"God On Film"
I’ve been excited ever since I first heard that the DC superhero Green Lantern was going to make it to the big screen. I’m a long-time fan of Green Lantern, and remember reading and collected comic books about Green Lantern when I was younger. So needless to say, I was looking forward to seeing the movie this past week. I didn’t even care that the reviews haven’t been great; I was looking forward to it.
Why am I talking about Green Lantern? Well, other than me just liking Green Lantern, this is the first week of our new message series called “God On Film.” All this month, I’ll be talking about some of the movies that are out in theaters this summer and drawing from them some faith lessons for you and for me. Next week, it’ll be Cars 2. Later on in the month, I we’ll look at Transformers, Cowboys and Aliens, and even Winnie the Pooh. Today, though, to kick the series off, we’re talking about Green Lantern.
Even if you know nothing about Green Lantern, I think what we will talk about this morning will be informative and useful for you. Even if you’ve never been into the superhero thing, you can glean from the truth of Scripture. Even if you think the whole comic thing is childish... Well, I probably can’t help you there. So just deal with it.
Now, Green Lantern isn’t exactly unknown, but he’s a notch below his more famous counterparts such as Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and Batman. He’s more on the level of Aquaman or the Incredible Hulk, so you may or not know much about him.
To give you a bit of a biography, Green Lantern is the superhero identity of Hal Jordan, a test pilot for the U.S. Air Force. The was actually another Green Lantern before Hal Jordan named Alan Scott, and there have been others since, including John Stewart (not the Comedy Central guy), Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner. But Hal Jordan’s the one I grew up on and the one the current movie is based on. Plus, he’s the best known and was a founding member of the Justice League of America. So Hal Jordan’s the one I’ll tell you about.
In fact, this September, DC Comics is planning to relaunch the series with Hal Jordan. So if you want to get in on the ground floor, you can start collecting then.
One day when Jordan was out in the middle of nowhere, he encountered a mysterious green glow that drew him to a crashed spaceship. It was there that he met an alien named Abin Sur who was dressed in green spandex. (Isn’t that what they all wear?)
Abin Sur had been injured in the crash and was on the verge of dying, but he explained to Hal Jordan how he had told his power ring to seek out someone who was “utterly honest and born without fear.” The ring found Jordan, who would become Abin Sur’s replacement in the Green Lantern Corps. This was basically an intergalactic police force including representatives from a variety of planets who acted as guardians and protectors. Sometimes they would guard and protect individuals; sometimes they would guard and protect entire planets. And other times they would guard and protect the universe itself!
The base for the Green Lantern Corps was the planet Oa, where a council of little blue guys known as the Guardians of the Universe orchestrated the Corps. Together, they watched over a gigantic lantern which was the source of their power.
To tap into that power, every member of the Green Lantern Corps received a green ring. Each Green Lantern would have to recharge his or her ring periodically by bringing it near their own personal-sized replica of the lantern and reciting a Green Lantern oath, which was basically a short poem. Once that little poem was recited, the ring would be charged. Don’t ask me how; it’s a comic book.
These rings, though... they’re incredible. A Green Lantern could do all kinds of things with this ring and the light it could produce. They could create a huge fist to punch a big bad guy, they could make the ring-wearer invisible, or they could create a force-field bubble capable of containing an oxygen atmosphere so the Green Lantern could travel in space. The ring could do just about anything the wearer could imagine, except it had one weakness... the color yellow. Apparently it had something to do with a substance that was required to make the green lantern power generator on Oa work.
That’s right, if you want to overcome a Green Lantern all you have to do is dress like a canary. Well, there has to be some limit to the ring’s power, doesn’t there?
Well, not withstanding that weakness for the color yellow, I want to talk this morning about the power of light. If you’ve got your notes, you can follow along and fill in the blanks as we go.
The first one is actually pretty obvious...
Faith Lessons from Green Lantern:
A. The light always overcomes the darkness.
But then, you already knew that, didn’t you? Isn’t that why you use a flashlight at night? Isn’t that why you drive with your headlights on? The light always overcomes the darkness.
Just a couple weeks ago, I watched a documentary series about the seven wonders of the industrial age. Those wonders included...
The sewers of London which successfully put an end to the deadly epidemics the city was suffering in the 1850s.
The Hoover Dam built during the 1930s which tamed the previously untamable Colorado River and now provides power to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and the surrounding areas.
The Great Eastern, the largest passenger ship in the world in the middle of the 19th century.
There was the Brooklyn Bridge, the Panama Canal, and the Pacific Railroad.
But probably my favorite episode dealt with the building of the Bell Rock Lighthouse on Bell Rock, a notorious reef off the east coast of Scotland. This rock out in the middle of the ocean was only above water for a few hours each day, and the rest of the time it lied in wait for an unsuspecting ship to crash into her. And in dark, stormy waters it was impossible to see this rock until it was too late. The end result is that it claimed the lives of thousands of people.
Then somebody got the bright idea to build a lighthouse on this rock that was underwater most of the time. That had never been done before, and it would be a nearly impossible task because of the dangerous waters. Not only was it unlikely that they could design a lighthouse that could withstand the onslaught out in the unpredictable waters, but it would have been treacherous for the builders themselves. If a sudden storm came up, or if they were stranded on the rock when the water began to rise (as almost happened when one of their lifeboats broke loose), they wouldn’t have stood a chance of survival in the frigid waters.
But they did it. After several years of lobbying and several more lives lost because of wrecks on Bell Rock, permission was given to build the lighthouse. Then... only being able to work a few hours a day during a few months of the year, it took four years before the lighthouse was completed. Now, 200 years since it was first lit in 1811, the Bell Rock Lighthouse still stands and has been saving lives all that time.
Why? Because the light always overcomes the darkness.
I mentioned earlier that when Green Lantern brought his ring near the lantern to get it recharged, he would recite an oath. For the original Green Lantern, the oath was this...
“...and I shall shed my light over dark evil.
For the dark things cannot stand the light,
The light of the Green Lantern!”
For Hal Jordan and several other Green Lanterns, the oath has been this...
“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power... Green Lantern’s light!”
—Hal Jordan/Many Current Lanterns
In case you’re a Duck Dodgers fan, he temporarily became a Green Lantern himself when he picked up Hal Jordan’s laundry. Duck Dodgers’ version of the oath said...
“In blackest day or brightest night
Watermelon, cantaloupe, yadda yadda
Erm... superstitious and cowardly lot
With liberty and justice for all!”
~ Duck Dodgers
Inspiring, I know. Kermit the Frog has a version, too.
“In brightest day, in darkest night
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who laugh at my lack of height
Beware my banjo...Green Froggie’s light!”
~ Kermit the Frog
Well, getting back to the oaths of the actual Green Lanterns... [PowerPoint] Notice the theme in both of those oaths... the power of light over darkness. In fact, darkness or evil can’t stand the light. It can’t overpower the light. But then, that concept didn’t originate with the Green Lanterns. The apostle John wrote in the beginning of his gospel...
John 1:5 (NLT)
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
So... why is it important that light overcomes the darkness? Because of what John was referring to. When he was writing about how “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it,” he wasn’t just writing about the physical properties of light; He was writing about Jesus. Which is the second thing in your notes...
B. Jesus is the light of the world.
That understanding of Jesus dated back to before John’s writing, though. Think back to the Old Testament prophecies about the birth of Jesus. After all, it’s July. What better time to think about Christmas? Anyway, there’s an Old Testament prophecy that looked ahead to the birth of Jesus and said...
Isaiah 9:2 (NLT)
“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.”
For all the darkness in the world, for all the evil, the pain, the disappointment, the heartache, the suffering and the loss... Jesus is the light of the world. And He shines through all of that. He cuts through the darkness to provide hope and freedom and to light the way to God the Father. Whatever you’re going through... whatever problems you encounter in life... Jesus can light your way and show you the way through.
You know, there are a lot of metaphors used of Jesus. He’s the Lamb of God, He’s the True Vine, He’s the Gate... There are all kinds of metaphors like that about Jesus. This one, though, is one of my favorites. And it’s a metaphor Jesus used of Himself...
John 8:12 (NLT)
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
Jesus says, “you want eternal life? Follow Me. I’m the light of the world, and I will show you the way to life.” And what were the last words Jesus’ actually said that are recorded in the Bible? It’s on the last page of your Bible…
Revelation 22:16 (NLT)
“I am the bright morning star.”
What’s a bright morning star? It’s a fixed point in the sky that is always there, can always be trusted, and you can navigate your life by it.
Leonard Sweet is one of the authors I love to read, and in one of his books he compares Jesus to the North Star. That star has guided travellers for millennia, keeping them from getting lost and helping them to reach their destination safely. If you lost your way and didn’t know which way was which, all you had to do was look to the North Star shining through the darkness of the night to provide you with a fixed point to navigate by.
“God lit up the skies more than two thousand years ago to show us how God can light up our skies today. Christians are people who live at the speed of light—the light of Jesus.”
~ Leonard Sweet, in AquaChurch
C. You are a light-bearer.
Noah, my 19-month old, needs a light on at night. If he wakes up and he’s in darkness, he makes sure everyone else wakes up, too. And he’s not alone; there are lots of people who are afraid of the dark.
You and I, though... we’re the light-bearers. We’re a city on a hill. Jesus has called us to be a beacon to the world... cutting through the darkness, alleviating fears, and pointing the way toward Jesus. Our faith is not meant to be hidden away and concealed; it’s meant to give the light that leads to life to the people around us. We sang about it earlier...
“Into all the world we take
The mystery of Your saving grace.
To shine the light into the darkness.”
~ Jeremy Camp and Brenton Brown in “We Cry Out”
We just saw how Jesus is the light of the world, but if you are a Christ-follower He has passed that torch on to you to carry to your world. Jesus Himself said...
Matthew 5:14-15 (NLT)
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”
In the movie, Hal Jordan started out as kind of a womanizing, irresponsible disappointment. The, after he became a Green Lantern and met some of the other Green Lanterns, he felt completely out of his league. And he failed miserably... he doubted his abilities... he questioned why he was even a Green Lantern at all. He wondered if the ring had made a mistake when it selected him to receive the ring from Abin Sur. But then out of that little identity crisis he was having came a great line from one of the other characters...
“The ring chose you for a reason.”
~ Carol Ferris in “Green Lantern”
Well, just like Hal Jordan was chosen for a reason, you were chosen for a reason.
1 Peter 2:9 (NLT)
“...You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
You were chosen for a reason. You were chosen to represent Jesus to the nations. You were chosen to show others the goodness of God. You were chosen to carry His light, defeating the darkness and showing the way to Him. As Amy Grant said years ago…
“Some people think I should stand in the light and give my witness. But I believe God has called me to stand in the dark, and there give off my light. I know there is danger in the dark, but God’s Word has told that I’m all right as long as I don’t lose sight of the light.”
~ Amy Grant
(In Leonard Sweet’s book, AquaChurch)
So let me ask you, when was the last time you really shone the light of Jesus to a family member, a neighbor, a coworker, a friend? When was the last time the goodness of God was shown through your life? When was the last time you gave hope to someone who was hopeless? When was the last time you showed the way to someone who was lost? When was the last time the presence of God was displayed through your life? When was the last time you told someone about what He has done in your life or invited them to come to a service to hear about Him? Don’t hide your light under a bowl, put it on display for all to see. You were chosen, and you were chosen for a reason.
Ephesians 5:8 (NLT)
“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!”
1 Thessalonians 5:5 (NLT)
“For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.”
D. You belong to a great family of light-bearers.
The thing about Green Lantern is that sometimes you forget that there are other Green Lanterns. You might be reading along in one of the comic books and suddenly a Green Lantern from some other sector of the galaxy shows up. And you realize, “Oh yeah, he’s not alone.” And in the movie, they actually did a pretty good job at showing the vast number of Green Lanterns. You could see thousands of them on the screen at the same time.
So let me ask you this... have you ever felt like you were all alone? I know we all feel alone at some time or other, but specifically when it comes to being a Christ-follower... do you ever feel alone? I know I have. In fact, there are times that I really identify with Elijah in the Old Testament. If you know his story, you know how Elijah was a prophet during a time in Israel’s history when they were being ruled over by an evil king and queen who were leading the Israelites into worshipping false gods.
And so Elijah ended up taking on 850 prophets of these false gods challenged them to a duel on top of Mount Carmel. They each built an altar and prayed to their respective Gods to send down fire to consumer a sacrifice. The prophets of Baal and Asherah went first, and they pranced around, shouting and chanting, and even cutting themselves to get their gods’ attention. This went on all day, from morning to evening, and nothing happened.
At some point Elijah started to heckle them. “Shout louder! Maybe your god can’t hear you. Or maybe he’s sleeping.” Elijah even resorted to potty humor when he suggested that maybe their god was taking a bathroom break. Seriously, it’s right there in 1 Kings 18.
Until finally, their time was up and it was Elijah’s turn. Elijah built his altar.. and then proceeded to have buckets full of water dumped over the top of it until it was soaking wet. Then he started to pray. And the Bible says immediately fire came down from the sky and consumed the sacrifice, the wood, all the water, and even the stones themselves.
It was a pretty incredible victory, really. And that’s why what happened in the next chapter is so shocking. Because it seems like Elijah sank into a bit of a depression. He started to pray for God to take his life, because he was all alone. He felt like he was the only one in all of Israel who was following the true God. And it was then that God reminded him that there were thousands of others who were completely devoted to Him.
I can identify with that, because sometimes I feel alone. Maybe you do, too. You forget that there are others alongside you.
The Church... the Church is the most incredible organization... the most incredible family... on the face of the planet. The Church is God’s answer to the evil and darkness in the world. The Church is the hope of the world... for all of humanity. I love how Bill Hybels puts it...
“There is nothing like the church when it’s working right. The local church is the hope of the world.”
~ Bill Hybels
Last week we talked about some of the things that keep the Church from working right. Things like hypocrisy, and judgmentalism, and holier-than-thou attitudes... when we gossip, and when we become so self-centered that we become oblivious to the needs of those around us. Those kinds of things keep us from our potential and prevent us from becoming all that God means for us to be. But there’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working right. And I am so honored to be part of His Church around the world and throughout time as well as part of this local expression of the Church that we call Sunrise.
If you are a Christ-follower, you are part of this incredible family, too. You are part of God’s family. If you’re not a Christ-follower, you’re welcome to become part of the family. All it takes is a choice... a choice to live for Him and follow Him... a choice to turn from darkness to light.
Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson