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Who Will Save Us Now? A Theological Reflection of “The Avengers”

The Avengers

Black Widow: “Wait. You might wanna sit this one out, Cap. These guys are basically gods.

Captain America: “There’s only one God, ma’am. And I don’t think he dresses like that.

So goes the brief exchange immediately prior to Captain America’s leap from an airplane to engage Thor, Loki, and Iron Man in another gripping fight sequence from last year’s summer blockbuster, The Avengers. The mention of the divine is rare in this film—it’s not exactly meant to make us think as much as make us “ooooh” and “aaaah” at superhero awesomeness— but that doesn’t mean God is absent.

You’re probably familiar with The Avengers already, so I won’t go into all the details of plot summary, suffice to say that a group of gifted individuals must save the world from an evil invasion led by a deceptive spiritual being from another world. Come to think of it, that same description can be applied to the church. Maybe not “save the world” ourselves, but certainly use our Spirit-given gifts to be salt and light to a dark world.

Of course, it takes quite a bit of conflict for the heroes in The Avengers to come together as a team. The fight sequence between Cap’n, Thor, and Iron Man is one of a few get-to-know-you battles between characters. These might have simply been used as spectacle, a sort of combative filler to satisfy audiences until the climactic fight sequences. I rather view it as a preparation, a sanctification of sorts for each character to prepare themselves for the immense mission that is before them. These battles are not only external; the internal struggles with pride (Iron Man), anger (Hulk), guilt (Thor), naiveté (Cap’n America), and betrayal (Hawkeye) must be overcome and healed before a team of heroes can transcend their differences and save the world. This sanctification only happens in the context of community, both in an I-will-affirm-your-strengths and I-will-call-out-your-weaknesses sort of way.

The deceiver—Loki—does his best to manipulate and discourage this troupe of characters, much like the spiritual deceiver in our world. Loki is a tragic character, one that actually gets us to feel sorry for him at times, but ultimately is the source of chaos, invasion, deception, and destruction. While he tries to make others out to be responsible and pass the blame, just follow the trail of deceit and they all lead to the liar with the horns.

Director Joss Whedon is a self-identified atheist. In a 2002 interview, Whedon answered the question “Is there a God?” with one word: “No.” The interviewer followed up with: “That’s it, end of story, no?” Whedon answered, “Absolutely not. That’s a very important and necessary thing to learn.” In spite of his atheism, Whedon has crafted an entertaining film with redemptive messages about the values of camaraderie and community when given a mission to save the world. Our young people need to know they are also gifted and called, given the responsibility to share the good news of the kingdom together. We don’t need to avenge the world; Christ has already paid our ransom. Instead of avengers, we’re called to be ambassadors, given the ministry of reconciliation and the good news that this is a world God thinks is worth saving.

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Awareness Test

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahg6qcgoay4?rel=0&w=480&h=360]

Watch the above video before reading any further.

Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute.

 

 

“It’s easy to miss something you’re not looking for.” This principle seems to be true both for moonwalking bears and for us in youth ministry. When we’re so focused on certain tasks, people, events, numbers, etc., we can actually miss what’s most important.

It happens all the time.

When I’m focused on how many students attended my mid-week program, but miss the conversation the Spirit was leading me to have with that one hurting student who just needed someone to listen.

When I’m giving more of my time and energy to planning a summer camp with my students than I am with a summer vacation for my own family.

When I’m reading the Bible only to glean some information to teach, rather than to encounter the heart of God and refresh my own soul.

When people constantly surround me—students, volunteers, fellow pastors and staff—but I’m navigating through life feeling fairly alone and isolated.

Awareness only comes when there’s time to slow down, to pay attention, to really notice what is happening right in front of me. It comes when all the swirling activity—counting the flying basketball passes—fades into the background and I can truly hear the voice of the Savior, who beckons and strengthens and comforts and exhorts. It requires others’ involvement in my life, those who can point out the obvious areas that I’m missing.

In this Christmas season of busyness, let us not miss what Christ is doing in our ministry, in our family, and in our own souls. Let us become people with eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that understand, so that we might experience the healing touch of Christ.