Who Is My Hero?
June 23, 2016
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 1 Hebrews 12:1 (NRSV)
Have you ever wondered about Superheroes? Sometimes it seems like superhero genre movies make up about 1/3 of the summer block busters (it actually feels higher to me). I was never much of a comic book reader, so most of the later hero movies have been pretty mysterious to me. Of course, I had heard of Superman, Batman, Catwoman (heroine?), Spider-Man, the Green Hornet, Aquaman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Hulk, Iron Man and Wonder Woman. Recently, we have seen movies or TV series about Darkman, the Toxic Avenger, the Fantastic Four, Meteor Man, the Mask, Judge Dredd, Tank Girl, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., X-Men, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hellboy, Ghostrider, and a ton of others. (I would like to say that I had never heard of the Mighty Morphine Power Rangers, but I had two sons who loved this horrible TV series.)
Sometimes, I think that superhero stories are the modern version of the old cowboy movies. We know who the good guys are. We can tell the bad guys because they dress in black. (Yes, I am choosing to ignore the racist tendencies of these movies that all Indians are bad. Oops, I guess I didn’t ignore it.) I think there is something in us that longs for a powerful being who takes care of the problems. We want to be able to identify bad people by how they look. Of course, they have gone and ruined this by pitting superheroes against each other.
A couple weeks ago, Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran and I went to a conference in Los Angeles. (We were “previewing” the workshop by Tom Anthony who will be the workshop leader of the pre-Gathering in September. Shameless plug, but you really need to be at the pre-Gathering this year.) We were just popping in and out quickly. Most of the pastors were local, none were American Baptists, so we didn’t have natural ties to any of them. As we had conversations around the table, I discovered a person who joined my “cloud of witnesses,” or a spiritual hero.
Chuck is a retired pastor. His entire ministry had been serving churches in Hawaii. In retirement, he had moved to Southern California. He was kind of quiet, but his eyes were full of life. Normally, I don’t ask a lot of personal questions, but for some reason over a break, Chuck and I started talking. I heard his story of faith.
Seven years ago, this pastor and preacher had a stroke. For five years, he lost his ability to speak. Through God’s grace, some “great speech therapists,” and God’s help, Chuck had regained the ability to speak. He still had a bit of a speech impediment, but not much. He also lost the ability to read and write. Even after seven years, he could only read very slowly and deliberately. Like many pastors, he loved his books and loved to study. He loved to preach. All of this was taken away from him.
I think what impressed me most was that he was at this conference learning how to help the church where he is now a member to move from being internally focused to being focused on being a better neighbor. He was dreaming of how he could be a better neighbor in his retirement community, not to socialize, but to lead people to a relationship with Jesus. He was entering a new phase of ministry with a sense of joy and hope. He knew that he could no longer preach and could barely read, but he could be a true neighbor to his community.
As with all good heroes, Chuck challenged me to look inside. Am I defeated by a few struggles along the way? Am I continuing to grow and learn? Do I have hope? Is my hope contagious? If I lost the ability to speak or read, would I grow resentful or would I find ways of continuing to do ministry?
I told Chuck that I wanted to be like him when I grew up.
I pray that God will put a hero in your life this week. Someone who will call you out into the deep waters of faith.
Prayer: Lord, lead us into the deep waters with you. Let us live this life you have given us with hope and joy. Don’t let us be defeated by circumstances or problems, but let us run the race with perseverance.
Northern Front Range, Southeast Colorado & New Mexico Cluster
Ministry & Mission Coach