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How would the Avengers tackle hunger in Juneau?

Posted: September 9, 2012 - 12:02am

Editor’s note: Spoiler alert — The Avengers plot is discussed, but you probably would have seen it by now if you were planning on it, so please read on.

I first of all want to apologize to the little boy who spilled his pop when I screamed. I should not be allowed to see movies in the theater or, at least, I should not be allowed to sit by other people when I do. But I loved The Avengers. This super-hero action flick might have brought me out of my kung-fu movie craze. I don’t do suspense well, but I always love well-choreographed fight scenes. A green monster punching large flying creepy alien ships is way better than all the preaching that goes on in movies anymore. Whatever happened to movies like Smokey and the Bandit that didn’t have any particular moral lesson to teach just a couple fun lines and lots of crazy stunts? Sorry, slight tangent.

But, there was a lesson in The Avengers and I was particularly struck by it. The super-heroes resist working together and their territorial games and egos play right into the bad guy’s hand. Their unwillingness to work together opens the door for the bad dude to gain more power, then a cool, good guy dies and the super-heroes unite to save the world. Sorry to ruin the plot, but it struck a chord with me.

With the help of United Way, the food pantries and services throughout Juneau have been meeting to see how we can work together better. This is a faithful and amazing group of people, but it is hard work. Many times the issue of hunger in Juneau is overwhelming and the resources feel so limited that we all get a little tense. There are genuine disagreements over what should be done and how. I have noticed that two things suck the life and creativity out of a room. One is the feeling of scarcity and the other is feeling out of control. I have to say that, especially in Alaska, people don’t do well if they think someone is telling them what to do.

One of the themes throughout scripture is that there is enough. Manna was the daily bread given as a gift to the Israelites wandering in the wilderness; Jesus became famous for providing meals from morsels. Creativity blossoms when we approach problems with the sense that there is enough to do what needs to be done, but we need to look at the world a bit differently to do it. It also blossoms when we stop thinking we are surrounded by idiots.

I remember riding in a car with a woman who called everyone an idiot around herself. The guy was an idiot in front of her for going too slowly and the kid behind was an idiot for driving too fast. I pointed out in a pastoral way that it must be idiot day on the road, but if that was the case then it didn’t bode well for our car. Letting go of some control, letting go of the illusion that we are the norm for the world is hard. Other people have gifts and ideas that might suit what is happening better than our own. As much as we disagree in perspective or solution, we will be richer for hearing each other instead of dismissing one another as idiots.

The Avengers got to figure this all out and save the world in about two hours. We’re working on about 20 and still nowhere close, but that’s okay. We know that our enemy is hunger and we have the resources we need, we have each other, and we are far stronger together than trying to fight our own battles separately.

• Stage-Harvey is the pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.

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