Micah 4:1-5/ Romans 8:31-39/ John 15:9-17
Black Panther and Killmonger
Among the many superhero movies that I have enjoyed, perhaps Black Panther has the most fascinating villain. Black Panther is the king of an imaginary African country called Wakanda. It is a powerful country with rich resources unlike any real-life African countries.
Black Panther is the warrior king of Wakanda. His enemy called Killmonger is his cousin who grew up in the United States with the other African Americans with all their struggles. Killmonger thinks that the powerful resources and weapons of Wakanda could help the black people all over the world. He wants to arm his black siblings around the world so they can destroy their oppressors. Having grown up as a black person in the US, he is full of anger. His biggest problem is that, by destroying the oppressors, he wants to replace them as a ruler. What makes Black Panther great is that he lets Killmonger change his mind about Wakanda’s responsibility in the global community as a powerful nation. In the end, he decides to use their resources for the greater good.
Heroes Come in Different Shapes
We are all a big family, no matter where we live on earth. Our earthly societies are full of injustice, oppression, and suffering. Evil comes in different shapes; the Nazi ideology is one of them. We hear stories of heroes who bravely resisted the forces of evil, and not all of them are soldiers. For example, during WWII, soldiers fought in the battlefields but some civilians risked their lives hiding the Jews from the Nazis.
International friendship makes countries send their troops to someone else’s wars. That is how troops from different countries came to help my people during the Korean War. When I was preparing a Remembrance Day speech in Kimberley, my mother told me to thank the Canadian veterans. During the World Cup games, my people cheered for the Turkish team because Turkey also sent soldiers to the Korean War. That is how Turkey became a friend of South Korea.
As evil comes in different shapes, heroes also come in different shapes. Those who saved Jewish people’s lives during WWII and those who fought in battlefields are all heroes. They are our role models and inspirations.
God’s Ideal Society
We read about God’s ideal society in the Book of Micah. In God’s ideal society, God’s people let God teach them and they walk in God’s path. There is no more war, killing, and suffering. God’s vision of peace is turning life-destroying weapons into life-giving farming tools.
Realizing this society requires God’s people to become heroes to fight the evil of injustice and the ideas that promote marginalization and discrimination. To fight evil and realize justice for all people requires us to love each other and treat each other with compassion and respect.
Laying Down One’s Life for a Friend
John’s gospel emphasizes on loving one another as we have read in chapter 15. “Love one another,” says Jesus repeatedly. He says that there is no greater love than laying down one’s life for a friend.
Those who risked their lives to save the lives of Jewish people under the Nazi rule were friends. The soldiers who helped defeat the Nazi and those who were sent to Korea during the Korean War were friends. Even today, we are taught and challenged to fight for what is right and good, with or without a war.
How can we (metaphorically) lay down our lives for each other? We can do so by defending the marginalized of our society and working to bring them healing and justice. United Churches that become affirming congregations to welcome people of all sexual orientations and gender identities become targets from homophobes. They suffer vandalisms and threats but keep supporting the LGBTQ+ community. They are friends. When the United Church of Canada members participate in the truth and reconciliation movement, they are friends. White people who fight racism are friends. And so on…
Being each other’ friends can be full of ordeals that we have the privilege to avoid. However, many lovers and activists choose to fight injustice because it is the right and good thing to do. What gives us strength in our fights for God’s reign of justice is the knowledge that the almighty and loving God is our strength. God’s love sustains us through hardship. As Apostle Paul beautifully put it, “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” Not even persecution or death.
God Gives Us Strength to Be Heroes
This God gives strength to us, ordinary people, so that we can become the superheroes of God’s kingdom. Know that we are not alone. We have role models all over history. As we remember the heroes of wars, we re-member them in our midst. By bringing their spirits among us, we can receive the courage and strength to become heroes and friends to God’s people.
As we remember the heroes of the past, let us gain strength to become God’s superheroes – for the poor, our First Nations siblings, the LGBTQ+, the racially marginalized, the disabled, those who struggle with mental health or addiction, and many more. Let us give thanks for our veterans without whom we might not be enjoying this peace and freedom. As we remember and celebrate them, let us be inspired to fight for our friends – in our community, in our country, and in the world. And may God’s love sustain us and give us strength.