“Faster than a speeding bullet.
More powerful than a locomotive.
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Look! Up in the sky.
It’s a bird. It’s a plane.
Yes, it’s Superman – strange visitor from another planet
who came to Earth with powers and abilities
far beyond those of mortal men.
Superman – who can change the course of mighty rivers,
bend steel in his bare hands,
and who disguised as Clark Kent,
mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper,
fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice,
and the American way.”
How many of you remember that show?
The great George Reeves as the man of steel.
Rescuing kidnapped aunts,
foiling armored car robberies,
battling sea monsters and super villains of all sorts.
When I was a kid, it was only on in re-runs,
but I still remember the thrill of those opening lines.
Many of us may remember that thrill
and think that it comes from the idea
of such a great hero existing,
with all of the speed and the strength,
and the ability to fly.
And there is some hope in that,
in the idea that a hero exists
whose power is beyond our comprehension.
But I think, what thrilled us all just a little bit,
was that when Superman wasn’t in the bright, tight leotard,
he was mild mannered reporter Clark Kent.
Superman had a secret identity.
And it wasn’t the “billionaire Bruce Wayne” kind of secret identity, but the secret identity of an average Joe or Jane.
A normal person.
Someone we could be sitting next to at a theater,
someone in line behind us at the coffee shop,
the young lady bagging your groceries at the store.
because Superman’s secret identity
was that of the average person,
Superman could any of us.
Could be you? Could be me?
And may be we just don’t know it yet.
Maybe, just maybe, if phone booths still existed,
we could step into one, spin around in a blur,
and discover, we’re super too. (Here I spin around taking off my tie and shirt revealing a Superman t-shirt underneath)
Identity, who we are,
is a fundamental question for human beings.
Who we are dictates how we move and live and breathe in the world. And so when we are paying attention to life
and to the world around us,
we end up asking that most beguiling of existential questions:
“Who am I?”
Its an unfortunate truth
that most people end up answering that question,
and defining their lives, by what they “DO” for a living.
I am an engineer. I am a fisherman.
I am an accountant. I am a chef. I’m a mom or a dad.
But our vocation,
that which we do to pay the bills,
is not who we are.
You can get a better understanding
of who you are by looking at what you do,
not for a living, but with your life.
We know this,
we all, if we are honest,
want to be better than we are,
more than we are, more than meets the eye.
We want to be Superman.
In ancient times
people rarely questioned who they were
because their lives were consumed by simply surviving.
But these days, as humanity has evolved,
and as free time has become more abundant,
we are all trying to discover our secret identity.
The root of who and what we are.
All in the hopes of discovering “why” we are.
The way we tell the story of Superman is a bit backwards.
We look at Clark Kent and say that he is the secret identity,
but the reality is that Superman is the secret identity.
Imagine young Clark growing up on the farm
and slowly realizing that he is stronger
and faster and more indestructible than the average human.
Imagine how frightening that must have been.
How he must have struggled with telling his parents or not.
How he debated why it was
that he had the power he had.
And not the “why” as in “what made him super”
(we all know that it was the effect of earth’s yellow sun
on his Kryptonian DNA.)
The “why” he would have struggled with, the why we all struggle with,
had more to do with purpose than anything else.
And we all know how the story goes, right?
We know how he answers the why of purpose:
To fight for truth and justice.
To do good. To save lives.
To protect people from the evil that is all around them.
So who are we?
Why are we here?
Probably the hardest questions we ever ask ourselves,
but as Christians,
there are few questions that are easier to answer.
Listen again to part of our reading from Galatians this morning
“For in Christ Jesus
you are all children of Good through faith.
And as many of you as were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is no longer Jew or Greek,
there is no longer slave or free,
there is no longer male and female;
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Who am I? Who are we?
We are children of God,
baptized into Christ and clothed with Christ.
We are no longer Americans or Mexicans.
We are no longer engineers and accountants.
Those may be where we reside
or how we fund our way through the world.
But they don’t define us.
They don’t tell us who we are or how we are to live.
They do not give us the why of our purpose.
This passage does answer who we are.
We are God’s children.
And it answers why we are.
We have put on Christ, he is our super suit. (Here I remove the Superman shirt to reveal a “Jesus” t-shirt)
Putting on Christ, is not about assuming a secret identity,
but rather living into our identity.
We belong to Christ and more than that
we are called to be like Christ in the world.
Some times we may put on the Superman t-shirt
just because we are fans of the comics or the movie.
Some may wear it because they like the colors and it’s trendy.
But when we put on Jesus, it’s for real.
It is not because Jesus is trendy
or because we are fans of the book.
It is our true identity.
We are not mere fans advertising the movie;
we are followers of Christ
seeking to change the world as he did,
as he is still trying to do through us.
Nobody puts on a superman shirt and imagines he’s superman.
Well, okay, nobody over six years old.
But when we put on Christ,
we become like Christ;
we become a part of how Christ is incarnate,
how he moves and acts and changes the world.
Who we are is grounded in who he is.
As those who have put on Christ
we are to operate with the worldview of Christ.
A view that sees no border lines.
A view that does not see one class as better than another.
A view that does not discriminate because another doesn’t believe or live as we do.
When we put on Christ, we put on Christ’s compassion.
We put on Christ’s integrity.
And we remember that Christ’s compassion
and his integrity led some to reject him,
and even caused him suffering.
But we put that on, too.
We put on the life of Christ,
and we wear it boldly, openly, for all the world to see.
It is our identity, and it is an identity that is never meant to be secret.
Our identity is supposed to be one that is revealed.
Revealed in our speech and in our conduct.
Revealed in the way we live and move and breathe in the world.
As those who have put on Christ,
assumed the identity granted us by our baptism,
an identity we do not discard or cover up
but one that we show to the world in our words and actions.
If Galatians answers who we are,
then John 15 tells us where we are to live.
As children of God, we are to abide in God’s love.
That is where we dwell.
Those are the waters in which we swim
so that our actions and words are saturated with the love of God,
a love that changes what it touches,
a love that makes all things better, a love that never ends.
Friends if we are in Christ,
we are supermen and women.
The children of the living God.
Not given power by a genetic hiccup,
nor by radioactive spider bites,
or accidental exposure to gamma radiation.
Our power comes
from putting on the life of Christ and walking in it.
Not hiding it as a secret identity
that we pull out only in the most dire of circumstances,
but walking in it
as those revealed to be the sons and daughters
of the most high God.
Look, out in the world!
It’s a bird! It’s a plane!
No, it’s the children of God,
living their faith with boldness and integrity,
fighting for truth and justice,
and transforming the world
through the grace and the love of God. Amen? Amen.