The Meek Avengers
Updated: Nov 5
I play a lot of video games, and my favorite genre of video games are the kinds of video games where a lone hero faces a harrowing conflict, begins traversing the world, making friends and assembling a team in order to defeat the big bad enemy. There’s these archetypes of the heroes team — the paladin, the thief, the cleric, the mage, skills spread evenly across physical and magical and status and healing attacks and defense. Our heroes start off as simply a little carpenter in a village, or a plumber, or a crybaby, or a princess, or, just, like, a weird little guy. They start of at level one and by the end of the game they have become strong enough to fight a god, or a demagogue, or, the moon.
I love these games and it’s hard not to see how much these games have imprinted on me, even in my work as a priest. I wonder, as a priest, am I just a cleric? A rogue? A time mage? An oracle? What is my highest stat, is it charisma? Intelligence? Special defense? Dexterity?? Well how do our various groups and leadership teams stack up if we were to be asked to fight God — or perhaps, like, President? I certainly have not be secretly sorting you all into neo-job classes— the teacher, the artist, the non-profiteer, the Leftist, the psychologist. I wonder, like, who and what are we fighting, where is our mission sending us too, and what do we have in our equipment bag, what skills are we going to unlock next?
This is default place where my mind lives, because these are the questions I’ve been asking since I picked up Super Mario RPG at like age 8. We want to look around for the Avengers — we want to become the Avengers. And to some extent, the urgency with which I seek these things has abated over the years, and it has abated on account of the Gospel.
I read these Beatitudes today and I see it casting a different vision for the party-building for the defeat of evil. We want to gather the Warrior, the Ranger, the Apothecarist, and the reanimated doll that can do cosmic magic, and yet it was God who came down among us not as Gladiator (not as a Hercules), but as a little baby then as a woodworker, and he collected a bunch of dim-witted and doubting fishermen to join him. The heroes of scripture — the heroes of our faith — are not the swordmen and magicians,, the heroes of scripture are not those that display might but those that display softness and heart and mercy.
Imagine for a moment, we are assembling the Avengers because we are going to fight the devil or, like, exploitative capitalism and white nationalism, and the archetypes we seek to build our team are this: The Poor, The Mourning, The Meek, the Pure, the Peacemaker.
The Christian Avengers are the Meek Avengers, the Soft Avengers, the Bleeding Heart Avengers. We’re gonna get the girls together and fight the devil and the girls in question are just Hello Kitty and Friends.
And this both can be heartening to those of us who feel meek on our best days, and for all of us, this idea ought to be a rough grit sandpaper that buffs out our sharp edges. The work of doing what we do, the work of Christianity is not that of the wolf, the warrior, or the litigator. The work of discipleship is the work of meekness, hunger, mercy, and peacemaking.
These Beatitudes ought to be a constant thorn in our side forcing us to reimagine the entire framework for what we are doing here at church.
We are not defeating enemies, we are making friends.
We are not pushing other people down to get a leg up, we are lifting them up ahead of us.
We are not scouring of our own or other’s personality flaws, we are learning to love them and ourselves as we are.
When we want to fight, soften.
When we want to win, propose a truce.
When we receive vitriol, we offer back humanity.
It ought not to just seem as simple as saying, well, shut off your defenses and accept whatever comes your way. We are not fighting back, and we are also not just passively accepting harm and hurt around us. We are taking the hurt, harm, and offense in the world around us and we are doing alchemy on it. Can you take inhumanity and turn it back into humanity? I do not think that defeat is the language to use with inhumanity and its purveyors, the question is how to turn it back into humanity. And I think Beatitudes in the specific and the Gospel in general is the blueprint for how to do that.
When we are faced with bravado, can we bear our helplessness?
When we are faced with injustice, can we show back our grief?
When we are faced with might, can we show back meekness?
When we are shown judgment, can we show back forgiveness?
When we are faced with an enemy, can we make them into a friend?
Today we celebrate the feast of All Saints, and there can be an awkward distinction drawn between the feasts of All Saints and the feast of All Souls — as if there is a meaningful difference in the church triumphant between the Saints and Souls, the exceptional deceased and the ordinary deceased. It feels funny to me at least because the high achievers among us may feel the desire to be among the Olympians of the faith rather than among its peasantry, but again the idea of the Titans, the Olympians, the Avengers at all is defined by the ways of the world— strength, might, prowess, grit, luck. The Beatitudes should surprise us in hearing that the most blessed among us are characterized by their weakness, their pacifism, their grief, their longing.
The champions of our culture fail mightily when measured by the meter of the Church. The saints of our church fail mightily when measured by the meter of the world. To be among the most exceptional of our faith is to be among the least exceptional of our culture. What we are cultivating in Church and what we are cultivating here in our ministry at The Houseis not strength but softness, we are not cultivating nonchalance but longing.
On this day of All Saints, we celebrate the best of us, the least of us, and the ones whom we loved who have died, all who are cradled now in the arms of God. The triumph of eternal life is perhaps better characterized not as a victory but rather as rest, but rather as a perfect humility, as a perfect meekness, as reconciliation made complete and whole.
When we honor the saints, when we aspire to sainthood, we are honoring a deep bench assembling over millennia of meek little guys who show us the way to emulate the meekest little guy among us, him as our teacher, and we as his disciples. As the protagonist of our RPG party, he dual wielded a loaf and a fish, his equipment was the shirt on his back and the sandals on his feet and not a bag or a staff, his limit break was a crucifixion and resurrection.
On this celebration of All Saints and this commemoration of our dearly departed, would that we might aspire to that which distinguishes the Saints and Souls, more humble, more heart-broken, more meek, and forever and fully reconciled to God, and friend and foe and stranger alike.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
Blessed are those who mourn
Blessed are the meek
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
Blessed are the merciful
Blessed are the pure in heart
Blessed are the peacemakers
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account