Lead by example

In the latest Marvel Comics movie “The Avengers” Captain America fights with a team of super heroes the likes of Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Hawk Eye and Iron Man to ward off an alien invasion of earth.

In the midst of the street fighting against the evil spawn Captain America lands on top off a group of NYPD officers desperately trying but failing to keep the order. Captain America, true to his military training and confident in his leadership skills, starts automatically barking out orders — form a perimeter there, secure this street, get eyes on the roof over there, etc. The captain of the squad says, “Why should I listen to you?”

Suddenly a dozen alien warriors descend upon Captain America with savage attack. Before the eyes of the police officers, Captain America uses his super-human shield to deftly resist, defend and totally obliterate the aliens.

Immediately the captain of the NYPD squad turns to his men and basically repeats word for word the strategy earlier called out by the super hero.

This short scene from the film reminds me of an aspect of effective leadership: Our words mean nothing unless they are backed by our own willingness to put our selves on the line. Authority resides in the leader’s genuine, authentic behavior. People will listen when we lead by example.

If we preach social justice, we better be pounding the pavement ourselves. If we preach prayer and a balanced work life routine, are we doing those things? If we tell people to invite a friend to church, we better be inviting at least ten ourselves.

When the leader’s life reflects this kind of integrity, you can’t argue with that. People will follow.

Created and Chosen – youth sermon

In “Captain America” – the movie – the main character played by actor Chris Evans is deemed unfit to serve in the military during the 2nd Word War. Steve Rogers is too short, to light, and sickly; his medical record shows he got the brunt of all the bad genes from his ailing parents.

Steve Rogers’ outward, physical appearance doesn’t measure up. He is judged basically by what people can see on the surface of who he is.

Eventually, he does get chosen after five failed attempts. How?

What the doctor who approves him for service sees in him is something special. Not based on outward appearance, but on his attitude, his beliefs, what he holds true within, interiorly.

How is his attitude made manifest? Through a couple of tests. First, a fake grenade is thrown amidst the group of prospective soldiers. And all of them, even the most physically strong and capable soldier, dive for safety behind walls, tires and underneath trucks. All of them have self-preservation as their primary instinct.

Except Steve Rogers. Instinctively when the grenade is thrown he throws himself upon it, literally, so that the blast would not hurt anyone else. Selfless. Other-centred.

The second test is an answer to a question posed by the doctor who approved his application: “Do you want to kill Nazis?” While most of Steve Rogers’ peers expressed the killing instinct in war, he says, “No, I do not want to kill anyone.” His desire to join is based on a much deeper and higher sense of service and mission.

In the Bible we read that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); whether we realize it or not, God creating each of us makes each of us very special. And it’s not about how big or strong or handsome or pretty or beautiful we are or look on the outside. It’s all about what Jesus sees on the inside of us that counts.

We are special, even when you think about how each of our bodies work. Here are some facts I looked up about our bodies, facts you may not have known, and which prove how incredible we are merely on a cellular level:

  • Our lungs contain over 300 million tiny blood vessels; if they were laid out end to end, they would stretch from here to Florida!
  • The nerve impulses to and from our brains travel as fast as 275 kms/h – almost as fast as a NASCAR race car!
  • The brain is more active at night than during the day
  • Sneezes exceed 160 kms/h – way faster than driving on the 417 or 401!
  • Babies are, kilogram for kilogram, stronger than an ox!
  • Your nose can remember 50,000 different scents
  • The tooth is the only – and I repeat only – part of the body that can’t repair itself
  • Every day our bodies produce 300 billion NEW cells
  • Your body has enough iron in it to make a nail 10 cms long
  • A single human blood cell takes only 60 seconds to make a complete circuit of the body
  • In 30 minutes, the average body gives off enough combined heat to bring almost 2 litres of water to boil

We are special – each and every one of us! And God has chosen us, not on account of our appearance or physical attributes. But for a special mission to share God’s love with others in the different ways God made us to do this. God chooses you to belong in God’s family because God made you, and God loves you!