3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Over twenty years ago a friend shared with me a series of books that has stuck with me over the years. The books were "The Hero Within" and "Awakening the Heroes Within" by Carol Pearson. They struck me because I am one who believes that the Christian life is one of a journey --- a journey to draw closer to God (as found in Jesus) and a journey for us to draw closer to each other. Pearson invited her readers to join her on a journey of self-awareness and understanding believing that understanding what makes us tick will help us as we relate to God and others.
In "Awakening The Heroes" Pearson wrote:
“Each journey is unique, and each seeker charts a new path. But it is infinitely easier to do so having at least some knowledge about the experiences of those who have gone before. When we learn about the many different heroic paths available to us, we understand that there is room for all of us to be heroic in our own unique ways.”
The paths that she helped us to understand were what she called archetypal personalities. And she defined six primary archetypes and six additional ones. I found her analysis enlightening.
Maybe it was the revival of the Marvel Super-Hero franchise --- or maybe it was because Matt is such a big Richard Rohr fan, and my hunch it was a combination of the two of them. But earlier this year, Matt suggested we do a series based on a couple of books that he had found, one by his beloved Rohr.
For the last few years there has been a real revival not in what Pearson defined as archetypes --- but in another ancient personality typing system known as the Enneagram --- which Rohr writes about.
In Greek Ennea means nine and gram means point.
The word refers to a circle inscribed by nine points which is used as a symbol to arrange and depict nine personality styles.
In its current formulations, the Enneagram brings together insights of perennial wisdom and findings of modern psychology.
To avoid a long story --- let me just say that the roots of the Enneagram are disputed.
According to the Enneagram Institute:
The Enneagram of Personality Types is a modern synthesis of a number of ancient wisdom traditions, but the person who originally put the system together was Oscar Ichazo. Ichazo was born in Bolivia and raised there and in Peru, but as a young man, moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina to learn from a school of inner work he had encountered. Thereafter, he journeyed in Asia gathering other knowledge before returning to South America to begin putting together a systematic approach to all he had learned.
But the truth is: where this concept came from isn't that important.
What is important is what the Enneagram has to offer you and me.
In the introduction to the "The Road Back To You", Ian Cron (an Episcopal priest) shares a story of his encounter with Brother Dave, a seventy year old Benedictine monk and Spiritual director (again --- now you understand why Matt was so interested in this book).
Brother Dave explained the Enneagram by saying:
"It is full of wisdom for people who want to get out of their own way and become who they were created to be.
It has to do with self-knowledge. Most folks assume they understand who they are when they don't
They don't question the lens through which they see the world --- where it came from, how it's shaped their lives, or even if the vision of reality it gives them is distorted or true. Even more troubling, most people aren't aware of how things that helped them survive as kids are now holding them back as adults. They're asleep.
What we don't know about ourselves can and will hurt us, not to mention others,
As long as we stay in the dark about how we see the world and the wounds and beliefs that have shaped who we are, we're prisoners of our history. We'll continue going through life on autopilot doing things that hurt and confuse ourselves and everyone around us. Eventually we become so accustomed to making the same mistakes over and over in our lives that they lull us to sleep. We need to wake up."
It was John Calvin who said: "without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God."
So for the next few weeks Matt and I are going to look at this typology known as the Enneagram and the lives of people who exemplified those typologies; so that it might help us achieve our full potential.
This morning, I want to spend some time on heroes --- because the people we will point out are often seen as heroes.
What makes someone a hero?
We love our heroes.
We love to have somebody that we can look up to, somebody who can guide us, somebody who can blaze a trail through the jungle that we call life.
I want to take you back about 40 years ago --- during an earlier crisis in the Mideast.
There was, at that time, a madman by the name of Ayatollah Khomeini --- do you remember him?
Ayatollah Khomeini, at that time was leading a revolution in Iran that led to the overthrow of the US puppet government lead by the "Shah of Iran". He also seemed to be threatening to take over the entire Mideast region.
Worse still, he seemed to relish in rubbing our noses in the dirt, especially when his followers had taken the American Embassy hostage.
Ayatollah Khomeini had single handedly put the whole world on edge as he seemed to be trying to export his brand of Muslim Fundamental Revolution.
NO ONE was strong enough to resist him.
Nobody seemed to be able to stand up to him.
But then suddenly one man appeared.
A man who claimed to be deeply religious and claimed that God had given him the mission of overthrowing the Ayatollah.
Everyone heralded him as a hero
the rest of the Mideast region
even the United States government
He said that if his country would just follow him -- they could be saved!
Do you remember this hero of ours?
His name was Saddam Hussein.
By 1991 we branded this HERO the devil --- and we all know the sad tale of American lives and innocent civilian lives lost in trying to remove him from power.
We need to be careful of the heroes we choose.
There is a wonderful old Bonnie Tyler song called "I Need A Hero" that seems to hit the nail on the head.
The words go:
Everyone's looking for a hero
Everyone's waiting for the big boys
Everyone's watching for a hot shot
Everyone's waiting for a big noise
I need a hero
I need a hero in the morning light
And he's got to be fast, and he's got to be cool,
and he's got to be larger than life.
What strikes me is that most of us really do feel like we need a hero right now.
We want Wolverine (or John Wayne --- depending on your age) to swagger into Indianapolis and stop the crime and violence
We want a Ronald Reagan or John F Kennedy to make us believe in our country again.
We need a hero --- to come in and tell us what to do, or better yet, to just get the dirty work done for us --- because isn't that what a hero is supposed to do?
I grew up believing in heroes.
The heroes of my childhood were
The Lone Ranger
We all have had heroes --- whether it was Superman, Rambo, or Luke Skywalker
We all want a hero
The Jewish people were also looking for a hero.
For them the hero had to fit a certain expectation --- and they called that expected hero the Messiah.
Over the centuries, as the Jewish people were repeatedly beaten up by every two bit country that had any military power their expectations for a hero grew.
The prophets of the Hebrew Bible are filled with stories of the longing of the people for this hero to come and save them.
But the Jewish people --- like us --- did not get what they bargained for.
Instead of a mythical Messiah --- they got a Christ who came and spoke of peace and love and the empowerment of each person.
He taught that the power of God does not work from the outside --- but rather God works inside each of us.
"Greater things than I have done (Jesus said) you will do." (John 14:12)
I chose these two passages of scripture because of what they teach us
The passage from Titus (a book most of us never read or even knew was there).
The author of Titus reminds us that the heroes that God chooses are not supermen or women.
The heroes are you and me.
We may be foolish, disobedient, and subject to all kinds of sin --- but when the spirit fills us --- God will use us to be heroes in this world.
And of course the Matthew passage is where Jesus calls us to be disciples and reminds us that being a disciple is not a waltz through a rose garden but giving up our selves for God.
If we want to follow Jesus --- then we must become a hero for Jesus
Yet we have to be careful --- our love of heroes is very fickle.
We may love them today --- but tomorrow --- tomorrow we may want to see them crucified because they do not do what we want them to do.
We can pretend all we want --- but the Christian church is in deep trouble today.
We are losing our effectiveness to reach the people of this day and age.
Some will argue that it is a problem of leadership
and even our Pastors
And that very well may be true
But the answer isn't found in this pulpit.
The answer is found where YOU are sitting
It is easy to sit back and wait for a hero
It is easy to be told what to do, or better yet, to watch somebody do it for you
But in the end --- it all boils down to you and me ---
what will the power of God be like in our lives?
We can sit back and wait --- as we watch the world pass by.
Or we can take the power of the presence of Jesus and bring light into this world.
It was Florence Nightingale who once said:
“I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.”
There is only one hero we really need --- and that is the hero that is in each of us.
The hero, transformed by the power and love of Jesus.
For Jesus is the only hero that isn't fickle and never lets us down.
One final comment: The stories that you all have shared with me of your heroes have been amazing. It has been a joy to read them.
I wish that I had the time to share each and every one.
Yes, they are stories of some of the great heroes of our day:
Dr. Martin Luther King
Stay at home moms
But they were also filled with stories of:
Your children and grand-children
And what would strike some of you the most --- is that some of the heroes who were shared are sitting right here in this church this morning.
There are people in this church who already see the hero in you.
I do want to share one statement that one of you shared with me:
I have always believed in "The Power of One." This is the power we all have. You don't have to be rich. You don't have to be of any race or religion. You don't have to be a mover or a shaker. You simply have to have the courage and love in your heart to make a difference in someone's life.
Over the next few weeks --- as we go on this journey of self-discovery.
As we look at and try to understand what makes us tick --- may at the same time, we look in the mirror and see the hero within.
May God give us the wisdom, not to wait to be given the answers to the problems of the world, but to find them written on our hearts in God's indelible handwriting.
Let me close with Brother Dave's prayer:
May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the facade of your life there is something beautiful and eternal happening.
May you learn to see your self with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God see you in every moment.