September 23, 2018 Reflection
Mark 9:33-37/ James 3:13-18
Protectors of the Earth
Those of you who have known me for a while will know that I like superhero movies. The past two years were awesome for the superhero movie world thanks to Wonder Woman and Black Panther. Wonder Woman, I’m sure you are familiar with her from the old TV series; they made the Wonder Woman movie last year and it was inspirational to many young girls. Black Panther is about a fictional African country with a king who becomes the superhero called Black Panther, and his women warriors. As a woman and a person of colour, those two movies were truly inspiring. All superheroes have different motivations for fighting; some are selfless and noble, but some are not. Spiderman is a good example of a superhero who sees one’s power as a privilege and uses it to help people. Wonder Woman also has a sense of vocation; as an Amazon, a female warrior race, she believes that it is her sacred duty to defend the world. Her heart breaks when she sees the suffering of the people during World War I, and that is her motivation for fighting. When we have more power, wealth, and other privileges than others, it is easy to think it is ours to enjoy. However, these superheroes such as Spiderman and Wonder Woman teach us that privilege comes with responsibility; we should help others with our privileges instead of indulging in them for our greed. This belief that privilege should be used for a greater good is the kind of wisdom that we learn from the Book of James.
Today’s text in the Book of James teaches us of two kinds of wisdom; wisdom from heaven and the earthly wisdom. It says the wisdom from heaven is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. It says bitter envy, selfish ambition, boastfulness, and falsity do not come from heaven. If our wisdom involves selfishly pursuing our ambition and greed, we will know that it didn’t come from God. If we have a superpower and it makes us want to dominate the world, we will know that this thought didn’t come from God. But if we have a superpower and think of how many people we can help and save from oppression, we will know that this thought certainly did come from God.
This heavenly wisdom that the author of the Book of James speaks of is compatible with Jesus’ teaching in today’s gospel story. When Jesus asked his disciples what they had been arguing about on the road, they became silent. I think they were silent because they knew that Jesus would not condone their argument on who is greater than the others. Then Jesus sat down, which indicates this is a serious teaching moment; rabbis sat down while they taught their students. He said, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” and “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” He made it clear that God’s glorious people are expected to be humble. He also made the point that welcoming, which implies protecting, little children is how we can show our love and faithfulness for God. Children doesn’t only mean young people. Children are the symbol for all the vulnerable members of God’s world. Children need care and protection because they are not capable of fending for themselves. But there are other groups of people who are vulnerable and have little or no power like children.
Following today’s gospel teaching and the teaching from the Book of James, we can conclude that God calls us to welcome and protect those who are more vulnerable than us; those who cannot fend for themselves. I often talk about the marginalized of our society and speaking out for social justice. Since we are in the Creation Time, I would like to focus on the fact that all of God’s Creation and not merely our fellow humans need welcoming and protecting. All animals and plants, water and mountains that sustains the life of all animals and plants need our welcoming and protecting. We were given superior intelligence over all the other creatures. This superior intelligence is our superpower that needs to be used for protecting God’s Creation.
Therefore, let us become superheroes for all of God’s Creation, not only for the marginalized people of our society. Let us become protectors of God’s Creation like Wonder Woman or Spiderman. Let us seek righteous anger against injustice and the exploitation of the Earth, and a sense of responsibility like our movie superheroes. Wonder Woman said, “I am an Amazon. It is my sacred duty to defend the world!” When we see waste in the ocean threatening the lives of our ocean creatures, let us say to ourselves like superheroes, “I will clean that ocean! Judgment on the selfish humans who polluted the ocean!” Okay, we are not going to bring judgement on the selfish humans for polluting the ocean, and we are not going to dive into the ocean to try to clean the garbage with some superpower we don’t have; but there are other ways in which we can participate in protecting the Earth and educating our fellow humans about our responsibility to be protectors of the Earth and its members. When we hear about plastic waste becoming uncontrollable, let us say to ourselves like superheroes, “I will not produce more plastic waste and go for alternative products!” After last Sunday’s discussion, I went to Centex and found some reusable cotton produce bags, so now I don’t have to take the disposable plastic bags to buy fruits anymore; that is one step further in my effort to preserve God’s Creation. And maybe after hearing my story, some of you might switch to wooden toothbrushes and shampoo bars to reduce plastic waste. Let us inspire and encourage each other one step at a time, change one item at a time in our lives, so we can do more and more to protect the Earth in the future. Let us remember that we are called to be the superheroes, the protectors of all of God’s Creation; people and nature alike.
Rev. Sunny Kim