Tales of a Midwest Lutheran on the East Coast

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

You are a Super Hero

Sermon 8-24-14

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Please excuse me for a moment, I forgot to put on the most important part of my “uniform.” (Here I put on a makeshift cape and mask)

There. That’s better. I’d like to inform all of you that I’ve decided to change my official title here at St. Paul. As of right now I would like to be known, not as Pastor Lydia, but as Legendary Pastor Lydia of Awesome, or just Pastor Awesome for short, if you so desire. I can baptize faster than a speeding water hose! I’m more powerful than…  And I can leap tall Bibles with a single bound! And now, I am just waiting around for Hollywood to
discover me and make the next big blockbuster movie out of my adventures assisting the good people of East Windsor. But you all already know my secret identity, so I'm going to go ahead and take my "costume" off!

Every good superhero has a good origin story. Some of my fellow superheroes and heroines were born with their special powers. Others got them in all kinds of strange ways – they were bitten by radioactive bugs, exposed to mysterious cosmic space rays or gamma radiation, or injected with strength-enhancing serum. Still others came to be super heroes by using their brilliant use of technology and gadgets. And still others were simply chosen to save the world.

Me? When I was a baby, I had my forehead dunked in water three times in front of a large crowd of people. Then I was sealed with the Holy Spirit, and marked with the cross of Christ forever.

I grew up in a group of other baptized super hero people, being nurtured and encouraged in my faith by my family and other caring adults in our community. And then, when the time was right, I was send out into the world, to let my light shine before others, that they might see the light of God at work in me and praise God. That work is to bear God’s creative and redeeming word of love to all the world, especially to the dark places of the world where Death and Brokenness and all the forces that defy God still have a foothold.

You and I are part of a very special league of super heroes. Many of us have different origin stories. Some of us might have begun our super hero journey in another tradition, or no tradition at all. Some were baptized later in life, when we were older children or even adults. Others in this league left the community of super heroes for a while to find our own way, but eventually found our way back.
We, who are gathered in this building today, and are gathered to worship in communities around the world.

we, who were baptized part of this community of faith and named as God’s children forever and ever,
we, who have been saved from sin and death by the mercies of almighty God….

We are part of the League of the Living Lord.

Also in this League of the Living Lord there have been all kinds of characters with interesting backgrounds and unique super powers. There is Abraham and Sarah, who became the father and mother of God’s people, both by blood and by their example of trust.  Their superpower might be persistence.

Joseph, of the Technicolor dream coat fame, had the ability to interpret dreams, which helped him to save his family from a severe famine.

Rahab was a prostitute who trusted God and went undercover on a secret mission deep into enemy territory.

Samson was given superhuman strength in order to defeat his enemies, the Philistines.

The prophets of old, like the likes of Isaiah and Jeremiah, were given wisdom and prophesy to speak truth to power in the face of injustice.

Mary refused to give into fear and took a bold risk when she accepted her calling to give birth to and raise Jesus.

Peter, disciple of Jesus, bold talker and water walker. When today Peter reveals Jesus’ super hero name of Son of the Living God, Jesus in turn gives him the name of Petros, or little pebble, a chip of the old bedrock of faith that the Church has been built on. Peter, AKA “Pebble Man.”

Timothy, a young man called to be one of Paul’s companions, given the gift of evangelism.
Lydia, my super hero name-sake, was a busy businesswoman who had the gift of listening and became the first Christian convert on the European continent.

St. Francis’s super power was his self-discipline and concern for the poor and ignored.
Martin Luther turned the Christian world upside down with his stubborn belief in a merciful and loving God, and his ability to write his books, including a translation of the Bible in his language, with incredible speed.

Corrie Ten Boom came from a Christian family who hid Jews during the Holocaust, and survived being caught and thrown into a concentration camp herself.

Martin Luther King Jr. preached his dream of a world where both black and white could be free of racism and segregation.

Mother Theresa cared for the most forgotten and unwanted people in the slums of Calcutta.
All these people are card-carrying members of the League of the Living God. This is quite an intimidating list of faithful people who have gone before us. And it’s just a TINY FRACTION of the list. These people have indeed left us some mighty big shoes to fill. But, like all heroes, our faith heroes are have mighty flaws to go with their mighty powers. Abraham and Sarah tried their own fertility treatments quite a few times. Joseph was a stuck up brat when he was a kid. Samson slept with the enemy. Most of the prophets were pretty reluctant to take the job. Martin Luther was stubborn to a fault, and Mother Theresa struggled with spiritual dry spells which lasted years. And even among Jesus’ own disciples there are deniers and power players and deserters and betrayers.
So, I guess, we are in some pretty good company. We are part of this body, with all of its beautiful gifts and flaws, lambs of God’s own flock, sinners of God’s own redeeming.

Which is a pretty good thing for us, because we are all too often by a multitude of dead deities who demand our worship. Like Jesus and the disciples in the town of Caesarea Philippi, the local hot-bed temples to every imaginable god and goddess, we are daily surrounded by statues, real and imagined, that hold sway over us: status, success, stuff, salaries, stocks, sports, schedules, and so much more.
But we are part of the League of the Living God, and we follow Jesus, the Son of the Living God.

Our God is a rock that is alive, dynamic, and on the move. Those other things that claim they have power over us? They are lifeless, powerless, and have been overcome by the mighty and loving arms of God. In fact, we as members of the League of the Living God have been given this mission: to not be conformed by the powers in this world that defy God, but instead to be transformed into living sacrifices of God’s justice and deliverance.

We have been called not just to renounce the promises of the devil and the things of this world that claim to give us life but instead leave us empty, but we have also been given our marching orders, to take the battle right to the very gates of hell itself, for Jesus himself says that we will be victorious. Because the salvation of the Living God will be forever, and his deliverance will never be ended. Amen… amen.. and all God’s super heroes say “Amen!”

This is a real shirt, by the way!