Metroid Dread & Equipping Those Spiritual Gifts
Metroid Dread was a game that no one expected this year - sure it isn’t Metroid Prime 4 that most were anticipating, but we definitely didn’t plan to see a new 2D Metroid title hit the markets alongside the new OLED Nintendo Switch. But it did and here we are - now, Metroid has never exactly been known for its narrative, but the meta-game that it tells in every iteration are helpful for our walks as Christians. How might we better equip ourselves for loving others like Samus equips herself for besting baddies? Let’s talk about it.
Welcome to Checkpoint Church - where nerds, geeks, and gamers come together to talk about faith, games, and how could I possibly know that wall was breakable?! I’m your Nerd Pastor Nate. If you like these weekly deepdives, be sure to sub and hit that bell to find out when our next one drops.
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
First off - what is Metroid? Metroid is a game series from Nintendo that follows bounty hunter Samus Aran, who hops from one journey to the next defending the galaxy from giant kaiju, space pirates, contagions, and mean crow bois.
The titular Metroid is an alien creature that looks a bit like a jellyfish in their larval form and is parasitic in nature. They are fairly iconic and terrifying - if you don’t know how to take down these creatures, then panic quickly ensues.
There are two real lines in the Metroid universe - the games are either the traditional 2D side scroller or the 3D action adventure entries.
But then there was a third offshoot for the Gameboy Advance known as Metroid Fusion that featured Samus getting infested by these creatures known as X and that series was officially revived in this entry of Metroid Dread which continues with that iteration of Samus.
However, tbh, you’ve really heard all of the lore already. Metroid is not really know for deep narrative, but it is an absolutely ground breaking in what we call ludology - the study of play. To the point that Metroid, along with the similarly influential Castlevania, have spawned a subgenre called the Metroidvania.
The hallmarks of this subgenre of Metroidvania is what I find most compelling about this series. In these games, the player will controller a character in 2D and explore the world to the best of their ability, finding items along the way that will allow the player to unlock new areas with those items as they attain them. The player will, piece by piece, learn their arsenal as they attain the pieces.
This mean that there is generally no real tutorial or steep climb to mastering a character, like in Street Fighter or the such, but every player gets to learn the moveset piecemeal, allowing for a sense of mastery by the end of the game.
Hilariously, this normally requires that Samus lose her entire arsenal for ‘reasons’ at the start of every game.
Dread is probably the first Metroidvania that I’ve rolled credits on from either of the mainline games, and I have to say that I totally felt like I could conquer the world after getting all the equippables and taking on the final boss.
Was it difficult? Yeah. I wanted to snap my Switch in twain at some parts, but once all was said and done I felt like doing that 80s pose where you walk away, pump your fist in the air, and freeze frame - it’s just good.
So what on earth could this possibly have to do with scripture? Believe it or not - I think we could actually talk about the Metroidvania methodology in the church outside of the nerd church world.
See - in the church world we really like to talk about these things called Spiritual gifts - these are literally kind of supernatural superpowers gifted by the Holy Spirit in our baptism and seen through scripture on days like Pentecost.
And, if you’re into video games, anime, and superheroes - the concept itself is pretty rad, right? Like, yes I want superpowers from being a Christian.
This isn’t just the reaction of the nerd though - folks in mainline churches are just as obsessive over spiritual gifts. Sometimes, perhaps to our own detriment.
I’ll speak for myself rather than put this on anyone else - but I can recall being a newer Christian and trying to take every spiritual gifts inventory (which is kind of like the buzzfeed quizzes of the church world) and trying to get the cooler spiritual gifts.
Um, yes, teacher it says here that I can walk on water - is that a rare result?
It wasn’t until I grew up a bit and started to take those things serious that I got an accurate reading on one of those and learned that I am gifted in leadership, encouragement, and teaching - which like, nerd pastor, church planter - it me
If we think about our spiritual gifts and our call to serving one another in love like that then we are only going to end up burning ourselves out or letting ourselves down in the end, that’s why our scripture is so important
This passage is from Paul’s epistles, or letters, written to the church that he started in Ephesus. In it, Paul is explaining the process of leadership in the church.
We start with Jesus at the top, of course.
After Jesus ascended, Paul explains, Jesus called some among the crowd to be leaders in the community, he lists teachers, apostles, evangelists, teachers, pastors - these are people who are specifically gifted for the purpose of this thing called equipping
And equipping should sound pretty familiar - Metroid, right?
So what is the process of equipping?
According to Paul, we must first get rid of our childish fear and ground ourselves in Jesus, we call this faith. First and foremost, we must believe. Doubts are okay, but fears? Not so much.
Once we find a foundation, we are to speak the truth in love, sharing the good news of the gospel, loving God and loving others into a relationship with Jesu Christ.
And as we do that, we are to grow into the shape of Christ, living the life that Christ did, together - that’s an important part - it must be together.
And then we, together, build up the body.
Now, in the Methodist church, we would see this as being the path of grace.
Jesus came first and is offering grace before anything else - Jesus is offering grace before we ever even know that we need it - this is called prevenient grace
Second, we must accept Jesus as our savior and affirm our foundation in this thing called faith - this is called justifying grace and we believe this is what happens when we are baptized
Third, we live lives of growth and equipping, learning all that we can, loving all that we can, sharing all that we can, this is called sanctifying grace and involves the work of growing deeper into a relationship with the Body of Christ called the Church
Finally, Wesleyans believe in this thing called Perfecting Grace, which may or may not be achievable on this side of heaven, where we grow to look more and more like Christ in every word and deed
Now what is important about this?
The first thing to keep in mind is that this is a process - it’s not a single day of work.
That was the problem with my spiritual gifts superpower search - I knew what I wanted, but wasn’t interested in taking the time needed to explore what God was doing within me during the process of loving God and loving others
Some of us may be in different places at different times - some of us may still be unsure and just wading the waters of prevenient grace, others of us may have accepted Jesus, but still discovering what that actually means.
To make it kitchsy and easy to remember - it’s not about the destination, but the journey.
If Samus had all of her moves at the beginning of the game, she’d be pretty powerful, but we as players would likely have no idea how to actually use her to the best of her ability. But by allowing the game to be a journey where we slowly, but surely, press onward, we are better equipped by the end of it.
Another key thing we can learn from this is that the spiritual gifts are already prepared for us - I’m not suggesting predestination here. I mean that Jesus has already called you into this thing and has created leaders from the beginning to help you discover what gifts you have that might be right for you.
Again, like Samus, as the exploration happens the skills are sitting there waiting for you in the hallowed hands of the chozo statue - you just need to grab it and equip it.
So what does this mean for us today? What can we actually take with us and apply for our everyday lives?
Well, it really depends on where you are on the journey:
Maybe you’re not quite there yet - you are curious about this thing called Church and this fella named Jesus, but you’re still hesitant. That’s okay. We’re here at Checkpoint to keep bringing these nerdy sermons and creating a welcoming community on our Discord to figure those questions out. I’m always available to schedule a chat and talk about these things and ask these tough questions. Maybe you’re still waiting to even buy that new Metroid game at all - and that’s a find place to be.
Or perhaps you’re playing the game, you consider yourself a Christian, you believe in Jesus, but you’re just not sure what’s next or how to be equipped - you’re still looking for those teachers, pastors, apostles, and evangelists. If that’s the case, we have a place to start exploring those options called LVL2 here at Checkpoint where you can join alongside other people who want to serve others in love and are figuring these things out - piece by piece.
Maybe we’ll even develop a nerdy spiritual gifts inventory to help guide us through that process? Hm. Dog-ear that idea for the future. Maybe.
Even further still, maybe you’re a teacher, preacher, leader who is ready to figure out how to guide others in this path - LVL2 is perfect for you, too. There is plenty of equipping to be done and we need all of the help that we can get.
Regardless of where you might find yourself, hear the good news that Jesus is already for you no matter what. Jesus is on your side rooting for you whether you’re on the final boss, still in world 1, or haven’t even bought the game yet.
And Checkpoint Church is on your side, too. We want to join right there with you and do this thing called life together.
So, whether you’re a bounty hunter, space pirate, or Kraid himself, know that you’re always welcome here at Checkpoint Church.
But, if you ARE Kraid for whatever reason, please cover any and all of your belly buttons - ah wait - is this what Jesus meant when he said I need to remove the plank from my own eye before I tell someone about the speck projectiling itself out of another’s stomach wound? Whatever - it’s gross, okay?
Question: What was your first Metroidvania?
While this was my first to roll credits, I actually started back in the day with the previous entry in this series Metroid Fusion - I played on the GBA and I was so so lost. I don’t know if I ever made any actual progress in that game.
God loves you. We love you. You matter.
Until next time,