Sunday, August 18, 2013

How to Be a Superhero

Ephesians 6:10-18

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

A few weeks ago Pastor Greg talked about how lots of movies try to destroy the world.   In most of these movies usually a hero or superhero steps up to save the day. 
What’s going on?  Why do we keep telling stories about destroying and saving the world?
Even if we don’t define it in spiritual terms, we know that there is a battle of good versus evil in our world.  We know that we are part of this battle.   Somehow, deep inside, we know that there are forces of darkness and evil in this world that are stronger than us, bigger than us. 
We know that we need help from someone bigger, someone stronger, someone more awesome than we could ever be.  We know we need a hero.  And so we have a whole genre of fiction and movies with superheroes.  
Today, as we continue our Family Movie Series in the month of August, we’re looking at the movie THE AVENGERS.  

In the Avengers, Loki - a superhuman alien - is trying to take over the earth, steal a cube of unlimited energy, and turn humans into slaves.  He brings with him an army of gross alien soldiers.  
In response, humanity reluctantly calls into action the Avengers, a random team of superheroes who don’t really want to be heros.  There’s Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man, and the super-alien of myth and legend - Thor.  (By the way, my kindly 83 year old neighbor is named Thor O’Donnel.  Coolest name ever!  I am Thor, the Irish god!)
All of the Avengers have major weaknesses, but their biggest weakness is their egos.  They are all too proud to work together.   They spend the first half of the movie fighting among themselves, while the enemy gets stronger and stronger.  Actually, Loki’s strategy was to turn the Avengers against each other so that they would be too distracted to fight against him.
Does that sound familiar?  In the church?  Our biggest weakness is our egos, and we’re wasting time fighting among ourselves.  All the while, the enemy is causing havoc and messing up our world.
Something has to change.  Somehow we have to get over ourselves and start working together.  
That’s what happened for the Avengers.  Agent Coleson laid down his life for the team, for the mission, and that changed everything.

The truth is that we have only one true superhero: Jesus.  He laid down his life for the whole world.  Jesus loved all of us so much that he died so that we can live.  Jesus took the bullet.  Jesus stopped the train.  Jesus passed through the portal of death.  To save us.
Jesus shows us what a true hero is, and when we follow his example we can be mini-superheroes too.  Jesus’ life and love can live in us, and we can lay down our lives to help others too.  
You might be thinking, “I’m not a superhero.  I’m just a kid.”  Or, “I’m just a mom,” or “I’m just a normal, busy dad.”  But let me ask you this.  What is a superhero in the movies?  It’s someone who has way more power than other people, someone who can do amazing things, someone who can pick up huge heavy objects, someone who can throw other people around and step in to save the day.
Well, dads, when was the last time you picked your kids up and threw them into the pool or across the room?  
Moms, think about when you were teaching your kids to tie their shoes, and they just looked at you and said, “How do you do that?”  
Think about a time when someone had a terrible day, and you listened and listened and made a few jokes and said some encouraging things, and before you know it your friend is wiping away the tears and laughing and saying, “How do you do that?  How do you always make me feel better?”
Older kids, think about when a bunch of little kids are playing with a ball and you walk into the middle of the bunch and pick up the ball and hold it just high enough so they can’t reach it and ... laugh.  Come on, I know you’ve done that at least once.  
I remember when my friend’s dad used to hold us each by the head just out of reach, and we would flail and punch and kick and try to get him, but we just couldn’t reach because he was too strong for us.  And he would just tip his head back and laugh, “Ah, ha, ha, ha.  I am too powerful for you!”  
We’re all superheroes to someone.  We all have superhero powers for someone.  
The question is how will we use our superpowers.  Like Spiderman says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  
We all have this tremendous power with our words and our actions.  How are we going to use it?  Are we going to fight on the side of good or evil?  Are we going to help others, or are we going to be like Loki and try to use others to get what we want?
Jesus invites us into his mission of healing and correcting our world.  Jesus invites us into the spiritual battle of good versus evil.  
But as Ephesians 6 says, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood,but against ... the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.”  And as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power.”
We fight this battle with weapons like truth, goodness, peace, faith, and the Word of God.  But the greatest superpower of all is love.  Only three things will last until the end of the world: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love.  (1 Corinthians 13:13).  And the greatest love of all is to lay down your life for your friends (John 15:13).  
We don’t fight the battle of good versus evil with our fists or with our guns.  We fight with simple love and kindness and justice.  We can lay down our lives for others every day.  When we do this, God’s superpower love lives in us.
OK, so let’s make this really simple.  Here are five ways you can be a superhero by laying down your life for others.  These are five simple ways you can live with God’s superpower love.  And these go for both kids and adults.

1. Let someone have their way.
Let someone cut in line.  Let them have your place.  Play the game your friends want to play.  Let someone else hold the remote or pick the movie.  Instead of saying, “Me first!” ... say “You can go first.”  Give someone else the bigger piece of cake or the last piece of candy.  When someone is talking to you, really really listen.  

2. Be friends to the lonely.
There are always lonely people around us.  Look for the kid at the lunch table who is all alone and sit with him.  Look for the lady at your work place that is kind of awkward and doesn’t really fit in and try to be her friend.  Stand up against bullies, even when they aren’t bullying you.  And this goes for adults, too, because you know there are adult bullies too.  Call people out for being jerks and putting others down.  Ask them to show more respect.

3. Bless your enemy.  
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is in Romans 12: “Never take revenge. ... Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’  Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”  
I love that.  Don’t fight fire with fire, insults with insults, coldness with coldness.  Instead, be kind.  Be exceedingly amazingly kind, and you will heap burning coals on their heads.  Jesus said it like this, “Love your enemies.  When someone gives you a hard time, pray that God will bless them” (Matthew 5:44).  Defeat evil simply by being good.

4. Share.
God has given you all kinds of good stuff.  It may not feel like much to you, but in reality it’s more than you need.  Give it away.  
Share your dessert with the kid next to you.  
Buy someone a cup of coffee.
Sponsor a child in a developing country.
Kids, when you get your allowance, keep a little bit to give for the Village of Hope in Bangladesh.
Adults, share what God has given you to help out with what God is doing here.  
God has blessed you.  Join the battle for good by blessing others.

5. Work.
Help someone.  Kids and adults, you can all do this.  Mow your neighbor’s yard.  Come help paint the fellowship hall.  Keep coming to our bra-packing parties.  Babysit for a struggling mom so she can have a few hours of quiet time - or at least so that she can grocery shop without a screaming kid knocking down boxes on every row.  Put your body to work to help others.  

You can lay down your life for others.  It’s hard, but with God’s help you can do it.
  • Let someone have their way.
  • Be friends to the lonely.
  • Bless your enemy.
  • Share.
  • Work.
It all comes down to love.  All of these are ways to love others like Jesus loves us.  And you can do it because Jesus has already done it for us.

THE AVENGERS eventually learn how to lay down their lives for their friends and for the world they are trying to save.  Captain America ignores bullets flying all around him to free Iron Man from a spinning propeller.  Thor risks his life to try to talk Loki out of waging the war.  Finally, Iron Man, the most selfish hero of all, takes a nuclear bomb through a portal into the alien world - expecting to die when it explodes.  But as he passes through the portal, he loses consciousness and falls back through the portal toward earth.   At the last minute, the Hulk catches Iron Man in midair and wraps his huge green body around him and absorbs the force of the fall.

Jesus laid down his life for us.  If we ask Jesus to live in us, then we will lay down our lives for others.  Then, God’s superpower love will live in us, and God will change our world.  And one day, we will look around this battle field we call earth, and we’ll say, “We won.  Jesus won.  Good won.  Our good God has defeated evil once and for all.”

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6).   

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