I just want to go ahead and acknowledge what we’re all thinking - Yes, Bruce Banner, played by 54-year-old Mark Ruffalo, did, in fact, say, “Bruh,” in the first episode of She-Hulk. It wasn’t a fever dream, as much as we wish it were.
But now that that’s out of the way - we can talk about the actual important and somewhat less cringy other stuff that we got to see in She-Hulk. Most notably, I kept getting distracted by the fact that the story they were seemingly going to tell was one of my favorites in the Bible. Yeah - like, THE Bible.
So what could this definitely a lawyer show and not a superhero show possibly have to do with the Great Commission of Jesus? Let’s talk about it.
Welcome to Checkpoint Church - where nerds, geeks, and gamers come together to talk about faith, games, and nope, still not over the Bruh thing. I’m your Nerd Pastor Nate. If you like these weekly deep-dives, be sure to sub and hit that bell to find out when our next one drops.
Esther 4:12-17 (NRSVue)
When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
So who is She-Hulk, and why are we talking about her?
She-Hulk is the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe TV show on Disney Plus featuring - you guessed it - the superhero She-Hulk
Er, at least she is supposed to be a superhero.
In a bizarre and primarily unstated accident, Bruce Banner and his cousin Jennifer Walters get blood swapped, and Jen receives some of that gamma-rich blood in her familial bloodstream.
This causes her to undergo the same gamma radiation experience as Bruce - sort of.
In Jen's situation, the gamma radiation is secondhand and crossed over a controlled dosage of accident bloodborne pathogens, so it works.
Jen has some control over her hulk form and keeps her personality intact like it has taken Bruce an entire three MCU-sized phases to do - which, by the way, I've always called him Professor Hulk and not Smart Hulk as the show calls him. Am I the weird one here?
The first episode gives us the pretty obvious setup for the remainder of the season - Jen is an accomplished member of the bar and has established a career as an attorney. She didn't enlist to be a superhero and doesn't want to be one. Not her monkeys, not her circus.
Of course, Bruce protests this and tries to enlist her out of obligation, but she turns him down over a lengthy cousin hulk battle that imma just call… indulgent.
With the end of the episode forcing Jen to expose herself as She-Hulk, the series forced her quickly to embrace her super-poweredness. I'm confident she will continue to wrestle with the expectation back and forth, and it's precisely for this reason I want to talk about this show.
As someone in the pastoral, I know a thing or two about inopportune calling. My dad was a well-employed and higher-up-ranking manager at an NC corporation when he received his call to the ministry and left the life of the white picket fence.
I tried to pursue music, acting, and anything I could to avoid my calling, and - well, God gave me an offer I couldn't refuse and allowed me to use all of the skills I'd learned for the perfect spot at a church for nerds, geeks, and gamers.
The calling is an integral part of being a Christian, and it's not just for the Pastors. All are called by the Great Commission, where Jesus calls the Disciples to go therefore into the world and make Disciples of all nations. The mission isn't just for those in charge but for all who are baptized into the body of Christ.
So if you call yourself a Christian, you're called to this, too.
One of my favorite stories to read out of the Old Testament books is the Book of Esther, where our selected reading comes from today.
Esther is a relatable character for me. Someone who tried to avoid the apparent calling but then realizes (often through the wisdom of elders) that she is in the perfect time and place to make a big difference for something.
For Esther, it's a pretty huge deal. Her involvement in the life of the emperor will end or continue the future lineage of the Jewish people, so kind of a big deal.
Even still, it's striking that Esther wasn't just in a literal power difference between people groups; she was also a, well, she. She wasn't seen as an authoritative voice at all during this time. For her to stick her neck out for the people of Isreal would be a literal death wish.
Her people are threatened by a power-hungry 2nd in command. She is faced with two tense options. If she says something, she could die along with her people. If she says nothing, she could be spared, but her people would be destroyed.
Thankfully, after some cajoling from Mordecai, Esther makes the bold step forward to intervene, and spoiler alert - the Israelites weren't wiped out, so it's a happy ending to the story.
But what was it that set Esther up for the tough choice? It's tough to know precisely what words made the difference. But this passage gives us a helpful message to consider, especially as we contemplate our place at Checkpoint Church and on the Internet.
What if we are here in this exact time and place for such a time as this? And I don't mean predestination or anything like that. I mean that we've been put in the perfect place with the perfect opportunity to do the most possible good.
I believe this to always be a true thing. We can always make the best possible choice for the most possible good. Or as John Wesley said. Do all the good you can for all the people you can in all the ways you can.
I believe we are called to every moment for such a time as this; it's just a matter of being present to see the opportunity.
Christ calls us in the commission to go, therefore, and make Disciples of all nations. He's not overly specific. First off - go. Second off - make. These are straightforward actions.
Paul might say that everything we do should be done to the glory of God. If you're staying still, you aren't pursuing. If you aren't making Disciples, you aren't pursuing. The heart of Christ is one that is going and making incessantly.
Jen Walters and She-Hulk are certainly going to find the situation troublesome. The calling to be a hero is always one wrought with tension. And stress. But this season will no doubt tackle that and reveal that Jen was called to this mission for such a time as this. Her hulk powers are exactly what will be needed (especially to help combat the almost definite Red Hulk arc that will happen eventually)
But what does this mean for us today?
We're all in slightly different places but are called to the same mission. Maybe you're on twitch like we are - well, have you considered if you were on twitch for such a time as this? Perhaps it's time to take that next step and make that next connection or let more people know the love of Jesus through your passion.
At Checkpoint, we are adamantly pro creativity, and it's because of this exact reason - God created the creative, and I believe that you are creating for some reason, whether the media is Christian or not. That's why I'm not afraid to analyze games like Cult of the Lamb or anime like My Dress Up Darling.
Maybe Checkpoint is here for such a time e as this. Perhaps someone needed to hear that God loves the weeb. Or the gamer. Or the Otaku. When we allow ourselves to live into that ready and open position of here I am lord, send me, that's where we find the possibility to serve God in a way that is custom tuned to ourselves.
So whether you are someone's cousin, a lawyer, or a hulk. Know you're always welcome at Checkpoint Church.
God loves you.
We love you.