The number of movies about superheroes seems to have exploded in past decade. Some scholars have suggested that the popularity of superhero stories develops because they take the place of local folk stories, myths, and fairy tales that have shaped moral and communal identity over centuries. Superhero movies tend to raise questions about the corruption of power, about vigilantism and justice, and about whether even some- one with superhuman powers can be regarded as completely righteous. The best superhero narratives consider the internal struggles of the protagonists who realize that even when their intentions are good and they try their best, they often don’t mea- sure up because of their own fallibility or because of impossible social expectations.
In the middle of his extended theological explorations, in Romans 5 Paul touches on the question of righteousness in the saving plan of God. He begins by asserting that it is up to God to recognize and de ne righteousness in people’s actions—as he does with Abraham. Yet, perhaps even more importantly, in Romans 5:6-8 Paul reminds us that the saving life and death of Jesus does not depend on our righteousness. Salvation is for all—the righteous and the unrighteous alike. This does not deny the importance of righteousness. Living lives that God might declare righteous is central to the calling of the faithful. Yet Paul clearly notes that human failure to become righteous—or worse, becoming self-righteous against others—does not deny the power of Jesus to save, redeem, and make whole. Superhero lms show most clearly that superhuman power will not save us. Christians, however, hold to a different story. We believe that only the sacri ce of the cross and the self-emptying of power by God can save.
God of all hope, help us recognize the true righteousness of our servant king Jesus. Amen.
Two threads run through all the readings. One is the claim that God is powerful over all things. Psalm 116 makes this claim most eloquently with its assertion that God “has heard my voice and my supplications.” The story of the promise of Isaac’s birth demonstrates that it is God and God alone who gives life. Matthew situates the call of the disciples within the larger context of Jesus’ mission and understands their work to be the consequence of God’s decision to send workers. Paul emphasizes God’s power by recalling that God’s act of reconciliation comes within the setting of human alien- ation and hostility. The second thread is that of the unworthiness of those whom God chooses.
• Read Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7. When has God presented you with a laughable opportunity? What incredible offer would you like God to propose to you today?
• Read Psalm 100. How do you create a future of hope by recalling God’s faithful action on your behalf in the past?
• Read Romans 5:1-8. When have you looked for a superhero in a crisis situation? Who came to your aid?
• Read Matthew 9:35–10:23. What field of harvest is God calling you to? Do you yearn for wheat rather than potatoes? How do you go about an attitude adjustment?
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