Join the Justice League

Micah 6:8-9/Luke 4:16-22

Last Sunday, we began a new sermon series with the hope that each of us might discover our superpower and become the superhero that God created us to be. In the weeks to come, we will discuss just how that might happen, but, first, I think there is a foundational lesson we must discover.

In an age of toxic individualism, the theme of the 2018 movie “Justice League” offers a vital insight:

You can’t save the world alone!

The movie opens in a world without hope. Superman is dead, and that seems to bring out the worst in humanity. The movie opens with a montage showing the entire world mourning the death of Superman and everything he stood for. Then, inspired by Superman’s self-sacrifice, Bruce Wayne recruits a team of superheroes to stand against a rising tide of supervillains and invading creatures that look like giant bugs.

The movie is humanized when high school student Barry Allen is invited to join the league. Barry Allen is known as the Flash, and he is thrilled to be in a superhero league. Of course, it is always more exciting to be than it is to do.

When it comes time to do what superheroes do—save the world—the Flash finds himself paralyzed by uncertainty about his own abilities and by the fear of what might happen to him.

He tries to explain his struggle to stoic, larger-than-life Batman. Barry says, “Here’s the thing. See, I’m afraid of bugs, and guns, and obnoxiously tall people. I can’t be here! It’s really cool you guys seem ready to do battle and stuff, but I’ve never done battle. I just pushed people and run away!”

Batman’s solution to Barry’s fear is two simple words: Save one.

“What?”, says the teenage Flash.

“Save one person,” Batman replies.

“Which one?”

“Don’t talk. Don’t fight. Get in. Get one out.”

“And then?”

“Then you’ll know what to do next.”

I believe that one of the reasons we need to be together here each week is to be reprieved from believing we have to do it all. We also need to be encouraged and challenged to do what we can.

We need to be reminded that we aren’t in this alone. The Spirit of God is our ally, and there are others who also are hard at work discovering their own superpowers and using them to save at one, at least one at a time.

Jesus, the founder of our faith, meticulously handcrafted his followers one-by-one, and then he sent us out believing that, just as he knew what he had been sent here to do, we would know as well.

In his hometown synagogue, Jesus read the prophecy from Isaiah that he believed applied to him:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because God has sent me to …

So, why were you anointed? What have you been given the Spirit to do with your lives? I guess that is life’s ultimate question, isn’t it? What is my superpower, and what am I supposed to do with it?

Discovering that is a worthy quest, of course, but, before we ask for a greater anointing, more holy power, or even greater clarity from God, perhaps we should consider that God may be waiting on us to take seriously what we already have been told is required of us: justice, mercy, and humility.

This passage from Micah 6:8 (“God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”) will be our theme for Lent next year, because I believe it already is woven into the DNA of this church. The question is, “How do these requirements get expressed/lived out through our superpowers, the unique gifts, abilities, passions, experiences, and talents that are ours?”

To say that another way:

How do you use your superpowers to make the world more just and merciful,
as an expression of you walking humbly with God from this life to the next?

That is how Jesus planned to bring God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven. A just and peaceful world must be built by women and men who know what the God of Life requires of them and who find their own unique way to make it so.

Bringing in God’s reign of justice and peace on earth as it is in heaven is an overwhelming task. As with any significantly large project, our minds are rarely capable of envisioning all the various steps involved. The objective must be broken down into smaller, bite-sized portions. When it comes to our call to make a world of justice and peace, perhaps all we can do is, Save one! After that, we will know.

Each of us has a unique calling/mission, but we also are called to make the world more just and merciful and to spend our days walking humbly with God.

Novelist, spoken-word poet, and activist Marge Piercy gives us some advice in her poem “Low Road.”

A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall …
[or a church!]
It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

It starts when you say WE and know who you mean, and each day you mean one more.

I believe you are here today because you are one of the ones God is calling to be a part of this “WE” who is seeking to begin a movement to offer hope in an increasingly hopeless time.

Let me leave behind the movie, and even the scripture, for a moment and speak plainly.

This once was a great church that impacted not only this city, but the world. We DID justice and mercy; we didn’t just talk about it. I believe we can be that church again, or, frankly, I’d be living on a beach somewhere sipping piña coladas.

As discouraged as I have been by what is going on in this country, I still hear the Spirit’s call. God is calling you, too … No, God is calling US to do justice, love mercifully and walk humbly. We may not save the world in our time, but we can:

  • Save one person from hopelessness.

  • Help one person to find meaning in life.

  • Offer an estranged soul a place in the family of God.

  • Pronounce forgiveness on one life crushed by guilt.

  • Offer healing balm to a man scarred by shame.

  • Lift a woman pushed to the ground by abuse.

This place can give your life a purpose that lasts past sunset.

Can any other place in your life do that? Does any other part of your life deserve your devotion and commitment more than this redemptive community, this justice league?

Jesus knew why the Spirit of God had anointed him. He had a list of responsibilities that were his, and he knew that, without fulfilling them, his life would be lived in vain.

Do you know why the breath of Life was breathed into you? Can you make your list, or are we just taking up space, killing time, taking the ride to the end? I’m convinced that, although we may not save the world, each of us can save one, and all of us can use our superpowers to contribute to the redemption of the world. But it will not be done with noble intent alone.

If Jesus taught us anything it is this:

Without sacrifice humankind will never be redeemed.

Without sacrifices God’s children have no future, so we must overcome our sense of entitlement and resolve to do more, not to do it all, but to do what we can.

Jesus did not have to die to convince God to love you, but he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to convince you that you are loved by God, now and forever. He did that because he believed that knowing that transformational truth deep in your soul should give your life superpower and meaning.

Too many people believe that their “Why” is found in making money, or marrying the right person, or finding the right job. We secretly believe that will make us happy. Well, it won’t!

And who told you that you were meant to be happy anyway?!? Who told you that being happy is why you are here? Actually, if you pursue happiness, you will never find it. Happiness is the by-product of a well lived life! Find your purpose, why you were created, and pursue it with all your heart. Happiness will follow. More than being happy, you will find the peace and satisfaction of knowing why God breathed life into you in the first place.

Jesus knew that including all of us in the family of God was his purpose, and, if it cost him his very life, so be it. After all, Jesus remembered what we are too prone to forget: We ALL are going to die. The only questions are whether we will live, and will it matter?

Death holds no fear for a life that has been lived on purpose. So, join the Justice League and become a superhero.

Amen.