A Sermon Preached on The Eighth Sunday after Trinity
(the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost)
July 28, 2021, at 11:00 am
at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete.
What’s your super power?
We all know that Superman can fly, in invulnerable to bullets, has x-ray vision, and spectacular strength. The Flash can run very quickly. Peter Parker, thanks to being bitten by a radioactive spider, has acquired heightened athletic abilities and can cling to walls. Batman doesn’t have any super powers, but he is fabulously wealthy, so he can create or purchase all kinds of tech that makes it seem like he has super powers.
In popular culture and in social media, asking someone, “What’s your super power?” is a way of asking what it is that which sets you apart from other folk and sets you up for greatness. And so, the Washington Post, writing about Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek basketball player on the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team, said that his “superpower is that he possesses the kind of short-memory fearlessness required for greatness. He won’t be shamed into the shadows. The possibility of conquering those challenges and shining is much more appealing.”
People on internet talk about more mundane things as if they were super powers. On Twitter some people said that their super power was:
- “I got adopted by a dog!”
- [I am] “Efficient, practical, and a master in the art of lipstick.”
- “I can scroll the internet for hours!”
- “I make spanakopita, lamb and cute kids.” [obviously a Greek American]
- “The Oxford comma.”
A medical doctor wrote, “My superpowers are empathy humour, and perfectionism. These are also my weaknesses.”
So, how would you answer the question? What are your super powers?
In our gospel reading today Jesus walks on water and multiplies bread. Those miraculous acts might look like super powers, but to call them such is a genre error. Super powers are almost always acquired by otherwise ordinary people. The miraculous abilities of Jesus merely attest to who Jesus is: the son of God, the Messiah, the prophet promised of old who is to come into the world. His powers are inherent in who he is as the one who is fully human and fully divine – he is like us in every way but sin, and yet is also the one through whom all things were made and for whom all things were made. Thus he can command the winds and the water, and multiply material things. The disciples are terrified by Jesus walking on the water, and merely confused by the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus calms the disciples with his words, “It is I; do not be afraid” and goes on i the Gospel of John to explain what he has done. Perhaps we can consider his calming presence and ability to instruct super powers as well.
So, what are your super powers?
As Christians, our super power is that we can do more than we can ask for or imagine. Paul in Ephesians writes:
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3.20- 21 NRSV
In the Anglican Church of Canada this doxology, in slightly different wording, is used at the end of the Holy Eucharist:
Glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation, in the Church and in Christ Jesus, for ever and ever. Amen. BAS translation
All ow me to describe three examples of this.
- Our parish vision is to radiate God’s love in Jesus Christ on this island and beyond. We are radiating beyond the island via Zoom, something that we never imagined when putting this vision statement together just before the pandemic. The power of God is at work in us, doing more than we can ask or imagine.
- I just heard that my friends Zak and Hind, living in suburban Vancouver, have just become Canadian citizens. Zak and Hind were in Mosul in northern Iraq when ISIS came and took over the city, incorporating it into their supposed caliphate. Zak was a pediatric nurse, but was confronted at gunpoint and told he must now work at their soldiers’ infirmary. They immediately left the city on foot, leaving everything behind, crossed over into Jordan, claimed refugee status, and in time were sponsored by a congregation in the Refugee Program in my old diocese of British Columbia. Now they are employed in fields related to what they were trained for, paying taxes, and have a new son. I had a small hand in helping this come about. They and we could never have imagined this course of events. The power of God is at work in us, doing more than we can ask or imagine.
- Do you remember the Millennium Goals? These were a set of eight goals to be achieved by 2015. Goal One was: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. As you may recall, an intense effort achieved spectacular results:
- The proportion of people living in extreme poverty declined by half at the global level.
- In developing regions, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47 per cent in 1990 to 22 per cent in 2010, five years ahead of schedule.
That said, while the proportion of undernourished people globally decreased from 23.2 per cent in 1990-1992 to 14.9 per cent in 2010-2012, this still leaves 870 million people—one in eight worldwide—going hungry. There is still work to do but these achievements demonstrate that the power of God is at work in us, doing more than we can ask or imagine.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Although we are Christians, too many of us miss the fact that God is at work in us – that the same power which raised Christ from the dead is at work in us individually and collectively, as the body of Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit all of us have been given gifts, perhaps for the building up of the church, the body of Christ, but also to carry out the ministry entrusted to us by Jesus at Easter: “As the the Father sent me, so I send you.” Today we are faced with many challenges. They might seem overwhelming. They might not seem directly related to the church, as they are environmental, political, and economic. But by the Spirit of God we have this power to do more than we can ask or imagine. Let us use them to radiate God’s love on this island and beyond.