When my brother and I were little kids, we collected comic books. To us, comic books were like cartoons you could hold and “watch” them whenever you wanted. This of course was pre-internet and pre-24 hour cartoon channels. In the eighties, cartoons only came on Saturday mornings and after school.
In a way, comic books were our own 24- hour cartoon channel. They were our escape. There was something magical about comic books that was different than regular books. I read regular books too, but they didn’t invoke the same feeling of risk and rebellion.
Comic books felt daring and dangerous. You always knew something the hero didn’t know because “meanwhile” something else was always happening. Maybe it was the fight scenes, chase scenes, or villain’s endless monologuing. Maybe it was the art, the dark lines etched into foreboding darkness. Maybe it was the romances or the twisted moral and ethical underpinnings. The speech bubbles. Almost every issue was a cliffhanger, we were in a constant state of suspense and suspicion.
When I heard about the Wonder Woman reboot, I could barely contain myself. I couldn’t wait to take my daughters. Needless to say, they were less than enthused, but I took them anyway and we had a really great time. I cried through most of the movie because I’ve never seen a movie that portrayed women quite like this before.
The movie opens on an island known as Themyscira, home of the Amazons, a tribe of warrior women. In Themyscira, there are only women. Strong, warrior women–who train with swords and shields while riding horseback. No skimpy outfits, no female fragility, and best of all, no patriarchy.
But that’s not what this sermon is about.
Diana (Wonder Women’s real name) was special. She was born under mysterious circumstances with questionable paternity. Daughter of the queen, Princess Diana was brave, bright, and beautiful. She was beloved by her mother and the other Amazons. She was the only child on the whole island, but she was not coddled. She trained. She bled. She fell. She got back up.
At a point, Diana had to decide whether to stay in Themyscira, her Eden, or descend into the world of men to save humankind from the evil one. On the eve of her exodus, her mother said to her, “You are my greatest love, they [humans] don’t deserve you.”
This is such a powerful statement. My immediate thought was, “Wow, what if God had said that to Jesus?” What if God said, “No Son, you will not enter the world of men, they don’t deserve you”?
But that’s not what God said because of who God is.
Once Diana reached the world of men, it wasn’t long before she found herself with a band of disciples complete with some doubters. She had great trouble understanding human customs and culture.
There’s a very funny scene when Captain Trevor tries to explain to Diana the institution of marriage and the necessity of “proper clothing”. Diana appropriately responds, “How do they fight in this?”, referring to heels, garters, and corsets. To which she is told “women fight with principles.“
Her disciples were a motley crew. They were a rag tag bunch of misfits- they were drunks, liars, and womanizers. But they were skilled and loyal. They would toast with drinks in hand saying, – May we get what want, may we get what we need, may we never get what we deserve.
Their toast made me think…What would happen if I got what I deserve?
How many times have I ignored someone? Denied someone? Judged someone?
How many times has it been done to me?
Diana confronted human brokenness, people freely choosing evil, people outwardly displaying a disregard for what is good and godly, people dangling in the gray area between right and wrong.
Confused and disheartened, Diana found herself echoing her mother’s words? These are the people I am to save? They don’t deserve me.
Captain Trevor tried to comfort her by explaining, it’s not about what they deserve, it’s about what you believe. But Diana did not believe. Her faith had fallen among the thorns.
While struggling to understand our world, she was also struggling to understand herself. Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing? She knew she was there to stop evil, but she quickly discovered that determining who’s bad and who’s good is not always so simple.
In Themyscira, there wasn’t ambiguity. The Amazons were a matriarchal society of ethnically diverse super-beings. There was no pain, prejudice or poverty. They were evolved. They were enlightened. But they were completely removed from humans and the human experience, until Diana entered the world of men.
Essentially, Diana was there on mission. She had come to save the world. She believed she had everything figured out. She had all the answers. But when the people didn’t behave the way she thought they should, she turned from savior to judge. She changed from prosecutor to persecutor. She was there as emancipator, as liberator but understood nothing about the people she sought to save. She thought she’d show up, swing her lasso around, take out the “evil one” and BAM, world saved. But life is complicated.
I ask you, and myself, where are your seeds? In rocky soil or fertile? What are you growing? Are you sowing seeds of judgement, doubt, or denial? These are not fruitful. These will not yield.
Are you sowing seeds of love, light, and justice? These will produce deep roots. These will bring you knowledge of self. These will give you strength. These will give you Spirit. These will give you Jesus.
We all want to be the hero. We all want to save the world. But we have to see the world through God’s eyes, not our own. We have to forgive the way we are forgiven. We have to love the way we are loved. Jesus’ love for us is reckless, wild and indiscriminate. This is who we are. This is what we’re supposed to be doing. Plant your seeds here, in that love. Let’s see what grows.
That’s exactly what Diana did. She planted her faith in fertile ground. She looked beyond herself. She looked outward not just inward. She started to see humanity for it is instead of what it isn’t. Not through just flesh, but through spirit.
We love and we hate. We hurt and we hug. We suffer and save. We are good and evil. We flesh and spirit. We are profane and divine. We are human. We are both and, in spite of, because of, we are broken and beautiful. But still Diana’s mother’s words are true, we don’t deserve salvation.
But Jesus doesn’t save because we deserve it, He saves because he loves us. I’ve said this love is wild, reckless, and indiscriminate. Sometimes we call it by another name- grace.
Grace as an unending outpouring of God’s transformative love all over humankind. It is wild, reckless, and indiscriminate. Grace is for everyone. Christians don’t own God’s wild reckless love. We don’t get to decide who’s worthy or deserving.
Grace is God’s gift. It’s for everyone, the broken and the beautiful even if you don’t come to church very often, even if you cheated on your taxes, even if you never put your shopping cart back in the corral at Target, even if you don’t know what you believe. Even if you’re a superheroine from an imaginary island loosely based on Greek mythology, with cool bracelets and a lie-detecting lasso. You are still sustained by the wild reckless love of God’s grace and mercy.
In the end, Diana found her faith. She believed in love- wild, reckless, and indiscriminate. She discovered who she was and exactly what she was supposed to do. She was supposed to save and love-wild, reckless, and indiscriminate. Diana saw humankind through God’s eyes as a whole beings- both spirit and flesh, both good and evil, both broken and beautiful.
Love binds us.
Love builds us.
Love heals us.
Love lifts us.
Love fills us.
Sometimes it makes a fool of us. Sometimes love kills us.
It’s not about what we deserve, it’s about what we believe. Believe in love.