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Elijah, the imperfect broken superhero (broken as we are)
Dr Alex Tang
stained glass in Carmelite Chapel, Murakka (photo courtesy of Dr Anthony Loke)
Of all the many prophets in the Old Testament, Elijah is the most likable. He is the one most like us. There are major feats of great power in his ministry – drought and power encounter on Mt. Carmel. There are also human failings – fear, depression, suicidal and self-centredness. Other prophets seem to be made of stronger stuff. Jeremiah is able to endure deprivations, humiliation, and sorrows. Isaiah deals with kings and their political lackeys. Ezekiel was high with his fantastic visions. Like the superheroes of our modern mythology (courtesy of Marvel and DC Comics), Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel is like Batman, Superman, and Dr. Strange respectively. Elijah like is the Peter Parker Spiderman- full of self-doubts and brought down by numerous domestic and social problems. In spite of his problems, Peter Parker still put on his superhero costume to battle super villains. Elijah dons his prophet mantle to face a corrupted political social regime and spiritual warfare. Imperfect people to the best of their ability to perfect a broken world.
Yet of all the prophets, only Elijah did not die. He was taken up to heaven by a whirlwind which is archetypical of Christ being taking upon to heaven on his ascension. And according to Jewish tradition, Elijah is their most beloved prophet and is expected to come back to earth again as a harbinger for the Christ’s coming. Why is Elijah so beloved? It is Elijah is so like us. We are also imperfect people. We are complicated. We are capable of great feats of human kindness, but we are also responsible for some of the most despicable feats that one human can do another. We are both light and darkness. Our hearts may be full of love and compassion yet there is darkness inside of us; darkness, if left unchecked, will consume us. We long for perfection and building a utopia but often end up building a hell either in our mind or out of our environment. In other words, we are imperfect.
Yet God seems to like imperfect people. Jesus love to dine with sinners and tax collectors to the consternation of pious law-abiding citizens and members of the religious establishment. He takes delight in bursting the bubble of self-righteous perfect people. Jesus realizes that imperfect people are the sick. And only the sick needs a doctor. So Jesus spent a lot of time in his three years ministry breaking down people, which think they are perfect to their basic state of imperfection. Awareness of our imperfections is the first step towards spiritual growth – a process of becoming perfect in Christ.
all photos courtesy of Dr Anthony Loke of Seminari Theologi Malaysia
1 November 2015
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