SUPERMAN: Better Than His Box Office

How many here will be headin' for fireworks come Tuesday the 4th of July? How many will be watchin' on TV? One way or another most of us will join in the Oooo's and Ahhh's at the end of a grateful and glorious day. But did you know this year could be special? Amidst the Oooo's and Ahhh's, somebody's almost bound to exclaim, "Look, up in the air! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's …Superman! (Cue the Jn. Wms. music.) Thanks to the movies, our hero for "truth, justice, and the American way" returns this summer, in fact this very weekend. His red, white and blue presence invites us to ask, "What on earth are you looking for?" Especially in the savior department. In whom will you place your trust? To be here, in church, on this holiday weekend, compels us to make the comparison between the Man of Steel and the Man of Sorrows, Krypton's son or Christ the Son.

Maybe it all depends on how things are goin' in Metropolis, yours and mine. We've got folks in the room today who are ailing. We have saints who are worried. We have wounded feelings and broken relationships. Kids are mad with their parents, parents with their kids, almost everybody with somebody. "Does anybody love me, really love me?" You're not the only one who wants to know! Gas prices and the deficit are up. For the troops we pray for, dangerous things are goin' down. North Korea's got the makin's for nukes on the launch pad. There's grief in Gaza. In Frederick, floods drowned the dreams of two teens on a romp by a swollen little stream. Krypton or Christ, from whence does our help come?

In church, we all know how to answer, don't we? Jesus, only Jesus! We say that all the time. But before the picnics we've planned this week and after the fireworks fade on Tuesday night, we need to own up. We don't live the way we say. It's hard to be trusting in the middle of the night. It's hard when hard times are hard on us. It's hard when we can't see the Savior right before our eyes. Quick fixes have much to recommend. So like the folks in that other Metropolis, we tend to look around for some Superman of our own. But Men of Steel often have trouble with having and expressing their feelings. (Ask any woman who wants a man's man with a woman's sensitivity.) It's the problem we have with the doc, sometimes. Good technical skills and so-so human touch. Faster than a speeding bullet. Don't we all want someone who can be like that? When we'd just like the problems we face, and the hurry of our pace and the collapsing of our personal space… to just go away… quick! When we can't take it anymore. We want someone to take it away from us… in a hurry. Oh, and more powerful than a locomotive would be good. We like that in our lawyer, not the other guy's. In an argument at work, home or school, we want the power on our side. (It's so much easier than dealing with the person on the other side.) And when we fuss in things of the faith, we want God to come to our side… long before we ask whether or not we're really on God's side. Oh, we're all about power. And that whole building-leaping thing, well, hmmm. Who wouldn't like to just skip over their own sin? 'Vault over the hard parts of the year and just stick with the vacation part? 'Have a friend to high-step us past the problems of the day? Oh, on first sight, somebody bullets will bounce off, with ex-ray eyes for the radar-cop past the cut-off seems a savior indeed. But in the end, life is full of Lex Luthors slithering from the grasp of both superman and the authorities and messin' stuff up. (The Bible has another name for this character, you know. And you can't even say his name without that hissing sound… sssss!) In the end, superman always turns out to be a silver screen pretension from a comic book creator. In the end, he leaves Clark Kent to his phone booth (or on his cell these days, I guess) and flies off in search of Krypton, with little success at all.

Well, if you need a savior today, see that our world does, our country does, our church, our community, your own household, there is another option. Ditch the cape-guy for the one in the lowly robe. The description could not be a clearer contrast. "And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?… He had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. (No way Brandon Routh gets this part.) He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. [Yet] surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed." Whereas the superheroes of our dreams are largely untouchable, Jesus is pierced to the heart by our pains and problems, sadness and sin. The hardest shell around the human heart is loneliness. And we feel it most when we are at our lowest ebb. (Why me? Why us? Why now? I'm awalkin' this lonesome valley by myself!) Exactly then, Jesus penetrates that loneliness by saying, "I'm with you, I've been there, put it all on me, and I'll take it." In Christ is a vulnerability more powerful than kryptonite, an authority to speak to evil more authentic than even the glories of America's beloved Declaration. It turns out soul is more persuasive than pens or swords. It's God's instrument for good in Jesus Christ.

And the image of the change from helpless to hope-for-us? Not a torn shirt and a supersized "S" on the chest. Instead, a broken loaf of bread and a shared cup. I hope you see what God sees in Jesus today. I hope when you take it in, that little gulp, that dainty sip, you taste the love of heaven. By Jesus, God will give anything, everything, for you! Unlike impervious Superman, God in Christ is willing to be crushed like wheat, ground like grain, punched, prodded, kneaded and overheated like bread, all for your sake and mine. Nothin' you're goin' through this week or next, he hasn't, in your behalf and mine. And he has overcome it all so we can. He doesn't get us around our trials, but through them! Imagine. He does. Imagine God-in-the-flesh, tender as a young grape on the vine. 'Subject to the sun, the rain, the wind, the creep of dis-ease up the vine, and the snatch of the reaper's hand. And all to be trampled under foot or pressed down 'til the life-blood, the juice streams out. God in this way, mind you! And emptied into the most common cup and shared by the coarsest sinner. And by you. And me. Today. Why on earth would God do that, when he could come like Superman into this world? God as caped crusader, himself untouched by suffering! 'Just here to right the wrongs he sees and then fly off to planets yet uncharted? Why? For the forgiveness of sin, "and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world." Superman's here for the fix. Temporary. Christ makes all things new. Forever! His box office may not have been golden…. Many reject him. But for those who believe, he gives them the power to be children of God, and if children, then heirs, inheritors of salvation. And then nothing can separate them, us, from the love of God. So, who would really want a Man of Steel, when we can have a Son Who Saves?

Come today. Take him in. And be like Christ. See him live, strive for these five:

  1. Love in a way that lets others' lives truly touch you.
  2. Live in a way that lets somebody else feels your touch.
  3. Give in a way that asks no return, but returns to give again.
  4. Remember it's better to sit than to fly. 'Better to be there
    through the hurt than hurry for a fix that can't last.
  5. Trust that nothing & no one is broken God can't make new.
    Not even me. Not even you.

Not in a cape, but a cup; not by a leap, but a loaf.… Here is the Savior who saves, and a life we can live for the saving and sake of this world and the next.

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