the death of his and their souls. He had no faith in the ability of his wife Skyler or his special needs son Walter Jr. to overcome his death, nor did he trust that loved ones would also care and provide support for the family in the event of he should die. Walter allowed the end of their way of life as they knew it to justify the evil means he undertook to provide and protect them. He was blind to the real threat, that which truly could destroy not just their way of living and their very lives, but would in the process, fillet his and their spirit.
Fear over faith, is the source of most, if not all, breaking bad. Fear is the source of pride, greed, and other sin. Fear against God’s faithfulness was the weak spot the serpent used in the first breaking bad as described in Genesis, and is, in one way or another, the genesis all subsequent breaking in and of creation.
Videos of all four sermons may be seen on the Christ United Methodist Church website, http://www.christ4u.org