Permit me to “geek-out” for just a moment here. I was watching a show on the History Channel on the history of Superman in comics, TV, and movies. Really interesting stuff. I have to say, I actually got a little emotional at points. That may seem silly to some, but I am constantly drawn to stories like this. I often wonder if the Supermans and Captain Americas of today will be regarded in the future as we think of King Arthur and Robin Hood today. Someone once said, “Science Fiction is an existential metaphor that allows us to tell stories about the human condition.” I have to agree. Jesus taught with stories (parables) because they get past our defenses, connect with us on a deep level, and make us think. Which raises the question, why is our culture so drawn to superhero stories right now? Look at the resurgence of heroes in popular myth today. There are at least 5 popular shows that portray very human individuals discovering that they have powers beyond imagining, and using those powers to change the world around them. Heroes, Smallville, the 4400, the new Bionic Woman, the return of the comic book movies with Spider Man, X-Men, and the revival of the Batman and Superman franchises. The media is saturated with this theme.
Each of these characters and story lines appeals to something different in each of us. Awkward kids find something more acceptable in Peter Parker's Spider Man than in an “always cool” Batman, even though we'll buy both lunch boxes anyway. But I think there are a few universals to be found in these stories. The current resurgence of these stories has focused largely on characters discovering their abilities, and learning how to use them for the right (or wrong) causes. The Spider Man movies are particularly poignant in this, as Peter wrestles with whether to use his powers for personal gain, or for the common good, or whether to use them at all, because using them messes with his earlier visions of happiness. (I haven't seen Spider Man 3 yet, so don't tell me anything!)
One of my favorite scriptures is Romans 12. After explaining that Christ's offering for us should produce a similar response of self-sacrifice, Paul tells us how we can do just that--”God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.” (NLT) In short, God has given us “powers,” to borrow the comic book term. We usually call these Spiritual Gifts. His call to us is to worship by using our abilities for His Greater Plan, the advancement of the Kingdom, and the salvation of those around us. I'm always amazed that when I trust God to use me, He touches people with sermons I thought were going to be total bombs. I'm amazed when I see Dotti ENJOYING administrative work for the church, a task that tires and frustrates me. I'm amazed to see Marvin's zeal for acts of service (don't mention something's broke unless you want it fixed today!). I can't name all those who I see around here acting out of their gifts, but there's some pretty awesome results when you do.
William brought this quote from Marianne Williamson to our attention at the Vision Retreat: “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.” If there is anything to be drawn from these stories for the church, it's that we must accept our “powers” and “destiny.” We must step out in boldness, regardless of how strong or weak we think we are, recognizing God's power at work through us can change the world.
So we have a choice like Spidey's: do we use these gifts for our own advancement, do we bury them in a trash can because we're afraid of how our life will change if we give ourselves over to our “secret identity” as living sacrifices, or do we accept God's plan for us, knowing that if we do, it will change lives, change hearts, and change the world? The world feels the need for people like us to rise up and use what we have to bring the world to salvation, to Christ, to freedom. They're ready and waiting. Will you heed the call?