Thursday, March 15, 2012

Superhero Bible Study

At our recent stay at Lutheranch, I was lucky enough to be able to be part of Bible study and worship.  The Bible study had much potential, and so I'm happy to tell you about it here.

We started by taking a few minutes to write on a slip of power.  We were told to choose one, and only one, superpower that we would like to have.  Those were written on a huge sheet of paper, and then we guessed who wrote which one, and why we wanted those superpowers.

I was struck by the fact that half of us said we'd like to have the gift of being able to heal people.  I said I wanted to be able to heal people from a distance.  Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the laying on of hands. But I want to be able to heal with just the power of my mind, especially if I can't be physically present.

Then we read 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

We talked about superpowers and spiritual gifts.  We talked about how just like superheroes sometimes get together and are stronger as a group, those of us with spiritual gifts are stronger when we work together.

We didn't read the next chunk of 1 Corinthians, but it fits:

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many members, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ 22On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, 25that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

I realize there are all sorts of potential problems with this approach to the text, but it intrigues me nonetheless.  It seems an interesting way to reach out to a generation who may be more familiar with superhero texts than they are with the Bible.  If your youth group is more into Harry Potter, you might consider this post on Transfiguration Sunday by Nadia Bolz-Weber, who says, "You deserve some magic. And while you could dress up and go to Harry Potter’s Wizzarding World at Universal Studios in Orlando and feel enchanted for the cost of an $85 ticket. There is something about this story, This story of heaven touching earth on a mountain 2000 years ago which promises something no other story can. There’s something about this table around which we gather every week that promises to be true in a way that myth and legend and fairy tale never can. This thing…this Jesus thing is real. The Gospel is real. Heaven touching earth is real. The body and blood of Christ is real. And only this kind of realness can re-enchant the world again and again. It is good for us to be here."

It would also be interesting to talk about why we yearn for superpowers when the powers that we have are so much more effective than those that humans had even 100 years ago, or 1000 years ago.  Think of all that your cell phone can do, for example.

I was also struck by the fact that I said that I wanted the power to heal, but I don't want to take the time it would take to complete a medical degree--actually, it's not the time but the debt that scares me.

But the superhero that I really want is the power to make disease/pain go away immediately.  Disease as modern day demon--an interesting approach to the healing miracles of Jesus.  Hmm.

Then we had a brief Eucharist service, which could also lead to some interesting meditations on superheroes and superpowers.  It was a good way to end the day.

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