Are the Avengers, real?

Sunday Readings for August 4th, 2019.

clement-m-JIOP2qvo8yk-unsplashIn addition to long walks, running through sprinklers, and late night bonfires, my family has been watching all of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe this summer. Good versus evil, superheroes, mostly quippy dialogue, self-sacrifice – everyone in my family finds something they enjoy in these films. 

Last night we watched Avengers. In the middle of an intense battle scene, Captain America jumps between two uneven pieces of the flying Helicarrier. When he lands and then saves the day, both of my daughters snickered. They giggled. And I heard their eyes roll in unison (I’m a dad, I can hear eye rolls). 

I asked them why they were snickering and almost in unison they both replied, “Ha, well, that isn’t real.” I ignored for a second the desire for reality while watching a movie about superheroes, interdemensional travel, and Norse gods, and I asked them why they thought it wasn’t real. My older daughter said that it just didn’t look real. Like you could tell it was computer animated. It just didn’t look authentic. 

This 2 seconds of video from a 90+ minute movie that is almost entirely unreal was the only time my kids scoffed at how real things looked. When an army of aliens, with 4 thumbs each, attacked New York City, my children didn’t bat an eye.  

We aren’t as good as we think we are at recognizing what is real and what is not. Even in our own lives, we can find countless examples of times we perceived something incorrectly or were tricked into seeing something that wasn’t there. This is the whole basis of the TV show Brain Games. 

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus warns against greed. Not only because greed rots the soul and drives us mad with self obsession, but also because greed causes us to care deeply about things that aren’t real. Greed puts value on what isn’t ultimately valuable. 

In C.S. Lewis’ work The Great Divorce, when the main character goes to heaven, he finds a place more real than Earth. Heaven is so real that the people who were flesh and blood a mere moment ago are now ghost like. The grass is so hard, so real, that it cuts into people’s now ghost like feet. 

All we take for granted as real, we perceive through our senses. We see, hear, taste, and the rest what we consider reality. 

Jesus comes to tell us that there is something even more real than what we perceive now. Jesus warns us that if we care too deeply about what we believe to be real now, we will put far too much value on what is truly nothing more than dust. When we value what isn’t valuable, we will miss what is truly real and valuable.

My prayer is that each of us grows rich in what matters to God. May we fall in love with that which is most real. 

LIVE IT: Take a screen fast for 24 hours. No TV, no phone for entertainment, shopping, etc., just use it as a phone as necessary. During that time consider praying, asking God to show you what is real. 

Like Magic.

The Good Word for Sunday March 20th ~ for the complete readings click here.

I like magic. I pretend like I don’t, as if I’m too cool for it and am not totally amazed. I often pretend to know just how the illusionist is performing his illusions, but I don’t. I know it is a total nerd thing to admit to liking magic, but when the climax of the card trick or the illusion finally happens, I am usually left astonished. I don’t look for magic shows to watch, but I’ve been known to stop and watch a show if I happen upon one while flipping through channels.

In the gospel this weekend, Jesus suffers, is crucified, and dies. It is the story of what God was willing to do to win us back to him. At one point in the story, it says, “Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign.”

Why was Herod glad to see Jesus? It says that Herod was hoping to see Jesus perform some sign. I think Herod is hoping to see some magic. Not illusions or tricks, but spiritual acts with real power. Herod doesn’t care for good to be done or for God to be glorified. Herod wants to be entertained by Jesus.

Herod questions Jesus for sometime, but apparently not getting the answers he wants, Herod mocks Jesus and sends him back to Pilate. Herod isn’t interested in finding out who Jesus is; Herod is interested in see what Jesus does. Herod cares about his own power and pleasure and only cares about what Jesus can do for him.

Sometimes, we run the risk of treating Jesus and Church like Herod does in the gospel. Sometimes we want Church to entertain us, not change us. Sometimes, we are only glad to see Jesus because we think we are going to see some signs and wonders. Sometimes we are more interested in what Jesus can do for us than who Jesus is. Sometimes, we are only interested in the idea of Jesus, instead of having an authentic relationship with him.

How do we avoid being Herod in our relationship with Jesus? Put Jesus in charge. Herod expects Jesus to do whatever he wants. Herod is looking for Jesus to serve him. If we want to have an authentic relationship with Jesus, we have to put and keep Jesus in charge.

Live It:
A good way to keep Jesus in charge is to dedicate some prayer time to silence. Take 5-10 minutes (or just 2 minutes if you can’t imagine being silent for longer than that), and sit in silence each day for the next week. Let God fill the silence of your prayer.