Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 14 March 2017

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation.  Hebrews 9, verse 11.

We want superheroes.   Yes, I’m going there.

Today I saw a trailer for the new “Justice League” movie.   I’ll admit it:  I’m sick of super hero movies.   I wish Hollywood would make movies about non-super hero characters.   I know that they do, and that there are dozens of Indie features released every month.   But I live in a town where those features are rarely circulated.   We only get major releases here.   Besides, so many of those Indie movies center on themes that seem objectionable to me.   I don’t want to patronize them.   That, and the ‘eye candy’ popcorn movies are all big-budget, special effects extravaganzas about improbable people doing extraordinary things (hold that thought).  So, like millions of others, I go to the superhero movies and watch them and I’m entertained for a few hours before I’m left hungry, waiting for the next big thing.  Think about it.   The biggest movies (and movie busts) of the last 20 years are movies about Batman, Spiderman, the Avengers, Superman, Iron Man, Thor and the like.

Enter Jesus.   Here’s how Hollywood might write about Him if He were a fictional character.   Boy from small farm town grows up and starts worldwide movement that overturns empires, changes people from within, and performs miracles.   Hundreds of miracles, supernatural feats of every bent.   Seas parting, storms calmed, thousands fed on crumbs, people brought back from death.   At the moment of ultimate victory, the hero is slain only to return three days later bigger and better than ever.  If Jesus were a superhero, what kind of cape would He wear?  Yes, enter Jesus the superhero.   Enter the King, the one who can literally move mountains with a glance.

Except that He can.   He did; He does.   He does it better than Superman or Thor.   He is the true Avenger; His is the only real justice in any league.   He is the ultimate fighter, the muscular warrior in the trenches turning back legions of demons with only His words.   He foretells the future, then executes ultimate justice.  He leads battalions of angels against armies of Satan’s warriors of hate.   And He does it while, in the very next scene, sitting side by side with young kids who simply want a friend.  The life and death and life again of Jesus?   Heroic.   Super-heroic, in fact.

I wonder if Hollywood would make a movie like that.   Actually, they have, but epics about the Bible seem to be passé.  They don’t do great box office anymore.   Besides, purist believers might poo-poo the idea of portraying Jesus as ready-for-Wrestlemania and able to defeat both Lex Luthor and the Joker without breaking a sweat.  If they dump on “The Shack” for portraying God the Father as a black woman, imagine what they’d say about Jesus all muscled out and buff.

Yet that’s the kind of superhero people seem to want.   We LOVE stories about men (and women) who can do extraordinary things, the kinds of things Jesus can do.   We’ll pay big bucks to watch supernatural-type special effects about AWESOME things.  And we’ll cheer like cheerleaders when the good guys show up to clean up the mess and mete out hard justice.

Isn’t that what Jesus does every day?   Jesus is the improbable Savior doing extraordinary things.   Let’s go a step further:  when YOU believe in Jesus, you become an ordinary person living an extraordinary life.   You make the world a better place by living your ordinary life in extraordinary ways because of the extraordinary superhero named Jesus who’s leading you.

To get to here, Jesus went through heaven.   He rendered complete over three hundred ancient prophecies.  He fulfilled every expectation and prediction of the Messiah who would save men from themselves.  Jesus satisfied the need for the earthly tabernacle, the earthly dwelling place of God.  He superseded it by in-dwelling Himself into the hearts of people who followed Him, making THEM His tabernacle, making them His eyes, voices, arms and legs.  He did this for man’s benefit but only by God’s design.   Heaven isn’t some Norse fiction called Asgard:  heaven is a real place, more spectacular than Stan Lee could ever dream.   We want our heroes to be bigger than life, to save us when nobody else can.   The awesome thing is that, in our Savior, we have Him exactly.

But I’ll still go see “Justice League.”

For further reading:  Hebrews 2:17, ,Hebrews 10:1, John 2:19.

Lord, You’re my superhero.   I praise You for Your heroic life, Your superhero heart, Your divine power, Your larger than life persona, Your humble bearing.

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Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 15 June 2015

And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” Mark 9, verse 1.

You and me:   we should be dead by now.   You know it as well as I do that, to paraphrase the apostle, we face death all day long.   Every day that we make it to work safely is a miracle.   Ditto waking up, digesting food, staying healthy from disease, nurturing a beating heart, and sleeping through the night.   Some might say those are simply the outcomes of impossible to predict random acts of chance and interaction.   I say they’re mini miracles that testify to the existence of God in the very details of our lives.

So how astounding is it that God Himself would say that some of those to whom He was speaking would soon see an astounding miracle promised for centuries.   That isn’t some miniature detail anyone would overlook.   It was a big deal, yet Jesus threw it down and, in context of what came next, it was prophetic.

Here’s another throw-down:   it’ll happen to you today as well.

Huh?   First some of that context. Keep in mind where Jesus was. He has just fed four thousand men, healed a blind man, (yet again) confronted the Pharisees, upbraided His friends, predicted His own death, and told people to get on His level regarding what they should expect from their faith in Him. Now He’s saying that not only will people who believe in Him die but that, before they do, they will see God coming in power. As we will see, shortly after this comes the Transfiguration and that display of power Jesus promised.

In my opinion, He also promised a different kind of power to us every day.

Are you thinking about Thor and his hammer?   Or Zeus smiting puny men with thunderbolts from Olympus?   Sauron marching to crush Middle Earth with a million ugly orcs?   Or perhaps a vengeful Allah vanquishing all enemies of Islam with his priestly army of fanatics?   These are the images of god-like beings wielding power that come to mind when we humans are left to our own devices. We think of power as the omnipotent use of force, of the physical being overtaken by the meta-physical, of forces beyond our control or understanding manipulating our lives from a position of strength.

Except that’s not how Jesus worked.   Or works now.   See, He promised the Disciples that He would display His power, and a few days hence He did.   Yet He also promises us the same thing every day.   I believe He delivers on that promise, and I see it in the majesty of sunsets, in the feel of my grandson hugging me around my neck.   I feel it in my beating heart, in the love of my family as we sit at the kitchen table, as I work in my garden where God gives me vocation and food. I see it at work in how He comforts distraught friends, how He turns around destruction to expand His kingdom of goodness, and how He works quietly through we sinful humans by our spreading word about Him.   Do you know Jesus?   Then you know Him in power and miracles.

I think it’s a miracle that we’re still alive to talk about this, given all the ways the world could kill us every day. Turn to Jesus and you see it really is.

Lord, thank You for Your miracles and power in my life.

Read Mark 9, verses 1-13.