So it happened. After all this time, it finally happened. We have been watching, waiting, anticipating what we started talking about around 4 months ago during Advent, when we had our first glimpse of what is to come. Since then we’ve gotten more bits of information here and there that added to the fuller picture, we’ve heard and read about more elements that build up this epic story, we’ve talked to each other and different experts about the implications that this momentous event has on our lives and our society.
Of course, I am talking about the release of Avengers: End Game this past Thursday. Which, if you may recall I showed you the first trailer for the movie just before Christmas on the 3rd Sunday of Advent. So it only seems appropriate that I show you the final trailer today, the 2nd Sunday of Easter:
I’ll admit, the first time I saw this trailer I was a little choked up. And I must say that it was a bittersweet moment for me the two times I’ve seen the actual movie since its release 3 days ago. I mean, the movie itself was of course mind-blowingly amazing, but I can’t help but wonder… what now? This movie is to mark the end of the first three phases of the MCU, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as it began like 11 years ago. The trailer included clips of all their movies from the past, jogging us down memory lane and reminding us of what was.
In case you haven’t been listening to like 90% of my sermons that talk about the MCU, it is basically a franchise of movies based on Marvel comic book characters, all centered around this single idea: to bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles we never could. It introduced us to these iconic characters in their own movies and then in 2012 when they are all together in the first Avengers movie, we were all introduced to something that ended up being bigger and better and more time consuming than anything we’ve ever heard of.
I know, you might be rolling your eyes because who cares? It’s just a movie, right? But the MCU was unprecedented in that all these full length movies (and in some cases even longer) were connected and intertwined, characters and events would cross over into other movies, so to really get the full story you have to watch all the movies in order. I wouldn’t suggest doing it marathon style though, as I said it is like 22 movies and it’d take literally over 2 full days to watch them all back-to-back.
But now with this past movie, it feels like it is ending. I mean, it is called “End Game”, after all. It’s like we’ve been watching these movies for the past 11 years, or at least I have been, and now that phase 3 is over and the story that has been built up over 22 movies is done, I’m not sure if I’ll even like the movies going forward from here. With some of the actors’ contracts ending meaning that they may likely exclude some characters in the future, the face of the whole franchise will just be different. These characters that we’ve grown to know and love have made the MCU, the MCU for us, and without them it just won’t be the same.
Well, maybe it could be just as good, but somehow, I doubt it.
See what I did there? Today’s gospel text features the very famous Doubting Thomas, and as I do, he doubts that things could even be the same after the end of the era that he just witnessed. I would imagine travelling and living with and learning from Jesus over a few years would be totally action-packed. I’m sure it would have brought out a loyalty and commitment from all the disciples to follow, to listen, to give up everything to be with Jesus and all that came crashing down. The one they believed to change the world died. The man who they put their trust in to save them all was lost. The person, the prophet, the protector of their culture and theology, was killed on a cross between two criminals.
So everything they lived and breathed for the past few years all culminated in a conviction and execution. All the hope, the faith, the belief they put in this guy Jesus lay dead in a tomb. The loyalty, the commitment, the sheer love all ended. Game over. No one to avenge it. (see what I did there?)
How can things ever be the same?
So of course Thomas doubted. It doesn’t make sense that the end wasn’t actually the end. No one would believe that the dead aren’t actually dead. Who would have thought that what Jesus said would happen would actually happen? He did tell them time and again that he will be there with them always, but they didn’t get it.
But Jesus was there. Maybe the disciples had to fully experience Jesus present in that they needed to see and touch the scars, but he was there. Undoubtedly there, appearing in the room behind locked doors, entering back into the community, piercing through the fear that they felt and filling the doubt with faith. He was there: resurrected, alive, tangible. He was there. The story hasn’t ended. It may be different now, but it isn’t over.
It is hard for me to say what is going to happen moving forward in the MCU, mostly because I don’t have any say in the matter as I’m in no way involved in any of that decision making as much as I wish I were. But I have a feeling that even though this amazing story told over 22 movies in the past 11 years is technically over, the story of the MCU will continue. Yes, it will look different in that there will be different characters and heroes to save the day. There will be different villains and antagonists to defeat and conquer. There will be different themes and story arcs that will move the franchise through the next 10 years. And through it all, we know that it will be the MCU mostly because the corporate giant Disney, who owns it, won’t let us forget it. But also because the spirit of the MCU will be there. The characters based on the comics, the battle of good vs evil, the triumph over trials and tribulations. It’ll be different, but the story isn’t over.
And such is the Easter story that we hear every year. Such is what the resurrection from the dead tells us. Such is how the legacy of God’s work through Jesus doesn’t end on the cross, the resurrection, or even the Ascension, but it continues on through us, in us, around us, and in spite of us, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Here we are at the high point of the church year that started with Advent with the hope of what is to come. We get little bits of information to fill us in of the bigger picture, and then it all culminates in the glorious empty tomb. But the story doesn’t end there. It doesn’t stop with the resurrection. Rather, the story, God’s story, continues on with us as the characters, bringing to life the Spirit of God’s grace and mercy for the world.
I know, it’s different. The resurrection happened like 2000 years ago, things have changed. The world has become a very strange place compared to bible times. But the promise is the same. The love and forgiveness and community are the same. The Holy Spirit, given to us by Jesus as our advocate and helper, is the same: empowering us, strengthening us, giving us the faith to keep running the race and fighting the good fight.
This Easter season, may we be confident in the promises of God, that we might faithfully carry on the story of God’s love and forgiveness for all the world. Thanks be to God. Amen.