Guardians of the Galaxy is a science fiction, adventure film with a great sense of humor. If you like that kind of film, it's a great movie, and it teaches a great lesson about family.
This reading this morning is from Psalm 139:13-16.
This week we continue our series titled God on Film. We’re looking at some of the blockbuster movies of this spring, and using them as illustrations to help us understand the bible. Last week we looked at Beauty and the Beast, and saw a little bit of how God’s amazing power works in our lives to bring transformation – just as Belle’s love transformed the Beast, God’s love transforms all who call on His name.
This week we look at Guardians of the Galaxy, vol. 2. One of the tag lines of the movie is that anyone can save the galaxy, and judging from what we see here, they might be right. Let’s take a look at the movies trailer, and I apologize in advance, this is the official trailer, and it’s got a couple of bad words that I would have loved to edit out, but let’s be honest, that’s how much of the world talks, so please excuse them in advance… I’ve got to say. while I thought the movie was good, the sound track was great – anybody that grew up in the 70-80’s, like I did, will really like the soundtrack.
The Guardians know what it’s like to be alone and be searching. In most movies, superheroes come off as being almost perfect. Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, certainly doesn’t have everything together, and that’s okay. I like that. Because I don’t have everything together, either. He lost his mother to brain cancer when he was only about 8 years old. He never knew his father. He was raised by a space pirate who kidnapped him after his mother died.
Gamora is a green creature raised to be a warrior. She knew her father, he’s an adopted father, he was a galactic supervillain, who killed her family, and then kept her, raised her as his own, and taught her to fight. She hates everything he stands for, so when given an opportunity, she betrays him and joins with Star-Lord to destroy him. That was the subject of the first Guardians movie, which came out three years ago.
The muscleman in the movie is Drax the Destroyer, whose family was killed by Gamora’s father. The first movie was all about revenge for him. Then there’s Rocket, who was actually created in a lab to be a warrior, the only family he might have ever known might have been something in a petri dish. That just leaves Groot, who is tree like character with amazing strength. He actually died in the first movie, but they took a clipping and re-rooted him, and he’s a real small tree in this movie – not real effective, but really cute.
The characters find strength in their relationship together. They were all loners, who found a place to belong. That’s not a bad theme for a movie. Of course, in this movie, we have a bit of a conundrum. Our good guys are sort of bad guys, who save the world. They have this identity as ravagers – they’re like pirates, stealing things for a profit. But then from time to time, they do really good things. At the end of the first movie there’s a scene, after they’ve saved the Galaxy, they get in their space ship and get ready to leave, and Peter asks what they want to do – “What do you want to do now? Something good, something bad, or a little of both?” They choose a little of both. I think most of us are like that, right? At least they’re honest about it.
In Peter, Star-Lord, we have a superhero who doesn’t have it all together, and he doesn’t hide that. He struggles to do the right thing, sometimes he gets it right, sometimes he fails big time. They’re like superheroes for the rest of us. They have bonded, and work well together, because they know each others past, their secrets, and that’s okay. We as Christian’s work best when we can be open and honest with each other, and help each other through the struggles that come. No one is without struggles, and the church is strongest when we are honest about our struggles, which gives others a chance to help us through those struggles. Be honest about your past. Reveal those skeletons. We all have them, too.
That being said, I want to make a couple of observations from this movie. And the first is that family is not always those you are related to. That’s really a big theme in this movie. This really is a movie about a family, even though none of them are related. And at first glance, it’s a pretty dysfunctional family, but then again, we see a lot of dysfunctional families.
On one side, we have Gamora, whose sister Nebula is trying to kill her because she never felt she could measure up. On the other side, Peter, Star-Lord, has that big gap in his life that he thinks only his father can fill. And when he finally meets his father, he’s really drawn in, because he finds he’s a Celestial, a god (little g). And as such, he’s immortal. And he gets really excited about thinking about all these neat things he could use his power to create.
Only he finds that his father has a plan already – there’s no room for his plan, his father found him only to help him succeed at his plan. Which he calls expansion, essentially, his father is trying to take over the universe. When he realizes this, Peter has no trouble deciding to destroy his father, whom he’d been looking for his entire life, gladly giving up immortality, in order to save his friends. And, of course, save the galaxy.
But in the process, he learns that family is those closest to you. In fact, we heard a quote in the trailer, when Peter is looking out the open door, and he’s thinking to himself, “Sometimes, the thing you’re searching for your whole life is right there by your side all along.” Family is important. But I think family is bigger than who we’re related to.
Scripture is clear that we are each part of the body of Christ, a group of fellow believers that includes both the local church and every Christian for whom Christ died. Paul tells this to the Corinthians when he writes, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27). The entire chapter 12 talks about why we need each other, the different spiritual gifts that are only complete when we are together.
So we are family, a church family. Like any family, our relationships within that family will never be perfect. We’ll fight and bicker, we’ll disagree about things, and we saw this in the movie, in another great line, when Nebula is trying to figure out her sister Gamora, she says, “all you do is yell at each other, you’re not friends.” To which Drax replies, “No, we’re family.”
Our church family doesn’t always agree on every issue. We might disagree on the types of music we prefer in worship, we might disagree on the need for a church office, or where to put it, some even disagree on the extent of the presence we should have at our Picnic in the Park. But we’re family. And we need to remember that we can say our piece, but when it’s over we need to let it go. If we don’t, we just make life more difficult for our brothers and sisters in Christ. These disagreements will happen, they are inevitable. That’s okay. But creating division because of them is never okay.
Which brings me to my second observation, because Scripture is also clear that God’s heart is for us to be unified. Even Peter’s father, who he searched for so long, couldn’t come between Peter and his crew of misfit Ravagers. They were a family that was thicker than blood.
John writes in his gospel, recording Jesus’ prayer at the Garden on the night of His arrest, “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11). We don’t always act like it, but we are called to unity, and we should never allow division in our church family.
The key to this kind of unity is remembering that what we have in common is infinitely more important than what we do not. Our shared faith in Christ is thicker than blood, which Luke says in his gospel in a passage that can be fairly difficult to understand, “if anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26). Jesus is telling us that our relationship to Him is thicker than blood, he is calling us to love Him more than even our families, more than our own life.
In a world increasingly defined by division, it’s vital that we exemplify the truth that Jesus is enough to unite us. It was His hope that our love for one another, and our devotion to Him would help to guide the lost back to him. And we can’t be divided and be successful at saving the lost.
Which brings me to my next point, which is purpose. In the movie, when Peter is being enlisted by his father, telling him of immortality, and eternity, Peter begins thinking about all these neat things he could do. But then it’s like he realized that even after he’s done all this, he still has eternity. Then what. He mentions this to his father, “isn’t eternity boring.” To which his father replies, “not if you have a purpose.”
As Christians, we inherit immortality, and a purpose. Back to John 17, and Jesus’ prayer in the Garden, in verse 23, Jesus prays, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Our purpose is to let the world know that Jesus loves them. We have a purpose. And we’ll never accomplish that purpose if we lose our focus on what keeps us together, and allow ourselves to dwell on that which might drive us apart.
In Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren says, “You were created on purpose,” and then goes on to identify five purposes we were created for: God’s pleasure, Fellowship in the church, Discipleship, becoming like Christ, Serving others, and your Mission, to share your faith with others.
One more observation from this movie, and it’s about surrendering control. Ego, Peter’s father, actually was the planet. The only way to destroy Ego, was to destroy his brain, which was located in the center of the planet. There was no one small enough to fit through the gaps leading the brain except for baby Groot. The problem was, Groot didn’t take instruction very well. But no one else was small enough, so they had to trust him with this. Fortunately, Groot got it right, Ego was destroyed, and the Guardians were able to get away in the nick of time.
As Christians, we have to trust one another. Ultimately, we trust Christ, and we trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of others. You can trust your church family, because it is here that the Holy Spirit is working.
A couple quick closing comments as I finish up this morning. Victor Fankl was a victim of the Nazis and spent several years in Auschwitz. His entire family died there, he lost brothers, sisters, and both of his parents. In his memoir, Man’s Searching for Meaning, he wrote, “Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her own life.”
If we know who made us, we’ll know why we were made. And I touched on both of these this morning. We were made by a loving God. And our purpose is let others know that. We can only find meaning in our life when we know that.
Ralph Ellison, in his book, Invisible Man, wrote, “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” You are a child of God. And in that relationship, you will find that you are truly free.