I may be the only person who reads this article who has not yet seen Avengers: Endgame. This is a coincidence of calendar, not an expression of intent.
At my first opportunity, I intend to conform to the will of the masses and see the highest-grossing movie (through its first weekend) in history. Avengers: Endgame earned more than an estimated $1.2 billion over the weekend, nearly doubling the global box office record held by Avengers: Infinity War, which made $641 million in its opening weekend last April.
Seventeen AMC locations stayed open for seventy-two straight hours from Thursday night through Sunday. The movie had the best opening day in cinematic history, far surpassing the record set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Why would a three-hour movie about comic book heroes garner such attention?
Part of the answer is its excellence: the movie received a 96 percent score on the review site Rotten Tomatoes and a rare A+ on CinemaScore. Another is the way it depicts heroes redeeming their failures, a theme Ryan Denison explores in his excellent review on our website.
I’d like to explore a different angle, one that is relevant whether we’ve seen (or intend to see) the film or not.
Avengers: Endgame is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comprising twenty-one previous films that have made more than $19 billion worldwide. Taken together, these incredibly popular movies tell us something vital about ourselves and our culture.
Raccoons, trees, and other heroes
The film series comprises more than thirty different main characters. They include a raccoon named Rocket and his mobile tree friend, Groot, a tiny superhero (Ant-Man) and a giant (the Hulk), two Captains (America and Marvel), and a scientist (Iron Man) and a brawler (Drax the Destroyer).
None of the superheroes could have sustained the franchise alone. Nor could they defeat their cinematic enemies by themselves. Their intertwined stories make the long-running series especially compelling.
Those who have watched all the films feel part of this alternate universe. It’s as though the Avengers inhabit a world we wish we could join, with clear lines between good and evil and heroes willing to risk everything to save each other and the worlds they serve.
This narrative strikes a chord in us because it resonates with God’s design for us.
The “maddening ambiguity” of our faith
You and I live in what C. S. Lewis called a “maddening ambiguity.”
On one hand, our Father loves us individually beyond compare.
In The Weight of Glory, Lewis observed: “Everything that is joined to the immortal head will share his immortality.” He noted, “It was not for societies or states that Christ died, but for men.”
On the other hand, our value lies not in who we are but in Whose we are.
According to Lewis, “As mere biological entities, each with its separate will to live and to expand, we are apparently of no account; we are cross-fodder” (cf. Galatians 2:20). However, “as organs in the Body of Christ, as stones and pillars in the temple, we are assured of our eternal self-identity and shall live to remember the galaxies as an old tale.”
We were made for a life more abundant than our fallen culture can experience or even imagine (John 10:10). But we will find this life only when we join ourselves to a larger narrative in which we play only one part.
Finding your core, capacity, and context
How can you find your role in God’s redemptive story?
Bob Buford was one of the most effective leadership mentors in recent history. His books and personal coaching changed the lives of thousands, myself included.
In his foreword to Chip Ingram’s insightful Good to Great in God’s Eyes, Buford stated his threefold passion: “To help people discover their Core (the best they have to offer), to create Capacity (make time and money available to fulfill their God-given calling and design), and to discover the Context (the unique role and place they fit to make the greatest difference) for the glory of God” (his italics).
What is your core?
What spiritual gifts has God bequeathed to you? (If you’re not sure, I invite you to take the spiritual gifts assessment I wrote for our website.) What abilities and resources has God entrusted to you?
What is your capacity?
Are you devoting your time and money to serving God and others with your best? If not, why not?
What is your context?
Do you believe you are making your greatest impact on our culture for God’s glory? If not, I urge you to pray for God’s leadership and seek wisdom from those to whom he directs you.
How to change the world
Despite its astounding weekend success, the latest Avengers film will one day fade into cinematic history. But the people you meet today have no such endgame.
Christians who are committed to their core, capacity, and context change the world, one eternal soul at a time.
Let’s join them today.
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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Publication Date: April 29, 2019
Photo Courtesy: Marvel