given on October 12, 2008
This week a group of people showed up at our school when my co-worker invited them in. They were Superhero Riders. Now these individuals certainly did not match the mental picture I had of a Superhero.
First I have to admit that I am not a comic book fan, nor a fan of the show Heroes. Why I really have never gotten into Superman, Spider Man, Batman, or Wonder Woman! Still I did grow up when these characters were big sellers in the comic section and now they are big money makers on the silver screen.
All these Superheroes have special gifts. They also share a similar purpose—to fight evil. Superheroes are the good guys. I may not have met any comic book heroes or famous actors or actresses. But I have met some very special people I consider Superheroes, and I certainly believe the God is my Superhero. What makes them Superheroes?
I think Paul lists the qualities of Superheroes in Philippians. When you go back in the book and read what Paul has written, there is a long list of qualities that makes one a Christian Superhero. You are to . . .
- . . . .conduct yourself according to the gospel of Christ, as Paul said in Philippians 1:21. This tells me that I need to be fully aware of what is written in the gospel because that is the most direct record available of Jesus’ teachings, his words, his actions.
- . . . do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves, is included in Philippians 2: 3. This can be very difficult especially in our work world where we have to strive to be the test and promote ourselves so we can move up the ladder and earn our wage or salary hikes.
- . . . do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without a fault in a crooked and depraved generation is found in Philippians 2:14. I think for most of us that would be one piece of Paul’s advice that we must work on. I know that I certainly have voiced my complaints lately. The long days at work end up challenging each of us to the point we breakdown with complaints or arguing.
These three recommendations of Paul seem like three qualities I would identify in Superheroes. The Superheroes character never waivers. The Superhero always lives its own life as a model citizen, one, which seeks justice in the world, one who risks all to preserve the dignity of another person. Nor does a Superhero ever put self first. The Superhero always values the others who are good and works without fear for its own self. Finally, once the Superhero identifies the purpose or the next task to pursue; it never complains, it never attaches blame. Rather the Superhero simply does the best that it can to preserve good.
The Superhero Riders who came in and visited with our students did appear to be following Paul’s guidelines. These individuals were taking a full month just to ride their bikes around this state, giving their labor to farmers, individuals, or groups who needed some extra manpower. They carried only what they needed; their work was repaid with meals, friendly conversations, a place to sleep and/or a shower. These four individuals were the last ones from the group of about 20 riders. Their ride ends October 15 and then they return to their normal lives (of course some have not established a lifestyle we might consider normal).
The qualities Paul outlined for us in Philippians seem to be modeled by these Superhero Riders, and I wonder if others would call us Superheroes. This puts me into a reflective mold. Do I really live in a manner that follows the gospel? Do I do what I do without being selfish, vain, or conceited? Do I complain or argue in an un-Christian manner? I know I fail on all three checks, so what should I do?
I think the keys are once again in the scriptures. If you continue on through Philippians, Paul continues to encourage the members of the church in Philippi. He tells us to rejoice in the Lord and . . .
- . . . beware of dogs, beware of the of evil workers—as the Message translation interprets Philippians 3:2. We all know that other people can push us to our limits. Others can create arguments that sound so good that we can be swayed to leave the teachings of Jesus and follow the evil ones.
- …join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk. . . that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ and . . . whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things, as the Message translates Philippians 3:17-19.
These words of encouragement become part of Superheroes’ armor. The capes, the special powers, the odd looking costumes that Superheroes in the comics or in the movies clearly identifies their status as Superheroes, but we do not have a code of dress or anything which causes us to stand out from each other. Who is Christian and who is evil? If we take Paul’s advice, we will worship together, we will meet together, we will follow each other’s Christian example as we go to work, as we participate in our community activities, and as we raise our children.
Still keeping one’s faith strong as the strengths of Superheroes is not an easy task. Superheroes are lucky because they seem to manage on their own most of the time, but the comic books and the movies show us that many times regular everyday people work with the Superhero to make sure everything works out. At the same time, other everyday people are saved from the evil forces. Paul wanted to make sure we understand that we are not alone. John Wesley also wanted to make sure we knew we were not alone and trained us to work together.
Paul’s letter repeats over and over the phrase “Rejoice in the Lord.” He tells us to love one another. He tells us to stay in fellowship with other believers. He tells us to rely on the words of Christ. Wesley does the same thing. We are to worship God on a regular basis. We are to be in covenant with other believers. We are to study the Holy Scriptures. We are to serve.
Remember the words of John Wesley’s motto: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, as long as you ever can.” These words could easily be used as the motto of Superheroes around this globe.
Still there remains one more key behavior that we must use to become Christian Superheroes. We must pray. Today’s scripture, Philippians 4:1-9 emphasizes this, especially 6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
That sounds simple, I know, but we sometimes forget to stop and turn a problem over to God in prayer.
Now we do not really know whether the Superheroes of our childhood ever used these guidelines that Paul outlined to those congregation members in Philippi. Remember who those people were. This was a retirement community for retired military personnel of the Roman Army. These community members were used to putting their lives on the battle line for their country or are now doing the same for Christ. I believe we all know Superheroes.
Go back over the years of your life and think: Who were some of the Christians who served as role models to you? Do you think they fit the description of Superhero? I know I have many role members who I can look back at and know that they were living the life Paul outlined in Paul. These individuals truly rejoiced in the Lord. They really did put others first and self last. They really did read the Bible and study the message in it. They were there in the middle of the community or the work place living, as Christ would live. And maybe more importantly, I found them at church on Sunday morning worshiping God. I found these Superheroes reading and discussing the Bible with other Superheroes, I learned that prayer for my Christian Superheroes is more than the formal words uttered out in service, they lived a prayer life. These individuals truly followed Wesley’s motto of “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”
The Superhero Riders who visited in our building this week, seem to be living an uncluttered live whose principles mirror Wesley’s motto. They were enjoying their lives riding the roads of Missouri, meeting the people, and sharing their viewpoints in life with others. I asked questions. I wanted the students to listen to their experiences, but more importantly how they perceive the people in our state and what the service did for them personally. They told us that the people are warm and friendly. They told us that are filled them with more than they feel they gave. Superheroes live right here beside us. Do not think that they have to exist only in the storybooks, the comic books, or the scripts of movies. You are a Superhero for Christ.
Paul tells us that as we live for Christ, we will be filled with joy that cannot be measured. We will truly be witnesses for Christ, we will live out Wesley’s motto, we will serve one another simply because we rejoice in our Lord. And we will pray because we need to stop and talk with God. We need to pray so we can listen for God. We will not care if we are not labeled Superheroes, but we will care if we witness pain in someone’s life. We will follow the examples of other Christian Superheroes such as Paul, John Wesley, and more contemporary ones such as Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. We will also follow examples of people in our own lives who exemplify the Superhero traits; people such as my own mother, a cousin, a grandfather, a co-worker or two, a fellow church leader, a Sunday School teacher.
My responsibility is to continue in prayer. I am to continue in reading the Holy Scriptures. I am to worship together with other Christians. I am to rejoice in the Lord. I must, as Paul states in Philippians 4:8-9:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
God is my Superhero and we can be Superheroes for Christ. We will live, in a manner, that others may see us as Superheroes for Christ.
Dear Father, my Superhero,
Help each one of us to follow Jesus’ teachings and to serve others. Guide us to make sure that we carry your message of love to others. Give us the courage to battle evil so that others may know God’s love. Let us follow the example of John Wesley to carry out his motto because we want other to know that we are Christians. –Amen.