July 10, 2016 – There’s a Superhero in All of Us

Luke 10:25-37

        Super Hero Sunday – we are here at last! What makes someone a superhero? What would we look for in order to identify a superhero when he/she is not wearing the respective superhero outfit? What choices do superheroes have concerning their special powers?

What makes a superhero? How does someone become a superhero?  We have some classic ones represented here today. Superman, aka Clark Kent, came from another planet and brought his superhero strength with him. He was raised by a couple who adopted him when they found him stranded and alone.  He probably had a hard time fitting in when he was growing up and learned quickly he needed to hide his true self from the rest of the world.

Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, appeared for the first time in 1942. She is an Amazon and in some comics noted as the daughter of the Greek god Zeus. She uses her Lasso of Truth, her indestructible bracelets, her tiara – which serves as a projectile, and her invisible plane to fight for justice, love, peace, and gender equality.   She had to leave her home on Paradise Island to return pilot Steve Trevor to his world. She gave up her fellow Amazons to stay on our planet as Wonder Woman.

The Incredible Hulk came to fruition due to a severe laboratory accident. Dr. Bruce Banner was accidentally exposed to gamma radiation in doses that should have killed him but instead gave him super human strength when angered.  He is not able to control his transformation into the Hulk, yet the Hulk seems to maintain a bit of Dr. Banner in its quest to right wrongs and help those in need. Because of the Dr. Jekyll/ Mr. Hyde war raging inside him, Dr. Banner is a loner wandering the earth in search of a cure.

Finally, let’s look at Captain America.  The character is usually depicted as the alter ego of Steve Rogers, a frail young man enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum to aid the United States government’s efforts in World War II. Near the end of the war, he was trapped in ice and survived in suspended animation until he was revived in the present day. Although Captain America often struggles to maintain his ideals as a man out of his time with its modern realities, he remains a highly respected figure in his community which includes becoming the long-time leader of the Avengers.

As we look at these four superheroes, we find each had a struggle to overcome. Each had special gifts, yet had to make  tough choices or make the best of the situations in which they find themselves.  There is no life of ease for any of them. At times they each felt isolated and alone, at times criticized for who they are, yet choosing to make a positive difference in the world.

Enter the Good Samaritan.  By all accounts, the Samaritans were despised by the religious community.  They were the ones who remained in Jerusalem when most of the Hebrews were exiled into Babylon.  There were those who were too weak or compromised to make the journey, and were therefore left in Jerusalem to serve as slaves in their home territory.  When the Hebrews returned following the exile, they saw themselves as the true followers of God and had no use or respect for Samaritans. In fact, when Hebrew folks would travel to the temple during high holy days, they would travel extra miles to bypass Samaria.

To say the Samaritans were persecuted is an understatement.  Yet Jesus used the illustration of a Good Samaritan to challenge a religious leader who was quite puffed up and suffered from the number one sin we mentioned last week – pride.  Jesus presented some interesting details in this story to specifically point out the wrongdoing of the religious leaders.  First, the man who fell among the robbers was unconscious and stripped of his clothing.  The two best ways for folks to determine someone’s ethnicity – his speech and his attire – are purposefully eliminated.  This man could very well have been an enemy to the Samaritan traveler.

Second, the man who is hurt was told to have been half-dead.  The religious leaders were determined to follow Jewish law which would have prevented them from touching a dead man. The fact that this man was only half-dead made it perfectly acceptable for either the priest, a leader in the temple, or the Levite, a holy man, to assist the victim. Both chose to ignore his distress and leave him to someone else.

Third, the Samaritan fully embodied what it means to be a good neighbor by going out of his way to help someone in need.  Similar to the civilians in this video who answered the call for help to get people off Manhattan Island on 9/11, the Samaritan chose to help a stranger rather than leave the task to someone else.  Whenever we respond to someone in need, we are fulfilling our calling as followers of Jesus Christ.  To the recipients we may seem like superheroes, but in reality we are becoming more like Christ, sharing kindness and caring in a hurting world.  As a way of closing for today, I wanted to share with you this video concerning the heroic boat rescue that occurred in Manhattan on 9/11.  It is a little long but I believe worth the watch.  [show video]  Link to video: https://youtu.be/MDOrzF7B2Kg

As Jesus noted to the lawyer who challenged him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ Amen

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