Cyberpunk Edgerunners may just be my anime of the year. The world was downright immersive. It made me feel like I was inside the video game. It fleshed things out in ways that a video game world can’t. The characters were impressive and brilliant. The music was bizarre and driving, just like Night City would expect. The story was an epic tragedy that kept driving from one episode to the next.
All in all - about as perfect as I could hope for.
But even more than just a delightful experience - the way that Edgerunners explored one of the best parts of Cyberpunk 2077 and the Cyberpunk universe built by Mike Pondsmith was what set it apart. The truth of Night City is that it’s a broken place. It’s the tragedy that makes it so compelling. And - since this is a nerdy sermon after all - I have to acknowledge that the Bible has its fair share of depraved tragedy in its pages.
For this video, we’re focusing on David from Edgerunners and David (along with a few others) from the story of the nation of Israel. What hope do we have the Night City may or may not have? Let’s talk about it.
Welcome to Checkpoint Church - where nerds, geeks, and gamers come together to talk about faith, games, and logging another 20 hours in 2077 after watching the anime and having that fire rekindled. I’m your Nerd Pastor Nate. If you like these weekly deep-dives, be sure to sub and hit that bell to find out when our next one drops.
Read: DuckMakesThings (Darian)
Acts 13:16-23 (NRSVue)
So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak: “Fellow Israelites and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. After he had destroyed seven peoples in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’ Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.
So let’s start with the obvious - what is Cyberpunk Edgerunners, and why should we care about it?
The Cyberpunk universe has been around for decades and was originally a TTRPG designed by Mike Pondsmith.
It’s always been a contender and has its cult following, but it certainly isn’t on the same level of fame as Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder.
As early as 2012, CD Projekt Red had consulted with Pondsmith to make a video game version of the TTRPG once they wrapped their DLC for the wildly popular Witcher 3.
They were so hyped about it that they first released a teaser for it as long ago as 2013. Then there was a long gap before offering a trailer to raucous applause at E3 2018… then E3 2019… then, uh, radio silence.
It was supposed to be released in April 2020 but was then delayed to September… then November, then December.
And then, when it did release - it was a buggy mess. Although I still proudly flaunt that I didn’t experience a crash until 75 hours in - the consensus on the game was that it was broken. After nearly a decade of hype, it failed to reach expectations - even being so unexpectedly awful that Playstation just… stopped selling it for a bit.
CD Projekt hit the ground running with update after update correct the issues, and - nearly two years later, the game is more than stable enough to experience in its fullness - but the bridge has been badly burnt.
Until Cyberpunk Edgerunners hit the scene.
Developed by the one and only Studio Trigger, Cyberpunk Edgerunners hit Netflix on Sept 13, 2022, and rocked my world.
As someone who enjoyed the world of Cyberpunk and had a blast with the game 2077, it was only natural that I would watch the show, but I didn’t expect it to go so. Dang. hard.
Edgerunners is the very adult and graphic story of a group of Edgerunners - who are technological mercenaries - with particular attention to the tragic love story of MC David Martinez and his muse, Lucy.
Ugh, gross did I call her a muse? Cringe.
Anyways I loved this story so much that I desperately want you to experience the whole thing for yourself, so rather than spoil the entire show, I’m only going to spoil the first two episodes in this sermon.
As I mentioned, this is ultimately David’s story. We start the season by meeting the young and naive David, a struggling slum kid trying to make it at Arasaka Academy - the most prestigious school. His mom Gloria is a humble med unit worker doing her best to make ends meet to provide for her kiddo.
After getting caught with illegal mods to this cyberware that allows him to complete schoolwork, David brings a one-on-one with the principal and his mom. On the drive home, they are a part of a drive-by street battle that ends up putting his mother in critical condition.
To find the funds needed to provide for her, he discovers some dark secrets about how she planned to pay for his school - a stolen military weapon called the Sandevistan.
Thrown off, David returns to school and is harassed and abused by one of his classmates. Then he learns from the doctor caring for his mother that she has died of complications.
Outraged, David chooses to have the Sandevistan equipped to his own body - a procedure that would unquestionably kill him, but of course, there are ten episodes, so it doesn’t.
With superhuman abilities, David goes back and annihilates his school bully, which, of course, gets him expelled.
Later, wandering around the city, he meets his star-crossed lover Lucy (oh man, that’s actually like a really good joke)
Lucy agrees to take him on as a netrunning partner and show him the ropes.
However, the Sandevistan takes a toll on David, and the Doctor who equipped him with the device initially tells him not to use it more than a few times a day.
Lucy invites him back to her apartment, and things seem to be looking up for David.
They watch a braindance of the Moon for a while and romantically talk about how she dreams of going to the moon someday to live. It’s intimate, and David is wondering if this is the first night of the rest of his life with this perfect dream girl.
Then he learns she drugged him, which was a trap for her work partner Maine to get back the Sandevistan that David’s mom stole.
Isn’t that great? Absolutely preem level writing and story-telling, and - let me assure you - it only gets better from there. Watch this one for the art alone if you want, but the story is nothing to shake a stick at.
What makes this even more incredible is that the devs added new questlines to Cyberpunk 2077, where you learn the story of David Martinez as a kind of urban legend.
And it’s there where our scripture comes to play.
In our passage for today, Paul is presenting the overarching story of the Bible leading up to Jesus, marking the familiar touchstones that any respectable Jewish person would know exceptionally well.
Fellow Israelites - Paul says - listen! Do you know God who freed us from Egypt?
Everyone is like, Yeah!
Then God gave us Canaan - the promised land?
Yeah! The crowd roars
Then we got Judges and Prophets, right?
Oh yeah! Dope stories!
And then we wanted a king, and we got Saul!
And they were like, yeah, he was okay.
And then we got David!!
Yeah - they bought right back in.
Remember the prophecy about Jesse's lineage that would pass through David? Yeah, it came to fruition, and Jesus is the guy. But you killed him. But he's back and ascended because he is the true Messiah and Savior!
This speech by Paul is an instance of how Jewish people were brought into the faith I'm Jesus Christ. This was a story that had been passed down. It was an expected eventuality.
Sure they all viewed it in different ways here and there, but ultimately this was where things were supposed to end up.
So Paul doesn't start with Jesus but instead replays the highlight reel of the greatest hits - David, Samuel, the Judges.
And he doesn't just mention the good stuff. Yeah, we were freed from Egypt, but we wandered for a long time, and people died.
And Saul wasn't precisely Mr. Popular.
What he is ultimately playing is the pathos of the crowd. The story of the Israelites is a story of hardship and trouble. It's a story of death and devastation. It's a story of waiting and worrying. It's a story of genocide and salt pillars. It's a story that the Israelites took with them in spoken lore for centuries.
Aren't offshoots of religion and culture still that way? What is a holiday besides a reminder of the past - good, bad, and ugly?
But the good news from Paul is that there is evidence or something new now. We are at the end of the story of the Israelites. With Jesus, the future and the story of the hardships and lineage have come to a close. Now all are welcome. Christ died for the world. Not just the ancestors out of Egypt, but Egypt too.
In this way, Paul is building off the urban legends like David and the Judges to bolster and reinforce the fulfillment of all of it.
Despite the tragedies and downright awful circumstances in David Martinez's life, I see a similar thing done in Night City.
Night City is a place of debauchery and division with severe brokenness inside it. But there is hope that happens on the streets with a strong urban legend like characters like David.
As evidenced in the cases from 2077, David is a bug enough deal to be a legend to V, our tough-as-nails protagonist.
The bad times still happen for David Martinez and V, but they are headed somewhere; they are being written as the stuff of legend.
Where will this legend go? Is there hope for the future of Night City? I'm afraid all of that is locked up tight in Mike Pondsmiths brilliant brain.
But in the gospel, we hear the fullness of the message. We get to know that the hard times were fulfilled in Jesus. Things were for something, and the Savior did provide.
But what does this mean for us today?
Well, the good news is precisely that. Paul is telling these Israelites the truth of Jesus to spread the joy of a Savior.
So good news! Christ died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.
In the meantime, it's unwise to assume we won't have more hardships or challenges. But we are held in grace only made possible because of the same lineage of David offered by Paul to this group of Israelites.
The grace of Jesus is timeless.
And it's a message of hope.
Exploring and enjoying a world as dark as Cyberpunk always helps to allow it to serve as the opposite to which to compare ourselves.
So find hope in the promise that Jesus is the fulfillment of a long history of legends.
Consider who has been your hallmark urban legend. Who are the touchstones of faith along the path for you? How are they leading to Jesus? These are the questions we can offer ourselves as we consider these words of Paul.
And we'd love to tackle those questions with you Wednesdays at 9am or on Discord.
Because whether you're Arasaka, Nomad, or Streetkid, you're always welcome at Checkpoint Church.
God loves you.
We love you.