From Intern Quentin . . .
Grace and peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ,
One of my favorite science fiction shows that I grew up watching was BBC’s Doctor Who. It’s a show known for wacky and daring adventures as the lead character, The Doctor, faces a new threat or mystery each week. Now the Doctor isn’t any ordinary doctor but an alien two-thousand years old who travels across time and space in a blue telephone box who is helped on his adventures by one or more companions. Together, they save both time and space in a way that the Doctor describes as wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey. Something really fascinating about the Doctor’s alien race is that when they are seriously injured or their body stops functioning, they can regenerate themselves into a completely new person. Now the process of regeneration was written into the show because the actor who portrayed the first Doctor, William Hartnell, could no longer play The Doctor due to declining health. Faced with a tough decision, the writers thought that since the Doctor is an alien, then he could have this power to re-generate himself when needed. So, William Hartnell’s Doctor passes away and then regenerates into the Second Doctor, portrayed by Patrick Troughton. Since that first regeneration there has been a total of fifteen different actors who have taken up the mantle of The Doctor in it’s sixty years on-air.
And I think the process of regeneration keeps the show fresh because it makes it possible for each actor to bring part of themselves into the role of the Doctor to make their version unique to them. When comparing two of my favorite Doctors, the Eleventh and Twelfth, portrayed by Matthew Smith and Peter Capaldi, we can see how different their portrayls can be. Smith’s 11th Doctor tended to be wackier and exciting but serious when needed to be. But Capaldi’s Doctor leaned into the seriousness of the moment which allowed him to deliver powerful monologues of surviving war, trauma, and grief. But through all of these differences, the Doctor is still the Doctor. The same Doctor who runs around saving all time and space to help people in need, wage battles for justice, and have fun along the way. But through regeneration, the Doctor changes how they look, dress, act, and believe what matters the most as who they are.
But how does this “re-generating” Doctor relate to our faith life? Well, if we consider that the Doctor only undergoes regeneration when they are mortally wounded or their body can no longer function, then the argument can be made that the current version of the Doctor dies and is raised to a new life through regeneration. And to me, that sounds a lot like the language we use in our baptismal liturgy, that our old, sinful self passes away in the waters of our baptism to be raised into new life in the church. And it’s through that process that we acknowledge that even though we have undergone a change through these waters, we are still the same person as before, somewhat like the Doctor.
So, if we take this notion of regeneration with what we believe about resurrection, that there is a change in how we look, dress, act, and believe what matters most as who we are, then we could argue that we are resurrected into new life quite often beyond the waters of our baptism. For instance, if we look at who we were when we were five (consider all of the things that mattered to us then) and compare that with who we were ten years later, twenty years later, and so on; then we might see that we’ve changed since then. Because in reality, life has happened since then. Physical and mental growth has happened since then. In the words of the Doctor, maybe even some wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff has happened since then.
And I wonder if that idea of regeneration comes into our lives even more than we realize when we swap it with the resurrection language we use in the church. That instead of us regenerating into someone new, we actually lay our old self to rest and are resurrected into someone new. Maybe we experience that daily when we go to sleep and wake in the morning. That each night, we lay ourselves to rest to be raised to a new life in the morning to begin again, to live and act out in the world differently than we did yesterday. Perhaps through these daily resurrections, maybe we too can save all of time and space, wage battles for justice, and have fun along the way.
Peace and Blessings,