God's Heroes Naomi & Ruth "The Courage to Begin Again" by Pastor Leah Rosso

Have you ever noticed that superheroes aren’t any better than we are about fixing their own problems? I find this extremely ironic since most of us think having superpowers would help make our lives easier. But in fact, having superpowers doesn't take away their suffering any more than the rest of us. In fact many superheroes decide to use their powers for good precisely because of some tragic event in their life. Robin Rosenburg who wrote an article for the Smithsonian magazine, notes that there are three ways superheroes become superheroes: there's chance-- like Spider-Man being bitten by a radioactive spider; there's Destiny-- like the X-men who are born with their powers and have to decide how to use them; and there's trauma-- like Batman whose parents are killed when he's a child so he spends his life becoming a superhero to bring justice to the world. (Robin Rosenburg, Smithsonian Magazine, February 2013)

But even as Rosenburg splits superheroes' origin stories into three categories, there is a thread that runs through many of them-- and that is the thread of trauma. The X-men, after all, are excluded and made to feel less than because of their powers-- they are feared and the government tries to control them, and a lot of the time it is the trauma of this situation that fuels their superhero status. Spiderman, although retaining his powers by chance, doesn't use them for good until his Uncle is murdered and that convinces him to use his powers to help others instead of just making a buck for himself.

God's Hero: Hagar "God Will Make a Way" by Pastor Leah Rosso

One of the things I love about super hero movies, is that it is so very clear who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. There’s so little ambiguity in superhero movies that it makes them fun because you know who to cheer for; you know who will win in the end; it’s so much simpler than real life.

When we were young and were taught the Bible stories in Sunday School, that is often how they were portrayed then too— after all, kids’ brains don’t learn to develop abstract thoughts until later, so we learned about David defeating Goliath; Noah saving the animals on the ark; and so on and so forth. But when we read these stories as adults, it is obvious that they are much more complex. For any of you who didn’t grow up in the church, I actually think you have an advantage in many ways of hearing and reading Scripture more accurately because you don’t come to the text with the simplistic versions of the stories.

Take this morning’s story. This is not a story we often read in church or talk about it anywhere. Abraham and Sarah are the usual heroes— they are the ones God chose to be God’s people. It is Abraham who sat out at night, counting the stars because God told him that his ancestors would number more than the stars in the sky. It is Sarah who laughed when the angels told her that she would have a child— after all, in her 90’s, she had now spent more of her life knowing she wouldn’t have children than she had praying that she would. These are the ones we lift up as heroes of our faith— Abraham and Sarah and their son Isaac whose name means “laughter” and who became the father and mother of the Jewish faith and of the Christian faith many years later.

But like all human stories, theirs is a bit more complicated than that. Because Sarah didn’t trust that God would give her a son. Understandably, she thought maybe Abraham had had a bit too much moonshine that night God spoke to him, and that she would help things along by making sure that Abraham had a son with her slave, Hagar. And so Ishmael is born. Ishmael, who for a short while has all of the hopes of Abraham and Sarah resting on his shoulders; until indeed Sarah does become pregnant and gives birth to Isaac— the one who will carry on the line of God’s people and yet, disturbingly to Sarah, is now the second born— not the one who will inherit everything.

Faith to Face Change by Pastor Randy Johnson

As I think about people who I might consider heroes I recall some rather ordinary folk who faced changes in their lives with extraordinary courage and faith.  Just this past week, for example, I assisted in the funeral service for Mark Binnebose, a man who died at the age of 55 after a brave fight with a form of Ataxia.  Mark and his wife, Marsha, were married in our church in 1986.  I had the privilege of visiting and bringing communion to Mark and Marsha in their home the past three years.  While his health was diminishing, Mark continued as long as he could to read books that deepened his faith and helped him learn more about important matters of life and death.  Mark clearly valued receiving communion and found strength through prayer and the reading of Scripture. I will miss having Mark in my life.  When I step back and reflect on people like Mark and Marsha, it makes me wonder how prepared I am to face whatever changes might be ahead in my own life and in the lives of those closest to me.

“A Harmony of Goodness” by Rev. William F. Meier

A ninety-year-old was asked recently as to the secret of his living so well and for so long.  The wise old man smiled at the question and replied, “Clean thoughts.”

Clean or good thoughts might be another way of talking about the “fruits of the Spirit” that have shaped our worship life in these past months as part of our “Year of the Spirit” theme. 

“…love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, and self-control.” Paul suggests; live in God’s Spirit, and these things will flow through our lives.  During the month of June we’re on “self-control” and so I briefly thought about focusing upon that, but my preaching professor always urged us to have a mastery of the subject matter of our sermon before preaching on it.  Thus I had to go in another direction.  So “fruits of the Spirit.”