Bishop Ordinary: Rt Rev Brian R Marsh

Sermon

Fourth Sunday after Trinity, 2013
Good Shepherd, Charlestown; Trinity Church, Lebanon

Let us Pray:
Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 

What do we look at when we look at the world around us? How do we find our way? We generally look for markers to guide us. If we have accurate maps, a good GPS, mapquest or a Garmin, we can get where we are going. There are many guides. The question is: which is best? When we visited France recently, we rented a car that had a Garmin. We chose a particular “voice” to lead us. The first voice we chose was that of a rather didactic English lady. She was very accurate, but would offer stern feedback if we deviated even slightly from her precise directions. After only a few miles, we had enough of her and chose another voice. Ken, a rather laid-back Australian proved a better companion. But even he grew tiresome. After riding with him for several hundred kilometers we came to the conclusion that he really wasn't much of a conversationalist. He was good at giving directions, but he was a terrible listener.

 

It matters a great deal who we choose for our guides in life. We need someone who can see the road ahead and help us to reach our destination. Although Ken got us where we needed to go, at least in a temporal sense, we would never ask him to guide us on our spiritual journey. Who know where we might end up.

 

That's why I find it strange that Hollywood movies often provide the kind of spiritual direction that seems calculated to lead us directly into a ditch.

 

That brings me to: Superman: Man of Steel. Yes, I know, I know. I mentioned Superman – and the latest movie about him - in my sermon a week ago. But that sermon wasn't about Superman. He was mentioned only as a point of reference; an example of what we sometimes wish God might do for us. No, that sermon wasn't about Superman: Man of Steel. This one won't be either. God in Christ has many more important things to say than the comic-book superhero that some may think has risen to godlike status. And Jesus is the best guide we have.

 

But the blockbuster movie has its uses, if we approach it as Christians. And if we use that movie as a way to teach the faith accurately and well, reminding ourselves that it is not a very good guide. Hollywood has gone to great expense to publicize this movie to church groups, thinking perhaps that Superman is a stand-in for Jesus. Perhaps some even consider the Superman movie to be a thinly veiled story about Jesus himself. But there are so many differences between the Man of Steel and Jesus that this just can't be true. Even for those who have a very limited understanding of Christian theology, the differences are glaring. Superman, strong as he is, is simply not God.

 

Many sermons are being preached this week about Man of Steel. One of my car trips this past week, I heard a radio program devoted to sermons about Superman. Oh, no, I thought; I should change the channel. There is only so much heresy a Christian can take in one week. But I decided to listen to the comments and the sermons. After all, combating heresy requires that we call attention to it. Being a good guide requires that we are able to see the dangers in the road ahead.

 

I wondered if the preachers I heard on the radio would be good guides or not. The first preacher I listened to took issue with the Superman image itself. He stated that there was only one Superman and that was Jesus Christ. Not bad. He got the power part of it, but the preacher said nothing about the loving teacher, the God who wishes to heal our souls. The next preacher stated, very accurately, that Superman had none of the qualities of God because he was an outsider; he was neither perfect God nor perfect man, indivisibly so. That one got the theology right. But it was to the third preacher that I turn to for a more complete understanding of the difference between Superman and Jesus.

 

That third preacher held my attention, not through his deep, penetrating understanding of theology or his great rhetorical flourishes. He stated very simply that God in Christ wishes to embrace us, to be with us, to heal us of our spiritual wounds. Jesus wants us to see Him as He is – more human than we can ever be, closer to us than we can ever imagine. Is Superman like that? Superman, who, after he finishes his mighty deeds of justice, hides behind an “ordinary guy” kind of disguise? This is not Jesus; Jesus, who in the sight of all was crucified.

 

Yet, Superman has a kind of brute power that might be considered admirable. He has a good moral sense, but he breaks a lot of things in his quest for justice. It makes one wonder how Superman justifies all this wanton destruction. But where does true power come from? Our collect for today says this:

 

O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy...”

 

That is the power of Jesus.

 

Perhaps we should turn to a fourth preacher, a preacher who wants us to see more than the fleeting images on a movie screen, a preacher who wishes us to see things that are true, things that are eternal. That preacher is St. Luke. No, I didn't hear him quoted on the National Public Radio show. And, I am quite sure that St. Luke has not seen the mega-hit, Superman. But St. Luke speaks to our hearts and our minds. St. Luke helps us to see things correctly. St. Luke helps us to clear our sight, as well as our hearts and minds, from those things that get in the way of seeing God – and God's work – in the world.

 

We have good and accurate guides in this world, guides that will help us pass through those things temporal that we do not lose those eternal truths. We have good and accurate guides in this world, guides that will help us pass through those things temporal so that we do not lose those eternal truths. These guides are not Hollywood images or the foreign voices that reach us through our navigational devices. The true guides are not temporary, short-term presences in our lives. The true guides will be with us always, seeing the path clearly, directing us faithfully. It is important for us to remove the false guides from our sight so that we may see God's directions clearly and accurately. And so that we, too, may guide others on the path of truth.

 

Let us pray:
God, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man's understanding; Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.