You are not Superman, Or Batman, or Aquaman, Or Ironman… Nor am I

This week I am going to speak to both our middle school and high school groups at my church about the idea that God is calling them to “do something,” in a world that desperately needs more people to be “doing something.” What something? Something that God is calling them to. It is that simple.

 

Yearly, our church focuses a series on providing hope thought resources, education, service, etc. to a world in major need of hope. Its not that we don’t do this all the time, our congregation is incredible generous, but for 3 weeks this year we give all our energy towards this.  The problem is, all too often, when speaking to young people, or perhaps people in general, it is easy to motivate but difficult to push move action. I could write out 1,000 moving stories about children living in poverty, people enslaved around the world, the lack of clean water that causes health problems in almost 1 billion people around the world. You would likely be motivated. But would you be moved to action? Honestly, I am not sure I would be moved to action and I am the one who would have written them.

 

When I think of how much need there in n the world I am reminded of the final scene in Schindler’s list, where Oskar Schindler looks at his finger and laments that the ring we wore could have bought one more person’s life. He had done so much and yet he found himself to have not done enough.

 

The problem is that we see the fire hydrant open, flowing forth the atrocities of the world, and it is our only place to get a drink. It’s the only place we see to take part. We are thirsty. We want a drink. We want to take part. But it is too overwhelming.

 

You are hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t want to change the world, to feed hungry children, to free people from slavery. We all want to be superman, but none of us can fly.

Superheroes have one goal… save the world. From villains, from impending danger, from greed, from anything. They are called to save the world. But our call is not to save the world, it is to change the world.  Batman is my favorite superhero because he is a regular guy who has awesome tools. I have told my wife that I could actually be Batman. She disagrees.  You are not a superhero, nor am I (sigh of dissapointment). We can’t save the world, but we can change the world. 

Jesus never expected us to save the world. That was his job. Ironically all of us seem to think we should do it too. Instead he calls us to change the world. As Gary Haugen from International Justice Mission states, “God’s plan to change the world is us, and he doesn’t have a backup plan.”

 

Early in his ministry recorded in Luke, Jesus has just finished informing the crown to, love God and love your neighbor as yourself. He says this is a summary of all the commandments God gives us. Perplexed, someone in the crowd asks a follow up question, “Who is my neighbor?” “Surely Jesus doesn’t mean Romans, Samaritans, Gentiles, prostitutes, criminals, and all those other folks,” the man is likely thinking. Jesus answers with a story of a man who was beaten and robbed. The religious passed by him on the road as he lay injured and dying. Those who should have been his friends passed by him too.  

A Samaritan however, a person in harsh feud with the Jewish people, not welcome in the crown Jesus was speaking to, picked up the man, brought him to a hotel, fixed him up, paid for his lodging, paid for his food, and came back later to settle the bill of the man’s other expenses. Jesus then asked the man a question, “who was the man’s neighbor?” Not being able to bring himself to say Samaritan, the man simply said, “the one who showed mercy to him.” Jesus then told those around him to go and do likewise.

 

The Samaritan didn’t save the world. He didn’t even save a town. He didn’t end a hunger crisis. He didn’t build a school single handedly. He didn’t irradiate terrible diseases. He helped one man. He did what he could.

 

Isn’t that the true call to action? It isn’t, “save the world,” but,“ do what you can.” I know a man running across the country to give clean water to 30,000 people for life, I know a elementary aged child who is bringing the change he found in his house this week to our church this week so it can go help those in need. Who loves their neighbor? They both do. They are doing what they can. They are doing likewise.

 

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Easter, Windex, and gym memberships

So we end the story, God’s story, and his story of interaction with us, with a meal, an arrest, a cross, and a tomb. But it’s no cosmic secret that there is a Sunday. Christians for thousands of years have reflected on this, if at no other time, once a year, on a Friday in the spring we call “good.” Jesus has the most recognizable name on earth and most everyone knows the story. Although no one has a picture of him, no one living has met him, not everyone believes in who he claimed to be, speak his name in any country on earth, and anyone will know exactly whom you are talking about. Yet as Friday turns to Sunday, on this previously mentioned weekend in the spring, people around the world who do believe in who this Jesus said he was, celebrate Sunday, the Sunday, Easter Sunday. I have celebrated a number of Easters. My family would always do egg hunts, and Easter baskets, and big meals, and Easter bunnies. And as we are on the back end of yet another Easter, a question I have been asking and perhaps one worthwhile to give thought to is this, “so what now?” What do we do now? I get that that happened. But what is supposed to happen now? And that question makes me think of gym memberships.

I don’t spend an overwhelming amount of time in the gym. Honestly, even that is an understatement. I barely spend any amount of time at the gym. I don’t do protein shakes and I am not one of those guys walking around carrying a gallon of water. When I do go to the gym many times I am in awe of how in shape people actually are. That is not me. They are in a level of shape that I was unaware was possible. Why I bring this up is that I actually have a gym membership, even though I rarely attend. You sign up to get fit, you don’t get fit so then you can sign up. Its not a club for the fit, it’s a club for those who want to get fit, be fit, live a fit lifestyle. Imagine you go to the gym and you decide you want to be a member (this is likely after a shortsighted and ambitious New Years resolution). Imagine the employee welcomes you into his office and sits you at his desk. Now imagine if he said, “I am sorry, you are not in shape enough to be part of our gym. I am betting you don’t run enough miles a week, you don’t lift weights, and it doesn’t look like you drink any protein shakes. I don’t see you carrying a gallon of water. Get in shape then come and talk to me.” You would likely be a little floored. That is because gyms are there to help you get into shape. The perquisite is not that you have to be in shape, it’s that you want to get in shape. The requirement is not that you have transformed your body, it’s that you want your body transformed.

This is the problem with many people’s perspectives of God, it’s that God want’s you healthy before he wants you. We make God into some new years resolution that we never follow through on. There is always next year. Actuality the inverse is true, he wants you so you can be in healthy. He want’s to be in relationship with you so you can start the process of transformation He wants to start now. The more in you think you have it all together without him, the likelihood that you need him all the more.

Think of it this way. You have a glass of water and it is your only possible means of getting anything to drink. Imagine I came by an added a few drops of Windex to it, how would you get the Windex out? You could pour out as much of the water as you wanted, but not matter what you do, you can never be sure if you go it all out. You can’t get it all out. You might die of poising, or die of thirst from not drinking it. You can’t filter out the Windex. You need a new glass of water.

And so the story ends on Friday. It ends because it had to end. Before Friday, we all sit with a glass with chemicals in it. Some have more than others, but it doesn’t really matter, the water is contaminated, we need different water. We walk around with these things that poison us every day. We harbor the guilt and the shame and the pain and the fear left over from the way we have poisoned others, or the way we have poisoned ourselves. This is sin. Sin is the way we separate ourselves from God. It’s the way we poison ourselves. You don’t need to believe in God to have sinned. Sin poisons the life that we were given weather you believe in God or not; A life that was supposed to be pure and right and healthy.

No reasonable person would look at a glass with chemicals in it and say, “oh its not a big deal, maybe they aren’t that bad to drink, its not that bad.” Even if you didn’t know the chemicals were there, it doesn’t mean they magically won’t poison you all the same. They are bad to drink, they might even kill you, and it doesn’t have to be that way. We try to purify, try to clean, try to do our best, but it isn’t enough.

That is the beauty of Sunday. God ends his story on Friday, so he can begin a new story on Sunday. God absorbed all that we could not, he took on the sin of the world and emptied himself, so that we might experience life. Death on Friday, leads to life on Sunday. He took our cup, he took our poison, he took it all. And so we are left with an empty cup. No more poison, but no more water… until Sunday.

In the final book of the Bible, the author has a vision of a holy encounter with Jesus. As the author looked up he heard Jesus say, “I am making everything new.” He didn’t say, I am tuning things up. Or I am dusting things off. I am making everything new. It starts with Jesus, on Sunday. Rose to new life, so that he might raise us to new life as well. He is making everything new. This is what Sunday is all about.

What do we do with that? What we do is start. I am often asked how it all works, what can this do, what is this God thing all about. I respond by saying that God wants to transform all things about us, he wants to make everything new and right. He wants to give us a new, pure cup of water. But we have to begin somewhere. Transformation doesn’t happen instantaneously most of the time. Transformation happens when you acknowledge there is a starting point and you see where you want to go. We can’t be transformed if we don’t want to be transformed. We can’t be transformed outside of God. Try as we might, we could empty our cup till the last drop of water and in that last drop of water will be a last drop of Windex.

God doesn’t look to you and say, go get your act together then come and see me. He looks to you and says, “It’s Sunday, and I am making all things new. If you want to be made new, it’s not going to happen out there. It is going to happen with me.”

 

 

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.

Revelation 21:5

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