This week in VBS we are talking about heroes. Now, I love a good superhero movie or series on TV. It is the ultimate in escapism. Like fairy tales, they pit good vs. evil. Even when they try to throw in a twist, that only goes so far and you catch on, but that is why we like them so much! Their predictability brings comfort, and knowing that eventually good will triumph brings us hope.
However, the heroes of superhero movies and shows are somewhat problematic. First of all, there is the violence. In most superhero movies, there is an underlying militancy. The lesson is that through force and fighting, one can save all. The second problem with superhero movies is that they suggest that only certain people can be heroes. Most of our favorite heroes have some kind of gift, whether genetic, alien, intellectual, financial or some combination thereof.
So, while we have deemed them “superheroes,” I am not sure that they are really are that super—they are just using their gifts to make a difference. But that should not make them super, other than the fantastical powers they have, which, when diving into the stories, are as much a burden as anything else.
To me, a real hero is someone with the courage to be who God created them to be and to use the gifts they have to make a difference in this world. In fact, I believe that we all are heroes when we are authentic to our calling and work for the best community possible.
One of the heroes in my life is a man named Jim McKay. Jim was an adolescent trapped in the body of a middle-aged man when he came to my church as our youth director. The very first time we met, I had no clue who he was. Like most of the boys do here during VBS, my friends and I were running around the church, playing tag or something like that. Jim had just been hired, so we had no clue who he was. When we ran into the sanctuary, there was this big man doing something; now that I look back, I think he was praying.
He looked at us and said the obligatory adult thing, "Are you guys supposed to be in here?" We looked at each other and readied ourselves for the wrath to come. Then Jim did something unexpected. He looked around a little bit and said, "Have you guys ever done pew races?"
Now we were really confused. Our sanctuary was large and flat, with carpet down the center aisle and a tile floor underneath the pews. He noticed our stares and said, "Pew races go like this: you lie on your backs underneath the pews and slide from the front of the sanctuary to the back." It sounded fun, so we started to have pew races, a new tradition for our group.
Our first introduction to Jim was acceptance and love (and FUN!). He knew that the program had not started; he knew that our parents were all preparing things throughout the church; and most of all, he knew that if we were comfortable in church, we would be far more comfortable learning about God.
I could not help but think about that when I watched the blur of all the kids running through the church playing tag. Though they are young and well on their way to developing their faith, I could not help but think of how important it is that we maintain a fellowship that is welcoming and safe for everybody. In doing that, we may become real heroes to these kids.
I think that this is one of the reasons that I love Vacation Bible School so much! For me, it is the most intensive way that the church can exemplify Christian living and love. It teaches the children and helps the adults to relearn what it means to be in community. In the case of our church, it is not just welcoming our community but opening up to a larger community.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen