Everyone loves a superhero. At least I do. There is something about the way ordinary people, with ordinary lives are transformed by some hidden ability allowing them to do extraordinary things. We recently lost a beloved actor, Chadwick Bosman, who gave us King T’Challa in the Marvel movie, The Black Panther among others. After his death we learned that for the past four years he fought Colon Cancer. Pretty quickly, people began referring to him as extraordinary and a real-life hero. Hidden within him, was the strength to literally fight for his life, while filming, doing press junkets and interacting with the public in kind and humble ways. While he wasn’t filled with vibranium like King T’Challa or the possessor of other worldly strength, he lived a superhuman life.
Our bodies are naturally wired to do all kinds of extraordinary things that we often take for granted. For example, we can store and process billions of bits of data and information, recalling them at will with little to no effort. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) is the bundle of nerves in our brainstem that filters out unnecessary information so important information can be used. The RAS is the reason we meet a person named Mike, then start hearing that name everywhere we go. It’s also the reason why even in a crowded room, with lots of people talking, we can hear our name being spoken in the crowd. The RAS is essentially a filter that sifts through all of the data in our brain and presents what’s important.
I don’t have to tell you that we are living through a period of great change, dislocation and disruption. As church leaders and pastor’s, we are called to help our congregants, church leadership and communities filter through the unimportant, the noise and chaos to figure out what’s important. The RAS operates by seeking information that validates our beliefs by sifting through the parameters we give it, and our beliefs in turn shape those parameters. That’s why if we think we can’t change, we can’t. The RAS helps us to see what we want to see, which ends up influencing our actions. When you think about it, the RAS is pretty incredible even though it is completely ordinary.
The question we must ask ourselves is, what do we want to see?
Do we want to see ourselves as we were?
Do we want to see ourselves as we are?
Do we want to see ourselves at our worst?
Do we want to see ourselves at our best?
Or do we want to see ourselves as God sees us in truth?
The answer to this question is crucial, because it will determine our actions. Now more than ever our congregations and communities are looking for us to act. They are looking at us with expectation to BE the church during these crucial times not just replicate doing church online. They are looking at us to lead, not with flowery words and platitudes but with bold hearts and courageous convictions, with the love of Christ based on the biblical principles of mercy, justice and humility. In my experience no one is expecting us to produce Oscar worthy online worship experiences every Sunday, except us. Those we serve want us to help them navigate this moment with the truth of the gospel. God is calling us to be Gods witnesses during this turbulent time. We may not be superhero’s, but we can be super humans by allowing God to shape our vision as we answer the question, what do you want?