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Welcome to the second episode of this new podcast!

In this podcast, you’ll hear about Mandalorians, theologians, and children with a sense of wonder.

In this podcast, I reference N. T. Wright. I love his podcast, “Ask N. T. Wright Anything.” Listen through your podcast app, or visit the website. 

Surprised by Hope is NT Wright’s most popular work. From “Surprised By Hope may likely be Wright’s book that is most transformative for the life and thought of local churches. Wright locates our hope not solely in a distant hereafter, but in the life of the church as Christ’s body in the here and now.”

Grab it on Amazon, if you’re so inclined. 




This is computer generated. Expect a few errors.

A Mandalorian and a Theologian Walk Into a Bar – S01E02

Start Time Transcript


Hello, friends. My name is Rob Webster, and thank you for listening to the podcast today. This episode is called A Mandalorian and a Theologian Walk into a Bar. This is episode two of The Story that Writes Us. Before we get going with episode two, I just want to thank everybody for the tremendous response I got to episode one.


It was so much fun. I announced it on Facebook a week before and through some channels at our church as well. And man, you guys like showed up in droves I had so many people like that post and then comments on it. And then after you all listened to the to the podcast, a lot of you engaged with it and just had some incredible additional insights and comments on it.


That meant so much to me to know that you were that you were listening, that you’re engaging. And then we had a Zoom call, and so I invited people to be a part of that just to talk about the podcast. And so that’s a really fun way to make this a two way street. So if you go to, there’s a place where you can register for a Zoom call.


The next one is coming up on May 10th. I’m doing them on Tuesday evenings. I’m trying to do a new podcast every Thursday, and then the following Tuesday do a zoom call. And so I’d love to have you jump in on that. And it was so great seeing friends, current friends, and then getting to reconnect with an old friend in particular who is there who I hadn’t seen in a couple of decades.


It was so much fun, just to be able to to discuss it. And so I just wanted to put that out there and invite anybody who wants to. If you wanna have some further discussion around any of the ideas that are brought up in this podcast, I would love to see your smiling face on a Zoom call. That would be so much fun.


You can also reach me via email. You can write to Rob at this story that write to If you’ve got any suggestions, I’m going to start doing interviews next week with people. I’ve got a whole bunch lined up, but as we go through this, if you’re like, Hey Rob, you really need to talk to this person, I would love to hear about it.


So let me know. Like I said, is a great way to get a hold of me and let me know that. So today’s episode is really kind of part two. This one also is going to be just me. I’m continuing to lay some groundwork for the Why behind this podcast. I’m going to introduce you to to a theologian who I first heard about through a very roundabout, interesting way, man, a long time ago.


We’re going to get there. And then next week I’m going to start on the interviews, but I think you’re going to find this one, this episode today to be pretty interesting. So with no further ado, let’s get going. Many, many years ago, I used to work in a campus ministry at the University of North Carolina, and I loved those years in my life.


They were there were so formative for me and so satisfying and the relationships that I made. There are some of my closest relationships to this day. It was just a great chapter in my life. And while I was there at the University of North Carolina, I became aware of a professor on campus. His name was Dr. Bart Ehrman, he taught he was the I believe he was the chair of the Department of Religion.


He’s still there. He’s a New Testament scholar who focuses on textual criticism of the New Testament. And so really what he would do in his class is he would dismantle any trust that people had and the reliability of the scriptures and he was an enormously popular professor. I believe his lecture hall seated 400 and his class always had a waiting list.


And I’m not sure how I met him, but somehow through students or something, I met him and we got to know each other just a little bit on campus. I think a lot of people were a little bit scared of Dr. Ehrman, and probably with good reason. He’s super smart. He really knows his stuff. But Dr. Ehrman never really scared me.


I was actually always really interested in talking with him. I think it’s because my dad was a skeptic my dad was a believer, but I guess he didn’t take things at face value. So him being a research chemist, he liked to poke and prod and investigate and experiment. And so I think with my dad’s faith, he loved reading Biblical Archeological Review, for instance.


That was just a magazine we had around my house growing up. That’s a secular publication that looks at biblical archeology through that lens and just some great scholarship there and some challenging things as well. And I guess that’s why Bart Ehrman didn’t didn’t scare me because I’m I’m thinking actually kind of reminded me of my dad. You know, I was OK with the question.


I thought this guy probably actually brings up some really good points. I would see a lot of college students who had grown up in the church and were full of faith but had never dared to question anything and perhaps had an oversimplistic view of things, including their understanding of the scriptures. And so to hear that there was a professor on campus who might be challenging people’s notions of the scriptures actually kind of excited me because I wanted to know how they were being challenged to help those students and also let them know, hey, even if he’s right, it’s not the end of the world.


This doesn’t have to destroy our our faith and trust in the Scriptures, even if we come to understand them maybe in a slightly different light. Bart Ehrman has been widely criticized for his views. Some of his staunchest critics have simply said that he overstates things, that he might find a couple of minor errors in the Scriptures over the years, but the way he presents it is that the entire thing is false and mythical and unreliable.


It was very hard for I remember one student even who was a who was a pastor’s kid who was on full scholarship at the university, a brilliant young man. And he said, you know, sitting through a semester of this guy’s lectures, it really rocked my faith. And so I can’t imagine what this does to somebody who doesn’t have the theological background that I do well.


The group of kids in our ministry, they were maybe ten or 12 of them who were going to be taking this class together. I bumped into Dr. Erman one time, and I could understand that the look on his face when I said, Would it be all right – I’m not a student here, but could I sit in on your class and, and just observe?


I, I would love to to learn from you, but I really wanted to get your permission. And he looked at me very hesitantly and very skeptically, but I appreciate this great city showed me when he said Yeah, I think that’ll be OK. But he added, I don’t want you asking any questions in class. And he said, The reason is it’s a huge class.


And I always leave room for Q&A at the end. And I really feel like that time should be given to the students who are actually paying to be there. So I would sit with this group of students who are in our ministry together, and I just kind of sit right in the middle of them. And so it was really interesting.


There were times when he’d share things in in class that were challenging. And during the Q&A, I knew that he wouldn’t take questions from me, but I would pass notes to the students sometimes and I’d say, Just ask him about this and I’m not meaning to present myself as some sort of biblical text scholar, because I’m certainly not.


But there were times where I was like, Hey, this is worthy of a follow up question here. And so that’s kind of how the semester went. Well, the very last day of class, Dr. Ehrman would always basically share his faith story, his journey from being an evangelical born again Christian, to being an agnostic slash atheist. I’m not really quite sure how he defines himself.


And so he tells the whole story of his faith undoing at the very end of the story, which took up most of the class period, as he always did. He asks for questions and I raised my hand and I saw him look at me, and he hesitated for just a second, and then he called on me and I said, Dr. Herman, are there any conservative Bible scholars whom you really respect I didn’t know what his answer would be, and I didn’t know if he would just say, Yeah, no, I think they’re all off their rocker and they’re misreading it.


But if there was one out there, all I wanted was for those 400 students to know. There’s another perspective out here. You’re hearing one man who spent decades studying this you’re hearing one man’s perspective. There are other viewpoints out there. I just wanted them to to hear that and to understand that what I wasn’t prepared for was a name.


And he nodded and he says, there’s one man. He’s he’s an Anglican scholar named N. T. Wright. He said, I disagree with his conclusions. But his scholarship is excellent.


That wasn’t the first I’d heard of N. T. Wright. But to hear that roundabout endorsement of N. T. Wright, certainly made me want to look into this man and understand him a little bit better. I’ve since become a big fan of N. T. Wright. He is a British guy. Listen to his podcast, which is called Ask Not Write Anything. I really just love his demeanor, his approach, his theology.


And here’s what I really respect about about N. T. Wright. He is a he’s a scholar of Bible times and so there are all these layers that we’ve added on to our understanding of the Bible and into our understanding of history. And some of them really probably shouldn’t be there. And so I love that he. Right. Is able to really walk us back in time and say, let’s read this through the lens of a first century Jew or a first century Gentile.


Let’s read it through that lens and through their understanding. And so I’ve really come at this with great respect for his for his scholarship and for his perspective. He says, Hey, we are thinking about heaven like this. But I think this would be really foreign to a first century Jew. For instance, I heard him one of integrates podcast.


Someone was talking about evangelism and how to do evangelism, and there is this platonic sense of of heaven and hell and the soul leaves the body after death and goes to some distant, far off place called heaven. And integrate would say that is not a first century understanding he said that that concept, that kind of language and terminology and understanding would feel very, very foreign to the original readers of the Scriptures.


And so as he right understands it, Jesus said, the kingdom of Heaven is with you now heaven is here. And so when it comes to talking about evangelism, here’s what integrates says. And this is this is really I’ll just say it like this. This is really meant a lot to me. And I don’t think I have confirmation bias.


A lot of times if their varying viewpoints on things, we can fall into a trap of confirmation bias where we go to the people whose viewpoint most supports what we already believe and say, well, I’m going to choose to believe this person with 90 right. This actually wasn’t confirmation bias because it kind of rocked me a little bit and caused a shift in theology.


So it actually went against I think what I’d previously understood about about salvation and what that means in heaven, all of that. So here’s what he said when someone was asking him about evangelism, he said inviting someone to become a Christian is inviting them to become a part of the story of Jesus in the sense of meeting Jesus for themselves, introducing them like a friend, introducing you to their best friend, he says, becoming a Christian is a transforming relationship with this person.


Walk them through the basics of Jesus story that he came to say this is the time for God to run the world. The way He wants and the way he does. This is by dying on a cross and rising again to open up God’s new creation. And you can be a part of that new creation right now. Because if you believe in Jesus, if you trust in Him, then you can be a part of this new creation project which is going on not only now, but in the forever time when God makes a new heaven and a new earth.


Now I can unpack that Psalm and integrate was talking about how we would explain this to someone who’s not a Christian how he would say, You get to be a part of this new creation. If you listen to his podcast, if you read his books, he’s he fleshes this out a whole lot more. But the reality is when we say in the Lord’s Prayer, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we get the privilege of of coming alongside God, of being a part of building up God’s kingdom on Earth.


In other words, heaven isn’t something that simply happens. A place where we where we go immediately upon death. Jesus is God made in flesh. Who has come to earth? Heaven has come to Earth. And so in the here and now, we are part of building this new creation. We are a part of the story of God in the story that writes us.


Do you see now why this resonates with me so much? And it’s this understanding that, yes, all of this will be revealed in a in a greater way, as N.T. Wright said, when God makes a new heaven and a new earth, that time is yet to come. And yet the remaking of the Earth begins now, and that we get to be a part of it.


Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. What a glorious picture. What a glorious opportunity for us to be a part of the story of God. Salvation means this. We get to be a part of this story.


Have you watched the Mandalorian? Do you even know what I’m talking about? If you don’t know what it is, the Mandalorian is a series that came out on on Disney, plus on their streaming service. And the Mandalorian is part of the Star Wars universe. It’s part of part of that story. So if you’re familiar with Baby Yoda or Grow Goo as he is actually named, then you are familiar with the Mandalorian.


I was really thrilled. They did two seasons of it. And, and honestly, it’s it’s just great. It’s great episodic storytelling. It’s really, really well done. And not everything that has the Star Wars stamp on it is well done. The Mandalorian is really well done because I do some filmmaking myself, and I love documentaries and behind the scenes stuff I was really thrilled to see that on Disney.


Plus, they had an eight part series on the making of the Mandalorian, and it was fascinating. So, so interesting to see how it was made and some of the technology that was involved in it, multiple directors involved in it, but how they how it all had a similar feel was tied together. Just a great documentary. The final episode of the documentary was definitely the most interesting for me for one reason in particular, they talked about at the very end of season one, there is a big climactic battle, right?


So you need that in a movie. The bad guy looks like he’s he’s about to win. It’s what Tolkien calls the catastrophe. It’s the moment when the hero is pinned down. There is no hope and there is no way out what on earth is going to happen? And it’s a great dramatic device. And so in the season finale of season one of the Mandalorian the bad guy, who is kind of a different take on Darth Vader, the really bad guy has all the rebels pinned down and he’s got this giant massive gun that gets assembled and he’s got this army of storm troopers.


And there is no way that our friends who we’ve come to know and love can possibly survive what is about to happen to them. So I won’t tell you any more about this story, but the making of this scene was really, really interesting. So a few days before they shot it, they would have a production meeting and the creator, Jon Favreau, was sitting down with the director and they’re just going through a checklist and he says, Hey, we only have what is this?


25 storm troopers and they’re like, Yeah. And he says that that doesn’t seem like enough. That seems kind of kind of puny for what’s supposed to be going on here and what this is all about. Can we not get some more storm troopers and they’re like, Well, we already shipped most of the costumes back. You know, this is like their last day of filming.


They’re like, you know, this can all we had in a short notice. It’s not like we can get a bunch more actors to come in and get the paperwork done and, you know, do they need to be stunt trained? What, you know, they just like it’s just kind of it’s too late. We don’t we can’t really throw it together in this short amount of time.


So they said, what if we call in the 501st now the five first if you don’t know, they’re one of the nations largest. I’m not sure what the term would be costuming groups. So they are a dedicated group of people who dress up like storm troopers. And you can you can look up their website the 50 first just Google five of the first storm troopers because to be in this group your uniform has to meet some specifications.


It has to look like real storm trooper armor. So these are kind of like elite costumers and they do a ton of charity events or go to children’s hospitals they’ll show up at parties in the Southern California area. Or if George if George Lucas is ever speaking at a convention or something, they might have some members of the five of first come to provide a security detail.


Right. Just to be marching alongside him or whatever. So they they do a lot of events. And so the thought was, hey, if we need some more storms, troopers, why don’t we just call up these guys? So George Lucas personally knew some of the people in leadership with the 501st. And so they called George and said, hey, can you, can you put in a phone call or two for us?


And before long they were able to get some extras and they didn’t have to worry about their costumes because these these men and women were bringing their own costumes. And some of them didn’t even realize until the morning of when they were being driven onto the set what it was they were being asked to do. They just knew it was an event.


And they said, sounds fun. We’ll come along for the ride. Some of them were literally in the van and a production assistant was driving them to the set and they found out what they were going to be a part of.


Can you imagine that you are a huge Star Wars fan. You are such a big fan that you even make this armor yourself that looks just like the real thing. And can you imagine what a dream come true it was for these people to realize I’m no longer going to just be dressing up like I’m a character in a movie.


I’m going to get to actually be in a Star Wars film or a TV series, as the case may be. I’m going to get to be in a Star Wars production it was overwhelming for them to actually get to be on set and get to be a part of this. How incredible is that?


Dave Filoni is one of the directors of of the Mandalorian, and he had actually been a fan of the 501st long before he was ever asked to be a director of the Mandalorian. And so he gave some unique insight and he said, you know, the the goal of anybody who’s a big fan is to have something it’s called screen used.


So if you have a prop light saber, if you have a piece of armor, if you have anything that was ever shot in a Star Wars film or series, the value of it immediately goes up because it’s screen used so for all of these members of the 501st all of a sudden, everything that they had immediately went up in value.


It became screen used just by nature. The fact that that’s the costume that they were wearing that day they were so fantastic on set because unlike actors or their stunt people, they didn’t have to train them in how to run or and how to march. They do this all the time anyway. He said it was the most natural thing, and giving them direction was so simple because they knew how to move.


They knew how to hold the guns. They were ready in a sense. They’d been preparing for this their whole lives. And so finally, in that final scene where the camera pans and you see all of these stormtroopers, it’s the exact look that they were wanting. It’s exactly what they were going for. And they weren’t able to achieve it until they involved all these other people.


And for them, it became a dream come true to get to be a part of this story. And I don’t know if we ever think about what it means to live as Christians in this world and how incredible it is that we get to be a part of this story. And, you know, I had a chance one time to spend some time on a on a big budget movie set, and the extras would be called in, they’d be in costume, and sometimes they’d just be waiting in this tent in costume all day and never really knowing if or when they would even get called to be on camera.


But but they were prepared and they were ready and they were anxious and couldn’t wait for the opportunity to to do the thing that they’d been called there to do. I feel like the Christian life can and should be like that. Not that we sit around and wait. We actively seek ways that we can follow after God, that we can be his hands and feet.


But but we’re prepared. And when the opportunity comes, we’re ready just like these Star Wars fans. They were trained. They knew what to do. They were ready. And they were so excited that they got to be a part of the story.


I remember when my children were quite young, I don’t know how old they were, maybe three and four. I was standing in the kitchen and I was making a breakfast, and I don’t know what the context was, but somewhere in there I said something about, Well, when Jesus comes back and then I finished my sentence and my kids looked at me and they said, Wait, what?


And it occurred to me, Oh, they might not know about this. They said, Well, the Bible tells us that Jesus is is coming back. And they looked at me incredulously and said, Jesus is coming back. And I said, Well, well, yeah. And they looked at each other just grinning from ear to ear. And then they looked at me and you can guess what they said next.


They said, When I said, Great question, nobody knows. But I said, even the disciples, when they wrote about it in the Bible, they they thought it might be tomorrow. My kids looked at me and said, Tomorrow. I said, Yeah. I mean, Jesus could come back today. And then what today? I said, it’s, it’s possible. We really just don’t know when.


And my kids were so happy and excited and they turned to each other and they grabbed a hands and danced up and down, just amazed. And then gosh, I cry every time I tell this part of the story. And then my son looked at me and he said, Dad, Dad, if Jesus comes back maybe we could be the ones to write it all down.


And gosh, I love that that he was so excited that that maybe one day when there’s a gospel, according to William and a gospel according to Bennett, that we’ll know that Jesus has come back because it was a faithful scribe who is by Jesus side and was ready to tell the story of what Jesus had done. I love that so much that He said, Dad, maybe we’ll get to be the ones to write it down.


Maybe we’ll get to be the ones to witness all this, to be a part of this story, and to tell the story to others.


Oh, children’s minds can be so free and so creative. And when my kids thought about the return of Jesus, they thought we could write the next Gospels, and that’s where their minds went well, here’s the good news for us. Jesus died and Jesus came to life Jesus never died again.


What that means is that Jesus is still alive. And I was talking to my kids in the context of Jesus next bodily return. And like Wright said of this time, when when God will complete a new heaven and a new earth. But but in the meantime are stories to be told. And there’s work to be done. And we get this privilege to come alongside Jesus and building that kingdom on Earth now, and we get to tell the story of it.


And so this story, it’s the story that writes us, and that’s where we’re going with the rest of this. As I’ve already mentioned, I want us to think into really open ways because you might be thinking, I’m not a storyteller, I’m not creative. The reality is you are, and you do tell stories. We all do. And some people do it in different ways.


So when I talk about telling stories, I’m excited about some conversations coming up with some people who tell stories or maybe in traditional ways, but maybe in some really different ways, too. And in some ways that the point is towards God. Stories are so important they’re worth listening to. If you have your own testimony, then you can be a storyteller.


If you create anything, you are a storyteller and we’re all being shaped and molded and created by the story that writes us next week, join me for an interview with author Lynn Wilson, who wrote a book called Think Like a Five Year Old and has a new book out called Greater Things. And remember, if you’d like to join in on a Zoom discussion about this podcast today, you can go to the story that Righteous Scholar the story that writes us as part of the Discipleship Ministries at Custom Road United Methodist Church.


Thanks for listening.