by Rev. Dr. Krista S. Givens
Recently, we have been introduced to a slate of leaders whose attributes and talents arena display and we are asked to choose, which leader will be best for us as a people. Who will lead us into the future? Who will lead us into the next part of our lives? Choosing a leader is a daunting prospect and one we face every four years as a country, but in this case I am not talking about the upcoming elections. I am talking about these leaders: the Avengers.
On its opening weekend, Marvel’s latest (and last) Avengers movie broke nearly every box-office record imaginable this past weekend, bringing in $1.2 billion total worldwide. The movie now holds the record for the largest worldwide opening and biggest North American opening. It is also made $1 billion faster than any other movie, hitting that total in just five days. (1) As an American people, we like these characters and the characteristics they display. So, I thought I would use them as examples for us to examine what we value in a leader. And don’t worry, there will be no spoilers because I haven’t seen the movie.
So what makes a good leader?
- Ironman is a billionaire who wears a suit to ensure that the shrapnel that impaled him during an attack would not reach his heart. He is smart and witty, kind of charming in an obnoxious way, but his wealth makes his power possible.
- The Hulk is the scientist of the group, and turns into a giant, green superhuman after a gamma radiation incident. He is big and strong and will smush you if you get in his way.
- Captain America is a super soldier from the second world war who was frozen in ice, but defrosted decades later to join the team. He is a gifted soldier, but also super-strong and has a powerful shield.
- Thor is the Norse god of Thunder, he has a special hammer and is also super strong.
Anyone an Avengers fan? Did I get that right? Are these the main ones? These are the leaders we value. The super-strong. You may say, “well Peter Parker was a Marvel Superhero,” but we only think he is super when he turns into Spiderman. (or in DC comics terms, we don’t value Clark Kent, until he puts on the Superman suit.)
I emphasize this point, I start will a long discourse on the Avengers because this highlights the radical vision of the name we call Jesus today: “the lamb.” We value strength, power, wealth, not only in our superheroes, but in our lives. And by identifying Jesus as the “Lamb” we cast him into role of weakness. So let us explore what that term means in the original context and what it means to us.
* First, this term, used in our scripture from Revelation refers to the Lamb who was slain.” This is an allusion to the passover, detailed in the book of Exodus. What role does the lamb play in the Passover meal and ritual? One of the ways the Jews protect themselves from the wrath of God in while they were slaves in Egypt, was to slaughter a lamb and mark their doors with the blood of the lamb. As God swept through Egypt and killed all the firstborn sons, God “passed over” the houses marked with the blood of the lamb. To commemorate this story of salvation, Jews across the word serve Lamb for their Passover meal, to remember the saving grace of God. In this light, I would like you to hear the scripture from Revelation 5: 11-14 once again:
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the elders fell down and worshipped.
The text in Revelation introduces Jesus not as the expected fierce apocalyptic lion (Revelation 5:5, from Genesis 49:9), but rather as a “Lamb” (literally the diminutive word, “little lamb”). No other Jewish apocalypse portrays its hero as a Lamb. This is a depiction of Jesus in the most vulnerable way possible, as a slaughtered victim. Jesus Christ is God’s Passover lamb who has been raised, and who now is worthy of our worship. (2)
Now Jesus has many roles to play in the biblical texts, and many attributes to be admired and relocated, but in this case, Jesus is being identified and likened to a little lamb who was killed for us. It’s a different image for a super hero. And one that makes us uncomfortable. It goes against our nature. Like the Avengers, or our Greek and Roman gods, those who are worthy of worship are strong and powerful, who will not give up when challenged.
But Jesus’ role as Lamb is worthy to be praised. And let me emphasize that for a moment, because it is hard for us to grasp. In this season of easter, it is not uncommon for us to brush past the DEATH of Jesus, to get to the Resurrection. We like a happy ending. And we like to see the story from this side of it. But his disciples and his followers faced Jesus “Lambness” head on. They expected Thor or the Incredible Hulk and they got Peter Parker without the Spiderman. They expected a Lion and got a Lamb instead. But Jesus teaches us a bigger lesson than strength in the moment. Jesus views this time and this moment in the context of God’s BIG VISION – the Kingdom of God – a life in which all are loved and valued and cared for and fed and clothed and free. Could he have fought back and prevented his death? He was God and Man, he was human and divine, he was the Son of the Father. But his “acceptance” of his death was an acceptance of a bigger picture. There was a bigger lesson in his death for us, for his followers. His death was a sacrifice (like the passover lamb) so that WE would be protected, safe and saved.
Each month, we gather together for Holy Communion and we join together to honor the gift of the “body and blood” of Christ. As we reenact the actions and words of the Last Supper, we remember the gift Jesus gave to us, by the strength he showed in his weakness. As we join together to be the embodiment of Jesus – the gift of his love and light and mercy and compassion – to others, may we also see the big picture of God’s Kingdom. May we work with Jesus to bring love and light and mercy and compassion into the world. And may we continue to worship the Lamb who is on the throne. Now and Always, Amen.
2. Barbara Rossing found on http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1693