What Makes a Hero? Better Together!

From Pentecost to Advent, we call this season – ordinary time.  Ordinary time to use ordinary ways to know God and God’s people more deeply.  This month, we have been looking at movies as a lens to see into themes of biblical truths in everyday life. Today, let’s take a look another part of what makes a biblical hero; they are better together.  They have sidekicks.  They have a squad.  They do not travel through life alone! 

Do you remember the movie Toy Story?  It debuted in 1995 with talking toys and ultimately three sequels, including one currently in the theater!  A young boy’s cowboy toy needs to a place in Andy’s room and his heart for the new space ranger.  Buzz Lightyear and Woody ultimately find themselves trapped in next door neighbor, troublemaker and toy-destroyer, Sid’s room as the moving van is packed up next door with all of Andy’s other toys.  Let’s take a look. 

(Show the movie clip)

Buzz and Woody take turns encouraging one another as they work their way to freedom.  Their friendship anthropomorphically takes on a selfless quality as they depend upon each other.  In the Toy Story movies, Woody and Buzz learn again and again how much they need one another and the cadre of other toys to get out of trouble!  Whether they are getting out of Sid’s room in the first Toy Story, away from the greedy toy collector, Al McWhiggin in Toy Story 2, out of the grip of Lotso Bear in the third Toy Story or keep Woody’s voicebox from Gabby Gabby in Toy Story 4, the toys need one another!  They were able to outdo every bad guy, upset every scheme, and come together.  (Aren’t the movies, great!)

In our reading today, Luke captures for us a snapshot of the early Christian movement, called the Way.  Acts is a continuation of the book of Luke, and written by the same author.  It is no accident that our passage in Acts comes directly after the followers of the Way have just experienced the day of Pentecost!  The Holy Spirit has come in Power – the wind has rushed, the fire has fallen, and the apostles have spoken in tongues beyond their own!  Together in fellowship, immersing themselves in apostolic teachings, giving abundantly, not out of their abundance, and partaking in the sacraments, they experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Often, we have imagined that era as the golden age, unable to be reproduced.  Let me invite you into God’s imagination that through wonder and awe we too, can experience the intimacy and fellowship and the possibility of how we in faith are better together.  

A single drop of water is a droplet and has little or no effect.  It will not quench your thirst.  You cannot cook with it.  It will not grow your crops.  But begin to stack those water molecules – end to end and the impact you can make is deep!  A droplet becomes a glass of water to quench thirst during this heat wave.  A molecule becomes an irrigation to provide sustenance for a town.  A leaky drip can become a full pot to cook dinner. 

However, a leaky drip can also overflow the pot and cause a flood in the sink that it is sitting in.  Water can be a raging river or devastating flood.  While we are better together, we are never without the possibility of conflict and challenge.  In the earliest days of the desert mothers and fathers, there was both community as well as those in lived in huts by themselves.  Even those who lived by themselves were to come together every so often to celebrate communion, share a common meal, and discuss community. (1)  

A story is told of a certain elder who undertook a 70-week fast – eating once a week in order to be more receptive to God.  When the elder was little more than skin and bone, he asked God to uncover for him the meaning of a certain biblical passage.  However, God did not do it.  The elder was disappointed by how little the fast had done and decided to ask one of his fellow elders what the passage meant.  The minute he closed the door to his cell, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Your seventy-week fast did not bring you closer to God; however now that you humbled yourself to go to your brother, God sent me to reveal the meaning of the passage.”  The angel shared the meaning. (2)  Maybe the elder still went to spend time with the other elder and share of the incredible encounter – we are stronger together!  We need someone with whom to share our stories.  We also need to remember that God made us such that need one another, even forgetting our own importance a bit. 

We come together in moments of awe and wonder.  Like the awe experienced by those who gathered fifty years ago. Some 650 million people around the world watched the historic landing.  Some saw it live from a crowded Cape Canaveral crowded field; many crowded around television sets.   Others of us have watched it replayed over time.  As I have heard it described, a sense of awe permeated the gathered crowd.  What were separate individuals, became a community of smiling and courteous people awed by the wonder they had witnessed. Humanity moved beyond the earth into the heavens!  Humanity had walked on the moon! 

Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin were the face of our exploration.  And we all went beyond the known into the unknown. To infinity and beyond!   Better together, as Neil Armstrong leapt on moon – one giant step for all of humanity.  Better together, as Michael Collins drove the getaway vehicle and saw the dark side of the moon!  Better together as Buzz Aldrin read John 15: 5 on the moon and celebrated communion.  Humanity is better together.  Together, we bring our gifts and encourage one another in wonder of God and God’s creation. 

Awe and wonder come from when we point to God moving among us.  Beauty and mystery that surrounds us and connects us to one another.   From the awe of lunar landings to breathtaking presence of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we sense the God moving between us.  From a shared sunset painted across the sky to the Grand Canyon, together we embrace the enormity of God and our place in the world. 

There is often good reason to study on your own, worship on your own, give by yourself, and spend time with God by yourself. When we study and worship on our own, we miss the views and gifts of others.  We need one another.  May you also now the deep joy and abundant gift of spending time with others in the faith; we are better together. We more fully reflect who God is to each other and to ourselves. 

This is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen. 

(1) Taylor, Barbara Brown.  An Altar in the World. 2009.  87-105. 

(2) Merton, Thomas.  The Wisdom of the Desert. 1970 54. 

New Testament Lesson: Acts 2: 44-47
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Gospel Lesson: John 15: 12-17
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, July 21~ Saturday, July 27

Sunday: “All who believed were together and had all things in common;” Acts 2:44. We are always given our gifts, talents, possessions to share with others. Where is God calling to give to others today?

Monday: “they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. “Acts 2:45. Consider that God is not calling us to judge the worthiness of others to receive, but rather to share with those in need.

Tuesday: “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts” Acts 2:46. Pray for those you can invite to join in worship, study, and praise.

Wednesday: “Praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47. Praise God for where God has been present with you today. Who will you share that good news with today?

Thursday: “‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:12-13. Consider how sharing your gifts, not your abundance, is God’s call to show love.

Friday: “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” John 15:14-15. Pray today for those who have different gifts than you do. May God’s way be known through many different kinds of gifts and ways.

Saturday: “You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” John 15: 16-17. Where is God calling you to go and bear fruit, so that you may love one another?