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A ‘Marvel-ous’ opportunity: Gospel affirmation through hero worship

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I have spent a good bit of this past week in correspondence with my fellow clergy residents on “The Island of Misfit Toys,” that is, those who are equally twisted and inspired by the geeky metaphors of nerd-dom. You might think we are a rather rare breed, but gravity has a way of drawing us together (that and having just helped lead a conference where my workshop was exactly about reaching out to the comic book-obsessed demographic).

So, on my long drive back from my conference in Florida, I had two directly contradictory thoughts. The first was that I had really been pushing the envelope of my geeky leanings and perhaps should just ease back to orthodoxy like a ship taking shelter in a peaceful harbor. However, seconds later, I was struck with a notion. Nay, an idea! The Grinch had wonderful, awful idea!

My ruminations sort of went a different direction from the first and ended up in a sermon, a presentation to the leadership of my congregation and a number of epistles to pastor types who range in flavor from Lutheran to Methodist to Baptist. And since I esteem the elite who read this little column of mine to be equally elevated in inspiration, I decided to share my revelatory epistle with you also. After all, a ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are made for!

As always, take what you find useful and leave the rest behind!

Hey Readers,

I just wanted to let you know I had a bunch of positive responses at my conference in Orlando the week before last. It seems like everyone has a little bit of an inkling about what the “geek” wave looks like, though I think there had been little thought how to tap into it.

I also wanted to let you know we are still planning our mini-Comic-Con, “Free Comic Book Weekend” event at Ascension Lutheran on March 29, 30 and 31 if you’d like to check it out. Hopefully we will have a panel discussion of some sort which you could join in.

In addition, I’ve got an idea that I’m working up that has to do with the Marvel movies being released this spring and the timing of everything. I don’t really have this worked out, but was wondering if you were having the same kinds of ideas.

I’m looking at a “Black Panther” movie event toward the end of February to coincide with Black History Month and a conversation on racism and racial tensions, with my artist buddy, Lou, helping lead the discussion and also doing a “how to draw Black Panther” segment. The date set for that is Saturday, Feb. 23 from 4 p.m. till 7 or so.

Then, since “Captain Marvel” opens March 8, I’m looking to use that movie to do something similar to jumpstart a conversation of gender equality as I anticipate it will be clearly evident that this female hero is the most powerful in the Marvel Universe.

Raleigh’s Oak City Comic-Con is the next weekend. I’ve been asked to be part of their discussion panel on “God in Comics” on Saturday, March 16. At least some of this will come up there, but I’m also thinking about some kind of specifically dedicated discussion group.

Then “Spiderverse” comes out on disc on March 26, which would then allow a reflection of all kinds of –isms, since there is much diversity amongst the characters in that movie. There is a strong presence across the genders (as also with Black Panther!), and you even have a bit of age equality built into that one. All of which would probably lead up to a screening/discussion at our weekend event (in fact, the “Captain Marvel” discussion might just fall then too). All of which leads up to what actually got me looking at how all this lays out date-wise.

The most prevalent feature is that Easter is April 21 and “Avengers: Endgame” is five days later on the 26th. I’m willing to bet you have already been salivating a bit at the juxtaposition of the Marvel-ous resurrections that are going to take place on the 26th with the true Resurrection that we celebrate on Easter. In a certain sense, I kind of wish the timing were switched, but there is a real Easter message in that every Marvel movie fan out there is absolutely positive that there will be people brought back from the dead! It’s not quite faith since they know they are already shooting another Spider-Man, Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy, and a least some of those characters have to return. But I’m thinking there is a Kairos moment, a God moment, at work to leverage all these themes that I believe are at the heart of the Gospel for the church on earth: equality, unity and most importantly, the promise of resurrection!

I’m not sure exactly how all of this might come together or what it might become, but at a minimum I’m thinking of using the already established venues of Oak City, our “Free Comic Book Weekend” and Easter Sunday (maybe with some kind of special event). But I also was thinking it would be a really affirming, faith-filled gesture if there could be some collaborative effort of some sort, with faithful from many different denominations, backgrounds and locations all working together in some way!

My little letter ends with an offer to feel free to share the invitations, share the ideas — hey, even flat-out steal the enthusiasm if you feel it — and make something happen! But whatever you do, don’t miss it when God gives an opportunity!

Pastor Zach Harris has been an ordained minister for 27 years and currently serves Ascension Lutheran Church in Wilson. His column, “Through a Lutheran Lens: A Pastor’s Perspective,” appears weekly in The Wilson Times. Previous columns are available at WilsonTimes.com.

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