Thursday, May 31, 2018

Sidekicks and Superheroes!

Robin. Speedy. Kid Flash. Aqua Lad. Bucky. Jan, Jayce and their pet money, Blip. What do all these comic and cartoon characters have in common? They’re all sidekicks! For some reason sidekicks don’t get the same level of recognition and respect as other heroes.

In an episode of Young Justice, four superheroes—Batman, Aquaman, Green Arrow and the Flash—invite their sidekicks on a tour of the famed Hall of Justice as the first step in becoming full-fledged members of the Justice League. When Roy Harper, better known as Speedy, complains that their initiation seems more like a glorified back-stage pass, Green Arrow responds, “Roy, you just need to be patient.”

“What I need,” Speedy snaps back, “is respect.” Turning to his youthful colleagues, Speedy complains, “They’re treating us like kids. Worse, like sidekicks!”[1]

Despite Speedy’s strong sentiments to the contrary, being a sidekick isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, the concept is quite biblical. Jesus himself mentored not one, but twelve sidekicks! He called them disciples. These twelve sidekicks lived with Jesus for three years. They traveled with him from town to town, watched him perform breath-taking miracles and absorbed his life-changing teachings. They often performed menial tasks as part of their training, like distributing food to thousands of people when Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fish… not to mention cleaning up the leftovers. But the disciples’ most important job was simply to learn from the Master—to follow in his footsteps. The more they listened to Jesus and learned from him, the more like him they became. When Jesus ascended into heaven, their training ended and these twelve sidekicks became full-fledged heroes. They continued Christ’s mission and ministry, and trained others to do the same. From one generation to the next, this process continues.

Superhero sidekicks often experience a similar cycle. Kid Flash eventually assumed the mantle of the Flash and trained his own sidekick named Impulse. Thanks to Batman’s tutelage, Dick Grayson, the original Robin, became the leader of the Teen Titans, adopted the superhero persona Nightwing, and even filled in as Batman for prolonged periods, during which time he mentored two other Robins—Tim Drake and Damian Wayne. Even Speedy eventually graduates from sidekick to superhero.

In an issue of Justice League, Green Lantern and Black Canary show up Roy Harper’s home with an invitation to join the Justice League. At first, Roy can’t believe it. “This is a joke, isn’t it?”

“It’s not a joke,” Black Canary replies. “We don’t joke about this. Now would you like to join the League?”

When Roy hesitates, Green Lantern hands him a package, saying, “Maybe this will convince you.” Inside, Roy find a red replica of Green Arrow’s costume, complete with a “R” insignia on the belt. As Roy dons his new costume, Green Lantern smiles, “Ollie will never say it, kid, but this is what he was training you for… Welcome to the League, Red Arrow!”[2]

The mentor/sidekick relationship is essential not only for superheroes, but also for Christians. If you’re relatively new to the Christian faith, seek out a spiritual mentor who can help you grow in you walk with Christ. If you’re a veteran Christian, be on the look out for new and young believers who could benefit from your wisdom and experience. In either case, our work isn’t done until our sidekicks have sidekicks of their own.

“You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”
(2 Timothy 2:2 NLT)

[1] Young Justice. Season 1. Episode 1: “Independence Day”
[2] DC Comics. Justice League of America (2006) #7.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Hand of God

In a riveting episode of Justice League Unlimited, a green, glowing orb containing two determined heroes tumbles through a temporal vortex of swirling chronal energy in pursuit of the time-traveling villain—Chronos. Batman questions, “Where’s he going? There’s nothing left!” Green Lantern replies, “Yes, there is. The beginning of time!” Contemplating the consequences, Batman asserts, “He can reset everything, make himself into a god.”

“Only if he gets there first,” Green Lantern affirms. Pressing forward with grim determination, Green Lantern announces, “The Green Lanterns have a legend. No one can see the beginning of time. It’s a universal law.”

“Write him a ticket,” Batman quips. As the heroes draw closer, Green Lantern uses his power ring to snare Chronos, drawing him into their glowing, green sphere and hitting the brakes. Unable to stop in time, Batman and Green Lantern witness the beginning of time. And what do they see? A colossal, cosmic hand holding the swirling fundamental quantum elements of our universe—the hand of God.[1]

This “Hand of Creation” appears again and again whenever DC Comic’s characters journey to the beginning of creation and reminds readers that there is a powerful, creative hand behind not just the DC Universe, but the universe you and I live in as well.

While actual time-travel may be relegated to science fiction and fantasy, astronomers today can literally observe the past. Because light takes time to travel from distant objects to the astronomer’s telescope, the farther away they look, the farther back in time they see. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross has said, “The universe is now sufficiently ancient that astronomers can directly view and analyze 99.9972 percent of cosmic history and directly behold the cosmic creation event.”[2] What do astronomers see when they behold the beginning of the universe? Well, they don’t see the hand of God, but they do see his finger prints—evidence of God’s presence.

Remarkably, the universe itself offers tremendous insight into the Creator of the cosmos. First of all, we know that whatever caused the universe must be a transcendent Creator beyond the universe itself. Since cosmology tells us that literally all of space, matter and even time itself came into being at the Big Bang, then whatever caused the universe must be space-less, timeless, and immaterial—that is, a nonphysical entity that exists outside of time. It must also be unimaginably powerful, since it caused all matter and energy to spring into existence. So, the creation of our universe points to a space-less, timeless, immaterial entity of immense power.

Astronomers have also been stunned by the discovery of how complex and delicate a balance of initial conditions must have been present in the Big Bang itself if the universe is to permit the existence of intelligent life anywhere at all in the cosmos. This delicate balance of initial conditions has come to be known as the “fine-tuning” of the universe for life. Famed British theoretical physicist, Steven Hawking, described this observation in his book, A Brief History of Time, saying, “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”[3]

Thus, what we can observe about the creation of the universe we live in tells us that whatever caused it, is a transcendent, space-less, timeless, immaterial, unimaginably powerful, highly intelligent, personal creator who crafted the cosmos with us in mind. I don’t know about you, but that sounds an awful lot like the hand of God to me!

While you may not have the ability to travel through time or own a powerful telescope capable of seeing billions of lights years away, I challenge you to stand beneath the stars on a clear night, gaze into the heavens, and see if you don’t sense the hand of God yourself.

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.”
(Psalm 19:1-4 NLT)

[1] Justice League Unlimited, "The Once and Future Thing Part Two: Time, Warped"
[2] Ross, Hugh. “Beginning and End of Cosmology.” Reasons to Believe ( July 2007
[3] Hawking, Stephen. A Brief History of Time: from the Big Bang to Black Holes. Bantam Books, 1988.