So it’s been about a week now. It’s been a week since Avengers End Game came out, and I’m shocked to hear that some people haven’t seen it yet. You know I probably would have watched it a couple more times if I had the free time and if my wife didn’t scold me for even suggesting it. But the hype is still there. People are still talking about it (obviously as I’m talking about now). And for those who have seen it, I know there were a few plot holes, but all in all, it was pretty epic. Not just because I love Marvel super heroes from even before they hit the big screen, but because the story that is told is not just a story of good versus evil, but a story about us being better than who we are.
And we might think, uh we’re talking about the Avengers, they’re better than anyone ever conceivable. Sure, they might have two of the world’s smartest people on their team, the world’s greatest marksman, the world’s greatest spy, the mythical god of thunder somehow, and a 100 year old man that took some super soldier serum and became a super soldier, making him basically the world’s greatest soldier. Pretty convenient that these remarkable people all got together to be a super hero group. Also that they all speak English in spite of one of them being from a totally different planet. Either case, they could all use some improvement.
Anyway, I’m not spoiling anything I don’t think when I say that the Avengers weren’t the greatest as in the last movie, Infinity War, the main villain Thanos bested them. They were defeated and were unable to save the population of the world, actually, the whole universe from being cut down by 50%. The Avengers lost. They failed. They weren’t able to protect the earth, let alone the whole universe. So going into their current movie End Game, there’s a lot at stake. But again, they’re the Avengers, so it’s not like we don’t know what’s going to happen.
But either case, I think this trailer, which I think came out before the one I showed you last week, sort of tells us a bit more of the story:
“You couldn’t live with your failure, and where did that bring you? Back to me.” That was Thanos kind of taunting the Avengers as they try to right their wrong.
But if we’re being honest here, that kind of taunt would make me just… you know… learn to live with my failure. I mean this is Thanos we’re talking about. That guy beat up the Hulk. It’d be times like those that I’d just be like, well, at least I tried. Or even, well, at least the Hulk tried and we know how that turned out. Might as well go home now.
Because who likes failure? Not me, that’s for sure. Who likes having your failure thrown back into your face? Not me, even less so if that’s possible. And who likes to fail and then try again just to fail another time? I keep thinking about that mantra I hear in kid’s videos “try, try again” but really, once or twice is enough, maaaaybe three times. But if it’s against Thanos? Yeah, once might even be too many.
That’s just the thing, I mean failure is scary. I know we go through life knowing that we probably will fail here and there, it’s unavoidable, but it’s not like we go look for it. Like we don’t attend classes thinking that we’d fail. We might skip the class thinking that we’re going to fail anyway since there’s no point in going anymore. We don’t start a project knowing that we’d fail at it. We’ll revise the project enough to almost guarantee success or we probably won’t even invest in it. We don’t get into any relationship expecting that it’ll end badly, but we like to test the waters first, like a lot, before we take that leap and commit to someone.
We don’t like to fail. We avoid it when we can. Even if it means to just not try.
The disciples were in world of failures at this point of the story that we read in our gospel lesson for today. Not only were they wrong about what they thought the Messiah was supposed to be, this victorious and triumphant kind of victory and triumph. No, Jesus died and according to the plan in the heads of the disciples, that wasn’t part of it. They wanted to protect Jesus, but they failed. They wanted to stand and fight, but they failed. They wanted to not deny Jesus, but again, they failed.
What a bunch of losers.
And then they started hearing stories of Jesus being back. Weird and crazy dismissible stories. That is, until Jesus showed up in front of them. Whoa wait, that isn’t dismissible anymore but still weird and crazy. Two times Jesus showed up in the room that they were hiding in and two times they were amazing and probably freaked out. In their failures of first thinking that they believed in the wrong guy and now seeing their failures in not understanding what is happening, they were just living in a whirlwind of failure.
Nothing left to do now but go fishing. That’s what a good portion of them did, isn’t it? Go fishing? At least they did that before they met Jesus. Maybe it was their place of familiarity, of comfort, of identity in knowing that this is something they can do and be good at. But… yeah they didn’t catch a single fish after trying all night.
Yet another major fail.
It’s like, why are you guys still trying? Why do you think you can do something right after loss after loss after loss? Why do you even bother?
And then to make it worse some land lubber walking on the beach goes and taunts them, “hey kids, you catch anything out there?” knowing full well they didn’t as their boats were probably super empty. “No” they honestly answer. I would have said “totally, but those weren’t up to our high standards so we just threw them back”. That way it isn’t me that failed in catching the fish, but it’s the fish that failed to be good enough. But no, the disciples were honest folk so they told the stranger that they hadn’t caught anything, and the stranger goes and tells them to fish on the other side of the boat.
Now, I don’t know how good any of you are at fishing, but fish on the other side of the boat? That is absolute crazy talk. What’s next, dead raised back to life? Sins forgiven? Failure actually being helpful?
Well, it turns out to be exactly that. While the failure isn’t wanted, it isn’t welcomed, it doesn’t even seem necessary, God takes that failure and turns it into joy. The disciples saw failure in the one they believed to be the Messiah, but God turned it into the ultimate act of grace. Paul formally known as Saul failed to see the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ, and God allowed the scales to fall out from his eyes that he might see. The Avengers used their failure against Thanos to learn how they could maybe perhaps (not a spoiler) defeat him.
See, even in failure, God can use us. Even when we screw up and make mistakes, God forgives us and welcomes us into God’s family. Even we can be total and complete losers, God continues to call us to be part of this wounded but healed, broken but made whole, failed but forgiven body of Christ in the world.
So failure isn’t something to avoid. It isn’t something to run away from at all costs. It isn’t something to be afraid of. But failure is as a part of life as death is, and we know what God did with death. We can go and live life, live in joy, live in peace, knowing that even when we fail, God removes that guilt, that shame, that awful feeling and continues to love us, forgive us, and hold us with the arms that created the universe.
So to paraphrase, and maybe change around quite a bit, the very famous Martin Luther quote, let us fail boldly, but believe bolder still in the grace and love of God shown to us, proven by the death and glorious resurrection of Jesus, and instilled in us and our community by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This Easter season, may we confidently answer God’s call in our lives, that in spite of the inevitability of failure and loss, we might continue to be strengthened and healed by God’s grace, mercy, and love. Thanks be to God. Amen.