In pm's words
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April 24, 2019, 1:00 PM

Of Marvel and Faith, part 3


Iron Man 3

At the end of The Avengers Tony Stark almost died. He sacrificed himself to save the world and realized that what the world need to be protected from is significant. It is this fear – fear for himself and the ones he loves – that drives him to build and create more and more Iron Man suits.

Of course, the enemy he faces this time is one who is deceitful as well. Employing the work of an actor to ‘play a role’ of evil to scare and frighten the entire world. Who uses people as weapons to cause havoc every where.

Tony Stark gets knocked down a lot in this movie, not just by bad guys, but by his arrogance and his insistence on doing this his own way with no help at all. This causes him to find help in places he wouldn’t expect – a young boy far from his home, and within the ability of the woman he loves.

Throughout this movie, Tony is confronted and controlled by his fear. Fear of not being enough, fear of the unknown, fear of trusting his life in the hands of those around him. This fear leads him to be an insomniac, constantly trying to find ways to abate that fear and restlessness. He dives into his work creating more and more Iron Man suits which causes tension to build up between his personal life and his ‘superhero life.’ His girlfriend, his friends, and more our hurt by this fear (and he is unable to see it).

Tony’s biggest fear is trusting others to care for him. Trusting others to help him achieve his goals. Trusting himself to be able to ‘defeat’ his and the world’s enemies. Trust is his biggest issue.

In many ways, our biggest fault as a part of God’s creation is trust as well. Especially in the world we live in today. We work harder, we work longer, because we don’t ’trust’ those around us. Trust them to do a ‘good job’ or trust that the work that we do is enough.

This lack of trust doesn’t help us when we are confronted by Jesus who asks us to trust him; trust him to love us where we are – in spite of who and what we are. We feel we have to do something more, something to earn that love and grace in some way. Yet, the more we ‘try’ to get it, the more we see how short we are in receiving that sort of love.

Yet, we remember that God has already given us that love and grace. It isn’t something we’ve ‘earned’ somehow, but it is just given to us out of sheer and full love.

Sometimes, it takes us seeing that from unexpected places in our lives to notice it and to accept that grace and love. Much like Tony being helped by a young boy as his life is seemingly unraveling because of the severe anxiety he is experiencing as a result of fighting the Chi’Tari in New York.

The community of faith that we find ourselves in and in which Jesus invites us into requires trust not only in the one extending the loving invitation (God), but also in the others that are a part of the community with us. It’s scary to relinquish that ‘control’ in our lives, but it is needed to live fully into that community.

Thor: The Dark World

Thor, much more than the other Avengers, is becoming more and more grounded in his role as a protector of Earth and its inhabitants. He is more and more living into the role that has been set aside for him from his father Odin – to be king of Asgard.

Here a new foe is at hand – the Dark Elves – who want to bring darkness to the entire world by using the abilities of a powerful object and relic called the Aether. An ancient relic that has been hidden from the zealous leader of the Dark Elves, Malekith.

Of course, the one to find this powerful relic of yore is none other than Jane Foster – Thor’s sort of girlfriend. When she finds it, she becomes ‘infected’ with its power and becomes a danger not only to herself, but to those around her.

Malekith wants to bring havoc upon all the nine realms and bring them all under the rule of the Dark Elves. Through a series of battles using portals and other weirdness as a result of all the realms being ‘aligned’ Thor is able to defeat Malekith and bring ‘balance’ and peace to the realms once again. All while thinking that his brother Loki has sacrificed himself – redeeming him in his brother’s eyes – to achieve that peace.

Jesus talks a bit about being shrewd in how we proclaim the gospel truth and sharing that love with the world. Thor is shrewd as well as he seeks the counsel and help of his brother. The one who literally tried to destroy Earth in a grab for ultimate power. That takes guts and a lot of trust.

There is also a strong parallel between the battle of ‘light and dark’ in this film with how we see and interpret the powers of light and darkness as well in our lives of faith. We know the light of Christ will prevail, even though it seems almost impossible against the forces of darkness.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Cap is back in this sequel where he and his new friend (the superhero Falcon) team up to take on the terrorist organization known as Hydra that has – for years – worked behind the shadows within SHIELD itself. Placing adherents to Hydra’s flawed philosophies in strategic positions within SHIELD, the governments around the world, and other high profile institutions. Nick Fury realizes what’s going on and reaches out to Steve Rogers for help – which puts Steve in the uncompromising position of being a primary target of those evil forces within SHIELD.

Hydra’s goal is to control three massive air ships that will have the power to ‘unify’ the world because of the fear that it’ll be capable of unleashing. These airships biggest strength is their ability to target and take out suspects, potential threats, and others deemed ‘against’ Hydra/SHIELD’s endeavors. Needless to say, this is indeed an entirely frightening possibility within the MCU. Cap knows that this is wrong and seeks to stop it.

Meanwhile, Hydra uses the skills of Steve Rogers’ past – Bucky Barnes – who he thought died during WWII. Turns out he was ‘rescued’ by Hydra operatives, brainwashed, made into a super soldier (like Captain America) and has been strategically used to assassinate leaders and foes to Hydra over the past several decades.

The movie is resolved not only with Hydra being defeated, but SHIELD itself literally being destroyed itself. The only way to take Hydra’s power away is to unveil all the secrets of SHIELD to the world. Black Widow helps end SHIELD/Hydra by exposing all of its secrets, including her own to the world. Also, the three airships target one another and destroy each other as they sink to the bottom of the Potomac River.

This story is a ‘Reformation’ story in and of itself. We’ve seen that played out not only in scripture (Jesus confronting the temple structure within Judaism during his time), but we’ve also seen it play out in the history of the church when Martin Luther felt (and saw) how corrupt the Catholic church of his day had become. This is also a story that is played out in many individual churches and faith organizations today in all sorts of ways.

Within this movie, there are also two ‘resurrection’ scenarios as well. Both with Fury (who SHIELD and the world believes is dead) and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier. Steve thinks his friend is dead and is more than surprised when he realizes the formidable foe he is battling is that long lost friend.

In the midst of that final and climactic battle between Cap and Barnes, Cap does the unthinkable and refuses to fight his friend. He can’t do it, he doesn’t want to do it anymore. So, he ‘turns the other cheek’ as it were to convince his friend that he’s not his enemy and that he can help him in some way. Bucky ends up pulling Cap out of the river after the airships are destroyed.

The life of faith that we are called into can be twisted (and has been) by people seeking ultimate power and control. It happens in so many churches and institutions. It has happened in small ways and incredibly tragic ways throughout history. It was happening in Jesus’ time as well in the temple community and authority in and within Jerusalem. What does it take to confront those powerful institutions? Where do we place our trust in those moments? Those are the powerful questions that this movie invites us to ponder.

Guardians of the Galaxy

This film introduces Marvel’s Cosmic Universe of characters. We get to meet many of the space heroes and villains. First, we get to know Peter Quill (Star Lord) who is a rogue, thief, and more. He takes an orb from a desolate planet and is looking to sell it for some good money. Along the way he is intercepted by Rocket Racoon and Groot – a talking animal and a plant life form with a limited vocabulary. They are all intercepted by Gamora who is a ‘Daughter of Thanos’ that has severe daddy issues. And who wouldn’t when their ‘daddy’ is a genocidal maniac. They are arrested and sent to a high security prison. It is here that they meet up with their final ‘member’ of their team – Drax. Drax comes a culture that is purely literal in all its communications, so watch out, nothing can go over his head (his reflexes are too fast).

This ragtag bunch of hoodlums and deceits ban together when they discover that the orb that Quill has been literally throwing around is one of the most powerful objects in the universe – an Infinity Stone (the Power Stone to be precise). It has the capability of destroying all life that it touches. So, of course a religious and cultural zealot named Ronan has intentions of doing just that to the world of Xandar. The Xandarian Civilization just made a peace treaty with the Kree and Ronan thinks it’s blasphemous. He intends to put an end to it.

So, Quill, Rocket, Groot, Gamora, and Drax band together (with the help of Quill’s former gang called the Ravagers and the Xandarian security force – Nova Corps.) to stop Ronan from accomplishing his devastating goals. This ‘fab 5’ take on the joking moniker given to them by Ronan as the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ since they stopped Ronin’s evil plans – and subsequently stopped Thanos from beginning his even more deplorable plans.

In most of Paul’s letters, he writes to church communities in their infancy. He helps to outline what it means to be a community, how that community is to support and care for one another, how every individual of the community can and does possess different and essential gifts for the whole. The underlying message of many of his letters is that forming community and new blended families is difficult. The Guardians experience all that. They come from different places, they have different goals that bring them together – Quill always appears along for the ride, though he ‘usually’ has his mind and heart set on more ‘altruistic’ ideals, Rocket is always in it for the money, Gamora is dead set on keeping her ‘father’ from setting his plans in motion, Drax intends to avenge the deaths of his wife and child, and Groot is, “I am Groot.” About the whole thing.

Many different things bring them together, but they have to work together in order not only to save themselves, but every living person they know. As Quill so eloquently put it; he wants to save the universe because, “He’s one of the idiots who lives in the galaxy.” The struggle, argue, and become frustrated with one another as each of those differing opinions play out against each other.

Each of them has lost something significant in their life and want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and to be cared for and loved (in their own unique ways of course). I cannot think of a better way to describe the Christian community at times. Coming together to be found, accepted, and loved for who you are – working and striving with one another to live out the goal of sharing the gospel truth to a world in desperate need of hearing/saving.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

In this sequel to the original Guardians of the Galaxy, the ragtag group is well known throughout the galaxy for their work in defeating Ronan on Xandar. They are, however, still in the ‘game’ of making money. We catch up with them as they save an advanced civilization of genetically ‘perfect’ beings (of gold) who need help from an interstellar monster that wants to eat it’s powerful and volatile batteries.

As they do this ‘good thing’ Rocket can’t help, but dive back into his old ways. He steals quite a few of those batteries and this advanced civilization (The Sovereign) are not happy. As they are attacking the Guardian’s ship, they are saved by a single man seemingly sailing on a space ship who wipes out the whole Sovereign fleet.

This man, Ego, turns out to be Peter Quill’s dad and he is not exactly the good benevolent guy he appears to be. What he is though is an ancient being called a Celestial. He is a god-like entity that can control matter around him. He can also literally create life from himself as well. Peter of course is part Celestial (hence why he was able to hold on to the Power Stone and not perish in the previous film).

Ego doesn’t really want to share this power and ‘benevolence’ with Peter, but he does want to use him as sort of a catalyst to activate Ego’s many seedlings on every world he has visited. When those seedlings are activated, they begin to consume each of those worlds and turn them into extensions of Ego himself. Quill fights back with the help of the other Guardians and his mentor/father figure Yondu.

Yondu sacrfices himself because of the love he has for Quill, his ‘son.’ And Peter holds off Ego long enough for his friends to escape the impending bomb blast that kills Ego and disintegrates the planet that was his home.

First and foremost, this is a great film and is way more emotional than I remember when I first watched it. There are a lot of Gospel Glimmers in this movie, but I just want to focus on one – Reconciliation.

This movie is all about reconciliation. Quill and Yondu reconciling. Yondu and the other Ravagers reconciling. Gamora and her sister Nebula reconciling. Rocket realizing that he can be reconciled with those around him. No one, not one person is kept from being reconciling. As Rocket remarks at the Ravager funeral for Yondu at the end of the movie, “He didn’t chase them away. Even though he yelled at them and he was always mean…”

Romans 8:31-39 is one of my favorite pieces of scripture. Paul writes that there is not one thing that can separate us from Christ’s love. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Nothing we’ve done. Nothing we’ve said. Nothing we could possibly do to remove that love from us. God has redeemed us in Jesus’ death and resurrection. We’ve got it. We are loved. Even when we’re mean to everyone because we don’t know how we could possibly be loved by others.

Personally, for me the most heartfelt part of any Marvel movie is in this one, where just before Yondu saves Quill he says, “He may have been your father, but he wasn’t your daddy.” Peter has been searching for his father for his entire life – searching for that thing that would make him ‘whole’ and complete. What he doesn’t realize is that Yondu has been the one to raise him. And truly loves him in his own interesting and unique way. He isn’t perfect by any means as a father, but as he said – he didn’t eat Quill so that’s good.

 

Check out Part 4 HERE!

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