Summary: This fun sermon series uses comic-book heroes as modern-day parables, uncovering hidden spiritual messages in the stories of superheroes like Superman, Batman, and Spider-man. Most of these sermons are expository, alliterated and have PowerPoint!
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 10/20/2013
If you haven’t been with us the last few weeks, let me catch you up. Our church is building a float for the Halloween parade this Saturday and the theme for the parade is “Superhero Celebration,” which I’m using as an excuse to preach a sermon-series about superheroes—using comic-book characters as modern-day parables and drawing spiritual lessons from their stories.
Last week, we saw how Batman along with his many crime-fighting companions illustrates the benefits of belonging to a church family. On the other hand, families don’t always get along. That’s where the Fantastic Four come in. The Fantastic Four, also known as the First Family of Marvel Comics, has a rich and interesting origin.
Stan Lee started working for Marvel Comics back in 1939 and eventually worked his way up the ladder to become the editor-in-chief. For decades, however, Marvel’s only headliner was Captain America and the company was struggling to compete with DC Comic’s much more popular characters—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, etc. Stan was about to call it quits when his wife urged him to create a new team of characters that were interesting to him—characters that he could relate to. Prior to this, most superheroes were idealistically perfect people with no serious, lasting problems, who always got along with each other. So in 1961, acting on his wife’s advice, Stan Lee created a team of superheroes that were flawed, imperfect, and even argumentative.
Their story began with the inaugural test flight of a space shuttle designed by Reed Richards—one of the world’s foremost scientific minds. During the mission, the ship was bombarded with cosmic rays and forced to crash-land back on earth, where Reed, his then girlfriend Sue Storm, her brother Johnny Storm, and test pilot Ben Grimm emerged from the wreckage to discover they had been miraculously endowed with fantastic abilities. Reed Richards became Mr. Fantastic—Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing—Sue Storm became the Invisible Girl—and Johnny Storm, the Human Torch. Together they formed the Fantastic Four!
Our family first costumed as the Fantastic Four in March of 2012 at a small comic-book convention held in Metropolis, called Super-Con. In an attempt to build on the success of their Annual Superman Celebration, the town of less than 6,000 became host to a smaller convention aimed at celebrating superheroes of all-sorts rather than focusing exclusively on Superman. Since the organizers were trying to establish it as a family-friendly event, we thought there would be no better heroes to portray than Marvel’s First Family. I went as Mr. Fantastic. Ashley, the Invisible Woman. Our son made the perfect Human Torch, complete with styrofoam and fabric fireballs. Our older daughter—thanks to some muscle padding and a foam mask—became The Thing. And out littlest girl was the Invisible Girl—a younger, tinier version of the Invisible Woman. Our costumes were modeled after the artwork of John Byrne, a writer and artist who breathed new life into the characters in the 80s. We took a little teasing for being the Fantastic Five instead of the Fantastic Four, but thanks to the cuteness of our kids our costumes were a hit and we were awarded first place in a costume contest that we didn’t even enter!
Back in 1961, Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four experienced even greater popularity than we did, which spurred Stan to create a veritable parade of new heroes such as Iron-Man, Thor, Hulk, the X-Men, and the ever-popular Spider-Man! This resurgence of creativity and popularity became known as the Marvel Age of Comics, and Marvel Comics has consistently out-sold DC Comics ever since.
It’s undoubtedly the dynamic between the Fantastic Four that has made them such a fan-favorite. They’re a family. They love one another to death… and it just might come to that! In fact, there is a scene from Marvel’s 2005 movie that illustrates their difficulties getting along when the hot-headed Johnny Storm goes public with their powers without the rest of the team’s consent:
• Play Video Clip: Fantastic Four Argument Scene
Like I said in the beginning, if the Bat-Family illustrates the benefits of belonging to a church family, the Fantastic Four illustrate the difficulties of belonging to a church family! Every church, just like every family, experiences conflict. Personalities clash. Feelings get hurt. Grudges are held. No church is perfect because every church is made of people. A pastor once told me, “You’ll never find a perfect, problem-free church. And if you do—stay away, because you’ll only mess it up!”
Jesus commanded his followers to love one another, but that’s a lot easier said than done. There’s an old rhyme that puts it this way:
What joy to love the saints above
When I get home to glory.
To love below, the saints I know,